Day 22: Dear Mrs. McGrath

*It’s hard to believe Day 22 of the Dear Gratitude project has arrived! Only eight more days of letters from eight more wonderful guest writers. Today’s post is by LaDonna Busby, a friend and fellow church member.*

This thank you is long overdue, and it is going to someone long dead.  Why do we wait to express our gratitude to those who cross our paths in this life?  We need to remember to say thank you, even if we have to send letters read by someone other than the intended person.  So here goes:

Dear Mrs. McGrath,

1ST GRADEI wonder if you ever knew what a wonderful gift you gave me – something that I have cherished my whole life long.  You introduced me to READING!  For that great gift, I want to say thank you, and I am sorry it has taken me over 50 years to express this gratitude.

Oh, the people and places you enabled me to meet and visit.  I still remember you patiently helping us to learn “Look Jane, look.  See Spot run.  Oh, look Jane, see Spot.”

Thus began my adventures with some sweet characters, some not so sweet.  Many are like dear friends when I think of them.  Amy, Beth, Meg and Jo from Little Women – each one a different personality woven into a story that young girls can enjoy even today.  I still have a treasured copy of that book.  There were so many others – The Bobbsey Twins (Bert and Nan, Flossie and Freddie); Laura Ingalls;  Hester Prynne from “The Scarlet Letter”, Jane Eyre; David Copperfield; Romeo and Juliet; Tom Sawyer, and the list could go on and on.

Not only did I get to know some wonderful characters, but I also got to travel without even leaving my cozy chair. Through reading I have traveled the world over, learning many interesting things, seeing so many beautiful places – even if only in my mind and imagination.  Of course not all places are wonderful, but I traveled where the books took me.  Nowadays, a lot of my reading is about places of trouble and sadness.  Places of war, poverty and cruelty – but I read on filled with hope that some time I will read that things have improved for some country or its people.

Your gift has blessed my life in so many ways.  Reading is so important to me.  I have been able to read the letters sent by my brother when he was in Vietnam.  There have been cards – birthday, anniversary, get well, thank yous, invitations, and notes of sympathy.  Just think what I would have missed if I had not been able to read.

I am able to read the Bible.  Through my reading of scripture, I have become stronger in my faith.  My faith is so important to me, and I cannot imagine being unable to read the Word of God.  The Bible is filled with stories, characters and places.  You can read it over and over, each time getting something new and powerful from the reading.

I passed on this gift to my daughter, Susan, who loves to read.  I don’t quite like her choice of books – she loves the author Stephen King – but I am happy to see her read.  Now we are passing this love along to her sons.  The oldest had quite a struggle learning to read – but thanks to a compassionate and caring teacher, like you, he conquered that mountain and now loves to read.  So, you see your gift to me just keeps going and going.

I wish I had gone back to Mitchell Elementary and thanked you.  When we are young, we don’t think to do things like that; it is only as we begin to mature that we realize what has been given to us.  Thank you, Mrs. McGrath, for being my 1st Grade teacher.  You were a kind and gentle woman who helped many children to begin a journey that will last their whole lives.  Please know, there is at least this one student who will forever be grateful.

Fondly,

LaDonna Wittke Busby

The written word

In an era marked by sore thumbs from rampant texting and Tweeting, the written word seems to have faded into the communicative background, or at best, been shortened, squeezed, and compressed into an abbreviated form of its former self. Sure, the written word still has its place. But as the price of postage rises, and the convenience of communicating by email, social media, and cell phones continues to improve, how many of us really write?

Not many.

This is not necessarily all bad. I’m very grateful for the advent of blogging. As someone who constantly corrals whirling notions in her brain, my blogs are a great creative connection to the world at large. And despite the frustrations resulting from Facebook’s unnecessary and frequently annoying technical changes, I’m grateful for opportunities to reconnect with old friends, family who live in other places, and former students and colleagues.

Writing, for me, has evolved into something new. I’ve embraced the way technology has affected the way I connect with others. But I am one of the stalwart, stubborn few who still insist on sending real thank you cards. I send my grandma handwritten cards and letters. I love nothing more than receiving handwritten sentiments from loved ones in the mail.

In my desk drawer sits a stack of lovely assorted cards and letters I’ve received. Periodically I file these away and save most of them. There’s nothing better than reading a card from a friend 10 years later. As I perused the pile a few days ago, I found a thank you card from a former patient.

“Dear Bethany,

I still see your beautiful face with the tears and have seen it many times as I looked at my dear husband and best friend . . .  Keep your compassion. God will indeed bless you.”

These written words mean something more to me every time I read them. They seriously impacted me then, and they continue to impact me now. They remind me that God uses me even when I don’t know He’s using me. They are little inky impressions from God, reminders of how important words are, spoken and received. Whether I send a handwritten card or a thoughtful email, the words I speak and write matter. And the words you speak and write to me matter. I’m grateful for them.