A Gratitude Returned

Husband has long invested in his Junior Tribe Members. More than most fathers, I think. One more reason why I love him so much.

His is seasonal work.  He works long, hard hours in the summer, and less so in winter. When his JTM’s were small, he was often at home during the parenting during the long, cold days of winter.

As they grew older, he stayed involved with them in the community and at school as their basketball coach. I love how coaches develop skills in their team far beyond the basic skills of ball handling and game strategy.  Team work, perseverance, grit, collaboration, and the value of helping out fellow team members to together become stronger are such valuable lessons caught while the children think they are playing a sport.

Husband often would have a theme for the team for the season when he would coach one of his kids.  The year one his JTM’s was in Grade 7, the school team he was coaching chose gratitude as their theme goal for the year.  They would talk about gratitude they had for each other…the way a player gathered the extra balls after practice, or was unselfish in passing the ball to another to allow a player to score his first basket of the season, and so on. It encouraged mutual support to express the gratitude to each other as a team.

The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. Henri Nouwen On poster of wooden background with a gift oituden the side on blog about a gratitude returned.

Husband also encouraged the athletes to extend their gratitude to others beyond the team.

They played a game each week where he would ask 2 different questions of them each week.  For example, he would say, “Who thanked the custodian this week?” or “Who thanked your parents for driving you to practice?” Those who hadn’t practiced gratitude in that area had to run a man-maker. AFter a while, the kids took turn asking the questions: “Who thanked the math teacher for being your teacher?” You can pretty much guess who the athlete asking the question took the time to thank!  🙂

The team participated in an exercise where they each wrote a letter to someone in their lives to whom they were thankful. Husband wrote a letter as well.

That was in 2008.

This week, Husband received an email from Byron.

Out of the blue, Byron let him know that he had been cleaning out some boxes and had come across the letter Husband had written all those years ago.

Byron was the person to whom Husband sent his letter when he coached the team. He didn’t have Husband’s contact information. He called people who he thought might know, and chased down Husband’s coordinates. He thanked him for the letter.

Byron was an influential figure in Husband’s life.  When Husband was an early adolescent, he went to Boy’s Brigade, a club similar to Boy Scouts. Byron was his Brigade leader. Byron took the group of boys skiing and had them for sleepovers.  He invested in their lives. Byron was 11 years older than Husband, and was  just venturing into pig farming at the time. A young man with a big dream. He gave Husband his first job, working in a pig barn.

Husband found out in that barn that he could work hard, and do a good job–something every young person loves to discover. Byron gave Husband a chance to learn his own abilities by believing in him enough to hire him.

Husband remembers Byron giving him the keys to a vehicle at 14 and telling him to take it to the neighbouring yard. Husband’s eyes get big when he tells that story–he’d never driven before. But Byron told him to do something, and he wasn’t going to let Byron down.

Byron trusted Husband, and he delivered. I think Husband grew a couple of inches in spirit that day.

Isn’t being trusted an empowering feeling?

Husband never forgot Byron’s influence in his life and so many years later, it had just seemed natural to have let Byron know.

They spent a couple of hours on the phone day before yesterday.

Byron got that letter in 2008, but didn’t contact Husband until this week, when he found the letter again during some office clean out. Byron said he had periodically looked for the letter over the years. He had appreciated getting the letter, but it had come during a difficult time and then he had misplaced it amidst the chaos of the time.

The letter came to him in 2008.  2008, you might remember, was a year of financial crisis across the US and much of Canada. Byron was a real estate developer and he was scrambling to stay afloat when the market suddenly dropped out from beneath him. He was preoccupied with the survival of his business and his very livelihood.

In that period of utter desolation, he had received Husband’s note of gratitude.

And Husband never even knew of the remarkable timing. Encouragement during a bleak time.

This week, when they talked, Byron told Husband how much he had enjoyed working the 13 and 14 year olds when he was in his mid-20’s.  He regarded it, at the time, as the highlight of his week. They had each been important in each other’s lives all those years ago.

These two men spent a long time on the phone this week, catching up on their lives. Their families. Their dreams, disappointments, and careers.

Husband was delighted by the surprise of Byron’s contact. Byron didn’t have to call. He might have talked himself out of it: “That was so long ago, I’ll look foolish making contact now”, “The 9 year old email address bounced back. At least I tried.”  Nope.

Byron troubled himself to close the loop. Isn’t that kind?

Husband was grateful.

He valued the opportunity to reconnect with a former mentor. It made for a great story at family supper as we all reflected on the long arm of gratitude. I loved how the ripple effects of Husband’s action that said: “You mattered to me, and I’m grateful for the influence you had in my life”, lingered long after we might have thought it was forgotten.

Who are you grateful for?

Do they know it?
Have you told them lately?

Wouldn’t it be great to tell them? Write them a note, an email, make a quick call?

Imagine how much fun it would be to receive a message like that from someone–and then give that delight to someone?!

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