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In the Living Years

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“Like many a New Year resolution, we knew we had about one week before our resolve waned.”

Two articles I’ve read recently remind me of New Year’s Eve 2004 when hubby and I were elbows-deep in running our own business and raising our young family.

My husband had received a call from a former employee for no other reason than to thank him for his sage advice that put this individual on the right track. There was no agenda, no favour being asked, he was just calling to say thanks.

This random call years after the adulating event, and with a few wines under our belts as midnight approached, led to us discussing people who had positively influenced our own lives. People with whom we weren’t necessarily close to, or were in our lives very long, but whose acts of kindness left an indelible mark in a fleeting moment.

Aided by philosophical introspection that one expects on the last night of the year, our conversation took an interesting turn; to eulogies.

Would the deceased have known they were so revered? Not your normal pre-fireworks conversation granted, but one worth confronting nevertheless.

Gratitude for a good deed is a story worth sharing personally, not solely with mourners at a wake. Like Mike and the Mechanics ‘In the Living Years’ —a 1988 song about regret for what was never said before a loved one died—this was a call to carpe diem.

Roll on January 1 and with lyrics “it’s too late when we die” on repeat, we set about making a list of the benefactors we’d like to acknowledge and thank personally. Like many a New Year resolution, we knew we had about one week before our resolve waned.

I spent the next few days forensically tracking down my Year 6 teacher and a woman who’d been my boss early in my working life. These people had not rescued me from a fiery inferno, but they had shown me kindness and validation in a pivotal time in my life where I had choices; to excel or flounder.

Now I’m not going to kid you, it wasn’t easy as I feared they would think I was some creepy stalker, disturbed psychopath or multi-tiered marketer—all equally chilling.

My heart was in my throat when I dialled the numbers secretly hoping they had moved so I could claim good intent yet failure through means beyond my control.

They did answer, however, so I kept my calls brief and hoped they could keep up with my nervously hastened speech. Afterwards; I felt great!

The two articles that sparked this reminiscence prove that it is never too late to act. The first was about a woman tracking down a man who, as a small boy, stood up to her schoolyard bully close to 50 years before.

The second was nearly 70 years after a toddler was saved from drowning by a 9-year-old boy. That toddler, now a senior citizen, enlisted the help of a local historian to find his saviour.

A screensaver statement “Do Something Nice and Try Not to Get Caught”, once danced across my sleepy computer screen. Up there with “random acts of kindness” and “paying it forward”, these adages seek to have us do good with no expectation of acknowledgement or accolade. They do not, however, preclude them.

If you want to take on this challenge—it is challenging—you may find it is the people who inherently subscribe to these philosophies, the quiet achievers, who are the ones that will stand out worthy of your recall, and worthy of your phone call.

We are on the receiving end of kind deeds all our lives, some overt some subtle. The doer of these deeds may never know that small gesture was a watershed moment in your life. I encourage you to find them and tell them.

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