Positivity Portrait

  • Positivity Portait - Duane Schempp


    You helped us to make our new house a home by offering your services as an electrician and teacher, and for that consideration, we are thankful. However, several outlets in a basement says nothing about what you do to welcome people who attend our church every time I see you, and I also want to call attention to that aspect of who you are. I see people light up when they see you because you make every person that you meet feel special, from wide-eyed children to tired-eyed seniors. When you told me about spending so much time working alone as an electrician, I felt bad for all the people who you never met each day, but you certainly make up for it now. I also wanted to thank you for teaching me more about how to work with electricity. You helped give me the confidence to replace two lights on the main level of the house without getting shocked or causing a fire, so that’s a step up for me. I know a lot of people appreciate the electrical work you do for Hope Lutheran, but the work your electric personality does to make others smile at church is probably just as important, and just as appreciated.

  • Positivity Portait - John Groebe


    You were recruited by Hope Lutheran as a real estate agent who could show us around as we considered a call, knowing full-well that we may or may not end up in your town, at your church, or as your clients. In the end, one of the main reasons we chose to make the trip to the Kansas City area was because you took the time to show us the housing market while also providing us with valuable information and opinions about the area.

    But it did not end there. Once we made the decision that Lisa would accept the call, you worked tirelessly to help us find a house in a market that saw most houses selling before we could even make an offer. In the end, we got what we wanted. While no house or transaction is ever perfect, you helped make it go very smoothly, considering the fact that we never even saw the house until after it was purchased. Your help in deciding how to proceed with the contract AND making sure the items listed were done was necessary because we were living 600 miles away, but it was still more than we could really expect.

    That’s just the beginning, though. You actually had us stay at your house twice as we inspected and closed on the house, and then you helped us move in. Even someone as cynical about business as I can be must admit that you went way beyond where any realtor and most fellow church members would go in order to help us relocate. You drove us around our new neighborhood, identifying areas you’d helped to build, and we could see that it meant a lot to you that we would like our new place.

    When we had a few problems, you helped us after the deal was done, at a point when all other realtors, even ones with whom one might be friends, would have checked out. As you know, first impressions are important, and you gave us the impression that Johnson County, Kansas, was the place we wanted to be. After all, at least some of the people might be half as selfless and welcoming as you had been. In a new place with very few resources, we were made to feel like we had family a few miles away, and that made the transition so much easier for our entire family.

    Thank you, John, from our entire family.

  • Positivity Portait - Ray Ost

    OK, I know my goal for these positivity portraits was to focus on thanking people who are mostly alive and can benefit from my praise. However, Lisa wanted a Veterans Day assignment for her classes. I happen to be really adept at creating assignments. I'm also pretty good at writing my own assignments. When I saw what I'd created, I knew I'd have to share it. And the idea of the assignment was to thank a veteran on Veteran's Day, so consider it done, about 30 years too late for it to make any difference to my grandpa. For the critics out there, keep in mind that this was fulfilling an assignment (not that it's bad), but that explains the use of allusion, symbols, metaphor, and imagery in a way I sometimes skip.

    For those of you looking for the assignment I used, follow the link above to my TeachersPayTeachers page.


    Ray Ost: World War II Veteran


    Grandpa, you never talked

    about what you saw

    in the second war to end all wars,

    battle’s demons haunting only you.

    Our umbrella against war’s rain,

    the color of the rising sun.

    You were a medic,

    a lifeboat in the South Pacific,

    helping and healing.

    A savior to some,

    who bled red, white, and blue

    so I can be here now,

    thanking you.

    Giving yourself to us at


    The Philippine Islands

    Wake Island

    Midway Island.

    The Australian coins you saved,

    still shining with time-smoothed

    royal heads in a box in my basement,

    their value signifying nothing

    beyond the sound and fury,

    surrounding you daily,

    that you left floating

    in the ocean

    with any last notion

    of innocence.

    And freedom.


  • Positivity Portrait - Charles Morris

    Mr. Morris,

    I already thanked you over a decade ago when I wrote a wonderful poem (my opinion) about our senior English class at Marshall High School. You had an impression on decades of kids, and it was a breath of fresh, smokey, coffey air for me. I suddenly wanted to challenge the rules, or at least question them. I had always been a good student and writer, but your in-your-face attitude led me to near-greatness, sometimes. It also led me to becoming a teacher, which wasn’t bad for a decade or so. I’m glad you didn’t have to deal with being in a classroom when Act 10 ruined teaching in Wisconsin, but I am glad you were in that classroom back in the 90s.


  • Positivity Portrait - Introduction

    I had the idea many years ago to write short biographies of those I know. I thought it was a cool idea, but being the kind of writer I was, I focused on both the positive and negative of my relationships, with a semi-heavy-handed moral to some of the stories. Then I saw this local Kansas City area high school idea of having teachers tell students something positive and record it. It was cute, and probably effective in making many of the students work a little harder for their teachers. And it was probably fairly honest, too, but you can also see how it was somewhat manipulative. No big deal, it's still an idea I want to take in order to help me as I adapt to a new location and remember where I'm from, one person at a time.

