“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.” –Goethe
There are people who come into our lives and leave an impact that is still felt years later. For me, that person was a high school teacher named, Ms. F. Writing her a letter to let her know how influential she was in my life was probably my hardest random act of kindness yet. Not because it was hard to think of ways she influenced me, but because how do I sum up all my respect, admiration, and gratitude in a single letter. Can I put into words exactly how much she meant to me without sounding contrived or disingenuous?
I don’t know. But I sure did try. There is a great quote by Carol Buchner that says students “may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” When it comes to Ms. F, this couldn’t be more true. What I remember about her wasn’t the theology lessons she taught, but the way she taught them. She had a genuine passion for the subject matter, and her enthusiasm was contagious. She wasn’t the kind of teacher who would dial it in. She showed up every day for class and made learning fun; she really tried to connect her students to the subject matter.
Outside the classroom she had an even bigger impact on me. In high school, I always felt somewhat out of place and awkward. I suppose most 16-year-olds do. But she had a way of making me feel like I belonged, like I mattered. She made me feel like I could do anything with my life, like my future was unlimited. When she talked to me I felt smart and capable. I felt important. I felt like my feelings and opinions mattered. She helped me see my future potential.
It’s important to let the people in our lives know how much they mean to us, even if it’s years after the fact. You’ll never regret a sincere “thank you.” And the person you say it to will never forget.