Inspiring Stories

Inspiring Stories

Don't ask what the world needs,
Ask yourself what makes you come alive.
Then go do that.
Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.
Harold Whitman
 

Brownies and Whipped Cream Please

BROWNIES AND WHIPPED CREAM PLEASE!

One day I had a date with friends for lunch.  Mae, a little old "blue hair" about 90 years old, came along with them---all in all, a pleasant bunch.  When the menus were presented, we ordered salads, sandwiches, and soups, except for Mae who said, "Ice Cream, please.  Two scoops, chocolate."  I wasn't sure my ears heard right, and the others were aghast.  "Along with heated apple pie," Mae added, completely unabashed.

We tried to act quite nonchalant, as if people did this all the time.  But when our orders were brought out, I didn't enjoy mine.  I couldn't take my eyes off Mae as her pie a-la-mode went down.  The other ladies showed dismay.  They ate their lunches silently and frowned.  The next time I went out to eat, I called and invited Mae.   I lunched on white meat tuna.  She ordered a parfait.  I smiled.  She asked if she amused me.  I answered, "Yes, you do, but also you confuse me.  How come you order rich desserts, while I feel I must be sensible?  She laughed and said, with wanton mirth, "I'm tasting all that is Possible.

Mae told me, "I try to eat the food I need, and do the things I should... But I hate missing out on something good.  This year I realized how old I was.  (She grinned.)  I haven't been this old before.  So, before I die, I've got to try those things that for years I had ignored.  I haven't smelled all the flowers yet.  There are too many books I haven't read.  There's more fudge sundaes to wolf down and kites to be flown overhead."  She continued, "There are many malls I haven't shopped.  I've not laughed at all the jokes.  I've missed a lot of Broadway hits and potato chips and cokes.   I want to wade again in water and feel ocean spray on my face.  I want to sit in a country church once more and thank God for His grace.  I want peanut butter every day spread on my morning toast.  I want un-timed long distance calls to the folks I love the most.  I haven't cried at all the movies yet, or walked in the morning rain.  I need to feel wind in my hair.  I want to fall in love again.  So, if I choose to have dessert, instead of having dinner, then should I die before nightfall, I'd say I died a winner, because I missed out on nothing.  I filled my heart's desire. I had that final chocolate mousse before my life expired."

With that, I called the waitress over.  "I've changed my mind, " I said.  "I want what she is having, only add some more whipped cream!"

Happiness isn't based on possessions, power, or prestige, but on relationships with people we love and respect.  Remember that while money talks, CHOCOLATE SINGS!

Love and the Cabby

LOVE AND THE CABBY

Art Buchwald

I was in New York City the other day and rode with a friend in a taxi.  When we got out, my friend said to the driver, "Thank you for the ride.  You did a superb job of driving."  The taxi driver was stunned for a second.  Then he said, "Are you a wise guy or something?"  "No, my dear man, and I'm not putting you on.  I admire the way you keep cool in heavy traffic."  "Yeah," the driver said and drove off.

"What was that all about?" I asked.  "I'm trying to put love back in New York City," he said.  "I believe it's the only thing that can save the city."  "How can one man save New York City?" I asked.  "It's not one man.  I believe I have made the taxi driver's day.  Suppose he has 20 fares.  He's going to be nice to those 20 fares because someone was nice to him.  Those fares, in turn, will be kinder to their employees or shopkeepers or waiters or even their own families.  Eventually the goodwill could spread to at least 1,000 people.  Now that isn't bad, is it?" he asked.

"But you're depending on the taxi driver to pass your goodwill to others," I responded.  "I'm not depending on it," he said.  "I'm aware that the system isn't foolproof, so I might deal with 10 different people today.  If, out of 10, I can make 3 happy, then eventually I can indirectly influence the attitudes of 3,000 more."  "It sounds good on paper," I admitted, "But I'm not sure it works in practice."

"Nothing is lost if it doesn't," he stated.  "It didn't take any of my time to tell the man he was doing a good job.  He neither received a larger tip nor a smaller tip.  If it fell on deaf ears, so what?  Tomorrow there will be another taxi driver, who I can try to make happy."  "You're some kind of a nut," I said.  "That shows how cynical you have become," he exclaimed.  "I have made a study of this.  The thing that seems to be lacking, besides money of course, for our postal employees is that no one tells people, who work for the post office, what a good job they're doing."  "But they're not doing a good job," I responded.  "They're not doing a good job," he replied, "because they feel no one cares if they do or not.  Why shouldn't someone say a kind word to them?"

We were walking past a structure in the process of being built and passed five workmen, eating their lunch.  My friend stopped.  "That is a magnificent job you men have been doing," he said.  "When will it be finished?"  "June," a man grunted.  "Ah.  That really is impressive.  You must be very proud," he stated.  We walked away.  I said to him, "I haven't seen anyone like you since "'The Man from La Mancha'."  "When those men digest my words, they will feel better for it," he said.  "Somehow the city will benefit from their happiness."

"But you can't do this all alone!" I protested.  "You're just one man."  "The most important thing is not to get discouraged, " he responded.  "Making people in this city become kind again is not an easy job, but if I can enlist other people in my campaign..."  "You just winked at a very plain looking woman," I said.  "Yes, I know," he replied. "And if she's a school teacher, her class will be in for a fantastic day!"

Love is infectious, and when human devotion is intelligent and wise, love is more catching than hate.  But only genuine and unselfish love is truly contagious.  If each person could only become a focus of dynamic affection, this benign virus of love would soon pervade the sentimental emotion-stream of humanity to such an extent that all civilization would be encompassed by love, and that would be the realization of the brotherhood of man.

This Magic Manta Moment

THIS MAGIC MANTA MOMENT

By Jennifer Anderson, courtesy of Fred Burks, WantToKnow.info, and Chicken Soup for the Ocean Lover's Soul

It was like many Maui mornings, the sun rising over Haleakala as we greeted our divers for the day's charter.  As my captain and I explained the dive procedures, I noticed the wind line moving into Molokini, a small, crescent-shaped island that harbors a large reef.  I slid through the briefing, then prompted my divers to gear up, careful to do everything right so the divers would feel confident with me, the dive leader.

The dive went pretty close to how I had described it.  The garden eels performed their underwater ballet, the parrot fish grazed on the coral, and the ever-elusive male flame wrasse flared their colors to defend their territory.  Near the last level of the dive, two couples in my group signaled they were going to ascend.  As luck would have it, the remaining divers were two European brothers, who were obviously troubled by the idea of a "woman" dive master and had ignored me for the entire dive.  The three of us caught the current and drifted along the outside of the reef, slowly beginning our ascent until, far below, something caught my eye.  After a few moments, I made out the white shoulder patches of a manta ray in about one hundred and twenty feet of water.

Manta rays are one of my greatest loves, but very little is known about them.  They feed on plankton, which makes them more delicate than an aquarium can handle.  They travel the oceans and are therefore a mystery.  Mantas can be identified by the distinctive pattern on their belly, with no two rays alike.  In 1992, I had been identifying the manta rays that were seen at Molokini and found that some were known, but many more were sighted only once, and then gone.  So there I was:  a beautiful, very large ray beneath me and my skeptical divers behind.  I reminded myself that I was still trying to win their confidence, and a bounce to see this manta wouldn't help my case.  So I started calling through my regulator, "Hey, come up and see me!"  I had tried this before to attract the attention of whales and dolphins, who are very chatty underwater and will come sometimes just to see what the noise is about.  My divers were just as puzzled by my actions, but continued to try to ignore me.

There was another dive group ahead of us.  The leader, who was a friend of mine and knew me to be fairly sane, stopped to see what I was doing.  I kept calling to the ray, and when she shifted in the water column, I took that as a sign that she was curious.  So I started waving my arms, calling her up to me.  After a minute, she lifted away from where she had been riding the current and began to make a wide circular glide until she was closer to me.  I kept watching as she slowly moved back and forth, rising higher, until she was directly beneath the two Europeans and me.  I looked at them and was pleased to see them smiling.  Now they liked me.  After all, I could call up a manta ray!

Looking back to the ray, I realized she was much bigger than what we were used to around Molokini - a good fifteen feet from wing tip to wing tip, and not a familiar-looking ray.  I had not seen this animal before.  There was something else odd about her.  I just couldn't figure out what it was.  Once my brain clicked in and I was able to concentrate, I saw deep V-shaped marks of her flesh missing from her backside.  Other marks ran up and down her body.  At first I thought a boat had hit her.  As she came closer, now with only ten feet separating us, I realized what was wrong.  She had fishing hooks embedded in her head by her eye, with very thick fishing line running to her tail.  She had rolled with the line and was wrapped head to tail about five or six times.  The line had torn into her body at the back, and those were the V-shaped chunks that were missing.  I felt sick and, for a moment, paralyzed.  I knew wild animals in pain would never tolerate a human to inflict more pain.  But I had to do something.

Forgetting about my air, my divers and where I was, I went to the manta.  I moved very slowly and talked to her the whole time, like she was one of the horses I had grown up with.  When I touched her, her whole body quivered, like my horse would.  I put both of my hands on her, then my entire body, talking to her the whole time.  I knew that she could knock me off at any time with one flick of her great wing.  When she had steadied, I took out the knife that I carry on my inflator hose and lifted one of the lines.  It was tight and difficult to get my finger under, almost like a guitar string.  She shook, which told me to be gentle.  It was obvious that the slightest pressure was painful.  As I cut through the first line, it pulled into her wounds.  With one beat of her mighty wings, she dumped me and bolted away.  I figured that she was gone and was amazed when she turned and came right back to me, gliding under my body.  I went to work.  She seemed to know it would hurt, and somehow, she also knew that I could help.  Imagine the intelligence of that creature, to come for help and to trust!

I cut through one line and into the next until she had all she could take of me and would move away, only to return in a moment or two.  I never chased her.  I would never chase any animal.  I never grabbed her.  I allowed her to be in charge, and she always came back.  When all the lines were cut on top, on her next pass, I went under her to pull the lines through the wounds at the back of her body.  The tissue had started to grow around them, and they were difficult to get loose.  I held myself against her body, with my hand on her lower jaw.  She held as motionless as she could.  When it was all loose, I let her go and watched her swim in a circle.  She could have gone then, and it would have all fallen away.  She came back, and I went back on top of her.  The fishing hooks were still in her.  One was barely hanging on, which I removed easily.  The other was buried by her eye at least two inches past the barb.  Carefully, I began to take it out, hoping I wasn't damaging anything.  She did open and close her eye while I worked on her, and finally, it was out.  I held the hooks in one hand, while I gathered the fishing line in the other hand, my weight on the manta.

I could have stayed there forever!  I was totally oblivious to everything but that moment.  I loved this manta. I was so moved that she would allow me to do this to her.  But reality came screaming down on me.  With my air running out, I reluctantly came to my senses and pushed myself away.  At first, she stayed below me.  And then, when she realized that she was free, she came to life like I never would have imagined she could.  I thought she was sick and weak, since her mouth had been tied closed, and she hadn't been able to feed for however long the lines had been on her.  I thought wrong!  With two beats of those powerful wings, she rocketed along the wall of Molokini and then directly out to sea!  I lost view of her and, remembering my divers, turned to look for them.

Remarkably, we hadn't traveled very far.  My divers were right above me and had witnessed the whole event, thankfully!  No one would have believed me alone.  It seemed too amazing to have really happened.  But as I looked at the hooks and line in my hands and felt the torn calluses from her rough skin, I knew that, yes, it really had happened.  I kicked in the direction of my divers, whose eyes were still wide from the encounter, only to have them signal me to stop and turn around.  Until this moment, the whole experience had been phenomenal, but I could explain it. Now, the moment turned magical.  I turned and saw her slowly gliding toward me.  With barely an effort, she approached me and stopped, her wing just touching my head.  I looked into her round, dark eye, and she looked deeply into me.  I felt a rush of something that so overpowered me, I have yet to find the words to describe it, except a warm and loving flow of energy from her into me.  She stayed with me for a moment.  I don't know if it was a second or an hour.  Then, as sweetly as she came back, she lifted her wing over my head and was gone.  A manta thank-you.

I hung in mid-water, using the safety-stop excuse, and tried to make sense of what I had experienced.  Eventually, collecting myself, I surfaced and was greeted by an ecstatic group of divers and a curious captain.  They all gave me time to get my heart started and to begin to breathe.

Sadly, I have not seen her since that day, and I am still looking.  For the longest time, though my wetsuit was tattered and torn, I would not change it because I thought she wouldn't recognize me.  I call to every manta I see, and they almost always acknowledge me in some way.  One day, though, it will be her.  She'll hear me and pause, remembering the giant cleaner that she trusted to relieve her pain, and she'll come.  At least that is how it happens in my dreams.


NDE of Melllen-Thomas Benedict

NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE OF MELLEN-THOMAS BENEDICT:  Journey Through the Light and Back

In 1982 I died from terminal cancer.  The condition I had was inoperable, and any kind of chemotherapy they could give me would just have made me more of a vegetable.  I was given six to eight months to live.  I had been an information freak in the1970’s, and I had become increasingly despondent over the nuclear crisis, the ecology crisis, and so forth.  So, since I did not have a spiritual basis, I began to believe that nature had made a mistake, and that we were probably a cancerous organism on the planet.  I saw no way that we could get out from all the problems we had created for ourselves and the planet.  I perceived all humans as cancer, and that is what I got.  That is what killed me.  Be careful what your world view is.  It can feed back on you, especially if it is a negative world view.  I had a seriously negative one.  That is what led me into my death.  I tried all sorts of alternative healing methods, but nothing helped.

So I determined that this was really just between me and God.  I had never really faced God before, or even dealt with God.  I was not into any kind of spirituality at the time, but I began a journey into learning about spirituality and alternative healing.  I set out to do all the reading I could and bone up on the subject, because I did not want to be surprised on the other side.  So I started reading on various religions and philosophies.  They were all very interesting, and gave hope that there was something on the other side.  I ended up in hospice care.

I remember waking up one morning at home about 4:30 AM, and I just knew that this was it.  This was the day I was going to die.  So I called a few friends and said goodbye.  I woke up my hospice caretaker and told her.  I had a private agreement with her that she would leave my dead body alone for six hours, since I had read that all kinds of interesting things happen when you die.  I went back to sleep.  The next thing I remember is the beginning of a typical near-death experience.  Suddenly I was fully aware and I was standing up, but my body was in the bed.  There was this darkness around me.  Being out of my body was even more vivid than ordinary experience.  It was so vivid that I could see every room in the house, I could see the top of the house, I could see around the house, I could see under the house.

There was this Light shining.  I turned toward the Light.  The Light was very similar to what many other people have described in their near-death experiences.  It was so magnificent.  It is tangible; you can feel it.  It is alluring; you want to go to it like you would want to go to your ideal mother’s or father’s arms.  As I began to move toward the Light, I knew intuitively that if I went to the Light, I would be dead.  So as I was moving toward the Light I said, “Please wait a minute, just hold on a second here.  I want to think about this; I would like to talk to you before I go.”  To my surprise, the entire experience halted at that point.  You are in control of your life after death experience.  You are not on a roller coaster ride.  So my request was honored and I had some conversations with the Light.  The Light kept changing into different figures, like Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, mandalas, archetypal images and signs.  I asked the Light, “What is going on here?  Please, Light, clarify yourself for me.  I really want to know the reality of the situation.”  I cannot really say the exact words, because it was sort of telepathy.

The Light responded.  The information transferred to me was that during your life after death experience your beliefs shape the kind of feedback you are getting before the Light.  If you were a Buddhist or Catholic or Fundamentalist, you get a feedback loop of your own stuff.  You have a chance to look at it and examine it, but most people do not.  As the Light revealed itself to me, I became aware that what I was really seeing was our higher Self matrix.  We all have a higher Self, or an oversoul part of our being.  It revealed itself to me in its truest energy form.  The only way I can really describe it is that the being of the higher Self is more like a conduit.  It did not look like that, but it is a direct connection to the Source that each and every one of us has.  We are directly connected to the Source.  So the Light was showing me the higher Self matrix.  I was not committed to one particular religion.  So that is what was being fed back to me during my life after death experience.

As I asked the Light to keep clearing for me, to keep explaining, I understood what the higher Self matrix is.  We have a grid around the planet where all the higher Selves are connected.  This is like a great company, a next subtle level of energy around us, the spirit level, you might say.  Then, after a couple of minutes, I asked for more clarification.  I really wanted to know what the universe is about, and I was ready to go at that time.  I said, “I am ready, take me.”  Then the Light turned into the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen: a mandala of human souls on this planet.  Now I came to this with my negative view of what was happening on the planet.  So as I asked the Light to keep clarifying for me, I saw in this magnificent mandala how beautiful we all are in our essence, our core.  We are the most beautiful creations.  The human soul, the human matrix that we all make together is absolutely fantastic, elegant, exotic, everything.  I just cannot say enough about how it changed my opinion of human beings in that instant.  I said, “Oh, God, I did not know how beautiful we are.”  At any level, high or low, in whatever shape you are in, you are the most beautiful creation, you are.

The revelations coming from the Light and seemed to go on and on, then I asked the Light, “Does this mean that Mankind will be saved?”  Then, like a trumpet blast with a shower of spiraling lights, the Great Light spoke, saying, “Remember this and never forget; you save, redeem and heal yourself.  You always have.  You always will.  You were created with the power to do so from before the beginning of the world.”  In that instant I realized even more.  I realized that WE HAVE ALREADY BEEN SAVED, and we saved ourselves because we were designed to self-correct like the rest of God’s universe.  This is what the second coming is about.  I thanked the Light of God with all my heart.  The best thing I could come up with was these simple words of total appreciation: “Oh dear God, dear Universe, dear Great Self, I Love My Life.”

The Light seemed to breathe me in even more deeply.  It was as if the Light was completely absorbing me.  The Love Light is, to this day, indescribable.  I entered into another realm, more profound than the last, and became aware of something more, much more.  It was an enormous stream of Light, vast and full, deep in the Heart of Life.  I asked what this was.  The Light responded, “This is the RIVER OF LIFE.  Drink of this manna water to your heart’s content.”  So I did.  I took one big drink and then another.  To drink of Life Itself!  I was in ecstasy.

Then the Light said, “You have a desire.”  The Light knew all about me, everything past, present and future.  “Yes!” I whispered.  I asked to see the rest of the Universe; beyond our solar system, beyond all human illusion.  The Light then told me that I could go with the Stream.  I did, and was carried Through the Light at the End of the Tunnel.  I felt and heard a series of very soft sonic booms.  What a rush!  Suddenly I seemed to be rocketing away from the planet on this stream of Life.  I saw the earth fly away.  The solar system, in all its splendor, whizzed by and disappeared.  At faster than light speed, I flew through the center of the galaxy, absorbing more knowledge as I went.  I learned that this galaxy, and all of the Universe, is bursting with many different varieties of LIFE.  I saw many worlds.  The good news is that we are not alone in this Universe!  As I rode this stream of consciousness through the center of the galaxy, the stream was expanding in awesome fractal waves of energy.  The super clusters of galaxies with all their ancient wisdom flew by.  At first I thought I was going somewhere; actually traveling.  But then I realized that, as the stream was expanding, my own consciousness was also expanding to take in everything in the Universe!  All creation passed by me.  It was an unimaginable wonder!  I truly was a Wonder Child; a babe in Wonderland!

At this point, I found myself in a profound stillness, beyond all silence.  I could see or perceive FOREVER, beyond Infinity.  I was in the Void.  I was in pre-creation, before the Big Bang.  I had crossed over the beginning of time/the First Word/the First vibration.  I was in the Eye of Creation.  I felt as if I was touching the Face of God.  It was not a religious feeling.  Simply I was at one with Absolute Life and Consciousness.  When I say that I could see or perceive forever, I mean that I could experience all of creation generating itself.  It was without beginning and without end.  That’s a mind expanding thought, isn’t it?

Scientists perceive the Big Bang as a single event which created the Universe.  I saw during my life after death experience that the Big Bang is only one of an infinite number of Big Bangs creating Universes endlessly and simultaneously.  The only images that even come close in human terms would be those created by super computers using fractal geometry equations.  The ancients knew of this.  They said God had periodically created new Universes by breathing out, and recreated other Universes by breathing in.  These epochs were called Yugas.  Modern science called this the Big Bang.  I was in absolute, pure consciousness.  I could see or perceive all the Big Bangs or Yugas creating and recreating themselves.  Instantly I entered into them all simultaneously.  I saw that each and every little piece of creation has the power to create.  It is very difficult to try to explain this.  I am still speechless about this.

It took me years after I returned from my near-death experience to assimilate any words at all for the Void experience.  I can tell you this now: the Void is less than nothing, yet more than everything that is!  The Void is absolute zero, chaos forming all possibilities.  It is Absolute Consciousness, much more than even Universal Intelligence.  The Void is the vacuum or nothingness between all physical manifestations.  The SPACE between atoms and their components.  Modern science has begun to study this space between everything.  They call it Zero point. Whenever they try to measure it, their instruments go off the scale, or to infinity, so to speak.  They have no way, as of yet, to measure infinity accurately.  There is more of the 0 space in your own body and the Universe than anything else!  What mystics call the Void is not a void.  It is so full of energy, a different kind of energy that has created everything that we are.  Everything since the Big Bang is vibration, from the first Word, which is the first vibration.  The biblical “I am” really has a question mark after it.  “I am—What am I?”  So creation is God exploring God’s Self through every way imaginable, in an ongoing, infinite exploration through every one of us.  I began to see during my near-death experience that everything that is, is the Self, literally, your Self, my Self.  Everything is the great Self.  That is why God knows even when a leaf falls.  That is possible because wherever you are is the center of the universe.  Wherever any atom is, that is the center of the universe.  There is God in that, and God in the Void.

As I was exploring the Void during my life after death experience and all the Yugas or creations, I was completely out of time and space as we know it.  In this expanded state, I discovered that creation is about Absolute Pure Consciousness, or God, coming into the Experience of Life as we know it.  The Void itself is devoid of experience.  It is pre life, before the first vibration.  Godhead is about more than Life and Death.  Therefore there is even more than Life and Death to experience in the Universe!  When I realized this I was finished with the Void, and wanted to return to this creation, or Yuga.  It just seemed like the natural thing to do.  Then I suddenly came back through the second Light, or the Big Bang, hearing several more velvet booms.  I rode the stream of consciousness back through all of creation, and what a ride it was!  The super clusters of galaxies came through me with even more insights.  I passed through the center of our galaxy, which is a black hole.  Black holes are the great processors or recyclers of the Universe.

Do you know what is on the other side of a Black Hole?  We are; our galaxy, which has been reprocessed from another Universe.  In its total energy configuration, the galaxy looked like a fantastic city of lights.  All energy this side of the Big Bang is light.  Every sub atom, atom, star, planet, even consciousness itself is made of light and has a frequency and/or particle.  Light is living stuff.  Everything is made of light, even stones.  So everything is alive.  Everything is made from the Light of God; everything is very intelligent.  As I rode the stream on and on, I could eventually see a huge Light coming.  I knew it was the First Light, the higher Self Light Matrix of our solar system.  Then the entire solar system appeared in the Light, accompanied by one of those velvet booms.  I could see all the energy that this solar system generates, and it is an incredible light show!  I could hear the Music of the Spheres.  Our solar system, as do all celestial bodies, generates a unique matrix of light, sound and vibratory energies.  Advanced civilizations from other star systems can spot life as we know it in the universe by the vibratory or energy matrix imprint.  It is child’s play.  The earth’s Wonder child (human beings) make an abundance of sound right now, like children playing in the backyard of the universe.

The Light explained to me that there is no death; we are immortal beings.  We have already been alive forever!  I realized that we are part of a natural living system that recycles itself endlessly.  I was never told that I had to come back.  I just knew that I would.  It was only natural, from what I had seen during my life after death experience.  I don’t know how long I was with the Light, in human time.  But there came a moment when I realized that all my questions had been answered and my return was near.  When I say that all my questions were answered on the other side, I mean to say just that.  All my questions have been answered.  Every human has a different life and set of questions to explore.  Some of our questions are Universal, but each of us is exploring this thing we call Life in our own unique way.  So is every other form of life, from mountains to every leaf on every tree.  And that is very important to the rest of us in this Universe.  Because it all contributes to the Big Picture, the fullness of Life.  We are literally God exploring God’s self in an infinite Dance of Life.  Your uniqueness enhances all of Life.

As I began my return to the life cycle, it never crossed my mind, nor was I told that I would return to the same body.  It just did not matter.  I had complete trust in the Light and the Life process.  As the stream merged with the great Light, I asked never to forget the revelations and the feelings of what I had learned on the other side.  There was a “Yes.”  It felt like a kiss to my soul.  Then I was taken back through the Light into the vibratory realm again.  The whole process reversed, with even more information being given to me.  I came back home, and I was given lessons from my near-death experience on the mechanics of reincarnation.  I was given answers to all those little questions I had: “How does this work?  How does that work?”  I knew that I would be reincarnated.

The earth is a great processor of energy, and individual consciousness evolves out of that into each one of us.  I thought of myself as a human for the first time, and I was happy to be that.  From what I have seen, I would be happy to be an atom in this universe.  An atom.  So to be the human part of God... this is the most fantastic blessing.  It is a blessing beyond our wildest estimation of what blessing can be.  For each and every one of us to be the human part of this experience is awesome, and magnificent.  Each and every one of us, no matter where we are, screwed up or not, is a blessing to the planet, right where we are.  I went through the reincarnation process expecting to be a baby somewhere.  But I was given a lesson on how individual identity and consciousness evolve.  I was so surprised when I opened my eyes.  I do not know why, because I understood it, but it was still such a surprise to be back in this body, back in my room with someone looking over me crying her eyes out.  It was my hospice caretaker.  She had given up an hour and a half after finding me dead.  My body was stiff and inflexible.  She went into the other room.  Then I awakened and saw the light outside.  I tried to get up to go to it, but I fell out of the bed.  She heard a loud “clunk,” ran in and found me on the floor.

When I recovered, I was very surprised and yet very awed about what had happened to me during my near-death experience.  At first all the memory of the trip that I have now was not there.  I kept slipping out of this world and kept asking, “Am I alive?”  This world seemed more like a dream than that one.  Within three days I was feeling normal again, clearer, yet different than I had ever felt in my life.  My memory of my near-death experience came back later.  I could see nothing wrong with any human being I had ever seen.  Before that I was really judgmental.  I thought a lot of people were really screwed up, in fact I thought that everybody was screwed up but me.  But I got clear on all that.  About three months later a friend said I should get tested, so I went and got the scans and so forth.  I really felt good, so I was afraid of getting bad news.  I remember the doctor at the clinic looking at the before and after scans, saying, “Well, there is nothing here now.”  I said, “Really, it must be a miracle.”  He said, “No, these things happen; they are called spontaneous remission.”  He acted very unimpressed.  But here was a miracle, and I was impressed, even if no one else was.

During my near-death experience I had a descent into what you might call Hell, and it was very surprising.  I did not see Satan or evil.  My descent into Hell was a descent into each person’s customized human misery, ignorance, and darkness of not knowing.  It seemed like a miserable eternity.  But each of the millions of souls around me had a little star of light always available.  But no one seemed to pay attention to it.  They were so consumed with their own grief, trauma and misery.  But, after what seemed an eternity, I started calling out to that Light, like a child calling to a parent for help.  Then the Light opened up and formed a tunnel that came right to me and insulated me from all that fear and pain.  That is what Hell really is.  So what we are doing is learning to hold hands, to come together.  The doors of Hell are open now.  We are going to link up, hold hands, and walk out of Hell together.  The Light came to me and turned into a huge golden angel.  I said, “Are you the angel of death?”  It expressed to me that it was my oversoul, my higher Self matrix, a super ancient part of ourselves.  Then I was taken to the Light.

Soon our science will quantify spirit.  Isn’t that going to be wonderful?  We are coming up with devices now that are sensitive to subtle energy or spirit energy.  Physicists use these atomic colliders to smash atoms to see what they are made of.  They have got it down to quarks and charm, and all that.  Well, one day they are going to come down to the little thing that holds it all together, and they are going to have to call that ... God.  We are just beginning to understand that we are creating too, as we go along.  As I saw forever, I came to a realm during my near-death experience in which there is a point where we pass all knowledge and begin creating the next fractal, the next level.  We have that power to create as we explore.  And that is God expanding itself through us.

Since my return I have experienced the Light spontaneously, and I have learned how to get to that space almost any time in my meditation.   Each one of you can do this.  You do not have to die or have a near-death experience to do this.  It is within your equipment; you are wired for it already.  The body is the most magnificent Light being there is.  The body is a universe of incredible Light.  Spirit is not pushing us to dissolve this body.  That is not what is happening.  Stop trying to become God; God is becoming you.  Here.  I asked God: “What is the best religion on the planet?  Which one is right?”  And Godhead said, with great love: “I don’t care.”  That was incredible grace.  When Godhead said, “I don’t care,” I immediately understood that it is for us to care about.  It is important, because we are the caring beings.  It matters to us and that is where it is important.  What you have is the energy equation in spirituality.  Ultimate Godhead does not care if you are Protestant, Buddhist, or whatever.  It is all a blooming facet of the whole.  I wish that all religions would realize it and let each other be.  It is not the end of each religion, but we are talking about the same God.  Live and let live.  Each has a different view.  And it all adds up to the big picture; it is all important.

I went over to the other side during my near-death experience with a lot of fears about toxic waste, nuclear missiles, the population explosion, the rainforest.  I came back loving every single problem.  I love nuclear waste.  I love the mushroom cloud; this is the holiest mandala that we have manifested to date, as an archetype.  It, more than any religion or philosophy on earth, brought us together all of a sudden, to a new level of consciousness.  Knowing that maybe we can blow up the planet fifty times, or 500 times, we finally realize that maybe we are all here together now.  For a period they had to keep setting off more bombs to get it in to us.  Then we started saying, “we do not need this any more.”  Now we are actually in a safer world than we have ever been in, and it is going to get safer.  So I came back from my near-death experience loving toxic waste, because it brought us together.  These things are so big.  As Peter Russell might say, these problems are now “soul size.”  Do we have soul size answers”  YES!

The clearing of the rain forest will slow down, and in fifty years there will be more trees on the planet than in a long time.  If you are into ecology, go for it; you are that part of the system that is becoming aware.  Go for it with all your might, but do not be depressed.  It is part of a larger thing.  Earth is in the process of domesticating itself.  It is never again going to be as wild a place as it once was.  There will be great wild places, reserves where nature thrives.  Gardening and reserves will be the thing in the future.  Population increase is getting very close to the optimal range of energy to cause a shift in consciousness.  That shift in consciousness will change politics, money, energy.

After dying, going through my near-death experience and coming back, I really respect life and death.  In our DNA experiments we may have opened the door to a great secret.  Soon we will be able to live as long as we want to live in this body.  After living 150 years or so, there will be an intuitive soul sense that you will want to change channels.  Living forever in one body is not as creative as reincarnation, as transferring energy in this fantastic vortex of energy that we are in.  We are actually going to see the wisdom of life and death, and enjoy it.  As it is now, we have already been alive forever.  This body, that you are in, has been alive forever.  It comes from an unending stream of life, going back to the Big Bang and beyond.  This body gives life to the next life, in dense and subtle energy.  This body has been alive forever already.

Santa and Sarah

SANTA AND SARAH

Three years ago, a little boy and his grandmother came to see Santa at the McAllister Mall in Saint John.  The child climbed up on his lap, holding a picture of a little girl.  "Who is this?" asked Santa, smiling.  "Your friend?"  "Yes, Santa,' he replied.  "My sister, Sarah, who is very sick," he said sadly.  Santa glanced over at the grandmother who was waiting nearby, and saw her dabbing her eyes with a tissue.  "She wanted to come with me to see you, oh, so very much, Santa!" the child exclaimed.  "She misses you," he added softly.

Santa tried to be cheerful and encouraged a smile to the boy's face, asking him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas.  When they finished their visit, the Grandmother came over to help the child off his lap, and started to say something to Santa, but halted.  "What is it?" Santa asked warmly.  "Well, I know it's really too much to ask you, Santa, but...." the old woman began, shooing her grandson over to one of Santa's elves to collect the little gift which Santa gave all his young visitors.  "The girl in the photograph... my granddaughter well, you see ... she has leukemia and isn't expected to make it even through the holidays," she said through tear-filled eyes.  "Is there any way, Santa, any possible way that you could come see Sarah? That's all she's asked for, for Christmas, is to see Santa."

Santa blinked and swallowed hard and told the woman to leave information with his elves as to where Sarah was, and he would see what he could do.  Santa thought of little else the rest of that afternoon.   He knew what he had to do.  "What if it were MY child lying in that hospital bed, dying," he thought with a sinking heart.  "This is the least I can do."  When Santa finished visiting with all the boys and girls that evening, he retrieved from his helper the name of the hospital where Sarah was staying.  He asked the assistant location manager how to get to the Hospital.  "Why?" Rick asked, with a puzzled look on his face.  Santa relayed to him the conversation with Sarah's grandmother earlier that day.  "C'mon.....I'll take you there." Rick said softly.  Rick drove them to the hospital and came inside with Santa.

They found out which room Sarah was in.  A pale Rick said he would wait out in the hall.  Santa quietly peeked into the room through the half-closed door and saw little Sarah in the bed.  The room was full of what appeared to be her family; there was the Grandmother and the girl's brother he had met earlier that day.  A woman whom he guessed was Sarah's mother stood by the bed, gently pushing Sarah's thin hair off her forehead.  And another woman who he discovered later was Sarah's aunt, sat in a chair near the bed with a weary sad look on her face.  They were talking quietly, and Santa could sense the warmth and closeness of the family, and their love and concern for Sarah.

Taking a deep breath, and forcing a smile on his face, Santa entered the room, bellowing a hearty, "Ho, Ho, Ho!"  "Santa!" shrieked little Sarah, weakly as she tried to escape her bed to run to him IV tubes intact.  Santa rushed to her side and gave her a warm hug.  A child the tender age of his own son -- 9 years old -- gazed up at him with wonder and excitement.  Her skin was pale and her short tresses bore telltale bald patches from the effects of chemotherapy.  But, all he saw when he looked at her was a pair of, huge blue eyes.  His heart melted, and he had to force himself to choke back tears.  Though his eyes were riveted upon Sarah's face, he could hear the gasps and quiet sobbing of the women in the room.

As he and Sarah began talking, the family crept quietly to the bedside one by one, squeezing Santa's shoulder or his hand gratefully, whispering "Thank you" as they gazed sincerely at him with shining eyes.  Santa and Sarah talked and talked, and she told him excitedly all the toys she wanted for Christmas, assuring him she'd been a very good girl that year.  As their time together dwindled, Santa felt led in his spirit to pray for Sarah, and asked for permission from the girl's mother.  She nodded in agreement and the entire family circled around Sarah's bed, holding hands.  Santa looked intensely at Sarah and asked her if she believed in angels.  "Oh, yes, Santa... I do!" she exclaimed.  "Well, I'm going to ask angels watch over you." he said.  Laying one hand on the child's head, Santa closed his eyes and prayed.  He asked that, God touch little Sarah, and heal her body from this disease.  He asked that angels minister to her, watch and keep her.  And when he finished praying, still with eyes closed, he started singing, softly, "Silent Night, Holy Night....all is calm, all is bright."  The family joined in, still holding hands, smiling at Sarah, and crying tears of hope, tears of joy for this moment, as Sarah beamed at them all.

When the song ended, Santa sat on the side of the bed again and held Sarah's frail, small hands in his own.  "Now, Sarah," he said authoritatively, "you have a job to do, and that is to concentrate on getting well.  I want you to have fun playing with your friends this summer, and I expect to see you at my house at McAllister Mall this time next year!"  He knew it was risky proclaiming that to this little girl who had terminal cancer, but he "had" to.  He had to give her the greatest gift he could -- not dolls or games or toys -- but the gift of HOPE.  "Yes, Santa!" Sarah exclaimed, her eyes bright.  He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead and left the room.

Out in the hall, the minute Santa's eyes met Rick's, a look passed between them and they wept unashamed.  Sarah's mother and grandmother slipped out of the room quickly and rushed to Santa's side to thank him.  "My only child is the same age as Sarah," he explained quietly.  "This is the least I could do."  They nodded with understanding and hugged him.

