Tony Campolo tells a touching story about a school teacher Miss Thompson and one of her fourth grade students, Teddy Stallard.
Teddy was a slow, unkempt student, a loner shunned by his classmates. The previous year his mother died, and what little motivation for school he may have once had was now gone. Miss Thompson didn’t particularly care for Teddy either, but at Christmas time he brought her a small present. Her desk was covered with well-wrapped presents from the other children, but Teddy’s came in a brown sack. When she opened it there was a gaudy rhinestone bracelet with half the stones missing and a bottle of cheap perfume.
The children began to snicker but Miss Thompson saw the importance of the moment. She quickly splashed on some perfume and put on the bracelet, pretending Teddy had given her something special. At the end of the day Teddy worked up enough courage to softly say, “Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother . . . and her bracelet looks real pretty on you too. I’m glad you like my presents.”
After Teddy left, Miss Thompson got down on her knees and prayed for God’s forgiveness. She prayed for God to use her as she sought to not only teach these children but to love them as well. She became a new teacher. She lovingly helped students like Teddy, and by the end of the year he had caught up with most of the students. Miss Thompson didn’t hear from Teddy for a long time.
Then she received this note: “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 she got another note: “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.”
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 my mother would sit if she were alive. You are the only family I have now; Dad died last year. Love, Teddy Stallard.”
Miss Thompson went to the wedding and sat where Teddy’s mother would have sat, because she let God use her as an instrument of kindness and compassion.
Our word of the week is tenderhearted.
Peter, who called for the persecuted, scattered Christian to be holy, writes, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” (1 Peter 3:8).
The word tenderhearted is translated “pitiful” in the KJV; “kindhearted” in the NASU’ and “compassionate” in the NIV.
Dr. A. T. Robertson says this Greek “is a rare and compound word” used only in this passage and in Ephesians 4:32. In describing the new person in Christ, Paul exhorts, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Dr. C.D. Hamilton, in his commentary on I Peter, points out that the English words that come from this original Greek word literally mean “strong bowels.” That sounds strange to us! But the Greeks believed that the bowels were the seat of the affections.
Dr. Hamilton was one of my Bible professors at Florida College. I remember him explaining this “weird word” to class one day. He illustrated it by the flutter you get in the pit of your stomach when a pretty girl walked by! Or if you narrowly avoid an automobile accident, the rapid heart beat and the feeling that came over you in that instance.
That is why the old King James Verse used the expression “bowels of mercies” (Col 3:12); “bowels of compassion’ (1John 3:17); and Paul’s commendation of Philemon when he said, “the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.” (Phile7).
Tenderheartedness is feeling people’s pain and problems. It is allowing your heart to feel empathy and sympathy for another’s sorrow.
There are many ways we can demonstrate tenderheartedness to others. People need a tender touch when they are feeling physical pain. Experiencing financial crisis. Enduring emotion suffering. Grieving over the death of a loved one. Or being assaulted spiritually by Satan’s temptations.
Look for a “Teddy Stallard.” And be a “Miss Thompson.” You will tenderly touch the life of a precious soul. And receive a great blessing in return.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman