Monday, April 21, 2008


During their visit to DC this past weekend, my parents brought a letter that was mailed to me at their address. Before opening it, I glanced at the return address label. I recognized the street name, but not the sender's. I opened the envelop to find a one page typed letter inside...

In short, it was a thank you note from a family in my hometown in Pennsylvania whose daughter was part of the recreational swim team I coached during the summer after my freshman year of college. This girl was only eight or nine years old when I knew her, but in the years since she has gone on to swim competitively. This past winter she along with her teammates at Hampton High School broke one of school and pool relay records that had belonged to me. (They also went on to win gold at the WPIAL meet, which is awesome!)

The letter went on to say that it was my words of encouragement to this young girl during the summer of 1997 that led her to pursue competitive swimming. Her mom remarked about how much her daughter had learned during the past ten years of competitive swimming and how grateful she was that I took the time to complement and encourage her daughter when she was just learning to swim. Those words, my words, forever changed her life. And she will forever be a WPIAL champion and school record holder in swimming.

Needless to say I was surprised and deeply touched by the letter. As I read the letter for the second time last night, I cried (I'm hormonal - so give me a break!). It was a true honor to hear how my life had touched and changed the life of another. It also cause me to pause and think about the goals I am currently pursuing. To be honest, that letter was more rewarding than setting the curve in my epidemiology class or being asked to TA a seminar class next semester. Although I want to continue to on my path towards getting a PhD, I need to be mindful of the fact that there are things more important in life. Somehow I need to find a way to share my knowledge and encourage other to find and follow their academic, professional, or personal passion.

Receiving this letter also caused me to reflect on the individuals who have impacted my life; those who have encouraged and directed me along my path in life. Unlike the family who wrote to me, I've never taken the time to write a quick note of thanks. But now that I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of one of those notes, I think my attitude has changed. There are a handful of people who definitely deserve my thanks and it is high time I give it to them.

So that's what I'm going to do. I've been looking for a project to accomplish during my break between the spring and summer semesters. I'm going to write my thank you notes and let those people who've encouraged me the way I encouraged the young eight year old swimmer that I'm truly grateful.

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