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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

On being influential

While walking through the neighborhood the other day I was discussing the injustice of the world with our dogs Abby and Hobbes. Specifically, I was pointing out to them that Time magazine recently published an issue identifying “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” and had the nerve to leave me off the list.

“Appalling. Simply appalling,” commented Hobbes. This young gentleman has only been a part of our household for a few weeks and is still working on ingratiating himself with the powers-that-be. He is what is gently referred to as a “terrier mix,” meaning that his background is uncertain. Hobbes has something of a criminal past, having been apprehended by animal control in a neighboring community and thus available for us to “rescue.” He does his best to be lovable. “The injustice of it all,” he went on. “I don’t know how they could possibly leave you off.”

“Don’t get your shorts in a bunch, chief,” countered Abby. She is a pedigreed Cairn Terrier approaching nine years old, and thinks of the rest of us as living in her house. “If Time gets around to doing an issue on ‘The 100 Most Influential People on Our Block,’ you might, I repeat, might have a chance. Until then, don’t hold your breath.”

“Try not to feel bad,” responded Hobbes the people pleaser. “I noticed that the Pope didn’t make the list either. Neither did the Dalai Lama.  There wasn’t a single Kardashian. Sid Hartman wasn’t even there.”

“On the other hand,” Abby admitted, “I’m only a dog, but I noticed there were a few humans on the list I had never heard of. Not to name any names, but…”

Hobbes waxed philosophical as he lifted his leg beside a small tree.

“What does it mean to be influential, anyway? I mean, some of these people are probably really important in their own little universes, but some of them are micro universes. It’s a fine thing to make a movie 24 hours long showing people looking at clocks, but that ain’t something that’s going to make the whole world do a mazurka.”

“Well said, young fellow,” agreed Abby, squatting. “There’s hope for you, yet. Take the big guy here (pointing at me). When he was away from his computer the other day, I googled him. Well, I’ve known him a while.  Used to be when I googled him he popped up on the first page of ‘Steve McKinleys.’ Now he’s only there once in the first eight pages, and you’ve got to go three pages in, past a guitar player and some doctors and insurance agents and a math professor before you find him for the first time. But I have to admit that in our house, he’s pretty important.  He feeds us a lot of the time. Takes us for these walks. Buys you all those silly toys you like to play with. Protects us from those thunderstorms I hate.”

“And I love him for it,” Hobbes interjected, rubbing up against my leg as I bent over with a plastic bag in my hand to retrieve Abby’s offering.

“What’s the big deal with influence, anyway? So you’re a big cigar, pushing the world around or maybe just pushing people around. Does that make you a more significant human being than the person who minds her own business and takes care of her own little world, or even the big guy here?” Abby was pointing her nose at me.

“Uh…no?” Hobbes was afraid that she was trying to get him to say something stupid.

“Well said, grasshopper!” Abby was on a roll now. “People are people, and I figure all of them are finally worth about the same thing, whether they make some big hoo-haw list or not.”

By now we were walking up the driveway and through the garage and I was taking off their harnesses. Warmed by the adventure of walking and the spirit of the discussion, Hobbes jumped up looking for affection.

“Group Hug!” he barked, climbing up my leg.

“Go group hug yourself,” countered Abby. “You’ve heard as much lovey-dovey stuff from me as I can stand for today.”

She ran for her water dish.

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