Sunday, November 30, 2014

"He's nothing but a bum."

Today's Crumb comes from a reader in Raleigh, NC. It first appeared on Christmas Day, 1969, in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. See if you can can guess who wrote it.

"One Christmas Eve when I was very young, I was Christmas shopping with my father. He had me loaded down the packages and I was tired. I was thinking how good it would be go get home when a beggar, bleary-eyed and unshaven, came up to me and touched my hand and asked for money. His hand was so dirty that I recoiled and brushed him aside.

"My father said, 'It's Christmas Eve, Norman. You should not treat a man that way.' 'But Dad, he's nothing but a bum!' I said. 'There's no such thing as a bum. He's a child of God, my boy.' My father took out his wallet and handed me a dollar. 'Take this, go up to him, speak with respect and tell him you're giving him this dollar in the name of Christ.'  'Oh, I don't want to say that.' But my father insisted, 'Go and do as I tell you.' So I ran and caught up with the man and said, 'Excuse me, sir, I give you this dollar in the name of Christ.' He looked absolutely surprised. Then a wonderful smile spread over his face. His nobility came out. 'I thank you, sir, in the name of Christ,' he said. All my irritation faded away. The dingy street suddenly seemed beautiful. I glimpsed the transformation that comes over people when you think of them as children of God. It is this that really makes Christmas merry."

Norman grew up to be Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of "The Power of Positive Thinking."

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hawley, Carbondale and Moscow

A warm greeting to readers from Hawley PA, Carbondale PA and Moscow PA, who can now find Crumbs of Comfort in their local papers -- the News Eagle, the News and the Villager. In our salad days (August, 1964) a friend and I hiked from Hawley to Carbondale in ten hours, and then paid a cab driver $15 to take us home, so the area is dear to my heart. If you have any potential "crumbs" you like to offer for possible use in this blog, email me at  And again, welcome!

The hug shared 'round the world

On November 25, 2014, several thousand people gathered in Portland, OR, to voice opinions about the Ferguson, MO incident. Among the protesters was young Devonte Hart, seen here with Portland Police Sgt. Bret Barnum.

According to his adoptive parents, Sarah and Jennifer Hart, Devonte has a heart of gold but struggles to live fearlessly around police and people who don't understand the complexity of racism. He trembled and cried until his sweater was wet with tears as he stood alone in front of the police barricade holding a sign that said "free hugs," unsure how police would react. Sgt. Barnum saw him crying and called him over to ask why. After a short chat, Barnum looked at Devonte's sign and said, "Do I get one of those?" That's when freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen caught this picture, which attracted worldwide attention. But who is Devonte Hart?

Devonte was born 12 years ago with drugs pumping through his body. By the time he was four, he had smoked, consumed alcohol, handled guns, been shot at, and suffered severe abuse and neglect. He knew only a few words, including the F-word and the S-word. He was a violent toddler with many disabilities, until Jen and Sarah adopted him and his two siblings seven years ago.

"I felt there was no way we could raise this child," Jen admits, "but something was pulling at my heart." Surrounded by unconditional love, patience and acceptance, Devonte defied all odds and grew into a generous, kind, charismatic young man. "He inspires me every day," says Jen. "He's proven the doctors, psychologists and teachers wrong. People often tell us how lucky he is that we adopted him, but we most certainly are the lucky ones. He's living proof that our past does not dictate our future."

Friday, November 28, 2014

Yes, Virginia....

If the title of this post rings a bell, you already may know about the most famous editorial ever written in an English-language newspaper. But you may not recall the backstory.
Virginia O'Hanlon

In September, 1897, classmates teased 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon because she still believed in Santa Claus. They told her there was no Santa, so she asked her Dad. Instead of the usual answer, he urged her to write to a local newspaper called the Sun, because "if you see it in the Sun, it's so." When her note arrived in the newsroom, it simply asked, "Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?" The editor passed it off to a sardonic veteran Sun editorial writer named Frank Church. A former Civil War correspondent who'd seen lots of misery and suffering in the war, Church reportedly "bristled and pooh-poohed" at first, but under deadline and in fewer than 500 words he composed an editorial which would later be translated 20 languages and even set to music. Since editorials are not signed, Church's authorship was not revealed until his death is 1906.

Raised on New York City's upper east side, Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas was the daughter of a doctor. She pursued a career in education, earning a PhD from Fordham University. Throughout her life, she often received inquiries about her letter, and invitations to read Church's editorial. She died in 1971 at age 81. In 2006, Virginia's great-granddaughter brought the original letter to Antiques Roadshow, where it was appraised at $20,000. To read her letter and Frank Church's famous reply, visit

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What does it mean to be "family?"

What does it mean to spend Thanksgiving with "family?" Blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood. Helena Weglowski and Mira Wexler know what "family" means.

When Mira and Helena were children, Mira's parents lived and worked on the Weglowski farm in Poland. The Wexlers were Jewish. The Weglowskis were Catholic. The girls were best friends. After Nazis occupied Poland, all Jews including the Wexlers were sent to a ghetto in Ludwipol, now part of Ukraine. Mira's Dad was killed, so Mira and her Mom escaped back to the Weglowski farm, where they remained hidden for two years. Helena and her family would have been killed if the Nazis knew they were harboring Jews. Sometimes Mira and her Mom hid outside in the forest near the farm, and Helena would bring them winter clothing and hot food. Sometimes they came inside the Weglowski farmhouse to rest and be warmed. When the war ended, they moved to Brazil, where Mira's Mom passed away some years later.

