Teachers Write 7/9/13 Tuesday Quick-Write with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

It’s time for your Tuesday Quick-Write, and guest author Amy Ludwig VanDerwater joins us with a little writing of gratitude today…

Amy is the author of two poetry books for children: FOREST HAS A SONG (Clarion, 2013) and READING TIME (WordSong, date TBA).  She is also co-author (with Lucy Calkins and Stephanie Parsons) of POETRY: BIG THOUGHTS IN SMALL PACKAGES (Heinemann, 2013).  You can find Amy at her blogs, The Poem Farm, a site full of hundreds of poems and mini lessons and Sharing Our Notebooks, a site celebrating notebooks of all kinds.



Look around.  Wherever you are, strangers have touched your life: pioneers cleared the land, a faraway soul designed those shoes, someone unknown to you raised your puppy during his first weeks.  Invisibly, strangers bump against and through our lives.  Today stop to thank one.  Write a letter.

The style of your letter does not matter.  You may write a formal letter or you may simply write notes.  You may write a poem or a story or a list.  You may share or never share.  But thank.  And begin with a stranger.  It will not be hard to find one. Just look around.

This is a snip from a letter I recently wrote to a stranger.  Glancing atop my desk, I saw two dolls sewn by our daughters.

Two Friend Dolls

One quick glance reminded me of my own long-ago doll:

Dear Stranger,

When I was six years old, you sewed something for me.  You did not know me or my family or what would land me in the hospital (tonsils), but still, you sewed.  You sewed a doll by hand, a doll about seven inches long, her head the size of a silver dollar.  My doll had yellow yarn hair and a full-skirted kelly green and white checkered dress.  She was a post-surgery gift, given to me by a nurse. 

In the 1970’s, you were a hospital gift-sewer, a hidden volunteer, my doll’s mother.  You created this doll with simple peach hands and bits of lace on her collar and sleeves.  You made her bright green satin legs.  And I never said, “Thank you,” because I never knew who you were…

We are touched daily by those we will never know.  As Margaret Tsuda writes in her poem Commitment in a City, “If we should pass again/within the hour,/I would not know it./Yet –/I am committed to/love you.”  In his poem Candles, Carl Dennis encourages us, “But today, for a change, why not a candle/For the man whose name is unknown to you?”  Why not?  And as we sit in candlelight, why not write a few lines of gratitude too?

 Note from Kate: Thanks, Amy!  Campers, as always, feel free to share a few lines of what you wrote today in the comments!

We’ll be giving away a copy of Amy’s FOREST HAS A SONG to one commenter, drawn at random.

122 Replies on “Teachers Write 7/9/13 Tuesday Quick-Write with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

  1. Hi All! I will be teaching today and unable to comment until the afternoon, but I just wanted to thank you for stopping by and wish you all well in today’s bout of writing…whatever it will be for you. – Amy LV

  2. Creator of Forged Iron

    You made this tree that stands
    upon a bass
    with no roots
    upon the shelf.

    You made this to hold
    small picture frames
    that hang from fragile
    chains that move
    with each step.

    Surely, one day,
    each face in the frame
    will branch out
    and leave.

    But you cast this tree
    of iron and it
    still stands,
    stalwart sentry,
    it’s inner rings
    we’ll never see
    but the heart
    of the tree is the fruit
    that hangs upon its branches
    in tiny frames
    that look like boxes
    when I squint my eyes.

      1. I should try to post a picture of this tree. I got it for Kristie for Mother’s Day one year. It is forged of metal. It came with these little frames that you are supposed to put pictures into. The frames have these little delicate chains so that one might hang the pictures from the branches of the tree. I got it at Hallmark. We don’t have pictures in our frames. I had thought maybe to put some writing quotes in the frames and put the tree in Room 407 to go along with the bird theme that is taking off and taking shape within the room.

    1. Love this – as soon as I read it, I looked up from my desk and saw my daughter’s senior picture on the wall and knew who I had to thank. Your poem inspired me to write about that photograph! I love your idea about how to use it in your classroom!

  3. I love the prompt and will have a go at it tomorrow. Tonight I am going to brainstorm a list of possibilities. So fun! I want to say thank you also for your lovely poetry website. I will definitely be coming back to it. It looks like a wonderful resource for my class.

  4. Just read the poem, Hole, and had to buy the book. Thank you for opening my eyes to this poem.

      1. The poem by Lillian Morrison is in the anthology
        This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort
        You will be taken to an electronic version if you click on the link to Commitment in the City

  5. Dear Stranger,
    Thank you for caring. You touched my life and set an example that I try to live up to daily. A random act of kindness. Whoever thought I would get emotional over toilet paper and toothpaste. You took time to find out our secret. While everyone else was telling us how sorry they were that my dad’s boss got killed and my dad was out of work you showed you cared and filled a need. You did not pump our hands and speak empty words. It was such a surprise to come out of church and find two sacks in our car. No one saw anything. It wasn’t given for show, but out of love. A loaf of bread, some tuna, peanut butter and other items you knew would get us through. Then there were the necessities no one would think to give, the toothpaste, soap, toilet paper. How did you know? Had you been in our shoes before.Then there was the card with the gift card for food. For four weeks we got those anonymous cards. You kept us afloat until my dad was able to find a job. We never did find out who you were. It didn’t matter. To me you were our guardian angel sent by God above.

  6. To the nurse in the NICU: thank you for
    and caring
    for our newborn baby
    so that she could
    come home with us
    healthy and strong.

  7. Two thank yous: one for Amy and one for a stranger…
    1) Amy, thanks for the quick write. It reminds me of _This Is Just to Say_ by Joyce Sidman (a collection of poems that riff on William Carlos Williams’ famous apology verse). I’m also grateful for the resources at the Poem Farm.
    2) Coasting to the intersection, I looked both ways and saw no cars coming, so I glided into the crosswalk, against the grain of traffic. I know this is a no-no on a bicycle but, as I said, I was in a hurry – which is also probably why I didn’t take a moment to check the oncoming lane. You were driving a cable van over there. I’m guessing it was close to quitting time, so you were likely in a hurry like me. You had just rolled up to the red light and planned to make a right on red because the cross street was clear, as I had noticed too. We saw each other about the same time. I saw the sudden start/stop of your white van, lurching as you jammed the brakes, your eyes wide, eyebrows cranked. Then, your shoulders relaxed, and your hand on the steering wheel gave a little two-fingered wave. Thanks for being more watchful than I was. Sorry I cut you off.

    1. Thank you for writing about this scary moment. As a pedestrian and a cyclist you make me think about how my life is in the hands of the drivers who stop at intersections and who look before they turn. Like you I try to walk and cycle carefully, but sometimes hurry a little too much. We each owe our lives to the care of strangers and the only way we can really give back is to return the favor and drive, cycle, and walk with care.

    2. Brian – Thank YOU for your ‘thank you’. I am glad that you find The Poem Farm useful. I read your piece out loud to my husband, and he recounted a similar experience he recently had as a driver of a car encountering a motorcyclist. There are so many ways to show kindness on the road, and your letter shows this…. a.

  8. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the people that have been or are in my life and the meaning of my life. Thinking about the strangers and writing a letter will be very interesting. Thank you.

  9. July 9, 2013
    Dear Legion,
    I live in your city. You built the streets, the subway, the sewers, and you built them to last! Unlike the engineers and constructions workers leveling your work with bulldozers and building towers with cranes and pneumatic drills, you created our landscape with shovels and sweat. I see you leaning on your shovels memorialized in old photographs standing in a proud group surrounded by bricks, beams, and wheel barrows.
    It may be fashionable to complain about our city’s century old systems. The water lines and sewers, the step streets and cobblestones. But you built our city with good bones. You made it to last. It is sad when by necessity an ancient cobblestoned street is pulled out to replace the (equally ancient) sewer lines. The modern asphalt will buckle, pot holes forming within a year.
    Nothing created today with our modern power tools and technology will ever equal or outlast what you made with your hands. I hope you looked at your creation, lived in the buildings and walked on the streets, and were proud!

    Your Lucky Tenant,
    Elizabeth Dejean

    1. I love that, Elizabeth! You capture what is important about the past and honoring history. Those cobblestoned streets have so much character! I like the line, “But you built our city with good bones.” Well done!

    2. Wow. I think of this often. It seems that this could be so beautifully paired with a photograph, in a collection of such letters thanking those who have come before, in so many productive and beautiful ways. a.

  10. I really loved this idea. It opened up many thoughts and took me to many times and places. I took time to really view a recently purchased piece of art (something we don’t usually do)and wrote about the intricate details within the piece. Thanks.

  11. Dear dog water providers,

    My dogs and I thank you for your gift of water. Sometimes, on a hot day, your bowls determine our path. My dogs know exactly where to go, too. Someone may think we’re going to the beach or window shopping, but they are wrong. We’re going water hunting, and whether you’re doing it to make us stop and look into your store or doing it out of kindness, it makes all the difference to us.
    Sincerely, Emma, Willy and Diane

      1. Aw! What a smile I have on right now. Our local Main Street has dog water bowls out, and now when I see them, I’ll think of you and your lovies… Small gestures matter so greatly… a.

  12. Thank you, Andrea, for capturing my daughter right before her senior year in high school with your camera. You drove her around this historic, picturesque town for hours during her senior photo session, placing her in a time and place she will keep in her memories. Thank you, especially, for the one of her laughing, head thrown back slightly, eyes twinkling, her curly hair cascading over her young shoulders. It’s hanging on our wall, right as you go up the stairs. She was on the cusp of her senior year, such a meaningful year that will quickly become distant in her mind’s eye. Time passes so fast. But for a moment you caught her high school essence – her sweetness, joy, and compassion. It’s a few years later now, and she’s in Ecuador on a mission trip, sharing that smile and joyful spirit. Thank you for your passionate eye, able to mark that moment. We know more photographs will be coming…college graduation, a wedding, family pictures of her own. But for now, she graces our wall with the promise of a bright and fulfilling future. Your grateful client, Holly

    1. With our eldest about to enter high school, this just got me. It’s amazing how when a photo is taken, it feels like that time will always last…but then the calendar pages fly, and our children are off in other countries. What a gift. All photographers will be grateful for this… a.

