I recently got a letter in the mail that made me so happy. (Hi, AN, I'm talking about you.) It contained the words, "I wanted to shoot you a quick note (which is probably 15 years overdue) to thank you..." I never expect, require, or time notes of genuine gratitude. There's no expiration date on sharing kind words. I even think that because the message didn't arrive when he was my student, it ended up meaning much more to me!
Many teachers get perfunctory notes from their students at the end of the year or after writing college recommendations. The fact that students scrawl those missives at the urging of parents or guardians or college counselors doesn't make them less meaningful or uplifting. When students, even under duress, explain what about the class they enjoyed or what they learned, they're doing a nice thing for their teachers. I'm always happy to receive what students liked and what didn't work for them; I can use both kind of information to improve my pedagogy.
But this letter was something different. Nobody told this former student he should write to me. On reflecting on what stayed with him from his time at Hotchkiss, he decided to share his thoughts. He told me that in my class, he formed a lifelong friendship with a classmate. (Hi, GF!) I fondly remember their shenanigans, acts that added levity to our class but never distracted from the content. My student said that he gained confidence in his skills as a writer and thinker. Most important, he said that his time at Hotchkiss allowed him to "become a more authentic version of" himself.
I can't, of course, take credit for any of this. I imagine that he wrote similar notes to several of his Hotchkiss teachers, advisors, and coaches. But here's the thing, none of these asides diminishes the fact that getting his letter felt great. The more people he wrote to, the better. Waiting so long after our time in Main Building room 122 doesn't weaken the power of his words; it strengthens his message.
That fact got me thinking about the timing of other positive acts, and I decided that no good deed has a time limit. Random acts of kindness share momentary joy, but the non-random ones mean even more and can have lasting effects. Can you think of people from your past who've had a lasting impact on your life or outlook? Maybe this is the week you can tell them what their support meant to you.
I thank you for reading my post and hope you'll share your responses in the comments.