Helena (left) and Mira
The girls had not met for 70 years, until they were reunited this week by the New York-based Foundation for the Righteous, which honors Gentiles who risked their lives to care for Jews during the Holocaust. "I couldn't even dream this moment would happen," said Mira, who was flown to NYC from her home in Brazil. Soon after Helena came through customs from Poland, the women saw each other in a briefing room at JFK airport. Smiles swept across their faces, followed by tears of joy. "I'm extremely happy to see Mira again," Helena said. "The war destroyed everything, but now we can be together." They celebrated Thanksgiving this week together, as family.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Three neighbor ladies

The Bible says God is love, so why don't we always get what we ask for when we pray? Does He really say "yes" to some prayers and "no" to others, which are equally worthy? I asked a friend about this a few years ago, and he told me the story of three neighbor ladies.

Early one morning, the first lady lay her dish towels on the grass to bleach in the sun. The second lady put her plants out on the patio since they needed sunlight to stay healthy. And the third lady was seen hanging laundry on the clothes line to dry.

Before long, the sun came up, and you'll never guess what happened. Without knowing each lady's expectation, it bleached the dish towels, grew the plants and dried the laundry. A coincidence? No.

My friend said the outcomes were not determined by the sun. They were determined by the need, and when I pray, I should have as much faith in God as those neighbor ladies had in the sunrise. They never doubted it would happen, and if I never doubt God's love, I can rest assured that even if I don't get what I ask for when I pray, I will always get what I need.

He also told me God's cell number. You might want to put it on speed-dial. It's Isaiah 65:24. There's no area code because, wherever you are, it's always a local call.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Is Thanksgiving a noun or a verb?

Today we salute Bob Macauley and Andy Lam. Bob gave others reasons to be thankful, and Andy learned what thanksgiving means.

Bob had a gifted childhood, attending Philips Academy and Yale university, where he was roommates with George H.W. Bush. But from his youth he had an huge streak of generosity. For example, when the Vietnam War ended and Saigon was about to fall in 1975, the United States hoped to airlift 2,000 orphans to the United States. Sadly, the first plane in Operation Baby Lift, carrying more than 100 children, crashed on take-off. Many lives were lost. When he heard another military jet would not be available for eleven days, Bob took things into his own hands. He leased a Boeing 747 from Pan American Airways, mortgaging his home to cover the bill, and arranged to transport crash survivors and other children to America. "Someone will always give you reasons why it can't be done," he said in 1990. "Just mow 'em down. Make things happen."

Evacuating Saigon as Communists enter city.

Andy was not part of Operation Baby Lift. He was 11 in 1975 when he and his family fled Saigon  in a C-130 cargo plane filled with weeping refugees. He was the privileged son of General Lam Quang Thi of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. His Dad decided to stay behind to fight on in the jungle. When Andy's family arrived in the U.S wearing rags, an impoverished aunt took them in -- ten people in her two-bedroom apartment at the end of Mission Street in San Francisco.

That fall his English teacher taught him to say the word Thanksgiving as they decorated classroom bulletin boards with paper pumpkins. "Ssshthanks give in" was as close as he could come. Besides, the holiday had nothing to do with him, since he had nothing to be thankful for. But suddenly he did! His Dad called to say he'd soon join them. He was no longer a war hero, but he brought joy with him. Then Andy remembered his white, black, Filipino and Mexican school friends. One taught him to play baseball. Another protected him from bullies. Another offered to take Andy on his family vacation. And the English teacher made Andy his pet. That Thanksgiving his family sat on the floor and ate two giant turkeys donated by charities. There was even talk of a trip next summer to a magical place called Disneyland!

Today, Andy's Dad is a retired bank executive. His brother is an engineer. His sister lives in a luxury San Francisco condo, and he's a successful author  and editor. But the Thanksgiving he'll never forget was his first one, when he sat on the floor wearing donated clothes, and was just learning to pronounce the word.

For Andy, Thanksgiving was a noun. For Bob it was a verb. Which is it to you?

Monday, November 24, 2014

A reason for thanksgiving

How thankful would you be if you left $4,000,000 in a taxi, and the driver returned it to you? Grammy nominee classical violinist Philippe Quint accidentally left a Stradivarius violin on the back seat of a cab he took from Newark Liberty International Airport to his home in Manhattan. A few hours later, Newark police called to say the instrument had been found and was at the airport taxi stand with the cab driver who took him home. The two connected and the violin was returned. "Anybody out here would have done the same thing," said the driver, Mohammed Khalil, a devout Muslim. Quint was so thankful he gave Khalil all the money in his wallet, but afterwards realized that was not nearly enough. "I had to share part of myself, my music," he said. "These drivers work so hard. I doubt they get a chance to go to Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center.

So Quint arranged to give a 30-minute mini-concert on a makeshift stage in the airport taxicab holding area. Under a weathered vinyl canopy he played five pieces including the theme from the movie "The Red Violin" and the Meditation from Massenet's opera "Thais." The cabbies clapped and whistled and danced in the aisles. Afterwards the virtuoso was mobbed by drivers seeking his autograph. "I was so pleased to see them dancing," he said. "That never happens."

