Makers of History, Builders of Tomorrow

When recently visiting my parents, I stepped into my childhood bathroom and noticed that something had changed. After thirty years, the colorful cross-stitch had been taken down. Throughout my youth, every time I plopped my little behind on the toilet, I read the same lines and contemplated their meaning. They felt significant.

“A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or car I drove. But the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”

– Forest E Witcraft

The fully essay, Within My Power from an 1950 issue of Scouting Magazine, is worth a read.

I am not a Very Important Man

My parents were never wealthy. My mom taught preschool before becoming a stay-at-home mom, while my father was a soft-spoken computer programmer. We always lived simply, and even more so after the 2000 dot-com bubble burst.

As an angsty eleven-year-old, I was upset that I couldn’t have the clunky Sketchers I saw on TV after my parents lost their jobs. I lacked the maturity to fully grasp the message I had read all those thousands of times: one hundred years from now, it won’t matter.

Despite lacking money, my parents were always generous with their time, attention and affection, and I benefited from the great parents privilege. No amount of wealth or affluence could have compensated for that love.

Yet I may someday mould destiny

Witcraft recognizes in his essay that, despite his humble position in life, he can become an important figure in the life of a young person. Children don’t care about your bank balance, the size of your home, or the make of your car. They care, quite simply, that you are present and attentive to their needs. That’s all.

Two years ago, I began my role as Auntie Erin to my best friend’s daughter, whom I’ll call Annie. Annie’s parents are both immigrants, so her relatives are all 2-D faces on a screen. I get to be the lift when my niece wants a better glimpse of the model trains. I’m am inviting lap when it’s time to read a book. And I’m a face lit up with excitement when she wants to show off a favorite toy.

Every time I interact with the little girl, I’m reminded of that cross-stitch from my childhood: the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.

Every boy is a potential atom bomb in human history

The essay goes on to question how the course of history may have been different had Hitler or Stalin enjoyed joyous childhoods, filled with love, support, and the passing down of important life lessons. How many world tragedies have been averted because a parent, teacher, coach, or scout leader took the time to listen to, understand, and work with a troubled child? These adults, unknowingly, may be the important men and women who ever lived.

While I was far from a troubled child, I can vividly remember countless times when an adult stooped down to my level to talk to me; times where a teacher complimented my insight in front of the class; times where my mother complimented my kindness toward a sibling, and; times where my aunts took me out for a lunch date.

The adults who offered of their time, wisdom, and affection were–and still are–important to me.

They are the makers of history, the builders of tomorrow

The man behind the cross-stitched quote was a Boy Scout leader, intent on guiding boys on to the high road of noble character and constructive citizenship. If a child doesn’t have a strong father figure at home, his teacher, coach, or scout leader may prove to be the most important man in his life. Due to his influence over the next generation, Witcraft may have been the most important man in his community.

One hundred years from now, no one will care how much money you had and, aside from occasionally perusing old photographs, no one will be interested in your home, car, or wardrobe. What will be remembered is your kindness, wisdom, and understanding. Memories of your character will far outlive your physical body, for better or for worse.

At this stage of my life, I have influence over just one child: my sweet niece. Every time I sit down across from her, I think about the adults who had an influence on me, and I imagine the adults who impacted them. The effects of one’s action rippling through history. Each of us has the potential to shape a life and positively affect the future. Children just so happen to be the most observant and impressionable group.

Because I was important in the life of a child

When our time on each ends, we can’t take our worldly possessions and wealth with us. How do you intend to leave the world a better place than you found it? Can you find the time to prioritize dinner with your family every night over working late? Will you set a positive example, standing up for what’s right even when it meant standing in opposition to popular opinion?

Think about the young people in your life. Whether or not your realize it, you are important to them. Even if society at large does not consider you to be influential, you can have a tremendous impact on the life of a malleable child. You are a role model, a source of answers, and a beacon of inspiration. In the eyes of a child, your are a fountain of love and encouragement. How can you use that power for good?

After thirty years, the old cross-stitch was retired from its post, but it still lives in my memory. And I hope that it will now reside in a small sliver of yours.

