10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) is a program to help us develop habits to grow a joyful spirit. Many of us sabotage our happiness by habits that we might not even be aware of. Identifying and changing these habits can build a reservoir of well-being to enhance our happy times and sustain us during challenging times.
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
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You are so sweet, and I can bet the letter will make her feel just as good! It's funny, how you mention these little simple things really in life, but I know others like myself can so relate. It's like that quote about people not remembering what you said maybe, but they will always remember how you made them feel. Good or bad!ReplyDelete
Karen, Yes, that is a good saying. And a good reminder to pay attention not only to the words we use but to their impact on others.Delete
What a good story. I'm sure her daughter will appreciate reading her mother's words. Funny, I found a letter a friend wrote me the other day. Hope she kept mine. It was a sad time, her daughter had just died. Her letter thanks me for my comfort. I don't remember my words, but I hope they were meaningful. Your post made me also think about a special teacher I had. I never thanked her, and it's too late to write a letter.Anyway, thank you for this post, you stirred some memories.ReplyDelete
Myrna, That has happened to me, too. I spoke to a young woman whose mother had died. Years later, I had no memory of the conversation, but she told me how much my words meant to her that day. Even if you can't write to the teacher you remember, you can send some blessings. Gratitude sent out into the universe is always welcome.Delete
I've always loved that quote of Mother Teresa, which goes so well with what you wrote. :)
Yes indeed, small things matter and we never know how it might strike a chord with someone in our lives. Whom we might affect with our actions or deeds, or whose soul we might touch - we just cannot say. I guess that's why it's said that do your best to as many people as you can in your day, and leave the rest to Him.
I've got my stock of treasured letters that my Granny and my Mom wrote to me when I was in college, and they mean a lot to me. I think there's an instant connection when we go through such letters - isn't it?
Thanks for sharing this with us. :)
Harleena, How nice that you have those letters. And yes, those small things matter. I like your approach--we all do our best and release the outcomes to God.Delete
What a wonderful thing you did, Galen Pearl and I'm glad it brought happiness to your teacher and her daughter. You have inspired me to write letters to a few people who have made a difference in my life too. Thank you.ReplyDelete
Corinne, Oh, good! I bet those letters will bring so much joy to many hearts.Delete
What a touching and lovely post. simplicity is what I see here. The simplicity of love given and received.ReplyDelete
jan, Love is simple, isn't it? When given freely, it comes back to us increased.Delete
Apparently, certain relations leave in us, the impact, that stays. Holding onto memories like these acting as cornerstones makes us human!ReplyDelete
Love is probably all it takes.
So true. When my dad died, I was so moved by the many people who came up to me, people I didn't know, to tell me how much my dad had meant to them. I was so pleased to know that he had left such a legacy of good memories.Delete
This was a lovely post. You obviously touched your teacher very deeply with the letter you wrote to her. Your story reminded me of when I was in high school and I had this humanities teacher.
For some reason he had really taken to me and he used to praise me a lot and say how I was an excellent student. At first I didn't really believe it as I never saw myself as that smart. However, the more he encouraged me, the more I wanted to learn the subject and the better I got at it.
Hiten, Teachers can mean everything to a child or a young person. One of the things I so treasured when I retired was how many former students wrote to me. The compliment I treasured most was that I gave them faith in themselves at a time when they were feeling insecure. I'm so glad if I was able to do that.Delete
I loved your comment!
I guess the more I think about it, my humanities teacher gave me faith in myself when I too was feeling insecure.
And now you have something else to share with her daughter! Lovely story! So heartwarming! It goes to show how we should show our appreciation more. You never know how much it is going to lift someone up, but we can be sure that it will!ReplyDelete
Jodi, I know! I was so surprised to find that letter so many years later. I hardly ever keep letters, so I can see that there was a purpose in my decision to keep this one.Delete
This is a beautiful post. This desire to touch or transform with words is the whole reason I write at all.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing this.
I have a similar quote for you.
"Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world." -Buddha
I love that quote--thank you!Delete
This is such a beautiful post. I remember high school. I was greatly disenchanted by it. I wasn't a rebel or anything but had a deep interesting in social and animal rights and I remember feeling discontented at how so many of my peers didn't. I wanted to change the world yet nobody else around me seemed interested in the slightest! I was most likely obnoxious when it came to some of my views but I remember one high school biology teacher who I really respected. He was a vegetarian as well and always encouraged me to follow my passions but also to always look at the other side and taught me that nothing is black and white. I'll always remember the encouragement and insight he lent me during that time. Hmm..maybe I should write him a letter! :)ReplyDelete
Jessica, I was obnoxious, too, but without the socially redeeming opinions! I hope you will write to your teacher. As a teacher myself, I can tell you that notes or emails from former students are precious.Delete
Beautiful. I had a sense of deja vu. Have you mentioned Mrs.Goldfarb in an earlier post? Such a heart-warming post. I have a little treasure of my own teachers' letters. I've always marveled at how they always responded. May Mrs.Goldfarb's soul rest in peace. I am sure her daughter will be thrilled to hear from you again.Hugs to you!ReplyDelete
Vidya, I think I did mention her before. Finding this letter that she wrote to me and being able to send it back to her daughter is another chapter in this story. Sadly, probably the last one, since there are no more letters or memories to share after this. But I hope it brings her daughter added comfort.Delete
I am sure it will, Galen.Delete
You know, my Mom was adored as a teacher. Her students remembered her long after they graduated and I have happy memories of visitors coming by all the time, who turned out to be her ex-students. How proud it made me feel! Then, a few years ago, Sury brought a colleague home - he was visiting their institute from the US. When they came in, Sury was about to introduce him to Mom and me, when his friend had a total face-palm moment and said "Devi Ma'am?" Of course, Mom was surprised at how he would know her - and it turned out that forty-five years ago, she was his Class Teacher! It was a very emotional hour for Mom as Sury's friend recalled little instances that she would have long-forgotten. It is a day I'll always cherish. We've had many such experiences, but somehow this one stands out in my mind.