Afterwards Quint posed for pictures with Khalil, whom he invited to a concert at Carnegie Hall. As it happened, Khalil had been planning for months to retire, and driving Quint to Manhattan was his final fare. To meet Quint and Khalil, visit

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Thinking of someone other than himself"

A logger named Leo Moody has lived quietly in Maine for 44 years. He was never in the limelight. Like most of us, he works hard all day and comes home each evening. Is he worried about terrorists fighting in Iraq? Maybe. Does he oppose Obama's immigration policy? Hard to say, since very few people even knew his name until last week. when, like Superman opening his shirt, Leo revealed a brave and noble heart.

Driving home from work, he saw a car overturned in a lake near Kossuth Township, about 175 miles northeast of Portland. Like most of us, he pulled over and called 911. The accident happened after Stephen McGouldrick lost control of his SUV on an icy stretch of Rt. 6 and rolled the vehicle down an embankment into 2-1/2 feet of water. Stephen and his passengers, who suffered minor injuries, all reached shore, but one told Leo that her baby was trapped in the back seat.

Without hesitation, Leo jumped into the cold water and swam to the vehicle. He crawled into the flooded car and used a knife to cut seat belts and release the car seat, freeing a three-month-old baby. He said his hands were so cold he couldn't feel them as he cut the straps, but "I kept telling myself, don't drop the knife." (He always carries a knife for peeling apples.)

Carrying the baby, who was not breathing, he swam back to shore and handed the child to Wade Shorey, another passerby, who used CPR to revive the infant.

Leo's wife Betsy said he arrived home soaking wet and shaken up after the rescue.  Like most Mainers, she apparently doesn't waste words. Asked about his life-saving heroism, she simply said, "Just another reason why I love him...thinking of someone other than himself."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Elephants never forget

You're invited to email inspiring stories to If they pass the truthorfiction test, they may become a future crumb of comfort. Today's crumb comes from a reader in Canada.

Lawrence Anthony was an international environmentalist and author. He is often remembered in South Africa for rescuing and rehabilitating a herd of violent, rogue elephants who had escaped their enclosure and were wreaking havoc across KwaZulu Natal. The elephants were about to be shot, when Anthony was able to communicate with the herd's matriarch by body language and the tone of his voice. He brought them to a safe reserve, and became known as "the elephant whisperer." Apparently they never forgot him.

Approaching the Anthony home in South Africa.

Among each other, elephants remember and mourn the loss of loved ones. When an elephant walks past a place where a loved one has died, it will stop and pause silently for several minutes. The elephants Anthony saved regarded him as their friend.

Two days after he passed away in 2012, two herds of wild elephants led by two matriarchs arrived at his rural compound in the vast Thula Thula Game Reserve.  A total of 31 elephants had walked single-file over 12 miles through the Zululand bush from their habitat to his home. They had not been near the house for three years, but knew where they were going. To pay respect to a friend who saved their lives, the elephants stayed and fasted for two days and nights before returning to their habitat.

How they knew he died remains a mystery.

Friday, November 21, 2014

When churches close, what remains?

Going to church is no longer cool. According to the Pew Research Center, two thirds of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation.

The US Census Bureau says about 1,000 new churches open each year, but more than 4,000 disband and close their doors forever. So what's left behind when a church disbands? Some edifices are sold to other denominations, or converted into condos or music venues. One former Protestant church is now the Dan Quayle Vice-Presidential Museum. Members who worshipped or taught Sunday School or played the piano in these disbanded churches are long forgotten, except in Boonville, Indiana.

Mark Hendrickson presents grants for 2014

When the Christian Science church in Boonville disbanded in 1995, its few remaining members voted to leave a legacy to the community they loved. After the edifice was sold and all debts paid, they used most of their surplus funds to establish an irrevocable trust at Boonville's People's Trust and Savings Bank. The trust is administered by bank president Mark Hendrickson, the only surviving member of the church. Grants from the trust are awarded each year to non-profit organizations within Warrick County which uphold the church's values through community service.

Last week, in the photo shown above, Hendrickson awarded a total of $53,000 to deserving non-profits, including $2,000 to a soup kitchen, $6,000 to the Tri-State Food Bank, and $5,000 to the Warrick County Council on Aging. 

It's not known how much money is in the trust, but only interest is used when awarding grants each year. In the past 19 years, local agencies have received $1.4 million, and the church not forgotten.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

For children and grand-children

Does God ever talk to kids? And if He does, do they hear Him? I was told in Sunday School that God watches over everyone, and tells us what we need to do. But I never actually heard God's voice until one dark night at summer camp.

Boys at our camp lived in 8-man Army tents in the woods. Behind each tent, a wire clothesline was strung between two trees, where we'd hang our swimsuits to dry after swimming. The lines lasted for years, but they got rusty over time. Eventually they turned brown and were invisible at night.

One night I decided to leave my tent and visit a pal two tents away. Instead of walking in front of the tents, I took a shortcut by running through the woods behind them. The stars were out, so I could see the ground and was careful not to trip on anything. Then all the sudden, I heard one word like it was spoken to me. It was 'DUCK!" I knew exactly what to do, and pulled my head down real low. Just then I felt an unused rusty metal clothesline wire brush over my crew cut. If I hadn't ducked at that instant, it would have struck me across the face at eye-level.

I knew it had to be God's voice, for three reasons. (1) It was a totally new idea, farthest from my thought;  (2) I understood it immediately, and (3) it produced a blessing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The legacy of Gander

Today as "Crumbs of Comfort" achieves two benchmarks -- 100 posts and 2,500 page views -- let's remember the legacy of Gander. Many of us know where we were when we heard about the tragedy of 9-11, but some may have forgotten that U.S. airspace was closed for a few days after the attacks. This meant passengers flying home to the States were all diverted to Canada. It was a challenge for big city Canadian airports, but for the airport in Gander, Newfoundland, it provoked a miracle of kindness.

