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Thoughts From Our Director

Are You Making a Difference?

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know I do a lot or reading and listening to inspirational messages. Yesterday, I heard this story (again) and was reminded (again) of the importance to be kind to each other.

The story explains how a fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Thompson, noticed on the first day of class how messy a student’s (Teddy) clothes looked and how he seemed to need a bath. As the class progressed, she noticed how he didn’t play well with the other children, he was unpleasant and his schoolwork was almost always failing.

When Mrs. Thompson finally got around to looking at his record, the story goes on, she found that his previous teachers characterized him as an excellent student — until third grade when his mother died. She realized what his problem just might be.

That Christmas, students brought presents for their teacher wrapped beautifully in colorful paper and ribbons. Teddy’s was wrapped in a paper bag. When Mrs. Thompson opened the gift (to the laughter of the other children), she found a half bottle of perfume and a bracelet with stones missing.

But, she stifled the kids’ laughter, dabbed on the perfume and put on the bracelet, and remarked at how beautiful it was.

Teddy stayed after class to tell Mrs. Thompson that she smelled “just like my mom used to.”

After all the children left, Mrs. Thompson cried for an hour. She realized that she was supposed to teach children, not just teach the subjects. And, from then on, she worked closely with Teddy, who became one of the smartest children in the class.

The story goes on to say that, a year later, she found a note under her door from Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he ever had.

Six years later, she received another note from Teddy saying he had graduated from high school, third in his class, and that she was still the best teacher he ever had.

Four years later, he wrote her that he had graduated from college with high honors; he assured her that she was still his favorite teacher.

Four years later, another note came. This one was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

Then, another message came with a request. It said that Teddy was getting married, his father had died and would Mrs. Thompson sit at the place normally reserved for the mother of the groom?  Of course she would.

On the wedding day, she made sure to wear the bracelet and the perfume. As they hugged after the ceremony, Teddy said, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.”

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.”

According to the information on the Internet, it is not a true story.   It was a fictional piece written in 1976 by Elizabeth Silance Ballard and printed in HomeLife magazine, a Baptist family publication, where it was clearly labeled as fiction.

Ballard, now Elizabeth S. Ungar of Virginia Beach, Va., based some of the details in the story on life events, according to Dennis Roddy of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who interviewed her for a story in 2001.

Does it matter if it a work of fiction? I don’t think so.  I think it is powerful reminder of how everyone has a story and the how important it is to look beyond what we can see and support the people in our lives with patience and kindness.  Do you agree?  Post your thoughts here.

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