Dear Mr. Reber

Gratitude Letter Project

I came across a book called “The Thank You Project: Cultivating Happiness One Letter of Gratitude at a Time” by Nancy Davis Kho. The gist is you write a letter a week for a whole year to people who have made an impact on your life. The belief is that most people don’t understand how much they mean to others. And that we often overlook those who have changed our lives. So tell them. Tell them how they have impacted your life.

Thank them.

So I’m going to tell them. And thank them. I will be sharing some with my Supporters.

I encourage you to write a letter to someone who made an impact on your life and thank them.

Mr. Reber:

Dear Mr Reber, 

While I was able to understand mathematical concepts, I chose not to put much effort into them. You easily recognized this as a veteran high school mathematics teacher. When I said it was “too hard” or that “I don’t get it” you would always respond with “yet”. You had a passion for numbers like I had a passion for words. I couldn’t quite understand how someone could get so excited over differential equations.

Sometimes I would get “lost” on my way to your class because I wasn’t in the mood to “math.” When I went missing for a week then showed back up again, you excused us both to the hallway after giving the rest of the class directions filled with numerals, letters, and equations like Log ab = e. You looked me straight in the eye and asked where I had been. I looked at the floor, pulled a folded note from my graffiti covered army jacket, and handed it over. It was an excuse letter from a city run mental health facility stating that I would frequently be missing classes and attending intensive outpatient care for suicide attempts. Your eyes met mine again, this time welled to the brim. Without asking for permission, you grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me into a tight hug. You smelled like chalk dust and something citrus – maybe lemon. My face pushed into your chest as you whispered in my ear, “I’m so glad you are still here.”

Twenty years later and I’m still here. And I’m so glad. When I took on this project to thank people who have made a lasting impact on my life, I looked you up. I know you have had thousands of students in your 40+ years teaching and may not remember me but it was important that one of these letters went to you. 

You’re not still here. You passed on to your mathematical paradise less than a month ago. I just missed you. I’m sorry I didn’t catch you sooner. I guess I’m still getting lost. But I got back to you eventually. Wherever you are, know that you let this sad teenage girl feel like she mattered for a few moments in a time when she felt like nothing did. Thank you. You will live on forever in the stories of your kindness. 

Most Sincerely, 

Tiffany Overton