When we turn on our TVs or open our newspapers, we can be overwhelmed by the darkness: the news is filled with stories of war, murder, child abuse, people losing their homes and retirements, and on and on . . . It is easy to feel pessimistic and think, “The darkness is too great. I can’t possibly make a difference . . .I don’t even know where to start . . .”
The following story reminds us that one person can make a difference:
Mary grew up knowing she was different from other kids and hated it. She was born with a severe cleft palate and heard the jokes, felt the stares of cruel children who teased her non-stop. With her misshapen nose, her crooked lip and her labored speech—and all that teasing—Mary grew up believing that no one, except her family, could ever love her.
That is, until she entered Miss Leonard’s 4th grade class. Miss L had a warm smile, a shining face and warm brown hair. While everyone in the class liked her, Mary LOVED her.
In those days it was common for teachers to give their children an annual hearing test. Remember those? This was an added burden for Mary because, in addition to the cleft palate, she could barely hear out of one ear. Determined not to let the children have another of her limitations to point out, she would cheat on the annual hearing test.
“The whisper test,” as it was called, was given by having a child come to the class room door, turn sideways, close one ear with a finger and then repeat something that the teacher whispered in the other ear. When it was Mary’s turn, she turned her bad ear toward the teacher and pretended to cover her good ear. Usually the teacher would whisper something like, “Is the sky blue?” or “What color are your shoes?”
NOT on that day. Surely God put those seven words in Miss Leonard’s mouth that day. The seven words that changed Mary’s life. Miss L. said, “I wish you were my little girl.”
As an adult, Mary went on to run a large special educational program. When a reporter asked what inspired her to work to help thousands of children, Mary pointed out Mrs. Leonard and her seven words. Mary said, “From the day I heard those words, I knew who I was. I was a beloved child and I wanted every troubled child to know who they are, too.”
Today Mary makes a huge difference in God’s world. She is light in this sometimes dark world. Each person listening has power to also bring light into someone’s life today! Maybe you can whisper in someone’s ear, “You are special. I love you!”