One of the most meaningful keepsakes in my shadow box is a card that accompanied flowers delivered to me on the last day of school back in 1980. It was my third year of teaching second graders and Paul was one of my students. His parents purchased the flowers as a thank you gift. The card reads, “Thank you for investing in our son, Paul. You have made a difference and we are grateful.”

Thanking someone is a beautiful thing. Thankfulness lifts an exhausted soul. Gratitude is like oxygen to the lungs and clouds under tired feet. Gratitude can clear cobwebs from overwhelmed brains and calluses from hardened hearts. Thankfulness restores and heals.

Paul’s parents went out of their way to notice my efforts and Paul’s progress throughout the entire year. I never sensed they were looking for what was wrong. Rather, they wanted to encourage their son and me. Their choice to be thankful gave me freedom to work with Paul and Paul freedom to risk. Therefore, he progressed.

Paul began second grade overweight, shy, and insecure. He cried easily and didn’t confidently engage with other children. I enjoyed helping him mature. Hearing “thank you” regularly helped.

Paul on the last day of second grade had very little in common with the Paul from the first day. Watching him find himself that year is one of the highlights of my teaching career. Many, many years later, I still remember being told that he was an exchange student to Germany during high school and that he graduated from Purdue with a pharmacy degree. Fabulous!

Will you express gratitude to your children’s teachers and administrators this year? Will you thank your children for important steps they take? You will be making a difference – probably more than you’ll ever know.