The school year is winding down. Students are putting finishing touches on projects in progress, including the Gratefulness Journals that the children in my classes were filling with their expressions of gratitude. We collected all the individual sheets and put them into a decorative binder for the students to glance at while at home and share with their families. It was my hope that this exercise would heighten their sense of gratefulness beyond the school environment.
The range of things for which these kids expressed their gratitude was typically one that reflected the needs and desires of children. Perhaps the most popular item was the video game, with money and sports coming closely behind. Yet, family and friends emerged as immediate reasons for gratefulness too. Beyond the object of gratefulness, I tried to cultivate in these young hearts the very notion of gratefulness as a way of seeing the world. It was not the object but the emotional process of thankful awareness that was important.
As I returned the journals, one boy, barely 8 years old, walked over to me and as he handed his journal for me to enjoy said: "Rabbi, thank you for teaching me Torah."
I was overwhelmed by both his sweetness and his sincerity. What a gift! I could think of no greater reward for a teacher than these words of gratitude for teaching the subject I love most.