  13. It is the first day we see blue, but the rain hadn’t washed aways the breathtaking heat. Hidden in the corner, you are laughing with your sister friend about who had the most toppings. Your long hair streaked with highlights only a summer child wears, Nutella frozen yogurt drops on your white tank top. In the corner is a very pregnant woman savoring the sweetness and marking off pages. Beside her, a table of sweating boys, huddled over a screen.
    I can see the car through the window and know the meter is finished. I had you dig under the car seats; pennies, goldfish, one dime. One dime for four minutes. My time is up, but my cup is still half full and the air is so cool.
    A mother at an outside table reaches in her purse and pulls out 2 quarters. She hands them to her child, who is probably not more than 10, and motions to the meters. He walks over and slips the coins into the machine. I silently thank him, and her, for allowing me to savor the remaining bites.

  14. Dear Stranger:

    I found your beautiful knitted and felted bowl on Etsy. I don’t know you, but I too am a knitter. Though I could have knit this myself, I did not. I loved the thought of you choosing a bright red thick ply yarn and knitting it with your hands. I wondered if your hands are large and chapped and raw from dying yarns and working on a farm for over 30 years. I wondered if they are small and soft and delicate; if this is the work you do to get your 19 year old self through college. You didn’t know this, but I bought your red felted bowl as a gift to my family four years ago. It was our first Christmas in our 132 year old farmhouse in Maine. While I waited for it to arrive, I found pretty blessings and wrote them on scalloped notecards. Then I watercolored over the cards to make them colorful. You don’t know this, but we bless our family every day with cards from that bowl. We have memorized them, but we always take them out and balance one on the side of the bright red bowl as we read.

    blessings on the blossom
    blessings on the root
    blessing on the leaf and stem
    blessings on the fruit
    blessings amen

    Blessings to you and your hands.

  15. Yesterday
    between naps and feedings
    we left our nest.
    I balanced my own little fledgling
    and two packages
    three envelopes
    a fistful of addresses
    in our quiet post office.
    He watched me from his perch on my hip
    and did not make a chirp
    as I filled the wide envelopes stuffing them, imperfectly,
    with a fast, untidy shoving.
    The only sound was the
    of a thick tape roll
    being pulled by the postal worker.
    I remembered then that I had it all
    diapers baby wipes teethers a change of clothes a pair of socks two books sunscreen a hat tissues a blanket
    I had it all except
    packing tape.
    I am still learning.

    I gathered my clumsy array from the counter
    the paper, the packages, the envelopes,
    the baby in one crook of my arm
    and approached the counter
    feeling sorry
    for what I had forgotten.
    I may have opened my mouth to start an apology
    and to ask to use some tape
    but didn’t have a chance to speak
    before you
    pulled a strip of tape from aside your register
    and slid it the top of my package,
    then grabbed another piece
    for the other side.

    Thank you for that kindness,
    for doing that,
    even though you didn’t have to.
    You sealed my belief
    that people are good.

    1. This is beautiful. I have a 7-month-old and feel like I just experienced this the other day. I particularly like your list of things you remembered in your bag. We are so proud that we remember everything, until we remember we forgot something, usually something quite important. Thank you for sharing the kindness of this stranger.

    2. Oh, those baby days! How clearly have you captured the ability of a mom to remember everything so important…and then forget that one last detail that is not a baby-related-item. Blessings on your stranger, perhaps a parent remembering the beauty of a child on one’s hip. a.

  16. These lines of gratitude
    Fill my heart with hope.
    Hope for the old and young,
    and all the in between.
    We are a world inundated
    with pain and suffering.
    But we have choices.

    We can choose to help
    choose to love
    choose to forgive
    choose to serve
    choose to sing, and dance, and wonder.

    Thank you,
    for using your voice
    to remind us to use our voices to choose to thank.

  17. You made it possible.
    To laugh, to leave.
    Thanks rugby team.
    Passing me a joke.
    As tears streamed down my face.
    I drearily looked out at the palm trees from the airplane window,
    Saying goodbye to my hometown forever.
    The eight of you, big burly guys with red and white striped jerseys,
    Listened to my sadness, my devastation, my desolation
    My home and family would never be the same
    Thanks rugby team
    You rallied
    You fended off my complete melt down.
    I think of that day
    Sitting in my contained seat on the plane
    And I always think of the eight of you
    Strong oversize hands patting me on the back
    Encompassing me with your chatter
    Ready to tackle whatever came your way
    Thanks rugby team.

    1. Oh, what good oversized guys to be so sensitive to one who needed it. May we all do the same. What a neat piece, recognizing how kindness can come from a group, can come in a joke… a.

  18. To the puppy mill owner in Missori:

    I don’t like you
    I don’t respect you
    I don’t understand you

    But I thank you.

    If not for you,
    I would not have Archie.
    It’s easy to thank his rescuers,
    But I suppose it is you
    I should thank as well,
    As hard as it is.

    1. I LOVE this. It took an act of bravery to take this approach. I thought about it, but didn’t have the courage. Your brevity actually lends itself to the tone of your piece, begrudging and a little angry, but resigned to giving thanks anyway. Nice.

  19. To the lady with the glossy, white hair wearing a blue flowered shirt–
    You were just one
    of the many customers who passed through
    my register lane that day,
    buying a new vegetable peeler,
    or a shower curtain,
    or a gift for a bridal shower–
    You did not know me, but smiled
    politely just the same.
    You did not know how self-conscious
    I felt that day after a haircut-gone-wrong.
    You did not know how lost I had
    been feeling that summer,
    how impulsivity and the desire for
    some semblance
    of change
    prompted me to march into a salon
    I had never been to and ask to
    have inches cut from my hair.
    as I packaged up your purchases,
    your eyes caught mine:
    kind eyes, familiar, even.
    You searched me for a moment
    and then you said:

    I really love your hair cut.

