“Perception Can Be Deceiving”

Good morning  friends. I am so thankful that God makes me evaluate myself often. Not that I don’t think I should have to but because it always gives me deeper revelation to life and my perspective of family, friends, encounters, and beliefs. May God give you the same desire to want to be who He has created you to be!

This morning in my devotional time God spoke to me about my perception of different situations, especially when it comes to the way that I view others. Perception is a way of regarding, understanding or interpreting something or a mental impression. Sometimes because we often develop our own views on how things are our perception of them may be distorted. We tend to see things in a negative way just because or perception of it fits in with the mindset that we have of that particular thing or person. We take this attitude or perception more so with people than we do things. God reminded me of a writing that I read years ago. And I wanted to share it with you today. This will make my devotion today rather long but follow it to the end. I promise it will be worth it. Here is the writing that I read:

“Three Letters for Teddy”

Teddy’s letter came today and now that I’ve read it, I will place it in my cedar chest with the other things important to my life.” I wanted you to be the first to know.” I smiled as I read the words he had written, and my heart swelled with a pride that I had no right to feel. I have not seen Teddy Stallard since he was a student in my fifth-grade class, 15 years ago.

It was early in my career, and I had only been teaching for two years. From the first day he stepped into my classroom, I disliked Teddy. Teachers (although everyone knows differently) are not supposed to have favorites in a class, but most especially they are not to show dislike for a child, any child. Nevertheless, every year there are one or two children that one cannot help but be attracted to, for teachers are human, and it is a human nature to like bright, pretty, intelligent people, whether they are 10 years old or 25. And sometimes, not too often, fortunately, there will be one or two students to whom the teacher just can’t seem to relate.

I thought myself quite capable of handling my personal feelings along that line until Teddy walked into my life. There wasn’t a child I particularly liked that year, but Teddy was most assuredly one I disliked. He was dirty. Not just occasionally, but all the time. His hair hung low over his ears, and he actually had to hold it out of his eyes as he wrote his papers in class. (And this was before it was fashionable to do so!) Too, he had a particular odor about him that I could never identify. His physical faults were many, and his intellect left a lot to be desired also. By the end of the first week, I knew he was hopelessly behind the others. Not only was he behind, but he was just plain slow! I began to withdraw from him immediately.

Any teacher will tell you it’s more of a pleasure to teach a bright child. It is definitely more rewarding for one’s ego. But any teacher worth her credentials can channel work to the bright child, keeping him challenged and learning while she puts her major effort on the slower ones. Any teacher can do this. Most teachers do it, but I didn’t. Not that year. In fact, I concentrated on my best students and let the others follow along as best they could. Ashamed as I am to admit it, I took perverse pleasure in using my red pen; and each time I came to Teddy’s papers, the cross-marks (and they were many) were always a little larger and a little redder than necessary.

“Poor work!” I wrote with a flourish. While I did not actually ridicule the boy, my attitude was obviously quite apparent to the class, for he quickly became the class “goat,” the outcast – the unlovable and the unloved. He knew I didn’t like him, but he didn’t know why. Nor did I know – then or now – why I felt such an intense dislike for him. All I know is he was a little boy no one cared about, and I made no effort on his behalf. The days rolled by and we made it through the Fall Festival, the Thanksgiving holidays, and I continued marking happily with my red pen. As the Christmas holidays approached, I knew Teddy would never catch up in time to be promoted to the sixth-grade level. He would be a repeater. To justify myself, I went to his cumulative folder from time to time. He had very low grades for the first four years, but no grade failure. How he had made it, I didn’t know how. I closed my mind to the personal remarks:

First grade: “Teddy shows promise by work and attitude, but has a poor home situation.”
Second grade: “Teddy could do better. Mother terminally ill. He received little help at home.”
Third grade: “Teddy is a pleasant boy. Helpful, but too serious. Slow learner. Mother passed away at end of year.”
Fourth grade: “Very slow, but well behaved. Father shows no interest.”

“Well, they passed him four times, but he will certainly repeat fifth grade! Do him good!” I said to myself.

And then the last day before the holiday arrived. Our little tree on the reading table sported paper and popcorn chains. Many gifts were heaped underneath, waiting for the big moment. Teachers always get several gifts at Christmas, but mine that year seemed bigger and more elaborate than ever. There was not a student who had not brought me one. Each unwrapping brought squeals of delight and the proud giver would receive effusive thank-you’s.