One year later, Santa was again back on the set in Saint John for his six-week, seasonal job which he so loves to do.  Several weeks went by and then one day a child came up to sit on his lap.  "Hi, Santa! Remember me?!"  "Of course, I do," Santa proclaimed (as he always does), smiling down at her.  After all, the secret to being a "good" Santa is to always make each child feel as if they are the "only" child in the world at that moment.  "You came to see me in the hospital last year!"  Santa's jaw dropped.  Tears immediately sprang in his eyes, and he grabbed this little miracle and held her to his chest.  "Sarah!" he exclaimed.  He scarcely recognized her, for her hair was long and silky and her cheeks were rosy -- much different from the little girl he had visited just a year before.  He looked over and saw Sarah's mother and grandmother in the sidelines smiling and waving and wiping their eyes.

That was the best Christmas ever for Santa Claus.  He had witnessed -- and been blessed to be instrumental in bringing about -- this miracle of hope.  This precious little child was healed.  Cancer-free.  Alive and well.  He silently looked up to Heaven and humbly whispered, "Thank you, Father. 'Tis a very, Merry Christmas!

The Invitation

THE INVITATION

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.  I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are.  I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.  I want to know if you have touched the center of your sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.  I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, or if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true.  I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself, if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.  I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore be trustworthy.  I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty everyday, and if you can source your life on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon.

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.  I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here.  I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.  I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.  I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Oriah, Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder

Searching For Her Own Daughter

SEARCHING FOR HER OWN DAUGHTER, MOM MAKES A DIFFERENCE TO HUNDREDS

 

AP, La Plata, Argentina

 

Susana Trimarco was a housewife who fussed over her family and paid scant attention to the news until her daughter left for a doctor's appointment and never came back.  After getting little help from police, Trimarco launched her own investigation into a tip that the 23-year-old was abducted and forced into sex slavery.  Soon, Trimarco was visiting brothels seeking clues about her daughter and the search took an additional goal:  rescuing sex slaves and helping them start new lives.

What began as a one-woman campaign a decade ago developed into a movement and Trimarco today is a hero to hundreds of women she's rescued from Argentine prostitution rings.  She's been honored with the "Women of Courage" award by the U.S. State Department and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  President Cristin a Fernandez gave her a human rights award before hundreds of thousands of people in the Plaza de Mayo.

But years of exploring the decadent criminal underground haven't led Trimarco to her daughter, Maria de los Angeles "Marita" Veron, who was 23 in 2002 when she disappeared from their hometown in provincial Tucuman, leaving behind her own 3-year-old daughter Micaela.  "I live for this," the 58-year-old Trimarco said of her ongoing quest. "I have no other life, and the truth is, it is a very sad, very grim life that I wouldn't wish on anyone."

Her painful journey has now reached a milestone.  Publicity over Trimarco's efforts prompted Argentine authorities to make a high-profile example of her daughter's case by putting 13 people on trial for allegedly kidnapping Veron and holding her as a sex slave in a family-run operation of illegal brothels.  Prostitution is not illegal in Argentina, but the exploitation of women for sex is.  A verdict is expected soon after a nearly yearlong trial.  The seven men and six women have pleaded innocent and their lawyers have said there's no physical proof supporting the charges against them.  The alleged ringleaders denied knowing Veron and said that women who work in their brothels do so willingly.  Prosecutors have asked for up to 25 years imprisonment for those convicted.  Trimarco was the primary witness during the trial, testifying for six straight days about her search for her daughter.

The road to trial was a long one.  Frustrated by seeming indifference to her daughter's disappearance, Trimarco began her own probe and found a taxi driver who told of delivering Veron to a brothel where she was beaten and forced into prostitution.  The driver is among the defendants.  With her husband and granddaughter in tow, Trimarco disguised herself as a recruiter of prostitutes and entered brothel after brothel searching for clues.  She soon found herself immersed in the dangerous and grim world of organized crime, gathering evidence against police, politicians and gangsters.  "For the first time, I really understood what was happening to my daughter," she said.  "I was with my husband and with Micaela, asleep in the backseat of the car because she was still very small and I had no one to leave her with."

The very first woman Trimarco rescued taught her to be strong, she said.  "It stuck with me forever.  She told me not to let them see me cry, because these shameless people who had my daughter would laugh at me, and at my pain," Trimarco said.  "Since then I don't cry anymore. I've made myself strong, and when I feel that a tear might drop, I remember these words and I keep my composure."  Micaela, now 13, has been by her grandmother's side throughout, contributing to publicity campaigns against human trafficking and keeping her mother's memory alive.  More than 150 witnesses testified in the trial, including a dozen former sex slaves who described brutal conditions in the brothels.

Veron may have been kidnapped twice, with the complicity of the very authorities who should have protected her, according to Julio Fernandez, who now runs a Tucuman police department devoted to investigating human trafficking.  He testified that witnesses reported seeing Veron at a bus station three days after she initially disappeared, and that a police officer from La Rioja, Domingo Pascual Andrada, delivered her to a brothel there.  Andrada, now among the defendants, denied knowing any of the other defendants, let alone Veron.

Other Tucuman police testified that when they sought permission in 2002 to search La Rioja brothels, a judge made them wait for hours, enabling Veron's captors to move her.  That version was supported by a woman who had been a prostitute at the brothel.  She testified that Veron was moved just before police arrived.  The judge, Daniel Moreno, is not on trial.  He denied delaying the raid or having anything to do with the defendants.  Some of the former prostitutes said they had seen Veron drugged and haggard.  One testified Veron felt trapped and missed her daughter.  Another said she spotted Veron with dyed-blonde hair and an infant boy she was forced to conceive in a rape by a ringleader.  A third thought Veron had been sold to a brothel in Spain — a lead reported to Interpol.

Trimarco's campaign to find her daughter led the State Department to provide seed money for a foundation in Veron's name.  To date, it has rescued more than 900 women and girls from sex trafficking.  The foundation also provides housing, medical and psychological aid, and it helps victims sue former captors.  Argentina outlawed human trafficking in 2008, thanks in large part to the foundation's work.  A new force dedicated to combating human trafficking, it has liberated nearly 3,000 more victims in two years, said Security Minister Nilda Garre, who wrote a newspaper commentary saying the trial's verdict should set an example.

Whatever the verdict, Trimarco's lawyer, Carlos Garmendia, says the case has already made a difference.  "Human trafficking was an invisible problem until the Marita (Veron) case," Garmendia said.  "The case has put it on the national agenda."  But Trimarco wants more.  "I had hoped they would break down and say what they'd done with Marita," she said.  "I feel here in my breast that she is alive and I'm not going to stop until I find her," Trimarco said.  "If she's no longer in this world, I want her body."

Faces

FACES

By Charles Swindoll

What does our countenance show the world?  During Thomas Jefferson's presidency he and a group of travelers were crossing a river that had overflowed its banks.  Each man crossed on horseback fighting for his life.

A lone traveler watched the group traverse the treacherous river, then asked President Jefferson to take him across.  The president agreed without hesitation.  The man climbed on, and the two made it safely to the other side of the river where somebody asked him:  "Why did you select the President to ask this favor?"

The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the President of the United States who had carried him safely across.  "All I know," he said, "is that on some of your faces was written the answer 'No', and on some of them was the answer 'Yes.'  His was a 'Yes' face."


Adventure With Grandma

ADVENTURE WITH GRANDMA

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma.  I was just a kid.  I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb.  "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered.  "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been.  I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me.  I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns.  I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so.  It had to be true.  Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything.  She was ready for me.  "No Santa Claus!" she snorted.  "Ridiculous!  Don't believe it.  That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad.  Now, put on your coat, and let's go."  "Go?  Go where, Grandma?" I asked.  I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun.

"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything.  As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars.  That was a bundle in those days.  "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it.  I'll wait for you in the car."  Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old . I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself.  The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.  For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.  I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the
kids at school, the people who went to my church.  I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker.  He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs.Pollock's grade-two class.  Bobby Decker didn't have a coat.  I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter.  His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have a coat.  I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement.  I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it.  It looked real warm, and he would like that.  "Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.  "Yes," I replied shyly.  "It's .... for Bobby."  The nice lady smiled at me.  I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) and wrote on the package, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus."  Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy.  Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers.  Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk.  Then Grandma gave me a nudge.  "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."  I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.  Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door
to open.  Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes.  That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were.  Ridiculous.  Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.  

I still have the Bible, with the tag tucked inside:  $19.95.

Why God Made Moms

WHY GOD MADE MOMS

Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me.  He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones.  Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other Mom?
1. We're related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your Mom?
1. My Mom has always been my Mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did Mom need to know about Dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background.  Like is he a crook?  Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year?  Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your Mom marry your Dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world.  And my Mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because Dad's such a goof ball.
2. Mom.  You can tell by room inspection.  She sees the stuff under the bed
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than Dad.

What's the difference between Moms & Dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home and Dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller & stronger, but Moms have all the real power 'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's.
4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your Mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your Mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect.  Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet.  You know, her hair.  I'd diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your Mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean.  I'd get rid of that
2. I'd make my Mom smarter.  Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.

Destiny

DESTINY

By
David Perlmutt, Good News Network 12-18-12

Twenty-three years ago, Destiny was born to a crack-addicted mother in Orange County, California.  At birth, tests came up positive for crack cocaine, PCP and heroin.  At 8 months, she was taken in by foster parents Barbara and Smitty Harris, who ultimately adopted her and three younger siblings birthed by the same drug-addict mother.  When Destiny was a year old, a social worker and psychologist told the Harrises that tests concluded their daughter would be “slow” with learning disabilities.  Yet the Harrises refused to pin that label on her, refused to listen to the "experts", raising her and her siblings like they did their six birth sons.  Good thing.  As for the experts: “I proved them wrong,” she said.  “They weren’t even close, which is fortunate.  I grew up with the same high expectations, the same rules as my six older brothers.  “Those expectations:  You do your best. You do well.”

After six sons, Barbara Harris wanted a daughter.  She and Smitty lived in Southern California and had signed up to be foster parents, when a social worker called about an 8-month-old baby girl who’d been born to a drug addict with four older children. They took in Destiny.  “I wasn’t planning on adopting kids,” Barbara said.  “I just thought we could take in little foster girls.  Take care of them, dress them up, fix their hair and give them back when their mothers were healthy.”  But the bond was immediate.  To give back Destiny “would have been devastating. Thank goodness the mother didn’t want her back.”

Barbara has long felt that Destiny tested “slow” at age 1 because she’d spent her first eight months with a family who didn’t pay her much attention.  “I don’t believe they played with her or did anything to stimulate her,” she said.  “When I came to get Destiny from the foster mother, she never reached for the lady.  We said goodbye, and Destiny was fine with it.”

A few months later, the social worker called again.  The mother had delivered a son.  Did the Harrises want him?  They took Isiah, too.  He came as a baby in drug withdrawal.  “He was just a miserable baby,” Barbara said.  “He screamed for two months.  He wouldn’t sleep.  “I started getting really mad at the mother.”  A year later, the social worker called with the same message, same mother, another drug-withdrawing baby daughter.  Taylor, too, was added to the growing family.  Then came son Brandon, Destiny’s youngest sibling.

The social worker told the Harrises that the children’s grandfather and his girlfriend wanted Brandon and would fight for his custody.  Barbara went to the hospital to check on the baby.  “I told myself not to get attached, that a judge would give the baby to grandparents because they’re family,” she said.  When the custody fight did go to court, the social worker told the judge she felt Brandon would be better off with the Harrises.  The judge agreed.  The Harrises adopted them all.  “We thought it was important they had our last name and knew they were part of our family forever,” Barbara said.

For several years, she sent the birth mother photos and a letter catching her up on the children.  From the grandfather, the Harrises learned the children had the same father and the birth mother had at one time cleaned up from drugs.  Each time she wrote, she’d include a self-addressed, stamped envelope “in case she wanted to write her children.  She never acknowledged their existence.”  That made her angrier at the mother, and a system “that allows these mothers to go into hospitals and then drop off their damaged babies without any repercussions.”

Fourteen years ago, she started a nonprofit that pays drug addicts $300 to seek long-term birth control, including sterilization.  “Everyone was complaining about these drug-addicted mothers having so many babies, but nobody was doing anything to keep it from happening,” she said. 
The nonprofit has its supporters – and its critics.  They charge that the effort spreads the worst stereotypes about inner-city women and promotes selective human reproduction.

When the Harrises moved across country to Cabarrus County in 2003 to be close to Smitty’s family in High Point, Barbara brought her nonprofit that she still runs.  To date, the group has paid 4,000 people across the country, 74 of them men, she said.  They also brought a family of 10 children.  Destiny was in the seventh grade.  Her mother said she started off a little behind, but by fifth grade “she’d caught up.”  By then, there was no stopping her.  All the children were urged to play sports.  Destiny played basketball through high school and her first year at Salem College in Winston-Salem.  The next year, with Isiah at UNC Greensboro, Destiny transferred there, too, and tried out for the team.  She decided not to play, and since Isiah wanted to leave UNC-G at the time, they decided to go home.

After a semester at a community college, Destiny enrolled at UNCC.  Isiah returned to UNC-G.  The first semester, she made the dean’s list.  Every semester since then, she’s made the “Chancellor’s List,” which requires at least a 3.8 grade point average, said the school’s registrar’s office.  Last week, she finished her student teaching under the guidance of second-grade teacher Genny Fast at Weddington Hills Elementary, a Title 1 school with a high percentage of poor children.  She was a natural.

Destiny turned 23 earlier this month.  Her students threw her a party.  “She’s amazing,” Fast said.  “I don’t think there are many 23-year-olds out there who have been through what she’s been through in her life and relate so well to these students.  “It was like she’d been teaching for years.”  And elementary school, Fast said, is where teachers like Destiny need to be.  “She showed these kids that no matter where you’ve come from or what happens to you in life that you have the power to change your life,” she said.

Destiny has started applying for teaching jobs.  Initially, she wanted to be an art teacher to “help kids unlock their creative potential.”  Her message, she quickly realized, goes beyond creativity.  She hates it when kids don’t try.  Opportunity, she said, strikes “when you do your best.”  “I had an awesome childhood.  Not all kids have that,” said Destiny, who helped raise 2-year-old daughter Kaleyah while she finished college.  “If school can be one place that they can go and see that someone cares and someone expects the best out of them, then to be that someone is awesome.”  She never looked at her start in life negatively – it only pushed her harder.  “So many kids have people in their lives who don’t expect much of them and that’s not OK,” she said.  “No matter how your life starts out, it doesn’t mean it has to turn out that way – it’s not the end of the story.”

Flight 1549

FLIGHT 1549

This is a first-hand account from a passenger on US Airways Flight 1549.  It is an internal memo to the members of his firm.  It's from a partner at Heidrick & Struggles, an executive recruiting firm, who was on Flight 1549.  Gerry McNamara (New York/Charlotte) was on US Airways Flight 1549 that day.  Here is his account of the event:

Thursday was a difficult day for all of us at the firm and I left the Park Avenue office early afternoon to catch a cab bound for LaGuardia Airport.  I was scheduled for a 5pm departure, but able to secure a seat on the earlier flight scheduled to leave at 3pm.  As many of us who fly frequently often do, I recall wondering if I'd just placed myself on a flight I shouldn't be on (Lord, let me count the times that I have done that!).  Just prior to boarding I finished up a conference call with my associate, Jenn Sparks (New York), and our placement, the CIO of United Airlines.  When I told him that I was about to board a US Airways flight, we all had a little fun with it.

I remember walking on the plane and seeing a fellow with grey hair in the cockpit and thinking, "That's a good thing... I like to see grey hair in the cockpit!"  I was seated in 8F, on the starboard side window and next to a young businessman.  The New York to Charlotte flight is one I've taken what seems like hundreds of times over the years.  We take off north over the Bronx and as we climb, turn west over the Hudson River to New Jersey and tack south.  I love to fly, always have, and this flight plan gives a great view of several NY landmarks including Yankee Stadium and the George Washington Bridge.

I had started to point out items of interest to the gentleman next to me when we heard a terrible crash - a sound no one ever wants to hear while flying - and then the engines wound down to a screeching halt.  Ten seconds later, there was a strong smell of jet fuel.  I knew we would be landing and thought the pilot would take us down no doubt to Newark Airport.  As we began to turn south I noticed the pilot lining up on the river - still - I thought - en route for Newark.  Next thing we heard was, "Brace for impact!", a phrase I had heard many years before as an active duty Marine Officer but never before on a commercial air flight.  Everyone looked at each other in shock.  It all happened so fast we were astonished!

We began to descend rapidly and it started to sink in.  This is the last flight.  I'm going to die today.  This is it.  I recited my favorite bible verse, the Lord's Prayer, and asked God to take care of my wife, children, family and friends.  When I raised my head I noticed people texting their friends and family....getting off a last message.  My blackberry was turned off and in my trouser pocket...no time to get at it.  Our descent continued and I prayed for courage to control my fear and help if able.  I quickly realized that one of two things was going to happen, neither of them good.  We could hit by the nose, flip and break up, leaving few if any survivors, bodies, cold water, fuel.  Or we could hit one of the wings and roll and flip with the same result.  I tightened my seat belt as tight as I could possibly get it so I would remain intact.

As we came in for the landing, I looked out the windows and remember seeing the buildings in New Jersey, the cliffs in Weehawken, and then the piers.  The water was dark green and sure to be freezing cold.  The stewardesses were yelling in unison, "Brace! Brace! Brace!"  It was a violent hit - the water flew up over my window - but we bobbed up and were all amazed that we remained intact.  There was some panic, people jumping over seats and running towards the doors, but we soon got everyone straightened out and calmed down.  There were a lot of people that took leadership roles in little ways.  Those sitting at the doors over the wing did a fantastic job, and they were opened in a New York second!  Everyone worked together, teamed up and in groups to figure out how to help each other.

I exited on the starboard side of the plane, 3 or 4 rows behind my seat through a door over the wing and was, I believe, the 10th or 12th person out.  I took my seat cushion as a flotation device and once outside saw I was the only one who did.  None of us remembered to take the  yellow inflatable life vests from under the seat.  We were standing in 6-8 inches of water and it was freezing.  There were two women on the wing, one of whom slipped off into the water.  Another passenger and I pulled her back on and had her kneel down to keep from falling off again.  By that point we were totally soaked and absolutely frozen from the icy wind.

The ferries were the first to arrive, and although they're not made for rescue, they did an incredible job.  I know this river, having swum in it as a boy.  The Hudson is an estuary - part salt and part fresh water - and moves with the tide.  I could tell the tide was moving out because we were tacking slowly south towards Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, and The Battery.  The first ferry boat pulled its bow up to the tip of the wing, and the first mate lowered the Jacobs ladder down to us.  We got a couple people up the ladder to safety, but the current was strong, pushing the stern of the boat into the inflatable slide and we were afraid it would puncture it.  There must have been 25 passengers in it by now.  Only two or three were able to board the first ferry before it moved away.

Another ferry came up, and we were able to get the woman that had fallen into the water on the ladder, but she just couldn't move her legs and fell off.  Back onto the ladder she went; however, the ferry had to back away because of the swift current.  A helicopter arrived on station (nearly blowing us all off the wing) and followed the ferry with the woman on the ladder.  We lost view of the situation but I believe the helicopter lowered its basket to rescue her.

As more ferries arrived, we were able to get people up on the boats a few at a time.  The fellow in front of me fell off the ladder and into the water.  When we got him back on the ladder he could not move his legs to climb.  I couldn't help him from my position so I climbed up the ladder to the ferry deck where the first mate and I hoisted the Jacobs ladder with him on it.  When he got close enough we grabbed his trouser belt and hauled him on deck.  We were all safely off the wing.  We could not stop shaking.  Uncontrollable shaking.  The only thing I had with me was my blackberry, which had gotten wet and was not working.  (It started working again a few hours later).

The ferry took us to the Weehawken Terminal in NJ where I borrowed a phone and called my wife to let her know I was okay.  The second call I made was to Jenn.  I knew she would be worried about me and could communicate to the rest of the firm that I was fine.

At the terminal, first responders assessed everyone's condition and sent people to the hospital as needed.  As we pulled out of Weehawken my history kicked in and I recall it was the site of the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804.  Thankfully I left town in better condition than Mr. Hamilton who died of a mortal wound the next day!  I stayed with my sister on Long Island that evening, then flew home the next day.

I am struck by what was truly a miracle.  Had this happened a few hours later, it would have been pitch dark and much harder to land.  Ferries would no longer have been running after rush hour and it would not have been the same uplifting story.  Surely there would have been fatalities, hypothermia, an absolute disaster!  I witnessed the best of humanity that day.  I and everyone on that plane survived and had been given a second chance.  It struck me that in our work we continuously seek excellence to solve our client's leadership problems.  We talk to clients all the time about the importance of experience and the ability to execute.  Experience showed up big time on Flight 1549 as our pilot was a dedicated, trained, experienced professional who executed flawlessly when he had to.

I have received scores of emails from across the firm and I am so grateful for the outpouring of interest and concern.  We all fly a great deal or work with someone who does and so I wanted to share this story - the story of a miracle.  I am thankful to be here to tell the tale.  There is a great deal to be learned including:  Why has this happened to me?  Why have I survived and what am I supposed to do with this gift?  For me, the answers to these questions and more will come over time, but already I find myself being more patient and forgiving, less critical and judgmental.

For now I have four lessons I would like to share:

1. Cherish your families as never before and go to great lengths to keep your promises.

2. Be thankful and grateful for everything you have and don't worry about the things you don't have.

3. Keep in shape.  You never know when you'll be called upon to save your own life, or help someone else save theirs.

4. When you fly, wear practical clothing.  You never know when you'll end up in an emergency or on an icy wing in flip flops and pajamas and of absolutely no use to yourself or anyone else.

And I'd like to add:  Fly with gray-haired pilots!

Courage, Dedication and Education

COURAGE, DEDICATION AND EDUCATION

After Fighting To Go To School, Young Pakistani Woman Builds Her Own
By Good News Network Sunday, January 06, 2013

For three years, while she attended middle school in another part of Karachi, Humaira Bachal's father had no idea what his daughter was doing.  Beyond grade five, her mother hid her daughter's schooling and endured beatings when the truth was discovered.

Since finishing high school, Humaira, 25, has become a crusader for education going door-to-door asking other fathers to send their daughters to school.  She persevered and now runs a school with 22 teachers and 1,200 students.  In a country where young women have been shot for advocating schooling for girls, Humaira says, "I want to change the way my community looks at education, and I will continue to do this until my last breath."

Recently, she starred in a documentary series which focused on extraordinary Pakistanis, their efforts and their accomplishments.

Noah's Ark

NOAK'S ARK

Everything I need to know, I learned from Noah's Ark.
ONE:  Don't miss the boat.

TWO:  Remember that we are all in the same boat!

THREE:  Plan ahead.  It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark .

FOUR:  Stay fit.  When you're 60 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

FIVE:  Don't listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

SIX:  Build your future on high ground.

SEVEN:  For safety's sake, travel in pairs.

EIGHT:  Speed isn't always an advantage.  The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

NINE:  When you're stressed, float awhile.

TEN:  Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs, and the Titanic by professionals.

ELEVEN: No matter the storm, when you pay attention to your spiritual journey, there's always a rainbow waiting.

Fifty-Seven Cents

FIFTY-SEVEN CENTS

A little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it was "too crowded."  "I can't go to Sunday School," she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by.  Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday school class.  The child was so happy that they found room for her,  and she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.

Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings.  Her parents called for the kindhearted pastor who had befriended their daughter to handle the final arrangements.  As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled red purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump.  Inside was found 57 cents and a note, scribbled in childish handwriting, which read: "This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday School."

For two years she had saved for this offering of love.When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do.  Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion.  He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building.But the story does not end there.

A newspaper learned of the story and published It.  It was read by a wealthy realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousands. 
When told that the church could not pay so much, he offered to sell it to the little church for 57 cents.  Church members made large donations.  Checks came from far and wide.  Within five years the little girl's gift had increased to $250,000.00--a huge sum for that time (near the turn of the century).  Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.

When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300.  And be sure to visit Temple University, where thousands of students are educated.  Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of beautiful children, built so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside during Sunday school time.  In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history.  Alongside of it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russell H. Conwell, author of the book, "Acres of Diamonds".

Learning to Dance in The Rain

LEARNING TO DANCE IN THE RAIN
By Mac Anderson, founder of Simple Truths

The date was July 16, 2008.  It was late in the afternoon, and I was sitting in my hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky.  I was scheduled to speak that evening for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA).  I was a little "down in the dumps."  I hadn't gotten to exercise lately because of my traveling schedule, and recently I'd experienced some mild bouts of vertigo (that inner ear condition that can cause the room to start spinning.)  You got it...speaking and "spinning" are not good partners!  My keynote presentation was scheduled for 7:00 PM, but I had been invited to show up at 6:00 to see a performance they said I'd enjoy.  Little did I know that I was about to see something I would never forget.

They introduced the young musician.  Welcome... Mr. Patrick Henry Hughes.  He was rolled onto the stage in his wheelchair, and he began to play the piano.  His fingers danced across the keys as he made beautiful music.  He then began to sing as he played, and it was even more beautiful.  For some reason, though, I knew I was seeing something special.  There was this aura about him that I really can't explain and the smile, his smile was magic!

About ten minutes into Patrick's performance, someone came on the stage and said, "I'd like to share a 7-minute video titled, The Patrick Henry Hughes story."  And the lights went dim.  Patrick Henry Hughes was born with no eyes, and a tightening of the joints that left him crippled for life.  However, as a child, he was fitted with artificial eyes and placed in a wheelchair.  Before his first birthday, he discovered the piano.  His mom said, "I could hit any note on the piano, and within one or two tries, he'd get it."  By his second birthday, he was playing requests (You Are My Sunshine, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star).  His father was ecstatic.  "We might not play baseball, but we can play music together."

Today, Patrick is a junior at the University of Louisville.  His father attends classes with him, and Patrick has made nearly all As, with the  exception of 3 Bs.  He's also a part of the 214-member marching band.  You read it right, the marching band!  He's a blind, wheelchair-bound trumpet player, and he and his father do it together.  They attend all the band practices and the half-time performance in front of thousands.  His father rolls and rotates his son around the field to the cheers of Patrick's fans.  In order to attend Patrick's classes and every band practice, his father works the graveyard shift at UPS.  Patrick said, "My dad's my hero."

But even more than his unbelievable musical talent, it was Patrick's "attitude of gratitude" that touched my soul.  On stage, between songs, he talked to the audience about his life and about how blessed he was.  He said, "God made me blind and unable to walk.  BIG DEAL!  He gave me the ability, the musical gifts I have, the great opportunity to meet new people."  When his performance was over, Patrick and his father were on the stage together.  The crowd rose to their feet and cheered for over five minutes.  It gave me giant goose bumps!  My life was ready to meet Patrick Henry Hughes. I needed a hero, and I found one for the ages.  If I live to be a hundred, I'll never forget that night, that smile, that music, but most importantly, that wonderful "attitude of gratitude."

I returned to Chicago and shared Patrick's story with my wife, my friends, and our team at Simple Truths.  About two weeks later, I received a letter from a friend.  He said, "Mac, I don't know who said it, but I think you'll love this quote."  "Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass, it's about learning how to dance in the rain!"  I thought...that's it!  We all face adversity in our life.  However, it's not the adversity, but how we react to it that will determine the joy and happiness in our life.  During tough times, do we spend too much time feeling sorry for ourselves, or, can we, with gratitude, learn how to dance in the rain?

It almost sounds too simple to feel important, but one word, gratitude, can change your attitude, thus, your life, forever.  Sarah Breathnack said it best: "When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that's present, we experience heaven on earth."

The Folded Napkin ...A Trucker's Story

THE FOLDED NAPKIN ... A TRUCKER'S STORY

I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie.  His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy.  But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn't sure I wanted one.  I wasn't sure how my customers would react to Stevie.  He was short, a little dumpy with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of Downs Syndrome.  I wasn't worried about most of my trucker customers because truckers don't generally care who buses tables as long as the meatloaf platter is good and the pies are homemade.

The four-wheeler drivers were the ones who concerned me, the mouthy college kids traveling to school, the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded "truck stop germ," the pairs of white-shirted business men on expense accounts who think every truck stop waitress wants to be flirted with.  I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie so I closely watched him for the first few weeks.

I shouldn't have worried.  After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my truck regulars had adopted him as their official truck stop mascot.  After that, I really didn't care what the rest of the customers thought of him.  He was like a 21-year-old kid in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties.  Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table.  Our only problem was persuading him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished.  He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty.  Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus dishes and glasses onto his cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag.  If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration.  He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.

Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer.  They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truck stop.  Their social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks.  Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home.  That's why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work.

He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart.  His social worker said that people with Downs Syndrome often have heart problems at an early age so this wasn't unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months.  A ripple of excitement ran through the staff later that morning when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery, and doing fine.  Frannie, the head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news.

Marvin Ringers, one of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of this 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table.  Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Marvin a withering look.  He grinned. "OK, Frannie, what was that all about?" he asked.  "We just got word that Stevie is out of surgery and going to be okay."  "I was wondering where he was.  I had a new joke to tell him.  What was the surgery about?"  Frannie quickly told Marvin and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie's surgery, then sighed:  "Yeah, I'm glad he is going to be OK," she said.  "But I don't know how he and his Mom are going to handle all the bills.  From what I hear, they're barely getting by as it is."

Marvin nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables.  Since I hadn't had time to round up a busboy to replace Stevie and really didn't want to replace him, the girls were busing their own tables that day until we decided what to do.

After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office.  She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand and a funny look on her face.  "What's up?" I asked.  "I didn't get that table where Marvin and his friends were sitting cleared off after they left, and Pete and Tony were sitting there when I got back to clean it off," she said.  "This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup."  She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it.  On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed "Something For Stevie."

"Pete asked me what that was all about," she said, "so I told him about Stevie and his Mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this."  She handed me another paper napkin that had "Something For Stevie" scrawled on its outside.  Two $50 bills were tucked with in its folds.  Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply, "truckers."

That was three months ago.  Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work.  His placement worker said he's been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn't matter at all that it was a holiday.  He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy.  I arranged to have his mother bring him to work. I then met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his day back.

Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn't stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting.  "Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast," I said.  I took him and his mother by their arms.  "Work can wait for a minute.  To celebrate your coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me!"  I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room.  I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room.  Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join the procession.  We stopped in front of the big table.  Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins.  "First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess," I said.  I tried to sound stern.

Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins.  It had "Something for Stevie" printed on the outside.  As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table.  Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it.  I turned to his mother.  "There's more than $10,000 in cash and checks on that table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems.  "Happy Thanksgiving."  Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting, and there were a few tears as well.

But you know what's funny?  While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table.  Best worker I ever hired.

Plant a seed and watch it grow.


Sometimes

SOMETIMES
(©2008 By: Bob Perks - http://www.IWishYouEnough.com)

"It is how I was raised.  Now that I look back I see how limiting that was and wonder how much more I could have accomplished," he said.  "What's stopping you now?" I asked.  It was a simple word but in his childhood it was more of a philosophy.

Sometimes.

I watched that day as two men played cards in a nearby park.  It was a warm, sunny day blessed with an occasional breeze just when you needed it.  I saw it as the kind of day I would rather be resting in a lounge chair in my yard with a cool drink within reach.  Eyes closed, baseball cap tilted slightly over my eyes to shade them from the sun.

Here I was, walking in the park perhaps in search of the perfect tree to sit under while watching the world go by.  It is another one of my favorite things to do, watch the world go by.  Two men caught my eye when I arrived.  Because they were playing cards, I thought it was best not to interrupt them.  Instead, they called to me.  "Hey, fella!" one man shouted.  "Come over here and settle this."

This might not be a good thing.  "Are you asking me to take sides on a bet?" I asked as I walked toward them.  "Not a bet," he said.  "Keep in mind, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose," I added.  The other man began laughing hysterically.  "There you go.  I told you.  That's exactly what I said," the man shouted.

I was a bit confused at this point.  I thought they were going to ask me about the card game.  I don't play cards, so I thought I'd be safe in this conversation.  "What's this all about?" I asked.  "Sometimes," the man said.  "Sometimes what?"  "The word.  I just told my friend that sometimes is a philosophy.  He brought it up when I lost the last hand.  He said exactly what you said, "Sometimes you win..."

"How's that a philosophy?"  "My parents, my father in particular, always used that word when I asked about things growing up," he said.  Pausing for a moment as though he was remembering some particular conversations, he continued.  "It is how I was raised.  Now that I look back I see how limiting that was and wonder how much more I could have accomplished," he said.  "Give me an example," I asked.  "We were poor.  If I asked him if poor people ever get rich, he'd say sometimes.  If I asked if I was smart enough, he'd say sometimes.  If I asked if he loved me, he'd say sometimes."

The sunlight that warmed the day suddenly sparkled in the corner of his eye.  That last thought brought a tear.  "So, hearing your friend say, "Sometimes you win," made you think about that?"  "Yes," he said in a whisper.  "So, what's stopping you now?" I asked.  He looked surprised.  "Men our age don't get second chances," his friend said.  "Sometimes," I said. He smiled.

"But here are three ways to change that.  First...Every ending is a new beginning.  If retirement brings an ending, freedom to dream big doesn't end there.  Second...they say attitude is everything so choose a better one than that.  Third...take on the challenge to change the perception of being old.  It's nice playing cards in the park.  Why not be proactive in your community.  If you have children, prove to them it's never too late to begin again.  The truth is sometimes you win but you always learn from losing.  That's a win, too."  The man stood up to shake my hand.  "Sometimes," he said with emphasis, "you have a second chance and you don't know it," he said.  "When you can't see it, sometimes a friend you never met before arrives to remind you," I added.

Indonesian Judge and Justice

INDONESIAN JUDGE AND JUSTICE

An Indonesian judge by the name of Marzuki was sitting in judgment of an old lady who pleaded guilty of stealing some tapioca from a plantation.  In her defense, she admitted to the judge that she was indeed guilty of the crime because she was poor and her son was sick, while her grandchild was hungry.  The plantation manager insisted that she be punished as a deterrent to others.

The judge, going through the documents, then looked up and said to the old lady, “I’m sorry but I cannot make any exception to the law and you must be punished.”  The old lady was fined Rp.1 million (USD 100) and if she could not pay the fine then she will be jailed for 2 - 1/2 years as demanded by the law.
She wept as she could not pay the fine.

The judge then took off his hat and put in Rp. 1 million into the hat and said, “In the name of justice, I fine all who are in the court Rp.50 thousand (USD 5.50) as dwellers of this city for letting a child starve until her grandmother has to steal to feed her grandchild.  The registrar will now collect the fines from all present.”

The court managed to collect Rp 3.5 million (USD 350), whereby once the fine was paid off, the rest was given to the old lady … including the fine collected from the plantation manager.

Two Wolves

TWO WOLVES

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.  He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.  One is evil.  It is anger, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.  The other is God.  It is joy, peace love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed.".

What You Have Left

WHAT YOU HAVE LEFT

On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.  If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him.  He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches.  To see him walk across the stage one step at a time,painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight.  He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair.  Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward.  Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play. 

By now, the audience is used to this ritual.  They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair.  They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs.  They wait until he is ready to play.

But this time, something went wrong.  Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke.  You could hear it snap - it went off like gunfire across the room.  There was no mistaking what that sound meant.  There was no mistaking what he had to do.  We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage – to either find another violin or else find another string for this one.  But he didn't.  Instead, he waited a moment closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again.

The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off.  And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before.  Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings.  I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that.  You could see him modulating, changing, re-composing the piece in his head.  At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room.  And then people rose and cheered.  There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium.  We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said – not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone - "You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left."

What a powerful line that is.  It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it.  And who knows?  Perhaps that is the definition of life – not just for artists but for all of us.  Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.

What Goes Around

WHAT GOES AROUND

 

 

 

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer.   One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog.  He dropped his tools and ran to the bog.  There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself.  Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and frightening death.

 

 

 

The next day a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings.  An elegantly dressed noblemen stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.  "I want to repay you," said the nobleman.  "You saved my son's life."  "No, I can't accept payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer.

 

 

 

At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel.  'Is that your son?" the nobleman asked.  "Yes," the farmer replied proudly.  "I'll make you a deal.  Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy.  If the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of."

 

 

 

And that he did.  Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools, and in time graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.

 

 

 

Years afterward the same nobleman's son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia.  What saved his life this time?  Penicillin.

 

 

 

The name of the nobleman?  Lord Randolph Churchill.  His son's name?  Sir Winston Churchill.

 

 

 

Someone once said, "What goes around, comes around."

 

A Letter From the Post Office

A LETTER FROM THE POST OFFICE

 

 

 

We don't know who replied, but there is a beautiful soul working in the dead letter office who understands LOVE.  Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last month.  The day after she passed away my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.  She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her.  I told her that I thought that we could, so she dictated these words:

Dear God,
Will you please take care of my dog?  Abbey died yesterday and is with you in heaven.  I miss her very much.  I 'm happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.  I hope you will play with her.  She likes to swim and play with balls.  I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog.  I really miss her.
Love, Meredith

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey & Meredith, addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it.  Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven.  That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office.

A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet.  I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand.  Meredith opened it.  Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.'  Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope.  On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith,
Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away.  Abbey isn't sick anymore.  Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart.  Abbey loved being your dog.

Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in so I'm sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.  Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me.  What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.

I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.  By the way, I'm easy to find.  I am wherever there is love.

Love,
God

Perception

PERCEPTION

How present are we choosing to be?  Something to think about......

The situation:  In Washington DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.  During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.  After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later, the violinist received his first dollar.  A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.  At 6 minutes, a young man leaned against a wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.  At 10 minutes, a 3-year-old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly.  The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time.  This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes, the musician had played continuously, and only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while.  About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.  The man collected a total of $32.  After one hour, he finished playing and silence took over.  No one noticed and no one applauded.  There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million.  Two days previously, Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.     

This is a true story.  The experiment, Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the DC Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.  It raised several questions.

In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, to we perceive beauty?  If so, do we stop to appreciate it?  Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be:  If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made......how many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Former Cowboy Flying Free Health Care

FORMER COWBOY FLYING FREE HEALTH CARE TO THOSE IN NEED
By Allie Torgan, CNN

Several decades ago, Stan Brock nearly died when a horse kicked him in the head.  He was in the middle of the Amazon rain forest, not exactly the easiest spot to find a doctor.  "There was no medical care there, and I was 350 miles from the nearest doctor," said Brock, who was working for a cattle ranch on an open range that spanned Brazil and what is now Guyana.  Fortunately, he was able to recover on his own after more than a month.  But many other people in the region weren't as lucky.  "When you got things like measles, influenza and malaria," Brock said, "it was just absolutely devastating.  Millions of people disappeared."

Brock saw this devastation firsthand while he lived among indigenous tribes.  After his near-fatal injury, he realized that something had to be done.  "It kind of jarred my thinking into, 'Hey, let's bring these doctors a little bit closer than 26 days on foot,' " he said.  Brock took the initiative, getting his pilot's license and a small plane to bring medical care to the people that he worked with -- and even the animals for which he cared.  "Instead of taking weeks and weeks to get into that place, the airplane could get there in just a few hours," he said. "If somebody was badly hurt or injured, we could put them in the back of the airplane and take them somewhere" for care.

In 1985, decades after he first started flying, Brock went the extra step and started a nonprofit, Remote Area Medical.  Since then, the all-volunteer group has held more than 660 medical clinics worldwide, providing free health care to half a million people.  "These are not the people that can afford to go down the road and pay $300, $400, $500 for an eye exam and a pair of glasses, or sometimes thousands of dollars to get their teeth fixed," said Brock, 75.  "The patients are so grateful for what we're able to do for them."

Brock's life reads something like a movie script.  When he dropped out of school at 16, he followed his parents from England to what was then British Guiana, where he got a job herding cattle.  There, he learned the local language and sometimes went days without food and water.  Brock's forte was the lasso, and he was eventually discovered and brought on as a co-host of Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom," an educational television series that aired in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

Today, Brock said, people still come up to him and say, "I grew up watching you on 'Wild Kingdom' " or "I became a wildlife biologist or a marine biologist because of watching you on 'Wild Kingdom.' "  But even though his new job made him well-known and allowed him to travel all over the world, he never forgot where he came from.  "I understand what it's like to be penniless, homeless and uninsured," Brock said, referring to his cowboy roots.

His nonprofit started as a strictly overseas venture, helping the needy in hard-to-reach places.  Volunteers would fly into remote regions, sometimes parachuting in, to aid people who didn't have access to medical care.  Brock says it wasn't long, however, before he started to get requests for aid in the United States.  The first request came in 1992 from Hancock County, a small, rural area in Tennessee.  The local hospital had closed, and its only dentist had just left.  "We went up to Hancock County, and there were 100 to 150 people wanting their teeth fixed," said Brock.  "We took care of them, and it wasn't more than another week before I got the same request from the next county over."  Soon, Brock said, they were so busy in the United States that the group had to cut back on overseas commitments to meet obligations at home.

More than 70,000 people have donated their time and expertise to Brock's cause over the years.  Many are full-time doctors and nurses who work at their own practices or hospitals during the week and then volunteer on the weekend.  Remote Area Medical, or RAM, runs about 25 clinics a year, serving hundreds of patients at a time.  "It always has been a very much volunteer effort, not only in terms of physical contributions, but in their financial contributions," Brock said.  "All these people, they're buying their own hotel and paying their own travel expenses to get here."  Medical supplies for the clinics are often donated, while RAM has purchased much of its larger equipment over the years.

Last month, Brock piloted a single-engine, turbo-prop airplane to California, carrying 20 dental chairs and other supplies for RAM's 663rd mission.  The clinic, held in Oakland, offered free eye exams along with glaucoma testing.  Patients could receive prescription glasses that were made on site.  Dental extractions, cleanings and fillings were also available, and medical services included pap smears, breast exams, acupuncture and testing for diabetes and HIV.  A day before the clinic opened, lines began forming outside the city's coliseum.

Pamela Gomez, 45, arrived the night before, sleeping in a tent along with three other people.  She had recently found four lumps in her breasts, and without a job or health insurance, she didn't know where else to go.  A nurse and doctor conducted two breast exams on Gomez and found the lumps to be benign cysts.  "I felt so relieved," she said.  "I'm not living in fear anymore.  It was a big monkey off my back."

The medical services offered at each clinic vary and are based on the specialties of the doctors volunteering.  But Brock said most people -- as many as 85% of the people on a clinic's first day -- are there to see a dentist or an eye doctor.  That's usually because some insurance plans do not cover dental or vision care, and many patients can not afford to purchase new eyeglasses.

Brock said there are plans to expand U.S. operations for his group, and he also wants to add a permanent clinic in Guyana and start up a program in Africa.  "This is a 365-day-a-year operation," Brock said.  He sleeps at RAM headquarters, a ramshackle schoolhouse in rural Tennessee, and he takes no income for his work.  He doesn't drive a car and -- other than a bicycle and some odds and ends -- he has no assets.  "I guess I'm your basic indigent CEO," he laughs.  He is also humble, quick to deflect praise to the volunteers who have helped him through the years.  "It's those people that are making all of these patients either pain-free or more functional and better," he said.  "They're the heroes.  All I do is show up and carry some of the luggage."

Website is ramusa.org.

We Are The Ones

WE ARE THE ONES

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.  Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.  And there are things to be considered:  Where are you living?  What are you doing?  What are your relationships?  Are you in right relation?  Where is your water?  Know your garden.  It is time to speak your Truth.  Create your community.  Be good to each other.  And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

This could be a good time!  There is a river flowing now very fast.  It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.  They will try to hold on to the shore.  They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.  Know the river has its destination.  The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.  See who is in there with you and celebrate.  At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.  Least of all, ourselves.  For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over.  Gather yourselves!  Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.  All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.  We are the ones we've been waiting for.

—The Elders Oraibi
Arizona Hopi Nation

The Gingham Dress

THE GINGHAM DRESS

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston , and walked timidly without an appointment into the Harvard University President's outer office.  The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard & probably didn't even deserve to be in Cambridge.

"We'd like to see the president," the man said softly.  "He'll be busy all day," the secretary snapped.  "We'll wait," the lady replied.  For hours the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away.  They didn't, and the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted.  "Maybe if you see them for a few minutes, they'll leave," she said to him.  He sighed in exasperation and nodded.  Someone of his importance obviously didn't have the time to spend with them, and he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office.

The president, stern faced and with dignity, strutted toward the couple.  The lady told him, "We had a son who attended Harvard for one year.  He  loved Harvard.  He was happy here.  But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed.  My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus."  The president wasn't touched.  He was shocked.  "Madam," he said, gruffly, "we can't put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died.  If we did, this place would look like a cemetery."  "Oh, no," the lady explained quickly.  "We don't want to erect a statue.  We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard."  The president rolled his eyes.  He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed, "A building!  Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs?  We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical buildings here at Harvard."

For a moment the lady was silent.  The president was pleased.  Maybe he could get rid of them now.  The lady turned to her husband and said quietly,  "Is that all it cost to start a university?  Why don't we just start our own? "  Her husband nodded.  The president's face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.

Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford got up and walked away, traveling to Palo  Alto, California where they established the  university that bears their name, Stanford University, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.

You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who they think can do nothing for them.
Just another lesson in life... Never judge a book by its cover, even though we still do.
--- A TRUE STORY By Malcolm Forbes

The Sneeze

THE SNEEZE

They walked in tandem, each of the ninety-two students filing into the already crowded auditorium.  With their rich maroon gowns flowing and the traditional caps, they looked almost as grown up as they felt.  Dads swallowed hard behind broad smiles, and Moms freely brushed away tears.

This class would NOT pray during the commencements, not by choice, but because of a recent court ruling prohibiting it.  The principal and several students were careful to stay within the guidelines allowed by the ruling.  They gave inspirational and challenging speeches, but no one mentioned divine guidance and no one asked for blessings on the graduates or their families.

The speeches were nice, but they were routine until the final speech received a standing ovation.  A solitary student walked proudly to the microphone.  He stood still and silent for just a moment, and then, it happened.  All 92 students, every single one of them, suddenly SNEEZED!!!!  The student on stage simply looked at the audience and said, "GOD BLESS YOU."  And he walked off the stage.

The audience exploded into applause.  This graduating class had found a unique way to invoke God's blessing on their future with or without the court's approval.  This is a true story; it happened at Eastern Shore District High School in Musquodoboit Harbour, Nova Scotia.

101-Year-Old Woman Back in House

S.A.Y. DETROIT AND MITCH ALBOM - 101-YEAR-OLD WOMAN BACK IN HER FORECLOSED HOUSE
Good News Network Friday, March 16, 2012

Last fall, Texana Hollis, 101, was evicted from her Detroit home after almost 60 years.  A Good Samaritan from church took her in, while others tried to find funding to get her foreclosed home back.  Unfortunately the building was in bad condition and condemned as not fit to live in, especially for the wheelchair bound great-grandmother.

But, now her house is being given back to her – in better shape than ever – thanks to Detroit resident Mitch Albom, the best selling author of "Tuesdays with Morrie" and his charity for the homeless, S.A.Y. Detroit.  In January, after hearing about Hollis's troubles, Albom offered to buy the severely distressed property from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for $100 and take responsibility for repairs.  HUD agreed to the deal, and on Wednesday Hollis and Albom returned together to the home, which is being renovated with volunteer labor and more than $20,000 worth of materials paid for by Albom's charity, S.A.Y. Detroit.  Hollis had been evicted from the home after her son failed to make tax payments.

“Everyone deserves a home,” Albom said.  “Especially one they have lived in for 60 years.  I am blessed to be able to help this sweet and deserving woman, who told me her husband got her that house after returning from World War II.”  HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan added, “We moved heaven and earth to find a solution to get Texana back into her home.   Working with Mitch and his organization offered the perfect solution that will give her not only a new home, but peace of mind.”  Hollis’ house is getting a complete make-over, from walls to ceilings to appliances, using funds from S.A.Y. Detroit, which the author formed in 2006 to help the homeless with the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.

Since its inception, S.A.Y. Detroit has raised nearly $2 million in funding for such projects as a Family Health Clinic, the first medical clinic for homeless children in America; Working Homes/Working Families, which refurbishes decaying properties and fills them with deserving families; a new kitchen for Michigan’s Homeless Veterans, and a daycare center at COTS for mothers who are in shelters or treatment.

Through Albom’s volunteer corps, A Time to Help, the organization has engaged over 6,000 metro-Detroit volunteers in projects throughout the city, and volunteers will put the finishing touches on Hollis’ house before turning it back to her. 
Chad Audi, President of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries and director for S.A.Y. Detroit operations said, “I cherish the partnership with Mitch Albom and it makes you feel proud, humble, and happy to bring joy to a 101-year-old lady.”

Heroes

HEROES

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least falls while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."  -  Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910

First Night School in East Africa

FIRST NIGHT SCHOOL IN EAST AFRICA, built by Aussie College Grad

By Andrea Barnard Monday, April 02, 2012

Kyle De Souza created the first Masai night school in East Africa, where he spent seven months building solar and wind infrastructure that could power the lights for villagers who must work in the fields during daylight hours, in one of the most impoverished communities in the world. "We started the first Masai men's education program which allows those who herd cattle during the day to get an education at night."

The mining engineer who graduated from the Curtin University Western Australian School of Mines volunteered his skills in Africa last year to help build a new classroom for orphans who had been abandoned or whose parents had died from AIDS or starvation.  Mr. De Souza, from Perth, said after a month at the orphanage, he received a phone call from community members requesting his skills in woodwork, engineering and project management to assist the building and completion of a school in the Masai Land where people still live a traditional farming life.

“We started the first Masai men’s education program which allows men who herd cattle during the day to get an education at night," said De Souza.  "We run classes for them during the day, and night classes between 6pm and 10pm, and currently have more than 40 students enrolled in the program."  "When the challenge was set to start a school dedicated to Masai men," I thought to myself, "If I can start a mine, I can start a school.  Mining engineering is the broadest engineering discipline of all.  The technical and practical knowledge I gained from laboring underground for two years and working as an engineer for that time gave me the tools to undertake building a school and managing the project work associated with it."  The school is already in session with two full time teachers.  Practical aspects of the school construction are being used to teach students how to cut wood, use a ruler, as well as teaching them addition and subtraction to calculate the measurements.

“Some of the students have to walk up to 2.5 hours each way to get to school, but regardless of that, they always show up; they are that keen on learning and making something of their lives.  We have also started a women’s program which seeks to empower women by giving them the skills to sell their crafts online.  The women normally do bead work all day, so we are working on starting a website, called United Maasai, where we help to market the products produced by these women internationally.”  The Masai school is expected to be fully completed before the end of the year, and will include essentials such as electricity, a library extension, concreted floors, windows, lockable doors, tables, chairs and hygienic areas for children to eat.

Kyle De Souza’s family immigrated to Australia from India in 1995 and share a long-standing involvement in charity work.

Dinner and A Movie Date

DINNER AND A MOVIE DATE

After 21 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out to dinner and a movie.  She said, “I love you, but I know this other woman loves you and would love to spend some time with you.”  The other woman that my wife wanted me to visit was my MOTHER, who has been a widow for 19 years, but the demands of my work and my three children had made it possible to visit her only occasionally.  That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie.  “What’s wrong, are you well?” she asked.

My mother is the type of woman who suspects that a late night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news.  “I thought that it would be pleasant to spend some time with you,” I responded.  “Just the two of us.”  She thought about it for a moment, and then said, “I would like that very much.”

That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up I was a bit nervous.  When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date.  She waited in the door with her coat on.  She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress that she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary.  She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel’s.  “I told my friends that I was going to go out with my son, and they were impressed," she said, as she got into the car.  “They can’t wait to hear about our meeting.”

We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cozy.  My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady.  After we sat down, I had to read the menu.  Her eyes could only read large print.  Half way through the entries, I lifted my eyes and saw Mom sitting there staring at me.  A nostalgic smile was on her lips.  “It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small,” she said.  “Then it’s time that you relax and let me return the favor,” I responded.  During the dinner, we had an agreeable conversation – nothing extraordinary but catching up on recent events of each other’s life.  We talked so much that we missed the movie.  As we arrived at her house later, she said, “I’ll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.”  I agreed.  “How was your dinner date?” asked my wife when I got home.  “Very nice.  Much more so than I could have imagined,” I answered.

A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack.  It happened so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to do anything for her.  Some time later, I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place mother and I had dined.  An attached note said:  “I paid this bill in advance.  I wasn’t sure that I could be there; but nevertheless, I paid for two plates – one for you and the other for your wife.  You will never know what that night meant for me.  I love you, son.”

At that moment, I understood the importance of saying in time:  “I LOVE YOU” and to give our loved ones the time that they deserve.  Nothing in life is more important than your family.  Give them the time they deserve, because these things cannot be put off till “some other time.”


An Indian Man and A Forest

AN INDIAN MAN AND A FOREST

A little over 30 years ago, a teenager named Jadav "Molai" Payeng in India, Assam Region, began burying seeds along a barren sandbar near his birthplace to grow a refuge for wildlife.  He worked full-time, creating a lush new forest ecosystem so animals can live there. Not long after, he decided to dedicate his life to this endeavor, so he moved to the site where he could work full-time creating a lush new forest ecosystem. Incredibly, the spot today hosts a sprawling 1,360 acre of jungle that Payeng he planted single-handedly.

The Times of India recently caught up with Payeng in his remote forest lodge to learn more about how he came to leave such an indelible mark on the landscape.  It all started way back in 1979 when floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar.  One day, after the waters had receded, Payeng, only 16 then, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles.  That was the turning point of his life.  "The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover.  I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms.  It was carnage.  I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there.  They said nothing would grow there.  Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo.  It was painful, but I did it.  There was nobody to help me.  Nobody was interested," says Payeng, now 47.

While it's taken years for Payeng's remarkable dedication to planting to receive some well-deserved recognition internationally, it didn't take long for wildlife in the region to benefit from the manufactured forest.  Demonstrating a keen understanding of ecological balance, Payeng even transplanted ants to his burgeoning ecosystem to bolster its natural harmony.  Soon the shadeless sandbar was transformed into a self-functioning environment where a menagerie of creatures could dwell.  The forest, called the Molai woods, now serves as a safe haven for numerous birds, deers, rhinos, tigers, and elephants -- species increasingly at risk from habitat loss elsewhere.

Despite the conspicuousness of Payeng's project, Forestry officials in the region first learned of this new forest in 2008 -- and since then they've come to recognize his efforts as truly remarkable, but perhaps not enough.  "We're amazed at Payeng," says Assistant Conservator of Forests, Gunin Saikia.  "He has been at it for 30 years.  Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero."

Fences for Fido

FENCES FOR FIDO

Good News Network, June 5, 2012

On May 23, 2009, a small group arrived at the Portland home of Chopper, a big hunk of a dog who spent day after day, year after year, isolated from his family, chained to a tree.

After only a few hours of work by volunteers, Chopper experienced freedom for the first time in six years.  Once a sad, sullen dog, Chopper bounded joyfully around his new yard, wagging his tail.  The fence also encouraged Chopper's owner to spend more time with him, changing their relationship forever.

More than 235 dogs have been unchained since that sunny day in 2009, as "Fences For Fido" continues to spread to other counties in Oregon, thanks to generous help from volunteers and donors.


Batman

BATMAN

GOOD NEWS NETWORK, Apr 3, 2012.  Real Batman Hero Unmasked as Hero for Sick Kids

A Baltimore man spent a lot of his own money to dress up as Batman, even customizing a black sports car exactly like the comic book character.  But, this Batman isn't interested in fighting crime.  He visits sick children in hospitals, handing out Batman toys and books to up-and-coming superheros who first need to knock-out cancer or other life-threatening foes.

Police pulled a man over on Route 29 in Silver Spring last week because of a problem with his plates.  This would not ordinarily make international news, but the car was a black Lamborghini, the license plate was the Batman symbol, and the driver was Batman, dressed head-to-toe in full superhero regalia.  HOLY MOVING VIOLATION!

It didn’t take long before images of the Dark Knight’s encounter with law enforcement began turning up in Facebook news feeds, on CNN and the London tabloids.  The episode even made it into Jimmy Fallon’s monologue on NBC earlier this week.  Jokers emerged instantaneously too.  “Let him do his job,” one commenter urged on the Post Web site.  “Batman has expensive taste,” noted another.  Meanwhile, questions about Batman’s identity mounted: “Did they make him take off his mask?” someone asked.  No, they did not.  Even Montgomery County police honor a superhero code of conduct, just like the Howard County officers who once helped him with a flat bat tire.  Batman told officers his real name was not Bruce Wayne but Lenny B. Robinson, and that his real tags were in the car.  (He was not ticketed then, but has been before for a heavy bat foot.)  The Caped Crusader is a businessman from Baltimore County who visits sick children in hospitals, handing out Batman paraphernalia to up-and-coming superheros who first need to beat cancer and other wretched diseases.

I actually know Batman.  His parents are dear friends of my wife’s family, and I see him at holiday dinners where my 4-year-old son believes he is the real-life Bruce Wayne.  “Daddy, he’s Batman, too,” my son will whisper to me.  Though Batman has long been aware that I’m a journalist, he has never suggested I write about him.  He does not crave publicity.  Like his comic book namesake, he doesn’t seek credit for what he does.  “I’m just doing it for the kids,” he says.

But in light of him going viral --- “Gotham City is on the verge of chaos,” Anderson Cooper informed CNN viewers — I asked him whether I could unveil the man behind the mask.  He acquiesced but suggested I do so by accompanying him to the cancer ward at Children’s National Medical Center in Northwest Washington for a superhero party thrown by the Hope for Henry organization.  On Monday, he pulled up in his black Lambo with yellow Batman symbols on the doors, the floor mats, the headrests — pretty much everywhere — and he was dressed in his heavy leather and neoprene uniform that he bought from a professional costume maker.  He carried two large bags of Batman books, rubber Batman symbol bracelets and various other toys up to the front desk, where the check-in attendant asked him his name.  “Batman,” he said.

Lenny B. Robinson and Wonder Woman (Leslie Vincent from Cast of Thousands) visit patients at the annual Hope for Henry Superhero Celebration at Georgetown University Hospital.  Camera phones were snapping.  A man in line said, “That’s the guy who got pulled over.”  Someone asked where Robin was, and Batman replied, “Home studying for the SATs.”  The check-in attendant asked for identification.  Batman said it was in his Batmobile.  The check-in attendant, just doing her job, asked for his real name.  “Lenny,” he announced. “B, as in Batman.  Robinson.”

It took Batman approximately 20 minutes to reach the elevators.  He stopped to hand out Batman toys to every child he saw, picking them up for pictures, asking them how they were feeling.  LaTon Dicks snapped a photo of Batman standing behind her son DeLeon in his wheelchair.  She’d recognized the Batmobile on her way in to the hospital.  Like everyone else, she’d seen a TV report on him being stopped by the police and protested, “You can’t pull over Batman.”

When Batman finally reached the elevator for the slow ride up to the cancer ward, I could see his face already sweating behind the mask.  He told me he loses 5 to 6 pounds in water weight when he wears the superhero uniform.  He paid $5,000 for it.  He spends $25,000 a year of his own money on Batman toys and memorabilia.  He signs every book, hat, T-shirt and backpack he hands out — Batman.  Batman is 48.  He is a self-made success and has the bank account to prove it.  He recently sold, for a pile of cash, a commercial cleaning business that he started as a teenager.  He became interested in Batman through his son Brandon, who was obsessed with the caped crusader when he was little.  “I used to call him Batman,” he told me.  “His obsession became my obsession.”

Batman began visiting Baltimore area hospitals in 2001, sometimes with his now teenage son Brandon playing Robin.  Once other hospitals and charities heard about his car and his cape, Batman was put on superhero speed dial for children’s causes around the region.  He visits sick kids at least couple times a month, sometimes more often.  He visits schools, too, to talk about bullying.  He does not do birthday parties.  His superhero work is limited to doing good deeds, part of a maturation process in his own life.  In his earlier years, he acknowledges that he sometimes displayed an unsuperhero-like temper and got into occasional trouble with the law for fights and other confrontations.  Putting on the Batman uniform changes and steadies him.  “Eventually, it sinks in and you become him,” Batman told me.  “It feels like I have a responsibility that’s beyond a normal person.  And that responsibility is to be there for the kids, to be strong for them, and to make them smile as much as I can.”  He understands that might sound corny, but he doesn’t care.

Batman stepped off the elevator on the fourth floor of Children’s.  Spider-Man and Wonder Woman were there too — both professional actors from talent agencies, on the clock.  He picked up a little boy and said, “I have a present for you.”  He shook hands with a father and handed him a yellow rubber Batman bracelet, saying, “This will bring you good luck.”  The father said, “We need good luck.”  The parents always say that.

Batman asked each child his or her name.  He lifted up almost every child.  Many were weak, their hair thin from chemo.  He always told them, “I have a present for you.”  When a little girl ran away, perhaps a bit scared, Batman said, “That’s the story of Batman’s love life.” (He is divorced.)  Batman overheard a mother tell someone that her toddler was going home the next day, and holding the toddler, and hugging him gently, Batman said, “I’m really glad you are feeling better.”

Stephanie Broadhead of California, Md., was leaning against the wall while her 10-year-old daughter Claire was having her face drawn by an artist.  Claire has leukemia.  Batman stopped by to marvel at the picture and hand Claire some gifts.  “This makes a very hard thing to deal with a little easier,” Claire’s mom said.

Superhero visits to hospitals let kids be kids in a scary, adult place, but the activities are indeed therapeutic, too, the chief doctor on the cancer floor told me.  “These visits provide an immediate boost for these kids,”said Jeffrey Dome, the oncology division chief at Children’s.  “Some of these children have to stay for weeks or months at a time.  That wears down the children and it wears down the family.  You have to keep up morale.  A visit from a superhero is sort of like a fantasy in the middle of all this hard-core therapy.”

As Batman wandered around from child to child, I asked him, “Isn’t this hard?”  His children are healthy.  My children are healthy.  “We are very lucky,” he said. “All I can say is we are very, very lucky.”

The party began winding down.  Spider-Man changed out of his costume.  Wonder Woman changed out of hers.  They said goodbye to Batman, still working the floor, as he posed for a photo with a patient’s father.  The father thanked Batman and said, “I saw you on the news — Route 29.”  “I think everyone saw me on Route 29,” Batman acknowledged.  He asked the nurses at the front desk whether there were any children who couldn’t come out of their rooms to see him.  Assured that there weren’t, Batman headed back down to his Batmobile, followed by the mother of a baby girl with cancer and her healthy 4-year-old son, whose only goal in life at that moment was to see the Batmobile.  When the boy saw the car, I thought his eyeballs were going to separate from his body.  (Batman is actually in the process of having a just-like-the-movies Batmobile built for $250,000, but it’s not ready yet.)

Batman revved the engines and blasted the audio system — the Batman theme song. Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, Batman!  He revved the engine some more.  The little boy didn’t want to say goodbye, but his mom told him, “Batman needs to go fight the bad guys.”  The little boy cried.  “I want to go help him fight the bad guys,” he said.  His mom said, “You need to go help your sister fight cancer.”  Batman sped away.

Project Kailyn

PROJECT KAILYN

Good News Network, 6-12-12

It is September and Marquette University engineering students are combing through lists of ideas.  They must pick one for their senior project.  There are marks to consider.  Certain projects offer a better chance of success.  But they are seniors.  In a year, they are going to find out if there is as much satisfaction in earning a paycheck as there was in playing with Legos when they were kids.  Each of the engineers reads the project list.  Each arrives at the same entry.  And the idea of grades melts away.

The girl's project is unlike the others.  Most seem destined to follow a familiar storyline: You build something, give it to an industry sponsor, cross the stage at graduation.  What happens to the device you created is anybody's guess.  This time the engineers will know if they have succeeded, and it won't be the grade that tells them.  An 11-year-old girl named Kailyn Pieper will get to eat without having to bring her mouth right down to the table, without having to dip her face into the plate.  She won't have to maneuver applesauce to her mouth with a spoon held between her toes.  She'll be able to do something so fundamental, so second nature that most never give it a thought.  The project - and it's more of a plea from the little girl's stepmother - is to build a device that will help her eat.

Kailyn was born in April 2000, seven weeks premature and diagnosed with one of those rare congenital disorders with a complicated name: arthrogryposis multiplex congenita.  What it means is that joints do not form properly.  And the malformed joints mean parts of the body cannot move as they should, and in Kailyn's case, her arms, which hang stiffly in front of her.  Early on, her legs were afflicted too, stuck in an awkward position, jutting over the stomach to her ears.  The causes of the condition aren't known, but may involve problems with the spinal cord or central nervous system.  One theory holds that too little room in the uterus may play a role.  Doctors thought Kailyn might have an extra set of chromosomes.  They told her mother, Katie Paape, they did not expect her to survive.

Kailyn underwent her first surgery at four days old.  Another 14 surgeries followed.  For five months, she was tube fed.  She wore casts on her legs.  She could not grab toys with her fingers.  During her first seven years, she lived with Paape.  Her last name, Pieper, is actually Paape's maiden name.  The little girl showed an independent streak, teaching her feet to do what her arms could not.  When other children were learning to write with their hands, she gripped the crayon with her toes.  Paape noticed how patient Kailyn was, how seldom she displayed frustration.  Watching her made the mother hopeful.  "She's going to thrive in life," Paape said recently.  "She's going to get married and have babies and go to college."

The mother wanted her daughter to have the best chance for that life.  That's why when Paape, wrestling with personal problems, moved two hours away, she made a decision.  She did not want Kailyn to be pulled out of school in the middle of the year.  She wanted her to be in schools that were nurturing.  So, Kailyn came to live with her father, Chris Bunke, and his wife, Jennifer, in Menomonee Falls.  There were things Kailyn could not do, many things.  Taking off her shirt, for example.  The Bunkes attached a hook to Kailyn's dresser drawer.  If she slid down the drawer, she could get the hook to catch her shirt and use it to pull the shirt over her head and around her arms.  "Do it again," said Jennifer Bunke.  "Again.  Now put it back on."  Sometimes Kailyn asked, "Can you take my shirt off?"  "Nope.  You've got a hook.  What if I'm not there?"

Outside in their snowy yard, Kailyn fell and cried out, "I need help. I can't get up."  "You don't need help," said Jennifer Bunke.  "You can get up."  Then she went inside and watched from the window.  The Bunkes told Kailyn over and over until it became a mantra, "There's a lot you can do."

Kailyn could hold a book with one foot while turning pages with the other.  She could use her feet to play with Barbies.  When video games became popular, she taught herself to play with her feet.  When other kids were operating cellphones or wrapping birthday presents with Scotch tape, she did, too; she used her toes.  Still, her feet could not always substitute for arms.  Once, when she was 8, Kailyn was walking with her dad to a parking lot.  Chris Bunke looked away for a moment.  Kailyn missed a step.  He still remembers the awful sound Kailyn's forehead made when it hit the curb.  Without strength in her arms, she could not reach out to protect herself from the rushing pavement.  She struggled with some tasks.  Showering.  Buttoning clothes.  Zippering zippers.  Eating.

In mid-September, the four women and two men of engineering Team B18 met Kailyn at her Menomonee Falls home.  They introduce themselves: Lauren Eno, Robert Herlache, Laura Finn, Cathryn Krier, Kristina Lee, Michael Ventimiglia.  All are between the ages of 20 and 22.  Most have never seen a person who cannot use her arms.  They don't know what to expect.  What they get is a little girl who is shy but not self-conscious.  Kailyn, blond-haired and pretty with round, baby cheeks, shows them how she types with two toes.  Using her left foot, she draws a picture of herself and writes above it "chocolate is my favorite food."  Weeks later, two of the engineers, Krier and Lee, visit Kailyn's school.  They watch her in class.  They see how she moves among the 1,000 students at Menomonee Falls North Middle School, often barely distinguishable from her peers.

Last summer, before Kailyn started middle school, her parents and educators discussed what to do.  The plan was to have Kailyn talk to her classmates in September so that they would not gawk or stare or make fun of her.  But right before school started, Kailyn changed her mind.  "She decided she just wanted to blend in," says Holli Martin, a school counselor.  Now, when the boys and girls start gym class leaning on their hands in the pushup position, Kailyn holds herself in a sit-up, teeth clenched.  When other children assume the crab position, propping themselves on their hands and feet, backs lifted above the red mats, Kailyn lies on her back.  When they play "crab soccer" with a ball as big as the kids, Kailyn never shrinks from the action.

In class, she uses her feet to remove a red binder, the one on which she has written "Math" and also, "Justin Bieber."  Her feet remove the cap from her pen, scribble notes, turn pages, draw pie charts, erase mistakes and type on her calculator.  She raises her foot to ask a question.  She uses her feet to measure angles with a protractor and draw circles with a compass.  She seldom asks for help.  When the class ends, Kailyn's feet slide the binder and notebook into her backpack along with the pencil case she has just closed.  She heads for the cafeteria.  It is the one place she does not lift things with her feet.  At home, she sometimes holds the spoon or fork between her toes.  She won't at school. Doesn't look "normal."  Besides, she would have to sit on the floor, and that would make it hard to talk with friends.  Instead, she bends her mouth down to the plate to bite off pieces of breaded pork chop.  Holding a section of pork chop in her mouth, she uses it to scoop up mashed potatoes and gravy.  When gravy dots her chin, she gently wipes it off on the tray.  Although the cafeteria is a beehive of adolescent chatter, no one stares or points or laughs.  The day Krier and Lee follow her to lunch, they are struck by how discreet the other kids are.  Friends occasionally nudge Kailyn's milk carton closer.  They do it almost unconsciously.

Still, one force threatens to exert its influence over Kailyn, as it does over most children.  "In middle school, the whole fitting in thing is so important," says Martin, the school counselor.  She pauses to consider the way Kailyn eats.  "I don't know if it bugs her, to be perfectly honest. She's so good with who she is."

The Marquette students begin by brainstorming, ideas flowing from the tip of a pen, one sketch, then another.  A device that would attach to the side of a bowl.  One employing a Ferris wheel design.  One resembling a swing set, with a scoop where the swing would be.  They survey existing devices, all either inadequate or too costly ($1,000 to $3,000).  They ask their customer, Kailyn, what she wants and rank priorities - safe, easy to clean, compatible with different foods.  For nine months they work at least six hours a week, sometimes more in a single night. The day before a class presentation, they arrive at the engineering lab in the fading afternoon light, clutching notebooks, energy drinks and cups of coffee.  They snack on pistachios brought by Krier and cookies and chocolate-covered pretzels sent along by Kailyn and her stepmother.  After the sun sets, the students cross the street to Starbucks for fresh injections of caffeine.  Often they leave the lab at midnight, the traffic on Wisconsin Avenue down to an occasional set of headlights.

They keep returning to the house in Menomonee Falls for Kailyn's input.  Her initial shyness gives way as the engineers ask about school, books she likes, Justin Bieber. She shows them her new iPod.  Sometimes Lee texts Kailyn from the lab to ask:  "What do you think about this?"  Gradually, from primitive drawings, an idea takes shape:  similar to the swing set, but instead of having the scoop between two poles, it is attached to a single motor-driven arm.  In December they present their final plan.  And then things change.

Kailyn's project grows beyond Marquette.  Each year a few engineering teams work with students from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.  While engineers focus on function, performance and mechanics, the designers add a concern for beauty and psychology, how a device looks and how it makes the user feel.  Designers listen to a series of presentations by the engineers and later their professor asks for a show of hands.  Who's interested in this one?  When he reaches Kailyn's, two hands shoot up.  One belongs to Sean Simmons, whose mother taught special education, who grew up in a home where helping others was just what you did.  The other hand belongs to Brett Pearson, who grew up playing sports and now dreams of designing soccer cleats.  He knows that classmates often toy with futuristic designs, but this is different, this has him thinking that in some small way, "We can leave our mark on the world."  In January, the designers join Project Kailyn. They fashion adjustments, ensuring the device will fit in Kailyn's backpack and will match her height when she sits at the table.

Simmons and Pearson generate 75 to 100 sketches - each.  They decide on key features that will make the device pleasing to the eye.  Then, in the loud drone of the workshop, beneath rows of fluorescent lights, they start with high-density foam.  They shape, sand and paint the foam, working it into a rough model of what the device will be.  Every couple of weeks, they return to Menomonee Falls.  They have Kailyn pick out the things she likes.  Often they work until 1 or 2 in the morning, going through cans of Sierra Mist and Monster Energy drink.  They dine on slabs of peanut butter and bread, and boxes of Cap'n Crunch's Oops! All Berries.  They begin computer modeling, using equipment that allows them to take ideas that began as drawings and translate them into three-dimensional pieces.  They sand, prime, paint - then do it again.  What they come up with is small and white with elegant curves; it looks a little like a swan.  At the swan's head there is an opening with rippled spaces for Kailyn's fingers.  Here she can grip the device for short periods if she needs to.  "Is it cool?" Simmons asks.  Kailyn nods.

