by Ryan Keller, Administrator, Hope4Healing
The goal of Hope4Healing is to help individuals “build a better life”. The reality is that making changes toward a better life do not come in a vacuum. Hope4Healing has seen many blessings since its launch in August of 2014, and to date has worked on close to 450 requests for more than 200 individuals all across Iowa looking to “…have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV).
I get the joy of speaking to many different groups across the state of Iowa, sharing with them the opportunities that Hope4Healing brings; allowing all of us to work together utilizing our individual talents or gifts. Often times after I speak, someone will come up to me and want to discuss some of the finer points of how Hope4Healing might work; and usually when I am speaking to a church about their role as a Friendship Ministry toward those individuals needing help, I get a version of this type of question. “What type of training do you offer to help us (the individuals in the church) to work with people who are looking for help through Hope4Healing?” I was just asked this question last Sunday after a presentation. Normally, I would diverge into a discussion about facilitating training in areas of knowing our role within the network, how to set boundaries, etc…; but I remembered something that changed my perspective when talking to the man who presented the question this past week. We need to be genuine! We might feel the need to be trained, and training is certainly a good thing; but there is such a thing as being overly trained to the point that our interactions become stale and insincere.
Let me share a shortened version of a story given by Dr. Chuck Swindoll that helps to make this point. (Pillow, 2001) 1
Teddy was disinterested in school. Musty, wrinkled clothes, hair never combed, he spoke in monosyllables. Unattractive, unmotivated and distant, he was just plain hard to like.
Even though Miss Thompson said she loved all her class the same, she wasn’t being completely truthful. She always marked the errors on Teddy’s paper with flair. She should have known better. She had Teddy’s records.
1st grade: Teddy shows promise, but poor home situation.
2nd grade: Teddy could improve. Mother seriously ill.
3rd grade: Teddy is good boy, but slow learner. Mother died.
4th grade: Teddy is very slow. Father shows no interest.
Christmas came and the boys and girls in Miss Thompson’s class brought her presents. Among the presents was one from Teddy Stallard. Teddy’s gift was wrapped in brown paper with a simple message on it, “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. Miss Thompson put the bracelet on and dabbed perfume on her wrist with feigned delight.
At the end of the day, when the other kids had left, Teddy lingered behind. He slowly came over to her desk and said softly, “Miss Thompson, you smell just like my Mother, and her bracelet looks real pretty on you. I’m glad 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, a new teacher welcomed them. She was no longer just a teacher; she was an agent of God. She was now committed to loving her children and doing things for them that would live on after her.
She helped all the children, but especially the slow ones, and especially Teddy Stallard. By the end of the school year, Teddy showed dramatic improvement. 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. Love, 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. Love, 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. I want you to come and sit where Mother would sit if she were here. You are the only family I have now. Dad died last year. Love, Teddy Stallard.
She went to the wedding. She sat where Teddy’s Mother would have sat. She deserved it.
Look around. Give yourself to a Teddy Stallard. Help somebody get a Fresh Start Now.
Miss Thompson was genuine throughout the whole story. She had the training of a teacher to help her deal with what would be called today a problem child. Many times today, we would see a school counselor, the department of human services, or foster care get involved in the life of Teddy; and those things are all benefits. However, what Teddy needed most was the genuine concern and care expressed by another. When Miss Thompson took a step back and realized that she had the opportunity to be a genuine friend in the lives of her students, she was (through God’s help) able to make a difference in the life of her students. In the life of Teddy, she helped him “…build a better life…”
It is easy for all of us to want to hesitate to act out of a fear that we are not prepared for the task we are about to undertake. Many times what is needed is our genuineness to befriend someone else; it is no different when intentionally befriending someone through your church’s Friendship Ministry team. Were you trained to be a friend to your current friends? We need to practice discernment as people of God, but don’t let fear keep you from genuinely touching the life of another.
1 Pillow, L. (2001, 12 21). Fresh Start: Give yourself to a ‘Teddy’. Retrieved 02 26, 2016, from The Cabin.net: http://thecabin.net/stories/122101/rel_1221010019.shtml#.VtBinPkrLIW.
To learn more about Hope4Healing, visit our website at: Hope4HealingQuakerdale.net