Why gratitude?

I asked my Composition II students to write a brief essay explaining their motives for expressing gratitude and offering at least one example of a moment when gratitude was expressed to them or when they chose to express gratitude to someone else. This essay was written by my student Jessica Whitmire, who is always smiling. Students like Jessica make my job lighter and brighter!

My family has always instilled in me the concept of treating others the way I want to be treated. Generally speaking, if we are kind to others they will, in return, be kind to us. At times this does not always happen, but that cannot be helped.  The Bible tells us to help those who are less fortunate. I believe that it is my responsibility as a Christian to help others when it is needed. I know that at times I have needed a helping hand or encouragement, and there has been someone there for me.

FullSizeRender-2My Granddad passed away two years ago but was in the hospital for two weeks before he passed, and the amount of love that was poured out on my family was immeasurable. People sent food and cards, constantly for those two weeks he was in the hospital and the week following his death. They came by the hospital and prayed with us and so much more. Without all the love and support I do not know if I would have ever made it through that difficult time. From that moment I knew that I needed to repay all the generosity and love that was given to me and my family.FullSizeRender

I feel that if everyone worked together and lifted each other up instead of tearing each other down, our country would be a much better place. There is too much hate and not enough love. Everyone has the ability to make a difference, and no act of kindness is too small or insignificant.

Dear Rhonda

Dear Rhonda,

2013 year in review maggieThank you for helping me find my house. I resisted liking that house since it was more my ex-husband’s preference than mine. You might even say that I resented that darn house for a long, long time, actually. Slowly but surely, the longer I lived in it (particularly the longer I lived in it by myself), the more it grew on me. The house and I made our peace. I learned to love not only the house but the yard, the view from the front porch (thank God for the pasture and horses paid for by the neighbors!), and the woods behind my property. With lots of help, significant elbow grease, and minimal financial investment, I converted the house into a home.

Rhonda, thank you for introducing me to Cheryl and Henry Wilson. They became surrogate parents to me. I miss them so much, particularly this time of year when I just long to go home to their house and bake, bake, bake spicy pfefferneuse cookies with Cheryl. 252482_516930600632_6872391_n

Rhonda, when you offered me the opportunity to work for you as a sub-contractor six months after we closed on my house, doing odd jobs under the umbrella of real estate, I felt relieved and honored. The offer came in the nick of time. As my life mentor says, “God goes ahead and plans in love.” He certainly did that time. I was recently divorced and desperate for extra income with flexible hours. Working with you was much more classy and fun than serving drinks at the Underground Pub, and I gained experience in real estate for three years, picked your brain on a regular basis, and benefited under your leadership and guidance.

229694_506890022032_1308731_nRhonda, thank you for mentoring me and teaching me everything you could in every situation we encountered while working together. I never felt bossed around by you; I felt like a team member. I watched you open your own business. I learned how to be fearless and brave. I listened to you open and close deals while upholding high ethical standards. I observed you undergo difficult business and personal situations with grace and dignity.

I cannot even begin to list the lessons I learned from you in one measly letter. Thank you for going to lunch with me and going shopping with me and convincing me to serve on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters with you (not to mention the countless other non-profit service projects we tag-teamed on together!). It was refreshing to share my passion for non-profit fundraising and development with someone who approached volunteerism and fundraising from a business perspective. You helped me grow and develop my personal interests, weed out some of my potential career paths, and hone in on my real passion: writing, reading, and teaching these two things to others. 189672_502826380602_5699_n

I know that we don’t make or find time to talk over the phone or face to face now (shame on us!), and we live two hours away from one another, but I hope you know that you made a significant impact on my life. You helped shape me into who I am today.

Did you know that I actually LIKE who I am today, thanks to people like you? Did you know that I have direction in my life now, and that I absolutely love waking up every single day with the people in my house and going to work every day, thanks to people like you who chose to invest in my life? It’s true.

If it hadn’t been for people like you, Rhonda, I might still be floundering and trying to find my way. Thankfully, you cared enough to share your experience with me. You cared enough to share yourself with me; you shared your time with me, and that is a gift I will keep giving back to those I mentor and teach for the rest of my life.

Thank you, my friend.

I love you. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Bethany

Dear Daniel

*Today’s letter is written by fellow blogger and writer Mary Agrusa. Thank you, Mary, for your willingness to share your gifts with the world!*

Dear Daniel,

blog mary agrusa nov 14From the first time Mikael demurely admitted she was seeing someone, her tone of voice told me you were special. For the longest time she tantalized me with this well kept mystery – like a decorated gift under the Christmas tree. The suspense exhilarated me.

Every now and then she’d let something slip, “Daniel’s soooo.” My gift appeared to be exquisitely wrapped…but what was inside? Hmm. She’d drop clues, share tidbits. I’d pick up the box, feel its weight and shake it for any revealing noises. Still the contents eluded me. Who was this person who’d captivated my little girl’s heart?

Finally the trip to Boston came. In addition to time spent with Mikael the opportunity to begin to unwrap my gift arrived. What would I find? I rooted for fireworks and shooting stars, and I wasn’t disappointed. When you casually mentioned that the two of you had discussed marriage, my heart soared. “He’s a keeper!” it proclaimed.

That afternoon in March I was only privy to half of the phone conversation between you and Joe. I could read between the remarks on our end that a wedding was in the works. I spent the next six weeks with my head in the clouds. Mikael had found her Prince Charming and I couldn’t be happier.

On that Friday in May at the Marriage Bureau in New York City, the gift was totally revealed – a son, and what a son he is! It was an honor to stand as a witness to your commitment to Mikael, complete with a non-return clause LOL. Blessed with a kind, compassionate heart, a great sense of humor, a profound love of God, coffee, all things Irish and Boston sports teams, you are Mikael’s perfect counter-balance. I marvel daily at God’s gracious addition to our family. He thought of everything.

Daniel, thank you for being “the one.” You took Mikael into your heart and made her (and Joe and I by default) an integral part of your life. In you I’ve received a gift of immeasurable worth and one I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

Love,

Mary

Dear World

*Today’s letter is written by fellow blogger and wonderful writer Toi Thomas.*

Dear World,

Sometimes life gets hard in ways that are difficult to explain. You look around to your support group, the people you have in your life like family and friends, for comfort but sometimes it’s not quite enough. You don’t want to come off as ungrateful or selfish, but sometimes it really doesn’t help your situation when your mom, or sister, your husband, or bestie tells you for the hundredth time that they love you and believe in you. Sometimes it takes a familiar stranger, an acquaintance, a work friend, a colleague, or a fellow club or group member to really get through to you… And when that happens, it changes your whole outlook.

I’m more than blessed to have the family and friends I have. They love me and support me, but there’s another group of people and few very special ones who have impacted my life, and I’d like to say thank you to them now. Thank you to all the people I’ve met online who have actually had conversations with me, not just liked a post or commented on a picture or shared a video. I’m grateful for making real true connections with people that last.

I’m grateful and blessed to have encountered open-minded people from diverse backgrounds who have agreed to disagree on certain matters and who choose to live in harmony with those who are different from them. These are the people who openly and peacefully express their opinions and then step aside so you may do the same.

I’m blessed to live in a country where I can believe what I want and still have the freedom to express myself as an individual and to make friends with people who do the same. I accept the fact that I may not be able to be best friends with everyone I encounter, but I can reach of level of respect that goes beyond common curtesy, to creativity, professionalism, and new ideals for friendship.

There have been many times when I’ve felt lost and disconnected from the people around me, in life and on the web, and in those moments I was blessed to have someone reach out to me. Thank you M.C.V. Egan for being who you are and making a difference in my life. Thank you Tricia Drammeh for being who you are and making a difference in my life. Thank you Chrystal Erickson for being who you are for more making a difference in my life.

Toi Thomas Nov 14Thank you Tori J. Jones for being the best sister I could have ever asked for. Thank you for being who you and for making a difference in my life. Your prayers, your guidance, and your example are more precious to me than gold.

