Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Puzzle of People and Places: Thinking about Influence

I've been thinking a lot about influence lately. Partly because of this vlogbrothers video in which John describes the fact that he has been emulating this commentator who he and Hank used to listen to when they were kids. This got me thinking about the people who influence me, not in the huge ways like my whole personality, which has obviously been strongly influenced by my parents and everyone else in my life, but the smaller things. Another reason I was thinking about this was due to something that I did at services last night. My rabbi makes a certain gesture when she says "please rise" for various prayers, and about halfway through the service last night, I realized that I do this too. That got me thinking about all of the other little things that I have picked up from people around me.

The fact that I hate talking about the Second Great Awakening and am as politically liberal as I am is due to my AP US History teacher in High School. The way that I give relationship advice is strongly influenced by John Green's Question Tuesday videos. The way I say "well" and "know" as well as the way I do my Latin homework today are due to my Latin teacher in high school. The way I comfort people is shaped by all of my camp counselors. The fact that I know how to explain why I believe in God is because of my senior year Philosophy teacher who challenged me on every point that I made. The way I lead services, both in the planning and the execution is strongly influenced by the cantor who was at my synagogue from when I was in 7th grade to my senior year of high school.

Nobody is one sole individual, and I think that we have to come to terms with that. We are combinations of the people and places that make us who we are. I know how to dress for the rain because I went to camp for ten years. Too often, we don't think to thank those who influenced us in the small ways, but we should. So thank you to all of these people. And thank you to all of you who are influencing your friends, students, mentors, and peers every single day.

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