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Who Are the People who Changed Your Life?

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February 27, 2022 | by Debbie Gutfreund

Have you thanked them?

When Clint Pulver was a little boy he couldn’t sit still. He’d tap his hands on his seat non-stop until students complained. Teachers often sent him to the principal’s office for being disruptive.

One day Mr. Jensen, his teacher, asked him to stay after class. Afraid that he was once again in trouble, Clint was surprised when Mr. Jensen sat him down and asked, “Have you ever thought of playing the drums?” His teacher pulled out a pair of drumsticks from his desk drawer and handed them to him. “You’re not a problem; you’re a drummer.”

Today, Clint Pulver is a well-known drummer, workforce expert and author. That moment changed his life, because “somebody believed in me and saw something in me that I didn’t even see within myself. And from that moment I learned that there is a difference between being the best in the world and being the best for the world.”

Many people grew up learning to use people, love things and worship ourselves. Turns out that the formula for happiness is the opposite: Love people, use things, and worship God.

I went skiing recently and I stood among the aspen trees whose snow-covered branches glowed in the setting sun. Looking up, I was astounded by the height of these towering trees; I felt cradled by their majesty. It was an achingly beautiful moment.

Later that day, I learned that the huge aspen trees don’t stand on their own, even though they look like individual marvels. They are attached to an intricate, interwoven system of roots that are hundreds of years old. Their strength and their growth come from their inextricable connection with each other.

We don’t stand on our own either. We need each other to grow. Sometimes we don’t realize how a moment that seems so small can change a person’s life forever. Often it’s just a gesture. A wave. A smile. A door held open. A set of drumsticks. We all have days when we struggle and fall and wonder what tomorrow will bring. We depend upon an interlocking connection with others, even though we sometimes feel like we are standing on our own.

Feeling grateful is one of the best predictors of daily happiness; expressing that gratitude is even more powerful.

We’re all connected. It was my grandmother who taught me how to pray and how to face adversity with faith. My mother gave me the tools to climb mountains while nurturing others along the way. My father taught me how to be calm in challenging situations and how to teach my children with love. He also taught me how to ski, how to play tennis, how to scuba dive and how to drive. My fifth grade teacher encouraged me to write. She picked up one of my essays and told me that I was the most talented writer she had ever taught. “Whatever you do in life,” she said, “make sure you continue to write.”

Sometimes we can remember these moments and interconnecting roots that enabled us to grow, but how often do we thank the people who changed our lives? How often do we express our gratitude for the people who have uplifted us, showed us a new path forward, helped us find the faith to keep moving forward when we didn’t know how?

Feeling grateful is one of the best predictors of daily happiness; expressing that gratitude is even more powerful. Imagine if we each wrote a letter to the most influential person in our life. The one who gave us our drumsticks. The one who changed the course of our lives, whether in a single moment or through hundreds of moments of love and kindness.

Imagine if we called that person and read them that letter. In a gratitude experiment, people wrote to their mothers, their friends and their teachers. They called them across the world and told them how they really felt. Thank you Mom for teaching me how to be strong. Thank you Dad for being there for me every step of the way. Thank you to my children for being such gifts to each other and to the world.

A single moment can change a life. A smile. A letter of gratitude. A minute when we see greatness and beauty in another. There is a difference between being the best in the world and being the best for the world. Being the best for the world strengthens the myriad roots that connect us all and gives us the strength to help each other to grow, one moment at a time.



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