We can thank people by learning from them

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As the school year comes to a close, reflection and introspection tend to rear their quiet heads as we recount how we got to where we are. At the same time, it is curious how easy it is to allow these moments to slip away as recovery from finals, hectic summer schedules, and plans for next year become front of mind.

Jasen Williams Teen Columnist, The Friday Flyer.

Jasen Williams
Teen Columnist, The Friday Flyer.

Yet these are the moments when we realize how utterly lost we are without the vast number of contributing factors, like the mentors, teachers and coaches who were always great examples. Now, whether they were great examples of what to do or what not to do is irrelevant, because ultimately they helped shape our identities and character according to how we learned from their actions.

Something that has also become apparent is how incredibly generous and gracious friends are when they see that you are moving forward; especially if you have somehow found the time to help them, serve a charity cause, or simply brighten up their day. Here is a certain quote floating around that peaked my curiosity recently:

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

Besides noticing the rather insufferably egotistical ring about this quote, I found that this excerpt assumed that there actually were people who couldn’t do you any good. Sure, there are unsavory foods, but just because something is sour or sweet doesn’t mean that it is void of flavor. In fact, it means quite the contrary.

Similarly, there is something to learn from everyone. At one point, I was involved in two organizations with two very different leaders. One of them had the quietest gal who led from the back, rarely ever seeming to be seen at the events. Yet somehow, her presence, delegation and diligence were felt while not observed, allowing and empowering others in creativity and responsibility.

In the other group was a leader of a much different material. Loud, domineering and always present when ordering about was needed, this guy was certainly visible and integrated with activities. Fortunately, I was able to very fully experience both of these individuals as they coordinated events and handled the lovely situations that accompany the designation “leader.”

Among other things, what I learned was just that: how to learn from all kinds of people. There were things that I could take and customize from both of them in cultivating myself as a leader – everything from the careful management of talent resources to the boisterous spirit needed in motivating people for group projects.

In summary, I have quite a few people to thank for all of their examples and teaching, not to mention family and friends like the Canyon Lake Junior Women’s Club for incredible support and resources.

I’ve scoured my mind trying to think of ways to do just that, and it’s hard. How do you thank someone for teaching you how to think well, work diligently, or live excellently?

Having realized that no kind of physical gift will work, I believe, based on experience and advice from friends and mentors, simply doing your best to serve them and aspire to those higher principles will be thanks enough for them.

Have you ever wondered why people cry at graduations? I recently discovered (much to my relief) that it isn’t usually from the success of getting the kid to move out – apparently it’s more like a fulfillment and conclusion to years of hard, hard work and coaching. By pouring their lives into giving us a chance, parents and mentors see our first milestone in the journey to adulthood as we progress through high school and graduation.

Something that my parents have done remarkably well is instilling not only a thankfulness towards those who actively have backed my journey through opportunities, resources and exemplar behavior, but also to those who have backed it through their death and life work. By this I mean imparted gratitude towards America’s finest: the brilliant thinkers of history and those who have sacrificed all so that the rest of us might live.

The following letter is addressed to all Boy Scouts of America from the organization’s founder, and I find it fitting in finding my way to thank those who have done that which can hardly be thanked for its magnitude:

“If you have ever seen the play Peter Pan, you will remember how the pirate chief was always making his dying speech because he was afraid that, possibly when the time came for him to die, he might not have time to get it off his chest. It is much the same with me; and so, although I am not at this moment dying, I shall be doing so one of these days and I want to send you a parting word of goodbye.

Remember, it is the last you will ever hear from me, so think it over.

I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have as happy a life too.

I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness doesn’t come from being rich, nor merely from being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so can enjoy life when you are a man.

Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.

But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and, when your turn come to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. ‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy. Stick to your Scout promise always – even after you have ceased to be a boy – and God help you do it.”

— Robert Baden-Powell

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