The Mystery Box

By EDWARD SNODGRASS III

Students streamed in from the hall and found their seats in my Biblical Archaeology class. Joe plopped down in his regular seat near the front. All eyes were on the large brown box that Joe had just retrieved from the mail room.

One student asked, “What is in the box?” They all guessed it was a care package from home.

Joe smiled and quickly opened the box which held bags of homemade cookies, packaged candies and special crackers. All eyes focused on the food as it was only an hour before lunch. Several asked if they could have a cookie and Joe with a smile handed out the cookies. He then asked what others might like and the students in the class were not shy as they identified their favorite candies or snacks.

Joe’s box was almost empty and the students said a sincere thank you acknowledging the generosity shown by their friend.

As their teacher I thought that there was more to this than a quick snack. I thought of Joe’s mother who sent the package and I was impressed by Joe’s willingness to give away all the valued booty. I told the class we should not just thank Joe but also thank his mother. I proposed we each write a short thank you note.

More than half the class asked, “What should we say? I have never written a thank you note.”

I told the class we should not just thank Joe but also thank his mother. I proposed we each write a short thank you note. More than half the class asked, “What should we say? I have never written a thank you note.”

I put an outline on the board. Dear Mrs. _______thank you for the food… and then I asked them to express in some way our appreciation for Joe’s friendship and generosity as a fellow student.

Each student wrote a note sealed it in an envelope and wrote the address on the outside. I put one or two in the mail each day for the next two weeks.

When boarding parent weekend arrived Joe’s mom came to the class. Joe had already told me how much the thank you notes had meant as each day his mother read messages of love and appreciation from her son’s classmates.

The mother with tears in her eyes told me that as a single mom and with Joe’s academic struggles she had hesitated when re enrollment came up the preceding spring. She prayed about it and decided the sacrifice was worth it and hoped McCallie would be the right place for Joe.

She then said that she was going through a particularly hard time at home when these unexpected thank you notes started arriving. Each day she would get a few new notes that affirmed her decision to make the sacrifice. She loves her son and understands more clearly how much we at McCallie love him as well.

Edward Snodgrass is the Sherrill Chair of Bible at McCallie School and Joe’s teacher and friend.

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3 Responses

  1. Lisa Flautt says:

    What a wonderful story. As a boarding parent, we face daily sacrifices and miss many moments of our boys’ experiences. To know they are surrounded by others who love and nurture them and that they are in an environment that instills strong moral values is at times the only thing that gets us through tough times. Our boys may not realize the significance of it now, but McCallie will always be an important part of who they become as men.

  2. Emeline Loughlin says:

    Thank you….Evan is in the right place.

  3. Nancy Beck says:

    This is a wonderful story. Am I the only one amazed that more than half the class had never written a thank you note? The world has definitely changed, away from gratitude and towards entitlement. Thanks, Reverend Snodgrass, for instilling gratitude into our boys. They will grow to be great men if they always have grateful hearts. Nancy Beck