We all know the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child," but have you ever applied it to your own experience? Who are the influential people in your life, past or present, who have shaped and influenced you?
Here's my top 10:
1. & 2. My parents. Of course. They are the first influences on any child. My mother's example is one of generosity, love, humor and selflessness. She is always putting others first. She can laugh at herself and has a flair for bringing smiles to others. I'm sure my love of service and the gratification it brings is her legacy. My dad, also very selfless, was the first person most of his family and friends thought of if they needed help of any kind, and especially in the department of mechanics. Growing up I thought he was the smartest person ever. When I went away to college I would call him and describe the noises my car was making so I could get the right diagnosis before going to the local mechanic. His love and trust in me gave me the wings and the courage to succeed. They both epitomized unconditional love.
3. & 4. Holly (Olson) Hastings and John DeVilbiss. Friends during high school who had the courage to reach out to me and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with me. Their examples of righteous living amidst teenage angst and peer pressure were extremely important and served as role models for me. Don't even want to imagine where or who I'd be without their influence.
5. & 6. Missionaries! The two missionaries who taught me the gospel (once I was directed to them by Holly) were Orson West and Larry Johnson. I'm so grateful for their willingness to sacrifice two years of their lives to serve in that capacity. They were very patient with me as I questioned them again and again, but they were firm in their testimonies and convictions so that the Spirit could reach and teach me. Our family is still in contact with Orson, forty years after our baptisms. He is an example of the scripture in D&C 18:10, 15-16:
15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one asoul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the akingdom of my Father, how great will be your bjoy if you should bring many csouls unto me!
7. & 8. Teachers. In high school it was William Boyle, who taught Latin, and Rita Mallahy, who taught English. Their enthusiasm and love of their subjects helped me to not only want to learn those subjects, but to want to learn, period. I could tell that they really loved their students and teaching as well. Having a teacher show interest in you at that age is very nurturing.
9. & 10. Gospel teachers, Jim Foley and Vern Wolf. Jim was my seminary teacher in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Seminary is the religious instruction for teens. He taught me the Book of Mormon that year and his classes were so interesting! I learned about Chiasmus, and likening the scriptures to my life, and looking for the positive in every day. Now I am a seminary teacher (again!) and call up the inspiration and influence of Br. Foley as I teach the youth each morning. Vern Wolf was a Gospel Principles teacher I had at Brigham Young University. He took my knowledge and testimony of the gospel to a whole new level. Every day was inspirational and thought-provoking. He challenged us to write out our testimony and conversion story and that exercise has remained a reference point for me to this day.
Who are your villagers?