Thankful. Interesting word.
Family and the comfort of loved ones. Continued good health. Freedom and the opportunity to live in a country where our destinies and futures are always within our own power. All important. All worth being thankful for.
But most importantly to me, I’m thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given to be significant in the lives of others.
We are all just tenants in this life. We reside here for a while and then move on. And after we move on, the only true test of success is the footprint we leave in the lives and on the hearts of others. Significance is the only true currency of who we were.
The inuksuk has always been an important symbol for me. An inuksuk is a stone landmark erected by the Inuit, Inupiat, Kalaallit, Yupik and many others that live in the far north. You will find them dotting the landscape across the Arctic, erected by small groups of travellers navigating the frozen tundra.
Why are they important? Why would someone take the time to build a stone structure in the freezing cold when, in all likelihood, they won’t pass that way again? Some were built as rudimentary travel directions. Some were built as a food cache. But the vast majority are just interesting, cold stone structures, built and left to stand the test of time and the elements. Perhaps the best answer I ever heard to the question ‘why an inuksuk’ was from a northern Canadian elder who said simply “so others know I was here”.
Isn’t that what we all strive for in life? To leave an ‘inuksuk’ on the hearts of those we love, those whose paths we cross and, in fact, on the lives of those future generations we will never meet.
My amazing wife has spent her entire career building that type of legacy. Over the years she has taught thousands of students and so many of them still remain in contact. Some of them are married and starting families of their own and still they continue to stay in touch, just to say hello or ask for advice.
Not long ago we received a letter postmarked from a local penitentiary. The poorly written paragraph said, and I paraphrase, “You might not remember me but my name is ____. I’m the kid from the grade 8 class that everyone said would end up in jail. They were right. And as I sit here in my cell, I think of you. You were the only person in my entire life that ever believed in me and the only person in my life that ever cared enough to say so. Thank you.” The signature identified the writer as a student my wife had taught almost 15 years previously.
That’s an Inuksuk. That is significance.
I have been blessed with a remarkable wife, two exceptional sons, two amazing daughters-in-law and a terrific sister and brother-in-law that all live their lives in a way that creates significance in the lives of others.
They inspire me to be significant.
For that I am truly blessed and truly thankful.