The two men glanced at each other, and as they did, the younger of the two immediately recognized the older man and asked, "Hi, do you remember me?"
"I don't," said the older man. "Refresh my memory."Twenty years ago the two worked at the same company. The younger man was in an entry-level position; the older man was in a key management position. "You have a good memory," said the older man after he was told where their paths had crossed.
"Well, you made an impression on me that I haven't forgotten."
Little did the older man realize that what he did at the time made an impression on the younger man, about whom he had long since forgotten.
"I hope it was favorable," quipped the senior of the two.
"It was," came the reply, and with that, the two men parted, but the words of the younger man lingered: "You made an impression on me!"
Each day of our lives, what we do makes an impression on somebody. Somebody is watching, observing, although we may not be aware of it. What will they tell us 20 years later about the impressions they formed of us? Will we be proud of our actions? Or will we find excuses for our behavior?
Impressions in the minds of people are usually indelibly etched. Whether good or bad, they probably will go with us for years. How much better it is to do those things that we will be remembered for the good we did, rather than those things that are negative and harmful that are not easily forgotten or erased.
While our motives should not be to try to impress people, it is important that we live our lives in such a way that we do not leave behind tracks in the sands of time that we wish would be washed away.
We are commanded to "Arise and shine forth" and let our light "be a standard for the nations." (D&C 115:5.)
That directive applies in everything we do - in our homes, at our work places, in our Church callings, in all of our pursuits and activities. It is so important to, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16.)
Legion are the accounts of people joining the Church because of favorable impressions they received from faithful Latter-day Saints who live their religion and go about doing good. President Gordon B. Hinckley said at the Smithfield/Logan Utah Regional Conference last April that the greatest thing we can do for missionaries "is to live at home the gospel which they declare to the world."
But unfortunately, our actions can also do harm. If we're not living the gospel, will any of our friends be inclined to investigate the Church?
"How much easier it is to understand and accept if the seeker after truth can also see the principles of the gospel at work in the lives of other believers," President Spencer W. Kimball said. "No greater service can be given to the missionary calling of this Church than to be exemplary in positive Christian virtues in our lives." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 555.)
How about our children? What impressions are they receiving because of our actions? Young children are so impressionable, particularly by what their parents do.
At the April 1966 general conference, President David O. McKay spoke of the impression he received at any early age concerning the reality of God. "If you ask me where I first received my unwavering faith in the existence of God, I would answer you: in the home of my childhood when Father and Mother invariably called their children around them in the morning and at night and invoked God's blessings upon the household and upon mankind." President McKay said there was a serenity in his father's voice "that left an undying impression in the souls of his children."
The 13th Article of Faith sums up what the Lord and the Church expect of each of us: "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. . . . If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
Such should be the course of our actions. Such should burn within our hearts.
At a BYU devotional on Oct. 17, 1995, President Hinckley said: "Give expression to the noble desires that lie within your hearts to reach out to comfort, sustain, and build others. As you do so the cankering poison of selfishness will leave you and it will be replaced by a sweet and wonderful feeling that seems to come in no other way. Never forget that the Church expects you to be benevolent and to do good to all men."
Such should be the legacy that we leave behind.