by Jennifer Duncan
One year, during this season of thankfulness, I received an unexpected but welcome surprise, in the form of a letter. Yes…it was a “snail mail” letter, in actual handwriting, from a real person! I loved it. It was from a former student, whom I taught during my brief career as a junior high English teacher. This sweet girl just wanted to express her gratitude for the influence I had on her life so many years ago, and she spelled out in precious detail the words and acts that positively affected her life. There is no greater gift she could have given me.
So I decided to pay her the compliment of copying her idea! I thought of the people who had influenced my life, and grieved over the reality that I had never thanked them. I am not a spontaneously “thankful” person, unfortunately. But I know that when I consciously, deliberately elevate my level of thankfulness, I automatically elevate my level of joy. And I know that gratitude also raises the level of joy in the recipient as well. In that spirit, I wrote my own letter…to my seventh grade Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Sullivan.
In seventh grade, I wasn’t a particularly pleasant child. I alternated between being surly or rude, and being what I thought was “funny” at inappropriate times. Every Sunday when I entered the class, I would quip, “Never fear; Jennifer is here!” I thought this was hilarious, and so did some of the other girls. Mrs. Sullivan probably didn’t, but she would just smile, and say something pleasant, like, “And I’m glad you are!”
She never lost her patience, even when the six or seven clever girls refused to stop their silly talk long enough for her to cover her brief lesson points! She just kept trying to get a word in…always smiling…always kind. She even brought us lemon candies almost every Sunday. Maybe she was hoping to get to teach a bit, while our mouths were occupied!
Mrs. Sullivan sometimes sat by me in the worship service, and often gently placed her hand over mine, as if to say, “You are a precious gift to me.” I knew, though, that she deserved that title much more than I did. I knew that, even then, and I know it today with even greater clarity.
So I wrote her the letter, expressing my thankfulness for her, and telling her specifically the words and acts that meant the world to me. I told her about how God had worked in my life, and nurtured the seeds of Christian commitment that she planted. I told her that I “turned out okay,” in spite of myself!
Do you need to elevate your level of thankfulness? It’s one of the best ways to honor God for His faithfulness. Do you need to write your own letter, or perform some other act of gratitude? It’s one of the best ways to increase the level of joy in your life, and in the life of another. When we express our gratitude to others, we honor the God who placed these special ones in our lives.
I hope you’ll think of a way to thank your “Mrs. Sullivan” during this Thanksgiving season.
“Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” Philippians 5:16-18
Jennifer is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is mom to two grown (twin) sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law and four granddaughters. Her late husband, John, pastored two churches in Barry County, Missouri, and one in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Jennifer serves in teaching, music and lay counseling through her church, Arnhart Baptist Church, Purdy, Missouri. She also enjoys leading retreats and Bible studies for women.