Over the course of our lives we at times might ask ourselves, “What impact am I having on those around me? Will my stay here on Earth make a difference to anyone?” Many times we don’t really think of these things until our lives are reaching their end. We have spent our time in the busy pursuit of making a living and providing for our families. So many of our days we find that our plates are full, and the day we are facing is all that we can think of. Sometimes though, life is cut short un-expectantly. If we knew the time of our death, whether it be at 20, 40, 65, or 90, would we have lived each day differently?
While in the Army, I remember getting my orders that said I would be going to Vietnam. I was 19 and I wanted to live a full life, but I knew that it might be the last year of my life. I remember getting 9 days leave time before I was to head over to the war zone. One day towards twilight, while on leave, I sat on a hill overlooking my beloved hometown of Jackson, and I thought I would never see it, or my family and friends again. The year was 1971 and I wanted so to live a full life and fulfill my dreams, but now I knew it might never be. A burning thought went through my mind, “What could I say or do to leave an impact on those around me that I cared about? Was my life for nothing?” I sat there in the woods watching the sun go down and I prayed that God would guide me in the days to come. I remember asking him, “If I am to die, please let it be while helping someone.”
Now many years later I sat and listened to my mother-in-law tell me about her father’s uncle and what he said before going to war. “My father was very young, but he remembers his uncle lifting him up to say good-bye before he was shipped overseas. Reginald lovingly said to my father that he was going to fight for children like his nephew Ronald.” This message had such an impact on this little boy that it literally changed Ron’s life. These words that Reginald Dalzell said would forever live in this little boy’s heart. Ron would grow up and never forget his uncle’s last words to him. Ron always felt blessed because he knew in his heart what a sacrifice his uncle was making for him, that being Reginald’s own life.
Ron would go on to adulthood and marry his sweetheart and would have three children. Ron’s first-born son would be called Reginald in honor of his uncle. As a little boy, Ron remembered his uncle’s last words and they were seared into his heart, “I am fighting for children like you Ronald!” This child understood his uncle’s last words to him when news came that Reginald had died in the war. Ron as a little boy comprehended more than ever what sacrifice really meant.
Little Ronald at that moment came to understand what God went through in giving up his son for him. You see, Reginald gave his life up for this little boy, but so too, Ronald gave up his uncle, as well, so that he and others might enjoy freedom and life. Ron would grow up to become a minister and help lead many to Christ. The building blocks of Reginald’s last words would have such an impact on this little boy that he would never forget his uncle’s love and sacrifice for Ron. A love that meant giving up Reginald’s future and all that he could have had, but Reginald could not walk away from his calling. Ron knew in his heart that he too could do no less in his calling to be a minister of God.
So, did Reginald’s words have a lasting impact? I believe we can safely say yes to that question. Even though Reginald lived for only a short time, his legacy goes way beyond his lifetime. The question one has to ask now is, “What is my legacy? How can I have an impact on those that I love, as well as others that I may never meet.”
I have come to understand that each day is a gift from God. When receiving gifts on our birthdays, how does one respond to the giver? Can I do no less in accepting this gift of today?
A heart of thankfulness, humility and service to God, and others can be our legacy. A legacy that others will see and benefit from, long after we are gone, just like that of Reginald Dalzell’s enduring gift of sacrifice.