Gratitude for… Gratitude!
Last month, I walked into my office one day and saw a cream-colored mystery envelope with a gold ribbon on it.
It was set apart in the middle of my otherwise jam-packed desk.
Curious, I opened it, and inside was a handwritten letter of gratitude from a dancer who graduated from my studio in 2013. She went on to play the role of Tinkerbell at Walt Disney World for seven years. The envelope also included photos of her journey through her career, with detailed notes on the back so I could follow every audition and performance. (Her favorite performance? Dancing for her family.)
Reading just the first few lines of the letter, I couldn’t contain my tears.
It was such a vivid reminder that what teachers and coaches do with kids MATTERS … and it continues to matter long past the original point of connection. Sure, this student developed professional dance skills at our studio, but what she really took away was confidence, grace, and poise. She grew into her potential and became a hard-working person who found joy in her work life. All of those qualities will last a lifetime.
I also thought of her mom, who clearly taught her the value of showing appreciation. It’s a skill that has been in decline in recent times, at least as far as I’ve observed, and this letter reminded me that it’s a skill I want deeply woven into the fabric of my own children’s lives.
Upon reflection, I think my emotions while reading this letter were about much more than just receiving kind words. I read it and thought of how many studios around the country have closed—the places where kids learn these important life lessons, develop their potential, grow their confidence, build their resilience. And of course dance studios aren’t the only ones working to keep their heads above water and stay in operation. Music, gymnastics, swimming, gymnastics, cheer, sports, fitness, art studios … all of us who serve kids are reeling. The list is long and the losses are deep.
Activities are the heartbeat to so many childrens’ lives. It is during these classes, games, matches, and competitions that our kids learn about themselves and how to operate in the bigger world around them. It is during this time that their imaginations spark and their ambitions come to life. Many students see their grades lift, their emotions soothed, the bonds of their friendships cemented—and yes, set their sights on a career.
If you are reading this, my favor to ask is simple: Please continue to support your local youth activities. Sign up for that in-person class, if it can be offered safely. Agree to practice outside if that’s what is permitted. Make the best of learning virtually if they are forced to go online. Send a word of encouragement letting the coaches or teachers know how much what they do means (or meant) to your kid. And while you’re at it, send a little love to your child’s school teacher too!
Many activities are facing challenges no one could ever have prepared for and they are doing it with grit and grace. Those who can be open are doing so because they LOVE YOUR KIDS. They do it because once in a while they get a handwritten card reminding them that their work matters. And it does.
In closing, I wanted to share what’s on the back side of the letter I received from my former student:
“I am eternally grateful, and in the most magical and humble way, for you. Thank you tremendously. You helped in making not only my dreams come true, but the dreams of thousands of children.”
THIS is what we do.
THIS is why we do it.
I have SO MUCH gratitude for the gratitude that’s been shown to me. I’m passing it along to you in hopes that we can all pay it forward. <3