Tommy’s tough upbringing never stopped him from working hard for the future he dreamed of. But after his mother fell ill, desperation led him to make possibly one of the worst decisions of his life.
Tommy was a top-achieving straight-A student. While he came from a poor upbringing, he never let it deter him from the future he envisioned for himself and his family.
Ms. Peterson, Tommy’s teacher, adored Tommy and admired his zeal to learn. Tommy was, without a doubt, the teacher’s pet in class, always presenting Ms. Peterson with little gifts. She always called on Tommy as an example and standard for the required schoolwork.
“Tommy, care to show your peers how it’s done,” Ms. Peterson often said when the other students didn’t care to answer. And Tommy, being the hard-working bookworm he was, never failed to rise to the occasion.
“Don’t worry, my baby. This, too, shall pass. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright. You just continue doing your best at school and treasure your dreams, Tommy. With God on our side, we will overcome. And don’t you ever let anybody tell you otherwise. Not even me. You hear me?”
He always received the best grades in the class on tests. So it was no shock when Ms. Peterson made him a role model for all the other children. But, instead of praising him, the other kids just made fun of him.
Tommy was raised by his single, widowed mother, Judy, who did everything she could to provide the best for her son. She was uneducated, but just like Tommy, she was a hard worker, working two minimum-wage jobs to put food on the table for Tommy and herself.
Unfortunately, Judy was diagnosed with cancer. Not only did this make it difficult for her to provide for her child, but she now had the additional pressure of trying to find the money for her treatment.
“Don’t worry, my baby. This, too, shall pass. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright. You just continue doing your best at school and treasure your dreams, Tommy. With God on our side, we will overcome. And don’t you ever let anybody tell you otherwise. Not even me. You hear me?” a frail Judy told her son as she lay in bed.
In tears, Tommy simply nodded in agreement as he tightly squeezed his mother’s hand. Seeing his mother like this was taking a toll on him. Even his grades were beginning to decline.
The only reason he worked hard was to one day provide a better life for his mother. Tommy could not afford to stand back and helplessly watch his mother suffer. He had to do something about it. And soon enough, a questionable opportunity would avail itself.
Ms. Peterson asked Tommy to stay behind after class one day. They had a long discussion about Tommy’s declining grades. Ms. Peterson urged Tommy to tell her what was wrong, assuring him she would help however she could. But Tommy, uncharacteristically, was unresponsive.
As Tommy left the classroom after the meeting, another teacher, Miss Leah, rushed in excitedly.
“So! Spill the beans on your new rich man! I want to hear everything!” Miss Leah yelled, opening her lunchbox like it was a story-time snack. Tommy instantly stopped at the sound of “rich,” hiding behind the door to eavesdrop.
“Oh, friend! You won’t believe it! Remember the necklace he got me?” Ms. Peterson said.
“Oh, yes. How could I ever forget such a beautiful piece of jewelry,” Miss Leah replied.
“Well, I looked up its price online, and it seemed too good to be true. So I took it to a jeweler, and he confirmed its price. You’ll never guess how much it cost,” Ms Peterson said excitedly, taking a pause which was torture for Miss Leah.
“Well, c’mon now! Out with it!” Miss Leah insisted, taking a suspenseful bite of her sandwich.
“Ten thousand dollars!” Mrs. Peterson said with a yelp. Tommy gasped outside, leaning in closer to the door.
“Ten thousand?!” Miss Leah repeated in shock. “Okay, pull it out! Now I definitely need to see it again,” Miss Leah concluded.
“It’s not here, silly. It’s at home,” Ms. Peterson said with a chuckle.
“Hmm…I get it, though. If I were you, I wouldn’t be running around with ten grand, either. So, when next are you seeing him?” Miss Leah asked.
“Tomorrow. We’re going out for dinner,” Ms. Peterson said.
Tommy couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Ten thousand dollars could change his and his mother’s situation for the better. He cared for Ms. Peterson, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime situation. It was now or never. He had to decide swiftly.
The next day, Tommy headed to a park nearby Ms. Peterson’s house. He waited until Ms. Peterson had left for her date, then, when the coast was clear, climbed a tree near her bedroom window.
Tommy paused as he looked at the window in front of him. He was only a few inches from getting the money. His mind began to wonder, reconsidering his decision. Is this really the only way out? After everything, Ms. Peterson has done for you. Is this how you are going to repay her? Tommy thought.
“With God on our side, we will overcome,” his mothers’ words lingered in his head. He stepped down from one of the branches, considering forgetting about it all and going home.
But then he thought, If God wanted us to overcome, why would he allow all this to happen? He could easily heal her. My mother’s a good woman. Why let us suffer?! No…God isn’t going to swoop in and help her, Tommy! This is the only chance you’ve got! If you don’t do this, she’ll die. I HAVE TO DO IT! I HAVE TO!!
