Teddy Stoddard
Jean Thompson stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the very first day of school in the fall and told the children a lie.  Like most teachers, she looked at her pupils and said that she loved them all the same, that she would treat them all alike. But that was impossible, because there, in front of her, slumped in his seat in the third row, was a little black boy name Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and had noticed that he didn't play well with the other children, that his clothes were unkempt and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy was unpleasant. It got to the point during the first few months that she would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and making the fat "F" at the top of the paper.

Because Teddy was a sullen little boy, no one else seemed to enjoy him either.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's records.  She put Teddy's off until last.  When she opened his file, she was very surprised.

His first-grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright, inquisitive 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 is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness, and life at home must be a struggle."

His third-grade teacher wrote, "Teddy continues to work hard, but 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Teddy's fourth-grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school.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 sometimes sleeps in class. He is tardy and could become a problem."

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem, but Christmas was coming soon. The school play and other things kept her busy until the day before the holidays began. Then, suddenly, she was forced to focus on Teddy Stoddard.

Her fifth-graders brought her presents -- all with beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's, which was clumsily wrapped in the heavy brown paper of a cut-up 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 cologne.  She stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume behind the other wrist.

Teddy Stoddard stayed behind 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 speaking. Instead, she began to teach children.

Jean Thompson paid particular attention to the one they called "Teddy."  As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive.  The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. On days when important tests were given, she would remember that cologne. By the end of the year, he had become one of the smartest children in the class -- and the "pet" of the teacher who had once vowed to love all her children exactly the same.

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that of all the teachers he'd had in elementary school, she was his favorite.

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 his favorite teacher of all time.

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 graduate from college with the highest honors. He assured her that she was still his favorite teacher.

Then four more years passes, and yet another letter came. This time, he explained that after he had gotten his bachelor's degree. He had decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still his favorite teacher but that now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

That's not the end.  There was still another letter that Spring. Teddy said that he'd met a girl and would soon marry her. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering... would Mrs. Thompson agree to sit in the pew usually reserved for the mother of the groom? She did, and she wore the bracelet that was missing several rhinestones. And maybe, just maybe, she smelled just like... the way Teddy remembered his mother smelled on their last Christmas together.

Do you know what impact you may make on other's life by  your actions or lack of action?

 
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