Consider this...

By Mike Johnson


The call came in at noon.

"Is this Mike Johnson?" asked the male voice with just a touch too much authority.

"Yes it is..." I replied cautiously. What was it about that voice?

"Have you paid your paper route bill?"

Goosebumps. Nahhh, it couldn't be.

"Have you paid your paper route bill?"

It HAD to be. "Mr. Ludke?"

His familiar laughter roared across the years.


Mike Ludke was my first boss when I was a paperboy for the Minneapolis Star & Tribune. For several years, my buddy Dobbs and I became the kids he relied upon to help complete routes that other kids had stuck him with by quitting without notice. In return, he'd drive us around ours. We spent many 30-below-zero, Minnesota winter days praying that his black station wagon would pull up to our newspaper drop-off point. More often than not, our prayers were answered.

I got to thinking about thanking Mike Ludke for all those magic times. So I sent a letter to a columnist at the now combined StarTribune asking for help in locating him.

Pay dirt.

Despite the passage of more than three decades, Mr. Ludke still worked at the newspaper! We spent an incredible hour reminiscing about windows broken during deliveries, fresh cinnamon rolls eaten after deliveries, and Silly String fights in his car while discussing deliveries. He was overwhelmed that I had thought so highly of him.

My surprise came from learning that he'd always shared equal feelings for me.

Wow. The power of a letter written across the years.

Who are the people in your past who deserve a thank you from across the years?

What a treasure it is to receive a personal letter in the mail. One that has no photo of Ed McMahon, no bulk mail stamp and no rhetorical question printed on the envelope shouting WANT TO GET RICH? An honest-to-goodness, hand-addressed, hand stamped, personal letter. The fatter, the better.

Before the first word is even read, a personal letter shouts out to the recipient that you are important enough for me to have sat down for an hour to think of you. "I CARE" is the unwritten message.

But why not say those exact words as well? Written words always out-amplify spoken words. They're given more thought, they have deeper meaning, they're permanent.

The list of possibilities to those to write to are endless. Nancy, the neighbor girl you've known since you were 5. Dobbs, your best friend since the third grade. Doug, an old paper route buddy who now owns his own business. Favorite cousins Ron and Don or Debbie and Diane. Trudy, the high school teacher who motivated you to write. Fred, the old boss who taught you a career and introduced you to your wife. Past co-workers, relatives, teachers and coaches. How many dozens of people have impacted your life and would be amazed to receive a letter of thanks out of the clear blue?

There's no better time than the present.

As Mike Ludke and I wound down our conversation, he shared how moved he was by the column I'd written about him and included in his letter. He said it had been framed and hung on the wall at the StarTribune as a reminder of the impact bosses can have on the people they manage. Here is that article: Full Circle

Thirty five years of writing dreams later, the paperboy's work had come back to roost at his hometown newspaper.

"Thanks for calling," I said reluctantly, not wanting the call to end. "You made my day."

"Thank YOU," gushed Mr. Ludke. "You made my LIFE!"

THIS is the power of thank-yous across the years. Who's life can you brighten?


Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at