Rick Wamre: The simple act of going back to say ‘thanks’

Gratitude game

Recently, I read an article about reconnecting, about the importance of finding someone who has done something nice for us over the years and deliberately letting that person know how much they mattered in our life.

It seemed like a good idea, and I decided to do it. I didn’t have anyone in particular in mind, but how hard could it be to find someone who has provided a boost to my life or career and just say “thanks?”

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But as time slid by, I moved on to other things and forgot all about thanking someone who deserved it.

Then a couple of weeks ago in church, our pastor talked about this exact same thing.

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And before I could forget to proceed yet again came the clincher: While moving some stuff around in my office, I ran across a book given to me by one of my high school teachers when I graduated. The book, “J.B.” by Archibald MacLeish, is a “play in verse” loosely based on the Biblical story of Job, a guy who the devil bet he could turn against God by throwing a few obstacles in Job’s life path.

For years, I’ve been toting the book with me from apartments to homes to offices. It was always there, but rarely visible. For years, I wouldn’t even run across it, and then out of the blue, there it would be again — waiting for me to pick it up, flip it open and remember the guy who gave it to me.

Mr. Hassenstab was the adviser for our high school student newspaper, my first experience with journalism. He was also our English teacher, and he gave me my first “F.” I defied him on an assignment that was half the grade for the entire class, and he followed through with the grade I deserved.

Inside the book rests a worn and now-faded note with a bit of advice I’ve referred to time and again over the years.

“Academically, your education is just beginning. You will get very frustrated during the next four to six years. But do not forget the value of academics and become too relevant. Make sure your ‘thing’ is worth doing.

“Good luck in the coming years. Feel free to stop in at any time and write to us to let us know how things are going.”

I always meant to follow through and let him know how I was doing; I just didn’t do it. And I’m sure not hearing from me probably didn’t keep him awake at night, either. After all, I was just one of hundreds, maybe thousands, of students who passed through his classes.

But it’s a new year, and there’s no good reason to keep doing things the same way I’ve been doing them.

So the next note I type will be to Mr. Hassenstab, just to say “thanks.”

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