The year 1918 was brutal. It wasn’t due to World War I. It was the flu.

Without few treatment options, the flu killed 50 million people worldwide. It was passed from person to person in a “contagion.”

Every parent of a sick child asks the question, “Is he (or she) contagious?” Something is contagious if it spreads from one person to another.

We all need to be contagious, in the best possible way.

Life has one fundamental truth:

People do what people see.

While we rely on education to teach, most things are caught, not taught. While facts can tell you what to do, other people show us how to do.

Think of your attitude. What happens when someone smiles at you? It is hard not to smile back. You caught their “bug” created by their actions.

I was the passenger on a mission trip bus. Actually, I was a passenger on an attitude collision. It pushed me into the whirlwind of a negative contagious example.

The bus entered the Washington, D.C. traffic pattern at rush hour. Unfamiliar roundabouts kept the driver from getting in the right lane to turn to our destination. We circled more times than we could count.

Hours passed since the teens gulped down their Big Macs at a far-distant town. Now, hunger and anger fueled a lethal and explosive mixture.

It started with a few grumblers. The more times around the curve seeing the same scenery the more the caustic chorus grew. Grumbles changed from a low howl to frantic shouts. Soon, everyone’s mood turned sour.

Such is the contagiousness of an example.

Most people don’t think of their example but should.

Marcus Aurelius, the last good emperor of Rome, opened The Meditations with a list of people who had affected his life. He watched how they lived and brought into his life what he saw.

The Jewish rabbi Menahem Mendel knew the power of a well-lived example for a child. He instructed:

“If you truly wish your child to study Torah, study it yourself in their presence. They will follow your example. Otherwise, they will not themselves study Torah, but will simply instruct their children to do so.”

Do you want to change the lives of others? Don’t tell them what to do. Give them a good positive example.

It is cheap, easy, and ineffective to lecture, scold, or remind those others of what we know. But when we live well will gain subtle attention.

How can I help younger people with their children? It’s not by telling them my parenting stories or giving them correct answers. It’s how I treat my adult children and my grandchildren. That’s the loudest megaphone of all.

How do we make our example count?

Be intentional about actions but not arrogant. Accept the fact that others do watch. Some will look to criticize, but many are curious about why you do what you do. Decide what is you can teach by your daily life.

Everyone knows the “know-it-alls” who are abrasive and overbearing. If your attitude shouts at people, they can never hear the whisper of your example.

Get your life clear. Every day line your life up with your values. (I amazed at how hard this is.) If your actions mirror your words, people will listen.

Remember, people do what people see. What do they see in you?