On Gifts Passed Down

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Christmas Day has come and gone. The gifts have been unwrapped. We now have a week to clean up, put things in their place, and get ready for the new year.

For most of us, it’s a week with a slower pace than usual. There’s a time for reflection and preparation. With recent gatherings of friends and family, there are memories past and fresh that allow us to connect what once was with what is to be.

Four years ago, just before Christmas, one of my former teachers passed away. Patrick Sennett was much more than a teacher to those of us who were lucky enough to have been assigned to him. The two-tour Vietnam Vet turned Civics, Economics, and Journalism teacher shaped a generation of lives that passed through Fayette County High School.

It was about a week before I learned of his passing. Believing I had missed his wake and funeral I wrote a short piece attempting to describe some of what he meant to me and my classmates. A few excerpts:

“…he was candid, but not bitter (about his time in Vietnam).  He was proud but not arrogant.  He was a man who was comfortable and confident in himself – and did his best to teach us all to be that way in with ourselves.  Let it be known without reservation that he served his country well, both while wearing the uniform and for many years afterward.”

“…He taught me to question everything ever reported”. He could do this because he had also run a newspaper or two.  The man had experience and wisdom… he taught the rest of us lessons and skills that transcended our subject matter.”

“…He also knew that eventually we would all leave his classroom and our school.  He wanted us to be prepared to take responsibility for our actions and inactions once we were gone.  He, above all else, treated us like adults because he wanted us to be able to handle being adults.”

I also shared a few anecdotes he had shared about his family. We knew this man with the gruff exterior would do anything for the health or happiness of his wife or his daughters. His lessons had purpose, and they all came back to what was really important. Family and country were constant themes in those lessons.

As friends shared anecdotes over social media we decided that former classmates needed to gather to reconnect and properly honor and celebrate what Mr. Sennett meant to us. One was friends with his family and passed along an invitation. We remain honored that they were able to attend, and share some of the stories in person.

One of those in attendance was Geoffrey Cauble. He had been a friend of mine via social media for several years, but I had never made the connection that he was Mr. Sennett’s grandson.

It made perfect sense. I knew him to be involved with his family and community. He wasn’t boastful nor used social media to call attention to himself. There was just a quiet confidence in his actions, and conversations were about gathering information as he worked to solve problems.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know him in person since that meeting four years ago. He is very much Pat Sennett’s grandson.

Mr. Sennett never ran for political office, though he was strongly encouraged to late in his career. A few weeks ago, a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives opened up in Henry County to be filled in a January 8th special election. Geoffrey Cauble is one of four candidates to fill that seat.

As we look at the gifts that have been unwrapped and prepare to put everything in its place for the new year, there’s a realization that not all gifts are of equal value. Some were about capturing attention for mere minutes. Other gifts can last years. A precious few will transcend generations.

Patrick Sennett provided his students gifts that we’re still using more than three decades later. He clearly used these gifts to raise his children well, who have done the same. I’m openly rooting to see the grandson of a legend in my life to bring some of these lessons to the gold dome in Atlanta.

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