Thankful Words Make a Difference…they did for Bob.


“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer

Words such as these echo through the hearts of many a caregiver and parent. They sit on the shoulders of that individual with disabilities who feel can invisible in their classroom as other students fail to see their genius. As parents, our may light flicker and dampen just by the sheer gravity of acquiring needed resources and supports for daily activities.

Just when we begin to lose hope, as if by divine intervention, an angel appears in the form of a friend, a job coach, a H.O.P.E. Team or that personal attendant whose heart is full and spirit is light arrives unannounced. A chance meeting leads to the discovery of resources desperately needed. Suddenly, your light brightens, rekindled by kindness and new opportunities. At that moment, you realize you are not alone on your journey.

In a few days, families and friends will gather over some version of a Thanksgiving Dinner.  As we prepare for the seasons’ festivities, let’s take the time to set the mood for the holiday by focusing on gratitude and thankfulness for the people and organizations who walk with you on your journey.

Let me share a story of gratitude for the simple, but essential efforts everyday people make in our lives. Years ago, I was doing training for a provider agency in New Jersey. It was post 9/11. People were shaken and unsure of what to do and where to start in a transformed world one terrible morning. As I prepared for my two days with them, I decided to focus on gratitude in a difficult time.

I spoke to them about Bob, our letter carrier who delivered our mail for the last fifteen years. You might remember, at the time, Anthrax could be stuffed in letters circulating through the postal service on their way to various organizations and individuals across the country. It looked to be a second wave of terrorism.

As I stepped off the elevator into the mailroom, while Bob sorted mail into the bank of mailboxes along the wall, he and I chatted about the dangers of encountering a substance like Anthrax in the mail. Bob was ex-military. he was old-school. He saw himself as on the front line of defense against this newest threat.

“Katherine.” He said, “I am responsible for getting your checks to you, I’m responsible for delivering your gifts, your cards, and your bills. Your life depends on the work I do. Yes, I do take it seriously. My job is to make sure your mail is delivered as expected and safely.”

I was struck by how Bob, like many folks we encounter daily, are likely taken for granted. As I finished preparing for the training in New Jersey, I bought a package of thank you cards and stamps. One the first day of training, I began my presentation with the story of Bob. Walking from the front of the room, I strolled down the rows of tables and gave each participant, a notecard and a stamp. As I walked from the front of the room, I passed out to each person a stamped thank you card. Please write a note of thanks to Bob. Beautiful words fell out of pens on the page as hands busily moved across the notecards. I told them to address them to Bob C/O Katherine Carol at my address.

One by one those cards came in–all 34. Bob, placed them into my mailbox, then pulled them out. A few days later, Bob and I met in the mailroom.  

He pulled me aside and asked, “Hey, what’s going on?”

I asked, “What do you mean?”

The cards. What is going on?” He asked.

I said, “Did you read them?”

Yes.”  His head nodded, head hung down as he looked at the floor.

“Bob, people are touched by your dedication to your job. They wanted to share their gratitude.”

A tear came to the corner of his eye. He shook his head from side to side.  “Katherine, no one has ever done anything like this for me. My mom was the only person who said these kinds of things to me.”

Bob retired six months later. He left behind the blue uniform he had worked in for decades. Six months after, he passed away.  

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. Saying thank you benefits everyone. The folks in New Jersey felt good when they sealed their notecards. A moment in time captured and shared with a person who made a difference in the world.

Take a moment during the holiday season to say thank you to your case manager, teacher, attendant, and counselor. Give thanks to the organizations whose resources to make a difference in your life. Even though not perfect, life would be so much more difficult without them.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share Mikelle’s and my story. We are grateful to all of you and the many gifts we have received from our friends in Alabama.


Happy Thanksgiving.