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By Windowseat
October 13, 2008

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I am writing this at a juncture point; I have 20,000 posts, and will receive a neon green star to replace the gold star that has been part of my posts for so long, and this is the ninth anniversary of my arrival at the Fool. So there will be a green star from now on, and a set of balloons for one day. I thought this would be a good time to reflect on what the Fool has meant to me.

To be honest, this place scared me at first. I hadn't been on the Internet all that long (I had been nursing along a PC from the Dark Ages; an IBM XT, and it had finally given up the ghost). The new computer introduced me to the Internet, and after a rocky start with AOL (20 minutes to find a free line, then dumped if I didn't do something every minute) I finally moved to cable ("Turn computer off. Turn computer on. All better, yes? Goot-bye" was the regular chant from Bangalore).

Cable gave me the freedom to roam the Internet, and a supervisor at work mentioned The Motley Fool. ("It's all about investing and stuff"). I didn't have any money to invest, and anyway, I always thought the only people who invested were RICH people. I knew enough to not carry debt, and I knew enough to save up for things like new computers, but money, as a concept, in its various forms and agendas and possibilities, was a mystery to me. But I took a look anyway.

The Motley Fool was a revelation. I discovered that ordinary people, people who didn't have millions of dollars, people who studied the stock market on their own, could still invest small amounts of money. I found the message boards, and, purely by accident, discovered that the first rule of message boards was "Thou Shalt Not Write in All Caps."

Little by little, step by step, I ventured out. I found that there were message boards that consisted of people who enjoyed each other's company, and who had fun chatting back and forth. I joined in some conversations, and began to relax. I learned more about money. I learned the basic rules of investing, and, timidly, began to accumulate money to invest for the future. I met Fools in person, and discovered that they were just as nice off the boards as they were on the boards. Sometimes they were nicer, because I could see their smiles.

Then, a year or so after I arrived at the Fool, I sat in an examining room and listened to a doctor who couldn't meet my eyes say, "you have cancer. We don't know how bad. You need to schedule some tests, and I'll see you in two weeks." Two weeks later, other doctors, kinder doctors, told me that it hadn't spread, and they thought I'd survive. The doctors asked if I had any support system, and I thought of my family, and then of my friends on the Fool. A few weeks later, after I'd broken the news to my family, I started the Surviving Cancer board. The response was immediate. Fellow Fools came charging over to offer encouragement and support. Some of them, such as TMFJeanie, had their own cancer stories to tell.

From then on, the Fool was an important part of my life.

Peter, Paul and Mary, on one of their albums, sang, "walking down old rocky road, met a friend I never knowed," and I've often thought of that rhyme while on the boards. The times have indeed been rocky: Cancer, unemployment, and a myriad of everyday woes. Other people have had worse problems. I had lunch with JABoa the week before he died. Dozens of people labored for DingBatAnnie as she went through the process of dying, and we waited for the final minutes.

I've gained a huge amount from the Fool. I've learned about credit cards and how to control them, I learned about emergency funds, I learned how to take care of a cat with diabetes. I've watched and read as other people left jobs, left marriages, left life, found jobs, entered into marriage, had children. I've cheered people on as they battled debt and emerged triumphant on the other side.

Some posts have had me howling with laughter and I've cried at other posts, even when I reread them years later. I suspect that I'm not the only Fool who has done this. (Or at least I hope not).

Fellow Fools have been kind to me when I asked for help. When I explained that I was typing away and the monitor went blank, I was told, kindly, that it was time for a new monitor. If I had a question about my car I knew where to ask. A very kind Fool (who concealed his impatience with an idiot), managed to make it clear that when my car started beeping and flashing its lights, I had clearly hit the wrong button on the keyless entry tag, and I could make it stop by hitting the same button.

I wish I could think that I'd given back a tenth of what I've gained from the Fool. But that's impossible. So all I can hope is that I keep trying to give, and that I can sometimes offer help to someone else.

I want to say thank you to all the people who have offered friendship and support, the people who have offered advice, the people who have posted puns or jokes to make me laugh during bad times, and all the people who, simply by being here and being themselves, have added so much to my life.

I'd also like to thank all the TMFers who work, often behind the scene, to make these boards navigable and pleasant. Even when I've ranted and complained about something, this is still the nicest place I've found on the Internet

I'd also like to thank the Gardner brothers for creating the Motley Fool. Without their work, there wouldn't be a place to hang out with my invisible Internet friends.

And here's to many more years of the same.

Thank you, all of you.