View Full Version : The Meaning of Christmas

12-24-2009, 12:06 PM
To me it is a time to be thankful for what you have. This is becoming much more apparent and important as I grow older and my limitations become greater. Recently several board members thanked me for small favours I did for them. While it took relatively little time or effort on my part to provide the assistance or advice it was worth far more than I realized. The simple thanks I received are of immense value to me.

I have been thinking about this and it is an excellent example of what some call Karma, the Eastern name for the concept that you reap what you sow and that what goes around comes around back to you.

I gave it some thought and realized that one of my teachers was very important in the direction I took and played a large part in some very important elements of my life. I decided to see if I could find him and if possible simply thank him for the time he spent teaching me.

It turns out that he is still living in the same community, married to the same person and still actively involved in teaching although long since retired professionally. I was even able to find a current e-mail address for him although I was not surprised at that since he was my Electronics teacher in High School and at the time very up to date on the latest technology including the emerging field of computing.

I wrote him this e-mail:

Subject: Greetings from a former Del Valle student

Mr. Farnholtz,

I presume I have the right person as I did a little research to find you. My name is Evan Williams and I was a student of yours at Del Valle High School in 1963, '64 and '65 in your electronics class. Perhaps to jog your memory, one project I built was a magnetic levitation device. I was also very interested in computing. I took your course for three years and enjoyed it tremendously.

I am now retired at age sixty and disabled so I have a lot of time to spend with my computer. I am active online with several groups and recently received some very important thanks from several people for advice and assistance that I rendered them. I was very pleased to hear that I had been of assistance so it prompted me to look you up as you were a very influential person in my life. I put the training I received in electronics to good use and wound up working for Xerox Corporation for 23 years as a senior service rep. After leaving Xerox I opened my own computer store for another ten years but had to close it 3 years ago for health reasons. I now design and build electronic projects still and have a very well equipped machine shop. I designed and built a high performance CNC milling machine and am still actively programming computers.

Once again, thank you for the excellent instruction you provided. It made a big difference throughout my life to date and helped me to provide for my family.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year

Evan Williams

I received this reply last night:


What a wonderful Christmas present to hear from you. It's hard to believe 40 years have passed since we last saw each other. How very kind of you to remember and thank me for those three years it brings much joy to me. How very pleased I am to hear of your success and to think I may have played a small part is extremely rewarding.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.


Wayne Farnholtz

I now feel that my "Karma" is in balance and will enjoy this Christmas more than I would have otherwise.

Merry Christmas to all.

Pete F
12-24-2009, 12:54 PM
Wow. That is seriously cool. I think you made two people's years with that one. Merry Christmas!


12-24-2009, 01:01 PM
Very nice. The world needs more of this type of thoughtful interaction.

12-24-2009, 01:17 PM
That's a heart warming exchange Evan.

I'm glad you posted that for us to share.
Bless you, and Merry Christmas to you and yours.


oil mac
12-24-2009, 02:11 PM
Evans that was a rally nice story for christmas, Yes what goes around comes around You obviously made your old teacher happy, and yourself also having happy memories of him.

Merry Christmas

12-24-2009, 02:13 PM
And a very merry Christmas to you, Evan. I am presently using some of your kindness, in the form of one of those killer carbide tool bits as I struggle to fit a cam-lock back plate to a 4-jaw chuck. My goodness but it do cut fine! Duffy

12-24-2009, 02:21 PM
The saying, "what goes around comes around" is deep rooted in history and many philosophy's of life. It can be traced to many cultures but phrased differently of course. The same is true of the Golden Rule.

There is everything to gain and nothing to loose with treating everyone with respect and giving help as needed. It always comes home.

Merry Christmas Evan and a Merrry Christmas to all on the forum.

12-24-2009, 02:31 PM
My hats off to you Evan!
It was very nice of you to acknowlege a mentor of yours and even better that he remembered you and answered back.
Truly inspirational.

12-24-2009, 03:40 PM
Nice job Evan,

I too have been recently digging through my past roots and making some connections with people from my past. I have dug up some folks with the help of Face book. It has been really interesting talking via email with people that I haven't seen in 20+ years. Few things mean more than the treasure of friendship. Time and folks relocating tends to put distance between people but with the magic of computers we can close that gap.

We tend to get rather absorbed in our work but it is good to take the time (as you have) to acknowledge those that made a positive impact on our lives. While we are motivated during Christmas time to do nice deeds I do think it is important to address the help we receive from others year around. I try to teach my children the importantance of being thankful for assistance no matter how small. I sometimes think that people tend to dismiss the help from others as something expected.

