By Dave Isbell

You know that feeling of listening to a new album by one of your favorite artists for the first time? For me, it is one of my favorite things in the world to do, and I have made it a kind of ritual. First, I set up a time when nobody else is around, to just sit in front of my stereo and listen. Then, as I listen, I pay attention to the theme(s) that may exist on the album, the purpose behind the ordering of the songs, the relevance of the album cover, and I read the lyrics as I’m hearing each song. Finally, I pause to read and reflect on the “Thank You’s,” (I know I’m weird, but I’m ok with that) and, here is where my point to this post begins.

Even though it probably seems weird (especially for those of you who love downloading songs instead of buying albums) I have to tell you that there is something in this ritual that helps me to have a deeper appreciation of the art and the artists involved. It is truly a process of appreciating the time, talent, and care that this entire team of people put into creating this art so that it could reach me. Even if I think it stinks, I am still in awe of what it took to get the final product to me, and I’m thankful for their attempt. When I really take the time to listen and to experience the art, it becomes something more than just background noise. Instead, I can appreciate the culmination of a team of people who had a dream, and did something about it to make it happen. I recognize that some were sincere in their artistic pursuit and some just wanted to make money, but most were probably somewhere in the middle. Yet, none of them could have completed all that needed to get done if they did not have the support of other people, and this is where the “Thank You’s” come from.

You don’t have to be as big of a geek as I am to notice that an artist’s first few albums usually have the largest “Thank You” sections. Those first few albums also tend to be their most passionate, honest, authentic (and often, their best) work and they usually become identified with these for the rest of their careers. Certainly, there are exceptions. I mean, in my humble opinion the Foo Fighter’s newest album is probably just as good as, if not better, their earlier work. Also, Bob Dylan’s arguably “best” album, “Blonde on Blonde” was his seventh album, and my favorite Dylan album, “Blood on the Tracks,” was recorded way later!

Anyway, before I distract myself with talking about my favorite albums, here is my real point; might there be a correlation between how thankful an artist is and how meaningful his/her work is?  I don’t know the answer to this, but it is an interesting question to me.  However, I do know that whenever I am most thankful for the opportunities that I have been given then I am most alive, productive, and joyful. I’d like to suggest to you that (before you get into stuffing your face with turkey and watching football in between naps) you take a few minutes to think through who you are thankful to, and what you are thankful about. Who knows, maybe your “Blonde on Blonde” album is waiting in the wings and it just takes a bit of gratitude to inspire it?

As for me, here is my not-all-inclusive “Thank You” section to a few of those people who inspire me to do my greatest work on a regular basis:

Every day I am so grateful for the love that my beautiful wife and best friend, Dora, shares with me. I love you Baby Girl, our first decade has been incredible but I know the next three are going to be even better!; Andrelle, Tyler, Kaleb, and Josefina: you teach me daily about love, patience, humility, and kindness; it is an honor to be your dad and I am so proud of each of you!; I could not express enough how much I am thankful to God (probably not the same “god” who gets praised at the Grammys; but definitely the God of the universe who constantly challenges me to remember that my only aim in life is to love God and my neighbors as I love myself.);

Mom, thanks for always trying and for being there; Dad, I’ve learned more than you know from you; Grandpa, you were always my greatest fan, teacher, and friend and I miss you; Grandma, I’m grateful for all you did and still do for me; Suzi, I’m so glad to be the son you never had, I have never doubted your love for me!; James, thank you for being my friend, uncle, and guru and for taking care of a lady that is so special to both of us!; Linda, I’m so glad that you are GrandmaAuntLinda to my daughter, it is an honor to call you family and friend; The Camarillo family: Breanna (I could not ask for a better baby sister and best buddy), Dan, TT, Imala, Brandon, Diana, I love you guys!; Rara and the Wellman clan: We don’t see each other enough but don’t think you are not important to me!; Emily, you will always be a baby to me, sorry, that’s what you get for being born last; but I’m grateful you are my sister!;

