My mom taught me many things, but two that have served me well are: Always send a thank you note, and refill the ice cube tray after you use it. Many folks have overlooked my transgressions because I practiced these simple courtesies.
Expressing the sentiment of appreciation is difficult. Gilbert Keith Chesterton tells us, "The expression of thanks is the highest form of thought." We are forever in debt to those who are kind to us.
Further, a sense of entitlement is the antithesis of gratitude — it's a form of hubris that places us as the center of the universe where everything is judged on the basis of its effect on us. When you think that the world owes you, any simple courtesy becomes your just due. The Old Testament Writers in the Book of Psalms tells us, "Goodness emanates from a fear of the Lord." To fear the Lord is to know your place in life, and when you know that place you become thankful for it.
My thoughts this morning were prompted by mental meanderings during the last spirit rally at La Cañada Elementary School. It would be the last time Simone would participate in this child-driven display of devotion to school and the last time that I would watch her. As the children sang the chorus of the school song, "LCE . . . a place where children and grown-ups like to be," I felt certain nostalgia because Simone was moving on, leaving, following the natural progression of life. I guess you call that growing up.
Simone was leaving much more than a place. She was leaving the foundations of her beginning. But most importantly, she was leaving the teachers who had nurtured her every step of the way. I found the moment symbolic — as the children transitioned through the subtleties of the rally, the teachers stood silently in the background as though they were marble pillars holding up the new colossus that would soon write the next chapter in the story of the world.
As a father, I struggled with myriad emotions. Was I ready for her departure from childhood? Instinctively I knew that I would never be ready for that. However, my biggest sense of frustration was how to sufficiently thank the teachers, staff and administrators who had taken the sixth-graders from crayons to perfume. My only recourse was a thought from William Shakespeare: "I can no other answer make, but, thank you, and thank you." It's not good enough, but words are all I have to express such sentiments.
I have fond memoires of my elementary school, Saint Frances of Rome. I remember every teacher I had from the first through the eighth grade. They're not mere images associated with an indiscriminate name, time and place. Instead, I see these women in color. I can still smell the soap they used. Holding them closely is a way of expressing my perpetual gratitude. I carry the nostalgia of their memory in the color of my eyes. It's who I am. Teachers just don't affect the moment. The spell they cast will affect our children's children.
The greatest gift that the graduating sixth-graders can take with them does not pertain to their academic and social milestones. Instead it is the memory of the school, teachers, staff and administrators who gave them their roots the burgeoning need to move on. Children who readily anticipate flying away are obviously nurtured well.
Saint Frances of Rome and La Canada Elementary will always be home.
LCE, PCY and Palm Crest, you've done your jobs well. As a dad I humbly say, "Thank you!"
I vividly remember the day I graduated from the eighth grade. I was ecstatic to be moving on, and I thought I'd never look back. I realized a long time ago that I have looked back every day since.