Story #8 as we countdown to Thanksgiving is what I call “The Power of a Thank You.” It is originally titled, “Thank You Mrs. Pfeil,” by Carl Nelson, and it appeared in the July 2003 Ensign. Here it is:
When business meetings brought me to my childhood hometown of Mansfield, Massachusetts, I looked up the Web page of my old middle school. At the end of a list of current faculty members was Mrs. Christine Pfeil, my eighth-grade English teacher who was a truly influential person in my life.
When I was in eighth grade, difficulties at home left me angry and distracted from school responsibilities. Other teachers didn’t pay attention to my altered attitude and slipping grades, but Mrs. Pfeil took a personal interest. She would never accept less than my best. Often she would write on my assignments, “You can do better—try again.” Grudgingly, I would redo the assignment, thinking, “OK, you want something better? I’ll give you something better!” In her class, I felt intelligent and appreciated. When I left Qualters Middle School after eighth grade, I knew I could succeed scholastically because of Mrs. Pfeil’s belief in me.
As I looked at her name on the Web page that day, it suddenly seemed overwhelmingly important to tell her as soon as possible how she had influenced my life. I determined to find her, so at noon the next day, I excused myself from a business meeting and sped to Qualters.
I had just tried her classroom door when I saw Mrs. Pfeil walking down the hallway. “Carl Nelson!” she exclaimed. “I haven’t seen you in 25 years! What are you doing here?”
Impelled to deliver my message, I began abruptly. “I feel I need to tell you personally how important you were in my life. In eighth grade I was going through difficult times, but you expected my best. Precious few demanded that much from me then. As far as I can tell, your faith in me was the major reason I began trusting in my own abilities. I don’t know what my life would have been like without a teacher like you.”
As I spoke, Mrs. Pfeil’s eyes became wet. “I have to tell you a story,” she said. “I have always wanted to be a writer, even though I felt God wanted me to teach. Last night I was feeling hurt that I had never received any appreciation for my work. I told God that unless I received some thanks the very next day, I was going to retire from teaching and work on my writing. And now here you come after all this time to thank me on this particular day—this blessing is almost too much!”
Mrs. Pfeil and I were unable to talk longer. Her students began arriving, and I left, humbled that Heavenly Father let me share in helping one of His children. Reflecting upon my brief experience with Mrs. Pfeil, I remained impressed that no matter who we are or what church we belong to, our loving Father works in our lives to answer our prayers.
I love this story because it shows the power of prayer. God does answer prayers! I also love it because it shows how wonderful a simple “thank you” can change someone’s life. I’ve been helping out in a homeschool group for my kids. I teach a class for older teens in the morning, which can be somewhat stressful, and then in the afternoon I’m basically on the crowd control team for the younger kids’ drama class. I don’t even teach in that class, which is great because by then I want to relax, but the sweetest little girl, Kylee, in that class, has noticed my presence there. She took the time to write me the note I have in the picture above. It totally brightened my day! I’ve often wondered where some of my teachers are today. I know I never thanked any of them for teaching me. I’m going to write at least one thank you note this month and one next month. I challenge you to do the same, write a thank you note to a teacher, a parent, a grandparent, or someone else who has influenced your life for good.
Here are more stories of saying “thank you”
- Nine Lepers and a Thank You Note by Jane McBride Choate
- Think to Thank by Pres. Thomas S. Monson (this includes many stories, including one of a teacher getting her first thank you note after teaching for over 50 years)
and here are some simple tips to writing thank you notes. Next time I’m on FHE activity, we are going to do this! Remember, the note doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy, a simple note on plain paper will do like Kylee did for me. Don’t let the desire to have it look beautiful keep you putting it off so you never write it!