After serving years in the United States Military, Mr. O’Connor commands attention like no other teacher can. He doesn’t put up with any of his students slacking off or acting up, which is how he earned the reputation of being the “tough, strict” teacher whose bad side you don’t want to see.
With that picture painted for you, you can imagine the surprise of his 32+ male students when they learned what O’Connor’s nickname was outside of the classroom.
After 5 p.m. and on the weekends, Mr. O’Connor is known as The Baby Whisperer to staff, patients and patient family members alike at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. For the past 20 years, O’Connor has been volunteering three days a week at the hospital, cuddling sick infants to help soothe them when their parents are unable to.
He first signed up to volunteer after a friend convinced him to donate blood. O’Connor is a Type O negative, which is a highly sought after blood type across the world. Since then, he has not only become the hospital’s most devout volunteer, but also, he has managed to emerge as the hospital’s top donor. So far, he has donated 72 gallons of blood.
In his quest to give blood, Jim kept seeing sick babies and asked the hospital staff how he could help them. A lifelong bachelor with no kids of his own, it came as a surprise to the veteran that he was actually really good at cuddling babies. Now, he rocks them, walks with them, feeds them and dotes upon them every day after work and on his weekends. Not only does Jim love holding the babies, but the little ones seem to love being held by him, and are automatically drawn to him when he enters the room.
When asked about what they thought of their 70-year-old math teacher, none of his students could give an exact answer. However, not one said that they dislike him–they just didn’t know what to think about him.
As for O’Connor, he hasn’t exactly gone out of his way to show his students his “fun-loving side.” “It drives me crazy when people say that school should be fun,” he tells the interviewer.
It wasn’t until senior Pat McGoldric went to the Children’s Hospital for a meeting regarding a school-wide blood drive that Mr. O’Connor’s alter-ego was discovered.
When he would go in for meetings and told everyone that he went to St. Francis High School, they all responded in the same way: “Oh, you must know Jim O’Connor. Isn’t he wonderful?”
To which Pat would reply with crickets. Wonderful? That’s not exactly the word he would use to describe his stoic math teacher.
A little snooping around the hospital lead Pat to a plaque with all of the hospital’s top blood donors, where Mr. O’Connor’s name sat at the top. Further investigation lead him to discover the entire truth about what his math teacher did on his down time.
When asked why he does it, he says, “I just like them, I just relate to him somehow. I don’t want to see them alone.”
“You’re not a tough guy at all,” says the reporter.
To which Jim replies: “I know. Just don’t tell my students.”
“I’ve always respected him,” Pat says, “but not it’s to the point where I try to emulate him. He is the epitome of a man of service.”
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