Wendi Parker, you were probably my first friend, in all honesty, thanks for showing up at my house at least once a year (even if we can’t start a campfire!); Sandy Abshagan, thanks for inspiring me early on in my faith. I will never forget your influence way back then when I was still looking for hope!; Tania, Nick, and Aiden: I love you guys, keep on keeping on!; Ana Ball, thank you so much for playing matchmaker, your sister-in-law is the best wife I could have ever asked for!; Mama Josefina, Jorge, y todo mi familia en Mexico: les quiero mucho y les extrano mucho. Gracias por todo su apoyo y amor!;

To my community at Pathway, thanks for the love, support, and hope that we share together as we work toward the greater good. I cannot say enough about how the following great families inspire me to be better. They may have a different surname and genetic inheritance, but they are family to me, nonetheless:  The Cymbals (I’m inspired by your commitment to loving God and others, more than you know!), Cullens (thanks for being like an extra set of parents to BOTH of my daughters), Hagermans (Jeremy, you are killing me with inspiration even while you help save me), Leslies, Rommecks, Maliskas (I’m missing all of you), VanAmburgs (Lori, you will always be my first long-lost, but found again, buddy from Kindergarten), Mallorys, Gees, Schultzs (don’t forget where I live, neighbors!), Fleischers,Telling-Salis, Smiths, Loves (please don’t forget us when you’re gone), Sovis’, Pattersons, Foxs, Ruthie Reynolds, DJ Carter (my only fellow Browncoat);

Thank you to all of my friends who keep me honest, and are not afraid to cry and laugh with (or at) me, I know we don’t see each other enough, but I am so glad for the times when we do get to talk! I am especially thinking about you: Jamie Stone, Chris Chamberlain (We have been through some stuff together, huh!?!), Missy Chamberlain, Ryan and Erin Wells, Tammison Smith, Frank and Nic Lucian (and Zach and Sammy of course!), Robin Miner-Swartz, Barb and Tom; Aaron and Sarah Wohlfeil; Mitch and Yalonda Combs (I’m so glad you resurfaced after so many years!); I’m missing you guys terribly, but I am thankful for all of your friendship in the past (which I know is still present, but we just never talk anymore): Don Weston, Dave Badgley, Jim Regan, Dan Dollahan; David and Gayle Dwight, Dan Lindquist, everyone in SAU MOD90 that I graduated with (where are you Marisa, Charlene, Kevin, Cary, etc.?);

Thanks to all of the bands I ever played in, but especially thanks to Jay Willford and Joel Kuiper (Bamboo is still the best band ever! What we missed in the music, we made up for in our “family!” Wherever each of us wanders, I will always call you guys my band and my brothers.); Roz Kuiper (Thanks for taking such good care of my brother all of these years!);

Thank you to those writers, musicians, and artists who still inspire me, I’d could easily fill 20 more pages if I started mentioning names. However, I have to single out Don Chaffer whose music, thoughts, and lifestyle have consistently inspired and challenged me to grow for the past 15 years on nearly a daily basis. One of my best memories will always be the first time I met Don. The man is as authentic as his music and I’m so grateful that he continues to share his art and life with me and the tens of thousands of other people whom he has inspired over the years! Also, I have to thank Lori Chaffer, who is equally as inspiring and talented as her husband Don and is truly an amazing woman/artist in her own right, Waterdeep just doesn’t work without both of you. Thanks for all of the great inspiration!;

It would also be criminal for me to not thank C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Donald Miller, Ben Pasley for some of my deserted island books, plus, Van Gogh, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Picasso, Charles Schultz, Bill Watterson, and nearly every comic book writer/artist from the 70’s and 80’s, George Lucas for the original Star Wars movies, and Joss Whedon for Firefly/Serenity which is the only thing to come close to what Star Wars was for me (Thank you Fox for bring it to the small screen but curse you for being so shortsighted to never let it get off the ground!); Also, thank you Mary Mertz-Smith for constantly sending me hysterically funny Star Wars videos!

