Originally published in the News-Graphic in 1999.
This morning on the way to work I heard the most unusual statement. It was about two people being considered the most influential people of this century and the two named were Hitler and Elvis. Can you imagine that?
It caused me to wonder what really makes a person influential. Is it popularity? Is it wealth? Is it power? There have been some powerful people in this century. They have made their mark and then moved on. Most were heads of government and powerful people. Many used force to achieve their purpose either for good or for bad.
There was one man, however, that has done more to change the world than all individuals combined. He headed no government. He had no money. He rarely had a place he could even call home.
A favorite Christmas story of mine that I read every year for more than a quarter of a century while teaching Sunday School and one that I like to repeat is about this very person.
It tells the true Christmas story and no matter how many times you have heard it, it never grows old.
“Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village and that a despised one. He worked in a carpenter shop for 30 years, and then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.
“He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a really big city. He never traveled, except in his infancy, more than 200 miles from the place He was born. He had no credentials but Himself.
“While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them betrayed Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through a mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. His executors gambled for the only piece of property He had on Earth, His seamless robe.
“When He was dead, He was taken down from the cross and laid in a borrowed tomb through the courtesy of a friend. Twenty wide centuries have come and gone and today Jesus is the centerpiece of the human race, and the leader of a human progress.
“I believe I am well within the man when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that have ever sat, and all the kings that ever ruled put together have not affected the life of man upon this Earth like this one solitary personality.
“All time dates from His birth and it is impossible to understand or interrupt the progress of human civilization in any nation on Earth apart from his influence. Slowly through the ages man is coming to realize that the greatest necessity in the world is not water, iron, gold, food or even nitrate in the soil; but rather this solitary personality enshrined in human hearts, thoughts and motives.”
George Lusby is the former Scott County judge-executive. “The Best of Crawfish and Minnows,” is available at the News-Graphic office.