Taking Time To Say Thank You

When was the last time you called, emailed or personally thanked someone for something they did for you?

Not just say the words thank you, but have those words come from your heart because that person did something that inspired you or changed you in a way that was life altering. I would venture a guess that the answer is not very often.

Stop and take five minutes and think about a time when someone did something for you or said something to you that you have never forgotten and caused you to be a better person. Seriously… think for just five minutes. Maybe it was something big like that person who took time to teach you a skill that helped you realize that is what your life’s calling was, or you saw a fireman pull a person out of a burning building or rescue a kitty from the top of a tree, or maybe it was as simple as a kind word from a total stranger when life was kicking the crap out of you and you felt your life wasn’t worth living. Or, as many of us would answer, that teacher who took us aside and encouraged us to work harder to accomplish a task that seemed to difficult to do and told us we could do anything if we just applied the talent they clearly recognized but we didn’t.

Let me cite a couple of personal examples.

When I was a sophomore in high school I couldn’t get into an algebra class because my grades in math had been horrible. I went to a teacher, Mr. Earnest Defenbach, better known as Mr. D, and asked him if he would let me take his algebra class. He took me down to Mr. Cameron’s office and made an impassioned plea on my behalf. I got in. Then Mr. D did something that was life changing for me. He asked me to say after school and help him work on a system that he hoped would be able to predict prime numbers. I had never had a teacher single me out to “help” them. I had plenty of them single me out for being a disruptive student who underachieved at everything except P.E. Because of Mr. D, I went to college, studied math and later economics.

When I was in my twenties and I was going through a major depressive episode and had no direction in life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, my marriage was falling apart, I had no money and couldn’t find a ray of hope anywhere. Then one day I went with Tim Kelley to take pictures of him working in the woods. I spent the day out on a hot brushy hillside watching young men my age working as hard as they could, doing a rough dangerous job, throwing caution aside to achieve maximum production.

I ask Tim why they worked so hard and took so many risks for so little pay. He said because he didn’t want to let his boss down. So I went back the next day under the guise of taking more pictures with hopes of meeting this boss. Well I met him and we talked for a few minutes and I was impressed with just how smart this logger was. Just to clarify, loggers had a reputation for being not to bright and being a logger was a job of last resort, not one that most “educated” men chose. For two months I went to work with Tim, having left my camera home after the first three days, and worked alongside the rigging crew setting chokers. One day Nick Counts, the boss, took me aside and said, I’ve been watching you work. I want you to stay home. I was surprised because I was killing myself out there. Then he said the words that changed my life and give me the direction I so desperately needed. “You’re making my crew look bad because you’re out-working all of them and you’re doing it for free. So either let me put you on the payroll or stay home.”

Those words saved my marriage and literally saved my life. I went on to own a good sized logging company and employ hundreds of young men. Many of whom I mentored and have remained friends with.

In 2010 I was taking an academic writing class and my professor was a young and very smart women whom I got off to a slow start with. I wasn’t all that excited about having to take the class, and even less excited to have to keep a daily journal that would be part of my grade. I didn’t know what to write about so I started a running conversation with Professor Trapedo. At first I think she was surprised I chose to converse with her through the journal but she started replying in kind. We talked about the responsibilities of a student to the professor and classmates and the responsibilities of the professor to her students. We talked about writing and it’s importance in life. It was these conservations that started me on a new path and ultimately made it possible to write a book that may fulfill my life long dream of helping others in a significant way.

Each of these people shaped me and saved me from a wasted life.

In the last year I’ve had two people come up to me and thank me for something I told them years ago that had a big impact on them. In the past month I have had three people take the time to find me then call and thank me for writing my book A Recipe for Hope. They all told me that what I wrote has changed their lives and gave them hope that they would live a longer, healthier life. In all these cases it is hard to describe how moved I was and how appreciative.

So here’s the deal, I am going to take time and call or write to the people that have made my life better because they took time to be kind to me or give me life-altering advice or lift me up when I needed a hand. I suggest that you do the same because you never know… your words may be just what the other person needs to hear.

But don’t be surprised if they too don’t feel they deserve the thank you.

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