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One of the things my grandmother instilled in me from an early age was the importance of thank you notes.  She taught me how to write them, how quickly to send them, and the significance of being a person who reliably sends them.  These days I fear she would be sorely disappointed with how those carefully honed skills have deteriorated over time – not that I do not know how to write them or understand their importance, but how my overflowing plate often means the list of thank you notes to be written makes it to the bottom of my “to do” pile.

That is why I am thankful for the ways in which our country has designated this week as appreciation weeks for two powerful vocations:  teachers and nurses.  Left to my own devices, I regularly forget to show my appreciation for the teachers in our lives.  But this annual week always reminds me that for thirty-five-plus hours a week, teachers are the people who are with my children – teaching them, shaping them into thoughtful citizens, helping them grow into their unique identity, and generally helping them feel loved and valued.  I have always thought of teachers as part of our “village,” who are helping my husband and me raise our children.  And this year, more than ever, I am amazed at the ways teachers are pivoting, learning new technologies, figuring out different ways to engage children in a pandemic, and showing love to our kids while socially distanced.

Likewise, I am grateful for a week to show our gratitude toward our nurses.  My most powerful experience with a nurse was in childbirth.  I had been laboring for the better part of twelve hours when I finally elected to have an epidural.  Everyone left the room, and as I leaned forward for the anesthesiologist, I could not stop shaking – whether from exhaustion or fear, I am not sure.  But the nurse took my arms firmly, looked me right in the eyes, and instilled in me a trust so deep I can still feel it palpably ten years later.  Nurses do this every day – take our lives into their hands, guide us through healing and wellness, and comfort us in ways that build confidence, trust, and care.  And in the midst of this pandemic, they are literally putting their lives on the line to do this often-overlooked work.

I’m not sure this is enough of a thank you note to meet my grandmother’s standard.  But what I can tell you is our teachers and our nurses are doing sacred work every day of the year.  They love us, care for us, and show us the light of Christ every day.  If you have a teacher or nurse in your life, neighborhood, or circle of friends, please be sure to thank them personally for the ways in which they are changing our lives today.  I invite you to return God’s blessing they have been to you back to them.