    Before I could muster a thank you,
    you were beyond the automatic sliding door.
    For the rest of the afternoon as I
    climbed ladders to retrieve trash cans
    and pot sets, I wondered:
    were you my grandmother in disguise?
    an angel sent to comfort?
    You will never know how your simple
    helped me feel that I was not alone
    and that one bad hair cut
    (though maybe not so bad after all?)
    is not the end of the world.

    1. Love this. Felt like I was there. and isn’t it wonderful when someone takes the time to make a comment.

    2. Stephanie, I love this! You capture such a small moment and its big meaning… really lovely. I, too, can relate to that impulse for quick, drastic change and its accompanying feeling of self-consciousness. What a nice tribute to the woman who had made your day. Also, love the line ‘(though maybe not so bad after all?)’.

    3. This is wonderful! Just had that sort of day where I felt doors weren’t opened for me when they should have been, and then one nice, friendly man at the hardware store retorted my equilibrium. Can relate, and beautifully written!

    4. Stephanie,
      I love your evocative writing. The kindness of strangers – in small moments like you described – can brighten our day at unexpected times.

    5. This is so lovely. It works beautifully as a poem and vividly shows how a kind word at the right moment can mean so much.

    6. How perfectly you pinpoint how one of many can completely turn a day around. I have had cashiers do the same for me: that smiling glance, the sweet comment…it all matters. You have kept this woman’s kindness alive – and her clothing and hair makes me feel as if I, too, have seen her before. a.

    7. Stephanie – Thanks for this. All of these have made me teary, but I think yours especially reminded me how we can never know how much a kind comment can mean, even if it seems so small. I wish the people we’re writing about could read these.

  20. Thanks

    To the person who hired my daughter, my sincere gratitude. You took a chance on youth and inexperience. I know it is expensive to train and nurture new talent. I realize you are putting yourself out there and you are probably scanning the clock right now, hoping she arrives on time, even a little early. Hoping she will fit in quickly and start being productive.

    But it shows what great instincts you have. You read the resume. Can see she worked hard for four years. And has a background few others can match. You were wise to snatch her up while she was still available.

    As a mother I am truly grateful to you. We will never meet and unless you have your own child you might not understand what it is like to see your offspring blossom with confidence after a single, short phone call. To hear the relief in her voice. A tear slipped down my check in the doctor\’s waiting room when I found out. Thank you.

    1. I really like this. I especially like the way the letter evokes the whole range of feelings a parent has when launching your child into the world, how a parent wants the world to see their child’s strengths and for the child to walk confidently in the world. A skillful job of describing a complex set of emotions in the format of a short letter.

    2. Tammy,

      I love your letter. As a parent, although my children are not applying for jobs yet, I could feel your gratitude. Your words are straight forward and honest (spoken like a true Mom:). This person, who hired your daughter, may not have a huge impact on her day-to-day life, but he/she has helped set her on the path to a successful career. Good luck to her.

    3. This employer does not realize how lucky s/he is to have hired a girl with such a strong mom and background. This spoke to the mom in me. So many strangers touch our children…regardless of their age.

  21. Dear Stranger:
    Thank you for donating all these books to Goodwill. I know you were likely just cleaning out your bookshelf, trying to make space for something new. But I bought all these books. They only cost $10 – this whole stack. I wrote my name on their inside front cover, then added them to my classroom library. And these books that you donated? They’ll change some kid’s life.

    Because of you, an awkward teenage girl will meet Anne Shirley, from whom she’ll learn confidence and the courage to be herself. Because of you, a boy will meet Luis Rodriguez, and he’ll learn that he doesn’t have to be “Always Running” – he can leave that drugs-and-gangs life behind. One of my students, thanks to you, will get lost in Middle-Earth, where she’ll learn to let her imagination run free. Another will read these old Westerns, finally sparking that life-long love of reading that I hope all my students will find.

    You were probably tired of all these old books. You may have just thought a Goodwill drop was easiest. You’ll never know where these books turned up, whose lives they shaped – and maybe I won’t either. But they will affect someone. And for that, I thank you.

    1. Gosh…this should hang on every single Goodwill bookshelf or donation box in America. So very true. As books pass hand to hand, so does the wisdom and beauty of a culture…yay for you for rescuing these people between covers, so that they may rescue and entertain your students… a.

    2. Amen! Great choice for a letter. So many of my classroom books have come from this source. Thank you, Cassie, for writing the letter I should have written years ago.

  22. Thank you to the maker of the pink yoga mat I bought at Target. I don’t know your face — young, old, smiling, sad, if you love your job or find it tedious. I know that the pink color catches my eye every morning, leaning against the dresser, as much of a beacon to get the day started as the sun is. I leave it out like this not because it doesn’t have a place somewhere or because I’m too lazy to put it away, but because it reminds me that I have made a promise to my unborn child to practice a healthy life, to bring him into the world in 3 months as strong as possible. Each time we lift up into mountain pose, we thank you for the mat below my feet, helping me stand with strength and purpose. When we go back into downward facing dog, we thank you for the grippy mat beneath my fingers and toes, helping me stay balanced and firm. I don’t know you, but every morning you are part of a sacred ritual that will lead to the start of the beautiful life inside me.

