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Chatterbox: Say it sooner


For those of us who remember it, Michael Landon had a super successful television series called “Little House on the Prairie” based on the Laura Ingalls Wilder book series of the same name. After the pilot in March of 1974, the series ran from September of ’74 to May of ’83 at prime time and is syndicated even now.

It offered a wide variety of story lines; most were written for the show but some played off the books. Still, all had very strong messages about family, community, overcoming hardships, fair play, or were tales of the time.

One episode was about an old woman who could never get her children to make the trip to visit her; it was a long journey and travel at that time was very expensive and difficult. Desperate and growing old, one day, she convinced the town doctor to write to them and tell them she had died. They all made the journey to come to the wake, only to find her alive and well.

When people died, up until fairly recently, wakes were that last trek; they were sad and dark, and quiet eulogies were spoken to praise the deceased. Nowadays, the idea to celebrate their lives instead of mourn their death is predominant. It’s the right thing to do but, truth be spoken, the departed can’t enjoy our celebration of them. That makes it so much more important to have such accolades delivered sooner rather than later.

On Aug. 14, 2003 Chatterbox featured a column called, “Go ahead, light up, like Tinkerbell.” This past April 13, we reran it; I consider it a classic, with a message that is as important as it is timeless. A few days ago, a new message brought it to my mind once more.

I was happy to be at a party for the subject of that column, and something rather serendipitous reflexively happened. Guests began to make speeches about her. Her family started it all off, but her friends just couldn’t help themselves, and we all realized how lovely it was for a person to be lauded while actually there to hear it.

So often in our lives we remain unaware of the wonderful impact we’ve had on others – and we do have it … often. Here at Chatterbox, we’ve spoken about the footprints we leave behind, most often unbeknownst to us. They aren’t always wonderful but, more often than not, they are, and we don’t even realize it. We leave our mark on our original family, extended family, our immediate family of spouse and children, our friends and colleagues. We also affect people we don’t even know, and we’ve discussed that here a few times too.

When we get an opportunity to hear those we’ve touched tell us how we’ve touched, improved, affected their lives, helped them, or even shaped them as people, it’s something rare and very special, and the guests at this event were not only very moved but, fortunately for all of us, not shy about sharing.

There are always those organized groups of people who meet with specific agendas, award each other with certificates, trophies, or plagues for hard work, dedication, knowledge, or contributions to projects, or the advancement of others. It’s lovely to have our unselfish hard work and spirit of volunteerism rewarded, for sure, but when that kind of celebration is personal and spontaneous, it’s even more emotional.

Anne Frank, who had little reason to be optimistic, wrote in her famous diary, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” Yes, on the daily, most people are good at heart, helpful and kind, and that’s what makes life great. When someone reflexively, repeatedly, goes the extra mile with no selfish motive, gives when it isn’t convenient, and has a spirit that makes generosity and simple wisdom as smooth as silk on glass, well, that’s a little something more, and letting them know we notice and appreciate it, is imperative.

The impromptu tributes which inspired today’s Chatterbox were deeply moving. Everyone seemed to realize that the time to speak up is when the moment is at hand. It is that same thing that the old woman on the prairie knew: waiting for the wake just doesn’t make sense.

We each and all have more than just one good story to tell. Here’s hoping we all take the opportunity to speak up when the time is right … and let’s remember that sooner is better than later.

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