Business or Writing: Thanking a Professor for his wise advice

Most of us have a special teacher, school counselor or college professor who somehow changed our life for the better. We remember these folks fondly, yet we rarely follow up on the long overdue “Thank you,” which they so heartily deserve. Maybe that is why I’m such a sucker for those Hallmark commercials portraying a deserving mentor finally receiving a card which expresses exactly what I’ve never said.Hallmark Hall of Fame

For example, my favorite spot features a retiring professor who is busy clearing his office of the evidence of his decades spent teaching. While he is rummaging through papers and boxing up books, a former student who is now a middle-aged woman walks in and offers him a greeting card. The curmudgeonly old professor momentarily stops his tasks and opens the card. He can’t find his glasses, so the student reads the message of gratitude the card expresses, then anxiously awaits his reaction. After all, when someone has been a supportive teacher, they forever hold this place of respect in our hearts.

Over a decade ago, I think it might have been this classic commercial that originally provided the catalyst for me to visit one of my favorite instructors. I had heard through the college grapevine that “Doc” was failing physically and mentally, and that he had been placed in a nursing facility. I was saddened by this news, because I had not only been his student, but I had once worked for this brilliant man.

As a student employee, Doc’s inability to understand that not everyone was as bright as him had been a bit of a challenge for me in the beginning. To explain, one day as a senior business major, he innocently asked if I would be able to oversee his economics class the following afternoon. Being enrolled in the course myself, I knew that particular day’s schedule was to be an explanation of the computation of the Gross National Product. Therefore, I frantically explained to Doc that I could answer his phones and grade his tests, but I was presently unable to compute the GNP.

It was also during this senior year of college in the early eighties that I was blessed to serve a year’s internship at my local newspaper, The Lima News, under the direction of then city editor, Mike Lackey. Under this award-winning journalist’s watchful eye, I learned to report about everything from election night results to a Toledo businessman’s ordeal of being held captive by Venezuelan terrorists.

Hand on ComputerApparently, my love for journalism and the English language didn’t escape Doc’s watchful eye. One day, as graduation loomed on the horizon, I asked him what he thought I should do with my life. Barely looking up from the stacks of books and endless papers that covered his office desk, he told me that I should write.

This advice left me somewhat bewildered, because I had studied diligently to finish my business degree. Therefore, I assumed my professor would say I was destined to be an international business diva. Besides, I was the single mom of a toddler, and needed more financial security than an uncertain career in journalism could provide. As a result, I didn’t heed his wise counsel for many years.

I remembered all of this the evening when I went to visit Doc at the nursing home.
On that particular night, Doc’s eyes investigated my once familiar face searching for recognition. Then he reached for my hand, and asked, “What do you do?”
“I’m a writer,” I said explaining that he was once my professor and had told me to write. Doc, who was in his eighties by then, was confined to a wheelchair. His silver-hair fell to one side as he struggled to hold his head upright. Still there was that kind smile that I had grown so fond of long ago.

For a moment, Doc looked deeply concerned about my career choice then he hesitatingly asked how it turned out. I leaned down and assured him that it turned out OK. “I’ve written a couple books,” I said. Instantly, a smile of satisfaction slowly formed on his lips. Doc is gone now, but even near the end, he was ever the consummate professor who wanted his students to do well. Sadly, I didn’t have a Hallmark card to pull out of my purse to say “Thanks.” Instead I just smiled back and squeezed his wrinkled hand.

Here’s the Hallmark commercial click on the Hallmark logo below: Hallmark Hall of Fame

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

 

 

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Condolence cards offer comfort a second time

Dayspring Greeting Cards

Dayspring Greeting Cards offer comfort when our own words fail us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A snow day in Ohio, the perfect time to tackle that old tub filled with greeting cards collected over the years. After all, lately words like simplify, downsize, and de-clutter seem to be calling to me in a rather frantic voice. Of course, you can’t keep all the cards you receive. For instance, those wonderful Christmas greetings which arrive each holiday can accumulate quickly. According to the Greeting Card Association website, www.greetingcard.org these seasonal cards are the most popular of all varieties selling about 1.6 billion units annually.

Although, most of the cards in my laundry-basket-sized tub are the kind you can’t throw out or recycle. They are treasures that are forever memories including every birthday and Mother’s Day card my son ever sent me. There are romantic cards, too. Ones my husband gave me when we were dating and Valentine’s Day cards from each year after we married. Except for that first year, before he knew that a woman without a Valentine’s card could be a lethal commodity. But that really is a whole other column.

Information from the GCA website explains, “Women purchase an estimated 80% of all greeting cards…spend more time choosing a card… and are more likely to buy several cards at once.” Cindy Garland, owner of The Ivy Garland, a gift and flower shop located in downtown Sidney, Ohio, agrees that women buy more cards. “Absolutely, in here it is probably 90 percent,” she said. The Ivy Garland has been in business for 13 years, and card sales have remained consistent. “I still sell about the same amount….I sell a lot of humorous cards…,” said the shop’s owner. “I [also] sell a lot of sympathy cards…,” she added.

My late mother was the consummate card sender. My tub is half-filled with notes, postcards, and greeting cards from her. It didn’t take a special occasion. I used to tell her that she had a card ministry, because she always seemed to send a card with encouraging words at just the right time. Serendipity or divine providence, you decide. Yet, I always believed that my mother’s card giving was a special gift from God to this world. From her, I learned how important sending a card for a happy or sad occasion can be. One celebrates life, the other says, “You are not alone in your pain.”

