Yes, it Matters!

Hi all! This should have been a “Pet Peeves” blog but due to unforeseen circumstances of the past two days (meaning, my son took a bad tumble at gymnastics—literally—and wound up fracturing his upper jaw) I wasn’t able to put the blog together. He’ll be fine but his mouth is half-wired for at least four weeks.

The following came into my work inbox. I had to share it. Why? Flirting with Forty author Jane Porter (www.janeporter.com) gave a workshop at NJ Romance Writers about two years ago. During her talk about alpha males and the heroines who suit them, she shifted gears. With intensity and passion and suddenly moist eyes (I was sitting in the front row, close enough to see) she challenged the writer audience to NEVER underestimate the power of our stories;  to understand how we have no way of knowing who we can touch once we put our work out there. How that person who may be in a desperate situation may find escape in and/or solace in those words we penned that somehow found their way into that person’s hands.

As soon as I read Teddy’s teacher’s story, I was reminded of Jane’s words: NEVER underestimate how our actions, no matter how humble, can touch, impact or radically change someone else’s life. I also believe it was Mother Teresa who talked about doing small things with great love. This story illustrates that as well.

So, here it is, as it was delivered to me. (Thanks, Sandy!)

The following true story is meant to inspire you. Teachers have been taking a beating lately, and it is important to know that what we do matters a LOT.

A Teacher’s Story
True or not:  How many times do we “misjudge” by appearance?

Her name was Mrs. Thompson. As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children. His clothes were messy, and he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records, and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…He is a joy to be around.”

His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home is a struggle.”

His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death had been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.”

Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem, and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs.Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents.

Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one quarter-full of perfume. But she stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.

Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mother used to.”

After the children left, she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, and writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children.

Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.”

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer the letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago, and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs.Thompson’s ear, “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. She said, “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.”

Remember – that wherever you go, and whatever you do, you will have the opportunity to touch and/or change a person’s outlook. Please try to do it in a positive way.

Has anyone touched your life? Please share your story!

Until next time,

Joanna

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4 thoughts on “Yes, it Matters!

  1. Very inspiring! Every day we are blessed with being touched by grace. This post is an example of that!

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  2. Oh Joanna,

    I have tears in my eyes. This is so beautiful.

    Even more so for me, as I am a teacher myself. I have been touched by many lives and hope that in the process I have touched many as well.

    Thanks for sharing this story.

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  3. Hi Joanna, I’ve read this before and it’s always worth another read. There are too many only teaching reading, writing and ‘rithmetic and not enough teaching “children” these days. Those who do really do stand out.

    My high school English teacher was one of those, as was one of my college art professors. They will always stand out in my mind and have my never-ending respect.

    My grandma was one of those, as well, to the extent they gave her a memorial tree with plaque at the school after we lost her.

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  4. I’ve seen this story before but had to read it again and it had much the same impact. Thank you for the reminder.

    Every day my son and my husband inspire me – even when they are cranky towards me. I sometimes have to constantly remind myself that it’s more than something I did and try to hug them when they are refusing to be loved.

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