Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What We Really Want – Part 3

There is a simple way that each of us can offer others something invaluable: we can describe for them how they were invaluable to us. In other words, we can write them a Thank You Story.

A Thank You Story is more than a thank you card, where we offer gratitude for something someone gave us, such as a wedding gift or a nice dinner.

It’s even more than a note of tribute, where we express appreciation for something someone modeled for us, such as sportsmanship or patience with our mistakes.

A Thank You Story honors someone for who they are, and for how they inspired us to become more than we could ever be without them. It provides someone with a token of proof that they are indeed invaluable to others.

Like a snowflake, every Thank You Story is one of a kind. Since every person is unique, every story about one person making a life-changing impact on another is also unique. A teacher may touch the lives of a thousand children in her career, but they are not simply an orchard of a thousand apple trees. Each child is different, each one is special, and so what she pours into each one, what she gives of herself to each one, is different. Likewise, each Thank You Story is unique, because only the student who lives it can write it. Years later, only that student can offer that teacher the priceless words, “This is how you were invaluable to me.”

This is the value of a Thank You Story. It shows someone indisputable, living evidence of their invaluableness. That makes it one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone else. And that means that each of us, by writing a simple letter, can be the bearer of such a gift. And that enables each of us to say of ourselves, I am indeed invaluable to others.

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What We Really Want – Part 2

I believe that what we want more than anything else is to be invaluable to others.

Fortunately, there are so many ways that we can be. Sometimes, it’s what we give to someone. A mentor of mine got up very early every Sunday morning to give me his time and his life wisdom (plus a free breakfast). As a young married man, every meeting was priceless. I moved to another city 10 years ago, but I still quote him constantly.

Sometimes, it’s what we model for someone. At a weekly gathering, I used to wave and offer a group “hello,” then sit. One night, I watched one of the newer members come in. Before sitting, he went around to every person in the room, shook their hand, and spoke with them for a moment before moving to the next person. By the time he was done that night, I vowed that I would never again enter a room without doing the same thing. I was so impressed that I can’t help but be faithful to that vow – even though my natural shyness still begs me to give it up.

Other times, it’s just who we are. An older friend of mine is one of the most talented athletes I’ve ever seen. But he is also the most enjoyable. In every sport or spontaneous game we played, he not only clowned the rest of us into hysterics while running or throwing or batting circles around us, but he always teamed up with the youngest or slowest or least talented, and helped them to make the goal or score the touchdown. Instead of showing off his divine abilities, he used them to enable “the least of these” to be the hero. At 43 years old, I still say to myself, “When I grow up, I want to be just like him.”

Unfortunately, we can’t always make those opportunities happen. Most of the time, they just appear, often without us realizing it. I’ve often thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was some simple way to offer someone something invaluable?”

Good news: there is.

Thank you for reading. More on Monday . . .

What We Really Want – Part 1

“What is it that you want more than anything else?”

When we first hear this question, life’s pressing needs quickly holler out their votes with responses like, More money, or More time, or More of both. We zero in on what we want to have.

But as the question settles below the urgent, we may give responses such as, Travel, or Find a relationship, or Spend more time with family. Our thoughts move toward things we want to do.

But if we wait long enough, the question settles even deeper, down to the center of who we are, where the real answer always only whispers. That answer is about what we want to be. And I believe it says, I want to be invaluable to others.

Thank you for reading. More next time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thank You Story #1

This is the very first Thank You Story I've received so far. It perfectly captures the essence of a Thank You Story. Thank you so much, Alicia!

Dear Carmel,

You took an awkward 6th grade girl who loved to make Barbie clothing, and inspired a seamstress. Sewing lessons at your house on Friday nights gave me the chance to learn the art of sewing, but it was also my place to be happy during the terrible middle school years.

You were my teacher, my friend and my confidant and I thank you for that. I have followed in your footsteps and as I teach others to sew, I feel the joy in my heart.

With love and admiration,

Alicia Pucci
Owner, Sew-it-All

This letter will be included in the upcoming collection of Thank You Stories titled I Never Got to Thank You. If you have a Thank You Story you'd like to contribute to the collection, please email it to me at billburnsthanks@yahoo.com

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Never Got to Thank You

Hello, blogger friends! Thank you so much for visiting. I want to tell you about a writing project I’m working on that I think will interest you. I’m gathering a collection of Thank You Stories. A Thank You Story is a thank you letter written to someone who’s had a life-changing impact on you. The letter tells the story of how your life has developed because of that impact.

I plan to publish the Thank You Stories in a book, titled I Never Got to Thank You. And I would love to include your letters.

I can assure you, this will be one of the easiest things you’ll ever write. First of all, you don’t need to create a story: it’s already written. You’re living it right now. Secondly, it’s not an essay or a work of literature. It’s a personal letter. And everyone can write a letter. A Thank You Story doesn’t show off writing skills, it re-connects one heart to another with a Thank You. It’s about sharing your story, in your words, in your way.

