Last fall, Tracie Lanphere contacted me about participating in a week long Kids Across America Kamp in Missouri with local youth from our area. Tracie spearheaded and organized the entire trip with the help of friends and the First Baptist Church family. This past June, three women (me, Tracie and Tracey Goggans), and eight men chaperoned 38 young boys (ages 12 – 18) to the camp. Many of the boys had never been out of the state of Mississippi; and, certainly, had not been to a Christian camp.

After arriving, I realized very quickly, that not only was the camp for the boys; but, for me as well. It was a time of bonding with people from different backgrounds and nationalities, and a time of bonding for me with Tracie and Tracey. We were not just chaperones – we were sisters by the time camp was over. Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “He who is different from me does not impoverish me – he enriches me.” Those two ladies were different from me in color, in backgrounds, in socio-economic status; yet, my life was enriched by these two women.

Then, I had a conversation with Marcus McCoy, one of the male chaperones in our group. He said, “Tracie and I go back a long way. She was my teacher when I was 10 years old.” Tracie later told me the full story. She talked about being a student teacher at Thomas Street School. At the end of the term on a Friday in December, she received a call from that 10-year-old black student. He asked if he and three friends could come and rake her family’s yard on that Saturday. Tracie let Marcus speak to her father and he agreed to let the boys come and do the work. Marcus and the three young boys walked from a long distance to their home that morning, raked the yard, were fed lunch by Tracie and her mom and after being paid, walked back home. Then Marcus walked to the downtown mall. Marcus bought a gift (with the money he had earned). He walked back to Tracie’s home with her Christmas gift, a beautiful candy jar. This young student teacher made an impact on Marcus’ life. Sasha Azevedo said, “When you love people and have the desire to make a profound, positive impact upon the world, then will you have accomplished the meaning to live.”

Later, Marcus left Mississippi and moved to Chicago. At the tender age of 13, his life began to change. He became involved with a gang. He ran from bullets constantly and began selling drugs. This was his life. As an adult, he went to prison for five years. While there, he asked the Lord to help change his life. He left prison as a changed man and later returned to Tupelo. One day, he was sitting in Baskin-Robbins, and Tracie walked through the door. They reunited and talked about the path his life had taken since he last saw her as a student teacher. He talked about his passion to help young boys. She talked about her passion to help young people. Together, these two have a ministry of visiting the youth in the juvenile center – almost every week. They spread the Word and their testimonies. They work together to change lives.

Jackie Robinson said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” I saw first-hand the impact of taking those 38 young boys to camp. By the end of the week, some of the young boys had rededicated their lives to the Lord and some accepted Him into their lives. I know one day some of them will recognize the impact on their lives from that same young student teacher. Tracie still has the candy jar as a reminder to always love, serve and impact the lives of people.

An unknown author said, “Your life has purpose. Your story is important... Your voice matters. You were born to make an impact.”

Are you making a lasting impact on the lives of others, like Tracie Lanphere and Marcus McCoy? You be the judge.

JUANITA FLOYD is the vice president of finance and administration at the CREATE Foundation and a community columnist. Readers can contact her at juanita@createfoundation.com.

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