In April, with the final presentation just weeks away, the engineers huddle in their lab.  The flat screen TV on the wall cycles through a series of engineering-related quotes, including this one: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction writer.  Kailyn's device is not magic, not science fiction.  It is all about real-life details that often pass unnoticed.  The angle of a bowl's lip, which the spoon must slide up without getting stuck.  The weight of the spoon, which must not tip the device or spill food.  The motion of the motor, which must be made to pause on the upswing so Kailyn can reach the food.  It is the geometry and physics of an act most people repeat dozens of times a day.  It is also the hands-dirty mechanics of building something.  One day the students spend five hours soldering.  The engineers make adjustments to the device, adding weight to the base to prevent tipping, changing the circuits, adding a resistor.

Finally, they begin testing.  On this afternoon, they will be the guinea pigs.  In a few days it will be Kailyn.  On the table are samples of yogurt, strawberries and celery.  Cathryn Krier is the designated eater.  "We've nailed yogurt," declares Robert Herlache, after Krier plows through a bowl.  "Next food!"  The device passes the celery test.  Then strawberries.  The real challenge lies ahead.  Can Kailyn use it?

In the car, on the drive to her house, the engineers are nervous.  They encountered problems with the weight of the steel ice cream scoop on the device and have switched to a lighter scoop.  Krier keeps wondering:  Will it work?  Will it work?  Will it work?  They arrive at Kailyn's house and set up in the kitchen.  First, they have Kailyn go through a series of tests.  How long does it take to remove the device from her backpack and set it up?  (1 minute, 45 seconds).  How long to turn it off and return it to her backpack?  (just under 1 minute).  Does it make her backpack much heavier than normal?  No.  Could she carry it out to her school bus?  Yes.

Then the one test that matters.  The device whirs, the spoon rises and Kailyn leans forward to meet it with her lips.  In the scoop is a mini chocolate peanut butter cup.  It falls from the scoop.  The engineers move the device just a little.  This time the peanut butter cup stays in the scoop.  "Oh my gosh," says Jennifer Bunke, Kailyn's stepmother.  "That's just awesome, you guys."  Next up, yogurt.  Whir . . . Gulp.  "This is amazing," Bunke says.  The engineers turn to Kailyn.  Is the device easy to use?  The noise level OK?  Comfortable to use?  Does it look OK?  Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.  Asked to grade the device from 1 to 10, she doesn't pause.  "One hundred."

The final presentation for all the senior projects takes place in an auditorium at Marquette.  The engineers of Project Kailyn are in suits.  Their professors and classmates are in the audience.  So are the designers from MIAD.  And so are Kailyn, her dad and stepmom and her younger sister.  "We've been working on Nourish, which is an assistive feeding device," Krier begins.  "We created this device for Kailyn.  "The other members of the team take turns explaining how Nourish works, how a light will tell Kailyn when the 6-volt rechargeable battery is running low, how the spoon can hold a quarter of a pound before it begins to tip, how a special scoop holds large items such as pizza and sandwiches.  They show a video of Kailyn using the device, grinning as she eats.  "That smile right there," says one of their classmates in the audience, Spencer Greaves, "that is a job well done."  The engineers explain that while similar devices on the market cost up to $3,000, the materials for Nourish total $203.88.  Including labor, the total cost of Nourish is well under $500.

When the presentation and questions finish, Kailyn's family approaches the engineers and designers.  In a few days, the team will drive to the Menomonee Falls home one last time to present their customer with the finished device.  They will give her an owner's manual with troubleshooting advice, five new bowls and some paint in case Kailyn wants to give Nourish her own touch.  They will give her a photograph of the team to remember them.  But after the presentation it is the Bunkes who come bearing gifts, eight framed copies of a picture Kailyn has made.  It is a heart surrounded by a Barbie, a musical note, an image of a book, labeled, "The Hunger Games."  Below the drawing is a message from Kailyn.  Written with her feet:  "These are things that make me happy, and you're one of those things . . . Thanks from the bottom of my heart for helping improve the quality of my life one spoonful at a time."  "Love, Kailyn Pieper."

Life Is Amazing

LIFE IS AMAZING
from Lynelle

Last week I took my granddaughters to the beach.  Arriving at the ponds we were greeted by a two year old that announced she was going out with us.  My granddaughters are 3 and 5 years of age so this little girl fit right in.  She grabbed her water ring and out we went.


After we got into water just deep enough that the two little ones needed their water rings to stay above water I asked her name.   She looked up and with the biggest smile she answered.  “My name is June and I am two years old, and you know I AM AMAZING."  She said these words with such joy and enthusiasm, without a doubt in her mind that what she said was the truth in all ways.  I was so tickled I could only respond by saying, “Yes, June, you are amazing.”

As the day progressed the three girls were all trying to overcome their individual fears and do things in the water that we take for granted.  The three year old was able to go underwater, head and all.  Everyone was congratulating her and the littlest one, June, yelled out, “That was AMAZING.”  Once again I took notice of the enthusiasm and sincerity coming from little June.

We had been at the beach about an hour when the big black rain clouds rolled off of the mountain and blocked out our sunshine.  I looked up and mentioned that the clouds were taking over, and I asked the girls if they wanted to stay in the water or go.  Little June looked up and responded, “The clouds are big and block my sun, but if you really look at them, AREN’T THEY AMAZING.”  Once again with such great sincerity she said these words.  They were most amazing with sizes and shapes that were beautiful and we decided to stay in the water.  After all they were just clouds in the sky doing what they do, floating by overhead.

As we were driving home later that day I realized just how AMAZING life really is.  The universal thought forms that are going out today are a new paradigm shift that will and is changing the way we view our world.  There are more and more people realizing that all the little things in life are absolutely amazing.  As this thought takes on a life of its own we see more and more of the amazing things that make up our reality.  I truly believe June was at the beach to give us the perspective of AMAZING.

We take for granted all of the little things in life that make up a day of living.  If we were to really look at all of these little things we would realize just how amazing all of these things are.  Our bodies are amazing vehicles that our souls/spirits use for the experience we call life.  The earth is an amazing vehicle on which we live.  The earth provides us with food, clothing, shelter and all of the creature comforts; this is amazing.

June has reminded me just how amazing life really is.  I am here telling this story to let you in on the amazingness of all that is.  Let's see everything through little June’s perspective.  Look at what is and then look for the part that is awesome, the part that is amazing.  For June she did not see big black rain clouds, she saw big rolling AMAZING clouds.  Once you start to see the amazingness of everything you get more and more things coming your way that are amazing.  It is the thoughts you send out and the emotions that you feel that dictate what you draw into your life.  You have the absolute ability to control all of your experiences using your thoughts and emotions.

For me I am going to choose AMAZING from now on. 

Iraq Veterans Turn Around Drug-Infested Neighborhood

IRAQ VETERANS TURN AROUND DRUG-INFESTED NEIGHBORHOOD

Good News Network Sunday, June 03, 2012

Veterans are taking the lead in Baltimore, cleaning up years of blight and helping residents in a mostly poor, African-American neighborhood to rid the area of drug dealers.  "Along blocks dotted with boarded-up homes, veterans are applying lessons they learned in Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to restore the s sense of pride – and their own sense of purpose," reports the CS Monitor.  The long-term commitment of these veterans and their non-profit group, The 6th Branch, has mobilized hundreds of volunteers from nearly every Baltimore area university and has led to many partnerships with local organizations.  The result is that new homeowners and renters have now taken up residency in Oliver, once the city's worst neighborhood.

"There are hundreds of veterans organizations that advocate for veterans benefits," the group says on their website.  "We believe that veterans can lead this country and solve our toughest problems."  Accomplishments of "Operation Oliver" include 65 tons of garbage and debris removed from streets, two large murals painted, more than 100 trees and shrubs planted, and whole lots of weeds knocked back.  Nearly 2,000 volunteers have logged time to help out in Oliver.  One resident has been enrolled in a job retraining program and many others have benefitted from day labor opportunities.  Boys attended a Veterans Day lecture from a Marine gunnery sergeant about how to "Dominate your Environment."

Learn more at The6thBranch.org and read the story of Operation Oliver and some of the leaders behind the restoration of the East Baltimore neighborhood.  Thanks to Joel Arellano for submitting the story.


Four Marines

FOUR MARINES

As I came out of the supermarket that sunny day, pushing my cart of groceries towards my car, I saw an old man with the hood of his car up and a lady sitting inside the car with the door open.  The old man was looking at the engine.  I put my groceries away in my car, and continued to watch the old gentleman from about twenty five feet away.

I saw a young man in his early twenties with a grocery bag in his arm walking towards the old man.  The old gentleman saw him coming too, and took a few steps towards him.  I saw the old gentleman point to his open hood and say something. The young man put his grocery bag into what looked like a brand new Cadillac Escalade.  He then turned back to the old man.  I heard him yell at the old gentleman saying:  "You shouldn't even be allowed to drive a car at your age."  And then with a wave of his hand, he got in his car and peeled rubber out of the parking lot.

I saw the old gentleman pull out his handkerchief, and mop his brow as he went back to his car and again looked at the engine.  He then went to his wife and spoke with her; he appeared to tell her it would be okay.  I had seen enough, and I approached the old man.  He saw me coming and stood straight, and as I got near him I said, "Looks like you're having a problem."

He smiled sheepishly, and quietly nodded his head.  I looked under the hood myself, and knew that whatever the problem was, it was beyond me.  Looking around, I saw a gas station up the road, and I told the old man that I would be right back.  I drove to the station and went I inside.  I saw three attendants working on cars.  I approached one of them, and related the problem the old man had with his car.  I offered to pay them if they could follow me back down and help him.

The old man had pushed the heavy car under the shade of a tree and appeared to be comforting his wife.  When he saw us he straightened up and thanked me for my help.  As the mechanics diagnosed the problem (overheated engine), I spoke with the old gentleman.  When I shook hands with him earlier, he had noticed my Marine Corps ring and had commented about it, telling me that he had been a Marine too.  I nodded and asked the usual question, "What outfit did you serve with?"  He had mentioned that he served with the first Marine Division at Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal ....  He had hit all the big ones and retired from the Corps after the war was over.  As we talked we heard the car engine come on and saw the mechanics lower the hood.  They came over to us as the old man reached for his wallet, but was stopped by me.  I told him I would just put the bill on my AAA card.  He still reached for the wallet and handed me a card that I assumed had his name and address on it and I stuck it in my pocket.  We all shook hands all around again, and I said my goodbye's to his wife.

I then told the two mechanics that I would follow them back up to the station.  Once at the station, I told them that they had interrupted their own jobs to come along with me and help the old man.  I said I wanted to pay for the help, but they refused to charge me.  One of them pulled out a card from his pocket, looking exactly like the card the old man had given to me.  Both of the men told me then that they were Marine Corps Reserves.  Once again we shook hands all around and as I was leaving, one of them told me I should look at the card the old man had given to me.  I said I would and drove off.

For some reason I had gone about two blocks, when I pulled over and took the card out of my pocket and looked at it for a long, long time.  The name of the old gentleman was on the card in golden leaf and under his name was written:  "Congressional Medal of Honor Society."  I sat there motionless, looking at the card and reading it over and over.  I looked up from the card and smiled to no one but myself and marveled that on this day, four Marines had all come together because one of us needed help.  He was an old man all right, but it felt good to have stood next to greatness and courage, and an honor to have been in his presence.  Remember,  OLD men like him gave you FREEDOM  for America .

Thanks to those who served and still serve, and to all of those who supported them, and who continue to support them.

America is not at war.  The U.S. Military is at war.  America is at the Mall.  If you don't stand behind our troops, PLEASE feel free to stand in front of them!


Hi Handsome. My Name Is Rose

HI HANDSOME.  MY NAME IS ROSE.‏

The first day of University our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know.  I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder.  I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.  She said, "Hi handsome.  My name is Rose.  I'm eighty-seven years old.  Can I give you a hug?"

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.  "Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.  She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids...."

"No seriously," I asked.  I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.  "I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she told me.  After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake.  We became instant friends.  Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop.  I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went.  She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students.  She was living it up.  At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet.  I'll never forget what she taught us.  She was introduced and stepped up to the podium.  As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor.  Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry I'm so jittery.  I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me!  I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.  There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success.  You have to laugh and find humour every day.  You've got to have a dream.  When you lose your dreams, you die.  We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!  There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.  If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old.  If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight.  Anybody can grow older.  That doesn't take any talent or ability.  The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change.  Have no regrets.  The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do.  The only people who fear death are those with regrets."  She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose."  She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.

At the year's end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those months ago.  One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.  Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.


My Dog

Written by;  MY DOG

More wag.

Less bark.

@@                                                                                                                                                                                        @@

What does that mean?  More joy, more smiles, more pleasure and happiness, more giving and channeling love and being love, excitement, passion, expansion.

And less fear, anger, contraction, negativity, pain, hurt, violence.

 

Dogs Know
Have you ever heard that a dog 'knows' when an earthquake is about to hit?

Have you ever heard that a dog can 'sense' when a tornado is stirring up, even 20 miles away?

Do you remember hearing that before the December tsunami struck Southeast Asia, dogs started running frantically away from the seashore, at breakneck speed?  (So did other animals.)

Do you know that dogs can detect cancer and other serious illnesses and danger of fire?

Somehow they always know when they can 'go for a ride' before you even ask.

How do dogs and cats get home from hundreds of miles away?

I'm a firm believer that animals - and especially cats and dogs - have keen insights into the Truth.

And you can't tell me that dogs can't sense a potentially terrible disaster well in advance.

Simply said, a dog just KNOWS when something isn't right.

A Dog's Purpose?

A DOG'S PURPOSE?

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker.  The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.  I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer.  I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure.  They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.  The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker 's family surrounded him.  Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on.  Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.  The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion.  We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ''I know why.''  Startled, we all turned to him.  What came out of his mouth next stunned me.  I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.  It has changed the way I try and live.

He said, ''People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?''  The six-year-old continued.  ''Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.''

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

Take naps.

Stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you're not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.


The Girl With The Apple

THE GIRL WITH THE APPLE
August 1942. Piotrkow, Poland

The sky was gloomy that morning as we waited anxiously.  All the men, women and children of Piotrkow's Jewish ghetto had been herded into a square.  Word had gotten around that we were being moved.  My father had only recently died from typhus, which had run rampant through the crowded ghetto.  My greatest fear was that our family would be separated.  "Whatever you do," Isidore, my eldest brother, whispered to me, "don't tell them your age. Say you're sixteen."  I was tall for a boy of 11, so I could pull it off.  That way I might be deemed valuable as a worker.

An SS man approached me, boots clicking against the cobblestones.  He looked me up and down, and then asked my age.  "Sixteen," I said.  He directed me to the left, where my three brothers and other healthy young men already stood.  My mother was motioned to the right with the other women, children, sick and elderly people.

I whispered to Isidore, "Why?"  He didn't answer.  I ran to Mama's side and said I wanted to stay with her.  "No," she said sternly.  "Get away. Don't be a nuisance. Go with your brothers."  She had never spoken so harshly before.  But I understood:  She was protecting me.  She loved me so much that, just this once, she pretended not to.  It was the last I ever saw of her.

My brothers and I were transported in a cattle car to Germany.  We arrived at the Buchenwald concentration camp one night later and were led into a crowded barrack.  The next day, we were issued uniforms and identification numbers.  "Don't call me Herman anymore." I said to my brothers. "Call me 94983."  I was put to work in the camp's crematorium, loading the dead into a hand-cranked elevator.  I, too, felt dead.  Hardened, I had become a number.

Soon my brothers and I were sent to Schlieben, one of Buchenwald 's sub-camps near Berlin.  One morning I thought I heard my mother's voice.  "Son," she said softly but clearly, "I am going to send you an angel."  Then I woke up.  Just a dream.  A beautiful dream.  But in this place there could be no angels.  There was only work.  And hunger.  And fear.


A couple of days later, I was walking around the camp, around the barracks, near the barbed-wire fence where the guards could not easily see.  I was alone.  On the other side of the fence, I spotted someone: a little girl with light, almost luminous curls.  She was half-hidden behind a birch tree.  I glanced around to make sure no one saw me.  I called to her softly in German.  "Do you have something to eat?"  She didn't understand.  I inched closer to the fence and repeated the question in Polish.  She stepped forward.  I was thin and gaunt, with rags wrapped around my feet, but the girl looked unafraid.  In her eyes, I saw life.  She pulled an apple from her woolen jacket and threw it over the fence.  I grabbed the fruit and, as I started to run away, I heard her say faintly, "I'll see you tomorrow."

I returned to the same spot by the fence at the same time every day.  She was always there with something for me to eat - a hunk of bread or, better yet, an apple.  We didn't dare speak or linger.  To be caught would mean death for us both.  I didn't know anything about her, just a kind farm girl, except that she understood Polish.  What was her name?  Why was she risking her life for me?  Hope was in such short supply, and this girl on the other side of the fence gave me some, as nourishing in its way as the bread and apples.

Nearly seven months later, my brothers and I were crammed into a coal car and shipped to Theresienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia.  "Don't return," I told the girl that day.  "We're leaving."  I turned toward the barracks and didn't look back, didn't even say good-bye to the little girl whose name I'd ever learned, the girl with the apples.

We were in Theresienstadt for three months.  The war was winding down and Allied forces were closing in, yet my fate seemed sealed.  On May 10, 1945, I was scheduled to die in the gas chamber at 10:00 AM.  In the quiet of dawn, I tried to prepare myself.  So many times death seemed ready to claim me, but somehow I'd survived.  Now, it was over.  I thought of my parents.  At least, I thought, we will be reunited.  But at 8 a.m. there was a commotion.  I heard shouts, and saw people running every which way through camp.  I caught up with my brothers.

Russian troops had liberated the camp!  The gates swung open.  Everyone was running, so I did too.  Amazingly, all of my brothers had survived; I'm not sure how.  But I knew that the girl with the apples had been the key to my survival.  In a place where evil seemed triumphant, one person's goodness had saved my life, had given me hope in a place where there was none.  My mother had promised to send me an angel, and the angel had come.

Eventually I made my way to England where I was sponsored by a Jewish charity, put up in a hostel with other boys who had survived the Holocaust and trained in electronics.  Then I came to America, where my brother Sam had already moved.  I served in the U. S. Army during the Korean War, and returned to New York City after two years.  By August 1957 I'd opened my own electronics repair shop. I was starting to settle in.

One day, my friend Sid who I knew from England called me.  "I've got a date. She's got a Polish friend. Let's double date."  A blind date? Nah, that wasn't for me.  But Sid kept pestering me, and a few days later we headed up to the Bronx to pick up his date and her friend Roma.

I had to admit, for a blind date this wasn't so bad.  Roma was a nurse at a Bronx hospital.  She was kind and smart.  Beautiful, too, with swirling brown curls and green, almond-shaped eyes that sparkled with life.  The four of us drove out to Coney Island.  Roma was easy to talk to, easy to be with.  Turned out she was wary of blind dates too!   We were both just doing our friends a favor.  We took a stroll on the boardwalk, enjoying the salty Atlantic breeze, and then had dinner by the shore.  I couldn't remember having a better time.  We piled back into Sid's car, Roma and I sharing the backseat.

As European Jews who had survived the war, we were aware that much had been left unsaid between us.  She broached the subject, "Where were you," she asked softly, "during the war?"  "The camps," I said.  The terrible memories still vivid, the irreparable loss I had tried to forget.  But you can never forget.  She nodded.  "My family was hiding on a farm in Germany, not far from Berlin," she told me. "My father knew a priest, and he got us Aryan papers."  I imagined how she must have suffered too, fear, a constant companion.  And yet here we were both survivors, in a new world.

"There was a camp next to the farm." Roma continued. "I saw a boy there and I would throw him apples every day."  What an amazing coincidence that she had helped some other boy.  "What did he look like?" I asked.  "He was tall, skinny, and hungry.  I must have seen him every day for six months."


My heart was racing.  I couldn't believe it.  This couldn't be.  "Did he tell you one day not to come back because he was leaving Schlieben?"  Roma looked at me in amazement. "Yes!"  "That was me!"  I was ready to burst with joy and awe, flooded with emotions.  I couldn't believe it!  My angel.  "I'm not letting you go."  I said to Roma.  And in the back of the car on that blind date, I proposed to her.  I didn't want to wait.  "You're crazy!" she said.  But she invited me to meet her parents for Shabbat dinner the following week.

There was so much I looked forward to learning about Roma, but the most important things I always knew: her steadfastness, her goodness.  For many months, in the worst of circumstances, she had come to the fence and given me hope.  Now that I'd found her again, I could never let her go.

That day, she said yes.  And I kept my word.  After nearly 50 years of marriage, two children and three grandchildren, I have never let her go.

Herman Rosenblat, Miami Beach, Florida.

Special Needs Student Elected Prom King

SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENT ELECTED PROM KING

Good News Network Friday, May 25, 2012

Scott Shaver and Katie Buell were crowned prom king and queen last week at Westview High School.  Sound typical?  Yes, but Westview is not your typical high school.  Sure, Katie is an all-American girl, class president, champion in girls basketball, and "an absolute sweetheart," according to her teachers.  Yet, it seems every student, no matter their ability, is accepted here and treasured.

"Scotty", as the kids call him, is a HUGE personality at the school, brought out of his shell over four years by the nurturing attention given, not only by specialized staff who have tutored him as a special needs student with autism, but by the accepting student body.  When he first came to the San Diego area school, he was petrified of the chaotic sounds of 2300 kids in an assembly.  Now, he attends all the sporting events cheering loudly in the bleachers.  When the football team scores a touchdown, he gets the giant "W" flag and runs up and down the sidelines.

When he first came to the school, his mother said, he could never have believed he would be dancing in front of the entire school to the pulsing beat of "We Are Family".  But after just one year, his success at school -- mainly, said his mother, Marlene, due to all the "regular ed" kids practicing inclusion -- Scotty was able to join the Westview dance group in their twice-yearly choreographed “Friendship Dance”, which includes the special needs kids each paired with a team regular.  For three years now, he has been taking a bow at every performance while flexing his muscles in the air with wild enthusiasm.   School assembly special needs dance teacher Marlene also credits the "Best Buddies" program that matches a special needs kid with a regularly-enrolled student to be partners in friendship throughout the school year.  It's one of the most popular clubs on at Westview.

This spring, when the senior class prepared to nominate boys for prom king, they put Scotty on the ballot.  "Not as a joke," said Scott Wild, a teacher and student advisor at the school, "but as a sincere tribute to him because they love him, respect him, and appreciate him."  Mr. Wild said there were 4 other boys who were also selected to be on the ballot- - all good athletes, students, and high character kids.  "They found out about Scott being on the ballot, and collectively took their names off because they wanted Scotty to win - to have his moment in the sun."

No one knew the outcome last Saturday, when students assembled in their rented tuxedos and hand-picked dresses.  Scott's mom and older brother Kyle, a graduate of Westview, were there, too.  Scotty's "Best Buddie" was delighted to be his date for the evening.  At 10 o'clock, the faculty announced the prom court winners, saving the king for last.  "When we called Scotty's name, the entire venue packed with 800 kids started chanting his name," recalled Mr. Wild with tears in his eyes.  "He went up on stage, a big smile gleaming across his face, celebrating the moment and feeling like he was on top of the world."

This is not normal high school stuff.  With the release of the documentary, Bully, people are all too aware of the dark side for many teens.  Westview should have been making their own documentary.  As one educator said, "There's a reason why everybody tries to get hired in the Poway School District, this is one of them.  Scott's "HUGE" personality "is over the top", says his mom, because everyone at Westview accepted him and loved him.  "We could only hope, and wish, that every special needs child in every school was truly nurtured to their highest potential the same way Scott has been nurtured at Westview."

Mother of the prom queen, Susie Buell agrees.  She wrote in an email:  "Once again, we feel overcome with the emotion of how fortunate and grateful (we are) to have had all our children attend school in this district.  Working in Special Ed at the elementary level, I personally know how dedicated some of the Poway Special Ed team works and their tireless commitment to their students. It is incredible!"  "Katie was so honored to share that moment with him and so proud and happy for him.  It was the highlight of the her night," she added.  "She really loves him."

The teachers and administrators at the school will very much miss Scott when he says goodbye in 2 weeks.  He cheerfully helped out in the office over the years and "people couldn't help but love him".  Kathy, who works in his critical skills classroom told her spouse, "On Monday morning, when the doors to his bus opened it looked like a bull busting out of a rodeo gate with Scotty yelling, "MISS KATHY, MISS KATHY, I am the SUPER SENIOR POWER PROM KING!"  Mr. Wild summed it up best:  "For as much as Westview High gives him, Scott Shaver has no idea how much of a gift he is to us."


Andre the Turtle

ANDRE THE TURTLE
MATT SEDENSKY, From Associated Press, August 03, 2011

JUNO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A badly injured endangered sea turtle that underwent a year of rehabilitation and innovative, groundbreaking surgeries was released Wednesday by caretakers hoping he finds a mate and helps his endangered species prosper.  Andre, as the 177-pound green sea turtle is known, crawled into the water and swam out of sight before a crowd of hundreds of raucous supporters.  He was near death when he was found split open and stranded last year.  "He has overcome obstacles, predators, food scarcities, cold winters — any number of things that may have ended his life — and he has survived," said Dr. Nancy Mettee, a veterinarian at Loggerhead Marinelife Center who cared for Andre.  "He's really a miracle turtle."

When Andre was found stranded on a sandbar on June 15, 2010, he had gashes and gaping holes in his shell, the result of two apparent boat strikes.  More than three pounds of sand were inside him, along with at least a couple of crabs, a raging infection and a collapsed lung.  His spinal cord was exposed, pneumonia was plaguing him and death seemed certain.  Any one of those injuries could have killed him, but his flippers were working and his neurological function appeared normal.  So after beachgoers pulled him ashore on a boogie board, veterinarians began what became a yearlong effort to save him.

To help remove fluid and other materials and close his wounds, doctors used a vacuum therapy system.  To help close gashes in the shell, Dr. Alberto Vargas, a local orthodontist, installed braces similar to those used on humans.  And to fill in the gaping holes, doctors employed a procedure typically used to help regrow breast tissue in mastectomy patients and abdominal tissue in hernia patients.  All are believed to be animal firsts, and Andre's supporters say the herculean effort was worth it.

Green sea turtles have persisted since prehistoric times, but are endangered today.  Only a small fraction of hatchlings survive and even fewer go on to reach adulthood and reproduce.

Andre is believed to be about 25 years old.  The hope is that he will swim off, mate often and help his species survive.  "Go out and live long and prosper and have lots of babies," said Aaron Lichtig, a 40-year-old science teacher who was among those who first spotted the turtle and brought him to shore.  On Wednesday, Lichtig was among hundreds cheering the turtle on as he was loaded into an all-terrain vehicle, driven to the beach, set onto the sand and then turned loose to amble into the Atlantic.  He hesitated at first, but was helped closer to the water by volunteers.  A moment later, he disappeared below the surface, only to pop his head up a few more times, delighting the crowd.  "It's just an inspiration," said one volunteer, 17-year-old Kelly Griffith, who wiped tears from her eyes.  "Every turtle is special, but he captures hearts."

Mettee could not bring herself to attend Andre's release, calling it a bittersweet moment.  She knows he could have been kept safe under her care and she fears what he could face in the wild, yet she knows he had to be set free.  But after all these months of caring for him, she grew to know his every quirk, including the way he'd crane his neck to look when she was working on him.  "If it's possible that an animal could know that we were trying to help I think that he did," she said.

Andre's survival has inspired fans across the world who heard his story or watched his round-the-clock webcam.  More than 200 people from 25 different states and a handful of foreign countries sent in checks to be honorary adoptive parents.  Children flooded him with mail, often addressed simply to "Andre the Turtle."  The cards and notes were tacked by the dozens to a wall alongside an outdoor grouping of turtle pools at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, where some 225,000 visitors come each year.

One child's simple words summed up the thoughts of many who came to wish the turtle well:  "Good luck, have a safe trip."

Two Horses

TWO HORSES
Author Unknown

Just up the road from my home is a field, with two horses in it.  From a distance, each horse looks like any other horse.  But if you stop your car, or are walking by, you will notice  something quite amazing.

Looking into the eyes of one horse will disclose that he is blind.  His owner has chosen not to have him put down, but has made a good home for him.  This alone is amazing.  If you stand nearby and listen, you will hear the sound of a bell.  Looking around for the source of the sound, you will see that it comes from the smaller horse in the field.  Attached to the horse's halter is a small bell.  It lets the blind friend know where the other horse is, so he can follow.

As you stand and watch these two friends, you'll see that the horse with the bell is always checking on the blind horse, and that the blind horse will listen for the bell and then slowly walk to where the other horse is, trusting that he will not be led astray.

When the horse with the bell returns to the shelter of the barn each evening, it stops occasionally and looks back, making sure that the blind friend isn't too far behind to hear  the bell.

Like the owners of these two horses, God does not throw us away just because we are not perfect or because we have problems or challenges.  Source watches over us and even brings others into our lives to help us when we are in need.  Sometimes we are the blind horse being guided by the little ringing bell of those who God places in our lives.  Other times we are the guide horse, helping others to find their way.  Good friends are like that.  You may not always see them, but you know they are always there.  Please listen for my bell and I'll listen for yours, and remember......be kinder than necessary.....everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Twinkies and Root Beer

TWINKIES AND ROOT BEER

A little boy wanted to meet God.  He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer and he started his journey.
When he had gone about three blocks, he met an elderly man.  The man was sitting in the park just feeding some pigeons. The boy sat down next to him and opened his suitcase.  He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the man looked hungry, so he offered him a Twinkie.  The man gratefully accepted it and smiled at boy.  His smile was so pleasant that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer. Again, the man smiled at him.  The boy was delighted!  They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.

As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave, but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the man, and gave him a hug.  The man gave him his biggest smile ever.

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face.  She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?"  He replied, "I had lunch with God."  But before his mother could respond, he added, "You know what? God's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!"


Meanwhile, the elderly man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home.  His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and he asked," Dad, what did you do today that made you so happy?"
He replied, "I ate Twinkies in the park with God."  However, before his son responded, he added," You know, he's much younger than I expected."

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.  People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  We can embrace all equally!

Ubuntu

UBUNTU

An anthropologist proposed a game to children in an African tribe.  He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that whoever got there first won the sweet fruits.  When he told them to run they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats.  When he asked them why they had run like that, as one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said: “UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad”?

UBUNTU in the Xhosa culture means: “I am because we are”.

We are one—we are all connected.  A simple gesture carried out by one person creates a ripple effect through the fabric of mankind.  Something I do will somehow affect you someday so it is of utmost importance that we are mindful of what we say and how we behave.

The other message that I got from this story is that competition benefits one, co-operation benefits all.  My personal view is that competition carries the energy of lack, implying there is not enough.  Co-operation, on the other hand, carries the energy of abundance—that there is plenty to go around, that no one has to go without in order for someone to have something.

To Ubuntu,
Chiao Kee


Daniel the Cat

DANIEL THE CAT

GREENDALE, Wis. (AP) — In a reversal of fortunes, a once-unwanted cat has come to the rescue of an animal shelter in need of a new home.  However, this orange-and-white tabby named Daniel is no typical cat.  He has a near-record 26 toes, a phenomenon that is helping the nonprofit Milwaukee Animal Rescue Center raise money to relocate to a new building.  Normal cats have 18 toes, but Daniel has two extra on each foot due to a genetic mutation called polydactylism.

Officials at the center found out their rent at a Milwaukee-area mall was being doubled on January 1.  So, the shelter is buying a new building and is seeking small donations of $26 — or $1 per toe.  They've collected enough so far to secure the financing with about $80,000 raised since October 24, but they hope to raise $120,000 by December 23 so they can become even more financially stable.  About $50,000 of the money raised has come from $26 donations.

"I've always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and this is definitely the case," said Amy Rowell, owner of Milwaukee Animal Rescue Center in Greendale.  She found Daniel in October at animal control when she went to pick up another cat.  As she bent down to that cat's cage, Daniel stuck his paw out and poked her head.  "He was very clearly saying, `I need to be rescued.  I'd like to be your friend, please pay attention to me,'" she said.  "And when a sign is that obvious, we tend to not ignore it."  The shelter takes in animals that might otherwise be euthanized.

Daniel was originally going to be adopted out, but Rowell has decided to keep him as a shelter mascot.  Daniel's 26 toes — two shy of the Guinness World Records number— don't seem to affect his cat activities.  "He runs and he plays and he climbs, he uses a scratching post.  He seems to be not bothered by it at all," Rowell said.

Peace

PEACE

I want to share with you this Commencement speech I gave this week to 5000 attendees from over 100 countries at American University in Dubai (AUD).  Previous AUD Commencement speakers include President Clinton and Secretaries of State Powell, Albright and Baker.  In the speech I strive to inspire the graduates to embrace the power of NOW and to move forward to build communities of peace -- as we all must endeavor to do.
Thank you.
Dennis

Dennis J. Kucinich
United States Representative to Congress
Commencement Speech
American University in Dubai
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

His Highness, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum; Members of the Royal Families of the United Arab Emirates; Dr. Lance de Masi, President of American University in Dubai, Mr. Elias Bou Saab, Executive Vice President, Members of the Board, Members of the Faculty of American University of Dubai, Esteemed Officials, Parents and Sponsors, Students, Alumni and Friends and especially you, our dear Honored Graduates:

Thank you for the great honor of addressing this esteemed gathering upon an occasion of singular importance in the lives of each and every one of you.  This day announces you are prepared.  The journey which brought you here has conferred upon you a commencement to the future of your dreams.  For when you ascend this stage you are confidently passing through a portal in the time and space of your life, presenting yourself to the world as a person of accomplishment, as an individual prepared to tap the transformative power of this moment which brings to bear every talent and ability you have developed, pouring it into the moment when you present yourself at the door of opportunity, the moment which is called NOW.  The NOW which contemplates that the past, the present, and the future exist simultaneously, the power of NOW as it connects with eternity, your timeless self which finds its power in expression of self recreation, self actualization.  "Come my friends," wrote the poet Tennyson, " 'tis not too later to seek a newer world."

Behold the new world being born in the moment.  The NOW which comes again and again and again in each and every day forward as you watch for it, recognize it, be mindful of the possibility it presents, be grateful for its immanent unfolding potential.  The NOW which bids you to think, to speak, to act, to challenge, to create, to change.  The NOW which declares that years of preparation have come to meet the seedling of a single moment.  The NOW which whispers: "Do not spill a single seed."  The NOW which makes joyous the challenge of venturing forth in faith.  The NOW which bids you, "Come, you are ready!"  And reminds you there is no time to waste.  The NOW which unveils your deepest potential when you summon the courage to knock upon an unfamiliar door.  The NOW which has been secretly awaiting your arrival.

"What you seek, is seeking you," wrote the poet Rumi.  The NOW which waits for you to embrace its endless possibilities, its extraordinary beauty of presence.  Yours, the restless quest of the human soul for true purpose, for a place in the world, for life, for love, for a spiritual home all awaits your attention, your touch, your gaze.  Your place in the scheme of things is unfolding and even resistance can be your friend as you align with the time signature with which the hand of destiny inscribes your name.  Be relentless in pursuit of excellence.  Though your reach exceeds your grasp every moment, "What's a heaven for?" asked the poet Browning.

What do I know?  From my earliest, I heard my life's drummer banging out a rapid tempo, a quick march to college, to work, to public life, all at the same time, twenty years old working two jobs, going to school, running for city council.  When I put my ear to the ground I could hear the heart of the world beating and I rushed excitedly to embrace it fully, no apprenticeships, only the experience of trying and failing, trying and succeeding, climbing the mountains outside or the mountains within, looking up, walking up, running up one path, then another, then still another, sometimes pausing as the crowd passed me by.  Then, a new moment, sensing a new possibility, stepping out into the crowd, coursing with it, stepping briskly to meet it, to embark upon a new destination, a new life, the unfolding of each and every day.  I chose a career in public service while I was still in college in Cleveland, Ohio, and was elected America's youngest Mayor at age 31.

