We’ve entered the season of gratitude.
My November started with news that I never thought would make me feel thankful, but it did. Nov. 2 at the age of 84, my favorite teacher Mrs. Allen passed away.
She was an English teacher, but her greatest gift was encouragement. She never missed a chance to recognize someone’s accomplishments outside of class. She made sure everyone knew when every game of every sport would be played. She let drama students perform their monologues. She let the speech team speak. She let me read my awful poetry and short stories to the class.
I still remember her patting me on the back and saying, “Will, you have so much to say. The world needs to hear it.” But the thing she said that stuck with me in the biggest way was, “Your poems sound like songs to me.”
The year after she was my teacher, I learned guitar with the intention of playing some Pearl Jam songs and having something to do to kill time. Soon, however, words started coming to me – words to songs I’d never heard before. I remember thinking, “Mrs. Allen said I could write songs.” And so I did.
I believe God knows what we’ll need before we need it and sends angels like Mrs. Allen to give it to us.
I thought of her often. Early on, when I would be so nervous before shows, I would play through a list of encouraging things people had told me: my friend Jason saying, “Man, you can really do that;” Momma saying, “If you just keep at it, something good’s gonna happen;” and Mrs. Allen saying, “You have so much to say. The world needs to hear it.”
She was with me at coffee houses. She was with me at the VBC. She was with me at The Bluebird Café.
For years I thought about calling her but was scared to. I thought it would be awkward, and I was afraid she wouldn’t remember me.
But most good things in my life have been on the other side of fear, so one day I finally did. It was awkward – but just for a little bit – and of course she did not remember me out of thousands of students.
But that didn’t matter. It wasn’t about me. It was about her. She said, “You teach so many kids. The best thing you can do is be a positive influence and hope that will carry on in their lives.”
The call ended with her thanking me for calling and saying most people wait until someone passes to tell them.
Gertrude Stein said, “Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.” I read the news of Mrs. Allen’s passing with the peace of knowing my gratitude had not remained silent.
If your gratitude has been silent, change that this November. Make the call, send the message, say “thank you.”
Mrs. Allen would tell you to. She would tell you the world needs to hear it.
Will Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville.