For the last 20 years I have presented the Gospel to each new youth at the highly secure prison for the kids ages 13 to 19 at Gainesville, Texas. It is the first time that most any of them have stopped “running on the streets” and had the time to think about their life. Most every one made a decision to make God part of their life. After our hour+ together I would write each one a letter. As a result I corresponded more with many of them. And in each letter I would enclose a group of short stories or poems. They really liked them, especially those with an emotional message. You probably would not believe how many locked-up prison boys have loved theses little stories, and read them over and over.
In my soon to be published book I enclosed a long list of those short stories in the Appendix. Since the prison boys liked them so much, I thought you may like to see some of them. So, here is an 11th group of them for you. And you are welcome to share them with others.
The True Story of Dr. Stoddard – Alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin
As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, 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 did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, 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 papers.
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.
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.
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, ‘His mother’s death has been hard on 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 he 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 Christmas 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, 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 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 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 had ever had in his whole life.
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. But now his name was a little longer…. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.
The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had 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 at the wedding in the place 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. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.
They hugged each other, and 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.’
(For you that don’t know, Teddy Stoddard is the Doctor at Iowa Methodist in Des Moines that bears the name, The Stoddard Cancer Center.)
An Elf’s Tale
By Tyree Dillingham
It was six o’clock at the mall, and I was as exhausted as an elf on Christmas Eve. In fact, I was an elf and it was Christmas Eve. That December of my sixteenth year, 1995, I’d been working two jobs to help my parents with my school tuition and to make a little extra holiday money. My second job was as an elf for Santa to help with kids’ photos. Between my two jobs, I’d worked twelve hours straight the day before; on Christmas Eve, things were so busy at Santaland that I hadn’t even had a coffee break all day. But this was it – only minutes more, and I’d have survived!
I looked over at Shelly, our manager, and she gave me an encouraging smile. She was the reason I’d made it through. She’d been thrown in as manager halfway through the season, and she’d made all the difference in the world. My job had changed from stress-filled to challenging. Instead of yelling at her workers to keep us in line, she encouraged us and stood behind us. She made us pull together as a team. Especially when things were their craziest, she always had a smile and an encouraging word. Under her leadership, we’d achieved the highest number of mall photo sales in California.
I knew it was a difficult holiday season for her – she’d recently suffered a miscarriage. I hoped she knew how great she was and what a difference she’d made to all her workers, and to all the little children who’d come to have their pictures taken.
Our booth was open until seven; at six things started to slow down and I finally took a break. Although I didn’t have much money, I really wanted to buy a little gift for Shelly so that she’d know we appreciated her. I got to a store that sold soap and lotion just as they put the grate down. “Sorry, we’re closed!” barked the clerk, who looked as tired as I was and didn’t sound sorry at all.
I looked around and, to my dismay, found that all the stores had closed. I’d been so tired I hadn’t noticed.
I was really bummed. I had been working all day and had missed buying her a present by one minute.
On my way back to the Santa booth, I saw that Nordstrom was still open. Fearful that they, too, would close at any moment, I hurried inside and followed the signs toward the Gift Gallery. As I rushed through the store, I began to feel very conspicuous. It seemed the other shoppers were all very well-dressed and wealthy – and here I was a broke teenager in an elf costume. ‘How could I even think I’d find something in such a posh store for fewer than fifteen dollars?’
I self-consciously jingled my way into the Gift Gallery. A woman sales associate, who also looked as if she’d just stepped off a fashion runway, came over and asked if she could help me. As she did, everyone in the department turned and stared.
As quietly as possible, I said, “No, that’s okay. Just help somebody else.”
She looked right at me and smiled. “No,” she said. “I want to help you.”
I told the woman who I was buying for and why, then I sheepishly admitted I only had fifteen dollars to spend. She looked as pleased and thoughtful as if I’d just asked to spend $1,500. By now, the department had emptied, but she carefully went around, selecting a few things that would make a nice basket. The total came to $14.09.
The store was closing; as she rang up the purchase, the lights were turned off.
I was thinking that if I could take them home and wrap them, I could make them really pretty but I didn’t have time.
As if reading my mind, the saleslady asked, “Do you need this wrapped?”
=”Yes,” I said.
By now the store was closed. Over the intercom, a voice asked if there were still customers in the store. I knew this woman was probably as eager to get home on Christmas Eve as everybody else, and here she was stuck waiting on some kid with a measly purchase.
But she was gone in the back room a long time. When she returned, she brought out the most beautiful basket I’d ever seen. It was all wrapped up in silver and gold, and looked as if I’d spent fifty dollars on it – at least. I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy!
When I thanked her, she said, “You elves are out in the mall spreading joy to so many people, I just wanted to bring a little joy to you.”
“Merry Christmas, Shelly,” I said back at the booth.
My manager gasped when she saw the present; she was so touched and happy that she started crying. I hoped it gave a happy start to her Christmas.
All through the holidays I couldn’t stop thinking about the kindness and effort of the saleswoman, and how much joy she had brought to me, and in turn to my manager. I thought the least I could do was to write a letter to the store and let them know about it. About a week later, I got a reply from the store, thanking me for writing.
I thought that was the end of it, until mid-January.
That’s when I got a call from Stephanie, the sales associate. She wanted to take me to lunch. Me, a fifteen-dollar, sixteen-year-old customer.
When we met, Stephanie gave me a hug, and a present, and told me this story.
She had walked into a recent employee meeting to find herself on the list of nominees to be named the Nordstrom All-Star. She was confused but excited, as she had never before been nominated. At the point in the meeting when the winner was announced, they called Stephanie – she’d won! When she went up front to accept the award, her manager read my letter out loud. Everyone gave her a huge round of applause.