Tommy climbed back up and entered the house through the window. He expected to easily find the necklace, but it was nowhere to be seen. Tommy began to ransack Ms. Peterson’s room, searching every corner nook and cranny for the necklace.
He finally found it in a small jewelry box in Ms. Peterson’s closet. “Finally!” Tommy said, holding it up in daunting victory. Suddenly, there was a creaking sound from downstairs – Ms. Peterson was back!
Tommy looked around at the mess he had made in panic. There was no time to clean up. He had to leave there that very moment. Tommy quickly hopped out of the window. He paused and turned back for a brief, shameful glance at the mess behind him through the window.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Peterson,” Tommy muttered remorsefully before making his way down the tree and sprinting home. Ms. Peterson entered the room moments later.
“Oh, no!” Ms. Peterson looked around at the mess – her belongings scattered everywhere – and finally at the half-closed window. Ms. Peterson rummaged through her things to see what was missing. When she realized her necklace was missing, she instantly called the police.
After surveying the crime scene and taking all the necessary information, the police left Ms. Peterson’s house hours later. Tired from the day’s events, Ms. Peterson calmly reclined on her couch to watch TV. But, just as she got comfortable, a knock suddenly came at the door.
Ms. Peterson was a little anxious, given she wasn’t expecting any guests and she’d just been robbed. Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, she thought. Then, there was another knock.
“Coming,” Ms. Peterson said, approaching the door. When she opened the door, she was surprised to see Tommy standing at her doorstep in tears.
“Tommy? What are you doing here?” she said, confused.
“I…I…I’m sorry,” Tommy said in tears, failing to put a sentence together.
“Please, come in,” a concerned Mrs. Peterson said, ushering Tommy in.
Ms. Peterson made them both tea as Tommy waited at the dinner table. When she returned with the tea, she was surprised to see her necklace on the table.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Peterson. I…I’m a thief. I stole your necklace. You can go ahead and call the police. I’ll understand,” Tommy said, still weeping bitterly.
“No, Tommy. You deserve a second chance. You deserve to be forgiven. We all do. Let’s just say the work you’ll be doing here will be like your community service. I really hope you’ve learned your lesson, kiddo. Now, drink your tea so we can get you home. You’ve got a lot of work to do tomorrow.”
Mrs. Peterson calmly served Tommy his tea and then sat down. “Tommy, why would you steal my necklace?” Ms. Peterson asked.
“My mother’s sick, ma’am. And we desperately need money for her treatment. I heard you and Miss Leah talking at school earlier about the necklace. I figured ten thousand dollars could help us out of this mess. I’m sorry I stole from you. It seemed like the only way out at the time,” Tommy confessed.
“Is that why you’ve been struggling so much with your schoolwork lately?” Ms. Peterson asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” Tommy replied.
“Oh, Tommy. If only you’d come to me earlier. Look at the mess we’re in now,” Ms. Peterson said, holding her head in frustrated contemplation.
“I know. And I’m sorry. I’ll tell the police everything,” Tommy concluded, looking down in shame.
“I’m not taking you to the police, Tommy,’ Ms. Peterson said.
“You’re not?” Tommy said, looking up confused.
“No. But you will be punished. You’ll have to clean up the mess you made. Also, you’ll be cleaning up around here and in my garden for the rest of the month,” Ms. Peterson said.
“I don’t understand… Why aren’t you getting me arrested? I stole from you, Mrs. Peterson. I deserve to be arrested,” Tommy said.
“No, Tommy. You deserve a second chance. You deserve to be forgiven. We all do. Let’s just say the work you’ll be doing here will be like your community service. I really hope you’ve learned your lesson, kiddo. Now, drink your tea so we can get you home. You’ve got a lot of work to do tomorrow,” Ms. Peterson concluded, taking a sip of her tea with a comforting smile.
From that day on, Tommy and Ms. Peterson stuck to their agreement. Tommy would come over to her house every day and do household chores. Ms. Peterson even helped him get his grades back up. While things were still difficult for Tommy at home, his ‘community service’ kept him preoccupied.
One day, as Tommy cleaned the yard, Ms. Peterson approached him with a duffle bag and handed it to him. “What’s this?” Tommy asked.
“Open it and see,” she responded with an assuring nod and warm smile. Tommy opened it to find wads of money inside, far more than ten thousand dollars. It was enough to pay for Tommy’s mother’s operation and get him through college.
“But…how?” Tommy said in disbelief.
“I got that and a little more from my husband after we divorced. It’s the least I could get from the jerk after cheating on me,” Ms. Peterson said, chuckling to herself. “I wasn’t sure what to do with it for the longest time. Now I do. Use it to help you and your mother,” she added.
At that moment, Tommy’s mother’s words rang again, “With God on our side, we will overcome.” Unable to hold back the tears of joy, something he hadn’t experienced in a while, he wept.
“Thank you! Thank you so much!” Tommy cried, lunging onto Ms. Peterson with a warm hug.
