By James E. Conner, “A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul”
Years ago, while unearthing an ancient Egyptian tomb, an archaeologist came upon seeds buried in a piece of wood. Planted, the seeds realized their potential after more than 3,000 years! Are there conditions in the lives of people so discouraging, so defeating, that human beings - regardless of inherent potentiality - are doomed to lives of failure and quiet desperation? Or are there also seeds of possibility in people, an urge for becoming that is so strong that the hard crust of adversity is breached? Consider this story that came over the wires of the Associated Press on May 23, l984:
As a child, Mary Groda did not learn to read and write. Experts labeled her retarded. As an adolescent, she "earned" an additional label, "incorrigible," and was sentenced to two years in a reformatory. It was here, ironically, in this closed-in place, that Mary - bending to the challenge to learn - worked at her task for as long as 16 hours a day. Her hard work paid off. She was awarded her (GED) high school diploma.
But more misfortune was to visit Mary Groda. After leaving the reformatory, she became pregnant without benefit of marriage. Then, two years later a second pregnancy resulted in a stroke, erasing her hard-earned powers of reading and writing. With the help and support of her father, Mary battled back, regaining what she had lost.
In dire financial straits, Mary went on welfare. Finally, to make ends meet, she took in seven foster children. It was during this period that she started taking courses at a community college. Upon completion of her course work, she applied to and was accepted by the Albany Medical School to study medicine.
In the spring of 1984 in Oregon, Mary Groda Lewis - she's married now - paraded in full academic regalia across the graduation stage. No one can know what private thoughts went through Mary's mind as she reached out to grasp this eloquent testimony to her self-belief and perseverance, her diploma that announced to all the world: Here stands on this small point of Planet Earth a person who dared to dream the impossible dream, a person who confirms for all of us our human divineness. Here stands Mary Groda Lewis, M.D.
Have you ever noticed how people always want to be something they're not?
Tall want to be short, young yearn to age, single dream of marriage, and no matter what body shape, everyone wants to lose at least another five pounds.
It's almost like a natural preoccupation, this wishing away of our lives.
Think about it. When was the last time you heard someone say, "I am totally satisfied with myself and my life. I couldn't ask for anything more."
It just doesn't happen. So, I have this idea to pitch to all "build a better mousetrap" inventors. How about creating a virtual reality machine that would allow people to actually experience the life of their dreams? For instance, for all the women who live with the unanswered hope that their husband will one day spontaneously waltz in the back door with a dozen roses and a chilled bottle of Dom Perignon... the opportunity to live with Prince Charming.
Or, for sports fanatics, how about the chance to score the winning goal, kick the overtime field goal, drive the victory lap, or hit that "must-win" two pointer at the buzzer? Music fans might choose to jump onstage and perform with their favorite rock band or conduct a full orchestral symphony. Latent actors could hit their mark in celluloid or live theatrical productions showcased within a cast and crew of Hollywood's best.
On a simpler scale, people who have always dreamed of model-like physiques would be able to specify their ideal color, size and shape. Followed of course by access to a never ending wardrobe of fashionable clothes and styling shoes.
For those who desire more natural pursuits, life lived within lushly blooming gardens containing species of every imaginable variety, that never need watering or weeding. Or a kitchen that produces its own healthy gourmet meals whenever, and as often, as desired. No dirty dishes to boot.
Some might enjoy ever-green lawns that never need mowing. Or houses that are always pin neat and repair-free. The idea of kittens and puppies that never grow up has appeal, as well as warm sunny days of low humidity and little rain.
And how about that always mentioned payout of a nickel for every time someone utters a certain phrase? Or the more obvious, endless wealth, and lifelong health.
The possibilities are endless.
But I wonder about the down side to such an invention. Would experiencing the dreams of a lifetime really make us better people? Less dissatisfied with our lot in life? I'm not sure of that answer, or of the true possibility of such an invention.
But what I am sure of is that perfection is often overrated. So, if you don't like it the way it is, change it. If you can't change it, learn to live with it. And if you can't live with it, my only advice is to hang in there.
