Because I Knew You

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Apple and Books
21 Dec 2006

This week I had an opportunity to use two little words, “Thank you” in an unexpectedly meaningful context.

During my usual speed-walk to the subway, I paused, recognizing the familiar face of a high school teacher. In an all too brief encounter, we updated each other on our current activities, and I proudly informed him that I now teach first grade Judaic Studies.

We soon separated, pulled apart by tight schedules, but as I took my first steps I realized the thing I had not shared. Standing there on the windy avenue in Manhattan I called “Thank you” across the widening distance between us.

He paused.

“For what?” was his immediate question, to which I replied across the wind, “For being my teacher.” He looked at me for a moment, considering my words. Then understanding dawned, “ah, I see you understand.”

What exactly does he think I understand? As a teacher, the best part of my job is learning: about my students and my own strengths and abilities and how to help my charges grow into mature and confident adults with respectable knowledge and demeanor.

Moreover, learning includes knowing when to say thank you to those whose help is invaluable on the path toward wisdom. Ethics of the Fathers teaches, “Who is wise, one who learns from every person.” It is a powerful tribute, during this time of holiday celebrations and gift exchanges, to recognize and thank those who support us in our development acknowledge their efforts on our behalf. Their aid is intangible, yet many times more valuable than material presents.

With these thoughts in mind, I’d like to address all of those who have given me the experiences and courage to become the person that I am today—my parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, supervisors, students and their parents: as the hit Broadway show, Wicked, concludes: “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” THANK YOU!

May we all have meaningful holidays complete with the privilege of being able to appreciate the many blessings and lessons we continue to gain from those around us.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.