Gander was a town of 10,000 residents with two police officers. Its airport usually received eight domestic flights daily. On September 11, 2001, 39 airliners carrying 6,579 passengers rapidly landed, one-after-another. Most passengers didn't know why they were diverted until after they landed. All had to spend that first night trying to sleep on their plane as 9-11 news trickled in. Little did they know it would be four days until American airspace reopened, but outside the airport, the people of Gander were opening their hearts.
As one flight attendant recalls, "Gander and surrounding communities had closed all high schools and meeting halls, converting them into mass lodging areas. Some had cots or mats and sleeping bags with pillows all set up, and high school students were required to care for their 'guests.' A convoy of school busses showed up at the side of our plane and passengers were taken to the terminal for processing. Our 218 passengers stayed at a high school in Lewisport. Families were kept together, while the elderly were taken to private homes. Food was prepared by local residents and brought to the schools. Bakeries stayed open late, making fresh bread for 'the plane people.' Every need was met for these unfortunate travelers. When they came back onboard,  passengers cried while telling of the kindness they received. Everyone knew everyone else by name and exchanged phone numbers and email addresses."

But the passengers on this flight did not forget the people of Gander, as you'll see if you watch the 5-minute video linked here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Prayer saves life of Muslim feminist

Meet Shukria Barakzai, 42, an outspoken feminist in Afghanistan. When she was 25, during the rule of the Taliban, she was caught walking outdoors without a male escort. The "religious police" flogged her in public with a rubber whip, as a warning to others. "There was no way I was going to accept that kind of thing," she said, so she set up an underground school for girls in her home. Hundreds received their education through her secret school.

Walking away from damaged car.

She also started Afghanistan's first magazine for women, and today, beside being a mother of five, she's one of 69 woman MPs elected to the Kabul government. She's received many threats on her life, but insists, "I am not afraid, I am a strong, proud, democratic Muslim woman fighting for the lives of my children."

This week she survived an assassination attempt. A suicide bomber in a car first tried to ram her vehicle as she drove to parliament. The attacker then detonated explosives, triggering a blast that was heard across the capitol and drew hundreds of people to the scene. Three bystanders were killed, and more than a dozen were wounded, including Barakzai's driver. Seen above walking away from her damaged car, she had only minor injuries, and believes she knows why.

She told the Reuters news agency, "I survived because of my people's prayers."

A two-minute video of Shukria explaining her values is linked here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

One lump, or two?

As some of you know, Eddie Guest (1895-1959) was a syndicated columnist with the Detroit Free Press. He never claimed to be a poet, but for more than 30 years his daily columns were heartwarming verses. In 1906 he married Nellie Crossman of Detroit. They had two children, Edgar Jr. (called Bud) and Janet. Guest shared their births and many other personal moments with readers through his columns. His sincerity was apparent to all who attended his public readings, where he would weep unashamedly at the sentiments his verses aroused within him. Eventually he wrote 11,000 poems syndicated in 300 papers and republished in 20 books. The verse below was dedicated to his faithful wife Nellie. It made sense to many husbands who read it in the Free Press, and it describes my wife exactly. Yours too? Why not tell her, today.

Nellie made a cup of tea, made and poured it out for me,
And above the steaming brew smiled and asked me, "one or two?"
Saucily she tossed her head. "Make it sweet for me," I said.

Two sweet lumps of sugar fell into that small china well,
But I knew the while I drained every drop the cup contained,
More than sugar in the tea made the beverage sweet for me.

This to her I tried to say in that golden yesterday --
Life is like a cup of tea which time poureth endlessly.
Brewed by trial's constant heat, needing love to make it sweet.

Then I caught her looking up and I held my dainty cup
Out to her and bravely said, "Here is all that lies ahead,
Here is all my life to be. Will you make it sweet for me?

That was years ago, and now there is silver in her brow;
We have sorrowed, we have smiled, we've been hurt and reconciled.
But whatever had to be, she has made it sweet for me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A glass of milk

Does it "pay" to do small kindnesses for strangers? You feel good about yourself, but is there ever any benefit down the road? Consider this true story.

Dr. Howard Kelley (1858-1943) earned his M.D. at U of Pennsylvania in 1882. When he was 31, he was hired as the first professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. During his 30-year career at Hopkins he invented numerous medical devices still used today, and received countless honors.

A devout evangelical Christian, he was known to share his faith openly, and he loved taking long walks through the countryside to observe plants and animals. While hiking one day, he became thirsty and stopped at a farmhouse to ask for a glass of water. The young woman who answered the door felt he looked hungry, and brought him a fresh glass of milk instead. He visited with her briefly and then resumed his hike. Sometime later, this woman arrived at the hospital needing surgery. When Dr. Kelly saw her name, he agreed to be her surgeon. Afterwards, the bill was brought to her room. It would have taken all her savings to pay it, but across the bottom were the words, "Paid in full with one glass of milk."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Say 'Amen,' Somebody!

