What are you thankful for today, Mrs. Smith?
You all know that I am a teacher. I do deal with young people on a regular basis and sometimes, they frustrate me, but sometimes, I’m completely blown away by them and by some of the things they say or do.
Last week, I was at a teacher’s conference. I was privileged to get to work with and learn from some amazing State Officers in a Career & Technical Student Organization. The guys and gals are so well behaved and so “with-it” to be only 16 or 17 years old. On the morning the conference started, these young people were down stairs before 7am, they had already had breakfast and were ready to work. “What can we help you with, Mrs. Smith?” And even though it was way too early for all of us, they each had a huge smile on their faces! As the morning wore on and things began to get a little hectic, one of these beautiful students stopped me and asked me, “Mrs Smith, can I ask you a question?” “Sure, baby girl, what is it?” I answer her. With sparkling eyes and a beautiful smile, she asked me, “What are you thankful for day, Mrs. Smith?” In all honesty, I was blown away. One, because this question came from such a young person, and two, because I had honestly not given any thought to a single thing that I could/should be thankful for that morning. I smiled, in my heart, and on my face. Then I thought, what am I thankful for? I told this young lady, “Today, I am thankful for the air that I’m breathing, that I was able to get up out of bed, that I’m here with you all, for your smile and for your attitude, and mostly, for the fact that you reminded me to take a moment and be thankful and to express that thanks.” That moment, that one question, from the twinkly eyes of a teenager, completely and utterly changed my day for the better and it stayed that way.
I had to give a speech at this conference and I felt like (others might not have agreed, but..) it went well. I was pleased with myself. The workshops that happened that afternoon all seemed to go really well. The Awards Banquet that evening, went even better. The guest speaker talked about a guidance counselor whom he had in high school. She’d told him that all he was ever going to be was a forklift driver. Well, he was just that for a time, but that job driving a forklift eventually landed him as part of a senior management team at a huge worldwide corporation. He told us that he never got to go back and thank this guidance counselor. She’d passed away before he realized what an impact her words made to him. He said he’d love to tell her “thank you,” and that made me remember that question from earlier in my day. I didn’t get a chance to tell my drafting teacher how truly important he was to me. I tried, but I never came right out and told him so. But I got an opportunity later on in the evening to have another thankful moment.
I was getting ready to leave the ballroom from the awards banquet and I ran into a gentleman I’ve known for 24 years. He was the principal at the school that my fellow Virginia National Officer was from, when we were only 16. I did a lot of traveling that year, where this gentleman was involved. I’ve seen him many times in the years since. Last year, he was sick, and we were all afraid that we were going to lose him. Thankfully though, he has healed and has been back to several events recently. He came the other night to help present an award, an award that is named after him, to a member of the conference. Anyway, we stood in the doorway and talked for a bit, until my heels started killing me, so we sat down and talked a bit. While we were there, another gentleman that I’ve known for 25 years, one whom I have stayed in touch with and who has encouraged and even somewhat pushed me, gently, into some of the things that I’ve done since becoming a teacher, well, he sat with us. While we were sitting there talking, another gentleman came by. I’ve known this man for 24 years too. He was my bus chaperone when I went to Louisville KY as a 16 year old, twerp of a kid, to run for National Office, and he is also on the board of this conference with me. I had one of those very thankful moments, sitting there, with these three gentlemen, whom I have so much respect and admiration for. I cannot describe that feeling. To be surrounded by the wisdom that they have, but really, just to have time to appreciate them as the friends and people that they are and to realize in that moment, just what they all mean to me. I did take that opportunity to thank them. And I thanked them again publicly on Friday in another speech. There’s never any way that I can ever repay them for the confidence and encouragement that they’ve given me, but I can always continue to thank them and to be thankful for the role that they’ve played in my life.
With that moment and the moment with the student earlier in the day, I hope to try to always remember, each and every morning, “What are you thankful for today, Mrs. Smith?”