Thanks to all of my pals from Cristo Rey, but especially: Stacy Dent, Robin Kegerise, Noelia Alvarado, John Diehl, Marcus Hayes, Jillian Trumbull, Roxanne Wade, Theresa Cunningham, Ramona Yeje. If ever work and family were the same thing, it was at CRCC. I miss working with all of you (yes, even you, John!);

My friends from Davenport, though I’m glad to have been able to work with such an amazing team, my favorite times at work were our after-work “staff meetings,” I am particularly thankful to: Tom Woods, John Parham, Jessica Gordon, Jenny Thurber, Maria Ackerson, Kiyuana Coward, Jon Jakubowski, Mary Hill, David Tyler, Aurelio Velasquez, Tim and Matt (let’s just call both of you “Retired,” ok?),Cindy Whittum, and all of my peeps on the Career Services team. All of you guys still make me laugh!;

Thank you to all of my Twitter pals, but particularly Gini Dietrich who has not only proven to be an amazing Twitter BFF but has introduced me to the following people who I can always count on for inspiration, fun, and wisdom: Paige Worthy, Carol Roth, Rusty Speidel, Cindy Ege Solberg, and Kat Jaibur. I only wish I could meet each of you in person to say how much I truly appreciate you!;

I am inspired by these young people for moving mountains and building bridges so they can make their own little corner of the world a better place to live in for everyone around them: Brett Kopf, Megan Gebhart, Meredith Derian-Toth, Ragina Smith, Noshir Amaria, Kat Cooper, Kate Tykocki, Andrea Kerbuski.  I’m honored to know each of you. Thanks for not waiting for permission (or the economy) to go out and make good things happen! You all make me believe that there is hope for a brighter future on this Earth, even on the darkest of days.

Thank you to those people who have taken the time to mentor me throughout the years. I am grateful to have had so many amazing men and women who shared their lives, wisdom, hopes, and life experiences with me! Particularly thanks for those who are there for me right now: Matt Dugener (my kindred spirit, who I am so blessed by every time we talk), John Mooradian (I am forever indebted for your kindness, gentle correction, encouragement, ethical compass, scholarship, teaching, and honesty), Jim Loree (Thanks for paving the way for me to see what I am capable of, and for being there to walk me through it), Brian Telfor (Thanks for agreeing to supervise my learning experience, and for helping me to get a “real world” education in a way that matters to those who are involved), and JoAnn Mcfall (thank you for your guidance and inspiration early on);

Thank you to all of the professors at LCC and SAU (especially Mary Ziegler) who helped shape my thoughts; and to the professors in the School of Social Work at MSU who have seriously challenged me changed my life for the better, in particular: Angie Kennedy, Greg Pugh, Tina Timm, and Michelle Brock (for those amazing continuing education classes I’ve attended!); Thank you to my advisors, Karen Newman, Julie Navarre, and Leisa Fuller for helping me to craft an amazing learning experience; Thank you to my MSU classmates for keeping me sharp, but especially the dynamic duo Ann DelMariani and Missy Hoogerhyde, who shouldered my burdens but also cried on my shoulder when it just got too damn difficult to balance everything! I’m proud of you two for getting done and moving on, and the program has been seriously lonely without you!;

Thank you to my coworkers and friends at the MSUAA. Your passion, dedication, hard work, and enthusiasm are what make me so proud to be a part of this team! Particularly, thank you John Hill for being an amazing yin to my yang, and for all of your years of support as we worked hard to serve Spartans. You are missed, but I’m so glad that you are still a part of the “team” even if you now get your paycheck elsewhere! Thank you Scott Westerman for your 20,000 foot vision and heart to serve alumni. I could not ask for a better “boss,” mentor, and partner to continue to build on the work that John and I started! Also, thank you for introducing me to your beautiful wife, Colleen, who has more courage, compassion, wisdom, and insight than most of the people I know. I can’t help but to feel alive and full of hope whenever she enters the room!; Thank you to Tim Bograkos for bringing all of that youthful energy into the office, making me laugh, and signing autographs for little kids when they visit;

Thank you to all of my pals at MSU and in the MSU Career Service Network, who work so hard every day to make good things happen for MSU students all over this campus. It is an honor to know each of you!; Thank all of the amazing student employees who I have had the pleasure to supervise during the past few years. I am indebted to you for all of your hard work to make things happen in the MSUAA office and beyond: Katie Copple, Chris Sell, Jessica Colombo, Alisha Patel, John Mattos, Kim Toman, Tiffany Gaston, Calvin McDaniel, Lacretia Davis;

Lastly, I want to thank all of those who have written, read, commented on, followed, or passed around Spartanshelpingspartans blog posts and/or tweets. This truly is a labor of love and I appreciate so much those people who give their time to building something positive into the lives of other people! I am truly inspired, and filled with gratitude, to be a part of something that really matters for so many people, even if my contribution is smaller than what I wish I could give.

