Kathy Manos Penn is a native of the “Big Apple,” who settled in the “Peach City” – Atlanta. A former English teacher now happily retired from a corporate career in communications, she writes a weekly column for the Dunwoody Crier and the Highlands Newspaper. Read her blogs and columns and purchase her books, “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday” and “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” on her website theinkpenn.com or Amazon.
How often do you take the time to let someone know they've made a difference in your life, that something they did or said influenced you? Conversely, how often does someone tell you what you mean to them? I've been thinking about this question ever since my husband's brother-in-law passed away in January.
I knew he was much loved by his family and friends, but I got the first inkling of how much the community loved and respected him when we attended the viewing. This 81-year-old gentleman had been a Baptist preacher in South Georgia and Northern Florida for 40+ years. Though he had officially retired from preaching years ago, he was in constant demand for weddings and funerals and continued to fill in for pastors as needed.
People started showing up at 4:45 pm for what was supposed to be a 6-8 pm event. Over 750 people signed the guest book; the line stretched out of the funeral home into the yard, and the family stayed until 9:30 so that all who came were able to speak with them. I'd never before seen a turnout like it, and it didn't stop there.
This outpouring of love continued to the church the next day where folding chairs were brought into the sanctuary to accommodate all who attended, and again, folks arrived an hour ahead of the scheduled service. What a testament to his life. Hopefully, he had an idea of his influence as he saw many around him grow up and model their lives after his.
That experience prompted me to think that most of us likely have no idea of the impact we have on others. When individuals choose a life of service as a preacher, a teacher, a nurse, etc., they may expect to make a difference and may have a general sense that they do. Still, I wonder how often they hear a heartfelt thank you or realize the lasting impression they may make.
Those who don't choose a life of service can also be influencers without being conscious of it. Perhaps some of you are like me, unaware of the positive light in which others perceive you until they tell you. I haven't forgotten the phone calls I got from co-workers as I was leaving corporate America. I was touched and surprised when some did more than wish me well and went on to tell me what they learned from me. That was an experience to be treasured, and I'm glad they didn't wait to tell my family after I departed this world.
Why do we wait until someone retires or passes away before we speak up? Why not tell folks while they're still with us? Instead of asking "What are you thankful for?" a question posted on Facebook on Thursdays, why not ask "Who are you thankful for?"
Let's create a day or a month dedicated to letting people know what they mean to us, how they make us feel, or how they've influenced us. A dedicated holiday would prompt us to stop to think about the difference others have made in our lives, and better yet, we'd make a difference in theirs by letting them know.
A friend told me her father thought we got three days after we died to stay on earth spiritually. He said, "God gave Jesus three days before he went to Heaven, and I think we get them too."
Her father was sure he'd get to see his own funeral. Perhaps that happens, but let's hedge our bets and create "Thank You Day." If today were "Thank You Day," who would you thank and what would you say?
Kathy Manos Penn is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her latest book, "Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch," and her collection of columns, "The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday," on Amazon. Contact her at email@example.com, and follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/.