"The letters you have sent me over the years have all been on my desk since the day I got them. I still read them often," a long time professional I use said to me out of the blue in the middle of an appointment.
The power of those softly spoken words rocked me to my core.
Oh, I already knew they had had an effect because the very next visit after I'd sent the first letter I went from being just another client to get out of the office to make room for the next one to being a friend who came to call.
All the demands of running a business vanished when I arrived. I had gone to him for years before then, I knew I was just another of his clients, but that was okay, after all, gotta pay the bills to stay in business. The change was obvious and somewhat startling. I didn't send the letter in hopes of getting special treatment.
I'm pretty sure that I am one of a very small number of his clients with his personal cell number and permission to use it if I need anything at any time even if he is on vacation.
I send heart felt letters of appreciation to folks letting them know how much I appreciate them and the effect they have had on my life.
My appreciation letter writing began with a letter I sent to my father years ago.
My father and I fought tooth and nail for 40 years. We hardly agreed on anything and each thought the other was pretty much a moron. And, we were both right.
For reasons I won't get into here I grew up living pretty much hand to mouth in a world depending on welfare and what we could eek off the land. Everyone else I knew was rich. Well, richer than we were anyway. All of my friends had pretty much anything they wanted and I had none of those things. No guitars, no school lunch money, no gym, school material, pool hall, school or just plain spending money, no driver's license, no car to use or anything else everyone of my friends had.
And I resented my father for not giving me those things.
After graduation in '64 I left the swamp and I felt obligated to do what I could to get the rest of the family out of there as well. We ended up relocating hundreds of miles away in SW Lower Michigan where we got into the upholstery business. After struggling for some time in the residential upholstery we ended up in commercial upholstery and the next thing you know we're doing pretty well.
By 1980 I needed a change and ended up in the Atlanta area leaving the family business in the hands of my youngest brother Dale.
Every call back to the folks included a business status report from my father, a narration of how they were short-handed and how difficult it was for Dale to handle it and an admonition to come back home. "You don't belong down there!" he insisted.
On one of my visits back to Michigan in the 80s he admired a tape measure I had and mentioned how he needed to get one. I told him I'd send him one.
I used to live in a low-class neighborhood (hey, I was seldom home anyway) and the day I was wrapping the tape measure to send it off the next door neighbor decided to once again show off his lack of class.
The guy had a habit of drinking and passing out in his car with the radio going full bore at all hours of the day or night. He was a skinny tubercular-looking, chain-smoking moron who acted like he was double tough (and he had to be because he seldom shaved or bathed and he had a visible incontinence problem). He was always causing problems with everyone and his family were his favorite victims.
He and one of his sons were screaming at each other in the front yard and his son got so frustrated he slugged his father in the face, jumped in his car and roared up the road.
I thought, "At least my father never did that." At that moment I was grateful that my father wasn't a drunk.
I went in the house and I wrote a letter to my father and told him that I resented him for the things that he hadn't given me and I expressed my gratitude for other things that he hadn't given me such as a drunken father, crushed self-image or a ridiculed search for knowledge.
And I told him I loved him.
The next phone call he told me simply, "I got the tape." He never again pressured me in any way, shape or form to move back to Michigan or even brought up the subject again. The regular calls home became enjoyable chats.
It was a number of years before I was able to get back to Michigan again. A decade ago, at the time this originally written, my father and my worst enemy held each other for a long time in broad daylight in my brother Rodney's driveway.
I found my worst enemy and my best friend.
We had many great times together after that.
He died at 9:15 PM, September 7, 2001 and I was so incredibly fortunate to be there my hand on him as he breathed his last. He was so tired and just couldn't go on any more.
His death meant my bedridden mother had to leave their apartment and after we saw his body off my sister-in-law began sorting through their belongings. Sometime after midnight on the morning of the 8th she added a folded piece of paper to the little pile of things I was to get.
I opened it up and it was the letter I'd written 14 years to the day earlier.
I asked her where she had found it and she said it was in an envelope marked "IMPORTANT PAPERS."
Perhaps there is someone in your life who needs an appreciation memento.
I've added an extra touch to make my appreciation expressions even more memorable.
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