Carl Mays: It only takes a spark

Oct. 17, 2013 @ 11:41 PM

Several years ago, a football team with whom I have worked was trailing at halftime by a score of 20-7. There was a spirited discussion at intermission – and one player in particular seemed to gain an inner spark.

This inner spark ignited into an outer fire. In a way, the situation reminded me of a song that was once very popular among church youth groups: “It only takes a spark to get a fire going. Soon, all those around warm up in its glowing…”

Of course, that song was sung in a context other than a football locker room, but the idea of one person influencing many is the same. The influence of one football player that evening eventually resulted in a 28-20 victory. He and his team thoroughly dominated the second half – a huge departure from the lackadaisical performance of the first half.

I thought of that player and football game just a few evenings ago when my wife and I dined out. The restaurant we chose has good food and, usually, a very pleasant atmosphere or ambience.

I say “usually,” because on this particular evening, one unruly child dominated the atmosphere. The other customers were adults and, like my wife and me, were thoroughly disgusted that the child was allowed to have his way.

Screeching, banging utensils on the table, then crying when his father told him to stop (but continuing his banging), it was obvious the parents were not in control of the situation. This one small, undisciplined child created a “spark,” but no one warmed up in its glowing.

My point? One person can make a big difference. On a sports team, in a restaurant, in a business, family, school, church or whatever, one person can create a positive or negative atmosphere. The “spark” created by this one person can either help or hinder the rest of the group. I’ve seen groups blossom and grow due to a single influence. I’ve seen groups wither and die.

I recall a business in which the employees were stumbling in the dark and the enterprise was faltering until a new leader entered the picture and turned on a light that resulted in success for the company. On the other hand, I recall a church that was growing and influencing others positively until a self-proclaimed dictator staff member came along with the philosophy, “Everything has to have my stamp and be done my way or its wrong.” The church eventually lost its joy and positive influence, as it became a den of internal bickering. (This, by the way, currently seems to be happening denomination-wide among some religious groups.)

There is an old saying, “You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.” In essence, this means you are either influencing things in a negative way or a positive way. What kind of “spark” are you?