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May 21, 2008

LUCK AND THE SHINING WHITE HORSE

A tribute to my Grandmother:

Each year as I get older, I find that I am amazed at my luck at recognizing those things that are truly important in my life, early enough to appreciate them. This year was a lucky one for me and those I love. What follows is my annual reflection.

Last year continued to be a year of growth and change for my Companies. In October we celebrated our second year in our new offices, and while I believe that the construction may never be complete I am thankful to our clients who trusted us with their communication projects, and worked right through the dusty year with us.

I continued to serve as the president of the board of directors of The AIDS/HIV Life Center and while we now have our permits to build, we pray for some luck that will allow us to begin construction. This desperately needed home for AIDS/HIV services will reside on our left coast in San Francisco, a city that continues to be at the center of this epidemic.

And as luck would have it, my father not only survived his major cancer surgery, but the cancer is completely gone from his body and from our lives, for now. I love you all for the calls, cards, letters, and donations you made in his name; that is really why he made it. There has never been a surgery waiting room more crowded with lucky bodies and fearful love.

As I reflect on my luck this year, I am reminded of my grandparents and a story I’ll call “Luck and The Shining White Horse.” When I was a child I dreamed of having a pony. My Grandpa Sackett used to kid with us and tell us that he might just buy us a pony when we would go to their house for our annual summer visits. Each one of us got to spend a week at Gigi and Papaw’s house and we lived for it! So each year, somewhere deep inside of me, I would hope that my Grandpa would have the money to get me that pony. As luck would have it, I never got one. I guess I knew I wouldn’t really ever get that horse, but what I did get one summer was so much better.

On one of my summer visits, Gigi told me that each time you see a White Horse you should lick your right thumb, stamp it into your left palm and seal it with your right fist and then you would have good luck. To this day I do it! And given how my life has turned out, I can tell you that it definitely works. The funny thing is that when you are a child you are influenced by so many things and our heads fill with so many memories that I suspect we sometimes get our recollections of a particular memory mixed up. Not this one; it’s exactly as I remember it. I know this because a few years ago I was back in Kansas City on business and I went to pick up my Grandmother, her health beginning to fail, to take her to the Dairy Queen for ice cream. On the way, we passed a big field and in it stood a shining white horse. Without saying a word, and at the same instant, we both licked, stamped, and sealed. To my confirmation she turned to me and said, “I taught you that.” I replied, “You sure did.” And she said “It’s good luck, you know.” I realized that what she taught me so many years earlier would stay with me my entire life.

As we head into the Holidays this year, I’d like to make a request of each of you. If you have a living grandparent ask them to tell you their stories, share their history, their knowledge, and their love before they leave you. There are so many elderly individuals who have outlived their friends and even their children; and some of their luck is now running out. Even though they continue to have so much to give, I fear that we might not be giving them the opportunity to share with us their experiences and their wisdom. They are our history. If you don’t have a grandparent, I have a solution for you. This year we have made our annual donation in your name to Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly, a nationwide non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to providing outreach, advocacy and companionship to isolated elders. By visiting, socializing and helping with household tasks, Little Brothers helps meet the emotional needs of the elderly which, in turn, helps them to remain independent. For an elderly person who has lived a full and eventful life, living alone or being lonely isn’t only sad, it’s tragic. If Little Brothers can link them up with a volunteer, it brightens the lives of all involved and the elder receives a visit on a regular basis from a friendly face. If you’d like to contact Little Brothers, and there’s not a chapter in your city, give us a call and we’ll put you in touch with them. This small commitment of your time can reward you for the rest of your life.

So...right now, lick your right thumb, stamp your left palm, and seal it with your right fist because this year I have more luck than I need and I’m giving some to you, from Gigi and me. Gigi, you probably can’t remember now that you taught me this so long ago; you may not even remember how to do it. I know there are not many white horses in your life these days, but you taught it to me and now I’m teaching it too...

From all of us here to all of you, please go visit someone elderly who needs your love this holiday season. They get a wonderful visit, and you might just learn something about horses.

Take care of each other, slow down a bit and don’t forget to lick, stamp and seal. Have a lucky and happy new year.

–Mark

Three weeks after I wrote this and before we went to press, Gigi died. She was 87 years old. I was able to spend a few days with her as she made that final turn. To those of you at Trinity Lutheran Manor who cared for and loved my grandmother during her final days, Please know how amazed I am at your dedication and at the daily miracles you perform.
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