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Warren Ristine: Heartfelt thank you is a priceless gift

It is important that we remember to thank people who have done something to improve our lives. You will never know when that little gesture will help a person more than she ever helped you.

I have been happily married to my wife for 34 years. We do everything together; we really are each other’s best friend.

Recently, after completing one of our early morning mall-walking exercise events, we sat down to share a little conversation and a cup of coffee. We talked about our children, upcoming vacations and just life in general. It was during this Saturday morning ritual that she broke my heart.

I always knew she was a dedicated educator. She is one I would have liked to have had in my younger days. I was far from the smartest student in the class and could have used her guidance.

Kathy has been an elementary school teacher for 38 years. But due to a school closing, she lost her job. It was a real disappointment for her because she still feels that she has a lot to offer and she was not ready to give up her career.

Unfortunately, because of the area in which we live and the current economy, who among us does not know someone who has been in the same position?

I remember helping Kathy clean out her classroom. She was very careful with everything she had accumulated over the years because she was sure she would be able to find another job and continue educating children, something she has always found so rewarding. Sadly, this did not happen.

On that Saturday, as we were sitting in the coffee shop, I saw a little girl I did not know looking through the window. She was talking to her father and I could see that they were both looking at my wife. Soon the father and daughter walked into the coffee shop. They were not looking to purchase anything; their only mission was to look at Kathy to make sure it was really her.

I heard the father say to his daughter, “See it really is her.” Immediately this little girl ran over to my wife and gave her a big hug. The girl, whose name I now know is Ava, was so very happy to see my wife.

Ava was a student in Kathy’s last class, and the girl had come to the mall that day to take a cooking class. Her dad was very proud to tell my wife that Ava has a 93 average so far this year. He also told Kathy that he was so happy that his daughter had such a great teacher last year. He proceeded to thank her for everything she has done for his daughter. With that Ava gave my wife one last hug and went on to her cooking class.

My wife searched through her purse and found a tissue. When I looked at Kathy, her eyes filled with tears and she started to cry. I asked her what was wrong. She just looked at me and stated, “See, I was a good teacher.”

That little gesture shown by Ava and her dad was more valuable to my wife than a million dollars.

In this day and age, when so many bad things are happening in the world, we have to find a way to start to mend our ways. How many of us have done what little Ava has done and thanked someone for helping them?

It seems to me that if we all picked a person a day to thank, we would live in a much more friendly and compassionate world.

Warren Ristine lives in Hamburg.