I doubt anyone has read this far, but if you have, then it may look like I have thanked everyone who I have ever met. Yet, let me assure you that there are literally hundreds of people (and probably thousands of musicians, artists, and writers) I would like to include, and I am so sorry if your name needs to be here but I did not include it! However, I think you get the point just by looking at the list. No person is an island, and to do anything, we need one another. Just writing this has been an exercise that makes me realize how grateful I truly am to those people who are around me, and for all that I am blessed to have. Truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you! There is nothing on this Earth that I could have accomplished without your inspiration, love, help, and support.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Dave Isbell is the Alumni Career Service Coordinator at Michigan State University. He has been a Career Coach since 1999. He is also pursuing a Master’s in Social Work/Family Studies at MSU.  When he is not working or studying, he is enjoying domestic bliss with his wife and kids, or playing rock music on his bass guitar. You can find him on Twitter (@helpingspartans) and sometimes he writes about compassion, collaboration, and career for this blog, which he owns and begs other Spartans to write for.



  1. Mary Kay Hauck 21 November, 2012 at 22:06 Reply

    Thank you Dave for this post. You are a person I am thankful for, although I know you only briefly in my life. One comment you made to me has stuck with me and has become a source of strength (and imaginary conversations when things get tough) for me. Happy Thanksgiving to you. Hey, I just noticed this was posted last year! Well, I’m STILL thankful for you!

  2. Tiffany Gaston 12 December, 2011 at 16:47 Reply

    Thank you Dave for acknowledging me in this wonderful post! Also, thanks you for the opportunity to work in Alumni Career Services, I am very grateful for the experience!

  3. Stacy 28 November, 2011 at 16:22 Reply

    Wow Dave!! You almost made me cry…..just kidding…I’m still coming to raid some of your music collection some day as well….And I miss working with you terribly!

  4. Cindy (egehead) 23 November, 2011 at 14:11 Reply

    Thanks for including me in the horde, too. Did I ever tell you about the time I told Gini I couldn’t get powdered sugar this far west so I make my own and she BELIEVED me?!?!

    Keep playing those KISS records!

  5. Gini Dietrich 23 November, 2011 at 08:43 Reply

    Just the other day, Mr. D reached into his t-shirt drawer and pulled out a green Spartan shirt. LOVE THAT!

    Thanks for the nice note. I love social media for the very reason you state – you meet so many incredible people who immediately become friends.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Dave!

    • spartanshelpingspartans 23 November, 2011 at 10:40 Reply

      Gini-Ha! I’m so happy that Mr. D. has the t-shirt in his drawer. I thought for sure it would be in the garage to clean up oil spills or something.

      I am very sincere in my thanks to you for not only introducing me to so many other great people, but also for all of the things I have learned from you. You are truly great at what you do and I admire that. I look forward to the day when I can finally meet you and the mysterious Mr. D (who will finally have a first name when I meet him) in person.

      Happy Thanksgiving my friend!

  6. Kat 22 November, 2011 at 19:21 Reply

    Wow! What a beautiful post. I always say that “Appreciation is like miracle-gro.” The more you apply it, the more you have to appreciate. So amen and hats off to you, Dave!

    It’s funny, because I thought of doing something similar…but YOU, Dave, actually took the time to make it happen. What a great, warm heart you have. It’s a joy to know you. I’ve loved our conversations (even if it’s been ages) and bantering with you on Twitter. I can only imagine how much you light up all the people who get to be around you “in real life”, too. Keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s awesome…just like you.


    p.s. How did that damn Gini Dietrich get top billing over me, yet again??? 🙂

    • spartanshelpingspartans 22 November, 2011 at 19:28 Reply

      Thanks Kat. I know I haven’t been as social as I used to be. I’ve just had a difficult time balancing everything! But, I wanted to make sure that people know that I still care, even if I’m not present! And, for the record, I love you just as much as I do Gini, its just that Gini introduced you (and alot of other people) to me. So, if it were not for her, I probably never would have met you! 🙂 –Dave

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