For somewhere out in the great vista of Internet science fiction imaginings, a young computer whiz is hard at work, developing a virtual reality life machine to fulfill your every dream.
And by the way, when that happens, would you see if I could be Katie Couric for a day?
It is hard at times to eat the right foods for our bodies when the wrong foods can taste so delicious. I am just glad then that when it comes to food for the soul the choices are a little easier to make. Imagine, for instance, that you had two types of food before you. The first one is great for you. It makes your heart healthier, your mind clearer, and your body more energetic. It makes you feel fantastic both inside and out. It also tastes delicious. You could eat it for a million years and never get tired of it. It just takes a bit of effort and a few minutes to cook each day. The second food is terrible for you. It is hard on your heart and destroys your health. It depresses your mind and steals your body’s vitality. It makes you feel miserable both inside and out. It also tastes terrible. You can eat it right away, though. It is instant and takes no effort to make. Which one would you choose?
Sadly, more people than you would think make the second choice. The second choice is acting from fear. It is choosing to feed the soul hatred, violence, negativity, misery, pain, meanness, and loneliness. It is easy to do even though it hurts you every time you do it. It slowly poisons your life and the lives of those around you if they let it. The first choice, however, is choosing love. It is feeding the soul joy, peace, positivity, happiness, delight, goodness, and oneness with God. It takes a bit of effort, but it brings a lot of Heaven to Earth. It enriches your life and the lives of everyone you share it with.
What you eat is up to you. Choose your foods wisely then. God wants you to eat well not just with your stomach but also with your heart, soul, mind, and life. Lay out a table full of all the love, joy, light, goodness, and oneness with God that you possibly can. Then pull up a chair and invite everyone to the feast.
Author unknown; submitted by Wolf Gang member Bambi Braun
Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.
They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.
The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone. Why?"
The other friend replied "When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."
LEARN TO WRITE YOUR HURTS IN THE SAND - FORGIVE AND FORGET - AND TO CARVE YOUR BENEFITS IN STONE.
The parking lot filled rapidly on Sunday morning as members of the large church congregation filed into church. As usually happens in a church that size, each member had developed a certain comfort zone -- a block of space within those four church walls that became theirs after the second or third sitting. It was as much a part of their church experience as the recliner was to the television at home.
One morning a stranger stood at the edge of the parking lot near a dumpster. As families parked cars and piled out, they noticed him rummaging through the trash.
"Oh no! I don’t believe it," whispered a lady to her husband. "That’s all we need -- a bunch of homeless people milling around here." One worried little girl tugged on her dad’s sleeve. "But Daddy..." Daddy was busy sizing up the bearded stranger, whose baggy, outdated trousers and faded flannel shirt had dusted too many park benches.
"Don’t stare at him, honey," he whispered, and hurried her inside. Soft music filled the high-ceilinged sanctuary as churchgoers settled into their usual spots. The choir sang an opening chorus, "In His presence there is comfort... in His presence there is peace...".
Sunlight suddenly flooded the center aisle. The double doors swung open and the homeless man, sloppy and stooped, headed toward the front.
"Oh no, it’s him!" somebody muttered. "What does he think he’s doing, anyway?" snapped an incredulous usher.
The stranger set his bagful of dumpster treasures on the very first pew, which had been upholstered in an expensive soft teal fabric just three months ago.
The music stopped. And before anyone had a chance to react, he ambled up the stairs and stood behind the fine, hand-crafted oak podium, where he faced a wide-eyed congregation.
The disheveled stranger spoke haltingly at first, in a low, clear voice. Unbuttoning and removing his top layer of clothing, he described Jesus, and the love He has for all people.
"Jesus possesses a sensitivity and love that far surpasses what any of us deserves." Stepping out of the baggy old trousers, the stranger went on to describe a forgiveness that is available to each and every one of us... without strings attached.
