After a full day of outdoor classes yesterday (I now call them “garden classes”), I realize, more than ever, how much I have to be grateful for. The four 8th and 9th grade classes were simply idyllic. As the students and I sat in the flickering shade of the trees beside my classroom, we continued our review of the year (getting ready for the final exam), and I was again amazed by the scholarly comments of my students. It has been my privilege to be the English teacher for these intelligent, eager, and inventive kids for many months (two years, in the case of the 9th graders), and I felt especially appreciative of that honor as I listened to their responses in the garden. There was also something else that caused me to be thankful. In the 8th grade classes, I have been reading aloud Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and yesterday, as I was reading, I became aware of how “true” that book is. I guess I had an epiphany, of sorts. I realized that there are millions – billions – of men and women all over the world just like George, Lennie, and Candy – people who have nothing to call their own, and who live from day to day, hoping to somehow survive. These are human beings – members of the human family to which I belong – and they are suffering moment after moment. As the birds whistled their charming melodies in the garden yesterday, and as I read the sad words of the last few pages of Steinbeck’s book, I shed a few inner tears, not just for the characters in the book, but for my entire five-billion-strong family across this earth. After the last class in the afternoon, several of the kids said, “Thanks, Mr. Salsich”, and I said thanks, too – thanks to the universe for somehow setting me down in that lovely garden with those admirable students all day. And thanks to the universe for giving me a heart that can feel what my brothers and sisters on earth are feeling.