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. And that was
impossible because there in front of her, slumped in his seat on the
third row, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.
Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed 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 then marking the F at the top of the paper biggest of all. Because
Teddy was a sullen little boy, no one else seemed to enjoy him,
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to
review each child's records and put Teddy's off until last. When she
opened his file, she was in for a surprise.
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 he 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Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't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
fast. It was all she could do, with the school play and all, until the
day before the holidays began and she was suddenly forced to focus on
Her children brought her presents, all in beautiful ribbon and bright
paper, except for Teddy's, which was clumsily wrapped in the heavy,
brown paper of a scissored 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, and writing, and
speaking. Instead, she began to teach children. Jean Thompson paid
particular attention to one they all called "Teddy."
As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she
encouraged him, the faster he responded. On days there would be an
important test, Mrs. Thompson would remember that cologne. By the end
of the year he had become one of the smartest children in the class,
and well, he had also become the "pet" of the teacher who had once
vowed to love all of 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
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 of honors. He
assured Mrs.Thompson she was still his favorite teacher.
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 his favorite
teacher but that now his name was a little longer. The letter was
signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.
The story doesn't end there. You see, there was yet another letter
that Spring. Teddy said he'd met this girl and was to be married. He
explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was
wondering...well, if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the pew
usually reserved for the mother of the groom. And guess what, she
wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And I
bet on that special day, Jean Thompson smelled just like... well, just
like the way Teddy remembered his mother smelling on their last
THE MORAL: You never can tell what type of impact you may make on
another's life by your actions or lack of action. Consider this fact
in your venture through life.