Unconditionally He loves us. Unconditionally He gave his very life for us. Unconditionally and forever, we can have the peace and assurance that no matter who we are, where we’ve come from, or how badly we may have mistreated others or ourselves, there is hope. In Jesus, there is always hope.
"You see, my friends, it is never too late to change," the man continued. "He is the Author of change, and the Provider of forgiveness. He came to bring new meaning to ‘life’."
Men and women squirmed as reality hit them like an electrical current. The stranger tugged at his knotted gray beard, and removed it. "I’m here to tell you that we are loved with a Love far beyond human understanding, a Love that enables us to accept and love others in return."
Then tenderly he added, "Let’s pray together." That wise pastor -- under the guise of a homeless "nobody" -- did not preach a sermon that day, but every person left with plenty to think about.
A glance in the mirror. Simple. Yet altering somehow.
I am not the child I once was - yet I can still see him there - bright - happy - outgoing.
But wait, I pause to truly see the me I am today - lines and crevices mar the unspoiled face of childhood mirroring the many paths I could have chosen.
I am not sixteen, I am not twenty, and I am no longer thirty-five. Time has marched across my features and I can scarcely remember the Never Neverland of childish imaginings.
Yet as I continue to gaze in the reflection I see the features of family older and wiser in the shape and contour of my face. These family members gaze at me knowingly and understand the path I tread. A few of these family members remain while others reside in my memory only.
One day these gathered in my mind will be the stuff of legend with a bit of fable thrown in. Family stories will be passed along to those who never knew the flesh and blood reality. Given enough time most will be forgotten.
This chance encounter with the me in the mirror brings about a mid-life crisis of sorts. And I find myself needing to make a choice.
I can attempt to mimic the me I recall in faulty memory or I can attempt to honor the memory of those I have known by being more like them. Yet neither choice seems entirely agreeable.
Perhaps there is another choice.
The good old days are often the best of memories sifted often and embellished with time. The future holds much - promise, dreams, adventure, danger, new generations who do not see eye to eye with the past, declining health, perhaps loss of job, loss of memory and loss of my spouse.
My life is neither at the beginning and it may not be at the end. God delights in the heart of a child, so I choose that heart - God delights in a maturity, so I chose this path.
God gave Moses his greatest assignment at the age of 80, Abraham became a parent at 100, Paul and John wrote significant words later in life. Through aches and pains - flesh thorns and heartache God used these men.
I will not cower at the thought of the coming years. I want to run eagerly to my Savior's side and take His assignments gladly. I want to do so willingly.
Rather than looking back at the way things were, I want to look ahead to the way things could be. I want the heart of a child and the maturity of a wise man. I want to greet each day with a willingness to pursue the adventure called life. I won't do it by acting like someone half my age - I will do it with the help of an ageless God who loves me and understands that I am but dust.
I will associate with younger people - I will need to know what they think and how they see their world. I will surround myself with older people - I will need the wisdom they can offer. And I will not contribute one dime to the widening of the generation gap.
The me in the mirror is not what I once was. The me in the mirror is not the final word on who I will become. The me in the mirror is simply a reflection of today - a day that the Lord has made for my enjoyment and, more importantly, His purpose.
I walk away from the mirror with a smile on my face. I have things to do - crisis averted!
Not so with me. Driving made me nervous. I didn't get a license until I turned 24 years old.
As a result, when I first married, we only had one car and car pooled to work. My husband's hours were different from mine by one hour. I worked earlier. So he dropped me off and went to the diner to drink coffee until work time.
Then, in the afternoons, I leisurely walked the three miles to his work place where I waited in his car, reading a book.
One day while waiting for him, I noticed the most beautiful Cadillac pull in the lot. It was powder blue and sleek looking. The kind of car you dream about. I was busily admiring the car, when I noticed the driver. Honestly, she was probably the prettiest woman I had ever seen off the movie screen.