I ran for Congress five times in a period of twenty-five years before I was elected.  I know what it is to try and to fail.  Do not fear failure.  Let failure be your friend.  It prepares you for what you desire to achieve and you arrive at your new destination with growing beauty and wisdom, thanking your friend for the visit.  My dear graduates, the world needs you.  I know how important you are.  The raw, kinetic, intellectual and spiritual power here from one hundred countries can save our planet from destruction.  We are constantly being told that there is nothing we can do about war, nothing we can do about global climate change, nothing we can do about poverty.  Those who accept the self-fulfilling prophecies of doom may have a stake in the status quo or, fearing a new order, delay change.  Life, however, is not inert.  The human heart is not inert.  Its rhythms excite to the call of the future.  The soul is not inert.  Its eyes see the future.

George Bernard Shaw wrote in Back to Methuselah, "You see things and say,'Why'? I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not'?"  He spoke to the capacity of vision, of possibility thinking, of the certainty that life is a profoundly creative experience, an expression of the workings of the mind, the heart and the soul -- the nonphysical, spiritual world which sanctifies the physical world.  Ideas come through our senses, bathing in a world of dreams, imagination, the magical, mysterious province of poets and prophets, inventors and painters, the realm of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam where man receives from the divine the spark of life.

A photograph by the Hubble Telescope has captured a picture of the Eagle Nebula, "Pillars of Creation," that place in deep space where stars are born.  Quantum physicists have identified gluon particles which exist in interstitial space, the space between the spaces, the unseen element of our physical universe which holds together the world with the primal energy of the Big Bang.  We travel back and forth upon the bridge between spirit and matter, at large in a physical universe, we breathe in the eternal spiritual sustenance.  Inspired, we fling our dreams back into the physical world and create islands in the sea, buildings which reach to the heavens, new structures in society, and new ways of living.  Possibility thinking is a science grounded in old truths.  It is the capacity to call forth new outcomes.

Let me share with you a few examples from my own experience.  Again and again in my public career I have confronted circumstances where I was told there was nothing I could do about a given condition, a city electric system sold to a giant private utility under indecent conditions.  "Nothing you can do," said my top advisors.  I saw something else, organized a civic movement and a three-year struggle resulted in regaining for the people of my community a light system which recently observed its 100th anniversary.  Two hospitals were to be closed.  "Forget it," I was told.  "There is nothing you can do."  I saw another possibility.  Creative legal action ensued, the community rallied, hospitals were saved, and one still stands.  A steel mill which provided thousands of jobs was about to be closed.  Again I was told, "There is nothing you can do."  Long story short, we organized the community, intervened in court, stopped the shutdown of the mill long enough for a buyer to emerge and that mill today is the largest integrated steel mill in the world.

There is a practical physics to civic involvement and action.  Look deeply into the appearances of things.  Deeper within is another possibility.  Envision it, call it forward, act upon it, drawing upon that same elemental energy which comes from where the eternal first touched us and where we touched the eternal, where stars are born.  What I have learned from experience is this -- when you see a condition you desire to see change, when you seek to make something happen and you are told it is not possible -- that may be exactly the place to put your energy, to change the outcome.  When you do, people will say a miracle occurred.  We live in a world where miracles are waiting to be welcomed.

This brings me to a thought I would like to share with you, my fellow citizens of the world.  We have inherited a world where war is dropped on our doorstep and we are asked to adopt it as our own.  We are told deadly force must be used to change people's conduct.  Violence to stop the violence, war to prevent war, war to end war.  When we believe war is inevitable, we come to accept the self-fulfilling prophecy of war.  War happens.  We wonder why.  We must call forth from this world which is so fraught with fear and foreboding that which is beautiful and glorious, a new possibility, a new thinking, a new physics, if you will, of peace.  We must do it with courage.  We must do it in fulfillment of salaam, the peace which comes from the unseen, the peace which comes from the heart, the peace which comes from our collective yearning, the peace which comes from an awareness that the world is one.  That all people are interconnected, interdependent, one with the human family, one with the world, one with the spirit, one with the divine.

War is never inevitable.  Peace is inevitable if we desire to call it forward, if we approach it as a science.  I speak of peace not simply as the absence of war, but as a practice of the science of human relations, as a capacity of human evolution and human development.  But if we call peace forward from the unseen we must name it, we must give it structure, we must prepare for it a place to exist - a space to breathe, to be nurtured - to flower, so that it can be appreciated as an expression of that divine spark of creation.

In writing of the unfolding potential of nature, the poet Lowell celebrated the month of June, "Every clod, [or piece of earth], feels a stir of might, an instinct within it that reaches and towers, and groping blindly above it for light, climbs to a soul in grass and flowers."  His poem was about the search for the Holy Grail, a sacred vessel said to contain drops of the blood of Christ.  Peace is a Holy Grail and the quest for peace is empowered by thoughts of peace, words of peace and actions for peace and attainment of peace.  It is a temporal question.  It is also a spiritual journey: "Wherewith Allah guideth all who seek His good pleasure to ways of peace and safety, and leadeth them out of darkness, by His will, unto the light, guideth them to a path that is straight." -- Qur'an 5:16

Think of the possibilities if we could create within every nation a place where the best minds and hearts are brought together within the context of a cabinet level position or ministry wherein resides the power to develop social structures for peace and strategies to avert conflict between groups and between states.  Such a proposal exists.  I brought it to the United States Congress two months before 9/11.  In its simplest expression, it seeks to develop an organized approach to make the daily work of our nation engage our top social and economic scientists to deal with the root causes of domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, gang violence, gun violence, violence against gays, and racial violence.  It would develop skills for non-violent conflict resolution on a domestic level, as well as internationally, where such a ministry would be prepared to assist to ameliorate the causes of violence inherent in poverty, lack of access to food, water, shelter and the instability caused by environmental disasters.

As violence is learned, so is peace.  Education has a powerful social purpose.  A ministry of peace would create the resources for peace education within every culture and within each government to construct a world where we learn to settle differences by tapping the spiritual principles of salaam, sholom, of peace.  We are then within reach of creating cultures of vision, cultures of creativity, cultures of unlimited wealth and cultures of sustainability.

I have been in Congress for 16 years and involved in government for the better part of 45 years.  I am told, "Dennis, such an idea is so impractical."  After all, my nation spends more money for weapons and war than all the other nations of the world put together.  We spend so much time, so many resources human and financial preparing for war.  Why not begin to spend time and resources preparing for peace?  Will this vision be realized for creating new structures for peace?  I was reading a speech given in Dubai in 2007 by His Highness, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, observing the challenges facing his new organization, the Foundation His Highness created.  He quoted a friend: "... in this Foundation you are like one ploughing the sea.  The challenge is huge; the gap of knowledge in most of the Arab and Islamic countries is bottomless.  There is a lot of talk about building communities of knowledge, but little action.  The pit is too wide to be seamed, so why should you weary yourself over this matter?"

At a time when the technology of destruction and the capacity of human destructiveness is so great, this is exactly the time to create a common global effort to build communities of peace, to provide structures in every country to help peace issue forth and flourish.  I, too, believe that if we will make of human development a new art, we will set our eyes to the distant horizon and plough the seas with wondrous effect.  We can then lift up our eyes to the heavens and, with our imagination, with joyous abandon, plough the stars, and a thundering universe will burst forth with new possibilities and we will make heaven on earth.  "Come my friends, 'tis not too late to seek a newer world."

What Love Means to a Child

WHAT LOVE MEANS TO A CHILD

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds:  "What does love mean?"  The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined.  See what you think.

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."  Terri - age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."  Danny - age 7

"Love is when you kiss all the time.  Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.  My Mommy and Daddy are like that.  They look gross when they kiss."  Emily - age 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."  Bobby - age 7

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,"  Nikka - age 6

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday."  Noelle - age 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."  Tommy - age 6

"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared.  I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.  He was the only one doing that.  I wasn't scared anymore."  Cindy - age 8

'My mommy loves me more than anybody.  You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night."  Clare - age 6

"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken."  Elaine - age 5

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford."  Chris - age 7

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."  Mary Ann - age 4

"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones."  Lauren - age 4

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you."  Karen - age 7

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross."  Mark - age 6

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it.  But if you mean it, you should say it a lot.  People forget."  Jessica - age 8

And the final one:  Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge.  The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child.  The winner was a four-year-old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.  Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.  When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."

An Anonymous Benefactor

AN ANONYMOUS BENEFACTOR

The German city of Braunschweig has a new benefactor.  An anonymous donor has been stuffing envelopes filled with 10,000 euros in cash into the mailboxes of charitable organizations.  His latest contribution was an anomaly.  A local hospice found the money under its doormat.

There are stories that are so good they are hard to believe.  Henning Noske laughs when he hears such sentiments.  A section editor with daily Braunschweiger Zeitung, Noske has been a journalist for thirty years and if there is one thing he knows, it’s that a good story is a good story.
These are crazy times for Noske.  His phone is constantly ringing with major German television stations seeking to speak with him.  All because his little paper has been thrust into the limelight by a local story.  “Every editor dreams of such a story!” says Noske.

It all started with an article about a local robbery.  A short while later an envelope, sent by an anonymous donor, found its way to the local victim support center.  The envelope contained €10,000 — in cash.  Twenty €500 notes.  Further envelopes followed:
€10,000 for a day-care center
€10,000 for four local churches
€10,000 for a choir
€10,000 for a group providing meals to the homeless
€10,000 for a soup kitchen, and on and on.

Over the weekend, the anonymous giver made another donation.  An intern at a local hospice found an envelope stuffed with €10,000 hidden under the doormat as she was taking out the garbage.  Even as a variety of organizations have benefited, all the donations have followed the same pattern.  Each gift was placed in a white envelope and the donation has almost always been the same, though one was for €50,000.  Furthermore, says Noske, “the money was often wrapped in an article from our paper.”  The weekend donation was accompanied by an article about the hospice that received the money.

The residents of Braunschweig are enthralled.  Does the city, in the German state of Lower Saxony, have a guardian angel who, with a newspaper in hand, identifies those in need?  A good Samaritan who roams the night with envelopes stuffed with cash?  On February 1, staff at the Braunschweiger Zeitung even found an envelope in their own offices.  A reporter had written a feature about Tom, a local 14-year-old boy, who for seven years had been severely handicapped following a swimming accident.  The piece described how the boy’s family were dealing with the difficulties of caring for the boy.  A few days later, the receptionist opened an anonymous white envelope to find 20 €500 notes inside.  A copy of the article about Tom accompanied the cash.  What’s more, the name of the family was underlined in the article: The money was clearly for Tom.  “I was driving when I heard the news,” says Claudia Neumann, Tom’s mother.  “I had to park on the side of the road.  I was speechless.”  Later she told her son that he had received a large sum of money from an unknown donor.  Since his accident Tom can only communicate through a computer with a voice synthesizer.  He clapped his hands in joy upon hearing the news.  Tom’s parents want to use the money to improve the entrance to their house to make it more wheelchair-accessible.  They also plan to enroll their son in a course of therapy that their insurance has refused to pay for.  “For someone to act so selflessly, for this to happen in such an individualist society in which everyone thinks of himself,” was astonishing, said Claudia Neumann.

Nobody knows who the benefactor is. “But of course such a thing captures your imagination,” says Tom’s mother.  Her children suggested that it could be the doings of a modern-day Robin Hood — someone who maybe steals from banks to share the money with the needy.  “Or it’s an old person who is about to die,” says Henning Noske.  “We just don’t know.”  The local paper, which now reports almost daily on the mystery, has decided to respect the donor’s desire for anonymity and is not attempting to find his or her identity.  Recently, though, the paper has begun receiving requests for articles about various organizations in the hopes that a white envelope may be forthcoming.  Even establishments in Bremen, some 170 kilometers away, have registered their desire to be reported.  “That’s not the way we work!” says Noske.  “We will not allow ourselves to be instrumentalized — we always follow the press code of conduct.”

Legally, accepting the money is not a problem, as long as there is no indication of criminal activity.  By now, the mystery benefactor has shared out €190,000.  He or she always puts the money in a post box, except for twice.  Once, the money was hidden between hymn books and on the weekend it was found under a doormat.  Hans-Jürgen Kropkow, a local priest, is among the recipients, having found €10,000 in his mailbox one day.  “I’d never held so much money in my hand, it made me jittery,” says Kropkow.  Most recipients of the white envelopes expressed their gratitude through the Braunschweiger Zeitung.  Tom’s mother is also planning on placing a thank you announcement in the paper.  “You know, every good journalist dreams of being able to make a difference!” says Noske.  But in Braunschweig, a good Samaritan is making such dreams come true.

The Power of Words

THE POWER OF WORDS

An elderly man sits on the sidewalk of a busy urban street.  Beside him is a sign written on cardboard flattened from a big box, which says, "I'm blind.  Please help."  He has a tin can into which a few coins are tossed by passersby.  Some teen aged girls laugh and joke nearby.

A well dressed professional woman walks by, stops, looks at the man and the sign.  She picks up his sign, and while he feels her shoes to try to connect with someone paying attention to him, she turns the sign over, takes a marker out of her purse and writes on the other side, then sets the sign back down beside the man.  After she leaves, more people come by and many many more coins are tossed into his tin can.  

Later in the day the woman returns.  He feels her shoes and knows it is the same woman who stopped earlier, and he asks her, "What did you do to my sign?"  She says, "I wrote the same but different words."

The words she wrote:  "It's a beautiful day and I can't see it."

Change your words, change your world.


Homeless Hero

HOMELESS HERO

http://www.WantToKnow.info/inspiration/homeless_vet_shoot

One Friday evening out on the town, I watched from a distance as a disheveled homeless man mindlessly bickered at all who walked by and did not leave money for him – almost everyone.  On a whim, I decided to approach him.  Right on queue, he asked for money.  "Spare change for the homeless?"  “I’ll give you a quarter if you tell me your story,” I countered.  He laughed wryly.  “You’ll really give me a quarter for my story?”  I lay the quarter in front him and changed my mind.  “Nah, I’ll give you a quarter anyway, but it would be nice to hear your story.”

I followed his befuddled eyes to the shiny quarter, and for a brief moment, I saw a glimmer of reflection as he became quiet.  So I sat down next to him and waited.  “I was in the army,” he eventually said in a low voice.  “Was a sniper... was supposed to shoot the enemy dead from the distance.”  He seemed about 50 years old.  He was wearing dirty old rags that smelled like a dead rat left in a mouse trap.  I listened intently to his grizzly voice as he dwelled deeper into his story.  He told me how when he was young, he used to hunt with his family and was really good at it.  He had his own way of respecting animals by not wasting what he killed for food and not killing more than he needed.

When the army came knocking on his door, he felt pride.  The skills he had developed over all those years of hunting for food could now serve him in protecting people from the bad guys . He was excited for the first time to feel a real sense of purpose in his life.  He proudly set out to fight in Iraq.  It wasn't long, however, before he realized his ideals of fighting to protect his country were just a shadow of the truth.  He was quickly disillusioned with the random killing of what he was convinced were mostly innocent people.  He couldn’t find any real justification for it.  “You see, I was a sniper.  But I never really killed anyone,” he said.

“But then one day, I had to do it.  They were right on me telling me to shoot this lady in the distance.  In my gun's scope, I could see clearly what must have been the lady's kids right by her.  My hands were trembling on the trigger as they kept barking orders at me to kill her.  Man, the tears started comin'.  I couldn’t do it.  She wasn't doing anything to anyone, and she was with the kids.  I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't see through my tears.  It all just didn’t make any sense to me.”  Eventually this man was court martialed and put in jail for 180 days for refusing to follow orders and kill that lady.  Not only that, he told me how he was dishonorably discharged and then blacklisted by the military, so that he couldn’t even get a regular job.  All the rights we take for granted were stripped from him.

Why?  How could this be?  The irony of it swirled through my head.  Here was a man who was being punished – and for what?  For refusing to kill a lady?  For being a hero?  “I have no regrets,” the homeless man reflected.  “I may be homeless now, but I never killed that lady.  I never killed no one in the army.  It didn’t smell right.  I didn’t go there to kill innocents.”  After a moment gazing off into the distance, he added, “I can live with being homeless – that’s okay.  But I wouldn’t be able to live with killing innocent people.”

On that suddenly poignant Friday night, I had no doubt that I had just met a hero.  I just never would have expected that the hero would be this smelly, bickering homeless guy left on the street by his own country to beg for his life after committing an incredible act of bravery.

The Poor and The Rich

THE POOR AND THE RICH

One day a very wealthy man made arrangements for his son to spend time at a farm.  His express purpose was to show the boy how poor people must live.  On his return, he asked his son, "How was the trip?"  "It was great, Dad."  "Did you see how poor people live?"  "Oh, yeah," said the son.  "So, tell me, what did you learn?"

The son answered:  "I saw the we have one dog and they had four.  We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.  We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.  Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.  We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.  We have servants who serve us, but they serve others, people and animals.  We buy our food but they grow theirs.  We have walls around our property to protect us.  They have friends to protect them."

The boy's father was speechless.  Then his son added, "Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are."

Isn't perspective a wonderful thing?  What would happen if we all gave thanks for everything we have, instead of worrying about what we don't have?


K-9 Lifeguards

K-9 LIFEGUARDS
Jared Whitlock March 01, 2012

Last July, a young boy was riding on a jetski near the Oceanside Harbor when he was thrown off the watercraft.  His family watched helplessly as big surf threatened to slam him into a rock pile.  The clock was ticking.  A boat rescue was too risky, but a special lifeguard dog was on hand.  Rummy, an 8-year-old Labrador retriever, hopped in the rough water and swam toward the boy with a long rescue tube.  Panic-stricken with minor cuts, the boy calmed down when Rummy reached him.  The boy clung onto Rummy’s custom lifeguard jacket and the dog pulled him to a boat operated by Niki Burgan, an American Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor and Rummy’s handler.  Rummy still wasn’t finished.  The dog headed for the jetski and hooked it with the rescue tube, allowing Burgan to haul the watercraft in.

Burgan created the SoCal H2O Rescue Team, the U.S.’s first K-9 lifeguard team, in 2009, and Rummy has been making rescues since.  While the SoCal H20 Rescue Team has saved lives, it was born from tragedy.  Burgan’s mother, sister and stepfather died in a small-plane crash off of Carlsbad’s coastline in 2007.  “The state had minimal resources to recover their bodies with all the budget cuts,” Burgan said.  Fishermen recovered her mother and sister’s bodies.  Her stepfather’s body was never found.  Consequently, Burgan believes specially trained search-and-rescue dogs could have made the difference in locating his body.  Burgan knew she had to do something.  “I really thought that there’s got to be a better way to do this,” said Burgan, who volunteered to train her dogs.  “Dogs are cost effective and have abilities people don’t.  The idea wasn’t to take lifeguard’s jobs.  It was to give them another resource.”

Due to Burgan’s passionate efforts, the California Department of Parks and Recreation and local governments backed Burgan’s plan for a nonprofit K-9 lifeguard team, which currently includes Burgan, other lifeguards, Rummy and two other dogs.  “Our number of dogs hasn’t expanded over the years, but what we’re asked to do has greatly expanded,” Burgan said.  The SoCal H2O Rescue Team is primarily known for aquatic rescues.  But they’re also trained to help on land.  Last September, for example, Burgan and Rummy helped find a missing child in San Bernardino as part of a statewide search.

As for the coast, Rummy regularly finds missing children at local beaches.  Not to mention, in the event of a bluff or seawall collapse, Rummy and the other dogs are trained to search through the rubble for victims.  The dogs are trained at various beaches throughout North County two or three times a week for several hours each session.  One exercise simulates ocean rescues.  For example, while Rummy is told to wait on the beach, a lifeguard floats beyond where the waves are breaking and waves his or her arms.  Then Rummy is given the green light.  With a rescue tube attached his lifeguard jacket, he punches through the surf and pulls the lifeguard in, even in waves as large as 10 feet — a testament to Rummy’s swimming ability and understanding of rip currents.  “We do it at beaches with plenty of distractions to recreate the real thing,” Burgan said. “It keeps him sharp.”

When not at the beach, to further develop Rummy’s keen sense of smell, Burgan will plant different scents on complicated trails and have Rummy track each one.  Going forward, Bergen wants to train Rummy and the other dogs to detect and stop human trafficking groups that are arriving on San Diego beaches.  Bergen also envisions more dogs and their trainers going through the National Association for Search and Rescue certification process (Rummy is the only dog in California with the certification to assist lifeguards in search-and-rescue missions.)

The SoCal H2O Rescue Team relies on private and corporate donations.  Additionally, it’s received a lot of fanfare since its inception.  The team was at the 2011 Encinitas Holiday Parade, a TV show may be in the works and Rummy is a nominee in the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.  “We’ve gotten a really good response,” Burgan said.  “I owe it all to that fact that I always think my mom and dad are watching over me.”  socalh2orescueteam.com


The Sparrow at Starbucks

THE SPARROW AT STARBUCKS

It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop on 51st Street and Broadway, just a skip up from Times Square.  Early November weather in New York City holds only the slightest hint of the bitter chill of late December and January, but it's enough to send the masses crowding indoors to vie for available space and warmth.  For a musician, it's the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world, I'm told, and consequently the tips can be substantial if you play your tunes right.

Apparently, we were striking all the right chords that night, because our basket was almost overflowing.  It was a fun, low-pressure gig - I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion instruments.  We mostly did pop songs from the '40s to the '90s with a few original tunes thrown in.  During our emotional rendition of the classic, "If You Don't Know Me by Now," I noticed a lady sitting in one of the lounge chairs across from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.  After the tune was over, she approached me.  "I apologize for singing along on that song.  Did it bother you?" she asked.

"No," I replied.  "We love it when the audience joins in.  Would you like to sing up front on the next selection?"  To my delight, she accepted my invitation.  "You choose," I said.  "What are you in the mood to sing?"  "Well. ... do you know any hymns?"  Hymns?  This woman didn't know who she was dealing with.  I cut my teeth on hymns.  Before I was even born, I was going to church.  I gave our guest singer a knowing look.  "Name one."  "Oh, I don't know.  There are so many good ones.  You pick one."  "Okay," I replied.  "How about 'His Eye is on the Sparrow'?"

My new friend was silent, her eyes averted.  Then she fixed her eyes on mine again and said, "Yeah. Let's do that one."  She slowly nodded her head, put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center of the shop.  With my two-bar setup, she began to sing, "Why should I be discouraged?  Why should the shadows come?"

The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed.  Even the gurgling noises of the cappuccino machine ceased as the employees stopped what they were doing to listen.  The song rose to its conclusion.  "I sing because I'm happy; I sing because I'm free.  For His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me."

When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar that would have rivaled a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall.  Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the din, "Oh, y'all go back to your coffee!  I didn't come in here to do a concert!  I just came in here to get somethin' to drink, just like you!"  But the ovation continued.  I embraced my new friend.  "You, my dear, have made my whole year! That was beautiful!"

"Well, it's funny that you picked that particular hymn," she said.  "Why is that?"  "Well . .." she hesitated again, "that was my daughter's favorite song."  "Really!" I exclaimed.  "Yes," she said, and then grabbed my hands.  By this time, the applause had subsided and it was business as usual.  "She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last week."

I said the first thing that found its way through my stunned silence.  "Are you going to be okay?"  She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed my hands.  "I'm gonna be okay. I've just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing his songs, and everything's gonna be just fine."  She picked up her bag, gave me her card, and then she was gone.

Stress

STRESS

A young woman confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience, with a raised glass of water, and everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, "half empty or half full?"..... she fooled them all... "How heavy is this glass of water?", she inquired with a smile.  Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter.  It depends on how long I hold it.  If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem.  If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm.  If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance.  In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."  She continued, "and that's the way it is with stress.  If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on.  As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again.  When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden, holding stress longer and better each time practiced."

"So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down.  Don't carry them through the evening and into the night.  Pick them up tomorrow.  Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment.  Relax, pick them up later after you've rested.  Life is short.  Enjoy it and the now 'supposed' stress that you've conquered!"


Tank

TANK

They told me the big black Lab's name was Reggie, as I looked at him lying in his pen.  The shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly.  I'd only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open.  Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.  But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn't hurt.  Give me someone to talk to.  And I had just seen Reggie's advertisement on the local news.  The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn't look like "Lab people," whatever that meant.  They must've thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner.  See, Reggie and I didn't really hit it off when we got home.  We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him  to adjust to his new home).  Maybe it was the  fact that I was trying to adjust, too.  Maybe we were too much alike.  For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls --- he wouldn't go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked boxes.  I guess I didn't really think he'd need all his old stuff, that I'd get him  new things once he settled in.  But it became pretty clear pretty soon that he wasn't going to.  I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, ones like "sit" and "stay" and "come" and "heel", and he'd follow them - when he felt like it.  He never really seemed to listen when I called his name --- sure, he'd look in my direction after the fourth or fifth time I said it, but then he'd just go back to doing whatever.  When I'd ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey.  This just wasn't going to work.  He chewed a couple of shoes and some unpacked boxes.  I was a little too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell.  The friction got so bad that I couldn't wait for the two weeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on search mode for my cell phone amid all of my unpacked stuff.  I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guest room, but I also mumbled, rather cynically, that the "damn dog probably hid it on me."  Finally I found it, but before I could punch up the shelter's number, I also found his pad and other toys from the shelter...I tossed the pad in Reggie's direction and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the most enthusiasm I'd seen since bringing him home.  But then I called, "Hey, Reggie, you like that?  Come here and I'll give you a treat."  Instead, he sort of glanced in my direction --- maybe "glared" is more accurate -- and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down .... with his back to me.

Well, that's not going to do it either, I thought.  And I punched the shelter phone number.  But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope.  I had completely forgotten about that, too.  "Okay, Reggie,"  I said out loud, "Let's see if your previous owner has any advice."

____________ _________ _________ _________


To Whoever Gets My Dog:

Well, I can't say that I'm happy you're reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie's new owner. I'm not even happy writing it.  If you're reading this, it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter.  He knew something was different.  I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip, but this time... it's like he knew something was wrong.  And something is wrong...which is why I have to go to try to make it right.  So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls.  The more the merrier.  Sometimes I think he's part squirrel, the way he hordes them.  He always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there.  Hasn't done it yet.  Doesn't matter where you throw them, he'll bound after it, so be careful - really don't do it by any roads.  I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.  Next, commands.  Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I'll go over them again:  Reggie knows the obvious ones --- "sit,"  "stay,"  "come," "heel."  He knows hand signals: "back" to turn around and go back when you put your hand straight up; and "over" if you put your hand out right or left.  "Shake" for shaking water off, and "paw" for a high-five.  He does "down" when he feels like lying down --- I bet you could work on that with him some more.  He knows "ball" and "food" and "bone" and "treat" like  nobody's business.  I trained Reggie with small food treats.  Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.  Feeding schedule:  twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six in the evening.  Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.  He's up on his shots.  Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info with yours; they'll make sure to send you reminders for when he's due.  Be forewarned:  Reggie hates the vet.

Good luck getting him in the car.  I don't know how he knows when it's time to go to the vet, but he knows.  Finally, give him some time.  I've never been married, so it's only been Reggie and me for his whole life.  He's gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can.  He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn't bark or complain.  He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.  Which means that this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new.  And that's why I need to share one more bit of info with you.... His name's not Reggie.  I don't know what made me do it, but when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them his name was Reggie.  He's a smart dog, he'll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt.  But I just couldn't bear to give them his real name. For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I'd never see him again.  And if I end up coming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, it means everything's fine.  But if someone  else is reading it, well ... well it means that his new owner should know his real name.  It'll help you bond with him.  Who knows, maybe you'll even notice a change in his demeanor if he's been giving you problems.

His real name is "Tank".  Because that is what I drive.  Again, if you're reading this and you're from the area, maybe my name has been on the news.  I told the shelter that they couldn't make "Reggie" available for adoption until they received word from my company commander.  See, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could've left Tank with ... and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq , that they make one phone..call the shelter ... in the "event" ... to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption.  Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed.  He said he'd do it personally.  And if you're reading this, then he made good on his word.

Well, this letter is getting downright depressing, even though, frankly, I'm just writing it for my dog.  I couldn't imagine if I was writing it for a wife and kids and family ... but still, Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.  And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me.  That unconditional love from a dog is what I take with me to Iraq as an inspiration to do something selfless, to protect innocent people from anyone who would do terrible things.  If I have to give up Tank in order to do it, I am glad to have done so.  He is my example of service and of love.  I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.  All right, that's enough.  I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter.  I don't think I'll say another good-bye to Tank, though.  I cried too much the first time.  Maybe I'll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.  Good luck with Tank.  Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight - every night - from me.

Thank you,

Paul Mallory
____________ _________ _________ _______

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope.  Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me.  Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies.  Flags had been at half-mast all summer.  I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.  "Hey, Tank," I said quietly.  The dog's head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.  "C'mere boy."  He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor.  He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn't heard in months.  "Tank," I whispered.  His tail swished.  I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him.  I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.  "It's me now, Tank, just you and me.  Your old pal gave you to me."  Tank reached up and licked my cheek.  "So whatdaya say we play some ball?" His ears perked again.  "Yeah?  Ball?  You like that? Ball?"  Tank tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room.  And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

Women Matter

WOMEN MATTER

A young wife sat on a sofa on a hot humid day, drinking iced tea and visiting with her mother.  As they talked about life, about marriage, about the responsibilities of life and the obligations of adulthood, the mother clinked the ice cubes in her glass thoughtfully and turned a clear, sober glance upon her daughter.  "Don't forget your sisters," she advised, swirling the tea leaves to the bottom of her glass.  "They'll be more important as you get older.  No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love the children you may have, you are still going to need sisters.  Remember to go places with them now and then, do things with them.  Remember that 'sisters' means ALL the women....your girlfriends, your daughters, and all your other women relatives too.  You'll need other women.  Women always do."

What a funny piece of advice!  the young woman thought.  Haven't I just gotten married?  Haven't I just joined the couple-world?  I'm now a married woman, for goodness sake!  A grownup!  Surely my husband and the family we may start will be all I need to make my life worthwhile!  But she listened to her mother.  She kept contact with her sisters and made more women friends each year.  As the years tumbled by, one after another, she gradually came to understand that her mother really knew what she was talking about.  As time and nature work their changes and their mysteries upon a woman, sisters are the mainstays of her life.

After more than 50 years of living in this world, here is what I've learned:
Time passes.
Life happens.
Distance separates.
Children grow up.
Jobs come and go.
Love waxes and wanes.
Others sometimes disappoint.
Hearts break.
Parents die.
Colleagues forget favors.
Careers end.

BUT.........sisters are there, no matter how much time and how many miles are between you.  A girl friend is never farther away than needing her can reach.  When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it by yourself, the women in your life will be on the valley's rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley's end.  Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you....or come in and carry you out.

Girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, daughters-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law, mothers, grandmothers, aunties, nieces, cousins, and extended family, all bless our life!  The world wouldn't be the same without women, and neither would I.  When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead.  Nor did we know how much we would need each other.  So keep in touch!

Things Happen For A Reason

THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON

by Pastor Rob Reid


The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities.  When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work.  They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.

They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc, and on December 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished.  On December 19 a terrible driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days.  On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church.  His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.

The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home.  On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market-type sale for charity, so he stopped in.  One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory-colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center.  It was just the right size to cover the hole in the front wall.  He bought it and headed back to the church.   

By this time it had started to snow.  An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus.  She missed it.  The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later.  She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder and hangers to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry.  The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.  Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle.  Her face was like a sheet.  "Pastor," she asked, "where did you get that tablecloth?"  The pastor explained.  The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there.  They were.  These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.  The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten "The Tablecloth".  The woman explained that before WW II she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria.  When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave.  Her husband was going to follow her the next week.  He was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again.

The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth, but she made the pastor keep it for the church.  The pastor insisted on driving her home.  That was the least he could do.  She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve.  The church was almost full.  The music and the spirit were great.  At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return.  One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn't leaving.  The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike?  He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison.  He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years between.   

The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride.  They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier.  He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.

Sunrises and Gratitutde

SUNRISES AND GRAITUDE

No two sunrises are ever the same.  Each day’s spectacle in the sky is altered by particles in the atmosphere, the tilt of the Earth, the lengths of different waves of light.  Debbie Wagner knows this better than almost anyone else.  With earnest devotion, she has risen in the darkness more than 2,200 times so she could observe and paint the sunrise.  She’s rarely missed a morning since December 2005.  “As a brain-tumor survivor, I lost so many of the loves I had, like reading and writing and mathematics,” said Wagner, 56, who had two cancerous, pear-sized tumors removed from her brain in separate surgeries in 2002.  “My visual journal became essential to my attitude for the day.  When I look at a sunrise, it represents a new beginning.  I’m just so happy to be here another day and see my kids do different things and go to dinner with my husband.  I suppose that’s the addiction of it — it puts me in a state of mind focused on gratitude.  You go through this mourning-type period of sadness, and then you realize that you’re a different person and you have to redefine,” Wagner said.  “My husband jokes, ‘Well, I’ve gotten to be married to two different women without having to get divorced!’”  Her brain tumors and surgeries may have robbed Wagner of much, but they also gave in unexpected ways.  She said she wound up experiencing a heightened visual perceptiveness and an irresistible pull toward art.  “I started painting pretty much right away, maybe five or six months after my surgeries,” she said.  “It just happened.  I had to express myself.”

Debbie Wagner is an artist who lives in Bennington, Kansas.  She paints every day, often working on a series of themed subjects.  One of her most important series is her sunrise paintings.  Debbie has been painting the sunrise daily since December of 2005.  The disruption of her eyesight and the subsequent discovery of two brain tumors in 2002 resulted in parallel surgeries to remove the pear sized meningiomas.  As Debbie recuperated, she realized there were internal changes and limitations she would have to accept.  The abilities to multi-task, read novels, write fluently, use mathematics, and sleep through the night were restricted.  However, her visionary acuity increased several fold, similar to the sensitive touch a sighted person develops when he/she goes blind.  Debbie began a journey into her art, a place she was able to find sanction and release from the mental challenges that plague her.  

One morning in December of 2005, the sunrise was so intense and colorful that an overwhelming feeling of good fortune--the chance to rise up and enjoy one more day--made Debbie wish she could somehow record the blessing she felt.  That’s when she decided to try painting the sunrise.  Upon completion, she realized the painting said everything she was feeling, and thus began her daily journal of recording the sunrise and the colors of the morning.  After many months word spread, and Bergen’s Studio and Gallery in Salina asked her to hang a sunrise show.   Debbie had not thought about selling her sunrises, but the exhibition and the resulting commissions demonstrated how much meaning many of us attach to a sunrise or sunset.  

It is amazing how much a person learns when she is persistent in an activity.  Debbie is currently documenting another year of sunrises, and in retrospect, there has been so much for her to learn about the physical aspects of the sky:  colors, seasonal changes, timing.  But perhaps the evolution of the intangible aspects has been the most rewarding.  Every morning is different.  The reactions of others to a special date such as a funeral, anniversary, or birth shows how eternity is revealed in a sunrise.  Our most important events are tied with our reaction to the weather, and we pray for that incredibly beautiful morning for our weddings and special days.  The morning sky represents the beauty of life and hope.  

It is always interesting to see the appeal of different sunrises.  Each one of us has an ideal in our mind of the glory of the sky.  For some, it’s a stormy sky, for others, it is the strong colors.  Still others are drawn to the tranquility of a serene sky.  For Debbie, the chance to wake up one more morning and celebrate a brand new sky, one she couldn’t have imagined, is an incredible way to commence her day as a recipient of God’s grace.

Little Boy's Explanation of God

LITTLE BOY'S EXPLANATION OF GOD

This was written by an 8-year-old named Danny Dutton, who lives in Chula Vista, California.  He wrote it for his third grade homework assignment, to "Explain God."  That he had such an assignment, in California, and someone published it, is a miracle!

EXPLANATION OF GOD:
"One of God's main jobs is making people.  He makes them to replace the ones that die, so there will be enough people to take care of things on earth.  He doesn't make grownups, just babies.  I think because they are smaller and easier to make.  That way he doesn't have to take up his valuable time teaching them to talk and walk.  He can just leave that to mothers and fathers.

"God's second most important job is listening to prayers.  An awful lot of this goes on, since some people, like preachers and things, pray at times beside bedtime.  God doesn't have time to listen to the radio or TV because of this.  Because he hears everything, there must be a terrible lot of noise in his ears, unless he has thought of a way to turn it off.

"God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere which keeps Him pretty busy.  So you shouldn't go wasting his time by going over your mom and dad's head asking for something they said you couldn't have.

"Atheists are people who don't believe in God.  I don't think there are any in Chula Vista.  At least there aren't any who come to our church.

