Emily Parker stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the very first day of school in the fall and told the kids . Like most educators, she took a gander at her pupils and said that she adored all of them the same, that she would treat all of them 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.
Emily Parker had watched Teddy the year before and the prior year and saw he didn’t play well with the other youngsters, that his clothes were unkept 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, nobody else appeared to appreciate him, either.
At the school where Mrs. Parker 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 keeps on buckling down yet his mom’s passing has been a significant challenge for 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Teddy’s fourth-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.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. Parker realized the problem, yet Christmas was nearing quick. It was everything she could do, with the school play and all, until the day before the holidays began and she was suddenly forced to focus on Teddy Stoddard.
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. Parker 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. Parker, today you smelled just like my mom used to.”
After the youngsters left she sobbed for 60 minutes. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing, and speaking. Instead, she began to teach children. Emily parker 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 where there would be an important test, Mrs. Parker 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.
After a year she discovered a note under her entryway, from Teddy, advising her that of the considerable number of instructors he’d had in grade school, she was his top pick. Six years passed 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. Parker she was still his favorite teacher.
At that point four more years passed but another letter came. This time he clarified that after he got his four year college education, he chose to go somewhat further. The letter clarified that she was still his most loved instructor, yet that now his name was a bit 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 passed a couple of years ago and he was wondering…well, if Mrs. Parker 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, Emily Parker smelled just like…well, just like the way Teddy remembered his mother smelling on their last Christmas together.
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.
Origins: This touching tale is a work of fiction penned by Elizabeth Silance Ballard in 1974 and printed that year in HomeLife magazine, a Baptist family publication, where it was clearly labeled as fiction and presented as such, not as an account of a real-life student.