“I think people appreciate the gesture anytime,” said Cindy Garland. The businesswoman says that the significance of a greeting card is, “To let people know you are thinking of them. It’s something that they can touch.” When it comes to expressing condolences, a sympathy card has a special purpose. It’s a time when, “…a lot of people don’t know what to say,” said Garland. Therefore, a card’s message can help people to better express their feelings.

I suppose it was no surprise that when Mom died, those who had garnered a lifetime of cards from her, would send a condolence card in her honor. You see, my prolific card-sending mother mailed out several hundred Christmas cards every year. So you can imagine how many sympathy cards I received. I read each one when they arrived shortly after her sudden death more than two years ago. Some of the cards contained messages that helped me get through those dark days. I planned to look the cards over one last time, and throw most of them away. Truthfully, this task had been too painful to undertake before.

On a snowy March afternoon with a hot cup of coffee and blazing fire, reading these thoughtful cards produced amazement and tears. Without the blur of shock and grief, I could hear the heart of each sender. Especially those who had also lost loved ones, sharing what helped them through, wanting desperately to offer comfort. The first time around, I missed this vital point about condolence cards. We are all so deeply touched by the loss others experience, because we all live through heartbreaking losses of our own.

My advice is that if you have experienced a recent bereavement don’t dispose of those sympathy cards. Save them. Then read them again in a couple of years, when you will be able to appreciate them more. In the end, I put all the cards back into the tub realizing that they were too precious to discard. Each one was a new memory of being comforted a second time by others who had courageously walked their own grief-filled road.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. This column originally appeared in The Lima News and Sidney Daily News March 2013.

 

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Celebrating Pastor Appreciation Month

Clergy Holding Bible “Clergy Appreciation Day “ is always the second Sunday in October” according to www.hallmark.com. This year, October 14, 2012, is the official date to honor pastors, priests, and ministers for their selfless commitment. Yet the entire month is dedicated to celebrating our clergy with this remembrance first being established in 1992. There’s even a Biblical reminder to honor those who care for our spiritual needs, “Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness….”

Of course, pastors and their spouses aren’t perfect. But neither are any of us. However, they do have a special job, since the word pastor can be interchanged with the Old Testament title, “shepherd,” and congregants are analogous to sheep. An experienced farmer and Bible teacher once told me that sheep can be incredibly stupid animals, which need a shepherd to lead them. Apparently, if a sheep gets turned upside down in a ditch filled with shallow water, they’ll drown simply because they don’t know enough to turn over. Sheep can also be prey for an attacking predator. Due to their inability to protect themselves, they could be easily killed without a shepherd’s protection.

Therefore, “why” congregations celebrate Clergy Appreciation Month can be explained by the countless stories of pastors who have acted as a protector and a rescuer. Maybe, it was a midnight vigil at the bedside of an ill parishioner, walking alongside a family experiencing the loss of a loved one, or listening as a hurting couple tries to rekindle the smoldering embers of a broken marriage. However, needy congregants can forget that their busy minister often has a marriage of his or her own with flames that also need stoking.

It’s commendable that many pastors are willing to selflessly visit the sick in the hospital, offer endless hours of support to grieving people, or to respond to a church emergency when the phone rings unexpectedly at 3.a.m. However, these sacrificial tasks can result in their absence at the family dinner table or their children’s school or sports events. In addition, minister’s hectic schedules can necessitate their mates to shoulder the majority of the household responsibilities alone.

Rev. Jane Madden, president of Ohio’s Shelby County Ministerial Association agrees that those married to clergy sacrifice a great deal. “So often our spouses give up time with us, so we can do what God has called to do,” she said. Rev. Madden is the associate pastor of nurture and care at the SidneyFirstUnitedMethodistChurch.  She is also an organist there. The 69-year-old retired elementary music teacher went into the ministry as a second calling joining the Sidney First UMC staff in 2007.

As for concrete ways of showing clergy appreciation, Rev. Madden suggests, “Taking them out to lunch, [or if a congregant has] a cabin on the lake or something like that, they could offer that to the pastor and their spouse [for a getaway.] Gift certificates [for a meal out] would be good.”

She believes a simple card would be appreciated, too. “I know in this day and age everything is texting or email, but a handwritten note means so much more,” said Madden. She also suggests showing your caring by insisting that your clergy take time off, “If the congregation would make sure their pastor is taking a day off and having a Sabbath rest at some point during the week.”

According to Jane Madden not only in October, but all year long, “For myself and the other pastors that I have spoken to, the best thing the church people can do is to attend church and to get involved in the mission program in church, and be committed to their spiritual journey.”

Pastor David Clem of Ohio’s Spring Creek Christian Church shares her opinion, “The greatest gift any pastor can receive is to see members of their flock maturing in faith and actively engaged in doing the Lord’s work.”

Like Pastors Madden and Clem, most clergy and their mates are compassionate educated men and women who care deeply about those they oversee. During October, let’s especially remember to show gratitude to these individuals who give so much of their lives to minister to others.

Another way to do this is simply by praying, because the president of the Ministerial Association says that pastors would greatly appreciate this gift all year long. She explained, “Prayers lift us up and encourage us …just encouraging to know that people are praying for you as you are doing God’s work. 

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award winning journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. This column originally appeared in the Sidney Daily News on Oct. 6, 2012.

 

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