…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Each Life that Touches Ours for Good

Some wonderful people who’ve influenced my life

By Eric Chaffey


As I sat contemplating the other day, the thought kept coming to me that I should write about some of the people who have had a positive impact in my life. 

To be certain, my parents are definitely a positive influence in my life.  Some  of the important lessons my father taught me still come to mind. So do some of the very funny stories and experiences. I think he must have had ice water in his veins as he taught both my eldest sister and I how to drive. He managed to keep his cool when others might have completely lost it. One memorable evening comes to mind when my sister was behind the wheel and I was in the back seat. We both learned the meaning of the word “bear” as opposed to “turn.” We came to a fork in the road and he told her to bear left. There was no road to turn onto, so we took the right fork. We still chuckle about that one.

Another memory that’s been coming back to mind lately is my first experience with my father at the Oakland temple. My parents and I had gone down to San Francisco from our home in Yreka which is in the far north of California. It was a rather difficult time filled with a lot of uncertainty at least for me at the tender age of 4. The reason for the trip was my mother was in need of some medical care that couldn’t be had where we lived. While my mother was in the hospital, my father and I stayed with some friends of his just a little south of San Francisco. I’ve always tended to be kind of anxious and I remember a lot of anxiety on that trip. But what stands out in my mind more than anything lately is the experience of going to the temple.

When my mother was discharged from the hospital, we drove over to Oakland. I don’t remember the driving from San Francisco to Oakland. But I do remember getting out of the car with my dad at the temple. I remember looking up at the temple and walking on the grounds with my father, and I remember hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing “Behold the Great Redeemer Die” from within the bushes. I didn’t understand the concept of outdoor speakers at that age. But I remember the feelings of safety, comfort, and security which to this day are still with me. I’ve always had an appreciation for  temples. But subsequent to that time, whenever I’ve had occasion to go to the temple in Oakland those memories come flooding back. I don’t know if my dad ever had any idea how much that experience stayed with me. But I’m truly grateful that he took the time to give me that experience.

Another influence for good in my life from a very early age was a baby sitter I had. She was a very kind hearted elderly lady. I wonder if sometime in her younger days she was an elementary school teacher or perhaps a Sunday School teacher in a Protestant church. During the day, she kept numerous kids entertained by reading stories to us and had various games and activities. TV time was limited to an hour or so in the late afternoon when Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, The Electric Company, or some other PBS programming for children was on. I remember she had an orange plastic black and white TV that was on top of the piano.

Occasionally, I was the only one in her care. On those occasions, there would still be snacks and stories but also music. She picked up on the fact that I really liked church music even at a very young age. She would play hymns for me on the piano, or music on the record player which only played 78s. Some of them were more memorable than others. I remember a strange one called “The Donkey Serenade” and one that I really liked a lot was a vocalist singing “All Through the Night.” I want to say it was Jeanette McDonald, but I’m not entirely sure. She did play other things for me besides hymns, but she realized that I had a particular fondness for them and she really fostered and encouraged that love of church music which has never left me. She was one of the caretakers of a Methodist Church that was behind her house. I remember one day going with her when she had to do something there and hearing a brass quintet practicing in the sanctuary playing hymns. I think perhaps it was in part her sharing her own love of church music and encouraging mine that led me to my career path.

I mentioned Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister with a special calling. His show was simple and friendly and he taught life lessons that can be appreciated by anyone young or old. He taught children the importance of celebrating their unique gifts and talents, and appreciating and honoring those in other people. In his own quiet and gentle way even without mentioning a word about religion, he radiated the light of Christ. He loved not only children, but everyone else as well. I’ve read several journalists accounts of interviewing him and in his way he made them to feel better about themselves and the world. To this day if I’m channel surfing and come across an old episode, I’ll stop there for a minute or two.

As you might have guessed there is a common theme here. Yes they are all people who have passed on who I look forward to someday embracing when my time comes to pass beyond the veil. But more importantly, in their acts of kindness, love, and quiet service, the have touched my life and made it better. The hymn writer Karen Lynn Davidson captured a lot of what I feel in the hymn Each Life That Touches Ours For Good. 

1. Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.

2. What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.

3. When such a friend from us departs,
We hold forever in our hearts
A sweet and hallowed memory,
Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee.

4. For worthy friends whose lives proclaim
Devotion to the Savior’s name,
Who bless our days with peace and love,
We praise thy goodness, Lord, above.  Hymns 1985 #293

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