    1. Yes. So many objects pass through our hands each day, objects made by people in a myriad of life conditions. What a tribute this is to those who work with their hands, the makers…a reminder of how each of us touches the sky. a.

  23. To All Road Builders:

    I hop in my car, shift into drive, and blithely, effortlessly go to the store, to school, or most recently, go on a 2400 mile trip to Yellowstone and environs. Our roads are such an integral part of our landscape that we scarcely think about them. Perhaps because my vacation route through Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana crossed the paths traveled by Lewis and Clark and our brave pioneers, I did think about the roads we traversed and the people who created them.

    Thank you, engineers. Thank you for persisting in your college studies and burning the midnight oil in your quest to understand geology, materials management, calculus, and other advanced math. Last week, I was the beneficiary of your expertise. You conducted soil studies, created the blueprints for bridges and tunnels carved through rock, and figured out how to grade highways so that they can be navigated by anything from a bicycle to an 80,000 pound semi.

    Thank you, construction workers. Thank you for learning to operate the immense machines that aid your work. Thank you for handling the dynamite used to blast away sections of granite mountains. I thought about you as I whizzed along smoothly paved roads in my air-conditioned car, perfectly comfortable even though the outside temperature was 90 and more. You’ve endured searing heat and bone-shaking cold. You’ve withstood pouring rain, pelting sleet, threatening lightning storms, and the unending winds of Wyoming. I complain about my sore back and aching hands after gardening for a few hours, and then I think about your strength and mental toughness as you dig and rake and smooth the gravel foundations of innumerable miles of our highway systems.

    Thank you, road builders of America. I compare my journey to that of Lewis and Clark or any of the pioneers . . . and there is no comparison. I marvel at the brilliant engineering that lets me navigate the mighty Rockies in a matter of hours. I realize that my smooth highway is the result of thousands of men’s and women’s sweat, tears, and, no doubt, blood. Thank you.

    1. What a tremendous piece, holding up those who help us get from here to there. Speaking to each of the groups that pave our travels makes this so strong. Send this somewhere…these should all be sent somewhere. I keep crying! a.

      1. Thank you, Amy – what wonderful encouragement! I, too, plan to use this prompt with my 4th/5th graders. I can see making a class book of their responses.

  24. Dear Strangers,

    As you know, when we arrived we had no idea how long my dad would be staying. He is relatively young and healthy, but his second bout of Myasthenia Gravis (he had a lesser bout 17 years before) left him very sick. The stay in ICU was much longer than my sister, mother, wife, and I expected. His ten week stay, four in ICU and six on the rehabilitation floor consisted of feeding tubes, a breathing tube, no verbal communication, and the longest two months of our family’s life. You, and there were more than one, were there for him night and day, and there is not words of gratitude that can express our thanks.

    Thank you for rolling him over. Thank you for making him feel comfortable with the feeding tube and breathing tube. Thank you for trying to communicate with him. Thank you for being patient with him. Thank you for trying to make him smile (you succeeded so many times). Thank you for helping him get healthy and move to the rehabilitation floor. Thank you for making him do his exercises every day. Thank you for taking him on walks. Thank you for playing Wii with him. Thank you for making us, his family, feel welcome every time. Thank you for letting us help him with his communication, exercises, and walking.

    Some of you weren’t strangers. I got to know you very well from my time spent with my dad. I THANK YOU. To the other strangers that were caring for him in the late night, early morning, and when I was needed at home, I THANK YOU. I expressed my gratitude to all of you, and you all said the same thing, “This is what we do.” Nurses everywhere deserve a standing ovation. Thank you.

    PS – Two years later, you would be happy to hear that my dad is out on the golf course twice a week, chases my children around the yard a few times a week, and very rarely misses his grandson/granddaughter’s lacrosse/soccer/basketball games. My mom, sister, wife, and I are forever grateful.

    1. Andy, Thank you for your kind note to me! And many good thoughts to your dad and to you. In our most vulnerable times, we are so often lifted by the kindnesses of strangers, and your letter shows this so completely. Send it to the hospital – they will know who they are…they are so many. a.

  25. Thank you, Ms. Ludwig VanDerwater!

    Your prompt led me to write my most emotional quick write of the summer.

    Thank you again for this activity. I will be using it with my sixth graders during the upcoming school year. Happy writing!

    1. I second this. Thanks, Amy, for helping us think more about the interconnectedness of life and how we can approach it as writers. Please keep carrying the poetry torch, too – such important work. And thanks to Andy for the great idea of using this with students. I’ll be doing the same!

    2. Andy, this has inspired me to volunteer either at the children’s hospital or cancer center. I will definitely use this prompt with my students and I am glad that your dad doing well.

  26. Dear Anonymous Rescuers –

    Eleven years ago, you heard the pitiful, insistent, SOGGY meow coming from under your bushes and didn’t ignore it. Instead, you found a scared tiger-striped tomcat hiding from the evil water falling from he sky. You took him in and called the Humane Society, who found that he’d been abandoned, defenseless, with no front claws. After you dropped him off, they nursed him back to health and transferred him to the Chicago Area Cat Rescue, who took one look at his handsome red and grey fur and named him…Dino. Yes, Dino.

