Take a Mental Note
It is easy to take mental capabilities for granted. Don't.
Try to feel pleasure in your ability to speak and think. Appreciate that you can study wisdom. Even the greatest scholar should appreciate his ability to pronounce words, to read sentences, and to study the basics.
A person who masters this appreciation will live a life of joy.
Love Yehuda Lave
Rabbi Sprecher on Free Will:
There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her 5th grade
class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she
loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy
Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn't play well with the other children, that his
clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson
would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last.
However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.
1. Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners...he
is a joy to be around."
2. 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."
3. His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father is overwhelmed and
his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."
4. Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school.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."
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her
holiday presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy,
brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson 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 perfume. But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of
the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled
just like my Mom used to." After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.
On that very day, she quit teaching reading, and writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid
particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he
responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would
love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets."
A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Six years went 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 the best teacher he ever had in his whole life. 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 soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured
Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had.
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 little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and
favorite teacher he ever had in his whole life. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, "Theodore F. Stoddard,
The story doesn't end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he'd met this girl and was going to be
married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in
the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She
wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy
remembered his mother wearing.
At the wedding Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you so
much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."
Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me
that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."