One of the great perks of being a teacher is that in direct contact with students, you can see and feel and know first-hand how you can affect their lives. (And, let’s be honest, how they can affect yours!) When you get letters like the one I posted yesterday, sometimes they’re a bit of a surprise, but mostly you know the moments you’ve shared that happily made an impact. And wouldn’t we all be a bit happier knowing how we made someone’s life a bit easier, a bit more pleasant, a bit more cheerful? That we made some kind of difference?
Doctors and nurses must feel this strongly, especially those in life-and-death treatments. Lawyers as well when they win your case. Therapists. Musicians and dancers when the applause rings, actors when the curtain goes down. The effect of the visual artist’s work, the author’s novel or essay or poem is more distant, but I’m certain that letters of praise cross their doorstop at least sometimes.
But today, riding the Air Train to BART, I thought of the thousands of professions and millions of people in those professions whose work benefits me though I will never meet them or be able to tell them. Take even the tiniest moment of your day— like the Air Train/BART ride after flying in to SF Airport— and reflect how many people’s work made that possible. The people who constructed the trains, the tools and machines needed to make those trains and the tools and machines needed to make those tools and machines, the steel mills that provided raw material, the electricity industry that powers them, the fabric on the seat cushions, the electric sign announcing the schedule. The farmers who fed all the people who worked on all of the above and the industries that made and produced and distributed tractors and fertilizer and such, the trucks that brought the food to the supermarkets, the people and machines that built the trucks and built the supermarket and made the cardboard boxes for shipping, the people in those industries—trucking/ grocery clerks/ etc., the politicians who approved a transit system to the airport and…… well, like the nested Russian dolls, you see there really is no end. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Do you see how absolutely necessary we are to each other?
Millions of people who just did their daily job, mostly for practical reasons (money to survive), hopefully, for pleasurable reasons, but I imagine rarely with the ongoing sense of how they are needed in the world and helping make people’s lives better. From the person on the assembly line manufacturing screws and nails to the President of the local Mass Transit system, I imagine they receive few “thank you” cards from people like me who they helped get back home after a fun weekend with old friends. I suspect that they don’t realize that without them, I couldn’t have gotten back in time to get off BART at Glen Park and see the last quarter of the Warriors/ Kings game 7 in the NBA playoffs and cheer with the rest of the crowd.
So while none of this approaches the eloquence and heartfelt expression of Marea’s letter shared in yesterday’s post, still I say sincerely to all you millions and more:
Thank you. I truly appreciate your work.