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Letter to the Editor: A special thanks to someone I don’t know

The views stated here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of this newspaper. We welcome supporting or opposing views on any published item. Received January 9, 2022.

I want to take this opportunity to thank someone here in town, someone who goes to the Transfer Station and frequents the Swap Shack there, someone I don’t know.  I’d like to tell you why and, at the same time, thank who-ever it was:  the gift giver.  Maybe he’ll see this message.

It was a week or so before Christmas, and I was dropping off a few small bits and pieces that I thought might be of interest to others during the holiday period.  Nothing big or impressive, it was just some “small stuff.”  At the time there were only a few people at the Shack, inspecting possible second-hand treasures that had been left by others in the shed-like area.  As I was about to leave, I felt an unexpected, gentle tap on my shoulder.   A young man (well, at least he was a lot younger than I) had gotten my attention.  On turning, I realized that I didn’t know him (or at least I didn’t recognize him behind his mask). He was tallish I think, grey haired, and may have had a short, well-trimmed beard.  He opened the plastic bag of books he was carrying, picked out one book and put it in my hands.  He indicated that it was for me.   Its title, Enjoy Old Age.

I laughed and replied something like, “Well, that certainly fits!  Thank you.  I’ll take it.”  I left the area quickly, carrying my new acquisition.  (When I was younger, I would have left “with a hop, skip, and jump”, having received an unexpected gift.  But I’m older now – and somewhat slower.)

It wasn’t until I got home that I looked more closely at my gift.  There, on the dust jacket was the name of a person I remembered from the old days, B. F. Skinner.  Wow!  B. F. Skinner – a  famous name in the world of  Behavioral Psychology!  It so happens that my husband had done some work in the same academic area as Skinner, so I recognized his name.  He, along with M. E. Vaughan, had published Enjoy Old Age back in 1983. I reminded myself that books, like good wine, often improve with age.  I looked forward to reading it.  Just looking at the cover brought back so many good memories of being a student and later being an elementary school teacher.

In at least one sixth grade class, I remember teaching about the importance of positive reinforcement (reward) to the process of learning while using my golden retriever dog as an experimental subject. I brought Danny to the school to demonstrate how quickly he would learn a new trick if given suitable rewards.  (I have to admit, it was so long ago, that I may have fabricated some of that classroom memory.)  The importance here is the tie-in to one of the book’s authors, making it more attention grabbing and giving me unexpected pleasure.

Consequently, I quickly read the book and found lots of good ideas from my new Shad Shack gift.  I plan to read the book again, with interest and closer attention, even though it was written quite a while ago.

Most importantly, I want to thank the man at the Transfer Station who helped me to unveil so many pleasurable memories.   He has provided me with a book of helpful hints aimed at making it easier to Enjoy Old Age, which I am definitely doing.

Marge DeBold

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