She pulled into the spot beside our car and it was all I could do not to stare. There was a striking resemblance to Liz Taylor. Jet black hair and alabaster skin. Our eyes made contact and she smiled at me. Her eyes were as blue as the sea, and teeth like an even row of pearls. She was wearing a light blue shirt that just matched her car. Peeking through her long, softly curled hair I could see gold hoop earrings. They had to be gold to shine like that.
A couple of minutes later, a nice looking man came out the building, entered her car, leaned over and kissed her and she drove away.
Sitting there in my jeans, shirt and hair in a pony tail, I wanted to cry. How could some people have it all?
Maybe I would have forgotten about her, but the following week, I saw her again. Then it became almost routine to see her about once a week. She seemed friendly and always waved, flashing a big smile. My envy lingered long after she drove away.
Many nights when sleep evaded me, I would think about the beautiful lady. I wondered if she and her husband ate out, and where they dined, and what she was wearing. I wanted her to get out of the car and let me see her full length. Did she wear really high heeled shoes and pants, or a skirt?
I would get my answers in a couple of weeks.
Sitting in our usual parking lot, I was holding my book, watching her over the top of it. She was waiting and when her husband came to the car, she called to him. They spoke a few words and he opened the car door for her to step out. He took her arm and helped her out of the car. I could see very well as she moved to get out. She was wearing a skirt.
She haltingly walked around to the passenger side very slowly, leaning on a walking cane. Sitting sideways in the car, she lifted one leg with her hands and then the other one. The beautiful lady had a prosthesis on the left leg and a brace on the right leg.
I couldn't watch them drive away as the tears were blinding me.
For weeks I had envied this woman and her way of life, while I had been able to walk three miles to our car!
When my husband arrived and found me crying, he immediately asked what was wrong. Through my tears, I told him about the beautiful lady. He said he knew her husband and also knew the story. The beautiful lady and her parents were in a car that either stalled or got caught on the railroad tracks and was hit by a train. Both parents were killed and she was severely injured. She was only 12 years old.
The railroad made a large settlement with her because the crossing had no signals. He explained her car was specially built for her needs as well as the home.
I prayed for forgiveness all the way home. The lady I thought had everything, didn't. I thanked God over and over for my legs, arms and sight, and for teaching me a lesson early on in life.
When you meet a person who seems to be much better off than you, don't be fooled. I would not have traded places with the beautiful lady for anything -- I still had my parents, and the ability to walk, run or dance through life. Wonderful things money can't buy.
There are many people who could be Olympic champions, All-Americans who have never tried. I'd estimate five million people could have beaten me in the pole vault the years I won it, at least five million. Men who were stronger, bigger and faster than I was, could have done it, but they never picked up a pole, never made the feeble effort to pick their legs off the ground to try to get over the bar.
Greatness is all around us. It's easy to be great because great people will help you. What is fantastic about all the conventions I go to is that the greatest in the business will come and share their ideas, their methods and their techniques with everyone else. I have seen the greatest salesmen open up and show young salesmen exactly how they did it. They don't hold back. I have also found it true in the world of sports.
I'll never forget the time I was trying to break Dutch Warmer Dam's record. I was about a foot below his record, so I called him on the phone. I said, "Dutch, can you help me? I seem to have leveled off. I can't get any higher."
He said, "Sure, Bob, come on up to visit me and I'll give you all I got."
I spent three days with the master, the greatest pole vaulter in the world. For three days, Dutch gave me everything that he'd seen. There were things that I was doing wrong and he corrected them. To make a long story short, I went up eight inches. That great guy gave me the best that he had. I've found that sports champions and heroes willingly do this just to help you become great, too.
When in college working on his Master’s thesis on scouting and defensive football, George Allen wrote up a 30-page survey and sent it out to the great coaches in the country. Eighty-five percent answered it completely.
Great people will share, which is what made George Allen one of the greatest football coaches in the world. Great people will tell you their secrets. Look for them, call them on the phone or buy their books. Go where they are, get around them, talk to them.
John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach, has a philosophy that every day he is supposed to help someone who can never reciprocate. That's his obligation.
Who are you learning from? Who are you helping? It is easy to be great when you get around great people!
