|Mrs. Hansen Fifth grade 1986/87'|
.....The first experience that I can recall with feeling real, down to your toes kind of gratitude, I was Eleven years old and in the Fifth grade. Mrs. Gayle Hansen was my teacher. My parents had recently divorced and oddly enough, so had hers. Somehow our homesickness for "happily ever after" drew us in closely....one with another. Mrs. Hansen loved me. This I knew. She once made silhouettes of our entire class one at a time. When she sent mine home with me, she had written a love note on the back. I still have it....some Twenty odd years later. Looking back now with my rearview eyes, I see her desire to help me see myself the way she saw me....whole and good and of worth. Mrs. Hansen gave me my first "real job." She hired me to be her after school helper. Though, I'm fairly certain she did the majority of the helping. I wiped and washed chalkboards, removed long embedded staples from cork board, wiped down counter tops and the classroom sink, organized our P.E. bucket and hung up recently completed artwork. And, for my efforts, I was given Three dollars and a trip to the faculty lounge for a Cherry Coke on the house. I'd walk home sipping my liquid prize and I knew I'd been "seen," knew I was loved. Her kindness to me caused such a flurry of emotions. It was the first time I knew a simple "thank you" couldn't possibly suffice. It was the first time I knew my gratitude for her love and compassion outweighed me. And, as I sit here in front of this blank cyber paper....It outweighs me even still. But, for different reasons. For different life circumstance. In 1994 as I prepared for High School graduation I took a six pack of Cherry Coke along with my Graduation announcement to the Office of my Elementary school and asked the Secretary to place it in Mrs. Hansens "cubby." Several days later Mrs. Hansen stood in the hallway of my childhood home with a love note for me and a hug I will never forget. Very few words were spoken. She held me tight and then took a step back...her hands on my shoulders. "I love you Sara...You define your future. It does not define you." And she was gone....Just like that. I left the next month to nanny in New York where I received Mrs. Hansens obituary in the mail. Cancer. She was in her mid-fifties. She taught school up until the day before she died. I'd like to think she knows now. Knows all the things I wish my Eleven year old heart knew how to exhale. It is with the very same heart....although older now, more "seasoned" even, that I wish to convey my gratitude to you. Each and every one. For your generosity, compassion, service and prayers. In my minds eye, each of you are standing in my hallway in an embrace that that knows no end. "Fall on your knees...Oh hear the angel voices."
Thank you for being my angels,