I’d also like to tell you about my real vision for this project. I see this book as the beginning of an on-going effort, called Gathering for Giving. In the book’s final section, I’ll ask our readers to send me their own Thank You Stories. I’ll gather them into themed collections, such as letters to teachers, or neighbors, or strangers. Each collection will then become its own book. And the money raised from each book will be donated to a related organization. For example, the proceeds from a book about crisis counselors would be donated to a network of crisis centers. It seems fitting to me that a collection of Thank You Stories should result in an outpouring of life-changing resources as well as life-changing words.

So please join me! I can’t wait to read your letters. And if you have more than one, feel free to send them all. You can use my email link in the upper right corner, billburnsthanks@yahoo.com.

In addition to my regular Loving Her Beautiful entries, I’ll post actual Thank You Stories and other writings periodically on this page, as well as project updates. So please continue to visit!

Finally, please feel free to send a link from this page to family and close friends, anyone you’re comfortable sharing this project with. And please tell them to feel free to do the same.


P.S. Remember, your letter is not directed to me: it’s directed to the person who had a life-changing impact on you. And it doesn’t have to be dramatic, just meaningful to you. For example, a letter to your 3rd grade gym teacher might read something like this:

“Dear Mrs. Thompson,
You may not remember my name, but I’ll never forget what you did for me . . . and that’s what’s going on in my life now, because of what you did. Thank you so much for believing in me.
With gratitude, Jane Student”

Last of all, be sure to read my previous post, The Visitor, for a look at the impact your Thank You Story can have on someone. Then be sure to look through the posts above this one for sample Stories and other writings . . .
Thank you so much! I look forward to hearing from you soon. ~ BILL

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Visitor

The last of the children’s voices fade as the hands on the oversized clock reach 3:30. Thank goodness, she tries not to think to herself at her desk, putting papers to be graded into her bag. Another Friday over, another week completed, she sighs, as she always does now. She stopped counting the days long ago. But she still wanders slowly through the classroom at the end of each one, picking up the pink glittery pens under Kimberly’s desk and throwing away the broken tooth-marked pencils under Jason’s.

She hears Principal Ackley’s voice in her head as she always does, scolding her for the umpteenth time, “Go home. You’ve done what you came to do today: you’ve poured yourself into people. Now go home and take care of You!” Poured yourself into people. She can’t help thinking it’s her fourth graders who are doing the pouring. In and out of her room so quickly, year after year, nearly oblivious to her it seems, like the tide in her science wall photo.

“Although you can’t see it,” she tells her class every year, “there’s a world of life and wonder in that swirling water, and every single wave is different. You never know what the next one will bring.”

Footsteps approach in the hallway. “I’m too late,” she grumbles, trying to work up a smile as she turns to meet Mr. Ackley’s command. But in the doorway is a young couple. Both are nicely dressed, but the first thing she notices is the man’s shocking red hair. Although short and nicely trimmed, it draws her eye like a magnet. No one could ever forget hair like that, she thinks.

“Miss Rosa?” he asks. It takes her a moment to adjust.
“Um, I was Miss Rosa. I’m Mrs. Thompson now. For about 11 years. 12 years, actually, next month,” she adds, wondering why.

“Oh, right,” says the young man, with an embarrassed smile. “Congratulations,” he adds quickly, looking like he’s said something silly.

“Thank you,” she offers, smiling gently to encourage him to continue despite his bumpy start. One of her many teacher habits, this one from speech assignments.

He starts again. “I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I was in your class 15 years ago. I think it was in the room next door. Anyway, I’m David Simons, and I was a real terror. I was the squirmy one, always spilling glue and getting my sleeves in it, and taking things from other kids and then running around the room to get away from them. You always had to use your Yelling Voice with me, and I spent half my time at the principal’s office. I even kicked you a few times till you told me I’d miss Movie Time on Fridays. But when I did get to be at Movie Times, you always let me put the reel on and run the projector. I kind of lived for Movie Times, even more than recess.”

“I remember,” Mrs. Thompson says, barely above a whisper.

“Anyway,” he continues, “I just wanted to come by and say Hi. I’ve just started my own corporate video production business, sort of doing Movie Days every day. I went to college and everything,” he chuckles, shifting from side to side now, just as he always did when he was excited.

“I majored in communications, and always remembered how you said that presenting a clear idea is like placing stepping stones in the water. Even if you can jump across easily, you have to place the stones one after the other, so that other people can easily follow you across the pond without falling in.”

He pauses. Miss Rosa (she is now Miss Rosa once again) notices the young lady gently lean into him. He looks quickly at her, and takes her hand, as he turns back to his teacher.
“Oh, this is Naomi, my fiancée. We came home for the weekend to announce our engagement to my parents. You’re actually getting to hear it before they are.”

His fiancée smiles and says, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m a fabric designer, and a rather impatient one. So David’s always playfully badgering me with your line from art class, ‘Measure twice, cut once.’”

Miss Rosa stares at her, then quickly reaches to take the young lady’s extended hand.
“It’s very nice to meet you, too,” is all the teacher can say.

“Anyway,” David says, “I just wanted to come by to thank you for putting up with me, and to let you know that all your hard work wasn’t in vain. I’m sorry I was such a handful, and I just wanted to thank you for everything you did. Especially for Movie Times,” he adds.

