From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

The Crumpled Blue Ribbon

We won’t always know whose lives we touched and made better for our having cared, because actions can sometimes have unforeseen ramifications. What’s important is that you do care and you act.

Charlotte Lunsford

Mrs. Green, a fourth-grade teacher, was grief-stricken as she watched the news on TV. She had been teaching for more than twenty-two years, but she had never been faced with such disaster. She was overwhelmed with despair, until suddenly she recalled the “Who You Are Makes a Difference” story she had read in the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book, in which a fourteen-year-old boy’s life was saved when his father honored him with a blue ribbon.

“That’s the answer,” she shouted. We don’t have to focus all our energies on the terrorists. I can teach my students how to love one another and make the world a healthier and more peaceful place right now. She immediately called to purchase the “Who I Am Makes a Difference” blue ribbons.

As she held the blue ribbons in her hands, her eyes twinkled as she announced to her students that today they would not be learning reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, they were going to have a hands-on experience of love, life and what it means to be truly a great human being. One by one, she approached each of them, telling them how very special and unique they were to her. Then she placed a “Who I Am Makes a Difference” blue ribbon just above their heart. The sadness and pain of the recent days faded.

Her students’ faces glowed, chests swelled and spirits soared. If only for those thirty minutes, the usual gloom and doom of the recent days had lifted, and she was convinced that something very special had occurred on this day.

As her students left her classroom, she handed out extra blue ribbons saying, “Go home and tell your parents, brothers, sisters—everybody—how much you love them. Tell them today! Place a blue ribbon above their heart.” The bell rang, her students raced out with a new vigor. She sat at her desk, crying with happiness. She felt such a relief. Love was definitely what needed to be taught in this world right now. At least she had done her part.

Now she hoped that her students would be able to pass on this love to others. But she could not have imagined the difference this exercise would have made to one father.

Less than a week later, a parent stormed into her classroom unannounced.

“I’m Timmy’s father,” he declared. “Was this your idea to do this blue ribbon project?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Green answered.

“Well,” the father mumbled, pulling out a crumpled blue ribbon from his pocket, “my son came home the other day and told me how much he loved me and what a good father I am. I’ve come here to tell you that I’m not a good father. I’m an alcoholic. But something happened to me when my son told me how much he loved me. At that moment, I decided to go to AA for the first time. I even attended church this past Sunday. You see,” he said as he turned toward the door, “the world might be hurting, but I don’t need to add to the pain. In fact,” he said, “from now on, I’m going to become the father my son thinks I am.”

Mrs. Green gasped as she watched the father go out her classroom door, knowing that the healing had begun and the world was going to get better . . . because she taught at least one child to love.

Helice Bridges

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