Caleb frowned as he looked in the bathroom mirror. Two of his front teeth were broken and chipped. When he smiled, there were ugly jagged edges on the teeth instead of nice straight edges.
Caleb’s family didn’t have enough money to take him to the dentist to fix his broken teeth. “Don’t worry, we’ll get them fixed one day,” his mom always said. But for now, Caleb was stuck with his broken smile.
At school, Caleb tried not to smile too much. He didn’t want the other kids to make fun of his damaged teeth. But one day at lunch, he couldn’t help but grin when his friend Thomas told a funny joke.
“Look at Caleb’s gross teeth!” shouted a boy named Danny from across the cafeteria. “They’re all rotten and chipped. Ew, I bet his breath stinks too!”
Caleb’s smile faded. His face burned hot with embarrassment as other kids turned to stare and laugh.
“Don’t listen to them,” Thomas said quietly so only Caleb could hear. “There’s nothing wrong with your teeth or your smile.”
But Caleb had lost his appetite. All he wanted to do was hide.
The next day in class, Danny passed Caleb a note. It said, “No one wants to see your ugly broken teeth. Keep your mouth shut!”
Caleb crumpled up the hurtful note. He sank low in his chair, trying to make himself invisible.
At recess, Danny and his friends crowded around Caleb.
“Hey Broken-Tooth, smile for us!” Danny teased. The boys laughed loudly, pointing at Caleb’s mouth.
Caleb’s eyes filled with tears. He turned and ran away, hiding in the library until recess ended. His heart felt heavy and sad.
That weekend, Caleb’s mom took him to the park. They sat on a bench eating ice cream together.
“Is everything okay, Caleb?” his mom asked gently. “You seem quiet lately.”
Caleb stared down at his shoes. At first he didn’t want to tell her about the bullying at school. But soon the story of Danny’s teasing spilled out.
“I’m so sorry that’s happening, sweetie,” his mom said, hugging him tight. “Those boys are being cruel, and cruelty is never okay. Your smile is perfect just the way it is.”
“But my teeth are broken,” Caleb mumbled sadly.
“Having damaged teeth doesn’t make you any less wonderful,” his mom said. “Let’s go to the library this week and find some books about kids getting teased. I think reading those stories will help you feel less alone.”
Caleb managed a small smile. “Okay, Mom.” He was glad she was on his side.
At the library, Caleb’s mom helped him find books about overcoming bullying. As he read the stories, Caleb related to the characters. He felt inspired by how they found courage to stand up to bullies.
The next time Danny teased him at school, Caleb ignored the insults. During class, he even raised his hand and gave answers out loud. He surprised himself by smiling and laughing with Thomas at lunch.
At recess, Caleb walked right up to Danny and his friends. “Please stop making fun of my teeth,” he said calmly but firmly. “Saying mean things is wrong.”
Danny looked surprised. The other boys shuffled their feet and looked away guiltily.
“Oh, uh…sorry,” Danny muttered. He seemed unsure what else to say.
Caleb stood tall and walked away, his head held high. After that, Danny and his friends stopped bothering him.
One evening, Caleb’s mom had exciting news. “I’ve saved up enough to take you to the dentist!” she said happily. “They can fix your teeth so they’re good as new.”
Caleb threw his arms around her in a big hug. “Thank you, Mom!”
The dentist visit went smoothly. In no time, Caleb’s teeth were repaired and strong again. For the first time in a long while, Caleb smiled confidently into the mirror. His teeth were perfect once more.
But Caleb realized something even more important than having fixed teeth – he had found his inner courage and strength. He learned that everyone deserves compassion, and bullying is always wrong.
With his mom by his side, Caleb had overcome the hurtful teasing. He was proud to show his bright smile again, inside and out.