“You’re welcome. Thank you for coming by.”

“Well, have a nice weekend, thank you again,” he says.

And then he hugs her.

When they part, he takes his fiancée’s hand again. “So nice to meet you,” the young lady says as they walk out.

Nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Thompson thinks, unable to speak. And congratulations.

“Although you can’t see it,” she tells her class every year, “there’s a world of life and wonder in that swirling water, and every single wave is different. You never know what the next one will bring.”

Mr. Ackley comes to the door.

“Well, another week of pouring into people. Now go home and take care of You,” he says firmly. Then he grins, as if he knows a secret. “And have a wonderful weekend.”

Through blurry eyes, Mrs. Thompson smiles back.
“Yes,” she says. “I certainly will.”

* * *

This short story captures the essence of the new creative project I promised to tell you about. The project is called I Never Got to Thank You. I’ll post all the details tomorrow (I promise!), and I’ll tell you how you can participate with me.
Thank you so much for reading!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Determinator

I come into the kitchen. It’s bestrewn with items of all sorts.
“Hi, Hon.” (Translation: What are you doing now?)
“I’m making something,” she says, working away intently. “I got this idea I want to try.”
“Ah, I see,” says I. (Translation: Uh, oh . . . )
“I’ll be done in a second,” she adds.
“No problem,” says I. (Translation: Yup: here we go.)

And so the creative venture begins. And it doesn’t stop till it’s finished, till she’s got it just right.

She’s totally untrained for these projects. But she’s determined.
She’s completely unequipped with the necessities. But she’s inventive.
She’s completely unaware of the difficulty involved. But she’s impassioned.

And she never has the time to do any of these things. She just makes the time.
And at the end, she’s always made something beautiful.

“What do you think?” she’ll ask.
“Wow!” says I. (Translation: Wow!)

I’m taking on a new creative venture of my own – I’ll be telling you more about it in the next few days. I’m untrained, unequipped, and in denial about the difficulty. But I have a wonderful inspiration at my side: The Determinator.

Best wishes with your brand new Fete et Fleur Designs Blogge Shoppe, my dear!
It’s another beautiful place for us all to come home to.

“You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.” ~ Rosalynn Carter

Friday, February 8, 2008

She Can't Not Touch: Part 2

Hi, All!
OK, here it is:

She Can’t Not Touch
(the complete poem By Bill Burns ©)

She can’t not touch, she can’t not touch
My wife, the artist all the time, just can’t not touch
Replanting flowers ’cross our land, re-dooring each old hutch
Don’t even ask about the drapes . . .
She can’t not touch

She can’t not touch, just can’t not touch
That “lovely” from the yard sale hears, “It just needs such and such.
A tweak like this, some color there, that bow’s a little much.
I’ll only change a little…”
’Cause she can’t not touch.

She can’t not touch, she can’t not touch
When angels take her home at last, no doubt their robes she’ll clutch
“I have in mind a re-design – ” then add with cheeks a-flush,
“They’re stunning, but you know me, Lord:
I can’t not touch.”

“She can’t not touch, she just can’t not touch.”
Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum), Jurassic Park (2): The Lost World

Thursday, February 7, 2008

She Can’t Not Touch

Hello, All!
I’m so sorry for being away from Blogland for so long. Thanks for all the kind (and humorous) responses to my last entries. I promise I’ll respond to each of you personally soon.
I’ve been (happily) working on some urgent writing projects, but they have (unhappily) kept me away for too long.

Here’s the first part of a new piece I’ll complete in the next few days:

She Can’t Not Touch

(a poem by Bill Burns ©)

She can’t not touch, she can’t not touch
My wife, the artist all the time, just can’t not touch
Replanting flowers ’cross our land, re-dooring each old hutch
Don’t even ask about the drapes . . .
She can’t not touch

She can’t not touch, just can’t not touch
That “lovely” from the yard sale hears, “It just needs such and such.
A tweak like this, some color there, that bow’s a little much.
I’ll only change a little…”
’Cause she can’t not touch.

More tomorrow . . .

Friday, February 1, 2008

Where Gentlemen Fear to Tread: Part 3

Now cradling in his arm The Prize, the hand-picked, plastic-wrapped panties, her Prince strode proudly to his true love’s door, wondering only whether she would first throw her arms around him in a passionate embrace, or utter the three little words every prince lives to hear: “You duh MAN!”

And so it was with great bewilderment that he watched the smile melt from her face, and saw her eyes move back and forth from him to the package, and took in her words: “What’s this?”

“Uh, panties?” he tried.

With trembling fingers she pulled apart the sticky flap, Pandora prying open the lid of certain doom, reached inside, and pulled out this:

“No,” she said, and then, “No!” she cried. “These aren’t panties! These are . . . these are big, huge, frumpy UNDERWEAR!” Her tears gushed forth like the rain, and he spoke the one word that leapt into his heart: “Huh?”

* * *

A short time and many words later, her Prince returned from Noble Quest Take 2. For his true love, he brought genuine lace panties.
For himself, he brought a valuable life lesson.

And if he ever figures out what it was, he’ll be sure to post it.

Drawings Courtesy of My Wife