You can find more from me on my personal blog:

24 thoughts on “Makers of History, Builders of Tomorrow

    1. Yes, it’s so true. It makes me sad to see kids being entertained by the iPad, rather than playing with their parents or engaging in imaginative activities. I’m not a parent, so perhaps I don’t understand the challenges. It’s so important, though, and I really do think we’re failing at it overall.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Sorry to copy in such a big chunk, but this? Love, love, love!
    “One hundred years from now, no one will care how much money you had and, aside from occasionally perusing old photographs, no one will be interested in your home, car, or wardrobe. What will be remembered is your kindness, wisdom, and understanding. Memories of your character will far outlive your physical body, for better or for worse.”
    I feel that in a big, big way. As the family archivist, by default, I’ve inherited boxes and bins galore of photos, mementos…memories of lives well-lived. What draws me in are the expressions – and the connections I see between friends and family. Memories of character, as you said, Erin. Such a lovely post. Your niece is a lucky little one to have you in her life. 😊💓😊

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Vicki! My mom is our family archivist, so I’m familiar with the boxes and bins of photograph, love letters, and newspaper clippings. While it’s fascinating to have that glimpse into the past, the expressions and connections really are the most memorable part–the love, the good times, and kindness. 💓


  2. What a beautiful post that hits me exactly where I live these days, Erin! I love the description of your childhood and the influence that your parents and significant adults had on you. And of course, your precious niece.

    You are so right that we shape these incredibly powerful people early on – so better to do it well. It’s hard to do sometimes, but being present and paying attention truly is a gift as you’ve said so well.

    I feel as if I’m reiterating everything you said so well – so I’ll just end with “great job!” Thanks for the great inspiration for my day (and life)!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. What a beautiful reminder that it is WHO we are, not WHAT we are, nor what we HAVE that is the greatest value in the lives of others. I don’t remember anyone ever stooping down to talk to me, and I may not do so now (unless there is someone nearby to help me up), but I will most certainly be more mindful that my time and attention is worth showering on all of God’s creatures, both large and small. Thank you!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Beautifully poignant post Erin. Your post got me thinking of those special memories that still linger today. The adults who made us feel important, special and always encouraged. They act as a role model for us as adults of how to behave towards others. My nephew, who is now 28, still talks about a New Year crawling about on our floor with his Uncle Ian when he was about 3. Hubby doesn’t remember it, but the boys have so many memories from the few days they spent with us.

    Thanks for the reminder of the ‘unknown’ impact we can have on the young

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Isn’t it incredible how we remember those small moments so vividly? I love the phrasing of “unknown impact,” because it’s impossible to know how the smallest act of kindness or attention could have a lasting impact on a young person. 💓

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A lovely and thoughtful post Erin! I still have wonderful memories of those who took the time to acknowledge me when I was a child, even in the smallest way they were vital to my life. You are giving your niece the power to feel valued and recognized. She will treasure those memories I’m sure, and I suspect you will as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for sharing, Deb! I’m so happy you have such wonderful memories to look back on, and I can relate to that feeling that they are vital. 💓 I really hope that I’m able to give my niece the same types of memories that I cherish. There’s something special about being recognized not only by your parents, but also other adults. 💓

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my, I love this for many different reasons, Erin! Such a rich post, and one filled with loads of wisdom. I love how you lean into the ways we can make a difference, simply by being present and engaging, particularly when it comes to children.

    And I concur with others – your post made me remember someone who’s long since passed on. But to this day, whenever I hear his name, I think of him fondly. The funny thing is, he really didn’t do anything extraordinary. He simply made me feel special, even though I was just a child. Which… I suspect he did for everyone! Yet that made an impact, and even now – many years later – he’s the one who came to mind when I read your post.

    Thank you for the powerful reminder that we can impact the lives of others, even in ways we may be unaware of. Yes to being a force for good! ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, Kendra, I love that the post evoked memories of an adult that made you feel special, and your observation that he likely did for everyone! Isn’t is incredible that the smallest choices can have such a lasting impact? ❤️❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  8. One of my favorite Einstein quotes is “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” If only we valued teachers more? Which makes me wonder: how is it that they’re no “parenting” classes to make sure that parents know what yours (and, I’m glad to say, mine 🙂 ) seemed to have known how to do?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it really unfortunate that we don’t value teacher much. And beyond that, we fail to recognize that we are *all* teachers in some capacity, leading, guiding, and inspiring those around us. I truly wish soon-to-be-parents had the opportunity (or requirement) to go through some training. It’s been my greatest gift in life to have born into a loving and supportive family… nothing could compare. Thanks, EW! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What a fantastic realization that I wish all of us would embrace: how often have we come across an abrasive person who teaches those around them that the way to get ahead is to put others down? Those lessons are sadly, learned, too …

        And, yes, it’s pretty amazing that to drive a car, or even to operate a cash register, you’ll get some sort of training, in some cases require a certification, but to be a parent… not so much? 🙃

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for this thoughtful and beautiful post. Like you, I wholeheartedly believe that the best thing a parent can give their child is not money or material things, but rather than time, attention and love… the priceless wealth in life.

    Liked by 2 people

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