Taking and leaving a lasting impression

&8220;The things we savor the most are the hardest earned.&8221;

&045;&045; Jim Hardison

Nothing is more important or more difficult to earn and maintain than a good reputation. This sage advice many of us received as we transitioned from children to adults as well as the fact that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Both of these life lessons have been on my mind recently, not so much as they relate to raising two children in a rapidly changing world, but as a result of two groups of international visitors to Shelby County.

One delegation, a 10-person group comprised of people from eight cities from the former Soviet Union,

will visit Alabaster and Helena later this month. The purpose of the visit is to learn more about democratic municipal governments. They want to discover how they function and how they serve what can be, perhaps, fickle constituents. Some things, after all, aren&8217;t so different regardless of the time zone. Our Russian visitors could not have chosen better cities from which to learn.

The second international delegation, members of the Maasai tribe of Kenya, brought its friendly demeanor, elaborate costumes and entertaining performances to the University of Montevallo and Hilltop Montessori School last week.

This was the second trip to Shelby County for the Maasai with the dual purpose of cultural exchange and fund-raising for education in their homeland.

A day spent at the Hilltop Montessori School in Mt Laurel was filled with the sharing of Maasai dances, music and games and discussion of government and social issues.

Visitors to our community, whether from Kenya or Maine, leave with concrete ideas developed firsthand during their trip. Such impressions are much stronger and, more times than not, more accurate than anything read in a newspaper or book.

Are they friendly toward fellow citizens and visitors? What are the foundations of their belief system? These are all questions visitors might ask themselves while touring the county.

Likewise, our international visitors make lasting impressions on us. We form opinions about their personalities, their education, their priorities and their aspirations.

We can only hope their impressions of us are as glowing as ours are of them