A teacher overhears one of his students mocking a girl whose father is a garbage collector. He decides to teach him a lesson about values that he will never forget.
Jeff Herbert was a teacher and he loved teaching. He especially loved nurturing young, brilliant minds and helping them reach their full potential. But he just hated anything that shattered their young spirits.
Eight-year-old Caroline was one of Jeff’s favorite students. She was a sweet, very shy girl and Jeff had tried to persuade her to be more involved in class – but instead Caroline had retreated deeper into her shell – and then Jeff found out why.
He had been alone in his classroom after the last ring when he heard loud voices coming from the hallway next to the lockers. “Don’t touch her!” someone shouted. “She stinks!”
“I don’t,” a little girl called back.
Treat everyone with respect if you want to be respected.
“Yes you do!” the boy continued to scoff. “Just like your father!”
“My father doesn’t stink!” the girl sobbed. “He doesn’t!”
“He’s a garbage man, do you think he smells like ROSES?” said the boy.
Jeff got up and opened his door. He quietly walked down the hall. By the lockers, Caroline was standing with her backpack clutched to her chest. Before her stood the greatest bully in his class: Daniel.
Daniel was not alone, because bullies are rare. With him were his two favorite friends. They goaded him. Tommy Jones said, “Do you think she puts the trash from the classrooms in her backpack?”
“Just like her dad!” David interjected. “I saw him drive the garbage truck in our neighborhood!”
“Nope,” Daniel said, grinning. “Your backpack IS out of the trash! Your dad brought it home from work for his little girl!”
When Jeff approached them, Caroline was still crying. The boys kept laughing at her until they noticed the teacher. “What’s going on?” Jeff asked. Caroline shook her head and looked away. The three boys ignored him.
“I heard everything, Daniel,” Jeff said. “I’ll speak to your father tonight.” He turned to the other two boys: “And with your fathers too, Tommy and David.”
But Daniel sneered. “Do you think my father will like it if you defend a loser?”
“Well, Caroline’s father is a garbage man, isn’t he?” Daniel asked arrogantly. “If that ain’t a loser, I don’t know who is!” Jeff was so angry that he decided to go back to his class.
He took out his cell phone and called Daniel’s father. He quickly explained what had happened and recounted Daniel’s part in the incident. He was stunned by Mr Mallow’s reply.
“Well, you can’t blame the boy for the truth, can you?” said Mr. Mallow, relaxed. “The man IS a loser. I mean, we should all strive for a little more honor, don’t you think? Be useful to society and all?”
When Jeff hung up he was even angrier than before – but a new idea was born in his head so he called Caroline’s father and the two men had a long and very interesting chat.
The next morning the children noticed that Mr. Herbert was absent – and so was Daniel, who didn’t come to school until after lunch and stank of rubbish. He was very quiet and didn’t speak to anyone.
All his friends were curious and kept asking him what was going on. But the normally talkative Daniel was silent as a mummy. He didn’t even want to pick on Caroline!
Tommy said, “C’mon Dan! Let’s tease the trash girl!” But Daniel gave Caroline a startled look, mumbled something and ran off. His friends were stunned.
The whole school was laughing the next day. “Hey, did you hear what happened to Daniel’s father’s car? The fancy new BMW?”
Word of the miracle spread for eight days. For a long time, Daniel was teased that his father’s brand new car stank of garbage (which it did). What happened? Very easily…
Jeff had convinced Mr North’s boss to let him drive the garbage truck for the night (he told him he was doing research for a novel he was writing) and when he got to Daniel’s door he accidentally pulled the wrong lever…
Mr Mallow’s car was buried under a huge pile of stinking rubbish. As a result, he was late for work the next morning. His son Daniel was also late for school. After admitting his mistake, Jeff offered to pay damages, to which Mr Mallow was furious and just waved his hand.
It took months for the smell to go from Mr Mallow’s car. No matter how many times he had it washed, it still stank on very hot days. As for Daniel, he learned to respect each man’s expertise and the value of honest, day-to-day work.
What can we learn from this story?
Any honorable work deserves respect. There are no “nobler” professions – every profession is important to the smooth functioning of our society – as the Mallows learned after they “drowned” in the garbage.
Treat everyone with respect if you want to be respected. After Daniel mocked Caroline, Jeff showed him what it was like to be in the shoes of those who were mocked daily.
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