Beyond The “Book’s” Cover

Our pastor read a wonderful story in church on Sunday.  One of those “tear-jerkers” that drove his point home.  I assumed it was a true story, but it wasn’t.  Turns out it was a fictional story written in 1974 by Elizabeth Silance Ballard.

The story itself may not be true.  But it’s truly heart-warming.  And the principles it embodies are both true and timeless.

It’s about a little boy in the 5th grade.  His name was Teddy.  His new teacher, Mrs. Thompson, had watched him the year before. He was habitually dirty.  He and his clothes could both use a good cleaning. More importantly, he didn’t play well with others and was… unpleasant.

Mrs. Thompson began to take delight in marking his papers boldly with red ink and failing grades.  Until she read his records.  (A requirement for new teachers).  It was just before Christmas by the time she got to his; she had avoided it as long as she could.

That’s when she realized Teddy was a “book” worth reading.  There was more beyond his “cover” than she realized.

The children all brought her presents.  Teddy gave her a worn piece of costume jewelry — a bracelet with stones missing — and a bottle of cheap perfume.  The mocking laughter of the other children was silenced when Mrs. Thompson gratefully splashed the perfume on her neck and donned the bracelet like it was a treasure.

At day’s end, Teddy was the last to leave.  He told her, “Today you smelled just like my mother used to.”   After he left, Mrs. Thompson wept.  

Teddy’s mom had died, following a long bout with terminal illness.  Mrs. Thompson had seen clues in his school records.  How he had started as a bright child who was a joy to be around and become a withdrawn child with no friends.

Mrs. Thompson’s teaching tactics changed that day… forever.  Because her heart changed that day… forever.

Teddy blossomed under those changes and went on to excel.  In school and life.  He wrote Mrs. Thompson from time-to-time.  After one achievement or another.  His graduation from high school.  Then college… with highest honors.

Years later came the letter signed “Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.”  Because, as Teddy had repeatedly written over the years, Mrs. Thompson had been his best teacher ever.  Turns out, she was even more.

Teddy invited her to his wedding.  To sit in the seat reserved for his mom.  His dad had died.  Mrs. Thompson was the only “family” he had left.  How could she not go?

He hugged her and thanked her for believing in him.  For showing him he could make a difference. She said he had it all wrong.  He was the one who had shown her she could make a difference.  She didn’t know how to teach until she met Teddy.

“[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”  (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)

Who would You like us to love like that today, Lord?

Which neighbors? (Matthew 19:19)

Which enemies?  (Matthew 5:44)

Abba’s Girl

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