One of the great pleasures in this life is thanking people who made an impact on you. Teachers, relations, friends, strangers, whoever. Sometimes it’s a small action or just the right word at the right moment, sometimes an ongoing blessing. But none of us could step forward on our path without the aid of these seen—and also unseen— helpers. Sometimes the help is unintended, just a pebble thrown into a pond that creates unexpected ripples. How good it feels to let someone know, even 40 years later, that they changed your life.
I’m sad to say I just missed such a moment. I’ve long thought about trying to find the couple who first donated the Orff instruments to The San Francisco School back in 1974, a pebble in a pond that rippled into my first—and only— job as a music teacher in a school. An old school colleague just notified me that he saw an obituary for Thaddeus Kusmierski and wondered if this was indeed the same person and having just read it, it indeed is. He just passed away at 81 years old. And his wife Carol is referred to in the obituary as his first wife and my hopes are that she is still with us and I can find her (I’ve set that process in motion). They were both on my mind recently as I acknowledged and thanked them in a small talk I gave on the occasion of beginning my 40th year at school. Below is a photo of me teaching that first year (1975) with Thaddeus sitting on the side and watching. (And yes, that is a hole in my T-shirt!)
It reminded me of other missed opportunities. My sister just told me that my cousin Susan passed away yesterday. I found out a month ago that she was ill with cancer and always intended to call and to my shame and regret, didn’t. So all I can do now is thank her for her lively spirit, her handwritten Christmas cards all the way up to last year and the affection we both seemed to feel for each other even though she was some ten years older. I’m sorry, Susan and I hope you can hear this message now.
Who else do I have to thank? Well, the list is long and I hope I have properly thanked most of them. But still, I would like to meet Jim and Karen Bold in Nether Poppleton outside of York and thank them for picking Karen and I up hitchhiking and bringing us to their home for three days back in 1978. I’d like to thank the man in Bali who drove Karen back to our homestay on his motorcycle when the buses stopped running and then came back and got me. I’d like to thank the woman in Japan who saw us eating lunch and came across the street with two milk bottles filled with green tea and gestured for us to enjoy. (From that same trip in 1979). You get the idea.
Friends, don’t put off thanks. I regret it every time I do.