His gift wasn’t the last one I picked up; in fact, it was in the middle of the pile. Its wrapping was a brown paper bag, and he had colored Christmas trees and red bells all over it. It was stuck together with masking tape.

“For Miss Thompson – from Teddy,” it read. The group was completely silent, and for the first time I felt conspicuous, embarrassed because they all stood watching me unwrap that gift. As I removed the last bit of masking tape, two items fell to my desk. A gaudy rhinestone bracelet with several stones missing and a small bottle of dime-store cologne – half empty. I could hear the snickers and whispers, and I wasn’t sure I could look at Teddy.

“Isn’t this lovely?” I asked, placing the bracelet on my wrist. “Teddy, would you help me fasten it?” He smiled shyly as he fixed the clasp, and I held up my wrist for all of them to admire. There were a few ooh’s and ahhs, but as I dabbed the cologne behind my ears, all the little girls lined up for a dab behind their ears. I continued to open the gifts until I reached the bottom of the pile.

We ate our refreshments, and the bell rang. The children filed out with shouts of “See you next year!” and “Merry Christmas!” but Teddy waited at his desk. When they had all left, he walked toward me clutching his gift and books to his chest. “You smell just like Mom,” he said softly. “Her bracelet looks real pretty on you too. I’m glad you liked it.” He left quickly, and I locked the door, sat down and wept, resolving to make up to Teddy what I had deliberately deprived him of – a teacher who cared. I stayed every afternoon with Teddy from the end of the holidays until the last day of school. Sometimes we worked together. Sometimes he worked alone while I drew up lesson plans or graded papers.

Slowly but surely he caught up with the rest of the class. Gradually there was a definite upward curve in his grades. He did not have to repeat the fifth grade. In fact, his final averages were among the highest in the class, and although I knew he would be moving out of the state when school was out, I was not worried for him. Teddy had reached a level that would stand him in good stead the following year, no matter where he went. He had enjoyed a measure of success and as we were taught in our teacher training courses: “Success builds success.”

I did not hear from Teddy until seven years later when his first letter appeared in our mailbox.

Dear Miss Thompson,
I just wanted you to be the first to know. I will be graduating second in my class next month.

Very truly yours,
Teddy Stallard.

I sent him a card of congratulations and a small package, a pen and pencil gift set. I wondered what he would do after graduation. Four years later, Teddy’s second letter came.

Dear Miss Thompson,

I wanted you to be the first to know. I was just informed I’ll be graduating first in my class. The university has not been easy, but I liked it.

Very truly yours,
Teddy Stallard.

I sent him a good pair of sterling silver mono-grammed cuff links and a card, so proud of him I could burst! And now – today – Teddy’s third letter.

Dear Miss Thompson,

I wanted you to be the first to know. As of today, I am Theodore J. Stallard, M.D. How about that!!?? I’m going to be married in July, the 27th, to be exact. I wanted to ask if you could come and sit where Mom would sit if she were here. I’ll have no family there as Dad died last year.

Very truly yours,
Ted Stallard.

I’m not sure what kind of gift one sends to a doctor on completion of medical school and state boards. Maybe I’ll just wait and take a wedding gift, but my note can’t wait.

Dear Ted,

Congratulations! You made it, and you did it yourself! In spite of those like me and not because of us, this day has come for you. God bless you. I’ll be at that wedding with bells on!“~~~ By Elizabeth Silance Ballard

How many of us have been guilty of reacting the same way as Miss Thompson? We all have experienced our Teddy’s. No, they may not have looked the same, smelled the same, or were even children. They could have been a co-worker that you felt just couldn’t catch on or you felt you just couldn’t stand. It could be a neighbor. That homeless person or even a business partner. Someone that was or is on your team and they just weren’t producing according to the perception that “you” have. We have to remember that we are all the same but different. It’s like my Great Grandmother use to say, “Some flowers are late bloomers!”

We have to remember to see people as God sees them. Keeping in mind that when we are leaders and are building a team, we have to treat everyone the same. Different in the way that we help them recognize their strengths and weaknesses. But the same as a team, knowing that the success of one is the success of others. Don’t have a judgmental perception of others around you. Success builds success-not just in business but in life.

“Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?” Mark 2:8

Live life, give people hope, share your heart, wisdom, and resources. Never place a period where God says there should be a comma.

As always peace and blessings, be safe. Remember God loves you and so do I. ©krw 5.31.16



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