So this summer has been unexpectedly pretty busy at work.  We’ve been doing a lot of strategic planning and research, but we’ve also been participating in a statewide commission related to our work.  As a result, I’ve gotten to attend public hearings at the legislature, official commission meetings, and work groups where the nitty gritty policy recommendations are actually being developed.

And if you know me well, you would probably guess that I’m enjoying this opportunity to blend public and private efforts in this way.

There’s a reason why one of my majors was political science. 

Before I started dating my husband, his sister was in a Bible study with me in college.  On the night of the State of the Union address, I always made sure we ended the group right on time (because I had my priorities straight) so that I could hustle back to my dorm room and catch all of the pre-speech drama.  Entrances.  Explanations.  Expectations.  Who’s sitting where.  Who is a guest of the First Lady.  Oh, and when the Sergeant at Arms comes in and announces, “Mister/Madam Speaker, the President of the United States!”  That part gets me every time.  There’s something so American about it.  It makes me feel like there actually is some merit to this experiment we call democracy.

Anyway, my future sister-in-law had come back to my dorm room to watch the speech with my roommate and me.  We had ordered Pokey Stix from Gumby’s Pizza.  A truly nutritious meal to consume at 9:00 in the evening.  But I must tell you, any combination of cheese and bread is sure to be a winner in my book.  Oh, for the metabolism of a college sophomore again! 

But just as the delivery guy called us to say he was at the back door of the building, something happened.  My roommate and I both simultaneously said, “Look!  It’s the First Lady!”  Very excitedly, I might add.  My sister-in-law thought we were in some cult and offered to go meet the delivery guy so that we wouldn’t have to pry ourselves from the TV.  Not like we would have anyway. 

It’s really amazing she thought I was normal enough to marry her brother.

I’m not.  But please don’t tell her that.

So obviously I have a fascination with all things government.  Which also means I often have a distaste for all things government.  But before God rearranged my summer plans in college, I had determined I would be interning in D.C.  I had an interest in shaping policy.  And I always had an interest in poverty-related issues.  But then that changed when I went to Camden.  I was immersed in the issues.  I couldn’t get away from them, and it completely changed my worldview.  And it also changed my thoughts about where I would get my paycheck.  I stopped thinking about working in the halls of government.  But the interesting thing in all of this has been that I’ve had opportunities to engage public officials in both nonprofits where I’ve worked since college. 

It’s funny how God likes to take the scenic route to bring you back to your former interests, only with your head on straight the next time.

I’ve enjoyed this rare access to the inner workings of policymaking on the state level this summer.  It can be incredibly frustrating and incredibly exciting at the same time.  It’s made me examine viable solutions to some very real problems.  And as always, it’s made me reflect on what role the government should play in eliminating barriers and creating access, as well as what role it’s been forced to play because some of us have been too busy elsewhere. 

Don’t worry – I’m not about to make this a political blog.  My political views are far too gray to explain anyway.  They’re still being formed as I continue to learn, and I’m quite sure no one would be interested in them anyway.

I guess what has occurred to me over these past few months is that we all have spheres of influence.  Not one of us is exempt from having the responsibility of shaping the world around us, namely through others’ lives.  Whether it’s through our family, church, neighborhood, civic organizations, corporate life, or the checkout line at the grocery store.  Our lives touch others’ every day.  Sometimes in brief interactions.  Sometimes in lifelong relationships.  And we are the only ones who can determine what kind of imprint will be left behind.     

I will shamelessly admit that I want my life to matter.  I want to make a difference.  For the good.  For God.  It’s not really a legacy I’m after.  My name engraved on some plaque.  I just want to know that what I did while I was here wasn’t a waste.  I want there to be some eternity in what I’m building and slaving away at.  If it’s going to be tough, I want there to be some purpose in it.

Do I think that means that I have to be brushing shoulders with power?  Absolutely not.  And I’m quite sure these brief moments of sitting in the presence of lawmakers will be just that.  Brief.

But I think we need to take seriously our stewardship of the spheres of influence given to us by God for however long we have them.  My cubicle at work.  Your street.  Our church.  Your family.  My tax preparer.  Your child’s teacher.  Your child.  

God entrusted us with a lot when He put us on this planet.  He taught us to pray that His kingdom would come – on earth as it is in heaven.  And He chose to use us to bring that kingdom to fruition on earth.  One day at a time.  One person at a time. 

And let me be clear – He can use a lot more bricklayers in building His church than He can use contractors and supervisors.  There is no sphere of influence too small.  No relationship less important than another.

When Peter and John were arrested for teaching about Jesus in Jerusalem, they were brought before the leaders and teachers of the law and given an opportunity to explain their actions.  It was a brief moment, but one that neither man took lightly.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  (Acts 4:13)

May the world take note that we have been with Him too.