Posting this piece at Thanksgiving has become a tradition. The holiday gives me an opportunity to say thank you to my former students. You’ve enriched my life beyond measure, and I am grateful for the time we spent together and for the contribution you are making to our community and to the world. Was it worth it? All that time and energy and love for so many years? The answer is yes. Every single day, every single year. I have retired now, but my memories stay with me, just like these pictures from my bulletin board. Yes, I still have them all–and others, too. I am grateful I do. Happy Thanksgiving, all of you.
You have sold me carpet and cleaned it, accepted my dry cleaning, butchered the meat for my table, helped me find clothes in the right size, checked out my groceries at the supermarket, and brewed coffee for me at Starbucks. I’ve walked with one of you in the March for Babies and two years ago with more of you at the #RedforEd rally in Indianapolis. I’ve removed my shirt in the doctor’s office and again at school, so you could give me a flu shot. This past year at the Dept. of Public Health for a Covid shot. I’ve run into you in bookstores, grocery stores, elevators, and train stations, been in attendance with you at concerts and plays, and even been hailed on the street in a distant Western town. I’ve seen you on my nature walks and had lunch with two of you at Arni’s.
One of you approached me years ago at the Indy airport and described your work repairing the wind turbines in a county adjacent to ours. Two years ago, I met two more of you, on separate occasions, in the same airport–students from my early years in TSC. One of you owns a grocery store that is helping to revive a part of our community; another of you is the piano man who has entertained the whole community for years and sustained our collective spirit with weekly Zoom concerts at the height of the pandemic..
Some of you have been wounded in war, and others of you are still serving. I’ve worried about you in Vietnam, in Iraq (I and II), in Afghanistan, and in other trouble spots around the globe. A few years ago, one of you died serving this country. Our whole community mourned, and that year, in your name, students at our high school collected items for Care Packages for soldiers stationed around the world.
Some of you have worked for my husband or me. One of you is a contractor who remodeled my husband’s lab; another was his lab technician. Two of you have taken care of our yard during the summer when we have been on vacation; another has walked our dogs. You’ve waited on us in restaurants; you’ve hauled boxes for us when we remodeled.
I’ve worked with one of you on a research project and together we’ve served on the board of a community organization. Many of you are my Facebook friends; some of you read this blog. Some of you have read the book I wrote in 2019 and have written to tell me you liked it. Some of you look at my nature photographs and tell me they bring you peace.
You’ve substituted for me in the classroom, and a great many of you are teachers yourselves. One of you is an author and instructional coach; another several of you, school principals. Some of you are nurses; some doctors, one of you at least is a physician’s assistant. Several of you sell real estate, three that I know of are lawyers, and many of you are college professors, even Department Chairs at your universities. Some of you sell produce at the Farmer’s Market; others farm on a larger scale. I can count among you writers, restaurant owners, veterinarians, and musicians. A television personality and a museum director. A singer and songwriter, a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and another for the Marlins. A videographer. A welding instructor. A dancer. Writers. Several of you are pharmacists. One is a politician. Another, a personal secretary to someone in Germany. Beauticians and therapists and specialists of all kinds. An artist, a quilter, a photographer. The CEO of a community foundation. A journalist and a newspaper editor. One of you was a nun, but left your order; one is a priest who has stayed. Managers, retailers, and business owners. Police officers and firefighters, automobile salespeople and automobile mechanics. Electricians and plumbers and heating and cooling experts. You work in personnel and transportation, retail and manufacturing. You are receptionists and cashiers. Peace Corps volunteers and public relations specialists. Computer programmers, technicians, and web page designers. Executives and line workers. Bus drivers. Cafeteria workers. Lab assistants and veterinary assistants. So many of you I can no longer keep you all straight.
Some of you are doing, professionally, important– critical–social justice work in our communities. Two years ago, a group of you spoke to current MHS students about your experiences with issues of diversity in high school and your hopes for our communities going forward. You inspired the students of today and made me hopeful about the future, believing as I do that we will only be a better country when each of us cares about all of us.
Some of you came to this country as refugees and immigrants, only to meet new obstacles here. You have worked hard and long to weave yourselves into the fabric of this nation, making your families and your teachers proud of all you have accomplished. Many of you have had different struggles–you’ve faced challenges no one should have to. But you had determination and the will to succeed, and you have. You still work hard, all of you, every single day, making our communities stronger for your presence.
I said last year, as the world began to relax about Covid, and I ‘ll say it again this year because we aren’t out of the woods yet: I am especially grateful for all of you who are educators, front line workers, medical workers. For those of you who delivered for Instacart and other door-to-door delivery services. For restaurant owners and servers and cooks who found options for those of us lucky enough to stay at home during the pandemic. For those of you who made masks and distributed them. For those of you who work at Parks and Rec or in nature preserve facilities who kept these refuges going, offering respite and relief to human beings as well as wildlife. For the police and firefighters who kept us safe. For the retail store owners and sales personnel who kept right on working through it all. Any and all of you who, in any way, alleviated the strain of living through this extended time of isolation and separation. You kept people like me alive, conscious of our own good fortune, and grateful for the smallest of kindnesses.
Teachers often wonder what becomes of their students, the youth upon whom they have lavished so much time, attention, and love. I am surprised when I list you out like this, and I see immediately what I didn’t wholly envision would happen when you were before me in my classroom year after year after year.
When I knew you, you were children. But you have grown up, evolved, moved past Crazy Hat Day, experimental make-up, video games, and babysitting. Past blue hair and nose rings, past balloons on lockers and crepe paper streamers suspended across hallways. You have come of age, turned your promise into purpose.
You haven’t all won prizes, achieved fame, or made a fortune, but you all make me proud. I had a hand in helping you learn the skills you need to keep our universe spinning. Now you help me. You ease my life, keep me safe, and bring me joy. I’ll take that.
And give thanks.