This is the story of a simple school task reaching into the lives of a whole class and staying with them for a lifetime.

Helen used to teach at Saint Mary’s School in Morris, Minnesota, where all of her 34 students were dear to her but Mark Eklund was one in a million.

What impressed her so much about Mark, was his constant sincerity. 

When correcting him for misbehaving he would always reply, “Thank you for teaching me, Teacher!”

One day, sensing her students’ tension with one another, she asked them to think of the nicest things about each other and write them down in a list.

Her students were excited when they read their lists, they were happier and more content in each others company.

But she could never have predicted just how much of an effect the lists really had on them.

After the class, Mark came to her and said one last time, “Thank you for teaching me, Teacher.”

That group of students moved on. 

Several years later, she learned that Mark had become a soldier and had been killed in the Vietnam war. Upon hearing the news, she was devastated, and couldn’t hold back her tears. Her memories of her charismatic student returned vividly. 

The very next day came the funeral. 

(David Kay/ Shutterstock)

After the funeral, Mark’s father said to her, “Mark talked about you a lot, we want to show you something.”

Opening his wallet, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and unfolded many times.

Helen knew instinctively what the paper was about. She just couldn’t believe that he had kept it for all of those years.

“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said to her. 

“They found this on Mark when he was killed. As you can see, Mark treasured it. He kept it with him always.”

Helen burst into tears. 

Mark’s classmates began to gather around her and showed her their own folded pieces of notepaper that they had also been keeping tucked into their wallets.

She never imagined that those compliments would turn out to be so meaningful to them. For many, those pieces of paper had helped them through some very difficult times.

Everyone that appears in our lives is there for a reason. We can have a profound impact on many without ever even realizing it. One action can make a big difference. So please, treasure the people around you, tell the one you love and care for that they are special and important. Tell them now, before it’s too late.