The phrase is made of two words and it can be found just about anywhere. It can be used too much and too little. It is a simple gesture of gratitude.
But 'thank you' now means something more to John Stumpf.
"Whether it's to a spouse or it's to someone who holds the door open for you, I think it's two of the greatest words you can say," Stumpf said. "There's probably one other important phrase is marriage. That's learning to say 'I'm sorry.'"
Spending much of his life working for Old National setting up trust funds and retirement accounts for his clients, Stumpf has heard the appreciative phrase a time or two. The joy-loving man also serves for the Public Education Foundation of Evansville. He also continues to help out with his college fraternity. Despite a lack of free time, Stumpf will always find the occasion to pay it forward without ever expecting to be paid back.
"I opened up the mailbox and there's this letter," Stumpf said. "I read it about half way through and I was floored. I walked out of my kitchen area. I told my wife 'you're not going to believe what's in this letter.'"
The letter crossed over several time zones and spanned three decades. The author's purpose was to say those two little words: thank you. Postmarked from the Marianna Islands, the letter came from a man who used to live near Stumpf.
"I'm not sure if you remember me," the author wrote. "But you offered to repair a car stereo for me. I was a punk kid at the time and with the unit not operating properly, I was reluctant to pay the additional monies owed, not realizing at the time you had gone out of your way to help me, asking for nothing in return. The bottom line is, it had nothing to do with the unit. You had offered your assistance and labor out of your good nature. I'm sorry for not being more respectful of that situation and I'd like to take the time to thank you for making the effort to help me."
"It came from the Marianna Islands and that's what made me think it was an advertisement," Stumpf said. "I actually thought it was a travel log or something."
The cassette tape died a long time ago and so did Stumpf's memory of that day... until now.
"Whether it's one year or 33 years, it doesn't make any difference in my book," Stumpf said. "Seeing another generation realize that somebody did something for them and now they wanted to acknowledge that. You'd do it without an expectation of a pay back. That's what makes it so great. That's what makes it so neat."
"It's not how much you make. It's not how well you're known. It's the people you touch and, evidently, I was lucky enough to have touched someone 33 years ago."
Fixing the car stereo is something he didn't think much about, Stumpf said. Even to this day, he enjoys tinkering around with things, especially electronics. Upon reading the letter, a memory that he had buried more than three decades ago came back to mind. The cherished letter came courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service but the gift inside came courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
"That was the biggest surprise," Stumpf said. "When I opened up that letter, all of the sudden, out fell three $100 bills. I just find it amazing that something, all of the sudden, meant so much that someone wanted to do something about it."
The bills won't stay in Stumpf's suit pocket long. Without hesitation, he and his wife decided to have the money donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Perhaps that's the best way of saying thank you.
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