Thanksgiving day, 1976, has a faithful hold on my memory. In what would turn out to be our last Thanksgiving in northern California for quite some time (we moved to southern California less than a year later) my family traveled east of San Francisco to spend the day with my aunt and uncle and our extended family.
The most conspicuous element of my remembrance of that day is the welcoming face of my Uncle John Davis. In my vivid recollection it is his generous and heartfelt kindness that 39 years later still feels like it was reserved just for me.
My Uncle John was as kind a man as I knew when I was young. I can’t tell you much about his career or how he liked to spend his free time but I remember the fervent awe I felt when I learned that he served as an engineer on the USS Enterprise in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
I admired him immensely through the remaining years I knew him. From my childhood into my teenage years and young adulthood I held a profound respect for Uncle John. Though surely there were other moments of influence it is the concentrating power of memory that makes it all seem to flow from the way he treated me in what was likely only a few moments of interaction during a family celebration nearly four decades ago.
I wish I could explain it better than this. I wish I understood how something so small could grow into something of so much significance, comfort and appreciation. I don’t understand it. I only know that it’s true. And that it is a memory I treasure now and will hold onto for years to come.
The impact of our actions ripples out from us beyond our ability to know. It is only ours to trust that those ripples, once joined to the current of another’s experience, can become the waves that help to bring them to the shore.
(My daughter Davis, our youngest, was “supposed to be a boy.” My wife was convinced of it. When “she” showed up instead of “he” we decided to stick with the name we had chosen. My Uncle John is a big part of why that was an easy decision.)
DAVID BERRY is the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world, especially the parts where he doesn’t handle it very well. If you enjoyed this post someone else might, too. Please pass it along.