"Jesus is God's Son.  He used to do all the hard work, like walking on water and performing miracles and trying to teach the people who didn't want to learn about God.  They finally got tired of him preaching to them and they crucified him.  But he was good and kind, like his father, and he told his father that they didn't know what they were doing and to forgive them and God said O.K.

"His dad (God) appreciated everything that he had done and all his hard work on earth so he told him he didn't have to go out on the road anymore.  He could stay in heaven.  So he did.  And now he helps his dad out by listening to prayers and seeing things which are important for God to take care of and which ones he can take care of himself without having to bother God.  Like a secretary, only more important.

"You can pray anytime you want and they are sure to help you because they got it worked out so one of them is on duty all the time.  You should always go to church on Sunday because it makes God happy, and if there's anybody you want to make happy, it's God!  Don't skip church to do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach.  This is wrong.  And besides the sun doesn't come out at the beach until noon anyway.

If you don't believe in God, besides being an atheist, you will be very lonely, because your parents can't go everywhere with you, like to camp, but God can.  It is good to know He's around you when you're scared, in the dark or when you can't swim and you get thrown into real deep water by big kids.  But...you shouldn't just always think of what God can do for you.  I figure God put me here and he can take me back anytime he pleases.

And...that's why I believe in God."

Freedom and Jeff

FREEDOM AND JEFF

Freedom is a magnificent adult bald eagle.  Jeff writes:  "Freedom and I have been together 11 years this summer.  She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings.  Her left wing doesn't open all the way even after surgery, as it was broken in 4 places.  She's my baby.

"When Freedom came in she could not stand and both wings were broken.  She was emaciated and covered in lice.  We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vet's office.  From then on, I was always around her.  We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off,  and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lie in.  I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight, and she would lie there looking at me with those big brown eyes.  We also had to tube feed her for weeks.

"This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then she still couldn't stand.  It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn't stand in a week.  You know you don't want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning.  She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon.  I didn't want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn't bear the thought of her being euthanized, but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear.  I went immediately back to her cage, and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle.  She was ready to live.  I was just about in tears by then.  That was a very good day.

"We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her.  I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western  Washington.  We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV.  Miracle Pets even did a show about us.

"In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo.  Lost the hair, the whole bit.  I missed a lot of work.  When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks.  Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer.  This happened time and time again.

"The day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup.  I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant.  Anyway, they did the tests, and I had to come back Monday for the results.  I went in Monday, and I was told that all the cancer was gone.  So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk.  It was misty and cold.  I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill.  I hadn't said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew.  She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don't know how long.  That was a magic moment.  We have been soul mates ever since she came in.  This is a very special bird.

"On a side note:  I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them.  I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her.  His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power course through his body.  I have so many stories like that.  I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedom."

Teach Your Kids the Thrill of Giving Back

TEACH YOUR KIDS THE THRILL OF GIVING BACK

Redbook, January 2012, by Jihan Thompson

1)  Set the right example and volunteer with your child.  "If you want kids to understand the importance of helping others, you need to be hands-on," says Joy Harn, President of the South Coast Chapter of National Charity League Inc., a mother-daughter volunteer organization.  Joy was a member as a teen with her own mom, and now she takes part with daughters Hailey, 16 and Hannah, 14.  "It's been great to see how their priorities have shifted," Joy says.  "They get that the cost of some pricey outfit will go to better use feeding a family for a week."

2)  Encourage your kids to start a jeans drive at school and rally classmates to give pairs they've outgrown that are still in good shape to Dosomething.org's Teens for Jeans campaign (teensforjeans.com).  Last year they collected nearly 550,000 pairs!

3)  Read aloud "One Hen:  How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference" to help little kids grasp the power of microloans.  In the book, Kojo, a Ghanaian boy, uses money given to him by his village's microlending club to buy a hen and sell the eggs to pay for schooling, which later helps him start a business.  Browse onehen.org and kiva.org where you can pick a family's small business to fund.

4)  Host a bake sale.  Whip up treats with your kids and contribute the money to help end childhood hunger.  gabs.strength.org is one place, or your local food bank.

5)  Spruce up a playground with your kids.  How-to guides are available from your local hardware source or from kaboom.org/side_projects, an organization that has renovated more than 2,000 outdoor spaces.  You can paint murals, install benches and clean up litter to show playgrounds some love.

6)  Help others from your kitchen table.  Some Saturday morning do something beneficial with your kids at home, like decorating lunch bags that Meals on Wheels could use to distribute food to the elderly; check with them first.  Children as young as 3 can understand how doing good will make someone else happy.  Project ideas are available at doinggoodtogether.org.

Lucas and Juno

LUCAS AND JUNO

Wednesday, February 01, 2012 via Good News Network

As nearly anyone who has adopted a pet from a shelter can attest, there’s something special about a rescued animal; it’s as if they can sense they’ve been given a second chance at life.  That’s certainly the case with Juno, a Belgian Malinois who was adopted just days before she was to be euthanized.  But since coming to live with her family in Alcoa, Tenn., she now has taken on the role of rescuer to a dying boy whom experts believed was not suited for any service dog.

Four-year-old Lucas Hembree suffers from Sanfilippo Syndrome, an inherited, metabolic disease that causes children to lose the ability to speak, walk and eat.  The disease also causes severe neurological damage that leads to aggressive behavior, hyperactivity and seizures.  With no cure or treatment currently available, Lucas isn’t expected to live past the age of 15 and may be in a vegetative state by the time he is eight.  Realizing that every moment is extra precious, Chester and his wife, Jennifer, wanted their son to experience as much as he could while still having the capacity to enjoy life.

When the disease started to take a toll on Lucas’ joints, Chester looked into getting a service dog to keep Lucas steady when he walked.  “I was told that a service dog would cost at least $15,000, and that Lucas wasn’t a good candidate because of his deteriorating abilities and his behavior,” Chester says.  “I refused to accept this answer.”  A combination of prayer and persistence led Chester to Juno.  “I came across a posting about her on a rescue group’s website,” he says.  “I had the feeling in my gut that I had to go see this dog.”  The whole family made the two-hour trip to meet Juno, who was being held at an east Tennessee shelter.  “She was emaciated, and was days away from being euthanized,” Chester says.  “She had been surrendered to the shelter because her previous owners didn’t understand the breed.”

Fortunately, Chester did.  He’d gotten to know and love the Belgian Malinois while working as a law enforcement officer years earlier.  “I used to help with the training of police K-9s, and our dogs were Belgian Malinoises,” he says.  “I loved their desire to work and their ‘never quit’ attitude.”  In addition to being a popular choice for police dogs, the breed is often used in combat.  But while the breed has proven its prowess on patrol and in combat, Chester needed to be sure Juno would be a suitable service dog for his little boy.  “I put her on a loose leash and she walked with me and never pulled,” Chester says.  “Next came the Lucas test.  They took to each other immediately, like kindred spirits.”

The Hembrees brought Juno home and showered her with love and affection.  “I wanted to make sure she had plenty of time to adjust to the family before I started the formal training,” Chester says.  Yet, from the beginning there seemed to be something instinctive about their relationship.  One day, Chester noticed Juno circling Lucas while he was in his wheelchair.  “She was whining and nudging him with her nose,” Chester says. “I checked his oxygen levels and they were very low.”  After giving him oxygen, Lucas returned to normal and Juno greeted him with licks and affection.  “That’s when I knew she had the Hembree family photoability to pick up on his neurological changes,” Chester says.  “Now she alerts us when Lucas is about to have a seizure or if his oxygen levels drop really low.  She has saved him several times."

Juno has become a literal shoulder for Lucas to lean on when walking, and a calming influence when he became agitated.  And while Chester makes sure that Juno gets time off, he says that it’s hard to get Juno to leave Lucas’ side.  “You don’t see one without the other close by,” he says.  “It really feels like it was meant to be.”

Vetstreet.com is a pet website written by top veterinarians, pet health experts and professional journalists dedicated to giving you the most accurate information possible.

Random Acts of Kindness Top the Menu

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS TOP THE MENU

Holly Bounds, WSAV-TV, 1-13-2012

Customers at this South Carolina eatery find that strangers have paid their check in advance.  If you’re measuring the kindness at the Corner Perk in Bluffton, S.C., it’s safe to say their cup runneth over.  It’s a cycle of generosity that started two years ago — and lately it’s spinning faster and faster.  In a time when everyone seems to be hard-pressed for cash, more and more are starting to give it away.  “It made my day, it really did.  It made my day,” customer Michael Aldea said.

“When I went to go pay, they said, ‘Oh, it’s paid for.  Somebody paid it forward,’ ” customer Sheri Buda said.  “People will come in and say, ‘What do you mean?  I don’t understand.  Are you trying to buy me a coffee today?’ ” And I say, “No, somebody came in 30 minutes ago and left money to pay for drinks until it runs out,” Josh Cooke, owner of the Corner Perk, explained.

The pay-it-forward phenomenon kicked off two years ago when an average-joe customer left the first $100 bill.  “It’s someone that just has a kind heart and wants that to generate in this area,” Cooke said of the anonymous female donor.  That donor got what she wanted.  Not just customers but strangers who heard what was happening started paying for people who follow.  The owner says the lady who started the pay-it-forward tradition kept it going for a few months now and then, but in the past few weeks the phenomenon has really taken off, with other anonymous contributors following suit.  “He said, ‘I want to do that, too,’ "Corner Perk’s Sara Clemmons said of one donor.  “He just gave me the hundred dollars and left.  He didn’t even get anything.”

None of the anonymous donors leaves their name, only their money, and a feeling of inspiration that is jolting this community.

“For someone to come out of the blue and think about someone other than themselves, it’s refreshing,” Aldea said.  “It’s very inspiring to just see someone living out what so many of us talk about, and doing things for other people,” customer Jenny Dolin agreed.  While they all walk in for a pick-me-up, lately that comes from the compassion that comes with the coffee, not the caffeine.

Banking? It's Child's Play

BANKING?  IT'S CHILD'S PLAY

July 7, 2012, http://www.rt.com/news/indian-children-banking-system-637/

A group of kids in a shelter for homeless children in New Delhi have a few lessons for the world’s (old system) international bankers.  They have invented a financial system of their own to save for a brighter future.  ­In a shelter for homeless runaway teens in New Delhi, a tiny, self-starting democracy has sprung up.  The residents have created an unlikely society where everything from healthcare to banking has been initiated, implemented and executed by the kids themselves.

“There are children who have a job and they deposit their money in our bank and even the children who go to school save their money,” explained bank manager Satish Kumar.  Satish Kumar’s peers elected him to be bank manager of this branch of the children’s development "khazana" (Indian for "treasure") that serves around 9,000 street children across South Asia and has 77 branches in the region.  Many of the runaway teens now have a place to safely keep their money, save for the future and take out development or welfare advances to invest in starting businesses or buying books for school.

Mohammad Shah, a 12-year-old bank client, told RT that he has taken an advance three times.  “The first time I took 500 rupees to buy the school uniform and other things, the second time I took the advance because my mother was sick.  I took 1000 rupees and got the necessary check up done for my mother.  The third time I took the advance was because I had to repay some money I had borrowed to help my father open a shop,” he said.  The kids have a monthly meeting where they review applications for those who wish an advance and then, based on their track record of saving and earning, they decide who to grant the advances to and how quickly they need to pay it back.

In a time when many people would argue that the global financial system is on the brink of collapse and that the system itself might be fundamentally flawed, it seems like these teenagers from the streets of New Delhi have the whole thing figured out.  They hold everyone from the account managers to the clients accountable for their financial decisions.  Through meetings and discussions over lunch the children have taught each other how to save and invest in their future.  “I think that if we don’t put the money in the bank then we tend to spend it on unnecessary things and waste the money.  So when we save the money it can be used to do important things that may come up in the future like buying new clothes,” Sameer, a bank client, shared.

It’s a sense of responsibility and survival that has shocked the supervisors of the shelters themselves and one that they say leaders around the world might want to take a look at.  “They can be the super models in this whole thing because they know how to save money.  They know how to utilize money for the best because they learn how to prioritize their needs, which we as adults actually don’t know,” Sharon Jacob from “Butterflies” child rights non-profit organization said.

Mohammad Shah is hoping that he can save the money he makes selling bottles of water at night to put towards his education so he can one day accomplish his goal of becoming a policeman.  “I am thinking for the future as I want to save the money and do some thing useful with it when the time comes,” he says.


Jimmy and the Letter

JIMMY AND THE LETTER

She jumped up as soon as she saw the surgeon come out of the operating room.  She said, "How is my little boy? Is he going to be all right? When can I see him?"  The surgeon said, "I'm sorry.  We did all we could, but your boy didn't make it."  Sally said, "Why do little children get cancer?  Doesn't God care any more?  Where were you, God, when my son needed you?"  The surgeon asked, "Would you like some time alone with your son?  One of the nurses will be out in a few minutes, before he's transported to the university."

Sally asked the nurse to stay with her while she said goodbye to her son.  She ran her fingers lovingly through his thick red curly hair.  "Would you like a lock of his hair?" the nurse asked.  Sally nodded yes.  The nurse cut a lock of the boy's hair, put it in a plastic bag and handed it to Sally.  The mother said, "It was Jimmy's idea to donate his body to the University for study.  He said it might help somebody else.  I said no at first, but Jimmy said, 'Mom, I won't be using it after I die.  Maybe it will help some other little boy spend one more day with his Mom.'"  She went on, "My Jimmy had a heart of gold.  Always thinking of someone else.  Always wanting to help others if he could."

Sally walked out of Children's Mercy Hospital for the last time, after spending most of the last six months there.  She put the bag with Jimmy's belongings on the seat beside her in the car.  The drive home was difficult.  It was even harder to enter the empty house.  She carried Jimmy's belongings, and the plastic bag with the lock of his hair, to her son's room.  She started placing the model cars and other personal things back in his room exactly where he had always kept them.  She lay down across his bed and, hugging his pillow, cried herself to sleep.

It was around midnight when Sally awoke.  Lying beside her on the bed was a folded letter.  The letter said:

"Dear Mom,

I know you're going to miss me, but don't think that I will ever forget you, or stop loving you, just 'cause I'm not around to say 'I Love You'.  I will always love you, Mom, even more with each day.  Someday we will see each other again.  Until then, if you want to adopt a little boy so you won't be so lonely, that's okay with me.  He can have my room and old stuff to play with.  But, if you decide to get a girl instead, she probably wouldn't like the same things us boys do.  You'll have to buy her dolls and stuff girls like, you know.

"Don't be sad thinking about me.  This really is a neat place.  Grandma and Grandpa met me as soon as I got here and showed me around some, but it will take a long time to see everything.  The angels are so cool.  I love to watch them fly.  And, you know what?  Jesus doesn't look like any of his pictures.  Yet, when I saw Him, I knew it was Him.  And guess what, Mom?  I got to sit on God's knee and talk to Him, like I was somebody important.  That's when I told Him that I wanted to write you a letter, to tell you goodbye and everything.  But I already knew that wasn't allowed.  Well, you know what Mom?  God handed me some paper and His own personal pen to write you this letter.  I think Gabriel is the name of the angel who is going to drop this letter off to you.  God said for me to give you the answer to one of the questions you asked Him, 'where was He when I needed him?' God said He was in the same place with me as when His son was on the cross.  He was right there, as He always is with all His children.

"Oh, by the way, Mom, no one else can see what I've written except you.  To everyone else this is just a blank piece of paper.  Isn't that cool?  I have to give God His pen back now.  He needs it to write some more names in the Book of Life.  Tonight I get to sit at a special table for supper.  I'm sure the food will be great.

"Oh, I almost forgot to tell you.  I don't hurt anymore & the cancer is all gone.  I'm glad because I couldn't stand that pain any more and God couldn't stand to see me hurt so much, either.  That's when He sent The Angel of Mercy to come get me.  The Angel said I was a Special Delivery!  How about that?

Signed with Love from God & Me."

Billy

BILLY

It was one of the hottest days of the dry season.  We had not seen rain in almost a month.  The crops were dying.  Cows had stopped giving milk.  The creeks and streams were long gone back into the earth.  It was a dry season that would bankrupt several farmers before it was through.  Every day, my husband and his brothers would go about the arduous process of trying to get water to the fields.  Lately this process had involved taking a truck to the local water rendering plant and filling it up with water.  But severe rationing had cut everyone off.  If we
didn’t see some rain soon.....we would lose everything.

It was on this day that I learned the true lesson of sharing and witnessed the only miracle I have seen with my own eyes.  I was in the kitchen making lunch for my husband and his brothers when I saw my six-year-old son, Billy, walking toward the woods.  He wasn't walking with the usual carefree abandon of a youth but with a serious purpose.  I could only see his back.  He was obviously walking with a great effort, trying to be as still as possible.  Minutes after he disappeared into the woods, he came running out again, toward the house.  I went back to making sandwiches, thinking that whatever task he had been doing was completed.  Moments later, however, he was once again walking in that slow purposeful stride toward the woods.  This activity went on for an hour, walking carefully to the woods, running back to the house.

Finally I couldn't take it any longer and I crept out of the house and followed him on his journey (being very careful not to be seen....as he was obviously doing important work and didn't need his Mommy checking up on him).  He was cupping both hands in front of him as he walked, being very careful not to spill the water he held in them.  Maybe two or three tablespoons were held in his tiny hands.  I sneaked close as he went into the woods.  Branches and thorns slapped his little face, but he did not try to avoid them.  He had a much higher purpose.  As I leaned in to spy on him, I saw the most amazing site.

Several large deer loomed in front of him.  Billy walked right up to them.  I almost screamed for him to get away.  A huge buck with elaborate antlers was dangerously close.  But the buck did not threaten him.....he didn't even move as Billy knelt down.  And I saw a tiny fawn lying on the ground, obviously suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion, lift its head with great effort to lap up the water cupped in my beautiful boy's hand.  When the water was gone, Billy jumped up to run back to the house and I hid behind a tree.

I followed him back to the house to a spigot to which we had shut off the water.  Billy opened it all the way up and a small trickle began to creep out.  He knelt there, letting the drip, drip slowly fill up his makeshift "cup," as the sun beat down on his little back.  And it came clear to me, the trouble he had gotten into for playing with the hose the week before.  The lecture he had received about the importance of not wasting water.  The reason he didn't ask me to help him.  It took almost twenty minutes for the drops to fill his hands.  When he stood up and began the trek back, I was there in front of him.

His little eyes just filled with tears.  "I'm not wasting," was all he said.  As he began his walk, I joined him.....with a small pot of water from the kitchen.  I let him tend to the fawn.  I stayed away.  It was his job.  I stood on the edge of the woods watching the most beautiful heart I have ever known working so hard to save another life.  As the tears that rolled down my face began to hit the ground, other drops...and more drops...and more suddenly joined them.  I looked up at the sky.  It was as if God, himself, was weeping with pride.

Some will probably say that this was all just a huge coincidence.  Those miracles don't really exist.  That it was bound to rain sometime.  And I can't argue with that... I'm not going to try.  All I can say is that the rain that came that day saved our farm...just like the actions of one little boy saved another.  I had to send this out, to honor the memory of my beautiful Billy, who was taken from me much too soon, but not before showing me the true face of God, in a little, sunburned body.

Miracle of Tess's Faith

MIRACLE OF TESS'S FAITH

A little girl went to her bedroom and pulled a glass jelly jar from its hiding place in the closet.  She poured the change out on the floor and counted it carefully. Three times, even.  The total had to be exactly perfect...  no chance here for mistakes. 

Carefully placing the coins back in the jar and twisting on the cap, she slipped out the back door and made her way six blocks to Rexall's Drug Store with the big red Indian Chief sign above the door.  She waited patiently for the pharmacist to give her some attention, but he was too busy at this moment.  Tess twisted her feet to make a scuffing noise.  Nothing.  She cleared her throat with the most disgusting sound she could muster.  No good.  Finally she took a quarter from her jar and banged it on the glass counter.  That did it!

"And what do you want?" the pharmacist asked in an annoyed tone of voice.  "I'm talking to my brother from Chicago whom I haven't seen in ages," he said without waiting for a reply to his question.

"Well, I want to talk to you about my brother," Tess answered back in the same annoyed tone.  "He's really, really sick, and I want to buy a miracle."  "I beg your pardon?" said the pharmacist.

"His name is Andrew and he has something bad growing inside his head and my Daddy says only a miracle can save him now.  So how much does a miracle cost?"  "We don't sell miracles here, little girl.  I'm sorry but I can't help you," the pharmacist said, softening a little.  "Listen, I have the money to pay for it.  If it isn't enough, I will get the rest.  Just tell me how much it costs."

The pharmacist's brother was a well dressed man.  He stooped down and asked the little girl, "What kind of a miracle does your brother need?"  "I don't know," Tess replied with her eyes welling up.  I just know he's really sick and Mommy says he needs an operation.  But my Daddy can't pay for it, so I want to use my money."  "How much do you have?" asked the man from Chicago.  "One dollar and eleven cents," Tess answered barely audible.  "And it's all the money I have, but I can get some more if I need to."  "Well, what a coincidence," smiled the man.  "A dollar and eleven cents---the exact price of a miracle for little brothers."

He took her money in one hand and with the other hand he grasped her mitten and said, "Take me to where you live.  I want to see your brother and meet your parents.  Let's see if I have the miracle you need."

That well-dressed man was Dr. Carlton Armstrong, a surgeon, specializing in neuro-surgery.  The operation was completed free of charge and it wasn't long until Andrew was home again and doing well.

Mom and Dad were happily talking about the chain of events that had led them to this place.  "That surgery," her Mom whispered, "was a real miracle.  I wonder how much it would have cost?"  Tess smiled.  She knew exactly how much a miracle cost...one dollar and eleven cents...plus the faith of a little child.

In our lives, we never know how many miracles we will need.  A miracle is not the suspension of natural law, but the operation of a higher law.

You can keep the ball moving.  Throw it back to someone who means something to you!

Delta Flight 15

DELTA FLIGHT 15
From a retired Delta Employee.

"On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic.  All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain.  As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that "All Business" look on their faces.  The captain handed me a printed message.  It was from Delta's main office in Atlanta and simply read, "All airways over the continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic.  Land ASAP at the nearest airport.  Advise your destination."

"No one said a word about what this could mean.  We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly.  The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland.  He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately, no questions asked.  We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.

"While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area.  A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings.  We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air.  We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, Newfoundland to have it checked out.  We promised to give more information after landing in Gander.  There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that's nothing new!  Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander.  Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM! . . .. that's 11:00 AM EST.  There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the U.S.

"After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement:  "Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have.  The reality is that we are here for another reason."  Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the U.S.  There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief.  The captain informed passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay put.  The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft.  No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the aircrafts.  Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane.  In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were U.S. commercial jets.

"Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC.  People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada.  Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.  Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash.  By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm.  We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.

"We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time.  At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning.  Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.  Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing.  And they were true to their word.  Fortunately we had no medical situations to worry about.  We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy.  We took REALLY good care of her.  The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

"About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up.  We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.  After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel.  We had no idea where our passengers were going.  We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander!  We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the U.S. airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.  We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV . . . 24 hours after it all started.  Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly.  They started calling us the "plane people."  We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.

"Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport.  Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days.  What we found out was incredible.

"Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places.  They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers.  Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.  ALL high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the "guests."  Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school.  If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged.  Families were kept together.  All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.  Remember that young pregnant lady?  She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility.  There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

"Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day.  During the day, passengers were offered "Excursion" trips.  Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors.  Some went for hikes in the local forests.  Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.  Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools.  People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals.  Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft.  In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.

"Passengers were crying while telling us these stories.  Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late.  The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving.  They coordinated everything beautifully.  It was absolutely incredible.  When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise.  Everyone knew each other by name.  They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time.  Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight.  The crew just stayed out of their way.  It was mind-boggling.  Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.

"And then a very unusual thing happened.  One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system.  We never, ever allow that..  But this time was different.  I said "of course" and handed him the mike.  He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days.  He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers.  He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.  He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number).  The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte.  He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travelers.  When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!  The gentleman, a MD from Virginia, promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship fund.  He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.

"I just wanted to share this story.  It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a far away place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them.  It reminds me how much good there is in the world."  This trust fund is now at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in their college education.

Respect, An Airline Captain's Story

RESPECT, AN AIRLINE CAPTAIN'S STORY

My lead flight attendant came to me and said, "We  have an H.R. on this flight." (H.R. stands for human remains.)  "Are they military?" I  asked.  "Yes",  she said.  "Is  there an escort?" I asked.  "Yes,  I already assigned him a seat."  "Would  you please tell him to come to the flight deck.  You can board him early," I said.

A  short while later, a young army sergeant entered the flight deck.  He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier.  He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier.  The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us.  "My soldier is on his way back to Virginia," he said.  He proceeded to answer my questions, but offered no words.  I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no.  I told him that he had the toughest  job in the military and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers.  The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand.  He left the flight deck to find his seat.

We completed our pre-flight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure.  About  30 minutes into our flight I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin.
"I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying is also on board", she said.  She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home.  The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left.

We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia.  The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear.  He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival.  The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane.  I could hear the desperation in the flight attendant's voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do.  "I'm on  it", I said.  I told her that I would get back to her.

Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail-like messages.  I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a secondary radio.  There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of the dispatcher.  I was in direct contact with the dispatcher.  I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted.  He said he understood and that he would get back to me.

Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher.  We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family.  I sent a text message asking for an update.  I saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text:  "Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you.  There is policy on this now and I had to check on a few things.  Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft.  The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side.  A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family.  The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal where the remains can be seen on the ramp.  It is a private area for the family only.  When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home.  Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans.  Please pass our condolences on to the family.  Thanks."


I sent a message back telling flight control thanks for a good job.  I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father.  The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, "You have no idea how much this will mean to them."

Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing.  After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area.  The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway.  It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit.  When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us.

"There is a team in place to meet the aircraft", we were told.  It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at once and delay the family from getting off the airplane.  As we approached our gate, I asked the copilot to tell the ramp controller we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers.  He did that and the ramp controller said, "Take your time."


I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake.  I pushed the public address button and said,  "Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking.  I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement.  We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect.  His name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life.  Private XXXXXX is under your feet in the cargo hold.  Escorting him today is Army Sergeant XXXXXXX.  Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter.  Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first.  Thank you."

We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures.  A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door.  I  found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see.  I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft.

When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands.  Moments later more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping.  Words of "God  Bless You, I'm sorry, Thank you, Be proud", and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane.  They  were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.  Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made.  They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.


I respectfully ask that all of you reflect on this event and the sacrifices that millions of our men and women have made to ensure our freedom and safety in these United States of AMERICA.

Of all the gifts you could give a Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airman, & others deployed in harm's way, prayer is the very best one.

GOD BLESS YOU!

Dog Rescue at 14,000 Feet

DOG RESCUE AT 14,000 FEET

Good News Network Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Strangers banded together to organize an impromptu rescue yesterday after a couple, climbing Mt. Bierstadt to Mt. Evans in Colorado, found an abandoned german shepherd along a ridge connecting the two 14,000-foot mountains.  Amanda and Scott Washburn gave the dog food and water.  But, suffering with bloody paws, the animal refused to be coaxed into hiking the difficult class-three boulder-filled terrain.  Official search and rescue teams were not an option, as they do not respond to animal calls, so the couple posted the story Saturday along with photos on the local climbing website, 14ers.com.  A concerned team of volunteers returned that night to make the 3-hour climb to the estimated spot but after two hours could not locate her.

Substantial efforts to put together a second rescue party failed on Sunday, but early Monday morning, eight dedicated hikers and climbers - including an experienced climber named Chris O’Riley enlisted by the Colorado group, Animal Help Now - made their way up Bierstadt equipped with a large backpack, food, water and medical supplies, in the hopes of bringing her down.  Their task turned critical when a August blizzard struck while the eight were still atop the ridge.  Finally the team, which included volunteers from local German Shepherd and Husky rescue groups, located Missy, surviving on her own since August 5, when she and her owner were injured and "in over their heads" as a storm hit. 

Dave Crawford, from Animal Help Now, said if it weren't for the Washburns, who found her six days later, the dog would likely have died in the snow that fell yesterday.  "It was really fortunate, because she was off-trail when the Washburns happened upon her.  They really saved her life."  O’Riley called her a "sweet, gentle" dog and said she never wouldn't have gotten out of the boulder field on her own.  They used a tarp to scoop her out of a crevice and carefully piled her into a backpack and hauled the 100-pound dog back down the mountain.

"This was a very powerful event to have participated in," Riley said via email.  "Although many of us were strangers we all banded together and cooperated to pull off this incredible rescue.  It really touched me on a deep level and I feel it affected everyone involved in a similar way."  O'Riley also has advice for pet owners:  Animals can survive for quite some time in adverse conditions.  Don’t give up trying to rescue them and know that total strangers will come forward to help if you need it.

At least six social websites interested in dogs, animal rescue and climbing were involved in this happy ending.  Leaders of several of them have decided it is time to address the need for a comprehensive database that could help in the search and rescue of animals in emergency situations.  The notion became clear to Dave Crawford during the recent fires in Colorado.  His team modified their animal emergency web site to help people affected by wildfires to immediately find locations of animal shelters in their area.  "From our perspective, one happy result is there are discussions underway, including a call today between Animal Help Now and MountainDogs.org regarding how to formalize an animal search and rescue operation."

Chris ORiley, AnimalHelpNow.org already offers free phone apps and a website that provides the Colorado public with a one-stop resource for assistance with virtually any animal emergency, 24 hours a day.  The program immediately connects people involved with animal emergencies with the most appropriate time and location-specific resources and services.  The program is being expanded to include surrounding states.  "Even though our service is sophisticated, it doesn't fill the gaps that exist in animal emergency response," Crawford told the Good News Network.  "We came across a big gap here: We need a search and rescue system for animals - and we'll work with the community to try to fill it.  Certainly 14ers.com could play a big role in that."

The current services ask a user to indicate what kind of animal is being helped (domestic pets, farmed animals, or wildlife) whether the animal is in pain or distress and whether the person can transport the animal.  Coupling this information with the time of day, day of week and the user’s location, Animal Help Now directs the user to appropriate helpers, which include veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, animal shelters, animal control agencies and others.  Animal Help Now, which began in October 2009 when a group of experienced animal and environmental advocates convened in Boulder to discuss the idea of creating such an online database, is a project of Animal Watch, a nonprofit 501-C-3 organization.

From an RN

FROM AN RN

For many years I worked in palliative care.  My patients were those who had gone home to die.  Some incredibly special times were shared.  I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality.  I learned never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth.  Some changes were phenomenal.  Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance.  Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.  Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all.  When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled.  Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.  It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way.  From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late.  Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed.  They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship.  Women also spoke of this regret.  But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners.  All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.  By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do.  And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others.  As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.  Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.  We cannot control the reactions of others.  However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level.  Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down.  Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years.  There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved.  Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.  It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip.  But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away.  People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible.  But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them.  They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love.  Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task.  It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end.  That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one.  Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice.  They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits.  The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives.  Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content.  When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.  When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind.  How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice.  It is YOUR life.  Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly.  Choose happiness.  LET'S LIVE!

Recycling Crayons

RECYCLING CRAYONS

Good News Network Tuesday, August 07, 2012

After a family dinner at a local Outback Steakhouse, Yoni Kalin noticed the waiters tossing into the trash small packs of crayons given out to young diners.  He wondered how many thousands were being thrown out around the country at a time when news reports showed teachers digging into their own pockets to buy school supplies for students.  Inspired to take action, Yoni contacted several Outback Steakhouses to ask if they would collect the used crayons for him to recycle and donate to schools and shelters in need.

In the last several years, the boy, now 18, has coordinated 25 teenage volunteers to collect 100,000 crayons from 46 restaurants in ten states, while simultaneously reducing thousands of pounds of landfill waste.  The project, called Color My World, also distributes an original coloring book designed to teach kids about recycling, while offering the fun of coloring.  "I like to think that our project shows how youth can originate and implement innovative ideas that can make an immediate and meaningful difference," wrote Yoni on their website, www.colormyworldproject.org.

They distribute bins to restaurants, collect the discarded crayons, then sanitize them for reuse.  Yoni has raised approximately $10,000 for his cause, and received a donation from Crayola of 37,000 new crayons.  The Washington, DC native was named one of 15 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes in July and awarded $10,000 in cash and a $7,500 educational scholarship for his outstanding work.

Kmart

ANONYMOUS DONORS PAY OFF KMART LAYAWAY ACCOUNTS
Margery A. Beck, AP, 12-16-2011

In Omaha, Nebraska, a young father stood in line at the Kmart layaway counter, wearing dirty clothes and worn-out boots. With him were three small children.  He asked to pay something on his bill because he knew he wouldn’t be able to afford it all before Christmas. Then a mysterious woman stepped up to the counter.  “She told him, ‘No, I’m paying for it,’” recalled Edna Deppe, assistant manager at the store in Indianapolis.  “He just stood there and looked at her and then looked at me and asked if it was a joke.  I told him it wasn’t, and that she was going to pay for him.  And he just busted out in tears.”

At Kmart stores across the country, Santa seems to be getting some help:  Anonymous donors are paying off strangers’ layaway accounts, buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn’t afford, especially toys and children’s clothes set aside by impoverished parents.

Before she left the store Tuesday evening, the Indianapolis woman in her mid-40s had paid the layaway orders for as many as 50 people.  On the way out, she handed out $50 bills and paid for two carts of toys for a woman in line at the cash register.  “She was doing it in the memory of her husband who had just died, and she said she wasn’t going to be able to spend it and wanted to make people happy with it,” Deppe said.  The woman did not identify herself and only asked people to “remember Ben,” an apparent reference to her husband.  Deppe, who said she’s worked in retail for 40 years, had never seen anything like it.  “It was like an angel fell out of the sky and appeared in our store,” she said.

Most of the donors have done their giving secretly.

Dona Bremser, an Omaha nurse, was at work when a Kmart employee called to tell her that someone had paid off the $70 balance of her layaway account, which held nearly $200 in toys for her 4-year-old son.  “I was speechless,” Bremser said. “It made me believe in Christmas again.”  Dozens of other customers have received similar calls in Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Montana.

The benefactors generally ask to help families who are squirreling away items for young children.  They often pay a portion of the balance, usually all but a few dollars or cents so the layaway order stays in the store’s system.  The phenomenon seems to have begun in Michigan before spreading, Kmart executives said.  “It is honestly being driven by people wanting to do a good deed at this time of the year,” said Salima Yala, Kmart’s division vice president for layaway.

The good Samaritans seem to be visiting mainly Kmart stores, though a Wal-Mart spokesman said a few of his stores in Joplin, Mo., and Chicago have also seen some layaway accounts paid off.  Kmart representatives say they did nothing to instigate the secret Santas or spread word of the generosity.  But it’s happening as the company struggles to compete with chains such as Wal-Mart and Target.

Kmart may be the focus of layaway generosity, Yala said, because it is one of the few large discount stores that has offered layaway year-round for about four decades.  Under the program, customers can make purchases but let the store hold onto their merchandise as they pay it off slowly over several weeks.  

The sad memories of layaways lost prompted at least one good Samaritan to pay off the accounts of five people at an Omaha Kmart, said Karl Graff, the store’s assistant manager.  “She told me that when she was younger, her mom used to set up things on layaway at Kmart, but they rarely were able to pay them off because they just didn’t have the money for it,” Graff said.

He called a woman who had been helped, “and she broke down in tears on the phone with me.  She wasn’t sure she was going to be able to pay off their layaway and was afraid their kids weren’t going to have anything for Christmas.”  “You know, 50 bucks may not sound like a lot, but I tell you what, at the right time, it may as well be a million dollars for some people,” Graff said.

Graff’s store alone has seen about a dozen layaway accounts paid off in the last 10 days, with the donors paying $50 to $250 on each account.  “To be honest, in retail, it’s easy to get cynical about the holidays, because you’re kind of grinding it out when everybody else is having family time,” Graff said. “It’s really encouraging to see this side of Christmas again.”

Lori Stearnes of Omaha also benefited from the generosity of a stranger who paid all but $58 of her $250 layaway bill for toys for her four youngest grandchildren.  Stearnes said she and her husband live paycheck to paycheck, but she plans to use the money she was saving for the toys to help pay for someone else’s layaway.