Folks get so used to dealing with others from a customer / vendor relationship that we sometimes expect the service we pay for and don't recognize the effort that others give from the goodness of their heart.

As time wears on it seems as if new generations lose the meaning of the phrases "please" and "thank you". It is as if the spoken thank you is simply a formality or a way to end a transaction but gets dismissed as an expected over used phrase. When some one gives this "thank you" from the heart it is almost a shock. It really does feel good when a person properly acknowledges your efforts and means it. I much prefer to see the holiday addressed with a measure of sincerity rather than a shallow commercialized product swapping event.

Evan, I am sure your gesture was well received as a "quality" present that the ol' boy will treasure...more so than a box of un-needed knick nacks given to a somebody because there is a gift giving obligation based on the date.


12-24-2009, 03:51 PM
Evan, that was a very thoughtful gesture to contact and thank a former teacher for the instruction and mentoring given such a long time ago. A lot of teachers never hear from former students, but the ones that do and find their student has done well in life, is uplifted and warmed by being remembered and knowing they have had some part in the students sucess.
Merry Christmas to you and your family now and in the future and thanks for helping. And Merry Christmas to all on the best machining forum on the net.


12-24-2009, 04:09 PM
I had a high school English teacher that had a significant influence on my life. I thought numerous times about her over the years. She was old when I knew her but she live to age 95 in a small town 75 miles from me. I didn't find that out in time to thank her. Be glad that you did.

I also thank you for shareing this and for your help along the journey to becoming a better HSM.

john hobdeclipe
12-24-2009, 04:13 PM
Teaching school is largely a thankless job, even for the good, inspirational, dedicated and passionate educators out there. You did a good thing by getting back in touch with this gentleman after all these years.

I've had a couple of teachers over the years who have been truly life changing, have opened windows onto whole new vistas of thought and experience.

On the other hand, maybe I should try to get back in touch with my fourth grade teacher...the one who tried so hard to get me sent off to a reform school...if only to tell him that nearly 50 years later I still haven't been in jail.

12-24-2009, 04:48 PM
There is everything to gain and nothing to loose with treating everyone with respect and giving help as needed. It always comes home.

Merry Christmas Evan and a Merrry Christmas to all on the forum.

Couldn't say it better myself. Keeping with the general trend of the thread, I'd like to wish everyone here a merry Christmas (regardless of you're religious affiliations - you don't have to celebrate it to still have a happy day ;) ) and I'd also like to give sincere thanks to all the helpful folks who have helped me out in the past.

I couldn't do what I'm doing today if it wasn't for the help and inspiration I've recieved from this forum. Thanks again and thanks to Village Press and George Bulliss for maintaining the forum!

Your Old Dog
12-24-2009, 05:11 PM
Good day for a nice story Evan. My guy would be a Mr. Winterholler who taught Family Living class in Sunset HS the same years as yours. I have had a much easier run at life thanks to his class on family living.

12-24-2009, 05:41 PM
Merry Christmas Evan. That was a wonderful set of letters. It's something I've thought about doing (for years) for several old teachers and one prof. ... since I'm in my mid '50s. They are all still alive and your post has pushed me over the edge to get it done. Thanks. Den.

12-24-2009, 07:05 PM
Merry Christmas Evan,

I, too, believe in karma. Karma, as held by various eastern philosophies might be a bit more than "what goes around comes around" but this definition is a good as any and I happen to like the way it sounds.

Good on you that you wrote your teacher. I think all of us can remember a teacher who favorably influenced our lives. Many years ago I tried to contact my fifth grade teacher..a Mrs Cox. I didn't have the luxury of the technology we have today, i don't know if she received my letter as I never got a reply. Fifty years have passed and I still remember her name, she was a teacher with a capital T.

Anyway, you have started a nice thread..one which is very appropriate for the season.

Merry Christmas to all.

12-24-2009, 07:16 PM
That was a nice gesture, Evan.

12-25-2009, 02:35 AM

What a wonderful thing for both you and your teacher. My wife is a teacher and I see her joy when she simply helps a current student. I can not even imagine her joy if a student 30+ years from now contacts her to say Thanks :) .

To all on the board... MERRY CHRISTMAS to all, and to all a GOOD NIGHT :p


12-25-2009, 03:02 AM
I've just done a search for my HS electronics teacher and have learned he passed away in 2008. After 45 years I'm one too year late to say thank-you for what he helped me to become.

