I am taking Lisa Olson’s 8 Days of Thanks Workshop. Each day we get a lesson that helps us tap into gratitude. Today’s lesson involved writing a letter of thanks. I would like to share my letter with you because it celebrates a wonderful teacher.

Teachers can be monumental in our lives. Seriously, they can make ALL the difference. They are mentors, angels, coaches, cheerleaders and even sometimes surrogate parents. I would bet money that you have a story about a teacher who meant a lot to your upbringing.

For me, this teacher was Mrs. Daniel and I really hit the jackpot. She was tailor made for me because she was both my English teacher and my Theatre teacher. I can not claim her as my own. Many, many former students would name her as their favorite. She was tough and made you work hard but she was always on your side.

I will never forget how disappointed she was to give me a D one semester in Honors English. I left her no choice, of course. Though I was a good student in terms of reading and participating, homework was a burden I did not always bother with. That particular semester I had even earned extra credit because, when given the assignment to memorize and recite a poem, I chose The Ballad of The Harp-Weaver by Edna St. Vincent Millay. All 30 stanzas of it. But the extra credit could not save me from my almost failing grade. This makes me laugh now because it is pretty exemplary of my personality. I put energy into the things I care about leaving little room for other things. Like homework and well, home work, as in cooking and hanging pictures on the wall.

But Mrs. Daniel saw me. Sure, she gave me my well deserved D but she also tapped me to assist her with choreography for our Show Choir. She considered me a leader in my sacred haven of Theatre Arts and, bolstered by her confidence, I was able lead. She was a rock for me all through High School and even took me to check out a College when I was struggling with what to do after graduation. When I needed a letter of reference to apply for The American Musical and Dramatic Academy I called on her. Of course, she said. But it was how she said it that makes me smile still. So sincere and heartfelt.

Mrs. Daniel left this World far too soon. When word got around of her illness former students responded en masse with letters of appreciation and well wishes. Her Husband and Daughter had to draw up a schedule for visitors because so many of us wanted to thank her in person. I had moved across the country by then and feared I wouldn’t be able to see her. But the stars aligned and I was granted the opportunity to visit with her one last time. A gift.

Here is my letter of thanks. I hope it helps you to remember that special teacher in your life and inspires you to write one too!

Dear Mrs. Daniel,

Of course this letter was always going to be yours, right? When I think of people who have had an impact on my life, there you are, top of the list. Grateful feels an abstract description of how I feel towards you. It fits, yes, but doesn’t seem intricate enough a word. You would know the perfect word and are probably smiling your smile right now as I struggle to think of it. Trusting in my ability to call it up, waiting for me to work it through.

You were a mentor to me before I ever knew I needed one. As my English teacher, you fostered my love for the written word, cultivating my snobbery … umm, that is to say good taste. As my theatre director, you fanned the flames of my passion for performing. More than that, you showed me, all of us, the power of art to transform our view of the World, to make a difference, to unite us, to expose injustice.

You saw something in me that still has me shaking my head, questioning whether I ever lived up to it. You spent quality time with me, listening to what I had to say, offering me respect. You told me I was talented as if you were telling me the sky was blue. You stated it as fact, simple, true. And because you accepted this as truth you paved the way for me to use my talent and struck the balance of patience and encouragement as I fumbled around in my doubt. Time and again I was unsure. Time and again you waited it out. Time and again you gave me the opportunity to exceed my own expectations of myself.

So I write you this note of thanks and it makes me miss you anew. To say you were precious to me seems rudimentary. To say I am grateful is lacking. To say you were my once-in-a-lifetime hero gets closer. To say I love you doesn’t even feel enough.

Ah, but as I write this I remember. I had forgotten, but now I remember. I love you was the last thing I ever said to you. And, oh, I am grateful to my soul to have figured out in that moment that those were, in fact, the perfect words.

Ever So Sincerely,

photo courtesy of muffintinmom on flickr

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