Random acts of kindness

Bonnie Harhord

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.

It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has 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Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.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 he 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, 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 one of her “teacher’s pets..”

A year later, she found a note under her 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, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in 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 had 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 a little longer…. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place 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. Moreover, 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.”

(For you that don’t know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.)

Warm someone’s heart today. . . pass this along. I love this story so very much, I cry every time I read it. Just try to make a difference in someone’s life today? tomorrow? Just “do it”.

Random acts of kindness, I think they call it?


Suspended coffee movement

I love  the whole broad-mindedness of the “Suspended coffee movement”. 

“it’s about more than the coffee”



As they say – “Suspended Coffees can be for anyone, sadly right now certain places all over the World are in the middle of a big freeze, share some kindness, but also share some warmth, start with a cup of coffee and then see what else you can do.”




It all starts with a little cup of coffee

I always treasure stories of “random acts of kindness” (there’s even a Facebook page by that name which embodies the spirit of doing good by stealth). I think you will recall the story of “The Candy Lady” From A Little Loveliness blog.


Likewise, I really liked reading this story of how you can cheer some stranger’s morning with a random cup of coffee. Its a lovely way to bring a little cup of sunshine into someone’s life! And I really like how creative the world’s do-gooders are getting!

coffee love

“That best portion of a man’s life, his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindnessand love.” – William Wordsworth

“We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we’re approaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter:
‘Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended’ They pay for their order, take the two and leave.

I ask my friend: “What are those ‘suspended’ coffees?”
My friend: “Wait for it and you will see.”

Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made by three lawyers – three for them and four ‘suspended’. While I still wonder what’s the deal with those ‘suspended’ coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square in front of the café. Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in through the door and kindly asks
‘Do you have any suspended coffee?’

It’s simple – people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can not afford a warm beverage. The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or a whole meal.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such cafés or even grocery stores in every town where the less fortunate will find hope and support? If you own a business why don’t you offer it to your clients… I am sure many of them will like it.

Please join https://www.facebook.com/SuspendedCoffeess?ref=hl

Ever thought of dolls with a caste?

Chennai, thanks largely to the efforts of E.V.R.Periyar and other rationalists, always tries to suppress any outward display of caste. Even street names which earlier read “Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar” and “V.V.S.Iyer” have been now changed to “Pasumpon Muthuramalingam street” and “V.V.S street”. Of course, the matrimonial columns in all the city’s Tamil and English newspapers continue to be blatantly casteist, sexist and other -“iests,” even as the media’s general editorial policy is anti-caste.

But I never thought that caste would ever enter the world of child’s play….or maybe I was mistaken, maybe these dolls are only meant for Kolu, navaratri celebrations, even so….don’t you find them slightly nauseous (despite their cherubically sweet appearance)?

Iyengar doll

Iyengar doll

Iyer doll

Iyer doll

Incredible Decors Pondicherry

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(Image courtesy – Incredible Decors, Pondicherry)

I love every aspect of entertaining – the fun with people, cooking the food, decking the house….for many of our family celebrations I used to be the unofficial party decorator. I still remember how I decked up the place for my grandfather’s 80th birthday celebrations.  I was just recovering from a minor surgery and was being generally petted and feted by all. So as part of the family’s efforts to cheer me up (though I didn’t need any cheering up being quite happy with the streams of delicious food and piles of awesome books coming my way) they got me everything on my long, much-needed list of craft supplies. So with streamers n piles and piles of velvet paper and shiny paper (craft terms and items only to be found in India) I set out to make the place sparkle n glow.

I made loads of silver n green n red paper flowers and strung them all over the house with the streamers at vantage points…Someday I guess I’ll even scan images from our old photo album and put them up….And boy was I peacock-proud n pleased when people asked my grandparents if they had got some professional to do-up the place for them. And even as I head towards my 30s I still get enormously excited at the thought of how a little bit of flowers, streamers, balloons and oodles of creativity can transform your-everyday space into that magical world of celebrations.

So, I was really happy when I came across these gorgeous interior sets created by the event management team at Incredible Decors, Pondicherry….they are so the last-word in opulent, grandiose Indian luxury wedding celebrations. I would really advise you guys to check out some of the incredible sets they have created, as they are quite a feast for the eyes.

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In India there isn’t too much of that mingling with the crowd and visiting each table to talk with the guests. Most Indian weddings are quite formal affairs with the reception stage being the central focal point. Guests often have to line-up for nearly an hour or so as they wait their turn to greet the happy couple. Of course guests might also prefer to feast first (given that the average Indian wedding has a minimum of 30-50 different dishes – who wouldn’t want to?) before greeting anyone – but still eventually they will have to head back to the stage if they have to have that one customary photo shoot with the couple and the gifts. So the make-shift stage has to be quite large n sturdy (can’t have guests crashing through the woodwork) and as grand as possible as it reflects on the financial success of the parents and the social ambitions of their kids.

