I am by now the not-so-new president of St. Charles Community College. In a short time I have learned to love this college and its people as well as the St. Charles/St. Louis area and all that it has to offer.
I have five daughters ranging in age from 9 years to 32, two of them living here in St. Charles with me and my wife Annie. Two dogs, two cats, and a bunny rabbit round out the household. I enjoy reading, cycling, walking the dogs, and spending time with my family.
My youngest daughter Mia has a remarkable way of viewing the world and expressing herself in words and pictures. Mia will sit for hours making cards for family members. She also will say things that both stop me in my tracks and make me smile and laugh. And she makes her bed cheerfully first thing every morning, a skill and inclination that I have never been able to instill in her four older sisters.
Last night Mia walked up to me in the kitchen and said "Dad, come here." I leaned down toward her and she said "no, closer." I leaned closer. When I got close enough for her to put her hands on the sides of my face, she whispered "I love you" into my ear and then skipped away, adding "that is for your self esteem; I don't know what that means but I just saw it on TV." Ah Mia. If I had a dime for every Mia'ism...
In "Have A Little Faith" by Mitch Albom ("Tuesdays with Morrie," "Five People you Meet in Heaven"), dying rabbi Reb, in sharing some of what he has learned in his long life, remarks that harboring resentment is a bit like taking poison and hoping that the other person will get sick.
I recently wrote a letter to the physician who cared for my first wife in the last weeks of her life 15 years ago, thanking him for everything that he tried and did to help her and my daughters and me through that difficult passage. He probably recalls feeling helpless and powerless to change the course of things. I recall him doing everything that he could.
Awhile ago I tracked down and called Mr. Jim Sweeney. Mr. Sweeney was my high school guidance counselor. In 1974, my senior year in high school, he asked me what I planned to do after graduation. I told him that I thought that I would try to get a job in the metal plant where my father worked. He said I should go to college, something no one in my family had ever done. For nearly 40 years I have told the story of how Mr. Sweeney changed my life. I decided that it was time to tell Mr. Sweeney. And despite the fact that he insisted on calling me Ronnie during the call, it was a wonderful chat for both of us.
On my way back from travel to the Northeast last week the pilots of the plane that I was on averted sure disaster when they put the plane into a steep climb a scant 100 feet from the runway at Midway, missing the plane below us that had not cleared the runway. This may happen more times than we know, but it was a first for me. I heard passengers complain that they would be late for their connection as our plane circled around for another approach. I stopped as I left the plane to thank the pilots for putting us on the ground safely.
The older I get the more I understand the healing and enriching power of expressed gratitude and appreciation - the simple giving of thanks - and the more I feel the harmful effects of holding back these expressions or harboring negative thoughts and emotions. We get, after all, a finite time to say and do the things that only we can say or do. And there is only so much space to take up with resentment, anger, and regret before these are all that we see and feel.
My wish this Thanksgiving is that we all take a lesson from Mia. That we say and do those things that make us and those around us literally feel better. What a wonderful use of time, don't you think? So for all those who read this, thank you - for reading it and for being someone who has the singular power to say and do those things that only you can say and do to make life better. Happy Thanksgiving.