By Dean Whittaker

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the things for which I am grateful.   This month I received an email from an old friend who attached a letter that I had written him in 1977 congratulating him on his new position as president/CEO of a regional economic organization.  His thoughtfulness in tracking me down and reconnecting reminded me of how fortunate I am for all of the friends I have made over the years. They have been with me through both the joys and sorrows and have made my life richer.  What a gift they have been! 

Someone said that a friend is someone who will show up to help you move.  For me, it is also someone who I can call after months of absence and pick up right where we left off, never missing a beat.  They are the people that are glad to see me and offer a hand or hug when I need it most. 

One of the books that has impacted my life is “Seasons of a Man’s Life by Daniel J. Levinson”  It depicts the four stages we pass through, much like the seasons of the year.  There is the “spring” of youth full of energy hope and possibilities. Next is the “summer” of growth and development when we are at our peak of productivity (and earnings).  This is followed by “autumn harvest” when we reap the results of what we have sown. It is a time to save and store up for “winter” when the land lies dormant awaiting the next spring. As winter closes in and death emerges as part of life, I get a sense of the journey I have been on.  

Many of my friends have been with me through several seasons.  They rooted for my success as I took on new challenges. They have graciously forgiven me for my lack of emotional intelligence during my youth when my ego took over.  They extended empathy during my times of failure and loss. They showed me compassion when I failed to be the person I had hoped to be. And yet, through all of these seasons they remained my friend.

As many of my friends move into retirement, I wish them well and thank them for the gift that their friendship has been over the years.  For me, it is the people I have connected with that has given my life its joy and meaning. With gratitude, thank you for your friendship.