Twenty-nine years ago, I was a student teacher in my home town. As you can imagine, I was so enthusiastic. I vibrated with idealism. I waltzed into my first Biology class ready to dazzle them with my knowledge, certain that I would hold their attention easily for 55 minutes. It was science after all. Who doesn’t love science? It’s magical and slightly gross. That is the equation for holding a teenager’s attention. Ah the idealism of youth – mine not their’s. Needless to say, teenagers are not easily impressed. I was a mere five years older than most of the seniors. And at that moment, I was extremely happy my youngest sister had graduated the year before because it was clear to me I was going to have to talk to a parent (or 150 of them) and the thought of calling my dad (or any other dad) to extol the mischief of his child made me want to go to back to graduate school to study ornithology. Birds rarely heckle you or so I am told.
That fateful day came when the Assistant Principal broke the news to me that I would in fact be calling some parents. She was a little rough around the edges which I liked I because I am a little rough around the edges. Though she was direct, I could tell she wanted me to survive student teaching (I told her about my ornithology idea). She gave me the best advice that day. She told me for every negative call I made, I had to make a “happy call”. As soon as I was done making that first painful call and make no mistake it was painful, I picked a student who was working hard in class and I called that parent as well. Ironically, I got the same reaction from both parents upon hearing that I was the dreaded teacher. They didn’t actually say “ugh”, but I could tell they were thinking it. But once I started talking about how hard her son was working in class and how much I appreciated him, it was obvious she was ecstatic. I could tell I made her day, maybe her whole year. Who doesn’t want to hear how great their kid is? I learned that day that gratitude is exponential. By appreciating that one student, I made one parent very happy. She obviously expressed her gratitude to her son who in turn was very happy and that made me happy. Also he literally told everyone. I made a point of thanking Ms. Harkey for making me do it. I kept making those “happy calls” throughout my career.
I was reminded of this today when I received a very nice thank you note. I could tell this person put some thought in writing the note and was grateful. I don’t think I really did anything special but that note sure made me feel special. At Thanksgiving, we are reminded to be thankful and show gratitude. We should be thankful – for the big things and the little ones. We should be thankful more often for sure. I think gratitude comes easily and it is so obvious for the big things: health, healing, gifts, security, births, weddings, love and grace. Sometimes we even know without a word or a note, that someone is grateful for us. Take the photograph below, for example. A new mother with her beautiful, happy, healthy child. You can see how much she treasures the simple act of holding her giggling girl. She does not need to write a note or say a thing. That child knows. And anyone looking at her knows that she is grateful for this gift. Sometimes, though, we do need to take the time to say thanks. We need to write a thank you note to someone who maybe didn’t really do anything special but it was something kind or helpful. The world is full of complaints, conflict and crisis. Make someone’s day. Their appreciation will likely make your’s. Your thankfulness will be exponential. I can pretty much guarantee it. I know. I thanked four people today. It felt great!
(1/250 Sec., f/5.6, 640 ISO, 55 mm)