    This wasn’t your fault, dear rescuers, but perhaps an oversight by the kind people from CACR who didn’t know him very well. Perhaps they saw how intelligent and charming he was and nicknamed him after Dean Martin? No, I didn’t think so either. Obviously someone with a Flintstones fetish named him. But worry not! Our boy waited for nine whole months with that ridiculous name until I came searching for him.

    When I met him, he was one amongst so many in that tiny room of cages at PetSmart, waiting for the right family to come along. Two other people were there that day, cooing over kittens and fluffy fur, but I knew the real test – the true tell of who was meant to be mine – The Squirrel Call. I stood at the center of the room and let loose the flurry of tongue clicks that had been the call for our family’s cats for as long as I have lived. While every cat (and human) there perked up their ears and looked, only Our Boy, Dino ANGUS, tried to get to me: pawing at the bars and rubbing himself frantically against them as if to say, “Here! I’m RIGHT HERE!”

    I took him home that day, found out his proper name – how can you mistake a Scottish king for a purple dinosaur? – and introduced him to our catless home. He promptly thanked me for the jailbreak and set about winning over my husband, who was not eager to welcome his very first pet to our home. Within a week, Angus had staked his claim on my husband as HIS person. He is polite and affectionate to me, but seeks the brotherhood of my husband’s company over mine, given the choice.

    The rest can be found here at my blog: http://mojofingers.blogspot.com/2013/07/gratitude-interlude-letter-to-stranger.html

    1. The secret squirrel call! That is so fantastic. A picture book idea for sure. This holds a tender spot for me as we too are kitten foster people. Just this evening I got a note about two beautiful long haireds whose mom was just hit by a car. Kitty lovers in WNY…anyone? Thank you for the story and connection too… a.

  27. Dear Stranger,

    It seemed like I used to know you but that must have been a long time ago. Things have changed with me now and it almost seems as if I have lost my way. But, it was you who sauntered into the room and decided that I was worth your time and that my dreams should no longer be deferred. You looked me in the eyes and I asked me was I happy. I couldn’t understand that you didn’t notice my smile and my laughter. But, you saw past it and asked me who I was. I went into a long detailed speech about how I am an educator, wannabe writer, mother, youngest sibling in my family but, not until I retreated back into my own solitude did I realize that wasn’t the question you were asking me at all.

    How could this stranger notice what so many I have surrounded myself with did not? How could this stranger ask me the one question that I have tried to avoid for quite some time? Or maybe I had been waiting for someone to finally call attention to my pain. It is funny how those who seem to want to be nonexistent, really want to exist and those who smile really want to cry. For all of the charades that are put on, I think mine was an Oscar winner.

    That stranger forced me to really look at myself, where I had been, where I was presently, and where I hoped to go. It forced me to determine who I was and how that was in sharp contrast to who I wanted to be. I took control that night after the tears and the stages of denial passed. My days became truly brighter and more purposeful. I am on a journey and have not yet reached my destination but, I am loving the route there. I accept my challenges and do not rule them as my terminal fate. And it is all thanks to the stranger with eyes that could see beyond what was in front of her.

    Thank you and blessings,


    1. What a wise stranger…and wise you to recognize it. Your letter reminds me of Rumi’s poem, “Two Kinds of Intelligence”. May your journey be full of goodness… a.

  28. I am trying to make my Quick Writes apply in some way to my WIP. My character just found a bird’s nest and wrote a note to the yard men.
    Dear Lawn-mower men,
    This here is a bird’s nest, not just a cluster of twigs like you might think.
    You knocked it down when you mowed the grass this morning.
    Next time, watch out.
    This baby needs a place to live.
    I have named him Batman, so he can know he will fly one day.
    You would be so kind to let him be.
    The guardian of nature,

    Amy, so fun to see you here at Teachers Write. Thanks for this prompt.

    1. Oh, I love Harmony! I want her to be friends with my children. What a delightful peek into her letter-writing, nature-guarding soul…. Fun to see you too – we poetry friends get around! a.

  29. I came across the quotehttp://media-cache-ak1.pinimg.com/originals/b4/db/56/b4db563edee32e7a604e2062ea9a0ee0.jpgat the following link:

      1. Okay, let’s try this for the third time: God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you?’

  30. Wrote this earlier today, but just as I was about to copy it here the concrete trucks came and I had to go work in concrete. But I wanted to make sure I shared it, because it\’s truly from the heart.

    They have never met most of our students,
    Yet they have made them laugh, made them cry, made them see the world through different eyes.
    They make our students realize that they are not the only ones going through difficult situations, heartache, indecision, pressure so extreme they feel as though they will surely explode or implode.
    In Times Roman, Ariel, or some other font they say to our students, \”Kid, there are better ways to solve that problem with that bully. Don\’t be the student who lets others walk all over him. Don\’t hide under that stairwell, or in the library; stand up to those who think they are better than you, and don\’t for a minute believe their lies.\”
    \”And you, bully,\” they challenge, \”Why are you that way? Maybe your parents have treated you wrong, or you don\’t have parents and you\’ve scrabbled through foster care most of your life. Perhaps you feel stupid and want to take it out on others. But can\’t you see this better way?
    And besides the tough things, these people also give our students permission to laugh out loud by exposing parts of themselves and those they create. Maybe it\’s the boy who is coerced into riding a bike off a neighbor\’s roof, a grandma who strings wire around an outhouse to jeep hooligans from tipping it, or maybe it\’s just funny animal antics. Whatever, it \’s enough to make our students laugh right out in the middle of class, caring nothing about the stares from classmates.
    Then there are those who lead our students on adventures, into places they may never go, across continents, into jungles and caves, maybe searching your a missing golden goblet, a father not seen in years, or off to explore the stars.
    Sometimes they put our students\’ lives in danger, slipping and almost falling down a cliff, nearly bitten by a venomous viper, or chased by villains real or make believe
    Because of them there are ghosts out for revenge, vampires that stalk souls or hungry giants looking for the blood of an Englishmen.
    Some of them have the ability to transport our students back in time to learn about how things were, to meet the founding father, the inventors, pioneers, and the rebels who said, \”iIt can be done!\”
    And they do all this, creating characters that are believable, settings that can be seen, heard, smelled, felt, and sometimes even tasted.
    They are the authors of children\’s books, a list too innumerable for here. They are the ones who share their stories with our students and make them smile. They are the people I thank and privately hope one day to be counted in their numbers.

