by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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None of us are where we are at by the sheer force of our own selves. All of us are exactly where we are at because of the support, guidance, and help of so many people who have crossed paths with us. There are countless people who have had an influence on our lives. Some have been positive, some have been negative, but the common thread for all of these people is that that they each in their own way have had an impact on our lives. We grow everyday through our interactions with others. We learn who we are by how others react to us, how others like what we are doing, and how some people don’t like what we are doing. We learn to traverse our paths in constant interactions with others who help to guide us when we get lost, to nourish us when we are struggling, and to celebrate us when we are successful.
Too often though, in our busy lives, we don’t pause long enough to seek these individuals out and say thank you. From parents to siblings, teachers to coaches, mentors to bosses, and everybody in between, we continue to move right by them in our constant pursuit of success (however we each define the notion of success). We interact with them on a regular basis – we work with them, we cry on their shoulder, we laugh with them, we learn from them, we break bread with them, we argue with them, we get lost in deep conversations about life with them – but we rarely thank them.
Thanksgiving offers a perfect opportunity to truly say thank you to all of those who have had a lasting impact on our lives. Many of us offer thanks on this holiday for the blessings upon our lives, for the food we eat, for the family we are surrounded with, but we rarely single out those people that we are thankful for. We rarely take the time to say thank you for making a difference in our lives. We rarely think deeply about all of the people who have made a difference in our lives. We rarely think about how they have impacted our lives. We rarely think about how our interaction with them has helped us to interact with others. We rarely think about how our interaction with them has helped us to be able to help others.
I know that I am thankful for all of the teachers, coaches, professors, colleagues, siblings, friends, and parents who have made me the person I am today. I would not be the person I am today without their influence on my life. Even the negative interactions with difficult family members or colleagues or students have helped to shape me and to change me as I continue to develop. Some of the most difficult students I have ever dealt with helped me to be a better teacher. They often helped me more than the students who were all-stars and never caused a problem. The reason was because they were pushing me to change, to develop new routines and strategies for dealing with issues, pushing me to be constantly changing my practice to as to connect with and make a difference for every student of mine. The same can be said for difficult colleagues who I have had to deal with. They each in their own way have helped me to grow, to change, to develop, to increase the difference that I can make.
While it may be difficult to say thank you to all of the people in our lives who have helped us – especially the ones who helped us through negative experiences – it is worth taking time over this Thanksgiving holiday to seek people out and say thank you. And if it is too difficult to find them or to connect with them or even too difficult to actually say the words thank you, it is important for our lives that we at least take a few minutes to reflect on the difference they have made for us, for our careers, for our family life, and for our success. For with this reflection on how others have made a difference in my life, I will have a greater ability to make a difference in other people’s lives. I know this Thanksgiving holiday, I am going to take time out of the busyness of the day to say thank you in my own way. And for me, it all begins with thanking my own parents for no one has had made a bigger difference on my life and my role as an educator, athlete, leader, coach, husband, and father. Thank you Mom and Dad for making a difference in my life.