“You’re welcome, Tommy. You deserve to be happy. We all do,” Mrs. Peterson said, also beginning to weep as her own secret hopes began to surface.
Later that day, as Tommy finished his last bit of cleaning in the house, he came across a picture he had seen many times but never dared to ask about. It was a picture of a younger Mrs. Peterson with a little girl. Ms. Peterson never spoke much about her family, and Tommy tried his best to respect that.
But after hearing about her divorce and seeing her cry earlier, he couldn’t hold back his curiosity any longer. “Ma’am… Who’s this in the picture with you?” Tommy asked, holding up the picture.
“Oh…that’s my daughter, Ann. She was a little younger than you are in that picture,” Ms. Peterson said with a reminiscent glare.
“She’s pretty. Where is she now?” Tommy asked.
Mrs. Peterson cleared her throat, holding back her tears. She sighed deeply, then replied, “I don’t know, my boy. We don’t speak.”
“You don’t speak to your daughter?” Tommy asked, confused.
“Yep. We had a fallout when she was 17. She fell pregnant. My stubborn self couldn’t accept it. So, she ran away from home, and I haven’t seen her since…remember what I told you about second chances?” Ms. Peterson asked, staring off in a daze.
“Yeah. We all deserve one,” Tommy said.
“Yeah, well…I would give the world to get a second chance with my baby girl,” Ms. Peterson said with a heavy heart. A single tear ran down her cheek.
“Don’t worry, Ms. Peterson. We’ll overcome!” Tommy said, placing the picture back.
“I hope so, my boy. I hope so,” she said softly.
With the money Ms. Peterson had given Tommy, his mother was able to get treatment for her cancer, and within a year, it went into remission. Tommy continued to excel in school.
With Ms. Peterson’s assistance, he got into one of the best colleges. Ms. Peterson and Tommy kept in contact throughout college. She would even visit him once he had finished college and got his own place. They truly became friends.
With his new job, Tommy promised he would pay every last cent back that Mrs. Peterson had given him. He worked hard and was finally earning enough to pay Ms. Peterson back.
However, when he returned to his hometown one day, hoping to finally repay his dear friend and former teacher, he received the heartbreaking news of Ms. Peterson’s passing. She was elderly and had passed away peacefully a few days before Tommy’s arrival. Nonetheless, the news still shattered Tommy.
Tommy made it his goal to find Ms. Peterson’s daughter. He had a debt to pay his friend and would not rest until he paid it. Ms. Peterson’s daughter didn’t pitch at the funeral as Tommy had hoped, so it took a while to find her.
After a little investigating, he tracked her down and found out she was waitressing at a small, shabby dinner that was ironically based in the city he now lived. When he got back home from his hometown, he went straight to the diner, carefully watching her as she served her customers.
Tommy was taken aback by how much she looked like her mother. The diner wasn’t much to look at, and she couldn’t have been making much there from the look of things. She finally approached Tommy.
“Hi, sir. What can I getcha?” she asked casually.
“Hi, Ann,” Tommy said.
“Do I know you?” Ann asked, confused.
“No, you don’t. I’m a friend of your mother,” Tommy said.
“My mother?” Ann said, more confused.
“Yeah. I didn’t see you at the funeral, so I tracked you down,” Tommy said.
“I’m just a messenger. You should thank her yourself. Would you like to pay her a visit, Ann?” Tommy asked. Ann simply nodded.
“Look…I don’t know who you are or what you think you know about my mother and me. If you’re here to lecture me about my mother…” Ann started, tearing up.
“No! Not at all. I know things were a bit…uhm…complicated between you too. But she loved and missed you dearly. She would have wanted you to have this,” Tommy said, handing Ann a bag.
Ann peeked into the bag and peeked inside. “Oh my goodness!” she said with a gasp, eying Tommy in disbelief.
“She forgave you, Ann. She wanted nothing more than to be with you. And even though that’s impossible, I know she will be at rest just knowing you’re taken care of,” Tommy said.
“I don’t know what to say,” Ann cried, bursting into tears.
“You don’t have to say anything, Ann. Your mother was very big on second chances. This money might help you with yours,” Tommy told her.
“Thank you! You don’t know how much I needed this,” she said, hugging Tommy.
“I’m just a messenger. You should thank her yourself. Would you like to pay her a visit, Ann?” Tommy asked. Ann simply nodded.
The next day, they both visited Ms. Peterson’s grave sight. Tommy gave Ann a moment as she sat by her grave sight for a moment and said absolutely nothing. Then, after shedding a tear, she laid her hand on her tombstone and said, “I forgive you too, Mom.”
What can we learn from this story?
Second chances are possible. Ms. Peterson gave Tommy a second chance even though he had made a terrible mistake. With Tommy’s help, Ms. Peterson even gave Ann a second chance to fix her life with financial aid and make peace with her mother, even from beyond the grave.
With faith in God, you can overcome. Judy’s lesson about overcoming helped Tommy through various trials and led to him becoming a successful young man.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.