“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life . . . so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders . . .” – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
In one of my early Abundant Living essays years ago I wrote about a man who was my seventh-grade history teacher and principal of the junior high school I attended. “B.F. Jordan was one of those special teachers,” I wrote, “who touched my life with his wisdom, wit, character, and passion for teaching. He never had a student, to the best of my knowledge, in whom he did not see great potential. Well into young adulthood he remained my counselor, advisor, and friend – until his sudden and untimely death.”
I went on to describe him as a person who “never had aspirations for glory, victory, fame and fortune that I could ever tell. He seemed quite content with who he was – pretty much unknown beyond the city limits of our small community. Why is it, then, that I remember him, but I can’t remember the winner of [say] the 1963 World Series? Could it be the quiet way he touched the lives of the many young people he taught?” This past summer I had an opportunity to hear B.F. Jordan’s son, Lindy, give a reflection about his dad. One of the stories he told referenced his father’s work ethic, and how in the summer months when school was out of session he would hire out to roof houses – in scorching West Texas heat no less – to supplement his modest income as an educator. Not that I was surprised by that story, it just added another layer of respect for a man I so admired.
It’s the quiet ones we have to watch out for, we’ve often heard it said. Sometimes that is meant as a warning, of course, but most often it is to call attention that the one we least expect, the one in the back of the room or the end of the line, the most modest, most humble who winds up being the one with the most influence, being the most impactful.
In these days of the internet glaring in our eyes and television blaring in our ears, how easily our attention is drawn away from the quiet ones – the B.F Jordans in our lives, our colleagues, our caring friends and neighbors, bosses, teachers, coaches, parents, children, and relatives, not to mention our own influence as quiet ones among those within our circles. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life . . . so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders . . .” Want to change the world? Turn your attention toward the quiet ones. Be one yourself. That’s who makes the world a better place, always has.