A Year End Thanks

In "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" author Mitch Albom follows the life and death of Eddie, an aged maintenance man at an amusement park who dies attempting to save a little girl from a malfunctioning ride.  The book follows Eddie's ascension to heaven, where he encounters the five people who had significant impact on him during his life.  If you've not read it, I give it a high recommendation or even better if you're still Christmas shopping it would make a wonderful stocking stuffer.

The holiday season is many things to each of us.  For some, a time of celebration.  Others see it as a moment of reunion with family and friends over food and beverage.  Some wrap up the year in service to those who are less fortunate.  A lot of us at some point during the month will take time to review and reflect on the year just passed and consider what lies ahead for the future.  For me this year it is a time for giving thanks.

I was thinking of Album's book and wondering who my five people could be.  Though the list should probably include a cast of hundreds, with an exception or two I tended to focus on the more obscure encounters that may have lasted only a short time, yet had immeasurable long-term impact.  Most of these folks do not know who they are and except for first names I'll maintain their anonymity.

In my first few years in elementary school I was extremely awkward and uncoordinated and consequently shied away from many playground games.  Years later my parents shared with me that it was so bad that the school's principal had conferred with them suggesting that they play some games of catch or even consider starting me in a recreational sports league.  One of my classmates, Kevin, invited me to play in a pee-wee basketball league.  Initially it was an embarrassment; even getting the ball to nick the rim of a ten foot goal was an exercise of frustration.  I worked at it, though, and gradually got better.  I made the teams I tried out for all through school and more importantly developed confidence, stamina, and athletic ability that transcended basketball.  To this day, I am still involved in sports.  Thanks, Kevin.

Though I was only under the guidance of Coach for a very short time in high school, the lessons of discipline, making good decisions on and off the court, and sacrifice still resonate today.  Coach taught us prudence in choosing our friends, how we conducted ourselves, and in serving as role models.  Through his teaching I was inspired to a lifetime of physical activity and fitness, discretion in personal conduct and business relationships, and knowledge that through dedication and persistence that I could achieve success.  I've carried his philosophies throughout life.  Thanks, Coach.

My first year and a half at college was lonely.  Though I enjoyed the company of others, I lacked deep friendships and companions at school.  Oddly enough it was on the basketball court that it changed.  At that time my most prized possession was likely a basketball so I was quite devastated when it came up missing after a pickup game.  One of the participants in the game, Bill, empathized with my alarm and must have devoted at least a full half hour of his time helping me search for the misplaced sphere.  We were not successful.  However, Bill was a member of a greek organization, a social club that until that time I had had zero interest in affiliation.  He invited me to an event.  My stubborn heart was softened.  I was invited to join and did so.  Through that encounter I was able to make friends for a lifetime, made a connection that eventually led to work in the sports broadcasting field, and most importantly met my wife.  Thanks, Bill.

As I reached my mid-40's back muscles, tightened by years of basketball, prohibited my ability to run for a form of exercise.  Tom suggested I take up Spinning (Group Cycling) for a cardiovascular workout.  I became hooked, so much so that several years later I pursued certification to become a class instructor.  Later Tom also shared information with me about a bike event that spanned the state of Iowa.  His tale intrigued me so that I signed up for my first Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) in 2008.  I've participated in every ride since then and have become a cycling aficionado.  Thanks, Tom.

I met Cindy (Missy) nearly 40 years ago at a fraternity party.  She was the girl that many guys wanted to be with:  attractive, smart, moral, active on campus, easy to be around.  Clearly out of my league.  Somehow she was led to overlook my deficiencies, continued to go out with me when I asked, and we eventually fell in love.  She has kept me Christ-focused for one.  She has also offered me an example of balance and moderation, forgiveness, generosity, loyalty, and commitment.  We have had many good days, have had our character and relationship challenged at times along the way, but have learned endurance and perseverance along the way.  Thanks, Missy and I love you.

This Christmas one of the best gifts you can give someone is thanks.  As a matter of fact, not just at Christmas by every day of the year.  Now, more than ever we all need kind words.  Tell people to their face what they do really well.  Then tell everyone else what they do well.  Celebrate when your friend's child does something well--even better than your child.  Let them bask in the light without elbowing in for a little.

So for each reader I leave you with this theme from the book:

There's always a purpose for your life.  You live for a reason the same way that people die for a reason.  Where you are today is a combination of all your past actions, decisions, and the way the people around you have affected you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to each of you.

The Seed Sower


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