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Honor your mentors by letting them know their impact.

“I wish I could show you…the astonishing light of your own being.” -Hafez

A few years ago, I spoke at a conference in Washington. It was for leaders serving in emergency services. I reminded these firefighters, first responders and EMTs of the value of their work, the impact of their efforts, and the ripple effect of their lives.

I also reminded them that as profound the impact they make on others, it’s important to note they didn’t get here by themselves. They had people who encouraged them, taught them, inspired them, mentored them and challenged them to do more than they thought possible.

Inviting the men and women to reflect on one person, I gave them a few minutes to share who that person was with those sitting closest to them.

After a few minutes of sharing, they were given a simple challenge: Before you go to bed tonight, write a letter, send an email, shoot a text or make a call to whomever that person is. Tell her thank you. Share with him the impact he made. But do it today.

After the presentation, I signed books, shook hands, gave hugs and flew home. That was it.


A couple weeks later, I got an email from a fire chief in a small community south of Tacoma. He shared that he was at the event and totally moved by the experience. And he shared that he took my challenge to reach out to his first fire chief. This older chief had taught him how to lead, serve and love the people he served with. This chief changed his life.

They spoke from the conference that night, met for coffee that Thursday, spent two hours catching up, and then they went their own ways. Before hopping into his truck, the young fire chief told his mentor, “Thank you, I love you, and you changed my life. Just wanted you to know it.”

Four days later, on Sunday morning, this young man learned that the long-serving fire chief had suffered a heart attack and died unexpectedly late Saturday night.

The email shared the pain of the loss, but more than that, the joy of sharing life and work with such a great man. And the incredible gift of letting the chief know before his death how much he mattered.

My friends, one of the heroes in my life, my grandfather, used to love the song, In the Living Years. He would roll down the windows in his old Lincoln, put the tape of it in, blare the sound and sing along. It’s a song about living, loving and sharing in a way today, right now, with such boldness knowing that tomorrow is not guaranteed. It isn’t promised to us. And it’s not promised to others.

So here is my challenge to you: Spend a minute reflecting on individuals who have impacted your life.

Maybe parents, siblings, family members, teachers, pastors, bosses, coworkers, or neighbors who have challenged you to live up to the fullness of your potential.

Then today, right now in fact, take 30 seconds to call, tweet, post, text, email, send a freaking honing pigeon, do whatever, but let them know you appreciate them.

Let them know you love them. Let them know that your life is better today because they were part of it.

And let them see the astonishing light they have provided for you, just by being them. Say it loud. Say it clear. But say it today.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

12 replies on “Silent Gratitude Isn’t Any Good”

Thank you, John, for this reminder. I had an English teacher in high school who spent the year teaching us how to write essays on the spur of the moment. She told us you won’t appreciate this now, but when you get to college you will understand. When I got to college I realized that many of my classmates could not write. I realized the gift of what she gave us so I wrote her a letter to tell her so. Thank you again for sharing and inspiring.

I just reached out to my former pastor of Greentree Church, Rev. Tom Ricks, who made a tremendous difference in my life by believing in my gifts of leadership and encouraging me to pursue seminary. Thank you John for your eternal joy that you put into practice each day and that you share with all of us!

I just finished your book, On Fire, surely, John, and you have demonstrated deep gratitude not only for your beloved, courageous parents, but for all those who helped you to overcome and to inspire countless people! When I facilitate journaling classes, I encourage women to write two kinds of thank-you letters: one, a “sky-blue thank you,” where they send a letter (or thank-you card/note) out of the clear blue to someone who inspired them, made them happy, or did a good deed for them or others. They will not expect this kind of thanks. The other type of letter that I encourage participants to write is what I call a “transcendent thank-you letter,” which transcends any kind of letter they will write because of the transcendent significance of the contribution that person has made on his/her life. I pen “sky-blues” all the time, but gave a great deal of thought to those lengthy letters that I wrote to my parents, as an example, and to teachers. The point of all this writing (beyond a phone call or FB post or pat on the back), is its permanence, a *tangible* reminder that the recipient can keep and reread that expresses my gratitude. The power of writing gratitude is significant both for the author and the receiver. So, thank YOU for writing *your* blog and books and for your life-transforming inspiration! I had never even heard of you, and you, a native St. Louisan, like me. I’m so grateful to the friend who appeared as one of your “extras” in your upcoming movie, who told me about you. You know, I think I’m going to write a sky-blue thank-you letter to her, because truly I’m inspired by your words and your story. Keep sharing it!!
Lynn Morrissey

Thank you John. My father had a mild heart attack when I was in my late 20s. I went to the hospital realizing that this was my first real wake up call that my dad would not be around forever. So, I spilled my guts for two hours telling him how much I loved him and how much I appreciated all he did for me. Two weeks later, he had a stroke and passed away. I am 57 now and after almost 30 years removed, this is one thing in my life that I am so thankful that I did. Thanks you again for reminding me of this moment today…..I really needed it.

As I sit here approaching the 1 year anniversary of the unexpected deaths of my dad and his best friend in a tragic boating accident last January, I have definitely been reflecting on the importance of making sure you don’t miss important moments and that you say everything you want to say…..because you may not have a next time. This article really hit home for me this morning. Thank you.

I actually did this this weekend over facebook for an aunt who inspired me in my science career. She was pleased and astonished by this fact–I honestly thought she knew what an impact she had on my life, when she didn’t. People don’t know unless you tell them. Thanks for sharing this message again!

Thank you – John, for inspiring so many of us, myself included! You spoke at a company meeting for us once almost 5 years ago or more now, and I haven’t stopped following you. Your daily emails, stories and words of wisdom and encouragement have helped me more times than I can count. I appreciate you and what you do!

Thanks again John to be sure we’re headed in the right direction and our ladder is firmly leaning on the correct wait. Bill Alexander

You have made a difference! I was inspired by you on my first ever entreleadership summit in Tennessee.
Thank you so much for inspiring me!

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