Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Challenge - Be Infuential

A few semesters before Tim Tebow arrived on campus, we were taking the bus to UF every weekday. As human nature goes, everyone had their own designated seat, and ours was next to a lady who worked for UF's Physical Plant and her seat was upfront opposite the bus driver.

Every MWF morning they'd have a conversation as if the rest of us didn't really exist. Then one morning we, along with a few other riders, noticed she hadn't been there for a while, but didn't really have the courage to ask the bus driver why. One guy finally mumbled something about her, and the bus driver nonchalantly answered that she was visiting her sister.

Another week later the physical plant lady reappeared. She sat in her front seat quietly, fighting back tears holding a letter sized envelope crammed full of small bills. Half way to campus she broke down at a stop light and got up and gave the bus driver the envelope. Neither said a word, and he pushed the envelope quickly out of sight. After she regained her composure, the bus driver asked her how her sister was. Her reply was that she got to see her before she died, and she broke down again and began to thank the bus driver for lending her the money and apologized that she wished she could have repaid him sooner.

A week or so later, on the ride home from campus, some guy asked the same driver why he was a bus driver, and his answer has stayed with us and it was something like this:

"I pick people up and take them to work, and you students to class. Then I pick you up and take you home. You students pass through here, but the people I take to work, they're my friends. I like seeing my friends."

It might surprise you, but the most influential person at UF for us is not Tim Tebow, but that unnamed RTS bus driver that to this day is still driving his friends to work and bringing students along for the ride. When Tim Tebow graduates this fall and leaves Gainesville in the spring, the bus driver will be at work in Gainesville and we'll still be trying to get a seat up front. Why? Because he first demonstrated, in a very simple but profound way, what a selfless act of compassion is like outside of the usual charity/church/fundraiser environment.

Most of the stories written about the game this week all centered on Tim Tebow and the influence he has had on and off the field. But the thing that pervades each story is that Tebow's influence was never what he said, it has been through what he did. This week David Nelson said of Tebow, "He used to get guys to go do things with him. Once they stepped out of the bubble, they started to enjoy it."

And that's how you'll be influential too. Take someone along for the ride with you, and share your life with them.

"But I'm not like Tebow!" you might say, or even murmur to yourself. Few of us are. But someone who is possibly the opposite of Tebow has been as influential as Tebow, perhaps even more so, and became so because he had little talent at all.

Juan Mann is the Free Hugs guy, and after his parents' divorce he found himself alone and confused, and he had no particular talent, so he decided to do what he could and that was to give strangers a hug.

"If I could sing, or dance I would have been out there busking. Or trying to be a comedian," Mann said of himself. What began as a single day on a shopping street in Sydney (Australia) eventually spurred a world wide movement that reached the University of Florida campus. Juan Mann, the self described talentless, jobless, Aussie loner indirectly gave Tim Tebow a hug. Just look at the picture above.

You don't have to be the most decorated quarterback in the history of college football to be influential. You just have to be able to identify someone else's need, and be willing to meet it and expect nothing in return. When you do that, you'll become the "hero" in that person's life. You won't influence them by what you say, but by what you do and how you do it. And helping others is worth it. Because no amount of money can buy a hug, and no technology can replicate one.

The warm, happy feeling of having helped someone else will not only be worth the effort, it is even more satisfying than fame, trophies, or even national championships. Just ask Tebow. Or even your campus bus driver.

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