Honoring the Impactful People in Our Lives

*This is the first blog post in a new series called Upon Reflection.

“There is no greater joy nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone’s life.” – Sister Mary Rose McGeady, D.C.

Several weeks ago on October 1st, my older son Alex and I visited my dad Steve in Florida on his 83rd birthday and presented him with a very special gift. He knew I had written a new book, but he did not know it was dedicated to him and my mother Sandi who passed away in 2009. He learned about this surprise as he opened his present, a beautifully framed copy of the dedication page from Essential Wisdom for Leaders of Every Generation. My father is not a very emotional man, but this was a teary-eyed moment for him and all of us who had gathered to celebrate his special day.

The book is dedicated to him and my dear departed mother because they both have been a source of so much wise counsel over the years and an inspiration to me and many others for the exemplary way they led lives built around faith, family, generosity and service to their community. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to share this heartfelt moment of acknowledgement and gratitude with my father and have done my best over the last several years to tell him how much he means to me and how grateful I am to be his son.

I wonder how often we miss opportunities to tell that select group of truly impactful friends, family and work colleagues exactly how much they mean to us and the true difference they have made in our lives. We often wait until the end of a person’s life to give a eulogy filled with nice things about someone and how much they meant to us. Why wait? Why not say it now…when our words can have the most impact and they can hear from our lips the impact they made on us? Why carry the burden of regret? I experienced this profound regret myself as I gave the eulogy at my mother’s funeral in 2009. Although I used this sorrowful occasion as an opportunity to honor her wonderful life, there is so much more I wish I had said to her over the years when she was still with us about how much she meant to me.

I encourage the readers of this post to reflect on the people who have made a significant impact in your life. Who has mentored you? Encouraged you? Inspired you? Opened doors and created opportunities for you? Given you wise counsel? Loved you unconditionally for who you are? Challenged you to do your best? Been there for you when no one else was? Told you the truth when nobody else had the courage? These teachers, coaches, mentors, former bosses, old college friends and family members would likely love to know that what they said or did helped positively shape the person you are today. I realize my father will not always be with us, but I know for certain he will leave this earth knowing he made a positive difference in the lives of the people he has encountered, that his family and friends love him and this world is a better place because of him. I believe my mother is looking down upon us from Heaven and knows her family and friends hold her in the same high regard.

The experience of writing Essential Wisdom and honoring my parents has made me more keenly aware of the people who need to hear from me more often, not just with a word of gratitude, but with a deeper acknowledgement of the specific positive impact they have made (and are making) in my life. To be honest, I feel somewhat overwhelmed with the numerous opportunities to be more intentional in reaching out to the people who have helped me, inspired me and taught me to better navigate the journey of life. As daunting as this task may be, I am determined going forward to stop feeling regret and let this treasured group of people from my past and present know the specific positive impact they have had on me.

I keep thinking of Sister Mary Rose McGeady’s quote at the top of this post. If, as she says, there is no greater joy or reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone’s life, the responsibility to let those who have done this for us know the tremendous impact they have made in our lives falls squarely on our shoulders. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some work to do.

Reflect on who has positively impacted your life. How will you acknowledge their actions and honor them in the days ahead?

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