I thank you, God, for all these encounters, opportunities, and people in my life; whether for a life time or a moment in time.

Love,

Toi

Dear Sabrina

*Today’s letter is written by one of my former spunky students. Thank you for adding spark to my life, Jessica!*

Dear Sabrina,

I have had five therapists in my lifetime from 2nd grade on. None of these people could get through to me until the 5th one. The 5th one was you. Something about you stuck out to me. Maybe it was because of your willingness to listen or your genuine want to help me and reach out. Honestly, I don’t know what it was, but what I do know is that I have not needed a therapist since December 2013, and I owe that all to you. Actually, no, I owe my whole life to you.

When I met you, I was in a bad place in my life. The therapist I went to a couple of months before basically blew me off and made me feel like I didn’t matter. She shooed me out of my second (and last) appointment that SHE scheduled and was LATE to because she had a meeting. Part of the reason I was going to a therapist in the first place was because I felt that nobody cared about me or what I was going through. I was lost and looking for some kind of direction in my life. That little incident pretty much proved me right. Not even my therapist cared about my life or whether I’d pull through or not. She only cared about herself.

After that, I kind of decided that maybe therapy wasn’t for me; after all, I’d had four different ones in my past, and none made me feel any better about myself or my future. Finally, I got to a point in my life where I REALLY needed someone to talk to. I felt I couldn’t talk to my family members because they wouldn’t understand. I talked to my best friend a lot, but she was getting tired of being the one to be unloaded on. Plus, in the relationship I was in, I was told to drop my best friend if I wanted to be with him. So, basically, I had no one. No friends, family, anyone.

You quickly became my friend as time progressed, though you could not be my “friend” because of your contract, but I knew otherwise. I always felt like you took a little more care with me than you did with your other clients. You can’t deny it. We spent three years together. You watched me grow as a person and saw me at my worst and still cared about me and my well being. I truly believe it was God that led me to you. He saw me struggling and knew just who could help me.

Ornament01You are an amazing therapist, and I would recommend you to anyone. You were the reason that I decided to become a therapist myself. I realized that I wanted to help people become all that they can be. Nobody should have to go through depression alone. All of that being said, I just wanted to let you know that I am so unbelievably grateful and thankful for you and your help. Without your selfless guidance, I would have never been able to pull myself out of the dirt and get back to the person I used to be, well, close to who I used to be. I love you more than you know, and I will never forget you.

Your Friend,

Jessica Nicol

P.S. When you look at Eeyore on your bookshelf, know that I’m thinking about you, too.

Dear Daddy

*Today’s letter is written by my friend Samantha Herndon Hogan.*

Dear Daddy:

As I sit here trying to write this letter of thankfulness to you, I have so much to say, yet am at a loss for words. I don’t think I could put into words every single thing you’ve done for me that I’m thankful for. But on this day, I will make a feeble attempt to show you my appreciation.

samantha with her dad 1In my eyes, you have always been a giving, selfless man, always putting your family’s needs before your own. Even as a small little girl, I remember you giving me your “last bite” of ice cream, rather than eating it yourself, just so you could see me smile. As I got older, you put in many hours at a tough job to make sure we always had not just what we needed, but what we wanted. We even took vacations, and even when I was 15, you let me drive across New Mexico on the way to Las Vegas. Wow, how brave you must have been! A little later, I graduated high school, and on to college. I’m not sure how many times you’ve moved my stuff over the years, but I know it was a lot. From apartment to apartment, couch after couch, you’ve never complained.

Samantha with her dadAs I look back on all of those things, I cannot help but smile. You’ve always been there for me physically, but with wisdom and advice as well. Although you don’t give it freely, if I am ever in need of advice, you are always there to give me your thoughts, when asked. You don’t force your view on me, only offer your opinions as asked. You’re always quick to forgive my shortcomings. You don’t judge me when I make mistakes or hold grudges when I do wrong. You’ve loved me through everything from parenting to car problems, to marital issues, to job situations. You’ve advised me on all of it. Kindness, wisdom and love I could never repay you for.

