The gift of appreciating gifts

Last Wednesday, I led two Journal tours for Lisa Baerís 21st Century Digital Language Arts classes at Cortez Middle School. The students were bright, engaged and well behaved.

Not all groups are that way.

On Tuesday morning this week, I received a book of wonderful thank-you letters from the students. They were carefully composed and neatly written, or perhaps rewritten, and they gave me hope.

Thank-you notes seem to be a dying art. I worry that gratitude also is dying, and that when it does, we will have lost our ability to see all the ways in which human beings depend on one another.

One young woman wrote, ďI also love the fact that you took the time off of what you were doing to show us and the eighth graders around the newspaper.Ē

Iím pleased that she noticed, although giving tours is part of my job and I enjoy doing it. I tell students about the different skills and education necessary for the various jobs on a newspaper staff. I show them the equipment and describe how fast it runs, so that they understand why the Journal requires drug testing. An impaired employee might not get hurt, I say; instead, that worker might endanger the next employee down the production line, one whoís done nothing wrong.

I explain why they need to finish high school ó that being able to read and figure, to follow instructions and reason through problems are skills that are essential to all the jobs they will have over the course of their careers.

Thatís usually not what they want to hear. Many of them want to know what they need to study in order to do photographer Sam Greenís job. Sam is the Journalís version of a rock star, so sometimes I tell them that Sam went to college, and that he has had to keep studying to learn to use technology that didnít exist when he was in school. I tell them I learned ďkeyboardingĒ (a word we didnít have back then) on a manual typewriter. This week, Iíve had to learn a new computer program, and I wonder how many more Iíll have to master before I retire.

I tell them that photography uses physics, our plate processor is based on chemistry, and our business-office employees need to be good mathematicians so that our paychecks are correct.

I always emphasize that coming to work on time and working hard for the whole shift will make an employee valuable to any company. Be willing to learn the next job up the ladder. Never say, ďThatís not my job.Ē Employers notice a worker whoís willing to step up.

What I always forget to tell them is that I am impressed by job applicants who look me in the eye, shake my hand and thanks me for the opportunity to interview, and if an applicant sends me a thank-you note, even by email, he or she zooms ahead of all other applicants with equal qualifications. Iím always heartened to find a prospective employee ó even a very young one ó with good manners, because I want our readers, advertisers and customers to be treated courteously.

This Thanksgiving, Iím thankful for Lisa Baer and other educators who teach those skills and, by doing so, provide their students with advantages they probably do not yet appreciate. I hope that good teachers receive many thank-you notes this season.

Suzy Meyer is publisher of the Cortez Journal. Email her at

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