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Life in Retirement: A jolt of kindness


Have you ever received a message completely out of the blue from a person you strain with all your might to recall, but for whom you apparently wielded a gigantic influence? I’ve had old friends look me up and some thank you notes from work colleagues over the years. But this extraordinary message came through my retirement website last week and brought me to my knees.

It was from a woman who told me that 32 years ago, when she was an ‘insecure teenager with little confidence or clue’ what she wanted out of life, I was her mentor at a newspaper where I was working and where she was a work experience student. I feel like I’ve lived three lifetimes since then and at that time I would have only been out of college myself for a handful of years. But in her recollection, my influence was profound. And in my heart, I’m so very glad.

“Your kind, constructive ways and enthusiasm for my writing made me feel valued and heard,” she said in her email. “I recall the sense of clarity that came with that work term and my growing self confidence as I saw my name in print – I knew suddenly what I wanted to do. I recall you being so encouraging, and you had such an infectious enthusiasm for words and life in general. You were such a great mentor and really changed the trajectory of my life in our limited interaction. You believed in me!”

I obtained her permission to share some of the many thoughts she emailed me on that otherwise average Wednesday, but my motivation isn’t to boast. It’s just such a perfect example of the impact we can be making on someone else’s life, without even realizing it. How important we are to one another and how our actions can encourage someone, sometimes onto great things – as in this case!

It made me so happy to think I could have touched someone’s life so deeply – she went on to study many things and accomplish great things, eventually becoming a registered nurse working in a neonatal intensive care unit. Now, I’m not going to take credit for that enormous achievement, lol. But her message made me feel… well… pretty much everything she said I had made her feel all those many years ago! Valued and heard, indeed. And she said she felt so thankful to be able to share these thoughts with me all these years later – she was the one who felt thankful?! Good heavens.

Obviously, this was a touching exchange of emails – for both of us. I will never forget the gesture and reminded myself to take the time to tell people when I appreciate them. To send even more handwritten notes than I already do, to show kindness to the elderly people carefully straightening the contents of their purse while the line-up grows behind them, to be encouraging to the young children who are tentatively counting out their precious coins at the till, to smile at the people I pass. Because all gestures towards other people - big gestures and small gestures - might have more impact than we can possibly know. Unless a virtual stranger takes the time to tell you that your gestures changed their life!

Visit Sandy’s website at

Byron Hackett

About the Author: Byron Hackett

I have been apart of the Red Deer Advocate Black Press Media team since 2017, starting as a sports reporter.
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