:-) Just wanted to share this with you. Hugs!
Oh, that's lovely. It's funny, because I was just thinking of one of my high school English teachers in similar terms today - we were quite fond of each other, even though I was my quirky eccentric self even back then. And there was a wonderful one in middle school too.ReplyDelete
Sometimes teachers can really have an impact on us, like a sort of surrogate or auxiliary parent. You never do forget the good ones, do you? And it's nice to know when they don't forget you either. :)
Jennifer, You never forget the good ones...and sometimes the bad ones. As for you, I imagine your were always a character. In fact, I knew someone in middle school who, I think, might have been very much like you. I admired her so much.Delete
What a beautiful story Galen :-) I loved it that Mrs Goldfarb's daughter found comfort in finding your letter among her mother's precious possessions. And then you finding her letter and sending it back. There must have been great comfort in that for both of you. My remarkable teacher was Mrs Nesbit and she taught music. She instilled in me a love of music and theatre and showed me what I really could do. She was glamourous in an understated sort of way vivacious enthusiastic and kind. I admired her so much that years later I named my daughter after her LOL I think she's still teaching.ReplyDelete
Jean, So glad this brought back good memories of your teacher. If she is still teaching, maybe you could write her a letter, too! If you do, let me know.Delete
Great idea 99... shall certainly make enquiries and vest something good toward the future for the both of us. Thanks for the inspiration Galen :-)Delete
What a lovely story! That was a wonderful thing for you to do, to track down Mrs. Goldfarb and tell her what she meant to you. And it's wonderful that it comforted her daughter, too.ReplyDelete
After I started working as a newspaper reporter, I received a card from the mother of my best friends in childhood. She had been reading my articles and wrote to tell me how happy she was that I was writing, because she remembered me talking about it when I was little. That card means a lot to me--I still have it.
Tina, Thank you for sharing your story. I can understand why that card would mean so much to you. It takes so little time to do something like that, and the effect can be so joyful and lasting. How lovely.Delete
Galen, what a touching post and how wonderful you will make her daughter feel.ReplyDelete
Kathy, Thank you.Delete
My mum who was a 1st grade teacher in a number of locations received a number of lovely cards over the years and we received so many when she died at age 94. None of them said she was loving and kind, they all said that she was consistent, persistent and dedicated in a gracious way - they felt important and they talked about how safe they felt in her class and how encouraged to learn.ReplyDelete
Words do assist us in connecting - sometimes heart to heart.
I never had a teacher that seemed to care that I was in their class or that took the time to get to know me...except in 5th grade Mr. Goodwin called my parents in to tell them what a wonderful writer I was - they said, "that was nice, but why did I not seem to try in math?" I thought I was in trouble for years and years....now that I am blogging several people have said how well I write and one wrote a letter of recommendation to a publishing blog about my great writing. I believe it only comes in strange and rare bursts.
I would like to think that I communicate well and mostly that other's understand what I am saying and connecting to the words and the writer.
This year I am working at writing humorous thank you notes to folks as I have been very intense this past year.
Once again a lovely post and a good lesson.
Patricia, Thank you for sharing your story. It shows how words can build us up or tear us down. The Bible says that life and death are in the power of the tongue. So true. How wonderful that you have pursued your gift of writing.Delete
Just a lovely heartfelt post. I felt such a warmth spread through me as I read of this experience with your teacher. Regretfully I don't have a lot of memories about my teachers. My brain seems fried at times. I love this story and think it is awesome you are going to send the letter to her daughter. I loved this one and thanks for sharing it.ReplyDelete
LeAnn, If not a teacher, perhaps there is someone else in your past who made a difference. As for the fried brain, I hear you! I bet many people can relate to that. Ha!Delete
This was a beatiful example of taking the time (we DO have it!) to share a kind word and gratitude. They (the kind words) live on and on long after we have gone. Of course, to love one another is the main tennet of all religions but to me, the very least we can do is to be kind to one another. It's free! And it's so worth spreading around!
SuZen, In these economic times, we often think of what we get on our investment. This is a great example of a small investment of time with a tremendous payback in joy and appreciation. So you are right--we always have time to be kind, to make someone's day a little brighter.Delete
There are those teachers who reach out and manage to touch both our minds and our hearts. What a wonderful tribute you have written here for a very special woman. I'm sure her daughter will treasure this, too.ReplyDelete
Martha, Thanks for your kind words, and congratulations on your great book news!Delete
Teachers do what they do for moments like your letter incident. To reach someone at a time when the right attitude and presence can have a lasting impact makes the long hours and marginal pay worth it. At least that was my mom's feeling after teaching for nearly 40 years.ReplyDelete
Bob, I hope your mom got many thank you's. I'm sure she deserved them.Delete
Presence! It all boils down to presence, doesn't it! This is a beautiful reminder. Thank you.ReplyDelete
Sandra, Yes, that is the basic principle. Mrs. Goldfarb modeled this beautifully.Delete
What a great story, Galen. I once spoke at my church. A woman in the congregation wrote me a note thanking me for what I said, indicating how touched she was.ReplyDelete
Yep, I still have the note.
Simple. Thoughtful. And feels so wonderful!
Ken, Yes, it does! I, too, spoke in church once and got a similar note. I was so humbly touched by the time the person took to write it and send it to me.Delete
Wonderful post Galen. Kind words are so powerful and affirming, thanks for sharing. Take care, Guy.ReplyDelete
I like this. Its like the gratitude letter that keeps on giving.ReplyDelete