Saying ‘Thank You’
Not long ago, I received one of those pass-it-along emails that asked me to recall the last several Academy Award winning actors, baseball MVPs and those atop the wealthiest Americans list. Then it asked me to remember my closest childhood friends and favorite teachers.
Guess which list I could answer easily? The one that included those who are truly meaningful to us.There are people who come into our lives that have a lasting impact. One at the top of my list was my high school television & radio instructor, Al Eaton. Thirty-something years ago when I was entering high school and wondering what I wanted to do with my life, Al taught courses in television and radio production. Our high school in northern California was blessed to have a broadcast radio station as well as a public access TV facility. While I had initially entertained thoughts of studying to be a newspaper reporter, the broadcast bug caught me early on, and Al Eaton provided me with my very first education in what it took to be a part of that world.
But more than just the instruction was the fact that Al knew the best way to learn a craft was to do it… and to learn from your mistakes. Many a time would I accidentally leave the microphone on while expletives flew around the radio booth, or I would carelessly erase a video production that had taken hours to edit (that’s why another name for today’s nonlinear editing is “non-destructive editing”). I would spend countless nights and weekends at the high school taping football games, being a disc jockey and writing and re-writing scripts… all because Al Eaton trusted his students enough to let them experiment and learn the craft. By the time I headed off to college and began my first jobs in Hollywood (where Al would visit me often), I was light-years ahead of the competition in terms of not just experience but the guts to be bold. Al Eaton taught me that, and it’s something that I try to encourage with others in my profession.
Al was one of those rare people we have come into our lives… who know just how to motivate us and provide us the freedom to fly. I would not be the person I am today without Al Eaton. Al and I joked recently that I would be seeing him during my 30th high school reunion next summer, reliving the past and appreciating the roads we’ve taken. I won’t have that opportunity, because Al passed away October 1 after a brief but valiant battle with pancreatic cancer.
I never got the chance to really thank Al for all he did for me. If I could give anyone reading this blog a piece of advice, it would be this: reach out and thank that special someone in your life, and let them know the impact they’ve had.
There’s a wonderful fable about two friends walking along a beach, when they come across hundreds of starfish that have washed ashore, unable to return to the ocean. One friend bends down, picks up a starfish and throws it back into the sea. The other friend looks bewildered and says “there are so many… how can you how hope to make a difference?” His companion says, “Well, I made a difference to that one.”
Al, you made a difference to me. And wherever you are now, enjoying the end of your journey, thank you.