They touch our lives, perhaps making us think or smile, often without even realizing it.
A few years ago, I worked at a church and since my son was home schooling, he went with me to the church every day. Most mornings, we'd stop at a local convenience store, getting a chocolate drink for him and a cappuccino for me.
We could have purchased larger quantities of drinks for him and kept them in the refrigerator at the church. I could have brewed my own coffee there too. There were other stores we could have frequented, for we passed many stores along the way on our daily commute.
But the clerk at the store we chose to visit refreshed our lives each day, and so we returned again and again.
Perhaps the store clerk had previously worked in a fast food restaurant, where she learned to ask, "Would you like fries with that?" Perhaps she'd been trained in another retail setting, where she learned, well, about multiple selling.
I prefer to think that she had found her own unique way of enjoying life and her job. I'm not even sure that she was aware that her exuberance for life and her job put a smile upon the face of each customer. Customers did, indeed, return again and again for a dose of good cheer as only that special clerk could give.
When a customer brought cookies to the counter, the clerk could have asked, "Would you like some milk with those cookies?"
Instead, she inquired, "Would you like a lottery ticket with those cookies?"
She might have asked me if I wanted a donut with my coffee. But instead, she asked, "Would you like some batteries with that coffee?" Of my son with his chocolate drink, she inquired, "Would you like a newspaper with that drink?"
The clerk never asked if a customer wanted chips with their cola purchase, or headache medicine with their beer. Rather, she'd inquire if the customers wanted car oil, or laundry soap, or toilet paper.
Yes, life is what you make of it. This clerk's method of dealing with what some assume is a boring job, and with the customers she met daily, made the hours in her day more enjoyable. And in doing that, she also refreshed the lives of others and made them laugh.
Sometimes, if my day at the church had been particularly tiring, or if my son's lessons rather difficult, we'd stop at that store before heading home. We'd giggle as we left the store, the clerk's words echoing behind us.
Mom would have loved my 6-year-old granddaughter Emily, because in a lot of ways Mom was Emily – or Emily is Mom, depending on how you look at it.
It isn’t a “look” thing. Mom had black hair and olive skin – Emily is as fair and blonde as they come. It’s more of an attitude thing.
Mom was kind and loving and had a tender heart, but you didn’t want to cross her. If she was not pleased, you knew it. And if she felt you needed a piece of her mind, she would serve it up without garnish. Whereas my father could tell you to go to the hot and fiery nether regions in such a way that you would actually look forward to the trip, Mom would just tell you to go there – directly – and leave it at that.
At her funeral 30 years ago, the most common phrase spoken about her was this: “You always knew where you stood with her.” Most people saw that as a positive thing about her. I know I did.
Emily is similarly direct. She’s not mean-spirited – usually. She just says what’s on her mind. Not too long ago she was sitting on her grandmother’s lap while the two of them engaged in animated conversation. Suddenly Emily broke away from the dialogue to ask: “Grandma, why do you have so many wrinkles on your face?”
Thankfully, Grandma understood that she wasn’t being rude or insensitive.
She was just being Emily.
A couple of weeks ago we were visiting Emily’s family when she came home from school, clearly frustrated with one of her classmates. I didn’t hear the first part of the story, but my ears perked up when I heard her say: “He does it every day!”
“Who does what every day?” I asked, concerned that my granddaughter was somehow being mistreated by a young man who, if it was true, was about to start losing body parts.
“This boy in my class,” Emily said. “Every day at lunch he takes some milk.”
Well, that wasn’t what I was expecting.
“And that’s a bad thing?” I asked.
“No,” Emily said. “But then every day he sits there and talks about how much he hates milk. And I just want to say to him, ‘Dude, don’t take the milk!’”
Her mother, Jen – I’m sure you can see Jen’s picture if you Google “World’s Sweetest Person” – was shocked.
“Emily!” she said. “You didn’t actually say that to the boy, did you?”
“No,” Emily said, taking a fierce bite out of a post-school cookie, “but I’m going to tomorrow!”
While Jen had a little heart-to-heart with Emily, I found myself thinking about how much my granddaughter reminded me of my mom. Only Mom would have said, “Waste not, want not” or something similarly Franklinesque. To be honest, I kind of like Emily’s bold, direct approach, and I think I’ll be using it on myself for the next little while. When I’m inclined to whine about feeling so tired in the morning, I’ll just say to myself: “Dude, don’t stay up so late!” When I have the urge to rationalize the whys and wherefores of letting my belt out another notch: “Dude, don’t order the fries!” And when I roll my eyes and complain about the sorry state of prime time TV: “Dude, put down the remote!”
Life issues to each of us a complete set of traumas, tragedies, aggravations and frustrations with which we have to cope. We don’t choose them, and we can’t control them. They just happen, like it or not. The last thing we need to do to ourselves is to pile on a bunch of self-inflicted angst. So if you’re doing something – anything – that is causing additional distress and frustration in your life, Emily has some advice for you:
The Meadow by Leanne Petty,posted May 29 2012 9:33AM
By “YMI Tim”
It was a warm breezy summer day in July and a perfect day for a walk. My first thought was to go to the meadow, a place where I feel comfortable and secure as if God's hands are around me. The meadow is a place where you can see all of God's handiwork if you take the time and watch closely, looking beyond the obvious.
Upon entering the meadow the first thing that caught my eye was the way the winds blew softly across the sea of yellow goldenrods. It was as though each flower was in sync with the other as they moved in unison to and fro in the gentle summer breeze.
The time passed quickly as I became mesmerized by the swaying motion of this sea of yellow flowers. I could hear the soft, soothing sounds of the bees as they flew from flower to flower. There was a yellow haze over the flowers as pollen filled the air, and its fragrance was sweet and refreshing. I realized that was God's way of helping the bees do their never ending task of pollinating the flowers of the meadow.
As I looked closer I could see the small birds that were clinging to the golden rods. They seemed so peaceful as they rode back and forth on the stems, almost as if God had created this motion just for their enjoyment. What was actually happening was, they were being fed by God's handiwork. The wind was causing the bugs that lit on the flowers to become airborne and as they did the birds would feast upon them. It was as though they knew that all this was being done, just for them.
At the extreme end of the meadow I noticed several raspberry bushes which were blessed with an abundance of ripened fruit. Looking closer, under the bushes, were rabbits, field mice and woodchucks feeding on the ripened berries that were close to the ground. Just behind them were deer eating the berries that were higher on the bush. It was obvious at this point that God was providing food for his creatures.
The day passed all too quickly but that was of no importance to me. The things I had seen were so beautiful and special that time seemed to have stood still. I had been lost in the overwhelming creations of God, and had learned that he provides for all his creatures no matter what their needs. I felt safe and secure in all that was around me, realizing that I too was a creature of God and that He was providing for me.
By Capt. John Rasmussen (Army News Service, May 22, 2002)
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina -- It was raining "cats and dogs" and I was late for physical training.
Traffic was backed up at Fort Campbell, Ky., and was moving way too slowly. I was probably going to be late and I was growing more and more impatient.
The pace slowed almost to a standstill as I passed Memorial Grove, the site built to honor the soldiers who died in the Gander airplane crash, the worst redeployment accident in the history of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Because it was close to Memorial Day, a small American flag had been placed in the ground next to each soldier's memorial plaque.
My concern at the time, however, was getting past the bottleneck, getting out of the rain and getting to PT on time.
All of a sudden, infuriatingly, just as the traffic was getting started again, the car in front of me stopped.
A soldier, a private of course, jumped out in the pouring rain and ran over toward the grove.
I couldn't believe it! This knucklehead was holding up everyone for who knows what kind of prank. Horns were honking.
I waited to see the butt-chewing that I wanted him to get for making me late.
He was getting soaked to the skin. His BDUs were plastered to his frame. I watched-as he ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground in the wind and the rain, and set it upright again.
Then, slowly, he came to attention, saluted, ran back to his car, and drove off.
I'll never forget that incident. That soldier, whose name I will never know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures.
That simple salute -- that single act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag -- encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said, "I will never forget. I will keep the faith. I will finish the mission. I am an American soldier."
I thank God for examples like that.
And on this Memorial Day, I will remember all those who paid the ultimate price for my freedom, and one private, soaked to the skin, who honored them.
Have you ever looked, really looked, at a soldier's face? Sometimes it's young, barely an adult, the hopes of youth still painted in its features. Sometimes it's old; older than faith, older than wisdom, older than time. And sometimes...sometimes it's a bit of both all at once.
Sometimes it's gritty and pained, remembering the face of another who has fallen. Sometimes it's laughing, pleased to have a moment of peace. Most of the time it's proud because it knows, oh yes it knows, the world is a different place – a better place because of it.
Next time you look at a soldier's face, see if you can find that glint of pride. Sometimes it’s hidden and you have to search it out. You'll find it in the eyes; always in the eyes. For the eyes are indeed the windows to the soul, even a soldier's soul.
And when you've carefully examined every feature of that soldier's face, stand up straight and tall, and smile your best smile. Thank that soldier, because it does what some cannot or will not. It defends what it believes to be right with its very life.
But more important, it defends a perfect stranger: you. And when you see a flag-covered casket, stand in memoriam of all the soldier's faces you've examined. For when one of them falls, they all fall. And when one of them stands, they all stand.
The smell of rain and there you were sitting on the front porch. Your apron slightly dusted with flour and smeared finger prints of soon to be chocolate cake. I always got to lick the beaters; you always put way too much "ic-n-ing" on the cupcakes which is why I look the way I do today.
The smell of rain and we gathered under the pavilion waiting for the rides to start again. Charcoal smoke and fatty cheeseburgers filled the air as nearby "pitnickers" took advantage of the break in the day.
The smell of rain in your hair as I wrapped the towel around you. "I told you to come in as soon as it started," I said to my son, even knowing he wouldn't. Perhaps hoping he wouldn't. After all, he's just a boy.
The smell of rain and the steam rises off the roof of the building nearby. I am on guard duty in Navy boot camp and this dumpster could very well be attacked by the enemy at any moment. It is mid-day in the hot Florida sun. I love writing to my brother to tell him about the air-conditioned barracks we sleep in. He was in the "real Navy," he reminds me. Up north in the Great Lakes mid-winter...no heat!
The smell of rain, the music plays, I get happy feet and cannot control the urge – no, the "need" – to dance. It is Universal Studios Florida, one of the hottest days on record, and the song is "Singing in the Rain." I did the whole thing in front of strangers and my wife and youngest son. Which might explain the poor relationship I have with him today.
The smell of rain and the roses sigh, memories of perfectly timed rainfall during the funeral of a loved one and tear soaked goodbyes, muddy frolics when we didn't care about getting dirty, just washed the car days, and now I don't have to wash the car late winter days.
The smell of rain drifting through the old wooden screen placed in the window of my childhood bedroom mixes with the crisp smell of fresh bleached white sheets stretched tightly on my bed. I loved the first moment just lying there.
The smell of rain mixed with the fragrance of our love feeds me when I hold you close, sustains me whenever we are not. I need only close my eyes and I see you there, always will, until my eyes no longer open.
And the smell of rain today in the parking lot of the grocery store sent me rushing home to share this with you, my friend. Next time it rains, think of me.
The man was Herbert J. Taylor who surveyed the way the company did its business, which was the sale of aluminum pots and pans. The nature of the industry was fraught with unethical business practices. To bring the business out of bankruptcy Taylor knew that he had to change the way business was conducted. Ultimately he developed a very simple business philosophy that all employees were to follow in all of their business dealings with customers, suppliers and associates. The philosophy changed the business, turned the business around and ultimately brought it out of bankruptcy.
This philosophy is a simple four-step decision making tool. It didn't tell people what to do or how to think, but it did give them a tool to use in all of their business dealings. The tool is now well known to anyone who has ever associated themselves with Rotary International. It is simple: The Four Way Test. The tip is to use this simple decision making tool in your life and see if it doesn't make a difference. As people, we must all stand by our personal honesty and integrity. This is a handy and simple test of what you say, do or think. Give it a try in your life.
The Four Way Test
1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and better friendships?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
By the way, this tool made Herbert Taylor a multimillionaire in the 1930s. So it's also a very profitable way of doing business.
Talking behind someone's back is considered rude and mean.
People say nasty things! Gossip, even slander. All kinds of criticism from looks to work habits to personality.
The other day at lunch I was part of a whole group of colleagues, and we were talking behind our boss's back. She's the new principal of our middle school. It's her first year as our boss, though she was "one of us" for some years. Pretty awkward position! And we had quite a lot to say.
We talked about how kind she is to us. She hand writes notes to wish us happy holidays, or to thank us for jobs well done. She checks on us when she knows we're facing difficulties outside of school with our health or with our families. We talked about the good role model she is for the young women in our building. The fair but firm way she treats students and parents.
All this as she is replacing another well-respected boss. His shoes were hard to fill, and we talked about the fine job she's doing.
I thought about that after lunch was finished and we had gone our separate ways. Sometimes we have the good fortune to be part of another kind of "talking behind their backs." All too often, when we talk NICE behind someone's back, they never know about it!
I sent her a quick email to report the conversation. She replied saying how much she appreciated hearing about it, how it made a bright spot in a tough week of testing and a death in her family.
I've done the same after such chats about the wonderful custodian we all adore. We often talk about how lucky we are to have her, but she's here after many of us are gone for the day. She was delighted to hear it when I told her that so many teachers are singing her praises.
When I overheard conversations about the retirement of our superintendent -- an announcement that was met with sadness -- I thought he should know how we felt. So I made sure he did.
I'm guessing a boss must be pleased to hear that his employees are sorry to hear he's leaving and that they respected him and appreciated the job he's done. Cards and emails are great, but maybe it's just extra heartwarming to know that kind words are being said even "behind your back."
I like to do the same for my students. Of course I give them my own compliments, but I love to let them know when other adults have noticed their good behavior and attitudes. I want them to know that we aren't spending our lunch and meeting times complaining about them ALL the time! I want them to know that we often express our pleasure in working with this particular group of kids, and I want them to know why!
I beam when someone notices how my teenage grandchildren are turning into such fine young people. Then it's absolutely necessary to let THEM know it too! I want them to know that people notice them, and that it matters when what they notice is good and praiseworthy.
I've known from the other side how much this can mean. I often lack confidence in my own abilities as a teacher, so it gave me quite a lift when a friend who works with families in the community mentioned that he has heard several times from parents how glad they are to have their kids in my class. It just feels more important somehow to have the words said by people who don't know I'll ever hear them -- when they can be totally honest. Great to hear it. And great to share!
Sure, it's pleasant when we can say nice things about other people. It feels good! And I think it's a special compliment for people to know of the times when others are saying nice things even out of ear shot.
Watch for your next opportunity to be the reporter! Make sure to tell them about the nice things being said behind their backs! Because how will they know unless we tell them?
I used to have a problem falling asleep at night because I had so much on my mind.
Even though I was tired, yawning and could hardly keep my eyes open, I still could not fall asleep.
I brought too much to bed with me.
I couldn't leave all my troubles and worries just outside the door. I walked in weighted down from all the challenges of my day.
Sure, I tried counting sheep but I'd lie there wondering how many sheep there were and where the heck they came from.
Then I tried counting my blessings. I couldn't fall asleep because I had so many in my life I wanted to make sure I didn't leave any of them out.
Imagine just before you nodded off you forgot to mention a friend or loved one. I was afraid if I didn't mention them they'd know about it.
"Hey, you didn't count me last night? Thanks so much! Forget that Christmas present I was going to give you!"
Or worse yet... God. I mean, you're counting blessings but you fall off just before you say, "Thank you, God."
Would I even wake up?
Seriously, there is something I learned just last night from my computer.
I had too many things on my start up menu and it was causing the computer to run slower.
That's what got me thinking.
I've conquered the "taking too much to bed” problem, but now I start my day with too much in my start up.
Stuff comes rushing in and I get overwhelmed, I bog down and run slower in the morning.
I simply need to get more organized. Like the old saying, "A place for everything and every- thing in its place." I need to leave things at the door before I go to bed. Then, instead of falling over them when I wake up, I need to make a plan the night before.
Ok, so I tried it.
I fell asleep, pen in hand, with one thing written on the list.
When I woke up the next day I saw it again.
There's the answer.
The first thing you do when you go to bed is to thank God.
The first thing you do when you wake up is to thank God.
Writer and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, "Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together." But I was not thinking about the golden chain of kindness one day when a dilapidated automobile, possibly held together with glue and wire, parked in front of my house. During those years, we lived in a small town just across the street from the church I served, and travelers in need constantly found their way to our home.
I was growing weary of helping the numerous people who stopped by almost daily. I was frequently awakened in the middle of an otherwise good night's sleep, to get out in the cold and help someone passing through. Once our property was vandalized; once I drove through a blizzard in order to get two people to safety; many times I felt taken for granted by penniless motorists or hitchhikers who did not thank me for help they received and complained that I didn't do more. I hadn't felt a part of a "golden chain of kindness" for awhile and, though I still offered assistance where I could, sometimes I inwardly wished they would just go away.
But on this day, a young man with a week-old beard climbed from the broken-down automobile. He had no money and no food. He asked if I could give him some work and I offered him gasoline and a meal. I told him that if he wanted to work, we'd be pleased if he'd cut the grass, but work wasn't necessary.
Though sweaty and hungry, he worked hard. Because of the afternoon heat, I expected him to give up before the job was completed. But he persisted and, after a long while, he sat wearily down in the shade. I thanked him for his work and gave him the money he needed. Then I offered him a little extra money for a task particularly well done, but he refused. "No thank you," he said in heavily accented speech. I insisted that he take the money but he stood up and once again said, "No thank you. I want to work. You keep the money." I tried again and for a third time he protested, shaking his head as he walked away.
I never saw him again. I'm sure I never will. And interestingly, he probably thinks I helped him out that day. But that is not the way it was. I didn't help him, he helped me. He helped me to believe in people again. He helped me to once again WANT to do something for those who are in need. I wish I could thank him for restoring some of my faith in the basic goodness of others and for giving me back a little of the optimism I had lost somewhere along the way. Because of him I once again felt part of a golden chain of kindness that binds us to one another.
I may have fed his body that day. But he fed my soul.
There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.
One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.
The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell, in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all.
But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest ... perfect peace.
Which picture do you think won the prize?
The King chose the second picture.
Do you know why?
"Because," explained the King, "peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace."
40 Things by Leanne Petty,posted May 11 2012 7:45AM
By Corrina Hyde from “Heartwarmers”
I'll be turning 40 soon!
I am so excited by this prospect that I'm planning this big theme party! The theme will be "I've never..."
While explaining this to a friend of mine, I laughingly gave the example of, "I've never had a baby shower, so someone would have to bring a baby gift. Then I'll donate it to the nursery at the church." I was smiling through this little explanation, until I saw the look on her face.
With tears in her eyes she said, "That's so sad!"
Well, there was a time when I felt that way, too. Finding out in my 20's that I couldn't have children was devastating. I immediately left the child care field and went to work building cables for the B-1 Bomber. The physical, repetitive labor was very good for me. Towards the end of the three years, I found that I was just borrowing my co-workers' children to do things with.
My first and only love was the children. I had a lot of time to think about all of the things I had been cheated out of. I would never hold a new born baby in my arms. I would never rock my baby to sleep. I would never get to sing lullabies. I would never get to watch my child leave for their first day of school. I would never get to be the tooth fairy! I would never get to talk about boys, or proms, or pimples! Yes, I felt that I was going to get cheated out of a lot. I would never get a Mother's Day Card!
I'm not sure when it all changed.
I don't think there was one specific moment when I realized that I had more children than any mother could possibly ever have! And, that's the answer I gave to my friend.
Smiling, I explained that as long as I work in the nursery, I will have babies to rock and sing to. As long as I am a Head Start teacher, I will have first days of school. Working with the youth will give me plenty of experience with teenagers.
Carissa lost her first tooth at my house and no one was ever a better Tooth Fairy. I hosted an exchange student from Germany last year and got to shop for prom dresses. I even cried when she gave me a locket with her picture in it, engraved with one simple word on the front, "Mom".
I still have it and wear it, and I also have the Mother's Day card she gave me. All treasures.
My babies are now growing up and having babies. Soon I'll get to have "Nana" experiences. It doesn't matter that we don't share the same genes. What we do share is a lot of love.
Truth is, I'm having a hard time finding 40 things I've never done. It's hard to find them when you're happy, productive and living your dream!
A little boy came up to his mother in the kitchen one evening while she was fixing supper, and he handed her a piece of paper that he had been writing on. After his mom dried her hands on an apron, she read it, and this is what it said:
For cutting the grass: $5.00
For cleaning up my room this week: $1.00
For going to the store for you: .50
Baby-sitting my kid brother while you went shopping: .25
Taking out the garbage: $1.00
For getting a good report card: $5.00
For cleaning up and raking the yard: $2.00
Total owed: $14.75
Well, his mother looked at him standing there, and the boy could see the memories flashing through her mind. She picked up the pen, turned over the paper he'd written on, and this is what she wrote:
"For the nine months I carried you while you grew inside me: No Charge.
For all the nights that I've sat up with you, doctored and prayed for you: No Charge.
For all the trying times, and all the tears that you've caused through the years: No Charge.
For all the nights that were filled with dread, and for the worries I knew were ahead: No Charge.
For the toys, food, clothes, and even wiping your nose: No Charge.
When you add it up, Son, the cost of my love is: No Charge."
When the boy finished reading what his mother had written, there were big tears in his eyes, and he looked straight up at his mother and said, "Mom, I sure do love you."
And then he took the pen and in great big letters he wrote: "PAID IN FULL".
His mom just hugged him and said, “You never will!”
Later the little boy asked his father why Mother seemed to cry for no reason.
“All mothers cry for no reason,” was all his dad could say.
The little boy grew up and became a man, still wondering why mothers cry. So he finally put in a call to God and when God got on the phone the man said, “God, why do mothers cry so easily.”
God said, “You see son, when I made mothers they had to be special. I made their shoulders strong enough to carry the weight of the world, yet gentle enough to give comfort. I gave them an inner strength to endure childbirth and the rejection that many times come from their children.
“I gave them a hardiness that allows them to keep going when everyone else gives up, and to take care of their families through sickness and fatigue without complaining.
“I gave them the sensitivity to love their children under all circumstances, even when their child has hurt them very badly. This same sensitivity helps them to make a child’s boo-boo feel better and helps them share a teenager’s anxieties and fears.
“I gave them a tear to shed. It’s theirs exclusively to use whenever it’s needed. It’s their only weakness.
My son has started his freshman year of college and appears to be functioning just fine without his mother. I'm trying hard to forgive him for that.
On the drive home, after we'd helped him move into his dorm room and I'd made enough of a blubbery scene to thoroughly embarrass my boy, I got to thinking about his first day of preschool. On the short drive to the school that day, he'd clutched his favorite toy, a stuffed bunny he'd inexplicably named Malcolm, and tried to be very brave. So did I.
"You're going to have a wonderful time!" I remember saying too cheerfully. He didn't look convinced. He kept rubbing his finger across Malcolm's head, something he did often to comfort the rather emotional rabbit.
"It makes Malcolm feel better," he'd once explained to me. I think it probably made my little man feel better, too.
I remember praying silently on that drive that he would like school and that the other kids would be nice to him and that his teachers would be smart enough to see how utterly special this blue-eyed child was, head and shoulders above any other kid in the school or any other kid in the world for that matter. Maybe I was a little biased. But only a little.
When we arrived at the preschool, he got out of the car with Malcolm tucked under his arm. I reminded him that Malcolm would have to stay with me. I promised to take good care of him.
"He'll be right here waiting for you when I pick you up," I said. I sounded like Mr. Rogers, way too cheerful.
For a moment, those blue eyes brimmed with tears. He rubbed Malcolm's head several times to reassure him, then placed the rabbit back in the car. I still remember watching, through my own brimming tears, as he lovingly strapped the little rabbit into the car seat.
"You stay here, Malcolm," he said, stroking the bunny's head one last time. "Only people can go to school. I'll be back soon. You'll be OK."
When we got home after dropping our son off at college, I went into his room and reached into the top of his closet, way back behind the boxes of video games and soccer trophies, and pulled out an old stuffed bunny. His ears are frayed now, and his fur looks matted; the seams in his body are visible. The top of his head is bare in several places, worn down to the fabric by a little boy's fingers.
"Hi Malcolm," I said to him, sounding again like Mr. Rogers. "Long time no see!"
I sat down on my son's bed and just stared at Malcolm for awhile. I rubbed his head several times. I think it made him feel better.
I walked into the grocery store not particularly interested in buying groceries. I wasn't hungry. The pain of losing my husband of 7 years was still too raw. And this grocery store held so many sweet memories.
He often came with me and almost every time he'd pretend to go off and look for something special. I knew what he was up to. I'd always spot him walking down the aisle with the three
yellow roses in his hands. He knew I loved yellow roses.
With a heart filled with grief, I only wanted to buy my few items and leave, but even grocery shopping was different since he had passed on. Shopping for one took time, a little more thought than it had for two.
Standing by the meat, I searched for the perfect small steak and remembered how he had loved his steak.
Suddenly a woman came beside me. She was blonde, slim and lovely in a soft green pantsuit. I watched as she picked up a large pack of T-bones, dropped them in her basket, hesitated, and then put them back... She turned to go and once again reached for the pack of steaks. She saw me watching her and
she smiled. "My husband loves T-bones, but honestly, at these prices, I don't know."
I swallowed the emotion down my throat and met her pale blue eyes. "My husband passed away eight days ago," I told her. Glancing at the package in her hands, I fought to control the
tremble in my voice. "Buy him the steaks. And cherish every moment you have together."
She shook her head and I saw the emotion in her eyes as she placed the package in her basket and wheeled away. I turned and pushed my cart across the length of the store to the dairy products. There I stood, trying to decide which size milk I should buy.
Quart, I finally decided and moved on to the ice cream. If nothing else, I could always fix myself an ice cream cone. I placed the ice cream in my cart and looked down the aisle
toward the front.
I saw first the green suit, then recognized the pretty lady coming towards me. In her arms she carried a package. On her face was the brightest smile I had ever seen. I would swear a soft halo encircled her blonde hair as she kept walking toward me, her eyes holding mine.
As she came closer, I saw what she held and tears began misting in my eyes. "These are for you," she said and placed three beautiful long stemmed yellow roses in my arms. "When you go through the line, they will know these are paid for." She leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on my cheek, then smiled again. I wanted to tell her what she'd done, what the roses meant, but still unable to speak, I watched as she walked away as tears clouded my vision.
I looked down at the beautiful roses nestled in the green tissue wrapping and found it almost unreal. How did she know? Suddenly the answer seemed so clear. I wasn't alone. Oh,
you haven't forgotten me, have you? I whispered, with tears in my eyes. He was still with me, and she was his angel.
Every day, be thankful for what you have and who you are.
A few weeks after my first wife, Georgia, was called to heaven, I was cooking dinner for my son and myself. For a vegetable, I decided on frozen peas. As I was cutting open the bag, it slipped from my hands and crashed to the floor. The peas, like marbles, rolled everywhere. I tried to use a broom, but with each swipe the peas rolled across the kitchen, bounced off the wall on the other side and rolled in another direction.
My mental state at the time was fragile. Losing a spouse is an unbearable pain. I got on my hands and knees and pulled them into a pile to dispose of. I was half laughing and half crying as I collected them. I could see the humor in what happened, but it doesn’t take much for a person dealing with grief to break down.
For the next week, every time I was in the kitchen, I would find a pea that had escaped my first cleanup. In a corner, behind a table leg, in the frays at the end of a mat, or hidden under a heater, they kept turning up. Eight months later I pulled out the refrigerator to clean, and found a dozen or so petrified peas hidden underneath.
At the time I found those few remaining peas, I was in a new relationship with a wonderful woman I met in a widow/widower support group. After we married, I was reminded of those peas under the refrigerator. I realized my life had been like that bag of frozen peas. It had shattered. My wife was gone. I was in a new city with a busy job and a son having trouble adjusting to his new surroundings and the loss of his mother. I was a wreck. I was a bag of spilled, frozen peas. My life had come apart and scattered.
When life gets you down; when everything you know comes apart; when you think you can never get through the tough times, remember, it is just a bag of scattered, frozen peas. The peas can be collected and life will move on. You will find all the peas. First the easy peas come together in a pile. You pick them up and start to move on. Later you will find the bigger and harder to find peas. When you pull all the peas together, life will be whole again.
The life you know can be scattered at any time. You will move on, but how fast you collect your peas depends on you. Will you keep scattering them around with a broom, or will you pick them up one-by-one and put your life back together?
I do a lot of management training each year for the Circle K Corporation, a national chain of convenience stores. Among the topics we address in our seminars is the retention of quality employees - a real challenge to managers when you consider the pay scale in the service industry. During these discussions, I ask the participants, "What has caused you to stay long enough to become a manager?" Some time back a new manager took the question and slowly, with her voice almost breaking, said, "It was a $19 baseball glove."
Cynthia told the group that she originally took a Circle K clerk job as an interim position while she looked for something better.
On her second or third day behind the counter, she received a phone call from her nine-year old son, Jessie. He needed a baseball glove for Little League. She explained that as a single mother, money was very tight, and her first check would have to go for paying bills. Perhaps she could buy his baseball glove with her second or third check.
When Cynthia arrived for work the next morning, Patricia, the store manager, asked her to come to the small room in back of the store that served as an office. Cynthia wondered if she had done something wrong or left some part of her job incomplete from the day before. She was concerned and confused.
Patricia handed her a box. "I overheard you talking to your son yesterday," she said, "and I know that it is hard to explain things to kids. This is a baseball glove for Jessie because he may not understand how important he is, even though you have to pay bills before you can buy gloves. You know we can't pay good people like you as much as we would like to; but we do care, and I want you to know you are important to us."
The thoughtfulness, empathy and love of this convenience store manager demonstrates vividly that people remember more how much an employer cares than how much the employer pays. An important lesson for the price of a Little League baseball glove.