By Dean Whittaker

We have all had a helping hand along the way from mentors and teachers.  I was reminded of the role they have played in my life when I received word that one of mine was terminally ill. As I composed a letter to him, I reflected on all the peoples’ lives he touched.   His generosity was carried forward by each of us who, in turn, have impacted other lives through our efforts to share what we were taught.

How many of us have taken the time to write a letter to express our gratitude for the gifts we were given by our mentors and teachers? It is a simple thing to do and takes but a few minutes of our time.  As I drafted my letter to my mentor, I was amazed to realize the impact that one person can have on the lives of so many others.  The impact has grown exponentially over time, with each person touching two more, and they in turn two more. This geometric progression comes about when each of us “pays it forward” and shares what we have learned with others.  

Thanksgiving is a time of year to reflect on those things for which we are grateful. It can also be a time to remember with gratitude the gifts of time and encouragement we have been given.  My gratitude goes out to the many mentors and teachers I have had in my life.   They have given of their time, energy, and resources without regard for compensation or any expectation of return.   We all have opportunities from time-to-time to “pay it forward” when we are offered the chance to mentor someone.  There are many opportunities to “give back” through organized programs such as the Boys and Girls Club of American, Big Brother/Big Sister, Small Business Score program, church affiliated efforts, and school tutoring programs. 

While many of us lament the younger generation, I have found them to be one of the most generous and socially engaged groups of young people through their willingness to give of their time to provide opportunities and encouragement to others.   It shows up in our school tutoring program, Habitat for Humanity, and many other places.  As a further example, one of our young co-workers is busy helping build and remodel schools in his home country of Nepal.

We all hope that the way in which we live our lives will make the world a better place.  My hat is off to the many mentors and teachers of the world for what they do to accomplish this goal.