12-25-2009, 03:26 AM

Evan's letter about reuniting with his teacher made me think.

After writing my response ...I began to ponder. I have mentioned the ol' chap that I studied under in the first machine shop where I worked. I sat an tried to do the math... Yeah...he would be getting on in years...probably at least 85 anyway...maybe more.

I sat and contemplated the matter while tickling the keys to stir up what I could from Google. Hey...look...yep...that is where he used to live. Well..yeah..probably the house belongs to a next of kin. I went and looked up the tax rolls for the city... Well! The house is still registered to his name.

Ok...here is his phone number on some of my notes from long ago.. I wonder if it still goes there. I'll give it a try.

I dialed...he answered. Sunofagun! Darned if he didn't sound just like he did many years ago. I told him who was calling...the line was silent for a second...then...the light came on... "oh...yes...it has been a LONG time.. how are you".. Fine I said... How old are you now I asked. "87 he said".. Wow! do you still do machine work? "yes...of course..I still have my shop in the basement"...

We ended up talking on the phone for over an hour. Felt really good to compare notes...and to tell him about all I have done since we talked many years ago. He is going to come visit and take the cooks tour of my shop. I guess I better sweep the floor.

Thanks Evan...for starting me thinking ....I feel lucky to have reconnected with the old boy... He is a fountain of informtion...and has a wonderful sense of humor. We always enjoyed poking fun at one another and I learned a lot from him. I am glad we had a chance to talk.. I assumed he had passed some years ago. Someone had mentioned that someone in his family had been deathly ill.. Twas is wife...and she pulled through.

He is doing quite well...and has recently finished a 2.5 bore x 2.0 stroke steam engine. Yep...he's fine. As long as he is making chips...he's fine.


12-25-2009, 06:23 AM
Very nice gesture....wifey ALWAYS gets a rise when she meets a long gone student.BW

A.K. Boomer
12-25-2009, 10:09 AM
Its a small world out there, Iv been blessed to have had some very good teachers growing up - To me its hard to think of a more important job, I had mentioned kind words about a teacher I had on an internet forum and then got PM'ed by that teacher wanting to know who I was to see if they could remember me after 30 some years of teaching and thousands of kids,

at first I thought it was a hoax and was waiting for them to ask for my credit card #:p --- so my first few E-mails were kinda vague about me but enough info of the era and his particular teaching methods to keep interest without even giving up my name, he then verified stuff that only someone who was in the class/era would have known.

I then told him who I was and he responded with a very in depth e-mail about remembering me and thanking me for the kind words - he went on to say that he just retired a few years ago and told me all about what he's done and been been up to, It was amazing - Iv often wondered about him and always wished him well...
I replied and told him that if you get back what you give then he's one of the wealthiest men I know...

It was then that he asked for my credit card # and I gave it to him and to my surprise my entire bank account was drained the next day ---------- Kidding -- Just kidding:D Everything's true but the last part - just had to throw that in...

Tis the season to be grateful - and tis also the season to keep others in our thoughts (and maybe even actions) who aren't as fortunate. Peace everyone, may you all be warm and have food in your belly.

Good topic Evan.

Gary Gill
12-25-2009, 10:20 AM
Evan, thanks for sharing your story. I always enjoy your posts. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

12-25-2009, 10:44 AM

Thanks for the thought provoking post.

It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

Just yesterday I helped two of my nephews on their cars. New o-ring valve cover gasket on one of their cars. Transmission mount on the other. I came in from the cold shop where my car hoist is, shivering from the cold and grease past the wrists.

It was then that I told my wife how good I felt about helping those two young boys learn a little about wrenching.

Tis the season for giving.

Merry Christmas to all and be safe this holiday season.:)


12-25-2009, 11:54 AM
Merry Christmas, well done on contacting your old teacher, you managed to get him before his departure, i didnt manage to pin that down and i'm sorry, my old metal bashing teacher was wonderful, i left school, he died and i never thanked him for his effort, makes me sad on times as i think about him often, i get his voice in my head when i'm doing things [no its not schitzophrenia [ex spelling]]
once more Merry Christmas

John Stevenson
12-25-2009, 05:05 PM
Nice post, I thought along the same lines some while ago when I posted about my apprenticeship.

Unfortunately all my apprentice masters were elderly time served fitters and machinists and all will be dead now in fact retirements were common before I got my papers.

Retirements were something to look forward to by the apprentices because this was a military establishment and your tool kit had to be all accounted for and returned. However anything extra that had been collected by the guy was split up and given to the apprentices because you could take nothing out, none had their own tools.

