Before I started writing my novel for kids, I did a lot of counted cross stitch. I even got a little creative with it and developed my own patterns. Someday, I might blog about how small the world got between me and rural women in Thailand thanks to that hobby, but for now, I'm thinking about those tiny, perfect stitches, and the satisfying patches of color that grew with every hour I sat with a needle and floss. There was something so satisfying about seeing a design come to life. First the pattern, then the blocks of color, and finally, a completed project!
If you spend most of your day like I do and don't expect immediate feedback on your results–you know, in jobs like raising kids, teaching kids, writing, or ministry-related jobs–then you might relate to the how good it felt to see some tangible results in a short amount of time. I loved to cross stitch.
Since I started writing, however, it's been years since I've done any counted cross stitch. While I love writing for many, many reasons, it doesn't have quite the same type of satisfaction to it. There isn't a perfectly-finished piece of brightly colored cloth to look at when I'm done. With writing, I'm never truly done. It can ALWAYS be revised, made better, or at least changed in some way. Even after something has been posted on the blog, or mailed or emailed to a publisher, I nearly always wish I could grab it back and change something.
Teaching or parenting or ministry jobs take this kind of unfinished ambiguity to a whole new level. You work for years, training, encouraging, asking and answering questions, teaching and sharing; you laugh with the kids, you give consequences, you get frustrated, you pray. But the thing is, you ultimately have to hope that the right things you did will stick, and the things that weren’t so right will be forgiven. These are the kinds of jobs you do without any expectation of seeing a perfect result at the end of the day. Maybe you do one of those kinds of jobs.
This week, my school and I celebrated a retiring librarian, my co-worker and friend, Nancy Holmes. She’s one of those people who did a great job, every day on the job. For seven years, I watched her share her knowledge and wisdom and love of good books with hundreds of kids. I will miss her more than I can say.
Every once in awhile, someone who works in a job like this will receive a rare gift–a word from someone telling them how special they were, how much they helped them. This week, as we celebrated Nancy (and I whined about her leaving us), she received such a gift. A thoughtful and lovely former student, now in 8th grade, wrote Nancy a two-page letter in tiny, careful handwriting, that told us that “Library made Mondays better,” “I pestered you about books,” “I’ve read 13 Gifts again, and I still love it,” “I hope the students are being good to you all. They probably don’t realize how hard you try to prepare them for whatever comes their way.”
To close the letter, she generously wrote to Nancy and I that we “made a difference in this girl’s life, heart, and brain.”
Wow. That feels even more amazing than those satisfying little patches of color of cross stitch, and worth the wait! Nancy and I were amazed by what we read from our former student.
And, yes, Nancy. I say the same to you. You’ve made a difference in “this girl’s life, heart, and brain” as well. For all our shared laughs, conversations, your daily example, and the way we could encourage each other in our faith, I am so grateful!
Dear reader, if you have one of these kinds of jobs, I appreciate you, too! Thank you for all you do! It really does make a difference!