Monday, January 21, 2013
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
High school was not a happy time for me. That’s an understatement. By my senior year, I had abandoned all my former delight in learning, and would not regain it until I was in college and then in graduate school. I was coming of age in the late 60s when everything was in flux. I embraced the chaos, finding that the anarchy of my generation matched the maelstrom inside my soul. School? Just one more thing for me to rebel against.
But there was one shining light. Mrs. Goldfarb, my Spanish teacher. I remember little of what went on in class. Somehow, Spanish was the one subject I could apparently learn by osmosis. Without doing the homework or studying, and in spite of sleeping through class much of the time, I managed to ace tests while watching my scores in other classes plummet.
But it wasn’t the grades that endeared Mrs. Goldfarb to my troubled spirit. It was her presence. I can’t even remember a single conversation we had. But I remember her smile, and I remember the feeling I had when I would sit by her desk and visit with her when I should have been doing something else. I remember feeling always welcome, always cared about, always accepted. Her presence was the one place I felt at peace.
Decades later, as I approached my fiftieth birthday, I thought about what she had meant to me. I tracked her down in her retirement and wrote her a letter, not even sure she would remember me, but wanting to say thank you for what I remembered of her. She wrote back a lovely and gracious letter. I was glad I had written.
More years passed. Then last year, I received a note from a woman who identified herself as Mrs. Goldfarb’s daughter. Her mother had died, and while going through her things, she discovered the letter I had written. She told me how much my letter must have meant to her mother, because her mother did not usually keep letters. And she told me how much it meant to her to read the tribute I had written. I wrote back, expressing my condolences and repeating my gratitude for what her mother had meant to me.
Another year since then. Yesterday, I was looking in an old file for something and discovered Mrs. Goldfarb’s letter that she had written in response to mine. In it, she graciously thanked me and went on to tell me how teaching had enriched her life. It was beautiful. It must have meant a lot to me, since, like Mrs. Goldfarb, I so rarely keep any letters.
Tomorrow I’m going to send it to her daughter.
related posts: Kindness Memories; Thank Someone Today