In Missoula, Mont., a man spent more than $1,200 to pay down the balances of six customers whose layaway orders were about to be returned to a Kmart store’s inventory because of late payments.  Store employees reached one beneficiary on her cellphone at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where her son was being treated for an undisclosed illness.  “She was yelling at the nurses, ‘We’re going to have Christmas after all!’” store manager Josine Murrin said.

A Kmart in Plainfield Township, Mich., called Roberta Carter last week to let her know a man had paid all but 40 cents of her $60 layaway.  Carter, a mother of eight from Grand Rapids, Mich., said she cried upon hearing the news.  She and her family have been struggling as she seeks a full-time job.  “My kids will have clothes for Christmas,” she said.

Angie Torres, a stay-at-home mother of four children under the age of 8, was in the Indianapolis Kmart on Tuesday to make a payment on her layaway bill when she learned the woman next to her was paying off her account.  “I started to cry. I couldn’t believe it,” said Torres, who doubted she would have been able to pay off the balance.  “I was in disbelief. I hugged her and gave her a kiss.”
 

Love This Teacher

LOVE THIS TEACHER

Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten.  On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.

When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.  "Ms. Cothren, where're our desks?"  She replied, "You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk."  They thought, "Well, maybe it's our grades."  "No," she said.  "Maybe it's our behavior."  She told them, "No, it's not even your behavior."  And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period.  Still no desks in the classroom.

By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms. Cothren's classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.  The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the desk-less classroom, Martha Cothren said, "Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you."

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and  opened it.  Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk.  The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall.  By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha said, "You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks.  These heroes did it for you.  They placed the desks here for you.  Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens.  They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don't ever forget it."  This is a true story.  And this teacher was awarded Teacher of the Year for the state of Arkansas in 2006.

Breakfast at McDonalds

BREAKFAST AT McDONALD'S

I am a mother of three (ages 14, 12, 3) and have recently completed my college degree.  The last class I had to take was Sociology.  The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities that I wish every human being had been graced with.  Her last project of the term was called, "Smile."  The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions.

I am a very friendly person and always smile at everyone and say hello anyway.  So I thought this would be a piece of cake, literally.  Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son, and I went out to McDonald's one crisp March morning.  It was just our way of sharing special playtime with our son.  We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then even my husband did.  I did not move an inch.  An overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me as I turned to see why they had moved.

As I turned around I smelled a horrible 'dirty body' smell, and there standing behind me were two poor homeless men.  As I looked down at the short gentleman, close to me, he was 'smiling'.  His beautiful sky blue eyes were full of God's Light as he searched for acceptance.  He said, 'Good day' as he counted the few coins he had been clutching.  The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend.  I realized the second man was mentally challenged and the blue-eyed gentleman was his salvation.

I held my tears as I stood there with them.  The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted.  He said, 'Coffee is all, Miss' because that was all they could afford. (If they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something.  He just wanted to be warm).

Then I really felt it - the compulsion was so great I almost reached out and embraced the little man with the blue eyes.  That is when I noticed all eyes in the restaurant were set on me, judging my every action.  I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray.

I then walked around the corner to the table that the men had chosen as a resting spot.  I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue-eyed gentleman's cold hand.  He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, 'Thank you.'  I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, 'I did not do this for you.. God is here working through me to give you hope.'

I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son.  When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, 'That is why God gave you to me, Honey, to give me hope.'

We held hands for a moment and at that time, we knew that only because of the Grace that we had been given were we able to give.  We are not church goers, but we do believe.  That day showed me the pure Light of God's sweet love.

I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand.  I turned in 'my project' and the instructor read it.  Then she looked up at me and said, 'Can I share this?'  I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class.

She began to read and that is when I knew that we as human beings and being part of God share this need to heal people and to be healed.

In my own way I had touched the people at McDonald's, my son, the instructor, and every soul that shared the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student.  I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn:
UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE.

Much love and compassion is sent to each and every person who may read this and learn how to LOVE PEOPLE AND USE THINGS, not the reverse.

Many people will walk in and out of your life, and true friends will leave footprints in your heart.  

To handle yourself, use your head.  To handle others, use your heart.

An Awesome Tip

AN AWESOME TIP

It began as the simple fulfillment of a dead brother's wish.  But in a moving reminder of the generosity of the human spirit, Aaron Collins' desire to give one waiter "an awesome tip" has raised over $50,000 in donations -- which Aaron's family has now pledged to distribute to surprised waiters and waitresses around the country.

Aaron Collins was three weeks shy of his 30th birthday when he passed away in a Lexington, Kentucky, hospital.  According to the Associated Press, his death was unexpected, with a preliminary coroner's report reporting strangulation as a contributing factor to his death.

Two days later, Aaron's brother Seth wrote a tribute to his brother in a blog post.  "Aaron was the type of person that took great joy in unexpected kindness.  Once after receiving exceptionally bad service at dinner, from a rude waitress, he left her a $50 tip.  Things like this, given or received, were what he thought left a mark on a person’s life.  He had the following request:  “Leave an awesome tip (and I don’t mean 25%.  I mean $500 on a frigging pizza) for a waiter or waitress."  Collins solicited donations in Aaron's memory, adding, "If you can’t donate then please give a generous tip on your own.  Tell the waiter or waitress why, or don’t.  He would still be happy that you had done it.  Give them this website address if you’d like, or write it on the check, so they know they received the gift because of my brother."  The plea, accompanied by a video of Seth handing out the first tip, went viral.  Within days the story was picked up by local television stations and national outlets, including The Huffington Post, CNN and NPR.

Less than a month later Aaron's Wish has collected $51,135 -- and counting -- from donors around the world, many anonymous.  Seth has since distributed three more $500 tips, handed to the shocked servers in stacks of $20 bills.  He said the family has raised almost enough money to distribute a new big tip once a week for the next two years.  The family has been posting videos of the tips on the Aaron's Last Wish Facebook page, as well as on Twitter.  The videos capture the poignant reactions of both tipper and tippee.  Chelsea Powell, the waitress in the second video, is a 21-year-old student at the University of Kentucky who works three jobs to make ends meet, and hopes to become a teacher.  The next waitress, Annie, told Seth Collins that she has a 10-month-old son, and Stephanie, tipped this week, told Collins off camera that she has a 2-year-old.  "The tip will definitely be put to good use," Collins wrote, under the YouTube clip.


John

JOHN
 
John is the kind of guy people love to hate.  He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say.  When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, ‘If I were any better, I would be twins!’  He was a natural motivator.  If an employee was having a bad day, John was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up and asked him, ‘I don’t get it!’  ‘You can’t be a positive person all of the time.  How do you do it?’

He replied, ‘Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today.  You can choose to be in a good mood or…you can choose to be in a bad mood.  I choose to be in a good mood.’  Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or…I can choose to learn from it.  I choose to learn from it.  Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or…I can point out the positive side of life.  I choose the positive side of life.'

‘Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,’ I protested.

‘Yes, it is,’ he said.  ‘Life is all about choices.  When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice.  You choose how you react to situations.  You choose how people affect your mood.  You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood.  The bottom line:  It’s your choice how you live your life.’

I reflected on what he said.  Soon hereafter, I left the Tower Industry to start my own business.  We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

Several years later, I heard that he was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower.  After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, he was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back.  I saw him about six months after the accident.  When I asked him how he was, he replied, ‘If I were any better, I’d be twins…Wanna see my scars?’

I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.  ‘The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon-to-be born daughter,’ he replied.  ‘Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices:  I could choose to live or…I could choose to die.  I chose to live.’  ‘Weren’t you scared?  Did you lose consciousness?’  I asked.  

He continued, ‘…the paramedics were great.  They kept telling me I was going to be fine.  But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared.  In their eyes, I read ‘he’s a dead man’.  I knew I needed to take action.’  ‘What did you do?’ I asked.  ‘Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me,’ said John.  ‘She asked if I was allergic to anything.  ‘Yes, I replied.’  The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply.  I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Gravity.”  Over their laughter, I told them, ‘I am choosing to live.  Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.’

He lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude….I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.  Attitude, after all, is everything.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.’
 
After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
 

Goose and Swans

GOOSE AND SWANS
By Charlotte Edwards

Where we live, on the Eastern shore of Maryland, the gentle waters run in and out like fingers slimming at the tips.  They curl into the smaller creeks and coves like tender palms.  The Canada geese know this place, as do the white swans and the ducks who ride an inch above the waves of Chesapeake Bay as they skim their way into harbor.  In the autumn, by the thousands, they come home for the winter.  The swans move toward the shores in a stately glide, their tall heads proud and unafraid.  They lower their long necks deep into the water, where their strong beaks dig through the river bottoms for food.  And there is, between the arrogant swans and the prolific geese, an indifference, almost a disdain.

Once or twice each year, snow and sleet move into the area.  When this happens, if the river is at its narrowest, or the creek shallow, there is a freeze which hardens the water to ice.  It was on such a morning, near Osford, Maryland, that a friend of mine set the breakfast table beside the huge window, which overlooked the Tred Avon River.  Across the river, beyond the dock, the snow laced the rim of the shore in white.  For a moment she stood quietly, looking at what the night's storm had painted.

Suddenly she leaned forward and peered close to the frosted window.  "It really is," she cried out loud, "there is a goose out there."  She reached to the bookcase and pulled out a pair of binoculars.  Into their sights came the figure of a large Canada goose, very still, its wings folded tight to its sides, its feet frozen to the ice.  Then from the dark skies, she saw a line of swans.  They moved in their own singular formation, graceful, intrepid, and free.  They crossed from the west of the broad creek high above the house, moving steadily to the east.

As my friend watched, the leader swung to the right, then the white string of birds became a white circle.  It floated from the top of the sky downward.  At last, as easy as feathers coming to earth, the circle landed on the ice.  My friend was on her feet now, with one unbelieving hand against her mouth.  As the swans surrounded the frozen goose, she feared what life he still had might be pecked out by those great swan bills.  Instead, amazingly instead, those bills began to work on the ice.  The long necks were lifted and curved down, again and again, it went on for a long time.  At last, the goose was rimmed by a narrow margin of ice instead of the entire creek.  The swans rose again, following the leader, and hovered in that circle, awaiting the results of their labors.

The goose's head lifted.  Its body pulled.  Then the goose was free and standing on the ice.  He was moving his big webbed feet slowly.  And the swans stood in the air watching.  Then, as if he had cried, "I cannot fly," four of the swans came down around him.  Their powerful beaks scraped the goose's wings from top to bottom, scuttled under its wings and rode up its body, chipping off and melting the ice held in the feathers.  Slowly, as if testing, the goose spread its wings as far as they would go, brought them together, accordion-like, and spread again.  When at last the wings reached their fullest, the four swans took off and joined the hovering group.  They resumed their eastward journey, in perfect formation, to their secret destination.  Behind them, rising with incredible speed and joy, the goose moved into the sky.  He followed them, flapping double time, until he caught up, until he joined the last end of the line, like a small child at the end of a crack-the-whip of older boys.  My friend watched them until they disappeared over the tips of the farthest trees.  Only then, in the dusk, which was suddenly deep, did she realize that tears were running down her cheeks and had been for how long she didn't know.

This is a true story.  It happened.  I do not try to interpret it.  I just think of it in the bad moments, and from it comes only one hopeful question:  "If so for birds, why not for man?

Just Stay

 

JUST STAY

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside.  "Your son is here," she said to the old man.  She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened.  Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent.  He reached out his hand.  The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed.  All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man's hand and offering him words of love and strength.  Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile.  He refused.  Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital - the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients.  Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words.  The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse.  While she did what she had to do, he waited.  Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her.

"Who was that man?" he asked.  The nurse was startled, "He was your father," she answered.  "No, he wasn't," the Marine replied. "I never saw him before in my life."  "Then why didn't you say something when I took you to him?"  "I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn't here.  When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed."

I came here tonight to find a Mr. William Grey.  His son was killed in Iraq today, and I was sent to inform him.  What was this gentleman's name?  The nurse with tears in her eyes answered, Mr. William Grey.............

The next time someone needs you ... just be there. Stay.

WE ARE NOT HUMAN BEINGS occasionally having A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE.  WE ARE SPIRITUAL BEINGS having A HUMAN EXPERIENCE.

 

 

Need Washing?

NEED WASHING?

A little girl had been shopping with her Mom in a store.  She must have been 6 years old, this beautiful red-haired, freckle-faced image of innocence.  It was pouring outside.  The kind of rain that gushes over the top of rain gutters, so much in a hurry to hit the earth it has no time to flow down the spout.  We all stood there, under the awning, just inside the door of the WalMart.  We waited, some patiently, others irritated because nature messed up their hurried day.

I am always mesmerized by rainfall.  I get lost in the sound and sight of the heavens washing away the dirt and dust of the world.  Memories of running, splashing so carefree as a child came pouring in as a welcome reprieve from the worries of my day.  Her little voice was so sweet as it broke the hypnotic trance we were all caught in.  "Mom, let's run through the rain," she said.  "What?" Mom asked.  "Let's run through the rain!" she repeated.  "No, honey.  We'll wait until it slows down a bit," Mom replied.

This young child waited a minute and repeated, "Mom, let's run through the rain."  "We'll get soaked if we do," Mom said.  "No, we won't, Mom.  That's not what you said this morning," the young girl said as she tugged at her Mom's arm.  "This morning?  When did I say we could run through the rain and not get wet?"  "Don't you remember? When you were talking to Daddy about his cancer, you said, ' If God can get us through this, He can get us through anything!'"

The entire crowd stopped dead silent.  I swear you couldn't hear anything but the rain.  We all stood silently.  No one left.  Mom paused and thought for a moment about what she would say.

Now some would laugh it off and scold her for being silly.  Some might even ignore what was said.  But this was a moment of affirmation in a young child's life.  A time when innocent trust can be nurtured so that it will bloom into faith.  "Honey, you are absolutely right.  Let's run through the rain.  If God let's us get wet, well maybe we just need washing," Mom said.  Then off they ran.  We all stood watching, smiling and laughing as they darted past the cars and yes, through the puddles.  They got soaked.  They were followed by a few who screamed and laughed like children all the way to their cars.  And yes, I did.  I ran.  I got wet.  I needed washing.

Circumstances or people can take away your material possessions, they can take away your money, and they can take away your health.  But no one can ever take away your precious memories.  To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.  I hope you still take time to run through the rain.

Anitas Story

ANITA'S STORY
(from Fred Burks for PEERS and the WantToKnow.info Team)

I had cancer (Hodgkin's Lymphoma), and on this fateful morning, I could not move.  My husband rushed me to hospital.  After doing scans, they diagnosed me with grade 4B lymphoma (the highest grade).  The senior oncologist looked at my report and told my husband that it was too late, that my organs were now shutting down.  I only had 36 hours to live.  The oncologist said he would do whatever he could, but prepared my husband that I would most likely not make it, as my organs were no longer functioning.


They started me on a chemotherapy drip as well as oxygen.  Then they started to take tests to determine what drugs to use.  I was drifting in and out of consciousness during this time.  I could feel my spirit actually leaving my body.  I saw and heard the conversations between my husband and the doctors taking place outside my room, about 40 feet away down a hallway. I was later able to verify this conversation with my shocked husband.

Then I actually "crossed over" to another dimension.  I was engulfed in a total feeling of love.  I also experienced extreme clarity of why I had the cancer, why I had come into this life in the first place, what role everyone in my family played in my life in the grand scheme of things, and how life works in general.  The clarity and understanding I obtained in this state is almost indescribable.  Words cannot describe the experience.  I was at a place where I understood how much more there is than what we are able to conceive in our three-dimensional world.  I realized what a gift life is, and that I was surrounded by loving spiritual beings, who were always around me even when I did not know it.

The amount of love I felt was overwhelming.  From this perspective, I knew how powerful I am and saw the amazing possibilities we as humans are capable of achieving during a physical life.  I found out that if I survived, my purpose now would be to live "heaven on earth" using this new understanding, and also to share this knowledge with other people. However I had the choice of whether to come back into life, or go towards death.  I was made to understand that it was not my time, but I always had the choice.  And if I chose death, I would not be experiencing a lot of the gifts that the rest of my life still held in store.

One of the things I wanted to know was that if I chose life, would I have to come back to this sick body, because my body was very, very sick and the organs had stopped functioning.  I was then made to understand that if I chose life, my body would heal very quickly.  I would see a difference in not months or weeks, but days!  I was shown how illnesses start on an energetic level before they become physical.  If I chose to go into life, the cancer would be gone from my energy, and my physical body would catch up very quickly.  I then understood that when people have medical treatments for illnesses, it rids the illness only from their body but not from their energy, so the illness often returns.

I realized if I went back, I would return with a very healthy energy.  My physical body would catch up to the energetic conditions very quickly and permanently.  I was given the understanding that this applies to anything, not only illnesses, but physical conditions, psychological conditions, etc.  I was "shown" that everything going on in our lives is dependent on this energy around us, created by us.  Nothing is solid.  We create our surroundings, our conditions, etc. depending on where this "energy" is at.  The clarity I received around how we get what we do was phenomenal!  It's all about where we are energetically.  I was made to feel that I was going to see "proof" of this first hand if I returned back to my body.

I was drifting in and out between the two worlds.  Every time I drifted into the "other side", I was shown more and more scenes.  There was one which showed how my life had touched all the people I had come in contact with.  It was sort of like a tapestry and showed how I affected everyone's lives around me.  There was another which showed my brother on a plane, having heard the news I was dying, coming to see me (this was later verified to me, as when I started to come round, my brother was there having just got off a plane).

I then saw a glimpse of my brother and me and somehow seemed to understand it was a previous life, where I was much older than he and was like a mother to him (in this life, he is older than me).  I saw in that life I was very protective towards him.  I suddenly became aware he was on the plane to come and see me, and felt "I can't do this to him.  I can't let him come and see me dead".  Then I also saw how my husband's purpose was linked to mine, and how we had decided to come and experience this life together.  If I went, he would probably follow soon after.

I was made to understand – as tests had been taken for my organ functions and the results were not out yet – that if I chose life, the results would show that my organs were functioning normally.  If I chose death, the results would show organ failure as the cause of death, due to cancer.  I was able to change the outcome of the tests by my choice!

I made my choice to live.  As I started to wake up (in a very confused state, as I could not at that time tell which side of the veil I was on), the doctors came rushing into the room with big smiles on their faces saying to my family, "Good news! We got the results and her organs are functioning.  We can't believe it!!  Her body really did seem like it had shut down!"

After that, I began to recover rapidly.  The doctors waited for me to become stable enough to do a lymph node biopsy to track the type of cancer cells.  Once completed, they could not find a single lymph node big enough to suggest cancer.  Yet upon entering the hospital my body had been filled with swollen lymph nodes.  They then did a bone marrow biopsy to assess the cancer activity so that they could adjust the chemotherapy according to the disease.  Yet there wasn't any cancer in the bone marrow.  The doctors were very confused, but told me it must have been a rapid response to the chemo. Because they themselves were unable to understand what was going on, they made me undergo test after test, all of which I passed with flying colors.  Clearing every test empowered me even more!  I had a full body scan, and because they couldn't believe they didn't find anything, they made the radiologist repeat it again!!!!

Because of my experience, I am now sharing with everyone I know that miracles are possible in our lives every day.  After what I have seen, I realize that absolutely anything is possible, and that we did not come here to suffer.  Life is supposed to be great, and we are very, very loved.  The way I look at life has changed dramatically.  I am so glad to have been given a second chance to experience "heaven on earth".
 

We Are All One

WE ARE ALL ONE

 

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm.  Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride.

Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.  A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960's.  The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.  She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him.

 

Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door.  To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home.  A special note was attached.  It read:

"Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night.  The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits.  Then you came along.  Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's' bedside just before he passed away.  God Bless you for helping me and
unselfishly serving others."

Sincerely,
Mrs. Nat King Cole

Birdies

THE BIRDIES ~ A DAD'S STORY

On July 22nd I was in route to Washington DC for a business trip.  It was all so very ordinary, until we landed in Denver for a plane change.  As I collected my belongings from the overhead bin, an announcement was made for Mr. Lloyd Glenn to see the United Customer Service Representative immediately.  I thought nothing of it until I reached the door to leave the plane and I heard a gentleman asking every male if he were Mr. Glenn.  At this point I knew something was wrong and my heart sunk.

When I got off the plane, a solemn-faced young man came toward me and said, "Mr.Glenn, there is an emergency at your home.  I do not know what the emergency is, or who is involved, but I will take you to the phone so you can call the hospital."

My heart was now pounding, but the will to be calm took over.  Woodenly, I followed this stranger to the distant telephone where I called the number he gave me for the Mission Hospital.  My call was put through to the trauma center where I learned that my three-year-old son had been trapped underneath the automatic garage door for several minutes and that when my wife had found him he was dead.  CPR had been performed by a neighbor, who is a doctor, and the paramedics had continued the treatment as Brian was transported to the hospital.

By the time of my call, Brian was revived and they believed he would live, but they did not know how much damage had been done to his brain, nor to his heart.  They explained that the door had completely closed on his little sternum right over his heart.  He had been severely crushed.  After speaking with the medical staff, my wife sounded worried but not hysterical, and I took comfort in her calmness.

The return flight seemed to last forever, but finally I arrived at the hospital six hours after the garage door had come down. When I walked into the intensive care unit, nothing could have prepared me to see my little son lying so still on a great big bed with tubes and monitors everywhere.  He was on a respirator.  I glanced at my wife who stood and tried to give me a reassuring smile.  It all seemed like a terrible dream.  I was filled in with the details and given a guarded prognosis.  Brian was going to live and the preliminary tests indicated that his heart was OK, two miracles in and of themselves - but only time would tell if his brain received any damage.

Throughout the seemingly endless hours, my wife was calm.  She felt that Brian would eventually be all right.  I hung on to her words and faith like a lifeline.  All that night and the next day Brian remained unconscious.  It seemed like forever since I had left for my business trip the day before.

Finally at two o'clock that afternoon, our son regained consciousness and sat up uttering the most beautiful words I have ever heard spoken.  He said, "Daddy, hold me" and he reached for me with his little arms.

By the next day he was pronounced as having no neurological or physical deficits, and the story of his miraculous survival spread throughout the hospital.  You cannot imagine, when we took Brian home, we felt a unique reverence for the life and love of our Heavenly Father that comes to those who brush death so closely.

In the days that followed, there was a special spirit about our home.  Our two older children were much closer to their little brother.  My wife and I were much closer to each other, and all of us were very close as a whole family.  Life took on a less stressful pace.  Perspective seemed to be more focused and balance much easier to gain and maintain.  We felt deeply blessed.  Our gratitude was truly profound.

The story is not over (smile)!

Almost a month later to the day of the accident, Brian awoke from his afternoon nap and said, "Sit down Mommy.  I have something to tell you."  At this time in his life, Brian usually spoke in small phrases so to say a large sentence surprised my wife.  She sat down with him on his bed, and he began his sacred and remarkable story.

"Do you remember when I got stuck under the garage door? Well, it was so heavy and it hurt really bad.  I called to you but you couldn't hear me.  I started to cry, but then it hurt too bad and then the 'birdies' came."  "The birdies?" my wife asked puzzled.  "Yes," he replied. "The birdies made a whooshing sound and flew into the garage. They took care of me."  "They did?"  "Yes," he said. "One of the birdies came and got you.  She came to tell you, "I got stuck under the door."  A sweet reverent feeling filled the room.  The spirit was so strong and yet lighter than air.  My wife realized that a three-year-old had no concept of death and spirits, so he was referring to the beings who came to him from beyond as "birdies" because they were up in the air like birds that fly.

"What did the birdies look like?" she asked.  Brian answered, "They were so beautiful.  They were dressed in white, all white.  Some of them had green and white.  But some of them had on just white." "Did they say anything?"  "Yes," he answered. "They told me the baby would be all right."  "The baby?" my wife asked confused.  Brian answered, "The baby lying on the garage floor."  He went on, "You came out and opened the garage door and ran to the baby.  You told the baby to stay and not leave."

My wife nearly collapsed upon hearing this, for she had indeed gone and knelt beside Brian's body and seeing his crushed chest whispered, "Don't leave us Brian, please stay if you can."  As she listened to Brian telling her the words she had spoken, she realized that the spirit had left his body and was looking down from above on this little lifeless form.  "Then what happened?" she asked.

"We went on a trip," he said, "far, far away."  He grew agitated trying to say the things he didn't seem to have the words for.  My wife tried to calm and comfort him, and let him know it would be okay.  He struggled with wanting to tell something that obviously was very important to him, but finding the words was difficult.

"We flew so fast up in the air.  They're so pretty Mommy," he added.  "And there are lots and lots of birdies."  My wife was stunned.  Into her mind the sweet comforting spirit enveloped her more soundly, but with an urgency she had never before known.  Brian went on to tell her that the "birdies" had told him that he had to come back and tell everyone about the "birdies."  He said they brought him back to the house and that a big fire truck and an ambulance were there.  A man was bringing the baby out on a white bed and he tried to tell the man that the baby would be okay.  The story went on for an hour.

He taught us that "birdies" were always with us, but we don't see them because we look with our eyes and we don't hear them because we listen with our ears.  But they are always there, you can only see them in here (he put his hand over his heart).  They whisper the things to help us to do what is right because they love us so much.  Brian continued, stating, "I have a plan, Mommy.  You have a plan.  Daddy has a plan.  Everyone has a plan.  We must all live our plan and keep our promises.  The birdies help us to do that cause they love us so much."

In the weeks that followed, he often came to us and told all, or part of it, again and again.  Always the story remained the same.  The details were never changed or out of order.  A few times he added further bits of information and clarified the message he had already delivered.  It never ceased to amaze us how he could tell such detail and speak beyond his ability when he talked about his birdies.

Everywhere he went, he told strangers about the "birdies."  Surprisingly, no one ever looked at him strangely when he did this.  Rather, they always got a softened look on their face and smiled.  Needless to say, we have not been the same ever since that day, and I pray we never will be.

All Are Significant

ALL ARE SIGNIFICANT

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz.  I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one.

"What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"

Surely this was some kind of joke.  I had seen the cleaning woman several times.  She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name?  I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely, " said the professor.  "In your careers, you will meet many people.  All are significant.  They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say "hello."

I've never forgotten that lesson.  I also learned her name was Dorothy.

Who Is A Teacher

WHO IS A TEACHER?

From A School Principal's speech at a graduation..

He said,  "Doctor wants his child to become a doctor.........
Engineer wants his child to become engineer......
Businessman wants his ward to become CEO.....
BUT a teacher also wants his child to become one of them..!!!!
Nobody wants to become a teacher BY CHOICE" ....Very sad but that's the truth.....!!!

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.  One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education.  He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"  To stress his point he said to another guest:  "You're a teacher, Bonnie.  Be honest. What do you make?"

Teacher Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make?  (She paused for a second, then began...)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.  I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.  I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 min. without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

"You want to know what I make?"  She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.

"I make kids wonder.  I make them question.  I make them apologize and mean it.  I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.  I teach them how to write and then I make them write.  Keyboarding isn't everything.  I make them read, read, read.  I make them show all their work in math.  They use their God-given brain, not the man-made calculator.  I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

"I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.  Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life."

Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.  "Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant.  You want to know what I make?

"I MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN ALL YOUR LIVES, EDUCATING KIDS AND PREPARING THEM TO BECOME CEOs, AND DOCTORS AND ENGINEERS.........."

"What do you make, Mr. CEO?"
 

Prisoners Help Save Endangered Butterfly

PRISONERS HELP SAVE ENDANGERED BUTTERFLY AND EVERYONE WINS

Good News Network Aug 28 2012
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Aaron Barna.  Posted on behalf of Ed Yong.

At the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair, Washington, inmates are helping to save the endangered Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori).  Under the supervision of guards and graduate students, a small group of prisoners is breeding the beautiful orange-and-white insects in a greenhouse outside the prison.  They have even carried out research to show what plants the butterfly prefers to lay its eggs on — information that will be crucial for boosting its dwindling numbers.

These efforts are part of the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP), the brainchild of Nalini Nadkarni of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. “A lot of her work is about coming down from the ivory tower and involving under-served audiences in science,” says Dennis Aubrey, a student who works in the Checkerspot initiative.  He spoke about the project at the 2012 Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon.  The SPP works with prisons throughout Washington, and treats the inmates as collaborators rather than labourers.  They apply for the positions and get training, education and a small wage.  Together, they have helped to conserve endangered butterflies, frogs, flowering plants and moss.

Prisons may seem to be an unorthodox location for conservation work, but Carri LeRoy, project co-director of the SPP, says:  “There’s a lot of clean, controlled space, and people with time on their hands, looking to do something valuable and change their lives.”  “Most people are in the prison yard talking about who did them wrong,” says Aubrey.  “Then, all of a sudden, guards will tell us they hear people saying, ‘Hey did you see how that moss was growing?’ ”

The women in the Checkerspot project have already reintroduced more than 800 of the butterflies into the wild, and raised more than 3,600 caterpillars for next year’s release.  The Taylor’s Checkerspot is found in just four small populations in Washington and Oregon, and it now lays its eggs on plantain, an introduced species.  No one knew what the butterfly’s original host plants were.  The inmates found out by allowing the adults to choose between three candidates and showed that they prefer to lay eggs on two native species — the harsh paintbrush and golden paintbrush — rather than the exotic plantain.  The golden paintbrush might be the butterfly’s original host, but it is also threatened.  With the information from the inmates’ project, efforts to conserve both the plant and the butterfly could be combined.  “That would eliminate the need to plant the exotic plantain at reintroduction sites,” says Aubrey.  When the results are finally published, the inmates will be contributing authors on the paper.

Meanwhile, prisoners at the Stafford Creek Correctional Center have been raising 40 species of endangered prairie plants for planting all over the state.  In the process, they found that several species germinate better after being grown in smoke-infused water, which mimics the fires that the plants experience in the wild.  Other prisoners at Cedar Creek Corrections Center are rearing the endangered Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa).  For 3 years running, they have been voted the best rearing facility in the state, surpassing the zoos that trained them in the size and health of the frogs they raise.  “They’re adaptively changing the protocols, and providing information to the restoration community of tweaks that would increase success,” said LeRoy.

LeRoy also presented preliminary evidence that the SPP was helping to reduce the rates of recidivism among the inmates.  Of the 238 prisoners who attended a single lecture and were later released, only two returned to prison within a year — a rate of 0.8%, compared to the usual average of 10.4%.  Of the 78 prisoners who took part in actual conservation work, 18 have been released, none have re-offended and one-third are employed.  LeRoy cautions that these numbers are small, given the low number of people who have been through the program.  But it is clear to her that the inmates are learning new skills and are empowered by actively contributing to society.

Others benefit too.  Graduate students get management experience on a real conservation project.  Conservation partners learn how to better breed their target species.  The Department of Corrections saves money because recidivism goes down, as do violent infractions within the prison walls.  And local media coverage has “improved public perception of prisons”, says LeRoy, by changing the way people see prisoners and what they can do.  “It’s win-win-win-win-win.”


Friends

FRIENDS

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school.  His name was Kyle.  It looked like he was carrying all of his books.  I thought to myself, 'Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday?  He must really be a nerd.'

I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.

As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him.  They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt.  His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him.  He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.  My heart went out to him.  So, I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.  As I handed him his glasses, I said, 'Those guys are jerks.'  They really should get lives.

'He looked at me and said, 'Hey thanks!'  There was a big smile on his face.  It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.  I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived.  As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before.  He said he had gone to private school before now.

I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.  We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books.  He turned out to be a pretty cool kid.  I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends.  He said yes.  We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again.  I stopped him and said, 'Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!'  He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends.  When we were seniors we began to think about college.  Kyle decided on Georgetown and I was going to Duke.  I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem.  He was going to be a doctor and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class.  I teased him all the time about being a nerd.  He had to prepare a speech for graduation.  I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak.

Graduation day, I saw Kyle.  He looked great.  He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school.  He filled out and actually looked good in glasses.  He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him.  Boy, sometimes I was jealous!

Today was one of those days.  I could see that he was nervous about his speech.  So, I smacked him on the back and said, 'Hey, big guy, you'll be great!'  He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled.  'Thanks,' he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began.  'Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years.  Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach...but mostly your friends...  I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.'

"I am going to tell you a story.'  I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told about the first day we met.  He had planned to kill himself over the weekend.  He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home.  He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.

"Thankfully, I was saved.  My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable..'

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment.  I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile.  Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions.  With one small gesture you can change a person's life.  For better or for worse.

God puts us all in each others lives to impact one another in some way.

Jasmine

JASMINE

In 2003, police in Warwickshire, England, opened a garden shed and found a whimpering, cowering dog.  The dog had been locked in the shed and abandoned.  It was dirty and malnourished, and had quite clearly been abused.  In an act of kindness, the police took the dog, which was a female greyhound, to the Nuneaton Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary, which is run by a man named Geoff Grewcock, and known as a haven for animals abandoned, orphaned, or otherwise in need.

Geoff and the other sanctuary staff went to work with two aims:  to restore the dog to full health, and to win her trust.  It took several weeks, but eventually both goals were achieved.  They named her Jasmine, and they started to think about finding her an adoptive home.  Jasmine, however, had other ideas.  No one quite remembers how it came about, but Jasmine started welcoming all animal arrivals at the sanctuary.  It would not matter if it were a puppy, a fox cub, a rabbit or, any other lost or hurting animal.  Jasmine would just peer into the box or cage and, when and where possible, deliver a welcoming lick.

Geoff relates one of the early incidents.  "We had two puppies that had been abandoned by a nearby railway line.  One was a Lakeland Terrier cross and another was a Jack Russell Doberman cross.  They were tiny when they arrived at the center, and Jasmine approached them and grabbed one by the scruff of the neck in her mouth and put him on the settee.  Then she fetched the other one and sat down with them, cuddling them.  But she is like that with all of our animals, even the rabbits.  She takes all the stress out of them, and it helps them to not only feel close to her, but to settle into their new surroundings.  She has done the same with the fox and badger cubs, she licks the rabbits and guinea pigs, and even lets the birds perch on the bridge of her nose."

Jasmine, the timid, abused, deserted waif, became the animal sanctuary's resident surrogate mother, a role for which she might have been born.  The list of orphaned and abandoned youngsters she has cared for comprises five fox cubs, four badger cubs, fifteen chicks, eight guinea pigs, two stray puppies and fifteen rabbits - and one roe deer fawn.  Tiny Bramble, eleven weeks old, was found semi-conscious in a field.  Upon arrival at the sanctuary, Jasmine cuddled up to her to keep her warm, and then went into the full foster-mum role.  Jasmine the greyhound showers Bramble the roe deer with affection, and makes sure nothing is matted.  "They are inseparable," says Geoff.  "Bramble walks between her legs, and they keep kissing each other.  They walk together round the sanctuary.  It's a real treat to see them."

Jasmine will continue to care for Bramble until she is old enough to be returned to woodland life.  When that happens, Jasmine will not be lonely.  She will be too busy showering love and affection on the next orphan or victim of abuse.

What You Scatter

WHAT YOU SCATTER, NOT WHAT YOU GATHER
 
I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes.  I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas.  I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes.
 
Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store owner) and the ragged boy next to me.  "Hello Barry, how are you today?"  "H'lo, Mr. Miller.  Fine, thank ya.  Jus' admirin' them peas.  They sure look good."  "They are good, Barry.  How's your Ma?'"  "Fine.  Gittin' stronger alla' time." "Good.  Anything I can help you with?" "No, Sir.  Jus' admirin' them peas." "Would you like to take some home?" asked Mr. Miller.  "No, Sir.  Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with."  "Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"  "All I got's my prize marble here."  "Is that right?  Let me see it," said Miller. "Here 'tis.  She's a dandy."  "I can see that.  Hmm mmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red.  Do you have a red one like this at home?" the store owner asked.  "Not zackley but almost."  "Tell you what.  Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble," Mr. Miller told the boy.  "Sure will.  Thanks Mr. Miller."

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me.  With a smile she said, "There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances.  Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever.  When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, when they come on their next trip to the store."

I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man.  A short time later I moved to Colorado , but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles.

Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one.  Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died.  They were having his visitation that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.  Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.

Ahead of us in line were three young men.  One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts, all very professional looking.  They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's casket.  Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket.  Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket.  Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller.  I told her who I was and reminded her of the story from those many years ago and what she had told me about her husband's bartering for marbles.  With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.  "Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about.  They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim 'traded' them.  Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size....they came to pay their debt."  "We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world," she confided, "but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho."  With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband.  Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind deeds.

