Why a thank-you card made Peter Leith cry

Ever since I saw my first Punch and Judy Show as a child, I’ve been hooked on puppets. Watching Walt Disney’s Pinocchio half a dozen times made me a life-long addict.

Marionettes, glove-puppets, finger puppets, sock puppets, I adore them all.

Acting, stage, TV and radio roles gave me a taste for character acting, accents and voice-over performances. 

When, at the age of 75, I started to work as a ‘station host’ in the early mornings at Melbourne’s suburban Fairfield Station, I always carried a few finger puppets in my pockets. Crying or restive small children soon cheered up after being spoken to by a finger puppet with a Scottish or Irish or Indian accent.

Read: Friends, family and Aunt Maud

When I retired from the railways six months after my 80th birthday, the finger puppet habit continued on.

When I finally retired, which I seem to have done even more often than Nellie Melba, to the Northern Rivers region of NSW, failing eyesight (and hearing) had reduced my ‘operational value’ to little more than a trolley jockey or parcel-carrier on shopping trips. Even so, finger puppets prove their worth. Toddlers crying in their mothers’ supermarket trolley quickly respond to being spoken to by a koala, cockatoo or puppy finger puppet.

I’ve made a lot of new young friends and given away quite a few finger puppets, so much so that I started to buy them in bags of 20.

Late last year, I walked to the neighbouring preschool with a bag of finger puppets to give to the teachers as Christmas presents for the kids. The preschool had already closed, so I popped the puppet bag in the letterbox with a card reading, ‘For the children’.

Read: In Florence’s footsteps

A few days later, I answered a knock at the door and was greeted by a dozen or so preschoolers and two teachers. They were the ‘graduating class’ of 2021 and had come to thank me for the finger puppets.

They presented me with a thank-you card they had made. I cried.

Recovering a bit, I sat down, chatted with them and their teachers and thanked them all. One of the teachers took some photographs and then they left.

It was an experience I shall never forget and am looking forward to seeing and sharing the photographs with those I love and cherish. In 92 years, I have never had such an experience. How lucky am I?

Is generosity a marvellous thing that sometimes we forget about? Has your generosity been rewarded with some wonderful experiences? Why not share your encounters in the comments section below?

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Written by Peter Leith

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