All houses should have a kitchen window. At least, for me, there is a lot to see in the view from my kitchen window.
It happened many years ago, but it was a view that I can still see in my mind’s eye. It was one of those significant moments that has always stayed in my memory.
It was a spring day, a Saturday, and I was washing the dishes when I happened to look out the kitchen window into the back yard. My husband, Mike, was out cultivating the garden with a tiller. Right behind him was our son, Jeremy, who was four years old at the time.
Mike was moving the tiller very slowly in order to do a good job of breaking up the soil for planting. My son was just inches behind my husband and each time that Mike took a step, Jeremy took a step. He would carefully put his own small foot in the huge imprint made from my husband’s boot. Jeremy had to really stretch in order to imitate the larger stride of his father. Very slowly he extended each of his legs, one at a time, almost as far as his legs would go. The process was slow. He took a step with his right foot and then his left and then he would wait patiently for when it would be time to take the next step.
Sometimes Jeremy would lose his balance because he would become engrossed in a glittering rock or a wriggling insect along the way. The dog that kept barking for him to come away and join him in a frolic also distracted him.
Yet, even when Jeremy stumbled or fell, when he got up and fixed his eyes on his father, he was able to follow in his footsteps. Once again he followed ever so slowly and carefully, placing his right foot where his father’s right foot had been and then placing his left foot where his father’s left foot had been. As long as he concentrated on following his father, he stayed right on the same path and never fell. Although Jeremy didn’t know it, his father had been watching over him all the time, even when he stumbled and fell.
That view from my kitchen window has remained in my mind until this day. In one way it is a literal picture of the need of a child for a father’s good example.
It is also an illustration for all of us. We also need to follow our heavenly Father a step at a time and then wait for the next step like Jeremy did with his earthly father.
How many times have I bounded ahead of my Father, only to find dry, hard ground that I couldn’t manage because it hadn’t been tilled yet. I ran into trouble because I didn’t wait for the Father to go before me and prepare the way.
At other times, I became tired of waiting for the next step and began looking around at all the glittering rocks of the world that led me astray. There were times that I listened to the barking dogs around me too. They beckoned me away, making empty promises until one day I had almost lost sight of my Father. Yet, like Jeremy, all I needed was to turn around and fix my eyes on my Father who had also been watching over me all the time.
There can be a lot to see in the view from my kitchen window.
By Evelyn Olson, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul
Sunday mornings are a leisurely time in many households, but they certainly weren't in our Ogilvie, Minnesota home back in the late 1920s.
Church services began at nine-thirty in the morning. Mother was the organist, so she had to be there early. That meant all of us kids had to be washed and dressed with our hair neatly combed by the time Mother left the house.
As you'd expect, there was a lot of hurrying around to make sure everyone was ready on time. That was trouble enough, but one day we had another problem on our hands -- our dog, Brownie.
Every morning, Brownie was let out by the first person who got up. When we called him back in, he'd usually come running right away...but not on this particular Sunday.
We called and coaxed for as long as we could, but Brownie was simply nowhere to be found. Unable to locate our disappearing dog, we gave up in despair and headed off to church, leaving Brownie outdoors somewhere.
We arrived at church and got settled in, with Mother at the organ. After some hymns and prayers, the minister began his sermon. We kids tried to sit still, just as we had been told to do, and not fidget. But as the preacher began to warm to his subject, I thought I heard something unusual. No one else seemed to hear it though. But then it came again, louder. It sounded like something was scratching at the church door. We kids all exchanged silent glances and stifled our giggles. Then the scratching sound was followed by the plaintive sound of a lonely dog howling. All the grown-ups pretended not to hear anything, leaning forward in their pews so they could hear every word of the minister's oration. But we kids knew that howl. Only one dog in the neighborhood made that sound.
