As I wrote in my prior essay (Thank You Granny!), I owe my grandmother a great debt. But I fell short in repaying it to her. Before she died I didn’t do enough to tell her how much she meant to me. Oh, I wrote her a couple of letters, but that wasn’t enough. At her funeral I had so many unspoken words in my mouth – and no way to tell them to her. It was one of the lowest points in my life. I’m reminded of the words of Leo Buscaglia in his motivational speech, Celebrate Life: “The time to live is now. The time to love is now. Put it off, and see what happens!” In this same speech he read a poem from a former student of his, titled Things You Didn’t Do.
Remember the day I borrowed your brand new car and I dented it? I thought you’d kill me, but you didn’t.
And the time that I dragged you to the beach and you said it would rain, and it did? I thought you’d say I told you so, but you didn’t.
And the time that I flirted with all the guys to make you jealous, and you were? I thought you’d leave me, but you didn’t.
And the time I spilled strawberry pie all over your brand new rug. I thought you’d smack me, but you didn’t.
Remember the time I forgot to tell you that the dance was formal and you showed up in jeans? I thought you’d drop me, but you didn’t.
Yes, there were lots of things that you didn’t do, but you put up with me and you loved me, and you protected me and there were lots of things that I wanted to make up to you – when you returned from Vietnam … but you didn’t.
That sure is a hard lesson for a young girl to learn. My daughter learned a similar lesson several years ago. During the summer of 2004, our family stayed with the Temple family at their camp in Massachusetts for the 4th of July holiday weekend. On the last day we went boating – riding on tubes, water skiing, and picnicking on an island. At the end of the day, Grandpa Jack gave us a ride back to shore on his boat. He shook my hand and my son’s hand. Then, he gestured a hug toward my daughter, Courtney. But she withdrew … she was only nine, and a little hesitant to hug someone she had only known for a couple of days. Grandpa Jack picked up on this immediately, and said, “That’s ok. Maybe you’ll give me a hug next year.” He waved goodbye to us. That was the last time we saw Grandpa Jack alive. The following autumn he was diagnosed with cancer, and he died before the next boating season. When we went to the funeral, Courtney began to cry … she remembered the hug she withdrew, and realized there would never be another chance. She whispered to me, “I wish I’d given him a hug that day.”
There are so many ways to show how thankful you are to another person. A hug is one way. Another is to look them in the eye when you speak with them, listen carefully to them, and show you care about what they say – by responding to their needs. And remember, the easiest and least expensive thing you can give to another person is yourself. Yet so often we make ourselves available only in a limited supply. Take a minute, write a note to someone you care about. Pick up the phone and call an old friend – one who was once central in your life – but you haven’t spoken to in several months or years. Make the time to be thoughtful and thankful. “I’m too busy” is a lame excuse. All of us have the same allotment of time – 24 hours a day.
I have a friend who leaves little gifts for the people that make his life easier – a box of chocolates for the post-woman, a gift card for the snowplow driver, a 6-pack for the janitor. Just something to say “Thank you – your efforts are noticed.” The actual gift isn’t as important as the gesture and the meaning behind it. So, I dare you to make those gestures … and to thank someone … now.
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