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“I Actually Thanked a Teacher”





April 26, 2017

The Wall Street Journal carried this column in their April 13 edition.

Greene’s opening words hooked me:

“Amid the endless torrent of angry and violent events, I switched off the television set, shut down the computer, and turned to something I hoped would provide welcome respite: a slender book of photographs illustrating the history of the small Ohio community where I grew up.”

In that book, Greene noticed a photograph of three children taking a tap-dancing class in 1934. One of them was identified as Patricia Ruoff. Might it be his first-grade teacher? The one who helped him learn the first word he ever read? He decided to find out.

Greene continues: “I tried to explain to her why I was calling. I said that if I’ve ever written a graceful sentence, if I’ve ever appreciated a turn of phrase in a good book, if I’ve ever found comfort in a beautifully told story, it all began with her.”

He then asked her if lots of her former students had told her what a difference she’d made in their lives. Her answer was succinct: “No one ever has.”

* * * * *

This column caused me to think about those occasional day-brightening letters I’ve received from former students–and how very much they’ve meant to me. Especially today, when letter-writing appears to be almost a lost art. Indeed, we’ve come to the point where the ultimate in value is a personally written letter on actual stationery and mailed in an actual envelope. One such heartfelt letter can validate an entire lifetime of selfless service.

So here is my suggestion: Why don’t you stop everything, this very day, and take the time to write, phone, or personally speak with someone who once made a significant impact on your life. Most likely it may have been merely a moment of kindness—but such moments are in increasingly short supply in this hectic world we live in. If you should do this, I’d love to hear back from you about what kind of response you received.

One thought on ““I Actually Thanked a Teacher”

  1. This is a good idea. I recently wrote a message of tribute to a gentleman who made a tremendous impact upon me 38 years ago. He never responded, and his daughter told me he was suffering from
    Dementia. I should have done it earlier.

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