“I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.”
The other day I wrote many of you asking you to consider attending my Kiwanis Clubs annual Dinner and wine tasting at the Country Club of Indianapolis later this month. I also made a pitch yesterday morning at my club stating that while I enjoyed the event and its good food and entertainment as well as the great bargains available via the silent auction, what I loved most is the changes we make in kids’ lives with the proceeds. My club goes out of its way to help children who have little joy in their lives. We provide snacks for kids who would go home from school hungry otherwise. Many kids with little stand on corners waiting for school buses in warm clothes they received as gifts from us, again paid for through money raised from friends and others.
I could go on but I won’t. You see when I was a kid I spent a few years in a rural boarding school with others, many who had no parents and who had yet to experience any love. Those of us who had a place to go were allowed to go home one week a year; it was a time when many wondered if anyone really cared. That is why I am thankful that so many of our Indianapolis children know that someone cares; they know that my fellow Kiwanis members do.
Here is a fairly long story that is a favorite of mine for it shows how we must sometimes look deeper to truly see a child.
As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, 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 did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, 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 must be a struggle.”
His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has 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. Thomson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.
On that very day, she quit teaching reading, 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 had 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 does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had 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 at the wedding in the place 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. Moreover, 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.”
Warm someone’s heart today … pass this along. Just try to make a difference in someone’s life today … tomorrow … just do it.
How would your life be different if you stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day you look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.
Robert, age eight, was the son of strict Presbyterian parents. He was very, very good, worked hard at school, did his chores, and was generally helpful and obedient. But one morning, for some reason, he came down to breakfast in a very nasty mood. When his mother served him prunes, he snarled, “I don’t want prunes,” and he refused to eat them.
His parents were aghast, and his father said, “Robert, you know that Lord commanded children to honor and obey their parents, and He will punish those who do not.”
But Robert still refused and was angrily sent back to bed, and the prunes were put in the refrigerator.
A few minutes later, a terrible thunderstorm came up with great roars and flashes of lightning. “Ah, wonderful,” said Robert’s mother, “this will teach him a lesson.”
Robert came back down the stairs, went into the kitchen and opened the fridge.
From there, just after another flash and roar, the boy’s voice was heard saying, “Heck of a fuss to make about a few stupid prunes.”
Plagiarism saves time.
The boss called one of his employees into the office. Rob,” he said, “you’ve been with the company for a year now. You started off in the mail room, one week later you were promoted to a sales position, and one month after that you were promoted to district manager of the sales department. Just four short months later, you were promoted to vice-president. Now, it’s time for me to retire, and I want you to take over the company.
What do you say to that?”
“Thanks,” said the employee.
“Thanks?” the boss replied “Is that all you can say?”
“I suppose not,” the employee said.
“Researchers at Stanford University say they’ve developed a drug called ‘Celexa’ that helps women who are compulsive shoppers. They say it curbs the uncontrollable urge to shop. In fact, this weekend it goes on sale for 50% off.”
One day, a man walks into a dentist’s office and asks how much it will cost to extract wisdom teeth.
“Eighty dollars,” the dentist says.
“That’s a ridiculous amount,” the man says. “Isn’t there a cheaper way?”
“Well,” the dentist says, “if you don’t use an anesthetic, I can knock the price down to $60.”
“That’s still too expensive,” the man says.
“Okay,” says the dentist. “If I save on anesthesia and simply rip the teeth out with a pair of pliers, I can knock the price down to $20.”
“Nope,” moans the man, “it’s still too much.”
“Well,” says the dentist, scratching his head, “if I let one of my students do it, I suppose I can knock the price down to $10.”
“Marvelous,” says the man, “book my wife for next Tuesday!”
A pessimist counting his blessings: 10 … 9 … 8 … 7 …
When we were dating, my husband used to always tell me those three magic words, “I love you”. Now that we are married, those three magic words have become, “What’s for dinner?”
When we were dating, my husband would gently rub me with hot oil while he affectionately called me lovely nicknames. Now that we are married, he gently rubs his car with hot wax, which now has its own pet nickname.
When we were dating, my husband read poetry to me as he caressed me in his arms late into the night. Now that we are married, he quotes me sports statistics and stock prices during breakfast.
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
Leo F. Buscaglia
Stay well, do good work, and have fun.
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