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The weding reception also has to be quite grand for another reason. In India most weddings are held in the morning or afternoon so that they meet with the approval of the family pundit’s idea of an auspicious time. Now given the normal run of work, kids’ school, traffic, etc, the average Indian householder would never be able to attend or celebrate any wedding. Attendance at the real wedding is quite low (given the ungodly, sleepy-sleepy hours they are held in) as the only people who can be forced at gun-point to attend such ceremonies are the super-close near n dear ones. So to accommodate the schedules of all the others – who come under the category of friends, relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, the neighbourhood “Jones,” creditors, plug-uglies, etc – wedding receptions are held in the evening.

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Most-people give the wedding a miss – the wedding sometimes being held in an inexpensive mandapam or in the nearest, available temple – with not too much thought being given for decor or flowers other than providing the groom n the bride with their respective bouquets and garlands. But the evening reception decor is a different world all-together – it has to be the biggest; it has to be the grandest; it has to be the best.

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In the case of Indian Christian weddings, attendance is almost as good as the follow-on reception as they are mostly held in the evening, say 4-5.30-ish.  At Christian weddings (given that most Indian Christians are not too bothered about checking horoscopes or an auspicious time)  most friends n colleagues get  that often-needed, one-hour permission from work and manage to crash at the wedding by the time the bride decides to walk down the aisle with the man of her choice or her parents’ (as the case largely might be) to the tunes of the “Bridal March.” Once people have attended the wedding they don’t feel too bad about hitting the food trough before going n greeting the couple standing on their grand-wedding-reception stage…also it gives one such a sense of virtuous superiority to be able to tell the other not-so-punctilious wedding guests what the bride was wearing and how nice the church was decked up.   So even at Christian weddings, the reception stage is usually a much grander affair than those flower-decked-arches and confetti–in-the-air affairs in church.

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And also since many Indian weddings even till date have the practise of writing “Moi” (cash gifted to the newly-wed) – one feels like one’s money’s been well-spent when we step into the grand world of receptions and can survey the flowers, the tulle sarees draped as curtains or to form bowers and more often-than-not compare it to the  decor at the previous weddings attended.

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Another funny aspect of Indian weddings is that sometimes the wedding reception is held the night before the wedding. So basically you meet a whole host of people who “Wish you happy married life” and for all intents and purposes you stand next to a guy who everyone greets as your husband – but he’s not quite…at least not till the passage of a few more hours.  And you even have nice lovey-dovey shots which the photographer insists on – Sexy man!

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Apart from making your D-day perfect, Incredible decors Pondicherry also help celebrate the special moments in the lives of our wee ones. I love the decorations the team has put together for kiddies’ birthday parties. I especially like the idea of how they have used smaller balloons to create flowers (stored it away at the back of my mind and you can be sure I’ll use it at the next event). I also like the idea of draping tulle to imitate pillars. Really nice!





Sigh! So much gorgeousness! So much creativity! So now you know whom to call for that next big event and make it bigger, better and larger-than-life!

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Real-life, happy, happy ending

It’s very rarely in life that I come upon a beautiful, lovely story – in which most of the characters involved are well-known to me.  In this case, the story-cast included the historic landmark Hindu Chennai office, my former colleague B Kolappan, former colleagues at the Hindu and one unknown bird of prey.

Black Hawk

Lest I spoil the storyline, please read the original for yourselves at the Hindu’s website.

(Excerpts from the article)

 “But this The Black Kite spotted at my office evoked only pity. It could barely get up, let alone fly. My colleagues made a flurry of calls to animal welfare organizations, but to no avail. In their defence, it was a Sunday. The bird looked dehydrated and stressed, and I thought it would not see another day.”

Life is compulsory!

When news surfaced that Jiah Khan’s ex-boyfriend was being arrested for her suicide…I didn’t think twice about the news…till I read this article by Seedfund managing partner Mahesh Murthy.

One of the passages that struck me head on was….

“In India, you don’t need to be married to have a child legally. Or even to inherit and pass on property. Marriage is just a social custom where a bunch of old people shower rice on your head and believe they’re giving you their permission (or direction, in some cases) to sleep with someone. As you can imagine, it has little or no legal necessity or significance.

What is important is planning to live a full life for yourself, and working to make all your dreams come true – regardless of whether you have a partner with you for the course. 

Sure, it’s more fun when you have a lover around. But not having one around isn’t a show-stopper. Life is compulsory. Marriage is an optional extra. Let’s tell the kids that.”

Live Life to the fullest