Winning meant that her picture was put up in the store lobby, she got new business cards with Nordstrom All-Star written on them, a 14-karat gold pin, a 100-dollar award, and was invited to represent her department at the regional meeting.
At the regional meeting, they read my letter and everyone gave Stephanie a standing ovation. “This is what we want all of our employees to be like!” said the manager who read the letter. She got to meet three of the Nordstrom brothers, who were each very complimentary.
I was already a little overwhelmed when Stephanie took my hand. “But that’s not the best part, Tyree,” she said. “The day of that first store meeting, I took a list of the nominees, and put your letter behind it, with the 100- dollar bill behind that. I took it home and gave it to my father. He read everything and looked at me and said, “When do you find out who won?”
“I said, ‘I won, Dad.’
“He looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Stephanie, I’m really proud of you.'”
Quietly, she said, “My dad has never said he was proud of me.”
I think I’ll remember that moment all my life. That was when I realized what a powerful gift appreciation can be. Shelly’s appreciation of her workers had set into motion a chain of events – Stephanie’s beautiful basket, my letter, Nordstrom’s award – that had changed at least three lives.
Though I’d heard it all my life, it was the Christmas when I was an elf – and a broke teenager – that I truly came to understand that the littlest things can make the biggest difference.
At an airport I overheard a father and daughter in their last momentstogether. They had announced her plane’s departure and standing near the door, he said to his daughter, “I love you, I wish you enough”. She said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.” They kissed good-bye and she left.
He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?” “Yes, I have,” I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me. So I knew what this man was experiencing.
“Forgive me for asking, but why is this forever good-bye?” I asked. “I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, her next trip back will be for my funeral, he said.
“When you were saying good-bye I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?” He began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents, Godly folks, used to say it to everyone.”
He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more. “When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled by God with enough good things to sustain them,” he continued and then, turning toward me, he shared the following, reciting it from memory:
“From God’s Spirit I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Good-bye.”
He then began to cry and walked away.
My friend reading this, I wish you ENOUGH!!!
A Story about Edith
Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of a doctor by the name of Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as people. His favorite patient was Edith Burns.
One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was because of Edith Burns. When he walked into that waiting room, there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to a young mother sitting beside her.
Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way: “Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?” Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would be saved into Heaven.
Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head nurse, Beverly. Beverly had first met Edith when she was taking her blood pressure. Edith began by saying, “My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?”
Beverly said, “Why yes I do.” Edith said, “Well, what do you believe about Easter?” Beverly said, “Well, it’s all about egg hunts, going to church, and dressing up.”
Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and finally led her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Phillips said, “Beverly, don’t call Edith into the office quite yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the waiting room.
After being called back in the doctor’s office, Edith sat down and when she took a look at the doctor she said, “Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?”
Dr. Phillips said gently, “Edith, I’m the doctor and you’re the patient.” With a heavy heart he said, “Your lab report came back and it says you have cancer, and Edith, you’re not going to live very long.”
Edith said, “Why, Will Phillips, shame on you. Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I’m going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!”
Dr. Phillips thought to himself, “What a magnificent woman this Edith Burns is!” Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the office was closed through January 3rd.
On the day the office opened, Edith did not show up. Later that afternoon, Edith called Dr. Phillips and said she would have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, “Dr. Will, I’m very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here next to me in my room who need to know about Easter.”
Well, they did just that and women began to come in and share that room with Edith. Many women were saved. Everybody on that floor from staff to patients were so excited about Edith, that they started calling her Edith Easter; that is everyone except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse.
Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith because she was a “religious nut”. She had been a nurse in an army hospital. She had seen it all and heard it all. She was the original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.
One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick. Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, “Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you.”
Phyllis Cross said, “Well, you can quit praying for me, it won’t work, I’m not interested.” Edith said, “Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family.”
Phyllis Cross said, “Then you will never die because that will never happen,” and curtly walked out of the room.
Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would say, “God loves you Phyllis and I love you, and I’m praying for you.”
One day Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith’s room like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith said, “I’m so glad you have come, because God told me that today is your special day.”
Phyllis Cross said, “Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, ‘Do you believe in Easter?’ but you have never asked me.”
Edith said, “Phyllis, I wanted too many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked…” Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Edith said, “Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?”
Phyllis Cross said, “Oh I want to believe that with all of my heart, and I do want Jesus in my life.” Right there, Phyllis Cross prayed and invited Jesus Christ into her heart. For the first time Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, she was carried out on the wings of angels.
Two days later, Phyllis Cross came in and Edith said, “Do you know what day it is?” Phyllis Cross said, “Why Edith, its Good Friday.”
Edith said, “Oh, no, for you every day is Easter. Happy Easter Phyllis!”
Two days later, on Easter Sunday, Phyllis Cross came into work, did some of her duties and then went down to the flower shop and got some Easter lilies because she wanted to go up to see Edith and give her some Easter lilies and wish her a Happy Easter.
When she walked into Edith’s room, Edith was in bed. That big black Bible was on her lap. Her hands were in that Bible. There was a sweet smile on her face. When Phyllis Cross went to pick up Edith’s hand, she realized Edith was dead.
Her right hand was on John 14, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Phyllis Cross took one look at that dead body, and then lifted her face toward heaven, and with tears streaming down here cheeks, said, “Happy Easter, Edith – Happy Easter!”
Phyllis Cross left Edith’s body, walked out of the room, and over to a table where two student nurses were sitting. She said, “My name is Phyllis Cross. Do you believe in Easter?”
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