What do you remember from your days in elementary school?
I have a few vivid memories, but only a few. I spent approximately 180 days per year in each of grades one through six, so that’s more than 1,000 days. Yet I can only remember a handful of them.
I remember my third grade teacher conducted “desk inspection” where she inspected our desks once a week to make sure they were neat. I remember my sixth grade teacher had a saying that she repeated often: “You never have nothing to do.”
One of my clearest memories was something that happened in fifth grade at holiday time. I think my mother sent a gift to school for each of my teachers each year. One year, I wrote a poem for my fifth-grade teacher, and I attached it to whatever gift my mother provided. I wrote poems when I was young, so the fact that I wrote her a poem was no big deal. But I really liked her — her name was Miss Mortimer. I no longer have a copy of that poem, or of the thank-you note that she sent me, but I remember what her note said. She thanked me for the store-bought gift my mother sent, but after that, she wrote, “Most of all, thank you for the poem. It is a gift from the heart, and those are always the best kind.”
Why do I remember that? I think at the time it embarrassed me — I had merely written a poem, and my 10-year-old self didn’t think it was a big deal. But now, thinking of her words, I totally get it. Gifts from the heart are always the best kind.
I need to remind myself of that as the holiday season approaches once again. Stores are full of possible gifts. The newspaper is stuffed with advertisements for gifts to buy. Places where we work have gift exchanges and “Secret Santa” events. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales just hit us.
All that is nice, but the best gifts are gifts from the heart.
Recently, our student council honored teachers for American Education Week by giving each teacher a small gift accompanied by a note.
The student who chose me gave me some paper clips, two handmade signs, and a note with very specific things I had done when she had me as a teacher, things that had inspired her. It brought tears to my eyes and made me feel good — more than the paper clips and the handmade signs, her words made me feel appreciated — a gift from the heart.
Our Art Club decorated pumpkins for teachers. The decorations were specifically tailored to the teacher they were intended for. These, also, were accompanied by a note. The note I received was personal, lovely, and made me feel appreciated — another gift from the heart.
A store-bought gift can be nice, especially if it is exactly what the recipient needs and would not otherwise buy for himself or herself. But those types of gifts are hard to come by. More often than not, gifts may be set aside and never used. The feeling of happiness lasts a few seconds as the gift is opened, and stops soon after.
But a personal note — or a poem — honest and heartfelt — does not involve stressful shopping at a mall or concern about the cost or wondering if the recipient will actually like it or use it.
A gift from the heart costs nothing, there is no stress from shopping, it is always the perfect size, and it lasts all year and possibly a lifetime.
Friends, relatives, teachers — most don’t need socks or candy or any material things. We all need to feel appreciated. Think about giving one of these cost-free, stress-free gifts that don’t involve going to a crowded store. On the other hand, sometimes it’s fun to join the crowds, go shopping and look for bargains or gift ideas.
Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]