Kansas writer

Debra Guiou Stufflebean

Remembering to say Thank You

Tonight I will lead a Volunteer Appreciation Banquet that recognizes volunteerism for the Shepherd's Center of Topeka, but it will truly mean more than that to me. I think it is important, and what better time to reflect on this than during the month of Thanksgiving, that we remember to say thank you to people who have been in our life's path. Many people have already passed away, and a time will come when I may not remember to tell them thank you. Carpe` Diem! Seize the Day, for tomorrow may never come. I have been extremely successful leading the Shepherd's Center and we have had unprecedented growth, but to take accolades for that as an individual is to lose sight of how important the people who walked beside me have been. This is one reason I have a problem with our president, whose ego precedes every statement that comes from his lips. To be honest, my success as a leader has been in my ability to recognize talent when I see it. I look at what needs to be done, think about who has the ability to do the job, provide some initial training and oversight, then get out of their way and empower them to bloom where they are planted! And God bless them, it has worked. 

Call me sentimental, but in this exercise of preparing for a formal banquet, I feel compelled to say thank you to those people who have been in my path, not just leading Shepherd's Center, but throughout my life. I wouldn't trade growing up in a small town in Kansas for gold. Many of the people who shaped my childhood experience are gone but some who shared in that experience are alive and one of the things I am looking forward to in retirement is starting a collaborative writing project that will capture the essence of a culture that I fear will soon be extinct. I am thankful for the kids I went to school with. It has been a great joy for me to re-connect with many of them on facebook. For all the grumbling I hear about how terrible facebook is, I DO NOT share that opinion. I think it is marvelous that this medium allows me to visit with kids whom I spent every year of my first twelve years of schooling, and see how their world views differ from mine. And the one thing that I think so many facebook users fail to remember is that long before the polarization of politics, you KNEW thse people and you know their hearts. I am not threatened by people who think differently from me. I am threatened by a new culture that postulates that we are enemies. We are not. My best lessons in life have come from truly "listening" to others, something that I really have to work at because I'd rather be opening my mouth. 

I was very ill-prepared for parenthood but in such a hurry to become an independent adult. I drank the Kool-aid, and believed that I was going to do so much better job raising MY kids than my parents did. Every parent is a product of both how THEY were raised, and changes in prevailing parenting styles of that period. The majority of parents do the best they can with the limited expertise they have. Unfortunately, younger parents are still growing up themselves when they decide to take on this task. Based on what we read today, it's a wonder I survived because I had a few yardsticks broke on my behind and my sled was tied to the back of a pick-up truck. I think its pretty terrific that in old age, we remember less and less of the bad things and more and more of the good. I think God made us that way. It's like childbirth. If you remembered how horrible going through labor really was, why would you ever have another kid! I want to thank my kids, birthed or step-kids, who tolerated me as an imperfect mother but wound up loving me just the same. In time, I hope your memories, too, will become sweeter. Every one of these children have taught me something about life. Not a single one of them has dealt with life the same. It's hard to watch you struggle, but I'm immensely proud when you reach those summits. And, just like I said about my leadership philosophy, the hardest thing I do everyday is remind myself to get out of your way and let you live the life you choose. 

I want to thank those people who inspired me to continue to grow intellectually. While many of my academic choices in life were precipitated by personal crises, I was influenced by some who saw in me the makings of being a good teacher, good leader or good writer. It's all been an accumulative process, each door opening, but only when I was ready to walk through it. Many times the challenge was needing to let go. A lot of my early decisions in life were based on fear and turning to those outside of myself for security that I needed to find from within. My faith in God has filled that hole. I have unshakable trust that nothing happens in my life by chance. Psalm 139 says that all the days of my life were known to God while I was knit in the womb. That doesn't mean that He is a puppet-master but I believe that it means that an omniscient God foresees the choices we will make, and despite those choices, will use them for good if we trust Him. My faith has grown from having some remarkable faith leaders in my life throughout the years and I am thankful for them. I trust that my faith will equip me for the journey set before me. Thank you to all my friends that walk beside me along this journey.


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