Today I wish you a day of ordinary miracles ~ A fresh pot of coffee you didn't make yourself...
An unexpected phone call from an old friend.... Green lights on your way to work....
The fastest line at the grocery store....A good sing-along song on the radio...
Your keys found right where you left them.

Magnolias

MAGNOLIAS

I was getting ready for my daughter's June wedding which was taking place in a church about forty miles away, and felt loaded with responsibilities as I watched my budget dwindle.  So many details, so many bills, and so little time.  My son Jack said he would walk his younger sister down the aisle, taking the place of his dad who had died a few years before.  He teased Patsy, saying he'd wanted to give her away since she was about three years old!

To save money, I gathered blossoms from several friends who had large magnolia trees.  Their luscious, creamy-white blooms and slick green leaves would make beautiful arrangements against the rich dark wood inside the church.  The big day arrived - the busiest day of my life - and while her bridesmaids helped Patsy to dress, her fiancé Tim walked with me to the sanctuary to do a final check.  When we opened the door and felt a rush of hot air, I almost fainted.  And then I saw them - all the beautiful white flowers were black.  Funeral black.  An electrical storm during the night had knocked out the air conditioning system, and on that hot summer day, the flowers had wilted and died.

I panicked, knowing I didn't have time to drive back to our hometown, gather more flowers, and return in time for the wedding and I certainly didn't have extra money to buy a new set from the florist in town.  Tim turned to me.  "Edna, can you get more flowers?  I'll throw away these
dead ones and put fresh flowers in these arrangements."  I mumbled, "Sure," as he be-bopped down the hall to put on his cuff links.

Alone in the large sanctuary, I looked up at the dark wooden beams in the arched ceiling.  "Lord," I prayed, "please help me.  I don't know anyone in this town.  Help me find someone willing to give me flowers - in a hurry!"  I scurried out praying for the blessing of white magnolias.  As I left the church, I saw magnolia trees in the distance.  I approached a house.... no dog in sight.... knocked on the door and an older man answered.  So far so good.  No shotgun.  When I stated my plea the man beamed.  "I'd be happy to!"  He climbed a stepladder and cut large boughs and handed them down to me.  Minutes later, as I lifted the last armload into my car trunk, I said, "Sir, you've made the mother of a bride happy today."

"No, Ma'am," he said.  "You don't understand what's happening here."  "What?" I asked.  "You see, my wife of sixty-seven years died on Monday.  On Tuesday I received friends at the funeral home, and on Wednesday....."  He paused.  I saw tears welling up in his eyes.  "On Wednesday I buried her."  He looked away.  "On Thursday most of my out-of-town relatives went back home, and on Friday - yesterday - my children left."  I nodded.  "This morning," he continued, "I was sitting in my den crying out loud.  I miss her so much.  For the last sixteen years, as her health got worse, she needed me.  But now nobody needs me.  This morning I cried, 'Who needs an eighty-six-year-old wore-out man?  Nobody!'  I began to cry louder.  'Nobody needs me!'"

"About that time, you knocked, and said, 'Sir, I need you.'"  I stood with my mouth open.  He asked, "Are you an angel?"  I assured him I was no angel.  He smiled.  "Do you know what I was thinking when I handed you those magnolias?"  "No."  "I decided I'm needed.  My flowers are needed.  Why, I might have a flower ministry!  I could give them to everyone!  Some caskets at the funeral home have no flowers.  People need flowers at times like that and I have lots of them.  They're all over the backyard!  I can give them to hospitals, churches, all sorts of places.  You know what I'm going to do?  I'm going to serve the Lord until the day He calls me home!"

I drove back to the church, filled with wonder.  On Patsy's wedding day, if anyone had asked me to encourage someone who was hurting, I would have said, "Forget it!  It's my only daughter's wedding, for goodness' sake!  There is no way I can minister to anyone today."  But God found a way.  Through dead flowers.  "Life is not the way it's supposed to be.  It's the way it is.  The way you cope with it is what makes
the difference."

Daffodil Principle

 

THE DAFFODIL PRINCIPLE

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come to see the daffodils before they are over."  I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead.  "I will come next Tuesday", I promised a little reluctantly on her third call.   Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy.  Still, I had promised, and reluctantly I drove there.  When I finally walked into Carolyn's house I was welcomed by the joyful sounds of happy children.  I delightedly hugged and greeted my grandchildren.

"Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in these clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see badly enough to drive another inch!" My daughter smiled calmly and said, "We drive in this all the time, Mother."  "Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears, and then I'm heading for home!" I assured her. "But first we're going to see the daffodils.  It's just a few blocks," Carolyn said.  "I'll drive.  I'm used to this." "Carolyn," I said sternly, "please turn around."  "It's all right, Mother, I promise.  You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church.  On the far side of the church, I saw a hand lettered sign with an arrow that read, "Daffodil Garden."  We got out of the car, each took a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path.  Then, as we turned a corner, I looked up and gasped.  Before me lay the most glorious sight.


It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and its surrounding slopes.  The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, creamy white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, and saffron and butter yellow.  Each different-colored variety was planted in large groups so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue.  There were five acres of flowers.

"Who did this?" I asked Carolyn.  "Just one woman," Carolyn answered.  "She lives on the property.  That's her home."  Carolyn pointed to a well-kept, A-frame house, small and modestly sitting in the midst of all that glory.  We walked up to the house. On the patio, we saw a poster.  "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking", was the headline.  The first answer was a simple one.  "50,000 bulbs," it read.  The second answer was, "One at a time, by one woman.  Two hands, two feet, and one brain."  The third answer was, "Began in 1958."

For me, that moment was a life-changing experience.  I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than forty years before, had begun, one bulb at a time, to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountaintop.  Planting one bulb at a time, year after year, this unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived.  One day at a time, she had created something of extraordinary magnificence, beauty, and inspiration.

The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration.  That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time--often just one baby-step at a time--and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time.  When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things.  We can change the world.....

"It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn.  "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five or forty years ago and had worked away at it 'one bulb at a time' through all those years?  Just think of what I might have been able to achieve."  My daughter summed up her message of the day in her usual direct way.  "Start tomorrow," she said.

She was right.  It's so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays.  The way to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, "How can I put this to use today?"

Use the Daffodil Principle.  Stop waiting.....
Until your car or home is paid off
Until you get a new car or home Until your kids leave the house
Until you go back to school
Until you finish school
Until you clean the house
Until you organize the garage
Until you clean off your desk
Until you lose 10 lbs.
Until you gain 10 lbs.
Until you get married
Until you get a divorce
Until you have kids
Until the kids go to school
Until you retire
Until summer
Until spring
Until winter
Until fall
Until you die...

There is no better time than right now to be happy.  Happiness is a journey, not a destination.  So work like you don't need the money.  Love like you've never been hurt.  Dance like no one's watching.

Wishing you a beautiful, daffodil day!

 

Random Acts of Flowers

RANDOM ACTS OF FLOWERS

Good News Network Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Larsen Jay is a man who knows the power of flowers and the joy they can bring.  After falling from a ladder, Larsen was confined to a hospital bed and had to endure a long and painful recovery.  Fortunately, he received many visitors and cards.  The attention and outpouring did wonders for his mood.  His hospital room was filled with flowers.  The explosion of color and fragrance brightened his day and his hospital confinement.

Sadly, many of the other hospital rooms in Knoxville, Tennessee were entirely bare of flowers.  His solution was to go back to his own room, remove the cards from his bouquets and give them away to flower-less rooms on the ward.  The reaction he received from this simple gesture was overwhelming.  Thus, Random Acts of Flowers was born.

Along with a team of volunteers, Larsen collects flowers from grocery stores, weddings, funerals and other events where they would otherwise be thrown away.  In the small donated space of an old warehouse, the flowers are sorted at the Random Acts of Flowers headquarters.  Nothing is left to waste.  Everything is re-purposed.  Even the dead flowers are used for compost.  No bouquet is given as it is collected; it is always lovingly re-arranged by the passionate volunteers.  The volunteers range from former florists to people with no experience.  Often they are patients who pledged, after receving bouquets, to volunteer themselves one day.  Deliveries go out to nursing homes, hospitals and hospices - anywhere flowers might bring cheer to someone's day.

Larsen hopes that Random Acts of Kindness will be reproduced in communities across the country, and abroad.  "There are always flowers being thrown away," Larsen says.  "And there are always sick people who could use them."

Regular People

ANGELS AND REGULAR PEOPLE

"Friends are God's way of taking care of us."  This was written by a Metro Denver Hospice Physician.

I just had one of the MOST amazing experiences of my life and wanted to share it with my dearest friends.

I was driving home from a meeting this evening about 5, stuck in traffic on Colorado Blvd., and the car started to choke and splutter and die – I barely managed to coast into a gas station, glad only that I would not be blocking traffic and would have a somewhat warm spot to wait for the tow truck.  It wouldn't even turn over.  Before I could make the call, I saw a woman walking out of the "quickie mart" building, and it looked like she slipped on some ice and fell into a gas pump, so I got out to see if she was okay.  When I got there, it looked more like she had been overcome by sobs than that she had fallen; she was a young woman who looked really haggard with dark circles under her eyes.  She dropped something as I helped her up, and I picked it up to give it to her.  It was a nickel.  At that moment, everything came into focus for me: the crying woman, the ancient suburban crammed full of stuff with 3 kids in the back (1 in a car seat), and the gas pump reading $4.95.  I asked her if she was okay and if she needed help, and she just kept saying, "I don't want my kids to see me crying," so we stood on the other side of the pump from her car.  She said she was driving to California and that things were very hard for her right now.  So I asked, "And you were praying?"  That made her back away from me a little, but I assured her I was not a crazy person and said, "He heard you, and He sent me."

I took out my card and swiped it through the card reader on the pump so she could fill up her car completely, and while it was fueling, walked next door to McDonald's and bought 2 big bags of food, some gift certificates for more, and a big cup of coffee.  She gave the food to the kids in the car, who attacked it like wolves, and we stood by the pump eating fries and talking a little.

She told me her name, and that she lived in Kansas City.  Her boyfriend left 2 months ago and she had not been able to make ends meet.  She knew she wouldn't have money to pay rent Jan 1, and finally in desperation had finally called her parents, with whom she had not spoken in about 5 years.  They lived in California and said she could come live with them and try to get on her feet there.  So she packed up everything she owned in the car.  She told the kids they were going to California for Christmas, but not that they were going to live there.  I gave her my gloves, a little hug and said a quick prayer with her for safety on the road.  As I was walking over to my car, she said, "So, are you like an angel or something?"  This definitely made me cry. I said, "Sweetie, at this time of year angels are really busy, so sometimes God uses regular people."

It was so incredible to be a part of someone else's miracle.  And of course, you guessed it, when I got in my car it started right away and got me home with no problem.  I'll put it in the shop tomorrow to check, but I suspect the mechanic won't find anything wrong.

Sometimes the angels fly close enough to you that you can hear the flutter of their wings...

Two Choices

TWO CHOICES

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that  would never be forgotten by all who attended.  After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:

"When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection.  Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do.  He cannot understand things as other children do.  Where is the natural order of things in my son?"  The  audience was stilled by the query.  The father continued.  "I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child."

Then he told the following story.  "Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing  baseball.  Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?'  I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.  I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play.  The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning.  I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'  Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt.  I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart.  The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.

"In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.  In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field.  Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the  stands.  In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again.  Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at  bat.

"At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?  Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat.  Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.  However, as Shay stepped up to the plate the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.  The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.  The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.  As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.  The game would now be over.

"The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.  Shay would have been out and that  would have been the end of the game.  Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. 
Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first!  Run to first!'  Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.  He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and  startled.  Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'  Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.  By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball.  The  smallest guy on their team now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.  He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.  Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.  All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'.  Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third!  Shay,  run to third!'  As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run  home! Run home!'  Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his  team.  That day (said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face) the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world.

"Shay didn't make it to another summer.  He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!"

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them.  May your day be a Shay Day!

Hidalgo

HEALTH CARE IN HIDALGO

Who would've thought that in the moral morass of what is now called the health "industry," the flower of social responsibility could still bloom?

The industry is controlled by insurance middlemen, HMO chains, and rip-off drug makers - all putting profits over patients.  The industry's lobbyists impose public policies that leave 47,000,000 of our fellow Americans with no health plan whatsoever, while tens of millions more hold miserly plans that provide very little balm in times of need.  The industry has created such a screwed-up system that we Americans spend more each year on health care ($6,280 per capita) than people in any other country, yet the treatment we get ranks a pathetic 37th in the world.


But there's good news: rising from the grassroots in every area of the country, health professionals and businesses are bringing an enterprising spirit to this dysfunctional system, reaching communities of people who've been shut out, and showing the way to put the "care" back into health care.

Charlie Alfero is one of these people.  Working with both private and public health institutions in New Mexico for nearly thirty years, he is some combination of agitator and administrator, adept at figuring out how to get quality care delivered to rural outposts that the corporatized medical system has largely abandoned.  Moreover, he sees health care as key to reviving the economic health of those areas.


Charlie's outpost is Hidalgo County.  Where?  Look at the bottom left corner of a map of the "Land of Enchantment" and you'll see a boot heel.  That's Hidalgo, a remote but picturesque stretch of the Old West that was once crossed by the Butterfield Stagecoach line, then the Southern Pacific railroad, and now I-10. The boot heel is a long way from any city - Tucson is 150 miles west, El Paso 150 miles east, and Albuquerque 300 miles north.


It has been a hard-hit area.  Copper companies used the place up before pulling out in the 1970s and 1980s, leaving Hidalgo mostly a ranching economy.  Some 6,000 people live there, with a lot of poverty among them.  The local hospital closed in 1979.  The last doctor left in 1983, and the county was unable to entice another one to move in.  There was an obvious need and demand for health services, but Hidalgo is hardly the sort of lucrative market that such profit-hungry chains as Hospital Corporation of America are willing to consider.

The county's leaders realized they would have to put something together for themselves.  So in 1994, they asked the state rural health office to send some experts to Lordsburg, the county seat, to help guide them.  One who came was Charlie Alfero.  Years previously, he had attended a small college up the road in a neighboring county, and he was glad for the chance to revisit a region he loved.


Alfero had been working with the rural outreach program of the state university's medical school, and he remembered from his earlier time in the boot heel that despite economic difficulties, the people of the area shared strong egalitarian values.  He felt that they might do big things.  He arrived with a vision: the people there could create a health commons of their own design - a community complex that would provide one-stop service for medical, dental, and mental health care, with family support services and economic development built in.


Most of Hidalgo's residents have lived in the county all of their lives and have an attachment to the area and to one another.  "We stick together; we help each other in times of need," said Irene Galven, now the city clerk.  It was this sense of community, the residents' willingness to throw in on projects to benefit everyone, that inspired Alfero to throw in with them.

It was not a simple project.  For nearly four years, Charlie made the six-hundred-mile round-trip commute each week from his home in Albuquerque to Lordsburg to work with eager locals to establish Hidalgo Medical Services (HMS), get it on its feet financially, and get it moving - one small step at a time.


* On July 1, 1995, HMS opened its doors in one wing of the old hospital, offering health services two days a week.  Four doctors from Silver City (fifty-five miles from Lordsburg) rotated to the clinic, each doing one day every two weeks.


* In the fall of 1996, HMS was able to add a full-time nurse practitioner, meaning that Hidalgo County had daily medical service for the first time in 13 years.


* In the spring of 1997, HMS's proposal for rural outreach was funded by two small but crucial federal programs, the Community Health Center and the Office of Rural Health Policy, thus allowing the clinic to expand its services and hire a full-time family physician.


* In 1998, for the first time in county history, dentistry was made available on a part-time basis.  Also, with the clinic becoming a viable enterprise (it now occupied about 60 percent of the old hospital), Charlie Alfero left Albuquerque to become the CEO of HMS.


From the start, Charlie understood that the key to success would be building broad support - enthusiasm, even - throughout the county and gaining the trust of all involved.  In addition to board members who could bring a bit of clout to the cause (hometown bankers, lawyers, local officials, and certain retired professionals), he enlisted some of the clinic's patients to serve (today, 100 % of the board members are patients).  He preached the democratic ethic that the larger community had to be invested in HMS, literally making it theirs and recognizing that "each person's success helps strengthen the whole."

Alfero took public involvement a step further by bringing ordinary residents inside to serve as a direct, integral, and very effective part of the health delivery system itself.  They were enlisted to be promatoras de salud (promoters of health).  These community outreach workers, trained in the management of such chronic diseases as diabetes (a huge problem in this region), literally spread the reach of HMS, traveling out to smaller settlements and isolated ranches and bringing medical help, information, news, connection, and ...
well, care.  "I think I've always been a promatora," declared Elva Quimby, a fiftyish former cosmetologist.  "I just thrive on helping people."

Step-by-step, service was expanded, gaining the attention and the support of health professionals and funders outside of the boot heel.  A little more capital was raised, another nurse or physician arrived, and before long HMS had become not only a strong medical center, but also the largest economic engine in the county.  Alfero contended that if the strongest local asset is a health clinic, go with it!  Why try to get some out-of-state conglomerate to reopen the
copper smelter when you've got a clean, community-supported enterprise creating jobs, generating small business growth, and making people healthier?

A dozen years after opening its doors, HMS has become the health commons it was envisioned to be.  On its tenth anniversary, it opened the doors of its new 22,000-square-foot clinic in Lordsburg, a modern, full-service facility with nine exam rooms, lab and X-ray rooms, a dental clinic with six chairs, and offices to
deal with mental health problems, substance abuse, and family support needs. It has a staff numbering more than 140, operating on a budget of more than $10 million a year.

In addition to Lordsburg, HMS now has clinics in six other communities in two counties, including one in Silver City, where it originally had to go to find doctors who were willing to come to Hidalgo twice a week.


"I didn't deliver health care," Alfero noted.  "I'm not even a doctor.  I just gave people an idea, pointed them in a direction, and they built this themselves. People who rely on external forces to determine their future are going to find a bad future.  The people in this area are showing what health care can be if we invest in people, not in the layers of intermediaries looking to make money
off a top-heavy system.  Our country needs more clinics like this."

Because of Love

BECAUSE OF LOVE

A brother and sister had made their usual hurried, obligatory pre-Christmas visit to the little farm where dwelt their elderly parents with their small herd of horses.  The farm was where they had grown up and had been named Lone Pine Farm because of the huge pine, which topped the hill behind the farm.  Through the years the tree had become a talisman to the old man and his wife, and a landmark in the countryside.  The young siblings had fond memories of their childhood here, but the city hustle and bustle added more excitement to their lives, and called them away to a different life.

The old folks no longer showed their horses, for the years had taken their toll, and getting out to the barn on those frosty mornings was getting harder, but it gave them a reason to get up in the mornings and a reason to live.  They sold a few foals each year, and the horses were their reason for joy in the morning and contentment at day's end.

Angry, as they prepared to leave, the young couple confronted the old folks, "Why do you not at least dispose of The Old One?  She is no longer of use to you.  It's been years since you've had foals from her.  You should cut corners and save so you can have more for yourselves.  How can this old worn out horse bring you anything but expense and work?  Why do you keep her anyway?"  The old man looked down at his worn boots, holes in the toes, scuffed at the barn floor and replied, " Yes, I could use a pair of new boots."  His arm slid defensively about the Old One's neck as he drew her near with gentle caressing he rubbed her softly behind her ears.  He replied softly, "We keep her because of love. Nothing else, just love."  Baffled and irritated, the young folks wished the old man and his wife a Merry Christmas and headed back toward the city as darkness stole through the valley.

The old couple shook their heads in sorrow that it had not been a happy visit.  A tear fell upon their cheeks.  How is it that these young folks do not understand the peace of the love that filled their hearts?  So it was, that because of the unhappy leave-taking, no one noticed the insulation smoldering on the frayed wires in the old barn.  None saw the first spark fall.  None but the "Old One".  In a matter of minutes, the whole barn was ablaze and the hungry flames were licking at the loft full of hay.  With a cry of horror and despair, the old man shouted to his wife to call for help as he raced to the barn to save their beloved horses.  But the flames were roaring now, and the blazing heat drove him back.  He sank sobbing to the ground, helpless before the fire's fury.  His wife back from calling for help cradled him in her arms, clinging to each other, they wept at their loss.

By the time the fire department arrived, only smoking, glowing ruins were left, and the old man and his wife, exhausted from their grief, huddled together before the barn.  They were speechless as they rose from the cold snow-covered ground.  They nodded thanks to the firemen as there was nothing anyone could do now.  The old man turned to his wife, resting her white head upon his shoulders as his shaking old hands clumsily dried her tears with a frayed red bandana.  Brokenly he whispered, "We have lost much, but God has spared our home on this eve of Christmas.  Let us gather strength and climb the hill to the old pine where we have sought comfort in times of despair.  We will look down upon our home and give thanks to God that it has been spared and pray for our beloved most precious gifts that have been taken from us. "  And so, he took her by the hand and slowly helped her up the snowy hill as he brushed aside his own tears with the back of his old and withered hand.

The journey up the hill was hard for their old bodies in the steep snow.  As they stepped over the little knoll at the crest of the hill, they paused to rest, looking up to the top of the hill the old couple gasped and fell to their knees in amazement at the incredible beauty before them. 
Seemingly, every glorious, brilliant star in the heavens was caught up in the glittering, snow-frosted branches of their beloved pine, and it was aglow with heavenly candles.  And poised on its top most bough, a crystal crescent moon glistened like spun glass.  Never had a mere mortal created a Christmas tree such as this.  They were breathless as the old man held his wife tighter in his arms.

Suddenly, the old man gave a cry of wonder and incredible joy.  Amazed and mystified, he took his wife by the hand and pulled her forward.  There, beneath the tree, in resplendent glory, a mist hovering over and glowing in the darkness was their Christmas gift.  Shadows glistening in the night light.  Bedded down about the "Old One" close to the trunk of the tree, was the entire herd, safe.

At the first hint of smoke, she had pushed the door ajar with her muzzle and had led the horses through it.  Slowly and with great dignity, never looking back, she had led them up the hill, stepping cautiously through the snow.  The foals were frightened and dashed about.  The skittish yearlings looked back at the crackling, hungry flames, and tucked their tails under them as they licked their lips and hopped like rabbits.  The mares that were in foal with a new year's crop of babies, pressed uneasily against the "Old One" as she moved calmly up the hill and to safety beneath the pine.  And now she lay among them and gazed at the faces of the old man and his wife.

Those she loved she had not disappointed.  Her body was brittle with years, tired from the climb, but the golden eyes were filled with devotion as she offered her gift.  Because of love.  Only Because of love.  Tears flowed as the old couple shouted their praise and joy.  And again the peace of love filled their hearts.

This is a true story.
Willy Eagle


Strongest Dad

STRONGEST DAD IN THE WORLD
Rick Reilly for Sports Illustrated, June 20, 2005

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.

But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars -- all in the same day.  Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much -- except save his life.

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.  "He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life," Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. "Put him in an institution."

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. "No way," Dick says he was told. "There's nothing going on in his brain."  "Tell him a joke," Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.

Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? "Go Bruins!" And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, "Dad, I want to do that."

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described "porker" who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. "Then it was me who was handicapped," Dick says. "I was sore for two weeks."  That day changed Rick's life. "Dad," he typed, "when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!"

And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

"No way," Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, "Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?"  How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?  Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? "No way," he says. Dick does it purely for "the awesome feeling" he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992 -- only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

"No question about it," Rick types. "My dad is the Father of the Century."

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. "If you hadn't been in such great shape," one doctor told him, "you probably would've died 15 years ago."

So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father's Day.  That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

"The thing I'd most like," Rick types, "is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once."

How Did They Know? Elephants' Journey

HOW DID THEY KNOW? THE ELEPHANTS' JOURNEY TO PAY RESPECT

 

There is something in the universe that is much greater and deeper than human intelligence.

Lawrence Anthony, a legendary conservationist in South Africa and author of 3 books including the bestseller, The Elephant Whisperer, bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the globe from human atrocities, including the courageous rescue of Baghdad Zoo animals during US invasion in 2003.  On March 7, 2012, Lawrence Anthony died. 

It started several years ago with a phone call from an elephant welfare organization.  Would Anthony be interested in adopting a problem herd of rogue, wild elephants?  They lived on a game reserve 600 miles away and were “troublesome,” recalled Anthony.  They had a tendency to break out of reserves and the owners wanted to get rid of them fast.  If we didn’t take them, they would be shot.  The woman explained, "The matriarch is an amazing escape artist and has worked out how to break through electric fences.  She just twists the wire around her tusks until it snaps, or takes the pain and smashes through."  "Why me?" he asked.  "I’ve heard you have a way with animals.  You’re right for them.  Or maybe they’re right for you."  What followed was heart-breaking.  One of the females and her baby were shot and killed in the round-up, trying to evade capture.

When they arrived at Thula Thula, they were thumping the inside of the trailer like a gigantic drum.  "We sedated them with a pole-sized syringe, and once they had calmed down, the door slid open and the matriarch emerged, followed by her baby bull, three females and an 11-year-old bull.  Last off was the 15-year-old son of the dead mother.  He stared at us,” writes Anthony, “flared his ears and with a trumpet of rage, charged, pulling up just short of the fence in front of us."  His mother and baby sister had been shot before his eyes, and here he was, just a teenager, defending his herd.  David, Anthony's head ranger named him Mnumzane, which in Zulu means "Sir."  "We christened the matriarch Nana, and the second female-in-command, the most feisty.  We had erected a giant enclosure within the reserve to keep them safe until they became calm enough to move out into the reserve proper.  Nana gathered her clan, loped up to the fence and stretched out her trunk, touching the electric wires.  The 8,000-volt charge sent a jolt shuddering through her bulk.  She backed off.  Then, with her family in tow, she strode the entire perimeter of the enclosure, pointing her trunk at the wire to check for vibrations from the electric current."

“As I went to bed that night, I noticed the elephants lining up along the fence, facing out towards their former home.  It looked ominous.  I was woken several hours later by one of the reserve’s rangers, shouting, ‘The elephants have gone!  They’ve broken out!’  The two adult elephants had worked as a team to fell a tree, smashing it onto the electric fence and then charging out of the enclosure."

"I scrambled together a search party and we raced to the border of the game reserve, but we were too late.  The fence was down and the animals had broken out.  They had somehow found the generator that powered the electric fence around the reserve.  After trampling it like a tin can, they had pulled the concrete-embedded fence posts out of the ground like matchsticks, and headed north.”  The reserve staff chased them – but had competition.  “We met a group of locals carrying large caliber rifles, who claimed the elephants were ‘fair game’ now.  On our radios we heard the wildlife authorities were issuing elephant rifles to staff.  It was now a simple race against time.”  Anthony managed to get the herd back onto Thula Thula property, but problems had just begun.  “Their bid for freedom had, if anything, increased their resentment at being kept in captivity.  Nana watched my every move, hostility seeping from every pore, her family behind her.  There was no doubt that sooner or later they were going to make another break for freedom."

Early one morning, "I was standing in front of Nana, an enraged wild elephant, pleading with her in desperation.  Both our lives depended on it.  The only thing separating us was an 8,000-volt electric fence that she was preparing to flatten and make her escape.  Nana, the matriarch of her herd, tensed her enormous frame and flared her ears.  ’Don’t do it, Nana,’ I said, as calmly as I could.  She stood there, motionless but tense.  The rest of the herd froze.  ’This is your home now,’ I continued.  ‘Please don’t do it, girl.’  I felt her eyes boring into me.  ’They’ll kill you all if you break out.  This is your home now.  You have no need to run any more.’  Suddenly, the absurdity of the situation struck me.  Here I was in pitch darkness, talking to a wild female elephant with a baby, the most dangerous possible combination, as if we were having a friendly chat.  But I meant every word.  ‘You will all die if you go.  Stay here.  I will be here with you and it’s a good place.'  She took another step forward.  I could see her tense up again, preparing to snap the electric wire and be out, the rest of the herd smashing after her in a flash.  I was in their path, and would only have seconds to scramble out of their way and climb the nearest tree.  I wondered if I would be fast enough to avoid being trampled.  Possibly not.  Then something happened between Nana and me, some tiny spark of recognition, flaring for the briefest of moments.  Then it was gone.  Nana turned. The rest of the herd followed.  I couldn’t explain what had happened between us, but it gave me the first glimmer of hope since the elephants had first thundered into my life.  And in a flash came the answer.  I would live with the herd.  To save their lives, I would stay with them, feed them, talk to them.  But, most importantly, be with them day and night.  We all had to get to know each other.”  It worked.

Two days after his passing, the wild elephants showed up at his home led by two large matriarchs.  Separate wild herds arrived in droves to say goodbye to their beloved man-friend.  A total of 31 elephants had patiently walked over 12 miles through Zululand bush to get to his South African house.

Witnessing this spectacle, humans were obviously in awe not only because of the supreme intelligence and precise timing that these elephants sensed about Lawrence 's passing, but also because of the profound memory and emotion the beloved animals evoked in such an organized way, walking slowly - for days - making their way in a solemn one-by-one queue from their habitat to his house.

So, how after Anthony’s death, did the reserve’s elephants — grazing miles away in distant parts of the park — know?  “A good man died suddenly,” said Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, Ph.D., “and from miles and miles away, two herds of elephants, sensing that they had lost a beloved human friend, moved in a solemn, almost ‘funereal’ procession to make a call on the bereaved family at the deceased man’s home.”

“If there ever were a time, when we can truly sense the wondrous ‘interconnectedness of all beings,’ it is when we reflect on the elephants of Thula Thula.  A man’s heart’s stops, and hundreds of elephants’ hearts are grieving.  This man’s oh-so-abundantly loving heart offered healing to these elephants, and now, they came to pay loving homage to their friend.”

Lawrence's wife, Francoise, was especially touched, knowing that the elephants had not been to his house prior to that day for well over 3 years!  But yet they knew where they were going.  The elephants obviously wanted to pay their deep respects, honoring their friend who'd saved their lives - so much respect that they stayed for 2 days 2 nights without eating anything.  Then one morning, they left, making their long journey back.

Notebook Paper

PIECES OF NOTEBOOK PAPER

One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in their papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. "Really?" she heard whispered. "I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!" and "I didn't know others liked me so much," were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after the class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.

The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin. As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. "Were you Mark's math teacher?" he asked. She nodded, "Yes." Then he said, "Mark talked about you a lot."

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher. "We want to show you something," his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. "They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it."

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him. "Thank you so much for doing that," Mark's mother said. "As you can see, Mark treasured it."

All of Mark's former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home." Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album." "I have mine too," Marilyn said. "It's in my diary." Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. "I carry this with me at all times," Vicki said and without batting an eyelash she continued, "I think we all saved our lists."

That's when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again. She realized the value of that brief assignment and the power of telling people you care about that they are special and important.

Veterans Retrained for Forest Service

VETERANS RETRAINED FOR FOREST SERVICE GRAB CHAINSAWS TO HELP NEW YORKERS

Good News Network Saturday, November 10, 2012

Veterans Fire Corps armed simply with chainsaws, a corps of military veterans has arrived on the Jersey Shore to help Sandy-stricken residents trapped by a maze of downed trees and debris.  The team members, whose previous tours have included Iraq and Afghanistan, arrived in New Jersey this week from Arizona, where they were serving in the Veterans Fire Corps, a program that helps recent-era vets prepare for careers in conservation.  Their recent training in chain saw operation and wildland firefighting made them perfectly suited for the mission at hand.  “We volunteered right away,” says Joseph LiCausi, a former Navy petty officer from Queens, New York.  “Cleaning up roads, getting trees out of the way, helping displaced people get food. It feels good to help out.”

The Veterans Fire Corps is part of a U.S. Forest Service saw crew under the Student Conservation Association (SCA) program currently stationed at Fort Dix.  Last week, the SCA team was cutting down Ponderosa pines in a national forest to eliminate potential fire fuels.  Now they are clearing felled trees from Jersey streets to open access for responders and vital supplies of water, food, and fuel to reach those most in need.  “We’re here to help people who have been hurt, make their lives a little better -- a little closer to normal.” said former Marine Sergeant Alleyn Friedrich.

Following Hurricane Sandy and Wednesday’s Nor’easter, Corps members may also assist Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) logistics facilities, local emergency response agencies, and community command and control efforts.

SCA and the Forest Service launched the Veterans Fire Corps in the summer of 2011 as a pilot program.  Since then, nine corps alumni have advanced to employment with the Forest Service or other resource management offices and 20 have returned to school to obtain degrees in environmental studies.  Fire Corps members are trained and/or certified in Chain Saw Operation, Fire Ecology, Wildland Fire Fighting (Red Card), and Wilderness First Aid, in addition to general conservation skills, environmental education, and the Forest Service’s history and hiring procedures.  The program also helps federal land management agencies meet the 2009 Presidential Executive Order that directs agencies to assist veterans in securing employment and helping with their re-entry into civilian life.

Since 1957, 70,000 Americans have participated in the SCA's non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.  Learn more at www.thesca.org.

Sandpiper

THE SANDPIPER                                                                                                                                                                        by Robert Peterson

She was six years old when I first met her, on the beach near where I live.  I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sand castle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea.

"Hello," she said.  I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child.  "I'm building," she said.  "I see that. What is it?" I asked, not really caring.  "Oh, I don't know, I just like the feel of sand."  That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes.
A sandpiper glided by.  "That's a joy," the child said.  "It's a what?"  "It's a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy."  The bird went gliding down the beach.  Good-bye joy, I muttered to myself, hello pain, and turned to walk on.  I was depressed, my life seemed completely out of balance.  What's your name?" She wouldn't give up.  Robert," I answered. "I'm Robert Peterson."  "Mine's Wendy... I'm six."  "Hi Wendy."  She giggled. "You're funny," she said.  In spite of my gloom, I laughed too and walked on.  Her musical giggle followed me.  "Come again, Mr. P," she called. "We'll have another happy day."

The next few days consisted of a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, and an ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwater.  I need a sandpiper,' I said to myself, gathering up my coat.
 
The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me. The breeze was chilly but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed.  "Hello, Mr. P," she said. "Do you want to play?"  "What did you have in mind?" I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.  "I don't know. You can say."  "How about charades?"  I asked sarcastically.  The tinkling laughter burst forth again.  "I don't know what that is...."  "Then let's just walk."
 
 
Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face.  "Where do you live?" I asked.  "Over there."  She pointed toward a row of summer cottages.  Strange, I thought, in winter.  "Where do you go to school?"  "I don't go to school.  Mommy says we're on vacation."
 
She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things.  When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day.  Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.
 
 
Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic.  I was in no mood to even greet Wendy.  I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding she keep her child at home.  "Look, if you don't mind," I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, "I'd rather be alone today."  She seemed unusually pale and out of breath.  "Why?" she asked.  I turned to her and shouted, "Because my mother died!" and thought, my God, why was I saying this to a little child?  "Oh," she said quietly, "then this is a bad day."  "Yes," I said, "and yesterday and the day before and--oh, go away!!"  "Did it hurt?" she inquired.  "Did what hurt?"  I was exasperated with her, and with myself.  "When she died?"  "Of course it hurt!" I snapped, misunderstanding, wrapped up in myself.  I strode off.....
 
 
A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn't there.....  Feeling guilty, ashamed, and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door.  A drawn-looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door.  "Hello," I said, "I'm Robert Peterson.  I missed you little girl today and wondered where she was...."  "Oh, yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in.  Wendy spoke of you so much.  I'm afraid I allowed her to bother you.  If she was a nuisance, please, accept my apologies."  "Not at all--she's a delightful child,"  I said, suddenly realizing that I really meant what I had just said.
 
 
 
"Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson.  She had leukemia.  Maybe she didn't tell you."  Struck dumb, I groped for a chair.  I had to catch my breath.  "She loved this beach, so when she asked to come, we couldn't say no.  She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days.  But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly...."  Her voice faltered.  "She left something for you, if only I can find it.  Could you wait a moment while I look?"
 
 
I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something to say to this lovely young woman.  She handed me a smeared envelope with "MR. P" printed in bold childish letters.  Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues--a yellow beach, a blue sea, and a brown bird.  Underneath was carefully printed:  A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU JOY. Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to love, opened wide.  I took Wendy's mother in my arms.  "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," I uttered over and over, and we wept together.
 
The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study.  Six words--one for each year of her life--that speak to me of harmony, courage, and undemanding love.  A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand--who taught me the gift of love.
 
 
 
 
NOTE:  This is a true story sent out by Robert Peterson.  It happened over 20 years ago and the incident changed his life forever.  It serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to take time to enjoy living and life and each other.
 
 
 
I WISH FOR YOU A SANDPIPER!