Writing to students

It’s nearly impossible to catch a network newscast of late without hearing a story about people helping people.  Even CNN has added its touch with “CNN Heroes, everyday people changing the world” broadcast Thanksgiving evening. It’s a welcome change from the (unfortunately all-to-common) coverage of violence and hate that, if unchecked in our thinking, can jade and discourage.

Dan Stroup's story of writing birthday letters to his students was shown on the Today Show. You can watch the segment by clicking on the photo above.

A particular story caught my attention this morning—the account of a teacher who, for the past 30 years, has sent handwritten letters to his students on their birthdays. You can watch the video HERE.

The ritual takes place every night in the living room of Dan Stroup, teacher of Bible studies at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis. Stroup, with an uncanny memory of his eighth-grade pupils, reflects on their time in class and poses questions about their lives today. Every note is closed with a Bible verse, written in red, at the bottom of the page.

He takes the job (he wouldn’t call it that) seriously and hopes that each letter brings encouragement and serves as a reminder that he remembers them.  “I don’t know who is going to need what and on what day, and I don’t know how God is going to use this,” he says.  “I want to make sure that I don’t drop the ball. Maybe this letter today is exactly what that person is going to need.”

Sometimes we don’t know the words that others need or how, if spoken, the words will fall on their ears. Maybe, if we listen, they’ll come to us. And if Stroup’s 30-year labor of love holds a lesson, it could be that his yearly act of 2500 individual letters will nurture each student. One by one.

“I will listen…”

Sometimes the story isn’t what we think


…the things we don’t always intend to happen, but they take our eyes off the “current ball” and give us something new to focus on. Sometimes planned. Sometimes unexpected. Always interesting if we choose to let them be.

A friend, former boss, and smart guy (all the same person) decided several weeks ago that the world needed an iPhone App (short for application) that would put important data at people’s fingertips. He approached the subject by teasing me with the notion of, “What if you wanted to find the best car dealership to service your, say, transmission? I want to develop that App to help you find that.”

Well, the App had nothing to do with cars or transmissions, but much to do with service.

After signing an agreement carefully crafted by his wife, an attorney, to not let the cat out of the bag and promising first borns, fingers and other unspecified objects, I was permitted access into the inner sanctum of what it was about. Turns out to be a really interesting and useful tool for travelers and others who need the services of professionals in a specific field.

But that’s not the story here. The story is about being open to possibility (there are other posts about that topic on the blog), knowing that we can choose to be a contribution and find tremendous joy and satisfaction in that—even if our “real job” isn’t the most satisfying.

The joy is that I’ve spend the past few days doing artwork, research, and thinking about subjects that I have no firsthand knowledge of, and, to be honest, not an intense interest in. And that’s the point.

Sometimes, our gifts, our talents, our skills, apply broadly to many fields. We only restrict their application by the limits we put on them and ourselves.

My friend, the App owner, literally lectured me a few days ago about that very thing. I didn’t like the conversation at all. But I listened.

And I learned.

Diversions can be good things.

And this one has given me one of the best weeks of my life.

You can have a good week, too.

Make that choice!