Day 2: Dear darling boys

*Thanks to my generous and zany friend Amber Hood for serving as today’s contributor to my November “Dear Gratitude” letter writing project. Each day in November, a different writer will share a letter to someone or something she is thankful for.*

Darling boys in my class—

teenage boy for amber blogI have first hand knowledge of what it’s like to be a 7th grade girl. It isn’t easy, and now I know you all, and I love you all, and when I am not crazy mad at you for nearly poking someone’s eye out with a pencil (yes, I know he needed to borrow it, but that doesn’t mean throw it; that means pass it or hand it), then far too often my heart is breaking for you as I see you face your struggles.

When the girl you like laughs at you or when you say, “My uncle died last year, and sometimes I still get really sad about it,” I don’t know how to make it better. And it’s these times when I feel so unsure of my ability to teach you or to help you grow, but just when it gets really dark, I see you reach out to the new kid who is not very cool, and I see you boys take responsibility for your actions with more dignity than most grown men, and I know it isn’t my job to make you into the person you should be but to be your number one fan as you realize it on your own.

I am so grateful for you sweet boys for teaching me so much more than I could teach you.  Some days I think my life is pretty tough trying to help you fellows read better when you’d all rather bounce around my room, but I have these little moments, like when you make an A on your geography project, and I’m so proud of you not just because I know that class is hard but mostly because I know you probably walked to the dollar store and used your own money to get the poster board you needed.  I’m in awe of the way you treat the lady at the store on the corner with respect when you buy a coke and chips from her even though she scowls at you and watches you closely assuming you will steal from her because your skin is dark, and you look like a man even though you are only 13.

Thank you, my brave and clever and kind and funny and scrappy young men. You give purpose to my days and so much hope that we’re all going to be okay.

Want to support hard-working 7th grade readers? Please visit my classroom wish list.’s no secret that teachers often spend their own money on what their children need. This is especially true in schools with a high poverty rate. Please consider spending a few dollars so that these young men (and my sweet girls, too) can have more books to read, more pencils to chew on, more after school snacks for those who need them, and more paper to create some of their first works of story and poetry. You’ll serve as an excellent reason for me to get them to learn how to write thank you notes.



Day 1: Dear Ajay and Ari

*Today is the first post in the “Dear Gratitude” project for November 2013. Each day in November, a different writer will share a letter to someone or something he is thankful for. Today’s contributor is my friend and spiritual hero, Betty Gail Jones, AKA Nanna. Thank you for sharing, Betty Gail!*

Dear Ajay and Ari,

Two of Betty Gail's grandbabies, currently living in Asia

Two of Betty Gail’s grandbabies, currently living in Asia

It is November, and in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving during this month.  Some years ago, as your mom and Aunt Kelly grew up and were married, we decided to make Thanksgiving our special holiday to celebrate family time.  Christmas was always so busy, and with their husbands’ families to consider, it wasn’t always possible to be together, so we made a plan to always be together for Thanksgiving.  For several years, we enjoyed going to Branson together where we played games, ate amazing meals and shopped until we dropped.  The times were so special, and our memories of being together are precious.

Now that you and your parents live overseas, sharing holidays together and other special times are and will be a rarity.  We are so grateful to see you on Skype and talk with you via the Internet though.  I realize that your country has its own celebrations and holidays, but I want you to know about your American heritage.

As the name suggests, Thanksgiving is a time when we think about the blessings in our life, or at least should.  Sometimes we get caught up in cooking and eating a lot of food and watching football and forget about that part.  The first English settlers of America had made it through a very hard winter and survived.  They had been greeted by the Native American people who lived in this country with friendship.  They had been shown how to survive and how to plant and make crops grow.  They were grateful to God for life and had a feast.  The Pilgrims and Indians shared in the feast with food from both groups of people.  I think this is something like you do with your neighbors who live on your rooftop.  It is like you are Pilgrims and they are the Natives of their country.  They have helped you and your family by sharing their home with you.  You have given them gifts from the United States and shared holidays with them.  You celebrate life with them by sharing birthdays and special days, and as they question you about your God, you can share Him, as well.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that should be shared with people you love, wherever you are.  Instead of turkey and dressing, you might share Dal-baht and instead of yeast rolls maybe naan.  You might watch some fut-bal instead of football.  But you are blessed, and one thing should be the same – both you and I should, as the Pilgrim people were, be thankful to our God for his provision and love.  Just as we share the table in celebration, we will also share the Source of our blessings with those whom we love.

Until the day when we can celebrate Thanksgiving together, remember that I love you and thank God for the blessing of you, every day!

Love, Nanna