The Second Half: Know your impact

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my Second Half is: You never know your impact. Every time you interact with someone, there is the possibility you will impact them profoundly, so be responsible. Here’s an example:

At the end of May, 57-year-old Henry Canfield died suddenly. We didn’t know his family, and we didn’t really know him very well, but we felt like we did. He treated everyone he met like a friend.

They called him “Crazy Hank.” I met him at Kutter Harley-Davidson in Janesville, Wis., a couple of years ago, the week we bought our bike. After that first meeting, Hank greeted me by name every time he saw me—probably about once a month. Not only that, he read my column each week and took a real interest in it: “Hey, Kathleen, I read your column about going to a writers’ retreat. I know some people who have something like that in Arizona—you should check them out!”

Initially, I thought Crazy Hank was just a fantastic salesman—after all, he had to get to know people if he wanted repeat customers, right? But Hank didn’t just sell bikes—he sold you on loving life. In this regard, he was an example to everyone.

“I don’t want my own bike, Hank,” I told him, “I want to sit back and enjoy the scenery!”

“That’s what it’s all about, Kathleen,” Hank replied. “You gotta enjoy it while you have it!” Then, he winked, pointed out a particularly beautiful Harley, and said, “But maybe that bike will change your mind!” He always made me laugh.

When he died so early in his Second Half, the grieving staff at Kutter H-D organized a memorial ride for Canfield: beginning at the Harley dealership in Janesville and ending at Honquest Funeral Home in Roscoe. Hank had worked at Kutter for more than a decade, and they knew many of his customers would want to pay their respects in this way.

“Wow!” was all I could say when we arrived. People from all walks of life were lining up on bikes to honor this man: folks in business suits, parents with kids on the back, young and old and everything in between. I saw license plates from five different states, and that was just in the few who were nearest me. Folks traveled hours to participate, to pay tribute to a guy who had an impact on their lives.

Officers from the Sherriff’s Department escorted the riders, closing intersections in three counties to ensure our secure passage. Cops are notorious for their ability to handle motorcycles—and enjoy them, too—and I’m guessing Hank sold bikes to a lot of ’em. His love of life must have rubbed off.

I don’t know the final number of people who attended the ride. We were somewhere in the middle of the pack, moving two-by-two, and we could never see either the beginning or the end of the line of bikes. Hundreds, I guess.

Kind of a trademark for Crazy Hank, he always had cookies to share. That’s why I cried as we were mounting up for our final tribute—his co-workers circulated huge baskets of cookies, saying, “Have a cookie with Hank today.”

Love life and treat everyone like a friend: that was Hank’s message to others.

So, what’s your impact? I say, “You never know your impact,” but only because many of us act without purpose or intent. If you want to make a positive impact on others, the first step is: be positive—ON PURPOSE! Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Dr. Nathalie Fiset—family doctor and hypnotherapist—focuses on helping others make a positive impact with her blog— In her Ezine article, “Make A Difference!”, Fiset suggests, “Everything you do, including just being who you are, can make a difference.”

The doctor suggests the following 10 steps:

1. Recycle

2. Save water

3. Conserve electricity

4. Save gas

5. Raise your children well

6. Lend a helping hand

7. Plant trees

8. Volunteer

9. Donate to a charitable institution

10. Convince others to do the same

(Read the complete article at:!—Top-Ten-Ways-to-Make-a-Positive-Impact-on-Others&id=1364326).

No question that any of those 10 steps will have an impact on others, but living a life of joy does, too! I think of my pal and fellow writer, Kelly Epperson, whose Joy Newsletter has brought me endless smiles. Now, she has another project: hosting a Rockford-area Happiness Club, meeting the first Thursday of each month in the North Suburban Library Community Room at 6:30 p.m.

“Show up and BRING A FRIEND!” Epperson says. The June 3 meeting offers a guest speaker who will teach “laughter exercises”—now that has to have a positive impact, right?! Reach Epperson at (815) 871-7864 or contact her by e-mail at

Me? I’m gonna tell every person I do business with—from the gas station attendant to the receptionist at the dentist office—one thing they did that made my life easier.

“Your staff really made us feel welcome,” I told the general manager at the Best Western we visited last week.

The guy went wild, “I will tell them! They hardly ever hear compliments like that! And it makes me feel like I did my job, as well!”

It isn’t world peace, but it’s a start. No different than Hank’s cookie, a kind word can positively change someone’s world. And in my Second Half, I want to make an impact…don’t you?

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the June 9-15, 2010 issue

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