The Gift That Lives On

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Today, most of us live in a pocket of society, where pampered affluence runs rampant.  We are often at a complete loss to know what kinds of gifts to buy our friends and loved ones on special occasions.  For some people (especially those who “have everything”) the standard gift just won’t cut it. Nothing in the entire shopping mall catches our fancy.  

Well, I have a suggestion.  It may not seem that expensive or sound very novel, but believe me, it works every time.  It is one of those gifts that has great value but no price tag.  It can’t be lost, nor will it ever be forgotten.  There is no problem with getting the correct size either.  It fits all shapes, any age, and every personality.  This ideal gift is yourself.

In your personal quest for character, don’t ever forget the value of unselfishness. 

That is right, give some of yourself away.  And then give some more and then even some more.  Love, care, and serve other people….and keep doing it!

Give an hour of your time to someone who needs you.  Give a handwritten note of encouragement to someone who is down and feels abandoned.  Give a big hug of positive affirmation to someone in your own family who is struggling with some significant challenges.  Give a visit of mercy to someone who is laid aside.  Give a meal that you have prepared to someone who is sick or incapacitated.  Give a word of compassion to someone who just lost a mate.  Give a deed of kindness to someone who is slow and easily overlooked.  Jesus taught us all: “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (See Matthew 25 : 40).

I believe that a true story from one of my mentors, Mr. Rich Devos, which he shared with me over four decades ago, might better communicate the essence of what I am attempting to tell you now.

A story please……

Teddy Stallard certainly qualified as “one of the least.”  Totally disinterested in school.  Musty, wrinkled clothes, hair never combed.  One of those kids in school with a deadpan face, expressionless—sort of a glassy, unfocused, stare.  

Whenever Miss Thompson, his teacher, spoke to Teddy, he always answered in monosyllables.  Unattractive, unmotivated, and distant.  He was just plain hard to like.  Even though his teacher said she loved all in her class the same, down deep inside she wasn’t being completely truthful.

Whenever she marked Teddy’s papers, she got a certain perverse pleasure out of putting X’s next to the wrong answers, and when she put the F’s at the top of the papers, she always did it with a flair.  She should have known better; she had Teddy’s school records and she knew more about him than she wanted to admit.  The record read:

          1st Grade: Teddy shows promise with his work and attitude, but 
          poor home situation.

          2nd Grade: Teddy could do better.  Mother is seriously ill.  He 
          receives little help at home.

          3rd Grade: Teddy is a good boy but too serious.  He is a slow
           learner.  His mother died this year.

          4th Grade: Teddy is very slow, but well-behaved.  His father shows
           no interest.

Christmas came, and the boys and girls in Miss Thompson’s class brought her Christmas presents.  They piled their presents on her desk and crowded around to watch her open them.  Among the presents there was one from Teddy Stallard.  She was surprised that he had brought her a gift, but he had.  Teddy Stallard’s gift was wrapped in plain brown paper and was held together with Scotch tape.  On the paper were written the simple words, “For Miss Thompson from Teddy.”  When she opened Teddy’s present, out fell a gaudy rhinestone bracelet, with half the stones missing, and a bottle of cheap perfume.

The other boys and girls began to giggle and smirk over Teddy’s gifts, but Miss Thompson at least had enough good sense to silence them by immediately putting on the bracelet and putting some of the perfume on her wrist. Holding her wrist up for the other children to smell, she said, “Doesn’t it smell lovely?”  And the children, taking their que from the teacher, readily agreed with “ooahs” and “ahs.”

At the end of the day, when school was over and the other children had all left, Teddy lingered behind. He slowly came over to her desk and said softly, “Miss Thompson….Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother…and her bracelet looks really pretty on you, too.  I am glad that you liked my presents.”  When Teddy left, Miss Thompson got down on her knees and asked God to forgive her.

The next day when the children came to school, they were welcomed by a new teacher.  Miss Thompson had become a different person.  She was no longer just a teacher; she had become an agent of God.  She was now a person committed to loving her children and doing things for them that would live on after her.  She helped all of the children, but especially the slow ones, and especially Teddy Stallard.  By the end of that school year, Teddy showed dramatic improvement.  He had caught up with most of the students and was even ahead of some.

She didn’t hear from Teddy for a long time.  Then one day, she received a note that read: 

Dear Miss Thompson:

     I wanted you to be the first to know.
     I will be graduating second in my class.

Teddy Stallard

Four years later, another note came:

Dear Miss Thompson:

     They just told me I will be graduating first in my class.  
     I wanted you to be the first to know.  The University has not been easy,
     but I liked it.

Teddy Stallard

And four years later:

Dear Miss Thompson:

As of today I am Theodore Stallard, M.D.  How about that?  I wanted you to be the first to know.  I am getting married next month, the 27th to be exact.  I want you to come and sit where my mother would sit if she were alive.  You are the only family I have now; Dad died last year.

Teddy Stallard

Miss Thompson went to that wedding and sat where Teddy’s mother would have sat.  She deserved to sit there; she had done something for Teddy that he could never forget.

What can you give as a gift?  Instead of giving only something you can buy, risk giving something that will live on after you.  Be really generous.

Give yourself to a Teddy Stallard, “one of the least,” whom you can help to become one of the greats!”

Peace and Love to All of You…………………………Poppa Bear          

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