  31. First of all, I loved this prompt! I thought back on just my day today, and I came up with a list of strangers to thank. I can’t wait to use this with my fifth graders this year!

    Dear man who fixed my garbage disposal,

    These past two days, I’ve had a problem. A smelly, disgusting, and inconvenient problem. My garbage disposal backed up–and it was bad. I’m talking about both sinks full, backed up into the dishwasher (full of clean dishes, I might add!!), plug your nose and hold your breath just to walk through the kitchen bad. Crusty dishes were piling up. Even a glass of water from the tap was questionable.

    But today, you came. You walked right in. You didn’t scoff, sniff, or even make a face at the terrible smell. You didn’t laugh at a couple of girls who can’t even figure out the garbage disposal. You got right to work, cheerfully making jokes, explaining the fixes, making us feel as ease. You even cleaned out part of the sink and whole dishwasher when we weren’t looking.

    You could’ve been grumpy. (I think I would\’ve been in your situation.) You could’ve judged me for lack of household knowledge. You could’ve been silent or awkward, making for an uncomfortable situation.

    But you weren’t. You were kind, thoughtful, helpful, and forgiving.

    Thank you.

  32. Thank you for writing the sympathy card that I hold in my hand. I didn\’t know what to say when my 9 year old student\’\’s mother passed away this year, but you did. My feeble words would not do. They were locked up, frozen, paralyzed, grief stricken, and inaccessible. You helped me to find my voice, to take a breath, and move forward. You helped me to offer some comfort to my student and her family when it was most needed. You helped me to know that while I couldn\’t change this or fix this, I could make a difference, just by being there, just by caring, just by being a soft place, a steady place for her to land. Thank you. Your words carried me.

  33. Dear Stranger:

    You don’t know me, but you have changed my life. You don’t know me, but you have inspired me. You don’t know me, but you have given me hope. I thank you.

    At my first Relay for Life, I had only been a cancer survivor for 6 months. I was only a month out from my last round of chemo. While I was feeling much better, my hair was still missing. A bandanna still adorned my head. I was proud to be standing there, but I was also still a little shy about calling myself a survivor. I was still full of fear.

    Then, as survivor after survivor shouted out their years of survivorship, I listened. Near the end, I heard your voice. You proudly shouted out that you were a breast cancer survivor and you had been one for over 45 years! You have no idea what those words did to me. I was instantly filled with hope. Tears came to my eyes. I told my husband that I wanted that to be me one day, giving hope to the “newbies” like me. He replied that it would be me.

    I wish I would have caught your name, or gone to speak with you. I wish I could know you now. I wish I could thank you in person. I have thought of you so often over the last year. Any time I feel that familiar pull of fear, I think of you. I know that I CAN and WILL make it through this. I know that I will continue to do the work and fight for the passion that you unknowingly instilled in me. I will fight for hope.

    So, thank you. Thank you for being a survivor. Thank you for being a fighter so that you could be a beacon of hope for others. Thank you for lighting the path before you so that others like me would know the way. Thank you for being unafraid to shout to the world what you have been though. Thank you for HOPE!



  34. Dear Amy,
    Great prompt- thank you! It made me remember to be more thankful in person!

    Dear Authors,
    Thank you! Thank you for the words that you have shared. Thank you for helping me to see who I am, who I could be, who I do not want to be, and so much more. Your stories come back to me throughout my life, weaving a strength I can not express. The books we share in the classroom and at home define the community we are. Thank you authors for sharing your words, your process, your time. You have inspired me in s many ways. I am so lucky to have the best job in the world- I am a teacher, and you are right there with me, so I am always in good company.
    Thank you for the words.

  35. I finally had time to participate! Yay! I actually have combined both the “you can’t take it with you prompt and the “letter to a stranger” into one piece. Gracie and Sierra aren’t exactly strangers, but they haven’t been in contact for over a year and they had only known each other for about 3 years before that.This letter was found with Kaitlin in a Target restroom where Gracie works. To protect Sierra (who had abandoned her daughter), Gracie had to hide the letter from the police.

    Dear Gracie,
    I need you to take Kaitlin and give her a life I can’t. Things been bad since Ryan died and it ain’t safe for me to keep her right now. I’m gonna be trying to get straight, but where I’m going, I can’t take her with me. She deserves a better life than that.

    Thank you for loving my baby girl and being her mamma while I can’t. I’ll be in touch when I can.


