Welcome to the first part of The Gratitude Project.
I’m going to start by thanking people who made a difference in my life.
People who helped create who I am.
I’m going to start with my favorite teacher in high school.
He was more than a teacher to me.
He was a friend.
Rutsch is the second from the right.
When I first walked through the doors of Tigard High School, I was in tears. I had just moved to Tigard and didn’t know a soul. I was so scared and insecure. Classes started too soon and I ended up in your careers classes.
In your class, I learned how to give a proper handshake. I learned what an interview was like and how to show someone that you are listening by looking them in the eyes while they are speaking. I have used these skills many times over the years.
You were the first teacher who I felt really had an open door policy. I could come to you to talk about anything, even personal issues. When I was going through my necktie phase, you taught me how to tie it. I would come into your classroom between classes and show you my latest poetry. The support you gave me was awesome. I remember once, you even told me that a particular poem sounded like it would make great song lyrics. In doing that, you taught me to look beyond what was before me.
You once wrote me a note when I was struggling with depression. I still have that note. I have come across it whenever I am need of the reminders you gave me. The parts that stick out for me most are that “tough times don’t last, tough people do” and “the key to depression is found within the word depression: Press On.” And you told me that I had to believe that I am special because so much of a person’s outlook has to do with how a person feels about themselves. It really helps me refocus when I am questioning my own existence. I somehow feel stronger and more able to face whatever life hands me next.
You didn’t have to take the time out from your busy schedule to befriend a shy teenage girl. The fact that you did is amazing in and of itself. That you made such an impact without me even realizing it fills me with awe. I hope that I can touch someone’s life in the way you have touched mine.
I know that I am not the only student you befriended over the years. If you could make such an impact on me, can you imagine what an impact you’ve made in the world? I hope that by sharing all this with you, I can return just a little of the inspiration that you gave me.
Best wishes always,
Class of 1999