Mad for…Jeff

The key to being happy is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go. (Dodinsky)

As I sat here at the counter to begin typing my column, my MVP for the day, Tom Thieme, was throwing on his apron to fix dinner. He asked me who I was featuring today, and I when I told him “Jeff Kniola” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “OH! I do NOT like that guy. He’s retired and that is one strike against him immediately!” I just chuckled. I spy the big green envy monster right across the counter from me. However, Tom’s making homemade chicken pot pie for us this evening so I will be refraining from any criticism whatsoever. Also? The jealousy is totally understandable. Jeff is definitely on the young side for retirement, and who among the working folks of this world cannot relate to the awesomeness of managing to pull this off? My sense is that Jeff Kniola is simply a man who has his priorities in line– and it was time to let that phase of his life go so that he could spend more time being the man the Lord has called him to be. I have deep respect for Jeff!

“It appears my sous chef has taken the evening off..” is what I am now hearing in the background. But you see, honey, it’s Jeff’s birthday week and I need a minute to think in full sentences. I’m on day 321 of 365, after all, and I can’t quit now! Just like my handsome chef du jour who is very engaged as a Dad, so is Jeff. He’s the father of a high character son named Carson who certainly learned integrity from both his Dad and his mom, Pat. Jeff and Pat Kniola are pictured above.

As I recall, it was this duo that brought boys volleyball to St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church in Fishers. They have also contributed in a meaningful way to the same program since it’s inception at Guerin Catholic. I watched that from afar, and have long respected them for their energy and gift of time and talent they offer for the sake of young people. This fall, we had the chance to get to know the Kniola family a bit better. You see, Jeff was an assistant coach for the GCHS boys tennis team on which Zach played this fall. He donated countless hours helping out a large group of boys. He’s enthusiastic and positive when dealing with the athletes– and their parents too! Jesus is most definitely smiling down at His son, Jeff.

Friendly, positive and competitive are three words that come to mind when I think of this retired engineer who is originally from Michigan City, I think. He’s naturally welcoming and is also a man of faith. I enjoyed Jeff’s entertaining and playful sense of humor courtside this fall. His pragmatic nature and the affection he has for his family is obvious. When young people were injured during the course of the season, he was gentle and compassionate. It was fun watching our sons play doubles together a bit as well!

Thoughtful, kind-hearted human beings like Jeff are such an incredible blessing for the impressive difference that their presence makes in the day of those around them. Jeff’s smile is infectious and the joyfulness he exudes is a great witness to those of us in his path. Therefore, this week as Jeff celebrates his birthday, I wanted to acknowledge his awesomeness and offer him a little shout out! Jeff, THANK YOU for reminding me that being happy and shining light into the world is absolutely where it’s at! I HOPE YOU HAVE A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

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