Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you; your elders and they will tell you. Deuteronomy 32:7
As I reflect on my life, I can recall people and conversations that changed the course of my life or were instrumental in helping me become who I am today. One such person was Frank Panezich, or Mr. P as we called him. He was my high school English teacher my senior year. I wrote on him previously, but I’ll mention him again. He was a hard teacher. He made our class do a 10-15-minute timed write to begin class each day. Many of us, including me, dreaded it. We had to sit down and write quickly, because we would get a grade for each day. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Mr. P was teaching me how to write quickly, how to quickly put ideas together and put them down on paper. Mr. P is as responsible as anyone for the Prayer Team, the daily writing I do, because he is the one who taught me the discipline of writing daily and writing quickly. I wish I could thank him. He passed away several years ago, so I’ll never get my chance.
Then there was Fr. James Adams, my priest when I was in college, who told me to “be a survivor and not a victim” in life. A conversation I had with him in August 1991 remains one of the most profound and life-changing conversations of my life. I remember back in 2007, Fr. James came to visit me in Tampa, and we served the Divine Liturgy together. At the end of the service, I gave a sermon, and it was about how Fr. James had changed my life. I remember saying, “we usually save these kinds of comments for a eulogy, and we don’t tell people in life what they really mean to us.” I’m so glad I thanked him in person that day. He has since passed away.
George Reed was my Scoutmaster. He taught me many things in Boy Scouts that I still use today in my life. I recently called him, after not talking to him in over 20 years, just to say thank you. It not only made his day, it made my day too. It was a great opportunity to reminisce about old times, and also for him to know that his contribution in my life has not been forgotten. The thing that had been forgotten was that I hadn’t gone back and thanked him.
Each of us has people like Mr. P, Fr. James and Mr. Reed in their lives. Each of us has people who have changed the course of our life for the better, even though we didn’t know it at the time.
Each of us has probably changed the course of someone else’s life, even though we may not know it. In fact, we may not even remember it. When I told Fr. James, for instance, that our conversation in August 1991 changed the trajectory of my life, he didn’t remember the conversation. And that’s not a bad thing—it meant that he had had that conversation to serve God and to serve me, not for any kind of reward. Lots of us will wonder as we go through life, “have I made an impact on others?” Parents will wonder that about their children, spouses will wonder that about their spouses, lawyer will wonder that for their clients, doctors for their patients, teachers for their students, etc.
One of the easiest and most rewarding things one can do is simply say thank you to someone. Whether that person is from your recent past or your distant past, everyone likes receiving a thank you. I think it is especially important to remember people from our distant past, people who are retired, who aren’t on the front lines anymore. It is important to let them know that things they did really mattered in our lives. We don’t say “thank you” enough to anyone, but especially to those in our distant past.
I’ll never be able to thank Mr. P in person. I wish I could. I’m glad I got to thank Fr. James when he was alive, and recently with Mr. Reed. There are others that come to my mind that I now feel motivated to track down and thank. If we are honest, we can all think of people like this, from our distant as well as our recent past, who have had a profound impact on us, who we may not see often or at all.
Think of people you no longer see who have made an impact on you, and write or contact them just to say thank you. It will make their day, and it will make your day as well!
Lord, thank You for all the helpful influences I have had in my life. Thank You for the people who have impacted me constantly, like my parents and siblings, and thank You for those who have impacted me in significant ways, even if they don’t know they have (list some of these people). Help me also to be a good influence on others, whether I know it or not. Amen.
Thank someone from your distant past. Thank someone from your recent past. And thank someone who you see all time. Make thanking people part of your daily life!