"Say Amen, Somebody" is an exuberant documentary spotlighting the special world of gospel music. At least 24 hand-clapping songs are featured within the film's joyous 100 minutes. Special emphasis is given to the careers of two of gospel's legendary performers, "Mother" Willie Mae Ford Smith, and "Professor" Thomas A. Dorsey. The camera visits a storefront church, a gospel music convention, classes where Dorsey explains the many songs he has written and where "Mother" Smith instructs would-be gospel soloists. The music alone makes the film worth seeing, but it also glows with warmth and friendliness and heart-touching family scenes. If you'd like to see the trailer, here's a link.  After seeing the trailer, if you'd like to own a DVD of the movie for yourself or a dear friend, you can buy it at

After watching "Say Amen, Somebody," I was touched most by a gospel hymn called "Jesus Dropped the Charges" by the O'Neal twins. Think of it as a trial scene, set to music. The lyrics say, in part:

I was guilty of all the charges, doomed and disgraced,
But Jesus by his special love saved me by his grace.
I was guilty for so long; lived in sin too long,
But Jesus with his special love gave me a brand new song.

Jesus dropped the charges, although I was wrong.
Jesus dropped the charges and gave me a brand new song.
Jesus dropped the charges, cast them all away.
He dropped the charges, and at Calvary I heard him say,
"Case dismissed! Case dismissed!"
Saved by grace.

To hear the O'Neal twins sing this song in the movie, click this link.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The lesson of Peanut Week

Have you ever felt ignored by someone who owed you a kindness? Were you resentful?  I was, and here's why.

The camp I attended as a boy had an event each summer called Peanut Week. We all received a peanut with someone else's name wrapped around it. We ate the peanut and some of us also ate the paper, to keep the name secret. It was the name of our peanut, the camper we'd do nice things  for all week, anonymously. We were his "shell." Next weekend, one at a time, we'd each reveal our identity to our peanut and give him a homemade friendship stick, usually a slightly decorated twig.

I'm third from right, in dark t-shirt.

I tried to do something nice for my peanut each day. Once I made his bed. Another time I snuck a copy of Hot Rod Magazine under his pillow. He had no clue how it got there. But nothing good happened to me! Not on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. I asked my counselor if I had a shell, and he said "yes, don't worry about it," but I was mad. I could hardly wait for Saturday so I could tell my shell "thanks for nothing!" in front of everybody.

At the end of the week, we all gathered around a big council fire to exchange sticks. One at a time, each camper learned who his shell was. Finally a counselor got up and walked over to me. He was my shell, and he gave me the most elaborate friendship stick anyone had ever seen at camp. It was delicately cut from a birch log, with my name carved into it, and the year, on a surface carved into diamond shapes. Everybody around me admired it, and I was no longer mad.

Peanut Week taught me a lesson that summer. We're all peanuts, and God is our shell. Even if we don't see evidence of God every single day, we can rest assured He hasn't forgotten us, and at the final assembly, He'll give us the best gift anyone ever received -- eternal life.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"the most unpromising boy of the whole lot"

Following a wave of immigration, New York City in the 1800's had thousands of orphaned children called "street urchins." They begged for food to survive. A few lived at the Children's Aid Society Orphanage, but founder Charles Brace felt kids need families, not orphanages, so he organized the orphan trains. Between 1854 and 1929, about 120,000 abandoned children were given a set of new clothes and sent on trains to rural towns in the south and midwest for adoption by farm families. Upon arrival at each town, they were lined up a stage for inspection. If an adult wanted a child and the child agreed, the deal was done. Most farmers preferred boys who could be raised as farmhands. Girls were last to be chosen, since many farm wives felt threatened by them. Most adoptees picked well-groomed, polite children, but not Judge John Green. He picked John Brady. Perhaps he remembered the Bible verse where God reminds the prophet Samuel, "...I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart." (I Sam. 16:7)

John Brady was an Irish Catholic boy who had lived on the streets of NY to avoid his father's drunken beatings. When he turned 11, he declared himself an orphan and boarded an orphan train bound for Indiana. After it arrived in Noblesville, he and fellow-orphans were fed at the Ferguson Hotel and put on display for possible adoption.
"It was the most motley crowd of youngsters I ever did see," said Judge Green, who lived in the nearby town of Tipton. "I decided to take John home with me because I felt he was the homeliest, toughest and most unpromising  boy in the whole lot. I wanted to see what could be done with such a specimen of humanity." What was done?

John grew into a fine young man, respected by everyone. After high school, he was appointed master of the Mud Creek Public School in Sharpesville.  Eventually he continued his education, graduating from Yale University in 1874. He moved to Alaska, where in 1878 he founded a college to train Eskimos. He then served three terms as Governor of Alaska, all because Judge Green picked him instead of a "more promising" orphan.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The wind beneath his wings

When I worked for the Pilot-News in Plymouth, IN, in 1990, we had a scanner in the newsroom, crackling messages from police and fire dispatchers. One day the siren at the volunteer fire department wailed and the scanner said "Plane in trouble over the airport." Three of us grabbed notepads and cameras and hopped in a car for a quick drive to the airfield north of town. When we arrived, city police and county sheriff cars were already parked beside the terminal with lights flashing. EMTs arrived minutes later, along with three fire engines. What was the problem?

Culver Military Academy, 15 miles south of town, had an aeronautics department. High school "cadets" over 16 could earn their pilot's license by logging airtime in one of the academy's four single-engine Piper Warrior training planes, like the one shown below. Each plane had dual controls, and one of the planes was circling overhead, burning off fuel. Upon take off, the instructor and student-pilot both felt a problem with the wheel under one wing. They circled low over the Culver field requesting visual inspection. The wheel had fallen off, so the instructor took the controls and flew with his student to Plymouth, where the grass runway was longer.

