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Memphis Daily News
Positive Influence Has Ripple Effect
December 1, 2014
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

There is a passage from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” that reads, “A child goes forth each day, and the first object that the child sees, that object he becomes, for a day, or part of a day, or for days stretching into years.” Growing up, my parents were that object.

Their influence shaped my character, values and faith. For them, it was not about settling for “as good as it gets,” it was about continuous improvement. The only person you have to be better than is the person you were yesterday. And they are still influencing me.

When my father, Joe Crowley, turned 95 we celebrated the event by having a book signing party for him. His first book, “Tales of a Landlocked Sailor,” had just been published. He started it a couple years before when he was in the hospital for an extended stay.

He said that “when an old person dies, a little bit of history dies with him.” He wanted to share this little bit of history that he experienced with his grandchildren and great grandchildren. It is not the story of his life, but rather remembrances of things that he had done or seen or heard over a long and eventful life. They are the kind of things we just knew about each other in the days when people sat on front porches and talked.

His experiences spanned a time when more changes occurred than any other period in history. Being a very private person, he never meant the stories to be read by anyone except his family. But then, his book was published.

After it was read by others he learned that his book influenced strangers to share their little pieces of history, to sit on the “front porch” of the 21st century with their families, their friends, their colleagues, and share their stories and their own influence.

The book ends with a paragraph written to his grandchildren about the challenges they will face in their lifetime: “challenges to your values; challenges to your virtues; challenges to your way of life; challenges to your principles; challenges to your faith.” But he is sure that “with your background and upbringing you will resist the temptations and overcome the challenges.”

In his own way, he was leaving his influence. His work on a sequel stopped shortly after his birthday and the book signing party, when his condition worsened and he began hospice care. Leaving that work unfinished, but so much more completed, he died.

In your own life, there is a child, a friend, a spouse, a coworker, an employee or customer who goes forth each day, and, if the first “object” they encounter that particular day is you, what will they become because of you, for a day, or part of a day, or for days stretching into years?

Influence internalizes attitudes and beliefs in others, and transmits example from person to person. However long or short the encounter, for the most part, the influence lasts.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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