By Jennifer Richardson
We took my husband’s mother out to lunch on a Sunday a few years ago. At our table we were relishing some delicious food as well as performing the toddler shuffle. That is when several people are multi-tasking and entertaining a young child who is fully capable of hitting the ground at a quick run if anyone gives them the chance.
Welcoming arms were all around as we handed our precious bundle of energy back and forth. She offered hugs, sang songs, took her first ever sip of chocolate milk, and generally wiggled every minute. Every time she held her tiny hands out toward me it gave me a shot of pure happiness.
It was during one of these delightful moments that I happened to look in a particular direction and saw someone who looked familiar. We were out of town and I wasn’t expecting to recognize anyone, but there she was; one of my high school English teachers.
She looked just as I remembered her, which was remarkable because I had not seen her for almost thirty years. It was really difficult to determine her age, she had the same beautiful face and short blond hair that she had when she was my teacher.
We were not particularly close, but I remembered being somewhat in awe of her. Dressed beautifully and respectfully each day, she was a classy, pretty, intelligent woman who taught me about creative writing and put me through my paces with re-writes.
My mind quickly peeled back thirty years of life to the moment I was standing at her desk as a sixteen year old girl who actually knew very little but pretended to have life figured out. My teacher was talking about an essay I had written for her class. She liked it but wanted some sections revised. As she was finishing her critique, she took a moment to reassure me.
She stared right into my eyes and said, I love your writing—do you know how I know it is good—because when I read your writing I don’t want to stop reading, even at the end. You should consider writing someday.
She had a few others things to say, but I was lost in the glow of having a teacher tell me I did something well. Words, I would come to find, were going to be meaningful for me all of my life. Hers stuck with me; I have been writing to some degree or another since high school.
I pushed back my chair, still holding my grand-baby, and walked the short distance to her table. I knew she had remarried years ago but I was unsure of her married name. I was raised by a respectful generation so I knew I would not call her by her first name, so I simply said hello and introduced myself.
I apologized for interrupting her lunch, and told her thank you for the encouraging words all those years in the past. I told her that I had followed her directions and was indeed writing. I expressed to her that her encouragement had helped change me, and that it, along with a handful of other moments in my life, would someday lead to the embodiment of my dream to publish books.
I was never certain that she placed me; it had been many years and she taught many students, but she was very touched that I remembered her words. Those at her table were happy to see someone she had helped express their appreciation. I returned to my seat filled with thankfulness for her, and the others in my life who have offered encouragement at just the right moment.
As I sat down with my wiggly bundle of grandchild joy, I was glad I had the opportunity to practice intentional gratitude. And I was reminded once again, that the words we share can shape a life.