With so many flashing lights around the field, drivers on the highway next to the airport began pulling over to watch. One later told me, "I knew something was very wrong, so I prayed that God would be the wind beneath the wings of anyone in trouble."

The terminal put communication between the tower and the pilot on the PA system for all to hear. Fire trucks lined up at one end of the field, along with ambulances, ready to roll forward behind the damaged plane as it landed. My job was to stand next to the runway where the plane might stop if it crashed, to get photos of the explosion.

Over the PA system we heard the instructor radio, "One more circle, and I'm coming down." What happened next amazed us all. As the plane approached the field, the instructor tipped it 20 degrees, so only the one surviving wheel touched the ground. Then he kept the plane balanced on that wheel all the way down the field, until the Piper slowed, and stopped and flopped, with no damage and no injuries.

Absent an explosion, I ran to the plane for a comment from the "cadet" student as he climbed out. Had he been afraid? "No sir!" he replied smartly. "I have complete confidence in my instructor, sir."

Many praised the pilot for his skill that day. Some felt he was lucky. But at least one lady watching from her car near the highway thanked God for being the wind beneath his wings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Will Caspar Milquetoast inherit the earth?

In the Bible Jesus is quoted as saying, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Matt. 5:5) Some people think he was putting a halo on Caspar Milquetoast, a cartoon character from 1931 until 1953 in the comic section of the New York Herald Tribune. The name was a deliberate misspelling of a bland food called milk toast, used to settle nervous stomachs. Caspar was extremely shy and timid, and thanks to him, the word "milquetoast" is still defined in many dictionaries as someone who is unusually submissive or meek. But rest assured, Jesus never meant to imply that Caspar would inherit the earth.

Caspar Milquetoast

At a basic level, meekness is open-mindedness, gentleness and self-control. At a higher level, it means emptying oneself of personal will, and overcoming many fears, including fear of criticism. It means surrendering an over-inflated confidence in our own judgement. Meek people have none of these embarrassments. 

They know meekness is strength, restrained by love. Only strong people (not in muscle, but in mind) can be meek. The meek don't think less of themselves, but they think of themselves less. They exhibit strength without compromise, shown by putting others' needs before their own. 

And what is the earth they are to inherit? It's not acreage. "Inheriting the earth" means having a power over human hearts that others do not possess.

Helen Keller had this power. She defined meekness this way. "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but my chief duty is to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble."

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Veteran's Day memory

Only one American veteran flying a bomber over Germany after WWII was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit. It was Col. Gail Halvorsen, and here's he won it.

After the war, Germany was divided into sectors governed by the victorious allies. The city of Berlin was also divided, but it was deep inside the Russian sector. Hoping the allies would give up their part of the city, Russia closed all rail and road access to "West Berlin" in June, 1948. The only way residents could receive food or fuel was by air, so Allied forces began the biggest airlift in history. During 15 months, until the blockade ended, they flew in 15 million tons of supplies -- including milk, dried eggs, dried potatoes and coal.  Col. Halvorsen was an airlift pilot.

After landing one day with a plane load of flour, Halvorsen, noticed 30 children outside the fence of Tempelhof Airport. They were ragged and hungry, but didn't ask for food. All they asked was, "Please don't give up on us." He wanted to help, but only had two sticks of gum. When he passed these through the fence, he noticed the children didn't fight. They broke the gum into tiny pieces so each boy and girl could have a sniff! He was so moved that he promised to bring more gum the next day and drop it from his plane as he approached the airport. "How will we know which plane is yours?" they asked in English. "I'll wiggle my wings," he said.

Fellow pilots gave him their candy rations, and he dropped gum and candy daily for two weeks, folding handkerchiefs into small parachutes. The crowd of kids got bigger. He received thank-you notes at the airport addressed to "Onkel Wackelflugel"(Uncle Wiggly Wings). When local media reported favorably on the candy bomber, airlift commander Gen. William Tunner told Halvorsen to keep doing it. Then word got back to the United States.

The National Confectioners Association offered to donate all the candy Halvorsen could drop. The treats arrived at Westover Air Force Base in MA, where local school children assembled the handkerchief parachutes. Before the airlift ended, 21 tons of candy were dropped to the children of West Berlin. As one Berliner told Halvorsen years later, "It wasn't just chocolate you gave us. It was hope."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

God's fingerprints found again

The Society of St. Andrews goes into farm fields to glean crops that were missed during harvest. These left-overs are then donated to food pantries. But the Society was in over its head last Saturday, when it was called to 1,000-acre First Fruits Farm near Louisburg, NC. The owner wanted to give away his entire crop!

He was former NFL center Jason Brown, who gave up football and a huge paycheck to feed the hungry. Brown knew nothing about agriculture when he bought First Fruits Farm, but local farmer Len Wester lent him a hand. David and Allen Rose of Nashville donated potato plants, called slips, after they learned Brown would give away his entire harvest. "Every step of the way, there has been someone to help," Brown said.

Brown says farming is a test of faith. "You look over a sweet potato field and you don't see a crop. The vines are wilting. There's nothing to pick. I went out to plow up the potatoes last week and looked behind the tractor (and saw) big brown potatoes lying everywhere!"

