I had only been around Justice Thomas once before this last summer. It was a long time ago and I don’t remember it very well aside from the picture I have. This last summer though, we spent a good two weeks with him and his wife, Jenny, while he taught with my dad at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.
I didn’t know much about it when we picked him up from the Munich airport on a rainy June morning. However, within several days I knew a lot about him.
Justice Thomas had a hard life. He grew up in Savannah, Georgia, living with his grandparents and his brother on a farm. He did not have the typical childhood because he always had to help his grandfather with the work on the farm. He missed out on most normal high school experiences such as playing a sport. Justice Thomas was the first member of his family to go to college.
Justice Thomas’ success is considered an oddity in his own family. He is considered the black sheep of the family because of it.
There is much more to the story that I won’t talk about because that’s not the point of this post. However, if you are interested, its not hard information to find.
The most important aspect is, that Justice Thomas had a hard life and has gone through things that no ordinary person will ever have to go through. His success is an inspiration to me. He came from nothing, yet now he is very, very successful. He is a role model to me and proof that just because you come from a bad background does not mean you can’t succeed in life.
Justice Thomas also taught me to value family.
His only brother died about fifteen years ago. When he told me this, it was on a walk to lunch. He told me that you never realize how important someone is to you until they die. His exact words were something like, “you always think they’ll be there and then one day you just wake up and their gone.”
I can’t imagine losing any of my siblings, especially my sisters. Justice Thomas made me see that I need to appreciate family more because at any moment they could be gone.
Just being around him, I gathered so much wisdom. He was spewing it.
My favorite characteristic of Justice Thomas is his laugh. There is nothing in the world that can compare. It’s big and booming. It’s also contagious. He and his wife became family to us on that trip. They were generous and loving. I miss spending time with them.
I know that the time they spent with us was just as valuable to them. I know this because, in his speech at the program’s reception on the last night, he made a note to thank our family and around Christmas they sent us their Christmas card. When my dad showed it to me, I was in shock. The whole front cover was pictures of them with my family in the time we spent together in Austria.
Justice Thomas impacted me. He taught me to work hard and love my family. And that anything is possible. That trip will forever be one of the most valuable memories to me. I may not agree with all of his political views, but that doesn’t change my opinion of him. He is my idol.