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The Art of Appreciation This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I love homemade cards. I learned to appreciate them from my grandfather – a man who grew up during the Great Depression. As a little girl I drew my own birthday cards and scribbled phonetically spelled greetings. I’m sorry to say that over years my artistic talent stagnated. I no longer make these cards. There’s something embarrassing about a high school senior sending a thank-you note adorned with crayoned stick figures, no matter how heartfelt the message. Some believe my new store-bought cards are an upgrade, but I miss spilling sincere sentiments out of dripping watercolors and vibrant pencils. This summer a very special girl reminded me how much I value that simple process.

As a varsity soccer player, I wanted to prepare kids for competitive play so I started an open soccer program for middle school girls. I taught an array of players. Some were obvious athletes – girls naturally inclined to maneuver a ball like Mia Hamm. Then there were the average athletes who could get the job done with or without finesse. One girl stood out to me, though. To put it bluntly, she looked awkward on the field. She reminded me of myself at her age. Like Katelyn, my lumbering movements could have made any spectator cringe. I made it my mission to help her. Perhaps if I worked with Katelyn one-on-one I could improve her game. I saw she had the same determination I had had as a young player.

Katelyn attended every session, giving me the opportunity to spend extra time with her. When there was an odd number of players, I would pair up with her. When only a few girls came, I focused on coaching the skills Katelyn needed to work on.

At the final practice, I arrived early. My assistants and I signed the certificates we would later pass out at the concluding ceremony. Katelyn’s award made me smile. Most Improved demonstrates an athlete’s motivation and perseverance; I beamed with pride.

When Katelyn showed up she tugged on her mother’s sleeve. “Mom,” she whispered, “where is it?”

“Here,” her mother chuckled, handing her daughter an oblong ­envelope.

When Katelyn gave me the handmade card, her neon braces illuminated her giant grin.

It was beautiful. Translucent glitter smeared across the front that read, “Thank You!” Glue stick residue formed a natural border on the purple and green cardstock. She had printed inside, “Dear Shea, Thank you for showing us soccer!” Best of all, Katelyn decorated her note with a foam soccer ball sticker.

Hallmark cards cannot compare to their homespun counterparts. Cunning poets and ­professional designers will never touch hearts the way imaginative children do. I treasure Katelyn’s gift; it reminds me every day that nothing can measure up to the beauty of a child’s innocence and admiration. I absolutely love homemade cards.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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