True story:-

Around 1967/68 we had a huge influx of immigrants into the UK from India, Pakistan and the West Indies, being a government establishment we took many on in low grade jobs, cleaners, painters and labourers.

We had one labourer who's job it was to sweep up and also run the traveling crane, nice guy but very short on English and customs.

One day it was the turn to retire of my apprentice master on the grinding section who taught me the rudiments of regrinding cranks on Rolls Royce Merlin engines on rather old Churchill crank grinders.

Usual shop floor event where Fred was presented with a small token bought from a whip round by the guys in the shop, Fred makes a small speech and hands all his gear over. In this case some wag had made Fred a cake and presented it to him.

The cake was made from two wooden blocks on a base board, covered in white barrier cream and decorated with pink barrier cream, in this case it was a very nice job and looked really professional, Fred accepted it and put it on one side recognising it for what it was as it was quite common to get one of these 'cakes'

The labourer [ forgot his name ] kept going up to Fed and asking him when he was going to cut it, Fred kept telling him later to put him off.
just before Fred was due to leave he came up and asked again, Fred gave him the whole cake and he scurried off with said cake.

10 minutes later he returns looking for Fred shouting and swearing with white and pink barrier cream all round his mouth.

First lesson of British humour :D


12-25-2009, 05:51 PM
Unfortunately all my apprentice masters were elderly time served fitters and machinists and all will be dead now in fact retirements were common before I got my papers.

You take a personal risk if you attempt something as I did and I realized that from the outset. My old teacher is now 71 and as others have pointed out the risk is that of finding they are dead and gone. If you take that into account in advance you may decide not to go ahead since it may have repercussions on your own state of mind. I weighed it carefully for a while and decided that it was worth trying and resolved not to let it nag at me if I didn't succeed or found that my teacher had died.

I was lucky in all respects that it turned out as it did and I appreciate that. That is an element of the concept of "karma" that isn't really incorporated in the western idea of similar principles. The thinking is that I was destined to succeed because it was the right thing to do. Perhaps, maybe not, but it did turn out well for all concerned and that is rewarding in itself.

If this post encourages others to do something similar then I win again and so does everybody else. This is something where the potential upside can spread out like a wave from a pebble dropped in a pond producing a positive effect for all concerned.

John Stevenson
12-25-2009, 06:35 PM
You take a personal risk if you attempt something as I did and I realized that from the outset. My old teacher is now 71 and as others have pointed out the risk is that of finding they are dead and gone.

Yes too true but in my case all my teachers were 55 + when i was 16 / 20 these guys had a working life full of experience and in a lot of cases not everything they did was by the text book.

One guy we had to spend just a week with had the job of getting broken bolts and studs out and repairing thread before the days of helicoils. Most of the lads found this to be a very hard and boring job and because it was only a week they didn't bother.

For some reason I clicked with this guy and he told me that most of the lads just wanted to doss the week out so he didn't bother too much, just gave them the bare minimum. At the end of my week I didn't move on and it took three weeks before the bottleneck showed up on the movement chart :rolleyes:

What I learnt from Alf was invaluable, he's have three broken studs in one cylinder haed and take each one out by a different method, each one weighed up just by looking at the situation and experience.
Textbooks, if they cover broken studs are never correct.


12-25-2009, 07:20 PM
Outstanding Evan and it sure beats the hell out of "Here comes Santa Clause" or "In the clear blue skies over Germany"

oddball racing
12-26-2009, 07:00 AM
Nice post, I thought along the same lines some while ago when I posted about my apprenticeship.
Boy, I must say, the Christmas spirit brings out the best in all of us. Did anyone else pick-up on JS actually complimenting Evan on a nice post?
The Irony!

Best to all and a prosperous and happy New Year too!

John Stevenson
12-26-2009, 07:09 AM
Boy, I must say, the Christmas spirit brings out the best in all of us. Did anyone else pick-up on JS actually complimenting Evan on a nice post?
The Irony!

Best to all and a prosperous and happy New Year too!

Evan does some nice work, in fact very nice work, he's also a very knowledgeable
person on many subjects, seeing as it's Christmas I'll leave it to the readers to work out what percentage is accurate and what percentage is bull$hit. ;)

12-27-2009, 10:34 AM
Great story, Evan. As I read it I began wondering, did they name you after the lake or did you have the honor of naming the lake?;)

12-27-2009, 11:20 AM
It was named after a local by the name of Chief William. The apostrophe is missing. Also sometimes refered to as Bill's Puddle. :D