Saturday, February 25, 2012

Short Stories

Short Stories for our Journey to Lenten Season.


In his fifty six years on the planet, Adolf Hitler did incredible harm and was responsible for millions of terrible deaths. Yet in all of the horror that he unleashed, there are pinpoints of lights and nobility. And a German soldier, Private Joseph Schultz, was one of these pinpoints.

He was sent to Yugoslavia shortly after the invasion. Schultz was a loyal, young German soldier on patrol. One day the sergeant called out eight names, his among them. They thought they were going on the routine patrol. As they hitched up their rifles, they came over a hill, still not knowing what their mission was. They were eight Yugoslavians there, standing on the brow of the hill, five men and three women. It was only when they got about fifty feet away from them, when any marksman could shoot out an eye of a pheasant that the soldiers realized what their mission was.

The eight soldiers were lined up. The sergeant barked out, “Ready!” and they lifted up their rifles. “Aim,” and they got their sights. And suddenly in the silence that prevailed, there was a thud of a rifle butt against the ground. The sergeant, and the seven other soldiers and those eight Yugoslavians stopped and looked. Private Joseph Schultz walked toward the Yugoslavians. His sergeant called after him and ordered him to come back, but he pretended not to hear him

Instead he walked the fifty feet to the mound of the hill, and the joined hands with the eight Yugoslavians. There was a moment of silence, and then the sergeant yelled, “Fire!” And Private Joseph Schultz died, mingling his blood with that of those innocent men and women. Found on his body was an excerpt from St. Paul: “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.”


They huddled inside the storm door, two children in ragged out-grown coats. "Any old papers, lady?" I was busy. I wanted to say no-until I looked down at their feet. Thin little sandals, sopped with sleet. "Come in, and I'll make you a cup of hot cocoa." There was no conversation. Their soggy sandals left marks upon the hearthstone.

I served them cocoa and toast with jam to fortify them against the chill outside. Then I went back to the kitchen and started again on my household budget... The silence in the front room struck me. I looked in.

The girl held the empty cup in her hands, looking at it. The boy asked in a flat voice, "Lady...are you rich?" "Am I rich? Mercy, no!" I looked at my shabby slipcovers. The girl put her cup back in its saucer carefully. "Your cups match your saucers." Her voice was old, with a hunger that was not of the stomach. They left then, holding their bundles of papers against the wind. They hadn't said thank you. They didn't need to. They had done more than that. Plain blue pottery cups and saucers. But they matched. I tested the potatoes and stirred the gravy. Potatoes and brown gravy, a roof over our heads, my man with a good steady job: these things matched, too.

I moved the chairs back from the fire and tidied the living room. The muddy prints of small sandals were still wet upon my hearth. I let them be. I want them there in case I ever forget again how very rich I am.


Teddy Stallard certainly qualified as "one of the least": disinterested in school; musty, wrinkled clothes; hair never combed; one of those kids with a deadpan face; an expressionless, glassy, unfocused stare. When Miss Thompson spoke to Teddy, he always answered in monosyllables. Unattractive, unmotivated, and distant, he was just plain hard to like.

Even though his teacher said she loved everyone in her class the same, down inside she wasn't being completely truthful. Whenever she marked Teddy's papers, she got a certain perverse pleasure out of putting X's next to the wrong answers, and when she put the F's at the top of the papers, she always did it with a flair. She should have known better; she had Teddy's records and she knew more about him than she wanted to admit. The records read:

  First Grade: Teddy shows promise with his work and attitude, but poor home situation
  Second Grade: Teddy could do better. Mother is seriously ill. He receives little help at home
  Third Grade: Teddy is a good boy but too serious. He is a slow learner. His mother died this year.
  Fourth Grade: Teddy is very slow, but well-behaved. His father shows no interest.

Christmas came, and the boys and girls in Miss Thompson's class brought her Christmas presents. They piled their presents on her desk and crowded around to watch her open them. Among the presents there was one from Teddy Stallard. She was surprised that he had brought her a gift, but he had. Teddy's gift was wrapped in brown paper and was held together with Scotch tape. On the paper were written the simple words. "For Miss Thompson from Teddy"

When she opened Teddy's present, out fell a gaudy, rhinestone bracelet with half stones missing, and a bottle of cheap perfume. The other boys and girls began to giggle and smirk over Teddy's gifts, but Miss Thompson at least had enough sense to silence them by immediately putting on the bracelet and putting some of the perfume on her wrist. Holding her wrist up for the other children to smell, she said, "Doesn't it smell lovely?" And the children, taking their cues from the teacher, readily agreed with "oohs" and "aahs".

At the end of the day, when school was over and the other children had left, Teddy lingered behind. He slowly came over to her desk and said softly, "Miss Thompson... Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother... and her bracelet looks real pretty on you, too. 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, they were welcomed by a new teacher. Miss Thompson had become a different person. She was no longer just a teacher; she had become an agent of God. She was now a person committed to loving her children and doing things for therm that would live on after her. She helped all the children but especially the slow ones, and especially Teddy Stallard. By the end of that school year Teddy showed dramatic improvement. He had caught up with most of the students and was even ahead of some.

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, the 27th to be exact. I wanted 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 that wedding and sat where Teddy's mother would have sat. She deserved to sit there; she had done something for Teddy that he could never forget.


Father William J. Bausch
A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers

1 comment:

  1. I am a teacher. The story about the teacher brought a tear to my eye. May all teachers help all their students, specially the more challenging ones to the best of their abilities.


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