A teacher asked her students to list the names of their fellow classmates on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. They were then to think of the nicest thing they could say about each one of their class and write it down on the paper. The assignment took the entire class period. Each student handed in his or her paper.
Over the weekend the teacher wrote every student’s name on a separate sheet and listed everything every classmate wrote about the person.
On Monday the teacher gave every student his sheet listing all that the other classmates had written about them. Very quickly the entire class was smiling. One girl said, “Really? I never knew I meant anything to anyone’! Another said, “I didn’t know others liked me so much”. No one ever mentioned the papers in class again. The teacher never knew whether the students even mentioned the assignment to their parents, but the project seemed to accomplish its purpose. When the school year ended this class moved on.
A few years later, one of the classmates who entered the military service was killed in Vietnam. A funeral service was held for him. The church was packed. One by one those who loved him walked by the casket, former students first and then the teacher. A soldier who was a pallbearer stepped up to the teacher and asked, “Were you Mark’s math teacher”? When she said, “Yes,” he replied, “Mark talked about you a lot”.
After the funeral the former classmates and teacher joined Mark’s mother and father for lunch. His father said, “I want to show you something”. He pulled out a wallet that was found on Mark when he was killed. From the wallet the father pulled two torn pieces of notebook paper that had been torn, taped and folded many times. The teacher knew immediately that the papers were the ones she had given to Mark, listing all the good things his classmates had said about him. Mark’s mother said to the teacher, “As you can see, Mark treasured this”.
Then the former classmates began to speak. Charlie commented, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home”. The wife of another, Chuck, said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album”. “I have mine, too. It’s in my diary,” replied Marilyn. Vickie pulled her worn list from her wallet saying, “I carry this with me at all times. I think we all saved our lists”.
Then the teacher began to cry, for Mark, for his family and for all his friends who would never see him again but who would never forget him or each other because of her assignment. It was so simple, yet so profound. Writing something to someone who perhaps didn’t feel welcomed or loved. Reaching beyond ourselves to others.
Has anyone ever spoken or written a word of appreciation or encouragement to you? Sometimes, especially as the years slip by, we wonder if anybody notices us or cares about us. It has been said, “Give flowers now while they can be smelt and enjoyed, not later when the person we would honor is gone”. If we ever intend to speak nice words let’s say them while they can be heard.
If we had our name at the top of a sheet of paper so that the others from family or friends could write about us and what we mean to them, what would be written? Would the list be long or short?
Through the years I’ve received a number of such comments. From a lady in prison who listened to my messages on the radio… from teenagers who were touched by God in one of my youth programs… from parents and older people who prayed for me and gave me rich encouragement through difficult times… from those in hospitals or homebound who longed to be prayed for. These notes I cherish and pray I can live up to each special expression.
Have you written a thankful note to anyone else? Now would be the time to do that! Make that phone call. Jot down your gratitude for another and get it to them. Make that visit you have meant to make.
I hope this will be the start of a special list for you, a special “Thanksgiving Always”. “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers”. Ephesians 1:15-16
Til next time, Don Johnson, Producer/Host/Afterglow