A Rhinestone Bracelet and a Bottle of Perfume

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.

Below is a story  written by Elizabeth Silance Ballard in 1974

It may or may not be a true story and it may seem overly sentimental to some but it really doesn’t matter…I know it to be true in theory from my own life experience…me 1rst grade

And everybody, almost everybody, remembers those people, maybe only a few, who encouraged them in the difficult times, who made all the difference..and those who…made things more difficult with their harsh and cruel words…I think looking back though.. it all works together

For me, these are the people I remember whose caring, love and encouragement helped me on my journey:

Wrighty [Mrs Wright], the woman who took care of my brother and me before our mother died and after..After school, day after day, she faithfully drove me to the pasture where I kept my horse Smokey and sat in the car for hours while I rode. She and Smokey brought me through the lonely times. smokey and meLater in my life:

The doctor at the Hollins College/University Infirmaryhollins who took care of me when I was so sick with mono..it was very soon after my brother’s suicide and somehow she seemed to understand though I don’t remember any words that she spoke but only her kindness. Much later I found out that she herself was dying of cancer. I don’t remember her name but I’ll always remember her.

JOHN BRADSHAWJohn Bradshaw, my counselor for several years when I was at my lowest point… who really listened to me and who, even though he was a drug and alcohol counselor, said to me, when I told him I only had the desire to drink after an AA meeting “Then don’t go, it’s not right for you.” Because I knew that he really listened to me, cared and understood, I was able to make huge changes in my life.

File_ekr at workshopElisabeth Kubler-Ross at my first 5 day workshop who simply said to me in the kindest voice, when I told her I was a failure…”You are not a failure” Very simple but never forgotten like the doctor at the infirmary and John Bradshaw..people who really listened and cared…

A few people who provided the opposite in my life:

Mrs Roberts,  my 5th grade math teacher. It was the year after my mother’s death and rather than treating me with some compassion, she took every opportunity to humiliate me in class. I was already extremely shy and barely functioning, still she seemed to want destroy what was left.. As a result I missed most of fifth grade and to this day I HATE math.

My Aunt Tan, my mother’s sister, who took every opportunity also to take out her cruelty on me often telling me that I was a disgrace to my mother’s memory and that my eyebrows were my only good feature…..she made her mark, her words are not forgotten but I moved on…

So here’s the story

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. Thompson, 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 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! “

(For those of you who don’t know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.)

Just try to make a difference in someone’s life today? tomorrow? just”do it”.

Random acts of kindness, I think they call it?

smallest person sign

And here’s a film clip from PAY IT FORWARD that seems to me to be related in some way:

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