While wandering through the grocery aisles of an over-crowded Wal-Mart, I came across a young girl pointing excitedly at a woman passing by. "Mom, that's the... the lunch ticket lady! She takes our names for lunch!"
I imagine the "lunch ticket lady" is a middle-aged paraprofessional who may not even enjoy working with children all day. She may see her job as an end to a means, rather than a meaningful contribution to the school and community. But to that first-grader, seeing her at Wal-Mart is the equivalent of a movie fan spying Johnny Depp in the produce aisle. The lunch ticket lady plays an important role in that child's life, whether the woman realizes it or not.
I think sometimes we underestimate the influence we have on others, especially children. We just go through the day, doing what has to be done, and don't realize that little eyes are watching. And listening. And taking cues from us on what to say and how to behave in this world. And taking cues from us on who they are and why they matter.
So, even if you're not a parent, grandparent, or teacher, you may be a "lunch ticket lady," or a "man who passes the money plate at church." You matter in the life of a child. Be sure you play a positive role!