This past weekend, Canada paused for a moment to give thanks. In a couple of weeks, our American friends and colleagues will also be celebrating Thanksgiving. When was the last time you stopped and thought about the people in your life and your workplace, recognized their contribution, and actually thanked them?
That lesson of telling them now was driven home to me when my father died.
About a year after his passing, my mom, sisters, and families gathered around his gravesite to commemorate his life. We each took a turn recounting a memory about dad and how it impacted us. It was wonderful to hear so many things I didn’t realize and it made me wonder if dad knew them too.
It was that moment I vowed to make sure I tell people in the living years what they mean to me and the impact their actions have.
Lessons my mother taught me
When I got home, I started mailing my mother weekly missives, one-pagers entitled, “Lessons my mother taught me”. Each one recounted a moment ingrained in my brain and character and learned at my mother’s hand. They spoke of her tremendous kindness and insight, her ability to see past the obvious and to constantly make me feel valued and loved.
Years later, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and being cared for in the United Mennonite home in Vineland, I visited several times a year from Ottawa. One day I arrived with a gift for mom. It was a binder with the bold words, “Lessons My Mother Taught Me” on the front cover. Inside, in page protector sheets, were the stories I had mailed to mom.
My visits often included reading those stories with mom, she reading one paragraph and I reading the next. With every challenge comes a gift. The gift of Alzheimer’s was that every story was a new one for her. I have a particular memory of reading one story and mom looking up to me with her striking blue Irish eyes, saying, “I did that?”. Yes, mom. Yes, you did. That and so much more.
The stories included details of not only what she had done, but the impact her actions had on me both at that time and years later. She read them with astonishment that seemingly small gestures could impact so profoundly.
And that’s the lesson: small gestures impact profoundly — tell them now. So let me ask you this …
Who has impacted you either in your personal life or workplace? And have you told them?
It’s not too late. Do it now, in the living years. And if they’ve passed, write them a letter. Keeping compliments to yourself does no one any good. As human beings, we’re all wired to connect, to be social beings — that’s how we survive. So feed those connections, and tell them now.
I find great solace in knowing that I shared these memories and stories with mom, that I was able to see her great delight in knowing she made a terrific impact on my life, that she had left her indelible mark, that she would live on. And she does, every day with the lessons my mother taught me.