Ellie was in tears when she couldn’t dress up for Halloween one school year. No one cared except one kind teacher, who was about to take a bigger place in her heart and her life.
It was Ellie’s favorite school day of the year, yet she hoped nobody would spot her.
The school auditorium was bustling with children dressed in different shapes and colors of spook and wonder. Some walked in as princes and princesses, some glided in as vampires and superheroes, and some made dramatic entrances as astronauts and historical figures.
But one little girl walked in with slumped shoulders, hiding her face and hoping nobody would notice her grey pants and white T-shirt.
Ellie wanted to dress up as a princess that year. “Your costume will turn a lot of heads, I promise!” Ellie’s dad had assured her a few months earlier. But you know how busy dads are and how they sometimes forget the small important stuff while handling the big important stuff.
So when Ellie’s dad forgot to save up for her princess costume for the school Halloween party that year, she wasn’t mad at him. But she couldn’t keep her nervous tears back when the mean kids from her class started mocking her.
“What are you supposed to be dressed as? Ugly Ellie?” one of the boys chuckled and held up the end of Ellie’s ponytail with an expression of disgust on his face.
Ellie covered her ears and cried as she heard the kids chanting her latest nickname and laughing wickedly. Every face around her was unkind and indifferent to her sadness except one.
“Psst! Ellie!” an older voice whispered to her. It was Mr. Borges, her art teacher. He was trying to tell her something. The girl wiped her tears and managed to escape the crowd of children and walk past them, closely following her favorite teacher.
“Wait here!” Mr. Borges said and walked into the cramped up supply closet. A few seconds later, he was back, and Ellie couldn’t help but wonder why the man was holding a few rolls of toilet paper.
“What’s that for?” Ellie asked, scratching her head.
“This? It’s for your Halloween costume. And it’s going to be the best Halloween costume ever!” Mr. Borges seemed as excited as a child.
Ellie stood clueless and as still as a statue. At the same time, her teacher began wrapping the toilet paper around her waist and upwards towards her neck, ensuring she was comfortable every few seconds. Then he began wrapping the toilet paper around her belly, legs, and arms, down to the little fingers and toes.
“Woah, Mr. Borges!” Ellie was finally starting to figure out the brilliant costume idea. “I look like a—”
“Hold on now. Keep your head straight. There’s one final part…” the man said and wrapped the last few rolls of tissue around and across her face, leaving just enough room for her eyes, nose, and lips.
“NOW…” Mr. Borges said, leaving random red blots of ink randomly around the wrapped tissue roll, “it’s ready!”
A teacher’s influence lasts a lifetime.
When Ellie saw herself in the mirror, she couldn’t stop jumping up and down, clapping her papery hands with sheer joy. “I love it! I love it, Mr. Borges. Thank you!”
Ellie hugged her hero and placed a tiny kiss on his cheek.
When she again walked into the crowd of excited children, they covered their mocking mouths in awe.
To Mr. Borges, it may have just been a creative way to put a smile on a sad child’s face, but to Ellie, it meant everything! Nobody in school had ever done something that nice for her. In a place where she had only been mocked or ignored, Mr. Borges became the first person to notice her and help her out.
And Ellie would do everything she could to stay close to this kind adult, Mr. Borges. She took more interest in art; over the years, it proved therapeutic for her troubled heart.
Mr. Borges, too, went out of his way to be there for the little girl who had no one but a father who was constantly ill. Mr. Borges was the confidant who listened to Ellie’s deepest fears and biggest dreams.
And when Ellie’s beloved father passed away after a long and arduous battle with an illness, Mr. Borges was the only man who could stop the orphaned girl’s screams and tears at the funeral.
Holding the poor girl’s hand, he made a promise to her father’s departed soul: “She will have everything you wanted for her. I promise!”
Nobody knew this about Mr. Borges, but he had lived through terrible tragedies himself. After losing the woman he loved while she was pregnant, he never found the courage to dream of having a family ever again.
“My little daughter would have been just like her!” Mr. Borges often thought to himself as he watched Ellie laugh and cry.
Taking care of Ellie was more than just a promise he had to fulfill; it was a goal that brought the tired man alive with purpose, joy, and childlike eagerness.
Ellie lived with her grandmother and was officially under her care. But, it was Mr. Borges who took the place of her guardian, her father figure, her hero.
Years passed, and with the undying love and support of Mr. Borges, Ellie passed grade after grade, excelled through high school, and won a scholarship to attend one of the best colleges in the country.
It had been seven years since that tearful farewell when Mr. Borges waved to Ellie as she embarked on an exciting journey to a new city and a new life as a university student…
“I wonder if she’s doing alright…” Mr. Borges sat alone in his house in front of a forgotten cup of coffee.
He often thought of Ellie and regretted not doing his part in keeping in touch with her. “Does she remember me…?” he wondered that day when he heard a knock on the door and found a box on his doorstep.
He opened it and found a neatly packed, expensive-looking three-piece suit. “Someone got the wrong house,” the man thought and began to repack the suit when an envelope fell out of its pocket.
It was an elegantly designed wedding invitation, and the bride’s name left him astonished. “Ellie, that little girl who wouldn’t leave my hand, is getting married! She’s grown so big!” the older man thought, tears rising in his eyes.
But that wasn’t all. A note was stuck at the back of the invitation card, and Mr. Borges immediately recognized Ellie’s beautiful cursive handwriting.
“Dear Mr. Borges,
Fifteen years ago, you helped a scared and hurt little girl feel happy and confident.
If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have worn that awesome mummy Halloween costume everyone was jealous of. And if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t dream of being the confident and happy young woman wearing a pretty wedding gown to tie the knot a few weeks from now, either.
When I thought I had no one, you went from being like my best friend, my guardian angel, to my father figure.
You will always be a father to me, Mr. Borges. And so, it would mean the world if you could walk me down the aisle and give me away on my special day.”
Tears rolled down the man’s cheeks that day and on the day when he gave Ellie away to the man she loved.
And beyond the blessing of being like a father to Ellie, Mr. Borges also got to be a grandfather to her children a few years later. He and Ellie remained devoted to each other’s happiness and well-being as father and daughter for as long as they lived.
What can we learn from this story?
Never forget the kind hearts that lifted you up. Ellie never forgot how Mr. Borges had helped her with a Halloween costume when she was little and how he was by her side throughout her growing years.
A teacher’s influence lasts a lifetime. Ellie was only little when Mr. Borges first helped her. We, too, have teachers who made a place in our hearts through their small and big gestures of kindness toward us.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.