Dec. 4, 2006: It Is Time To Say “Thank You” To Those Who Have Helped You

I lost a hero last week, and learned a hard lesson in the process. Dr. Bill Inman died at the age of 82. Bill was a physician in Brunswick. To be as prominent and as respected as he was in the community, he had as little ego as any doctor I’ve ever known. If you ever saw the Marcus Welby character on television, you saw Bill Inman, only he was not an actor. He was the real McCoy — a kind and gentle man with a wonderful sense of humor and someone who treated everyone with respect, regardless of their station. He made my world better by being here. The unforgivable thing is that I never told him. Shame on me. I am not going to let that happen again. And don’t you, either.

There are a lot of people still around to whom you and I owe a great deal for the impact they have had on our lives. Maybe it is a teacher. Or a neighbor. Or a relative. A friend. Your minister. A co-worker or a classmate. Don’t wait until they are gone to suddenly remember what they did for you and how you wish you had told them while they were still alive. Call them up. Write them a note. Go see them. Sure, it may take a few minutes out of your busy schedule, but you wouldn’t be where you are without their help.

I’ll start it off by thanking my brother, Bob. It is appropriate since he is celebrating a birthday this week. I won’t divulge his age except to say that he is nine years older than me, and I am older than dirt.

I will always be grateful to him for many things, including that his handwriting was identical to our mother’s. When I got in trouble at school and had to bring a note home — this was in the days before students discovered they could sue teachers for trying to enforce discipline — I would beg him to sign the note instead of having to show it to my parents. He would do so only after a lecture and a promise that I would not misbehave in class again — a vow that I gladly made and which lasted until the next misdeed and the next appeal for a signature. This is probably the only dishonest thing he ever did, and I am sure God has forgiven him for helping his little brother out of some hellish situations.

That he even speaks to me today is a miracle of biblical proportions. He once caught me in the backseat of his car while en route with his date to a drive-in movie (I just wanted to see if he was really the Mr. Goody Two-Shoes our parents thought he was), and later I stowed away in the trunk of the car as he and his buddies were preparing to head to Florida. In neither case was he real happy. Go figure.

Bob has been a major influence in my life. He set a high bar in the business world — president of a publishing company in Chicago — which spurred me to work hard in my own career. But he is more than a successful businessman. He is a good man. Today, he is the chaplain at Crown Ministries, a financial counseling firm headquartered in Gainesville. He just keeps setting the bar higher.

I love and admire my brother very much, but I have never told him because I have been too busy straining at gnats. But no more. Now he knows what he means to me. Sadly it took the death of Bill Inman to remind me to tell him.

Now, it is your turn. There is somebody who has made a big difference in your life, and you need to let that person know. And, for goodness sakes, don’t wait. Life is short. Besides, what a great gift to give during this special time of year. You don’t have to wrap it or pay for it on the installment plan, and it doesn’t need batteries. You can’t beat that with a stick.