The wailing continued and the minister paused for a moment, furrowing his brow in frustration. He didn't want to have to compete with a howling hound, so he signaled to the usher to open the door and shoo the dog away. But the usher was not quick enough for Brownie. As soon as he opened the door, in bounded our dog with a smug look on his face! He strolled up the aisle, cool as you please, as congregation and minister looked on aghast. When Brownie got to where Mother sat at the organ, he just plopped down and sat quietly. A murmur went around the church and there were some smiles and nodding of heads. The minister, determined to ignore this unusual canine caper, resumed his sermon.
The following Sunday happened to be one of those rare Sundays when we didn't go to the morning service. However, no one had informed Brownie of the change in our schedule. After we attended the evening service, we heard the story: In the morning, Brownie had made a commotion at the church door until once again he was let in. Again, he sauntered down the aisle until he reached the organist, who was about to begin playing. Brownie stood stock-still for a moment, staring at the female organist. Then, when he had determined to his satisfaction that she was definitely not Mother, he returned to the church door and made it clear that he was not interested in attending this particular service.
There were many Sundays when Brownie repeated his demonstrations of religious piety and family loyalty. As you can imagine, this was quite embarrassing for Mother. There were some people who weren't all that happy to see a dog in church. And each time we got a new preacher, Mother had to explain our unusual dog to him. Since Brownie lived to be nineteen years old, quite a few preachers got used to having that little brown dog interrupt their Sunday services.
Shortly after Brownie passed away, our minister came to call. After consoling us over our loss, he said, "If there is a heaven for dogs, you can be assured Brownie will be scratching at the door -- and when it is opened, he will be given a place right up front with the best of them."
The snow had fallen and although they say there are no two snowflakes alike, piled there on the ground, they all looked the same.
That, too, can be said about people. There are no two exactly alike. When gathered together in large crowds though, everyone looks the same.
So, what if you are trying to stand out in a crowd? What if you are tired of being overlooked? What if you believe that it's your time to get noticed?
Be a flake.
"That doesn't make sense at all, Bob. You just said that after the snow fall they all looked the same." Look again.
At various times and depending on where you are standing, one can see even the smallest flake.
How? It depends on the light.
Snow, like water, glistens in the sun. At just the right time, at just the right angle, every drop, every flake, has a chance to stand out.
The difference is people have a choice. When we fall, we can stay right where we are, melt into the ground and watch our hopes and dreams be washed away. Or we can rise up to face the light of a new dawn and be a reflection of all the good in the world. Light brings our dreams to life.
We naturally see light as hope, because in the light we can see the truth.
We often see darkness as fear, because it represents the unknown. We fear what we cannot see.
The light is perfect and although some claim to be, we cannot claim perfection ours.
So, how then can we stand out?
Like the snowflake, sparkling and beautifully unique, if we cannot be the light, be a reflection of it.
The same light that makes the snowflake sparkle, the same light that brings truth to darkness and fear, made you to rise up in a crowd and stand out as a sparkling and beautifully unique reflection in the world.
If you feel you have missed your chance to shine, you are mistaken. It is why God made the day. After each period of darkness comes the light. And although you cannot see it during the darkest times of your life, the light shines for those who believe. It is why He made the stars and the moon. They, like you, are not perfect, but are a true reflection of "The Light."
There is a risk involved in everything
Every time you share a smile
Every time you shed a tear
You are opening yourself up to hurt.
Some people tread slowly through life,
Avoiding the closeness risk brings,
Sidestepping the things they cannot understand
Turning away from those who care too much-
Those who care stay too long,
Those who hold too tightly.
There is never an easy way to love
You cannot approach it cautiously
It will not wait for you to arm yourself.
It does not care if you turn away
It is everywhere, it is everything.
Love is the greatest of all risks.
It is not reliable, it is not cautious,
It is not sympathetic
It is unprejudiced and unmerciful.
It strikes the strongest of mind,
And brings them to their knees in one blow.
Even in the best of times, love hurts.
It hurts to need, it hurts to belong,
It hurts to be the other part of someone else,
Without either of your consent.
But, from the moment it overtakes you,
It hurts worse to be all alone.
The risk of love never depletes;
It grows stronger and more dangerous with time.
But, it is in the total surrender of all defense,
That we, no matter weak or strong,
No matter willing or captive,
No matter what, we truly experience love.
Despite the many things love is not,
Outweighing it all are the things that love is.
Love is surrender without a loss.
It is a gift without the cost.
It consumes your every thought and desire,
Every breath you take.
It is the fire that fuels you
To do more than pass through life;
It urges you, instead, to live.
No matter the outcome, having felt love,
You will never be the same.
It may scar your heart and soul
And leave you only memories of forever.
Or, it may cause every day of your life
To feel like there is no need for tomorrow.
But, love is worth it. It is worth the risk...
For in all of life,
Love is truly the only risk worth taking.
It was a bitter, cold evening in northern Virginia many years ago. The old man’s beard was glazed by winter’s frost while he waited for a ride across the river. The wait seemed endless. His body became numb and stiff from the frigid north wind.
He heard the faint, steady rhythm of approaching hooves galloping along the frozen path. Anxiously, he watched as several horsemen rounded the bend. He let the first one pass by without an effort to get his attention. Then another passed by, and another. Finally, the last rider neared the spot where the old man sat like a snow statue. As this one drew near, the old man caught the rider’s eye and said, “Sir, would you mind giving an old man a ride to the other side? There doesn’t appear to be a passageway by foot.”
Reining his horse, the rider replied, “Sure thing. Hop aboard.” Seeing the old man was unable to lift his half-frozen body from the ground, the horseman dismounted and helped the old man onto the horse. The horseman took the old man not just across the river, but to his destination, which was just a few miles away.
As they neared the tiny but cozy cottage, the horseman’s curiosity caused him to inquire, “Sir, I notice that you let several other riders pass by without making an effort to secure a ride. Then I came up and you immediately asked me for a ride. I’m curious why, on such a bitter winter night, you would wait and ask the last rider. What if I had refused and left you there?”
The old man lowered himself slowly down from the horse, looked the rider straight in the eyes, and replied, “I’ve been around these here parts for some time. I reckon I know people pretty good.” The old-timer continued, “I looked into the eyes of the other riders and immediately saw there was no concern for my situation. It would have been useless even to ask them for a ride. But when I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident. I knew, then and there, that your gentle spirit would welcome the opportunity to give me assistance in my time of need.”
Those heartwarming comments touched the horseman deeply. “I’m most grateful for what you have said,” he told the old man. “May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.”
With that, Thomas Jefferson turned his horse around and made his way back to the White House.
Some of my most remarkable experiences come from moments when not a word is spoken.
That may surprise you coming from someone who makes a living using words. But words are only a part of language. What we do, our appearance, our bodies in motion or sitting still often times speaks much louder than words.
Such was the case for me yesterday.
It was a look.
At first I sensed a cautious mistrust. They looked at me and wondered why I was standing there.
I looked at them and wondered if I did indeed frighten them.
I stood my ground as they appeared more nervous never turning their backs on me.
They spoke with their children reassuring them that they were near and all was well.
I immediately connected with them because we were both parents. Maybe I should have said something, but I am not sure they would have understood or even trusted me more. Besides, I didn't speak their language.
In these times when it comes to our children, we should never let our guard down.
Our eyes connected. I smiled. They went on about their business.
I wanted nothing more than to watch them safely from a distance. They were young and fussing over a set of new born. We haven't had babies in our lives for many years so all of this brought back memories.
Their kids were hungry and I guess I must have finally given them both a sense that I meant no harm. One parent left for a moment, perhaps to get something for the kids.
I looked away periodically so as not to make them feel uncomfortable.
Suddenly, dad returned with some special treats and the kids went wild. I can remember spoiling my own children, too.
As they settled down, both parents turned to look at me. I felt at that very moment they understood. Maybe, one day in the future they, too, will find themselves watching another family, remembering the days when they were young, the children small and life filled to the max with love.
I then reached down and in an effort to assure them I could relate, I held my own little child. Yes, this past Father's day I was given a new addition to my family. His name is Phil.
Who is Phil? A Chihuahua mix now just 12 weeks old given to me by my wife. Yes, we now have three dogs. Ricky, Lucy and Phil.
Oh, and the family I spoke of? House Wrens nested in one of five bird houses in our yard.
There is a story of identical twins. One was a hope-filled optimist. "Everything is coming up roses!" he would say. The other twin was a sad and hopeless pessimist. He thought that Murphy, as in Murphy's Law, was an optimist. The worried parents of the boys brought them to the local psychologist.
He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twins’ personalities. "On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford, and give the optimist a box of manure." The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results.
When they peeked in on the pessimist, they heard him audibly complaining, "I don't like the color of this computer…I'll bet this calculator will break...I don't like the game...I know someone who's got a bigger toy car than this..."
Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their little optimist gleefully throwing the manure up in the air. He was giggling. "You can't fool me! Where there's this much manure, there's gotta be a pony!"
By Bruce Lee & John Little, from “The Art of Expressing the Human Body”
This inspiring story is about legendary martial arts master Bruce Lee.
“Bruce had me up to three miles a day, really at a good pace. We’d run the three miles in twenty-one or twenty-two minutes. Just under eight minutes a mile [Note: when running on his own in 1968, Lee would get his time down to six-and-a half minutes per mile].
So this morning he said to me “We’re going to go five.” I said, “Bruce, I can’t go five. I’m a lot older than you are, and I can’t do five.” He said, “When we get to three, we’ll shift gears and it’s only two more and you’ll do it.”
I said “Okay, I’ll go for it.” So we get to three, we go into the fourth mile and I’m okay for three or four minutes, and then I really begin to give out. I’m tired, my heart’s pounding, I can’t go any more and so I say to him, “Bruce if I run anymore,” –and we’re still running-- “if I run any more, I’m liable to have a heart attack and die.”
He said, “Then die.” It made me so mad that I went the full five miles.
Afterward I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it. I said, you know, “Why did you say that?”
He said, “Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”
An African farmer had heard tales about other farmers who had made millions of dollars by discovering diamond mines.
These tales so excited the farmer that he could hardly wait to sell his farm and go prospecting for diamonds himself. So he sold the farm and spent the rest of his life wandering the African continent, searching unsuccessfully for the g0leaming gems that brought such high prices on the markets of the world.
Finally, broke, worn out, and in a fit of despondency, he threw himself into a river and drowned.
Meanwhile, back at the farm, the man who had bought his farm happened to be crossing a small stream on the property one day when he saw something gleaming at the bottom of the stream.
He picked it up. It was a sparkling stone - a good size stone - and, admiring it, he later put it on his fireplace mantel as an interesting curiosity.
Several weeks later, a visitor admired the stone, looked closely at it, hefted it in his hand and nearly fainted. He asked the farmer if he knew what he'd found. When the farmer said no, that he thought it was just a piece of crystal, the visitor told him he had found one of the largest diamonds ever discovered.
The farmer was astonished. He told the man that his creek was full of these brilliant stones, and his farmland was covered with them. Not all were as large, perhaps, as the one on his mantel, but they were sprinkled generously throughout his property.
Needless to say, the farm the first farmer had sold, so that he could search for a diamond mine, turned out to be the most productive diamond mine on the entire African continent.
The first farmer had owned, free and clear, acres of diamonds, but had sold them for practically nothing in order to look for them elsewhere.
The moral is clear: If the first farmer had only taken the time to study and prepare himself - to learn what diamonds looked like in their rough state - and, since he had already owned a piece of land, to thoroughly explore the property he had before looking elsewhere, his wildest dreams would have come true.
EACH OF US IS, AT THIS MOMENT, STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS OR HER OWN ACRE OF DIAMONDS. If each of us will only have the wisdom and patience to begin by exploring ourselves, we will find that we contain all the riches necessary to be able to succeed in whatever endeavors to which we may set our minds and hearts.