Mrs. Martin showed up for a hastily called parent/teacher conference with her third grade daughter’s teacher. During the meeting, she learned that Katie was stirring up trouble among her classmates. Despite warnings, Katie continued to gossip and spread rumors about other students, and her incessant gossip was fueling deep divisions between several of her classmates. After a private chat with Katie’s mom, the little girl was called into the office.
Her teacher, with the full backing of her mother, reiterated the importance of Katie putting an end to her troublesome habit. She explained to her that several children were profoundly hurt by her careless words. At the end of the meeting, Katie was asked to join the teacher and her mother out on the playground. As they exited the building, Katie was surprised to see her teacher carrying a pillow and a pair of scissors. When they got outside the wind was blowing briskly. Katie watched in amazement as her teacher cut off one end of the feather pillow. She then walked toward Katie and, suddenly, began shaking the pillow violently. The wind blew the feathers everywhere. Katie could not help but laugh. However, her laughter was short lived. Immediately, her teacher put down the featherless pillowcase walked closer to Katie and knelt down in front of her. She then looked at her and said, “Now, go and pick up every feather.”
Katie looked at her teacher and her mom and knew they were not kidding. Although the request seemed silly, Katie began picking up the feathers. Unfortunately, every time she gathered a handful of feathers a strong wind came and blew them away. After a few minutes, Katie quit. She slowly and sadly walked back to where her teacher and mom were standing and with tears welling up in her eyes said, “I can never pick up every feather, even if I had a hundred years.” Her teacher got back down on one knee and with a kind expression on her face and said, “Katie, I know you cannot pick up all the feathers. Neither will you ever be able to recover any of the careless and unkind words that you say about others.”
With that, Katie closed her eyes and bowed her head. The teacher could see that Katie got the message. On that day, a little girl discovered the truth about gossip. She learned this valuable lesson from a teacher who knew this old Hassidic tale and that “a picture is worth a thousand words!”