    I'm not going to change the world with positivity, but the articles are going to mean more to me than writing a fleeting hello on Facebook or sending a group text message. Maybe someday, the internet will be littered with positive profiles of other people rather than privacy-invading information currently out there about many people. That might be a better world.

    Because I want to keep most people out of the limelight way too much, I won't mention any more than their names. If you know me, you might know the specific person to whom I am writing. And that's another thing, I want to write to those people, meaning it's not really a letter or recommendation or me judging them as an author, but me as a person addressing someone I respect in a positive way.

    If, for some reason, you don't want your name associated with being seen in a positive light, please let me know. Obviously, I care about your feelings if I'm writing something nice about you. Enjoy. And maybe do the same for someone else, whether it be on social media, on the phone, or in person. I like the idea of in person.

    Stay tuned for more.

    And if you're part of a church or school that wants to use an idea like this, that's wonderful. Lisa used to write Saints in Service articles that really made ministry leaders feel valued. If you don't have a decent church or school website, then try Luthernet, Brave New Church, or Passive Ninja.

  • Positivity Portrait: Dr. Chris Cossette

    Dr. Cossette,

    Thank you for helping our daughter improve her vision in the short time we were in Kansas. 

    Helena was told she might need glasses while we spent our year in Lenexa, Kansas, so we booked an appointment with Custom Eyes. The eye care store was right up the block from our house, and whatever we’d have done would mostly be covered. Little did we know that Helena would get an opportunity to benefit from having a dedicated doctor named Chris Cossette.

    Our pediatrician’s office had tested the kids. One of those machines was used, and it claimed both kids were fine, but when the nurse at school conducted some eye tests, one of the kids seemed to need glasses. I called the doctor’s office to see if we’d missed something, but I was told she didn’t need glasses and that there were no real results to speak of. This year (in Jacksonville), we’d get an eye doctor that kind of mailed it in with her, too, saying that he was disappointed that her eyes were not getting worse because he couldn’t prescribe new glasses to be sold by his greasy salesman. But this is Jacksonville, FL, where people would scam their own grandmothers. That’s not the way it went for us in Kansas.

    Dr. Cossette tested Helena and he gave us a prescription. We were able to pick out a decent pair of glasses from the bargain area. In fact, the salespeople were fine with it, unlike our store here, where the salesman tells everyone those are no good. Yes, Custom Eyes was a better eyeglass store, but it was what came next that was really wonderful.

    Dr. Cossette talked about how Helena had one eye that had gotten lazy, and that there was a way to train it to work harder. I’d read about this kind of treatment years ago, too late to try it for myself, but I was excited about the possibility it might work with my daughter. I know how much glasses or contacts get in the way in sports, and she’s the sporty type. But it was more than just telling us about some technique that might work. Dr. Cossette believed in it, and he told us his own story of losing his vision (to some degree) because he didn’t do what he was recommending. Not only did he push the technique to train her eye, but he also had us schedule quick checks so that he could monitor the progress. He told us that she was still young enough that we should see results, and we did! She wore the patch daily, and we went back a few times.

    Custom Eyes even gave me the actual prescription without a hassle. It was all going so well, but then we had to move. She kind of lagged a bit with the patching in Jacksonville, and her first appointment just resulted in a new pair of glasses. No encouragement to keep patching or desire to watch the progress. I was going to contact Dr. Cossette to see if he could recommend anything at this point. Her eye has improved so that she really doesn’t need the glasses she has, but without a person guiding us like we had back in Lenexa, I’m not sure exactly what to have her do to make sure her lazy eye stays active. I suppose I’ll have to search online and hope someone with as much care for his patients as Dr. Cossette has posted something useful.

    I can be a cynical person at times, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a doctor, surgeon (too many), dentist, optometrist, orthodontist, nurse, or orderly that I’d recommend to anyone else. Well, there was Nurse Danette from back when I had shoulder surgery at the Mayo Clinic, but she was an angel and I was in high school and on morphine. And Dr. Howell, my pediatrician in Milwaukee, but that’s it. I guess I always feel like my appointment is interrupting someone’s tee time, but Dr. Cossette took time to explain what we were doing and why, and he did it with an understanding that Helena needed to be part of the discussion.

    If you’re in Johnson County, Kansas, I’d recommend checking out Custom Eyes. I did not interact with any of the other doctors there, but we did have an excellent experience with Chris Cossette. I know one time I had to call to make an appointment, and I’d forgotten his name, so I said it was the doctor with the French last name. But he’s not a European hot shot with new-fangled ideas--his biography said he’s from Kansas. I do know this for sure: if he wants to relocate to Jacksonville, he’ll have four customers waiting for an appointment. Well, three, at least...I kind of skip the whole eye exam thing.