No One Is an Island

IN AN EPISODE of the 1960s TV series “Star Trek,” Captain James T. Kirk of the spaceship U.S.S. Enterprise and his crew travel back in time to pre–World War II America.

Kirk falls in love with a young woman who, as determined by science officer Spock, is destined to directly affect the course of the immediate future. She will either go on to lead a successful pacifist movement in the United States which will delay its entry into the conflict, thus making it possible for Nazi Germany to win the war—or she will die in a traffic accident.

One evening, Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy meet on a town sidewalk. Across the street, the young woman sees them and begins to cross over to meet with them, but she doesn’t see the large truck speeding toward her. Dr. McCoy rushes to push her clear of danger, but Kirk—knowing the outcome should she live—restrains McCoy, and the young woman dies.

A recurring conundrum of time travel stories centers on what happens when a person who travels back in time interferes with an event, thereby setting in motion a “ripple effect” of changes that can amplify till it changes the entire outcome of history.

Whatever the dilemmas posed by science fiction writers, it is no theory that every person alive influences others. Sometimes that influence is only slight or temporary—sometimes it is lasting and profound. Every one of us knows of people whose influence on us has been powerful, perhaps changing the entire course of our lives. No one is an island. We all affect those around us.

Questions: What is your influence on the people in your life? What, I also must ask myself, is mine? Do we give more than we try to get? Do we share affirmation and love and hope with others, even though we’re flawed fellow travelers in this life? Are we patient and forgiving and tolerant? When we reach the end of our life journey, what will be our legacy?

The impact of some few in my life has been life-changing. I owe more to them than they will ever know. The entire world may not be a better place because I was here, but I do want to make all the difference for good, to as many as I can, for as long as I’m here.

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