  36. As promised, I am back with a post for this wonderful prompt. It was more difficult than I anticipated when I read the prompt more closely and found the thank you to be to a STRANGER. Challenge. Loved it.
    I came across a picture of my sister and me…we were adopted together when we were 3 and 4 years old. The picture prompted a thank you to parents who adopt.

    Home and heart open to those born of others
    Never knowing the physical nature of bearing a child
    You have birthing pains all your own

    The incessant questions
    Just trying to figure it out
    Sort it out
    Find the rationale for
    How come you gave me away?
    Why wasn’t I good enough to keep?
    What did I do wrong?

    Small one, you are enough for me.
    You are as my own flesh and blood.
    I love you.

    Parents who adopt
    Mom and Dad
    Thank you

  37. Dear Little Girl I Never Met,

    I wonder if you even remember the day when you were eating lunch in the cafeteria and your teacher asked you if you would show around a dad and his little boy, because the little boy was feeling quite nervous about going to your school next year. I hear it was no big deal to you, but you should know how big a deal it was to us. Our boy has changed schools three times already as he looks to start fourth grade. He is sweet and kind and bright and cute, but his autism sometimes keeps people from seeing that, and school has come to represent a kind of torture for him.

    I couldn’t be on that tour because of work, but when I called my husband afterward, I asked him to rate on a scale of one to ten how he felt about our decision to enroll our son. Before he would answer my question, he just had to tell me about you. He said you didn’t just tour Roo around, but that you introduced him to other kids, you encouraged him, and you were just naturally friendly, undaunted by any differences you might have noticed. My husband said, yes, the school looked clean and safe, the teachers were friendly, the curriculum looked fine, but he said he’d have to give the school a fourteen, because you embody everything we hope to find in a school. I am sure you have wonderful parents, but our fiercest hope is that your school culture nurtured your ease and graciousness.

    That night when I asked my son how he liked his new school, he looked me in the eye, and he said, “Mom, I made a friend there!” And I’ve been wanting to thank you ever since.

    Sincerely, Rooster’s Mama

  38. To the Man at Best Buy,

    I understand that you possess an exorbitant amount of passion for television and film; that you have scrutinized every movie clip, the black contrast (or whatever the heck it’s called); that you enjoy a healthy debate on the pros and cons of LCD versus plasma. But guess what? I DON’T CARE!! Did you happen to step out of your self-centered, one-way conversation to take notice of the squirrely toddler who is attempting to Houdini his way out of the double stroller seat?? Or what about the one year old in this wheeled monstrosity who is currently screaming at the top of his lungs?? While my husband appears captivated by your critique of each and every available set, I, quite frankly, could give two shits. I am sweating. Profusely sweating, as I attempt to distract these fussy little people by sprinting this awkward load of humans, sippy cups, binkies and blankets up and down the jam-packed aisles. So I beg of you to take mercy upon me and release my husband from your technological spell! We have heard your plea and promise to take a second look at your favorite make and model. We will ogle and gaze with wonder at how the refresh rate works to deliver the most clear, life-like image to the screen. But now, will you please allow us to the exit of this store??? PLEASE! (and thank you).


    Frazzled, Sweaty-Pitted Wife & Mother of Two

    1. “So I beg of you to take mercy upon me and release my husband from your technological spell!” This is so funny, and I am instantly transported back 12 years! Giggle! a.

  39. I came running up the driveway,
    waving my arms and hands about my head and face.
    I’m up the stairs in an instant and inside the screen door.
    I let out a deep breath with a few more slaps to smoosh the clingers.
    July in Maine.
    Black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies.
    Life as it should be?
    They all buzz outside the screen. Ha! Can’t get me now!
    Bless the person who invented screens.

  40. Dear Dear Stranger,

    Thank you so much for coming to my aid and changing my flat tire as I was transporting my elderly parents back to Dallas from our beach vacation which had been cut short due to my mother’s injuries from a fall. We had just stopped for lunch in that small Texas Hill Country town, and exited the restaurant to find a flat tire. I was more than happy to take the advice of the gas station clerk and take the car to the nearest garage, but you so readily interrupted your lunch with your son and offered to help my parents and me. What touched me most was learning about your daughter’s recent death and witnessing your strong faith in God. I can’t imagine losing my own 17 year old daughter much less being able to smile at strangers. On top of that, you shared that your wife had just survived breast cancer. This news slapped me in the face and brought me out of my self-pity as I had just spent the last 3 hours feeling sorry for myself because my vacation was interrupted and I was having to care for my mother. My problems seemed so insignificant at that moment. I had my children and both of my parents. This long drive home would just be a blip in the days of my life. Finally, your resistance to accepting payment for your services was a testimony in being an example of just helping our neighbors because we should love our neighbors. Upon learning you had not been able to purchase a headstone for your daughter, I insisted you take the money. It is my hope, that now, 5 years later, you were able to purchase that headstone. I thank you not only for your help in changing the tire, but the more I reflect about our brief meeting, I believe you were in the right place at the right time to give me the reality check I needed to help my parents. I shared our story with my children and friends, and most importantly I remember your kindness and compassion you showed strangers in the midst of your own pain. I think about you when I encounter someone who needs help, or I am inspired to pay it forward. I was truly blessed and amazed at how deeply you could touch my life in 15 minutes. I wish you well, and I am sure that you continue to bless those you encounter.

    Blessings and peace,