I believe you can learn something from every person you meet, whether they are a CEO of an international corporation or a college freshman trying to find their way. There are many fascinating people on the Thought of the Day distribution list, and Liz’s THD Reader Feature is a way to share that wisdom.
Tom Otten is a Dad, grandpa, proud Elder grad, retired educator and active volunteer.
1. How did you get on the Thought of the Day distribution list?
I knew your dad, Bill Keating, Jr. He not only worked at KMK with a number of Elder HS grads but also volunteered to assist his friend, Elder swim coach John Book. Bill also was a featured speaker to the students enrolled in the Leadership Program.
2. What is your favorite Thought of the Day and why?
It is impossible to pick a favorite but here’s one I’ve recently shared with my children and grandchildren. It captures the thought that at some point in our life we finally understand that we can control a lot of what happens and definitely how we react to it.
“Stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders. All the strength you want is within yourself – make your own future.” – Swami Vivekananda
3. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Definitely Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip!
4. What is your life’s purpose?
To have a positive impact on people and events.
5. What are you most proud of in your life?
Besides my marriage and family, my years at Elder High School. I am proud to have worked with the faculty and staff, who are the actual backbone of Elder. I am gratified that as Elder closes in on its 100th graduating class (2022, now juniors) the success, excitement, spirit and support are as strong as ever.
6. From your experience, what is most important in life?
Loving family tops my list, followed by trying your best, being honest and friendly.
7. What do you believe in?
The goodness of human nature. However, we do need to help one another reach our potential. Everyone needs help, and should be open to accepting it when needed. We’re in this together, and everything is easier when we work together.
8. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A firefighter because my grandpa was one. In fact, in his retirement I got to tag along for visits to fire houses. The camaraderie was amazing, as were the stories. It was all about helping others. In high school I switched to wanting to be an educator for the same two reasons – camaraderie and helping others. As grandpa helped keep people safe I wanted to help them discover and use their God-given gifts.
9. What is the one thing you need to do every day to get ready to take on the day?
Pray, just a quick one, before I get into my daily routine. Now that you ask that question, I realize how much I am a creature of habit. My days, even in retirement, are full, exciting and eventful, but my morning routine is very predictable.
10. What are you currently doing to positively impact your community and why?
I volunteer a lot, and I absolutely enjoy it all. It seems a shame to have lived all of the years I have, accumulating experience, wisdom, knowledge as well as friends, and then just sit around. It’s enriching to be able to continue to contribute any way I can to organizations that are meaningful to me.
11. What is one defining moment that changed the course of your life
After graduating from Elder in 1964 I decided to enter the seminary. I wasn’t sure if my life’s work would be in the priesthood or not, so I committed to at least one year hoping to be enlightened. I was totally conflicted, as are a lot of 18-year olds. By 19, I had prayed, thought, talked, worried and fretted a lot, but nothing seemed apparent. I eventually shared my concerns with a priest I knew assigned to a parish in Middletown. He listened to me explain, and then merely said “I believe you know in your heart. Think it over on your drive home.” When I arrived back in Price Hill I told my mom and dad I was going to enroll in a regular college for the fall term. My parents were supportive of me as they were at every step of my life.
12. What small decision in your life had much larger consequences? When in college, a teacher asked me to help with a job, I told him I would. That is how I ended up meeting the girl who I would marry (Bonnie) and enjoy the happiest years of my life with. Bonnie died following a long battle with pancreatic cancer shortly after our 50th anniversary.
13. When was a time your beliefs were challenged?
After telling Bonnie, on her deathbed, not to worry, that I would take care of the kids and they would take care of me. She made taking care of others look so simple, fun and easy that I am continually in awe of the results she achieved with her carefree style and ever present smile.
14. If you could change one thing in your personal or professional past, what would it be?
After giving this considerable thought I’m sure I wouldn’t change anything. Despite a far from perfect track record, I think my miscues, mistakes and times of absolute failure helped shape me and my attitude even more than the successes.
15. How do you find fulfillment and balance in your life?
With family, friends and staying busy. I am at my happiest when engaged in some activity. It might be talking with a neighbor, walking with a friend, membership on a board or committee, lunch with my siblings, playing games with my grandkids or catching up with classmates – it is all good. The key for me is connecting with others.
16. When was the last time you took a leap of faith?
After Bonnie’s death, I was at the grocery when a neighbor invited me to his family yard-party. I accepted. That helped lift me out of the dumps and to regain life’s momentum and joy.
17. What do you want your legacy to be?
That I was a good person who did what he could with the gifts God gave him.
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