I’m sure most of you are familiar with the story by Elizabeth Thompson Ballard, called Three Letters From Teddy. I’m always touched every time I hear or read it.
In a nut shell…. it’s a story about a teacher , Miss Thompson, who at first isn’t very fond of Teddy because he does’t seem to be a good student. She then learns about his home life and that his Mother had passed away a few years ago. She starts to take interest in Teddy by showing concern, etc. Teddy school work begins to turn around and as Teddy grows, he continues to write to Miss Thompson over the years about his progress. Of course, he goes on to become more than he ever thought he could and gives Miss Thompson so much of the credit. If you don’t know the story, google it or watch this wonderful video link. (But be sure to come back to finish reading my blog!)
The other night, I heard a real life ‘Teddy’ story. I’ve heard it before. This ‘Teddy’ has been a friend of my husband and I for a long time. For some reason the story struck me a little more than usual. Perhaps it’s because I’m more aware of things and how they affect me…. how I can be grateful for them. I hope you don’t mind if I summarize my friend Ernie’s story and share my thoughts.
Ernie grew up being told he was stupid and dumb, not very bright. He was a shy kid. Standing up in front of people was something you wouldn’t catch him doing. One day he was sitting on some steps at Dixie College, feeling lonely, when Roene DiFiore, music teacher and director of Dixie College Program Bureau, came by and said: “You look like you could use a friend. Why don’t you come with me.” Which he did. And his life was never the same because of the influence of this wonderful woman. I payed tribute to Roene back in August. Check my archives to read about her. She was amazing.
Because Roenen loved and encouraged Ernie…. he became one of the best performers that Roene ever had in Program Bureau. In fact…. he still represents that group more often than anyone else. He loves to be onstage, but particularly loves to encourage young people to develop their talents. Talents they may not know they have. Roene not only instilled in him a feeling of self worth, but a love for the arts.
Ernie has just purchased a large estate home in St.George that he is planning on turning into the Roene B. DiFiore Center for the Arts. That may not be the exact name they settle on… but the point is… he is trying to provide a place where young people can be encouraged to develop their talents. I have a suspicion that he will be very interested in the shy ones. I think you might call it ‘Paying it Forward’.
The point I want to make here, between Ernie’s story and the story of Teddy is, children listen to the things we say…. good and bad! In both of these stories, these young men were made to feel like they weren’t very bright or wouldn’t amount to much. That came from people being careless about what was said to them or even how they were treated. Luckily, in both cases, someone came along who took interest in them, made them feel good about themselves and was instrumental in helping them become more than they ever thought they could be.
I’m grateful for Ernie’s example. I’m grateful Mrs. DiFiore took him under her wing and helped him to become what he is today. I’m grateful that Ernie has a desire to pass what he learned on. I’m grateful for teachers like Miss Thompson in the story of Teddy. And there are many out there.
But there are many others who use the name calling and labels which have a detrimental effect on people. Very often we don’t really know all the circumstances behind what makes a person act the way they do. It’s important to not be judgmental toward them. How many times have people mis-judged you? I know it’s happened to me.
Be the person who encourages people…. all people…. but particularly the young! It can have such an impact on them! As the song from the Stephen Sondeim musical, Into the Woods says: “Careful the things you say, Children will Listen!” Let them listen to words of encouragement and love!
I am Grateful! How are You?
This post reminded me of this old movie “Cipher in the Snow”. It’s not just adults that can have an effect on kids…. but fellow students too!