The Cost of Influence

But oh, my dear children! I feel as if I am going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.
— Galatians 4:19 NLT

Influence comes with a price tag!

Anne Sullivan was the teacher who transformed the pupil once deaf, blind, and mute. When Anne entered the world of Helen Keller, the child was wild! She was uncontrollable. There there were fits of rage. Some called her an idiot. Others likened her to an animal. But Helen was not an animal, she was a prisoner waiting to be released.

Anne set her free.

Anne broke through Helen's silence at a water pump. While Anne pumped water over Helen's hand, she used her fingers to spell W-A-T-E-R in Helen's other hand.

Suddenly, Helen Keller’s world came alive! Objects had names. Sensations could be described. Helen finally had a way to communicate from her dark, silent cell.

The incident at the water pump was a defining moment—a moment that marked Helen Keller’s life forever. It was also a defining moment for the “Teacher.” Writing to a friend, Anne said,

My heart is singing for joy this morning! A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil’s mind, and behold, all things are changed!

Anne's imprint on Helen's hand led to Helen's imprint on the world.

This story is touching, but we lose its force if we only see one triumph. Helen changed because Anne Sullivan sacrificed. Looking back on her efforts, Anne reflected,

People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved.

I want to be like Anne. I want to bring out the best in others; to guide them out of the gloom and to serve as a catalyst of joy. Last night, Shannan and I watched "The Greatest Showman," the story of P.T. Barnum of Barnum and Bailey Circus. Barnum said,

The noblest art is that of making others happy.

Am I willing to pay the price to create that art? Am I willing to take those "halting and painful steps" Anne described? Paul reminds me that influence comes with a price tag.

But oh, my dear children! I feel as if I am going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.
— Galatians 4:19 NLT

Paul knew that for every euphoric defining moment he had to endure countless hours of labor pains. It is a lesson we must remember! So don’t give up praying, or encouraging, or supporting, or coaching, or training, or leading, or parenting, or loving that “Helen Keller” in your life.

Yes, influence comes with a price tag. It is a price worth paying.


Notes:

  • “My heart is singing for joy this morning!" from Dorthy Herrmann, Helen Keller: A Life.1998. Page 44.
  • "People seldom see ..." from Helen Keller, The Story of My Life. 1921. Page 300.