A Thank You Note 35 Years Overdue
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
It's funny how memories come back to us unexpectedly.
As a teacher, I have a couple of students whose lives have reminded me of my own elementary school years. Some days, in the middle of multiplication lessons, or lessons about sentence structures, I'll look at a student and realize his/her mind is somewhere else. Where? I don't always know, but sometimes I wonder if I was just like them.
Let me explain ...
When I was 5 years old my dad died. I am the oldest child. My little brother was 2 and my mom was 3 months pregnant with my little sister.
My mom did all she could to stay home with us and support us but there was never, ever enough money to even have the basic necessities some of the time. As a young girl, and the oldest child, I often worried about adult things that a lot of kids around me never thought about: money, bills, money, and bills. If my teacher looked at me and noticed I wasn't paying attention, I was probably thinking about ways to help my family make more money. Sometimes, I before E, except after C, was the last thing on my mind.
I'll tell you something beautiful about all of this ... I was able to see miracles happen in my life, and I knew I was watching a miracle because it couldn't have been anything else, and that has been one of the greatest blessings that continues to remain with me.
There is a miraculous story that has returned to my memory lately and I feel a responsibility to share this story because a thank you note is seriously overdue ...
One spring, when I was about 9 years old, the roof of our little house began to leak. I remember about 5 or 6 buckets sitting in strategic places throughout the house to catch the drips of water from the melting snows and spring rains.
We desperately needed a new roof but there was absolutely no money for a roof. We couldn't even afford food most of the time. How in the world were we going to afford a roof?
The summer came.
Gratefully, It was a dry summer.
The whole of Northern Utah was probably praying for rain, but my mom was praying that it would not rain.
We did not need to worry about our roof during the summer. My mother knew, however, that summer would not last forever, fall would soon come and something would need to be done or our roof would not make it through the winter.
One Sunday, the Bishop of our church congregation approached my mom to tell her that a man at church had given him a large sum of money and told him that it was to be used specifically for our roof.
It was a miracle - but that was only the beginning...
Very early, one fall morning, about 20 men from church showed up ready to put a whole new roof on our house. They stayed long after darkness came, but they finished the job. These were not professionals. These were men with busy lives and families of their own.
There is a scene from that day etched in my memory - I stood back on the curb by the street, a little red headed girl with a lot of adult worries on my shoulders, and I looked up at what was happening. I saw approximately 20 men on my roof, working hard, talking, laughing, and hammering away.
I watched them ... and I learned something wonderful ...
If I could write a thank you note to everyone who participated in this miracle, this is what I would write...
Dear men who fixed our roof, Over thirty years ago, you helped put a new roof on my family's home. You probably don't remember, but I do. I was 9 years old. My family didn't have any money, but we were in desperate need.
One of you paid for that roof. I have no idea who you are. I know Who does know who you are and I hope and pray that the God of the Universe gave you many, many blessings for your financial gift.
I want you to know, however, that you did so much more than just donate some money. Your generosity inspired about 20 other men to join you in this service - who in turn, inspired me. See, what you didn't realize was that there was a little red-headed girl watching all of you that day. Watching you and learning from you. You thought you were just putting on a roof but you were doing so much more. You were teaching me what it meant to be a neighbor, to be selfless, to be kind, and that sometimes we have to roll our sleeves up and get a little sweaty and dirty to do the right thing. I understand now that there were wives at home with honey-do-lists of their own for you to work on and children who would have loved to spend time with their dad. My gratitude extends to their sacrifices as well. The lessons they unknowingly taught me that day, have influenced my life also.
Thank you. Much of who I am today, is due to the powerful examples of every day people like yourselves who are just doing their best to do the right thing day after day. May God bless each of you because I know that He knows exactly who you are, where you are and what you need. Just like He knew that my little family needed a new roof. He also knew that a little 9-year-old girl would someday draw great strength and the courage to act from your examples and service. He was taking care of us then and He was teaching me lessons that would inspire me in the future. With eternal gratitude, The little red headed girl
I posted this story on a blog back in 2011. It was about this time of year because I woke up on Thanksgiving morning to discover that the Deseret News, out of Salt Lake City, UT, had found the blog post and highlighted it in a special section about gratitude for that day. While it should have been flattering that thousands of people were reading my post that day, I suddenly felt incredibly vulnerable.
I almost deleted the post.
That was back when I was still sorting through a lot of childhood stuff and I wrote the post from a place of sadness, yes, I felt gratitude, but I felt a lot of sadness.
I am reposting this today on a different blog because today, 9 years later, I am a different person. I am a different person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, and professionally. The tears that rolled down my cheeks today, were not ones of sadness, they were only tears of gratitude. I feel gratitude for those who helped my family that day, but even more than that, I feel gratitude for the life I have lived.
The experiences of my childhood are an important part of me, they molded and shaped me. These experiences created a heart that feels things deeply with compassion, understanding, and courage. My heart can see through the darkness (most of the time) and doesn't flinch at the needs of others. My heart knows, my heart KNOWS from experience, that the darkness will end and the light will come.
And, like I wrote above, I can often see miracles for what they are, its a gift from my childhood.
“God does watch over us and does notice us, but it is usually through someone else that he meets our needs.”