By Bruce Stambaugh
When a former student of mine asked for my mailing address, I was more than a little curious.
Having been a school principal for 21 years, being told by a former student to watch the mail for a package could be potentially alarming. But I knew Wilma, and had seen her joyous posts on Facebook.
I wasn’t concerned in the least. But, like I said, I was curious.
A couple of days later a puffy brown envelope arrived in the mail. Inside was a laminated badge that was my ticket to this gregarious woman’s 40th birthday party. I was impressed and pleased to be included until I saw the date.
My wife and I had a potential conflict that evening. Wilma said she was sorry to hear that because the evening was really more to celebrate the top 20 people who had influenced her life.
The top 20? This put the gathering in an entirely different light. How could I not go? I was humbled and a bit surprised to say the least, given the number of people Wilma must have known in her lifetime. I had no idea I had had that kind of influence on this successful, professional, vibrant woman. Of course we rearranged our schedule and made the celebration a priority.
After the party’s uncomplicated meal, Wilma went one-by-one around the room. She shared with those in attendance specifically how each person had impacted her life.
When my turn came, Wilma related to the group that as her principal I had visited her parents four different times encouraging them to send her on to high school. I had no recollection of any of the visits. Maybe I should run for President.
Wilma proceeded to say that I was the only person to encourage her to extend her education, and she would never forget it. For once in my life, I hardly knew what to say.
Following her parent’s wishes, Wilma did not attend high school. But later she did get her GED and her bachelor’s degree and is now working on a graduate degree in clinical psychology. What a success story. Maybe I’ll be her first patient.
This grateful woman detailed how others had energized her life when she needed it the most. Her lavish, infectious laughter and joy permeated the party.
Now, Wilma had inspired me. I mentally listed the 20 most influential people in my own life. There had been so many who had helped me along life’s way. I had a hard time narrowing it down.
A handful of people on my list were former teachers and professors, too. Several of them had already left this earthly realm.
There are those for whom I still have time to thank. I have committed to personally commend them individually for the positive role they have played in my life. It will be fun to share the good news.
Following Wilma’s lovely example, I encourage you to do the same. Who are the top 20 most influential people in your life? Have you told them? If not, maybe a celebration is in order. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate dinner party. It could be something simple, like a personal note or even an email.
Whatever method you choose, take time to express yourself to those who have swayed your life for the good. Be yourself, and let the grateful words flow.
If you do, be ready for showers of sentiment and fulfillment to overwhelm you. Wilma knows exactly what that is like.