In October I traveled to Downeast Maine where I went to college to celebrate the 40 year career of my favorite outdoor recreation professor. As I wrote the card and considered a gift, I enjoyed thinking about our relationship which has lasted 25+ years despite him having had hundreds of students pass through his classroom since then.
I boiled it down to the fact that despite the fact that it was an appropriate student/professor relationship, he treated us like people, guided us with respect and humor, taught us about much more than the curriculum, and he always welcomed us back with open arms like family many times over the years. Even when I hadn't seen him for several years, his face alway lit up and he gave me a big hug the minute he saw me every time and he wanted a full catch up. That's a wonderful legacy, in my book. His card reflected that relationship and his gift was a HUGE bag of Snickers bars which gave him several good laughs when I presented it to him. Back in the day on our search and rescue team, when we were doing drills we would often stage in the woods and sit for an hour or two to wait for our mission. He would have us dump out our packs so he could "check" our snacks we had brought. Inevitably, we kept the energy bars and gorp but he always claimed (good naturedly, of course) all of the Snickers bars. Seemed like the perfect gift. (He also had a fire ring and lean-to built in his yard by the students as his retirement gift.)
The second person we honored was my former "boss" at the corps where I worked in Vermont. His departure from the Corps was sudden and uncomfortable but after starting, building and leading the organization for 30 years, he deserved a heck of a party to honor that dedication and commitment. I participated on the planning committee and was proud to feel like we pulled together a fitting send off. In addition to the naming of the campus after him plus several other meaningful gifts, I decided to make him some of his signature caramel rolls that he used to deliver at random times to the crews or staff or during training.
We planned ahead and got the recipe but a crazy schedule before hitting the road to Maine made me overlook the fact that the recipe called for thawing frozen dough and overnight rising of the dough. Oops! But A and I pulled it off and using the big kitchen at the corps, we made ~200 caramel rolls. I added a little sign to the dessert table to explain the significance and he and his family loved it! It was a lot of fun thinking about the meaningful moments in my relationship with him. From the "Leap of Faith" he took when he hired me despite my lack of grant experience (a decision we were both grateful he'd made!) to my decision to leave the corps and move to MA with my new husband to my many visits back where no matter how long it had been, he welcomed me in, asked for my advice, encouraged my input from the "insider's outside perspective". Over the 12+ years we've known each other, we've locked horns, agreed, disagreed, pushed each other for excellence, pushed back when visions were misaligned, and developed a healthy, professional, respectful relationship and friendship. It was an honor to help plan his party and an even bigger joy to reconnect with so many incredible people that I worked with during my tenure there. It was an incubator for some truly amazing people!
The last group of folks we honored was the American veterans currently hospitalized at the VA Hospital in West Roxbury, MA. With A's Masonic lodge members and their families, we created ~100 packages (35 stuffed stockings, 60 bags of homemade treats and multiple trays of goodies for the staff) to be delivered to the hospital by a small group from the lodge including A and me, the Master of the lodge, and one of the soldiers who received our packages last year while deployed in Afghanistan.
My good friend helped me pre-bake about 300 cutout sugar cookies, huge trays of popcorn and white chocolate treats, peppermint "puppy chow", bacon crack (saltines with brown sugar and butter syrup with crumbled bacon on top), chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip/Reese's cups cookies, homemade fudge... etc. We had ~25 volunteers come help decorate the cookies and put together the contents of the stockings etc. Then the next day, the four mentioned above delivered them to some VERY happy veterans, family members, and staff of the VA hospital. I don't know these folks personally but I don't need to know them personally to show them kindness and thanks for their service. I wish it could be more!