Brown's farm already yielded 10,000 pounds of cucumbers, all given away. Last Saturday, half the sweet potato crop, 46,000 pounds, was harvested by gleaners using 200 volunteers and 13 trucks. The other half will be harvested next Saturday. "Potatoes are the perfect food, and there is a great need," said gleaner coordinator Rebecca Page. "What he is doing is unbelievable. A lot of people are going to get food."

"Miss Rebecca is another person who was put in my life at the right time," said Brown, who hopes to plant and give away at least twice as many potatoes next year, followed by a celebration.

"A lot of churches have harvest celebrations around Thanksgiving," he said, "but they don't harvest anything. I can picture 1,000 people gleaning the fields until noon, and then having a celebration of the harvest with food and music. I look over this farm and see such a blessing. This has been more than I could ever have imagined. I've been blessed more than I blessed others."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The lesson of the merry-go-round

Every summer day at Lake Pemaquid Family Campground on the coast of Maine, boys and girls spill from their campers to frolic on the busy playground. They pump themselves higher and higher on swings; bounce each other off teeter-totters, and spin as fast as possible on a miniature merry-go-round, like the one shown here.

But unless an adult is present to spin the carousel, it's hard for kids to make it go very fast as they ride. That's where I came in. One day long ago, I was the grown-up who volunteered to spin it as pre-teen passengers held on for dear life, screaming "faster! faster!"

All except one little girl. She held tightly to the safety bar, but never smiled or said a word. The other kids didn't seem to know her. She was just there. During a break between spins, everyone got off to regain their balance. She walked to a tall man standing under a nearby tree. He looked like her Dad. And I heard her speak to him, in German.

So that was it! After all the kids reboarded the merry-go-round for a few more spins, I made sure she was sitting right where I stood, and just before giving the carousel a mighty tug, I whispered in her ear, "Wie heist du?" (what's your name?)  As she spun away, her face lit up and she grinned from ear to ear. Spinning past me again, she yelled, "Ich heisse Marta!" (my name is Marta). For the next few minutes, as she spun faster and faster, she never took her eyes off me, or stopped grinning.

Isn't that how it is when God speaks to us, His children? He never speaks in a foreign tongue, but always in words we can understand, and when He does, we don't feel alone anymore. Sometimes, like Marta, we grin from ear to ear.  (Acts 2: 4-6)

Friday, November 7, 2014

How do you define a winner?

Two high school runners in Minnesota were disqualified in the state girls cross country meet last weekend for helping an opponent who fell.

Minnesota high school junior Tierney Winter knew freshman Jessica Christoffer was struggling as she lagged about five meters behind during the Class A State Cross Country Championships. Then Winter caught a glimpse of Christoffer stumbling and falling. But instead of continuing Saturday's race (the finish line was within sight) Winter stopped, turned back, got next to Christoffer and helped her stand up.

Christoffer was in no shape to continue, however, so Winter put her arm around the exhausted runner and the pair soldiered forward.

Then senior Kailee Kiminski joined them, positioning herself on Christoffer's left side and linking arms with her, and the trio, none of whom knew each other until that moment, jogged to the finish line as one unit.

When they finished, all three were disqualified for "interfering with a runner." But neither Winter nor Kiminski cared. "I hope people understand how much we care about each other as athletes," Winter said.

"I just got tired and fell, and it wasn't good, and then there were two girls that helped me finish, and I'm really thankful for them. It means I accomplished my goal of running at state and doing well," said Christoffer.

Winter said she had no choice when she saw Christoffer fall 50 meters from the finish line. "I couldn't leave her there, so I was like, I'll help her out and we'll see what happens," adding that she helped her fallen opponent "just to be a friend."

Kiminski, who's won many a meet in her career, reflected on what she said will be her most memorable race. "I learned that it's a lot more than just running," she said. "Both of us girls were there for a reason, to help her. It was her first (state) race, and I'm proud of her for giving it her all."

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A video that will touch your heart

On October 27 we posted a Crumb of Comfort about Lauren Hill. You can find it on the menu at the right side of the screen under the title, "Remember how good you have it."

Lauren is not expected to live until Christmas, but her dream to play college basketball has come true! She played 47 seconds and scored two baskets at her school's season opener. To see and hear Lauren tell what the game meant to her, click

After the game, Lauren learned that Wheaties, the "breakfast of champions," is featuring her on its latest cereal box, where basketball legends Red Auerbach and Larry Bird were also honored.

"I didn't know trees have leaves."

Optician Joseph Carbone of Midvale, UT, can't forget the day a Navajo Indian boy from the reservation asked to be fitted with glasses. The cost was being picked up by an unknown benefactor. The boy put on his new glasses, looked outside and started to laugh and cry at the same time. He explained why in one sentence. "I didn't know trees have leaves."

"That touched my heart, it changed my life," says Carbone, who struggled with vision himself as a child in Queens, NY. His folks could not afford to buy him glasses until he was 17.

Because of that Navajo boy's visit, Carbone shut down his optician business and replaced it with EyeCare4Kids, a non-profit whose only quest is to put glasses on kids who can't afford them.

His new 6,000-square-foot facility has three examining rooms and churns out about 50 pairs of glasses a day. His showroom display cases look like any optician's office, except there are no price tags. All the glasses are free.

"Many children go without eyeglasses because families can't afford them," he says. "If a kid can't see to read what the teacher is writing on the board....." he leaves the sentence unfinished.

