Dear Henry David Thoreau,
I apologize for not writing this letter to you sooner. You are, and have been for the better part of my adult life, my hero. That I have not written and properly thanked you before this is mostly due to the fact that I took your advice to heart to: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, and live the life that you have imagined.” I can honestly report that, for most of the last 25 years, I have been doing just that.
Mr. Thoreau (may I call you “Henry David?” It’s what I call you in my mind when I think about you), could you even have imagined the impact you’ve had on entire generations when you chose to go off into the woods and live deliberately? I can only speak for my own generation, the so-called Baby Boomers, when I say that countless thousands of us, if not more, took your words to heart and walked away from the rat race, the quest for money and power, the materialism that ruled our world, and found our very own Walden Pond, if not in actuality, certainly in spirit. At the age of 42, what the business world would call my “peak earning years,” I packed up my car and drove to the country in search of myself. While I ended up on the shores of a river rather than a pond, the experiences and benefits were no less valuable. I learned more about what is important in life, and how to live as an authentic human being, while watching the seasons change, the beavers busy building, the geese sweeping across the sky, and the clouds sweeping across the land right in front of me, than I ever could have stuck in a cubicle surrounded by people who also: “lived lives of quiet desperation.” In fact, I had a page of your inspired quotes hanging right next to my writing desk that reminded me every day :
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
Things do not change. We change.
Not all who wander are lost.
How vain it is to sit and write when you have not stood up to live.
So I stood up. I lived my life my way. It was not always popular with those close to me, and there were certainly moments when I doubted myself, or felt badly for what I thought of as letting others down, but in the end, I would not have traded these years for all the jewels in the world, or a lifetime of wealth and acclaim.
As you read this, wherever you are now (I picture you on the banks of your own Heavenly Walden, in your sweet little cabin), know that your words are still being read, and taken to heart, and inspiring countless young lives to “live the dreams that they imagine.” Could you ever have imagined in your own wildest dreams that your words would live in the hearts and minds of folks forever? That, my dear Henry David, is the work of a true hero. Thank you.
Forever in gratitude,
*This week over on the Home Page our writing assignment is going to ask you to sit down and think about the heroes in your own lives. You may find that a thank you note is way overdue. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.
Peace and blessings.