Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Paying it forward

18 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
"He makes me sound like I'm the most wonderful person in the whole world!" My mouth hung open as I read my assistant band director's letter of recommendation for my study-abroad program in Spain. Wow. He really thinks this highly of me?! This is incredible! "Look! Read this part!" I wiggled the paper at my boyfriend, jabbing my finger at different sections.

Nine years later, I still have a copy of that letter. I haven't looked at it in a while, but I don't need to look at it to remember how it made me feel. In fact, I can almost recite the ending... something about how I'd be a fantastic ambassador for Ohio State and the United States of America. Just remembering still sparks an incredulous giddiness that floats up inside of me.

This wasn't the usual "oh-she's-responsible-dependable-and-hard-working..." blah, blah, blah. This made my heart soar. 225 band members, and he'd taken the time to make me sound that special. Suddenly, he wasn't just my assistant band director, but a role model who noticed my hard work and believed in me.

I'll never forget the confidence and self-worth that letter kindled in my heart. Maybe I really was that special. I could do great things with my life. I wanted to work even harder.

Nine years later, I've now written my first letter of recommendation for a student. Because of that cherished letter, I didn't view S.'s request as simply another line on my to-do list. I viewed it as an honor, an opportunity to give her that same feeling my band director gave to me. So I created and crafted, reflected and revised, choosing just the right words to let her (and the universities) know how special she is.

And as my gel pen swished my signature smoothly across the plush, elegant paper, I shivered to see my words emblazoned below my school's stately letterhead. So official. So important. Just like his.

Nine years later, my words now hold the power to make another soul soar.


  1. Love that fragment - just like his. So powerful.

  2. I loved reading your slice. I love how you honored your student by working so hard on that letter because someone else did that for you. Now that is the circle of life!

  3. After reading your post, I will now look at requests for recommendation letters much differently. Loved your verbs in this post (maybe you were already thinking what Stacey would say on Wednesday about the verbs in our posts:)

  4. Pay it forward in the best way possible. Did you get to go on the trip? You just never know who/how/when someone will make a difference in a life.


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