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the-winds-of-changeGood Morning!

Thank you for the invitation so kindly extended to me to join your graduation celebrations here today.  Let me begin by congratulating the teachers who have worked relentlessly to give the gift of knowledge to the students, a gift for life, a gift that will make a great difference to their success in the future. Let me thank on behalf of everyone the Principal who provided an environment that facilitated learning and inspired the teachers to give of their best. Let me thank all the ancillary staff who worked to  maintain a clean and hygienic physical environment, I am sure under difficult circumstances. Let me congratulate, and notice I did not say thanks, the parents and guardians for fulfilling their responsibilities to their children.  I did not say thank you because I believe that the parents have a moral duty towards their children to ensure that they develop spiritually and morally in the environment of the home and also are provided with the best opportunities for secular empowerment through education.

As you see from my introduction,  if we each do our duty well, and if we perform as closely as possible to perfection, we would make a difference in the world; we would cause change in the fortunes of others. This essentially is our purpose on earth – to use the special gifts that God has given to each one of us to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Whether you are student, teacher, Principal or parent, you have been endowed with special gifts. Your duty is to discover what these special gifts are and to use them for the benefit of others. This is true service to mankind. Such an attitude wherein you use your special gifts in the service of others is a manifestation of love. The first change that comes about when one uses one’s special gifts to empower and makes others happy and fulfilled, comes about in the giver. To be able to freely give of oneself, one’s possessions, one’s knowledge and one’s skills, grows one in the values of care, compassion and charity. Where these qualities are found, that individual grows spiritually. Only when there is spiritual growth and when action is founded on spirituality, love, can change that is lasting and meaningful emerge both in the life of the giver and in the life of the receiver. Without care, compassion and charity being given with love, the giver makes slaves of the receivers. The only kind of care, compassion, charity and giving that is of value is that which frees a person rather than enslaves a person.

Children, you will be going out to secondary school in the next few weeks. In the future you will gain great knowledge and skills. Some of you would become professionals, others tradesmen etc.  You will have  the right to earn a just and decent wage for your skills and knowledge. This right must not make you enslave people. Make a change in the lives of others by giving to them more than you received even as you get a payment that is just for your efforts. You must give so as to free persons , not make them dependent. This will make a change in their lives. It will also make a change in your life . You will experience the joy that comes from the freedom and happiness you gave to others. Your joy resides in the happiness created for others by your actions. You have control over your actions. Use this choice over your actions to make others independent and happy human beings.

There is a story which I would like to share with you. I am told that it is a true story. However  I found that it is highly inspirational and speaks to both teachers and students as well as parents.

The story was written by Elizabeth Silance Ballard

It  is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher.  Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. She looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

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 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, and 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 on of her “teacher’s pets.”

A year later, she found a note under he door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still 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, second in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole 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 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 little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit I the place at the weeding 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. And 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.”

MY dear friends, I hope you liked that story. Every meeting is an opportunity to make a difference in the life of that person. However, it is also an opportunity to make a change in our lives. If you truly want to change the world, first change yourself. You must become the example of the change that you want in the world. This is the best way, perhaps the only way. It was Gandhi’s way. IT was the way of Nelson Mandela.

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