We might make all the difference
“Practically every adult who experienced unnecessary suffering in childhood has a story to tell about someone whose kindness, tenderness, and concern restored their sense of hope.”–Bell Hooks
Linda: This is a true story.
Once there was a schoolteacher who taught fourth grade. On the first day of school, she said to the class, “My name is Miss Jean Nelson, and I love you all the same.” But it wasn’t exactly true. There was one boy in the class that she did not like; his name was Teddy. His hair was always messed, he came to school dirty, and he had a dull, glazed look in his eyes.
When Miss Nelson got Teddy’s class papers, she crossed big red X’s, and somehow had delight when she would put a big red F on the top of his paper. She had seen his record, and found the report of the first grade teacher, “Teddy is a nice boy, but his home situation is chaotic and difficult.” The second grade teacher wrote: “Teddy is a good boy, but is not getting much support at home as his mother is terminally ill.” Third grade teacher’s remarks: “Teddy is severely withdrawn, badly in need of extra interventions and supports as mother died last year. Father is disinterested, and totally uninvolved.”
Miss Nelson should have known better, but she just didn’t like this child.
The Christmas season came, and all the children in the class brought Miss Nelson gifts wrapped in colorful paper with bright bows. Teddy brought something for her wrapped in brown paper held together with lots of pieces of tape. When she opened it, there was a rhinestone bracelet with many of the stones missing, and a bottle of toilet water that was mostly used up. She was mannerly enough to put a bit of the toilet water on her wrist, to comment that it smelled good, and to put on the bracelet and admire it when thanking him.
At the end of the school day, all the children left except for Teddy. He stayed and said that he had felt so good all day because Miss Nelson smelled like his mother. The toilet water had been hers, and the bracelet too had been his mother’s, and Teddy said that it looked real nice on Miss Nelson, just like it had on his mom.
When Teddy left, Miss Nelson was crying and got down on her knees. She had what is known as a transformative moment; she was never the same. When Teddy came back to class next, she felt very differently toward him. She tutored him herself, and got extra services on his behalf.
Over the years, she stayed in touch with Teddy, and later, she received a note saying: “I graduated from high school, I wanted you to be the first to know.” Four years later, she got another note saying: “I graduated from college, being at the University was hard but I liked it.” Some years after that she got another note saying, “Today I can use my credentials after my name, Theodore M.D. I’m getting married in July, and I want you to be at the wedding in the seat that my mother would have been in if she had lived, because you have been such an important figure in my life.” Love Ted.
The story touches me and prompts me to think of both sides.
We all have a part of us that is Teddy, that needy, wounded orphan child. And we all have a generous, committed, dedicated Miss Nelson in us, too. The story reminds me to think those who have believed in my potential when I could not see it myself. Their belief in my abilities brought forth from me, as Miss Nelson did for Teddy, so much of who I am today.
We all need family and friends who believe in us and see our magnificence. I remember special teachers in my childhood who inspired me, and there are so many teachers in my adult life who helped me file down my rough edges, strengthen areas that were weak, and believed in me so strongly that ultimately I was able to take ownership of my unique gifts. The process of being mothered, fathered, and mentored is still continuing. I don’t think we ever outgrow our need for learning from real live, flesh-and-blood human beings rather than online data.
We have all gotten to where we are today because there have been significant people who have touched our lives, truly seen us, believed in us, encouraged us, healed us, and challenged us. They may not have even been in our lives for a long period of time, and yet their impact was strong, even profound. We would each be in a much sorrier state without these extraordinary, generous people.
I like to believe that I pay it forward. We all have that impact on others, sometimes unintentionally, unknowingly, just by being who we are. When we set a clear intention to be on the lookout for ways that we can contribute, we do discover them. We discover those people who are open to our influence and welcome it. To be received by another feels so good. Our self-esteem and level of happiness rise from each act of generosity, and the cycle of giving and receiving enlarges, with abundant returns that enrich our lives.
It is important to remember that the greatest gifts we give to others are not the material ones, but giving of ourselves. Real fulfillment in relationships comes from our focused attention, interest in knowing who they really are, developing our talents together, sharing some fun, learning and discovering, and bringing out the best in each other. To be our most conscious and aware selves, we can put the accent on giving of ourselves and the depth of satisfaction it brings to us, and to those around us.
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.
“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” – Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate