Web Inspirations

Web Inspirations for Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere

Jun 22, 2013

Un-Thanked People

When William Stidger taught at Boston University, he once reflected upon the great number of un-thanked people in his life. Those who had helped nurture him, inspire him or who cared enough about him to leave a lasting impression.

One was a schoolteacher he'd not heard of in many years. But he remembered that she had gone out of her way to put a love of verse in him, and Will had loved poetry all his life. He wrote a letter of thanks to her. 

The reply he received, written in the feeble scrawl of the aged, began, "My dear Willie." He was delighted. Now over 50, bald and a professor, he didn't think there was a person left in the world who would call him "Willie." Here is that letter:

"My dear Willie, 
I cannot tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely and, like the last leaf of autumn, lingering behind. You will be interested to know that I taught school for 50 years and yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue-cold morning and it cheered me as nothing has in many years." 

Not prone to cry easily, Bill wept over that note. She was one of the great un-thanked people from Bill's past. You know them. We all do. The teacher who made a difference. That coach we'll never forget. The music instructor or Sunday school worker who helped us to believe in ourselves. That scout leader who cared. 

We all remember people who shaped our lives in various ways. People whose influence changed us. Bill Stidger found a way to show his appreciation – he wrote them letters. 

Who are some of the un-thanked people from your past? It may not be too late to say, "Thanks."

-- Steve Goodier

Jun 15, 2013

The Smiling Game

It's been said that a smile is the lighting system of the face, the cooling system of the head and the heating system of the heart. But a smile is also a powerful weapon against toxic attitudes of all kinds.

Lisa Gurnsey, of Portland, Oregon, wrote to me about a man whose smile quite literally changed her life: "I was having a horrible day -- hating my job, tired of the weather, tired of trying to keep up on bills, and just completely stressed out. I stopped at the post office in the morning and, as I was entering, an older business man commented to me that it was going to be a good day and life shouldn't be as bad as I make it look. I glared at him and simply said, 'I wish it was Friday.'

"I felt better about my day when I left the post office...that man's smile and comment, although irritating at first, made me think.

"The second time I ran into the man I went out of my way to say 'Happy Friday' to him and to smile. I saw him a few more times and always he was cheery and 'made my day.'

"I looked for him around Christmas time to give him a card and explain how his kind words and smile that very first day made me regroup my thinking and realize I didn't have it so bad. But I have not seen him at the post office since then. I look every morning...I go at different times to see if I can catch him. Maybe he retired, maybe he is ill. I think to myself, 'I wish I had thanked him for being a kind person.' I can honestly say this man changed my life. I will work to spread that same feeling to those I see in need of a smile."

We can never know the impact a simple smile has on another. Smiling is one of the easiest things we can do. Is there a simpler, more effortless way to give everyone you meet a moment of joy, even a sense of worth?

Speaker Josh Hinds makes this suggestion: "Play the smiling game in your daily life. See how many people you can get to smile back at you. Keep score and tally the results at the end of each day." 

That sounds like a game we can all play. The rules are simple. There are lots of winners. And who knows? You just might "make" someone's day -- even if that someone is you.

-- Steve Goodier


Gretchen Alexander is sightless. But she refuses to allow her blindness to limit her life activities. She enjoys archery, golf, softball, sailing and water-skiing, as well as a number of other activities that those of us who are sighted have yet to learn.

She also speaks to groups about living life fully. When speaking to a group of high school students, she was once asked if there was anything she wouldn't try.

"I've decided to never skydive," she answered. "It would scare the heck out of my dog."

Why do some people rise above their problems and live life fully, while others become defeated? Merle Shain explains it this way: "There are only two ways to approach life, as a victim or as a gallant fighter. And every day the decision is ours." Or put another way, we can believe we're helpless or we can believe we're powerful and capable. And every day we reaffirm our belief.

Another person who knew what it was like to live sightless, not to mention soundless, was Helen Keller. She famously pointed out that "although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of suffering." Does that sound someone who believes she is helpless, or like someone who believes she is capable? 

I love the perspective of a shop owner in Nottingham, England. He posted this notice in the window of his coat store: "We have been established for over 100 years and have been pleasing and displeasing customers ever since. We have made money and lost money, suffered the effects of coal nationalization, coat rationing, government control and bad payers. We have been cussed and discussed, messed about, lied to, held up, robbed and swindled. The only reason we stay in business is to see what happens next." Though he lifts up a myriad of hardships they've endured, they somehow figured out how to stay in business. Does that sound like someone who believes he is helpless... or capable?

When discouraged some people will give up, give in or give out far too early. They blame their problems on difficult situations, unreasonable people or their own inabilities.

When discouraged other people will push back that first impulse to quit, push down their initial fear, push through feelings of helplessness and push ahead. They're less likely to find something to blame and more likely to find a way through.

For me, it's an important decision about whether I want to live my life fully and with courage or whether I will be forever defeated by harsh circumstances. It's a decision about believing I am powerful enough and capable enough. And it's a decision I must make every day of my life.

-- Steve Goodier

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