Coming from the academe, the corporate world and a short stint in government, I’ve discovered that it has taken a lot of people several years to recognise the fact that MENTORING at any point in our careers creates large impacts on the lives of others.

Let me share with you a short story in order to place the right perspective on life:

Jean Thompson stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the first day of school in the fall and told the students a LIE.  Like most teachers, she looked at her pupils and said that she loved them all equally.  That she would treat them all alike.  But that was impossible, because there in front of her, slumped in his seat on the third row, was a young 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.  That he constantly needed a bath.  That Teddy was unpleasant.

It got to the point during the first few months of school, 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 as large as she could.  Teddy was a sullen young boy.  No one else seemed to enjoy him, too.

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 and 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 seems to be a struggle.”

His third-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy continues to work hard, but his mother’s death has been difficult 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Teddy’s fourth-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.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. Thompson realised 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 Teddy Stoddard.

On the Christmas gather in school, her students brought her presents, all in beautiful ribbon and bright paper. Except for Teddy’s, which was clumsily wrapped in a heavy, brown paper of a scissored grocery bag.  Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other gifts.

Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle of perfume that was one-fourth in amount.  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 students left, she cried for at least an hour.  On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing, and language.  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 where there would be an important test, Mrs. Thompson would remember that perfume.  By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in 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 favourite.

Six years went bey 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 favourite teacher of all time.

Four years later, 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 honours.  He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still his favourite 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 bit further.  The letter explained that she was still his favourite teacher, but that now his name was a little longer.  The letter was signed, THEODORE F. STODDARD, M.D.

The story doesn’t end here.  You see, there was yet another letter that spring.  Teddy said he’d met this girl and was soon 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.

At the wedding, Mrs. Thompson 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 Christmas together.

Everyone has a role to play in making the journey of others worth pursuing.  The moral of the story here is that “you can never 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.

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