As we enter this time of Thanksgiving this year, there are so many people in my life that have poured into my to make me who I am, and so many I am thankful for. However, today, I choose to honor you, Daddy, for always going above and beyond your job description for me and the rest of our family. I am so thankful for you. I love you so much!

Love,

Samantha

Dear Heather

*Today’s letter is written by my wonderful friend Betty Gail Jones, who has impacted countless children, teenagers, and college students over the years through her work in children’s ministry, collegiate ministry, mission work, and church planting. She is a fireball and someone God has certainly used in my life.*

Dear Heather,

BG blogI am calling you out!  There is no doubt that you deserve it!  Get ready for the truth!  I want you to know how what you have done has impacted me!

At a time in my life when I felt isolated and desperate, I found you though Facebook, of all places.  At times there seems to be an insurmountable barrier – namely the ocean – to knowing my grandchildren who live on the other side of the world.  You helped change some of that ever-present anxiety.  Yes, you stepped in when I needed you.  And as I get to know more about you, I find your availability to others to be significant, too.

Life gets busy no matter where one lives in the world.  If I could see pictures every day of my grandchildren who live overseas, I would be happy.  Yet, that is not to be, nor would it be a wise use of their parent’s time.  One day, as I were publicly pleading for more pictures on social media, you piped up and commented to me offering to accept my friendship if I requested.  You further explained that you often take pictures of Ajay, and sometimes Ari gets in the pictures, too.  As the local Kids Kamp teacher, you have access like no other to my grandchildren.  I realized that this was my opportunity for a view of their world that I had not had before, so I immediately went to your page and clicked out a request to be your “friend”.

BG blog 1What I found on your page was eye-opening.  I loved seeing the place where socialization and learning was taking place, not only for my grandchild, but also for the other children who are living overseas.  I recognized what a wonderful unique blessing your ministry is as I scrolled through the pictures and saw the wonder and joy on faces of such a diverse group of third culture kids.

Soon, your posts began showing up on my news feed.  Whether they were about everyday “mommy moments”, personal reflections, prayer requests for your kids, or funny quotes by those living in your home or attending your school, I enjoyed them all.  I even loved following your personal journey of the joys and challenges of your stateside visit.  I learned from each one.

bg blog 3One Sunday morning I stepped into my church and a friend looked at me with eyes of concern and said, “What about the landslide near Kathmandu?”  My heart sank into my stomach because I hadn’t heard of the tragedy and didn’t have any information.  My son-in-law and a friend were trekking at that moment, and I didn’t actually know where.  It was early in the morning on our side of the world and night where you live.  I knew I didn’t have access to my own children who aren’t as media driven as some, but I realized that you monitored Facebook more frequently and guessed that I could message you and would get an answer quickly.  Within a few minutes, I received a message back from you assuring me that everything was all right.  I was so grateful for your friendship, though we’ve never met, at that moment.

Through Facebook, I have learned of your own ministry to the nationals whom you call your “kids”, watched as you care for them and love them deeply, and joined you to pray for their needs.  I have grieved your losses with you as you have shared heartache, and I have rejoiced with you in victories.

bg blog 2At this time, I am enjoying the presence of my grandchildren for a season, but I know the impact you have had even now.  Ajay talks about his home and friends that he misses.  As I was listening in on a conversation between him and his cousin, Ajay told his older cousin about his school and how he misses it.

What a tremendous blessing you are to those young mothers who live in your country.  I would have never dreamed that these parents would have an opportunity to send their little ones to a pre-school situation where they are learning and playing in a social setting and their moms would have some time for other important things (and even a break from the constant responsibility of raising children without extended family or trusted friends’ help).

You do all of this with an attitude of joy.  You are a servant to others.  This, Heather, is why I am calling you out – to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I thank God for you and your family.

See you on Facebook!

Love,

Betty Gail Jones, aka Nanna