Mike was seated at the deserted Thanksgiving Dinner table, overwhelmed by a mountain of Christmas cards received in previous years. He had dreamed of spending this day watching football and gorging himself with leftovers while his wife shopped with her girlfriend, but Cathy had reminded him of their agreement. Last year she had meticulously handwritten personal greetings to every person on their list, while he in turn addressed and sealed the envelopes. Now the tables were turned.
He cringed while reading some of the year-old messages from friends and family. A personal note from Aunt Karen read: Merry Christmas! Love, Aunt Karen. The note sounded so simple, so half-hearted, so……..trite.
The next was an expensive, foil-embossed work of art from his cousin Frank. The scribbled signature said something like: ………from Frank. Hmmm, way to go Cousin!
As Mike browsed through the holiday sentiments, he was disappointed in the lack of effort, warmth and sincerity shown by people who had otherwise made the attempt to send Christmas cheer. He was not yet inspired.
Amongst the cluttered accumulation, a news article sent by his mom worked its way to the top. It was a retirement announcement about Mrs. Kine, his first grade teacher. Memories of warm hugs and encouraging words, shrouded by the delicate scent of White Shoulders perfume - brought a smile to Mike’s face. He had been in love with Mrs. Kine - his first “crush.” Re-reading this article reminded him of the influence that the remarkable woman had had on his life and how he had never really shown gratitude. Thoughts of her began to motivate him:
Dear Mrs. Kine,
You probably don’t remember me, but I was in your 1st grade class in 1972. I was the little boy who sat in the front row so I could be closest to you. I always raised my hand even if I didn’t know the answer because I felt special when you called on me. I tried to stay after school almost every day to help you clean the black boards, or empty the trash cans or do anything you needed, but you would always tenderly escort me out the door so I wouldn’t miss my bus.
It’s taken a long time but I wanted to show my gratefulness by letting you know how much your kindness and compassion touched my impressionable little life. I used to think your name was Mrs. Kind because you were always so gentle and patient. You taught us kids how to be good neighbors – how not to fight and argue or hurt each other with harsh words. When I am with my own children, I hear your expressions pass through my lips as I try to instill in them a loving and caring attitude.
You trained us to wash our hands after going to the bathroom and before snacks, constantly reminding us that “cleanliness is next to godliness.” To this day I can’t even eat a candy bar without washing up first. You might be encouraged to know that your introducing me to God, even in subtle ways, gave me the desire to search for a higher power. Years later, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and am currently serving Him in my church and community.
Mrs. Kine, you are truly an amazing woman and teacher. Because of your loving perseverance, I developed a fondness for learning and especially for reading. Today I teach Language Arts to 5th graders.
Thank you for dedicating yourself to kids by touching hundreds of lives and encouraging us with principles that continue to guide and compel us to do our very best. There is no doubt in my mind that I am a better person because of your investment in me. May you be blessed this Christmas.
Your #1 Fan,
Just as he completed proof-reading, his gift-bearing wife struggled to enter the back door.
“Are you finished with the cards?”
“Yes Honey, I’m done! Here it is!”
“What do you mean? It? You’ve only written one card since I left?”
Thoughtfully he responded, “After reading through all the cards from last year, I decided to start a new tradition. Each year I will write one card to someone who truly made a difference in my life – and this year that person is Mrs. Kine. If you really want to lick forty or fifty more envelopes, I will order a stamp for the remainder that states: Merry Christmas from the Dickersons.”
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