Carbone came to Utah because of the LDS church. He joined in New York when he was 19. His sister, a Catholic nun, was his biggest cheerleader. "She encouraged me to go to any church," he says, "because she thought it would keep me out of trouble." It did. After serving a two-year Mormon mission in Italy, he enrolled in opticians school at NYC College and then returned to Salt Lake City, or as he calls it, "Mecca." He met is bride here, and they have nine children and 18 grandchildren.

It was 2006 when he abandoned profit-making entirely. That was 75,000 free clients ago."I hope before I die we can help a million kids get glasses," he says. That's his vision.

To learn more, visit

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A heart-opening experience

When a social worker asked Robert and Ara Hunt if they'd like to meet a homeless 18-year-old sibling of their adopted daughter Shyann, 13, they refused. Why? "We didn't know anything about him, and we were afraid he might harm our family," Ara explained. Today the boy, Logan, is reunited with the sister he never knew, and is a much-loved member of his first "forever family," the Hunts. The process was long in coming.

Taken from his biological mother at birth, Logan was adopted, but later removed from his adoptive parents and placed in foster care for 11 years. He recalls always being on the outside, even at Thanksgiving when he was sent to his room so his foster parents could enjoy dinner with their "real" family.

While still in high school, he aged out of foster care. Taking one pair of shoes and a few belongings, he moved into his car. He told his court-appointed advocate, Virginia Barrett, that he was homeless. She was determined to help and discovered he had an adopted biological sister, Shyann, so she called Shyann's mother, Ara Hunt.

Ara began texting Logan, while Shyann prayed for the brother she never met. Soon Logan came for a visit, and he never left. "Everyone has bonded," Ara says. "We all felt he was part of our family." For Logan, who is finally learning what it means to be part of a family, life is completely different.

"After 13 years, to find joy again, it's like having your first birthday," he says. "It's a heart-opening experience."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Why volunteer at church?

Sitting in church last Sunday, I noticed how many volunteers are needed for a worship service. Why do volunteers usher, collect and count the offering, change diapers in the nursery, and teach Sunday School year after year, instead of shopping at the mall? If the church is all about God, why not let God take care of it? Because they know:

God builds no churches. By His plan
That labor has been left to man.
No spires miraculously arise,
No little mission from the skies

Falls on the bleak and barren place
To be a source of strength and grace.
The humblest church demands its price
In human toil and sacrifice.

Across the valley of despair,
Men still must build God's house of prayer.
God sends no churches from the skies.
Out of our hearts they must arise.
Edgar Guest

Monday, November 3, 2014

The secret of prevailing prayer?

The story is told of great revivalist Charles Finney, a figurehead of a movement in church history called the Second Great Awakening. Trained as a lawyer, he had a conversion experience as a young adult and became a Presbyterian minister.

In the late 1830s, Finney was pastoring First Congregational Church in Oberlin, OH, arguably the largest congregation in the west at that time. One summer the region was in severe drought, a great hardship for the farming community whose livelihood depended on crops to feed livestock.

After considerable prayer, Finney awoke one cloudless Sunday morning and decided he would pray for rain. When he came to church, he climbed into the pulpit, opened the service, and then paused to pray to God, saying (to paraphrase), "Lord we do not presume to tell you the ways that you should provide for us, but as a Father you invite your children to come to you with the desires of our hearts, and we come before you now to pray for rain. Our crops and dying and we cannot feed our cattle, so we ask you for rain, Lord, and we ask for it now."

Then he continued the service as usual. Halfway through the sermon, worshippers heard faint thunder on the horizon. By the time Finney finished preaching, drops were falling heavily on the church roof. Before long, the sanctuary was filled with the gushing sound of water cascading down in sheets from the rooftop. The congregation wept in wonder and praise as Finney began singing a hymn of thanksgiving.

But folks who were there say the most amazing part of the day was that, at the very front of the sanctuary leaning against the pulpit from the moment the congregation first arrived, was Pastor Finney's umbrella. As one scholar notes, "It's one thing to pray for rain. It's quite another to bring your umbrella."

Thanks, dear readers, whoever you are

Today you're receiving the 84th crumb of comfort, shared as evidence of God's fingerprints on events in our daily life. Last night this blog received its 2,000th page visit since beginning in August. Thanks for your interest and support! Please feel free to share these crumbs with friends who might need encouragement. Meanwhile, I'll continue "dusting for prints."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The invisible dragon fighting fish

Perhaps you heard of the pet shop owner in England who needed more business. In order to attract new customers to his store, he tried an experiment. He put a fishbowl in his front window. He put nothing in the bowl except water -- not even a fish. Then he printed a sign and placed it next to the bowl. The sign had only four words. It said.....


For a few hours, nothing happened. but then someone passing by on the sidewalk outside noticed the bowl in the window. He stopped and stared intently at it, hoping for a glimpse of the fish. Another passerby saw him staring and joined him. Before long a small group of men and women clustered at the window. Finally one said, "The fish may be invisible, but I know they're fighting because I see tiny ripples on the surface of the water!" A lady next to him admitted she saw the ripples too. Soon everyone went inside to ask how much the invisible dragon fighting fish cost.

The owner wasn't sure how to reply, so he said the fish were not for sale. But they insisted he set a price, because they wanted invisible fish for their tanks at home. Finally, in desperation, he confessed there were no fish in the bowl. He admitted he filled the bowl with water and put a sign near it to attract attention to his store.

The shopkeeper was surprised how customers reacted to this news. They were very angry! It seemed to insult their intelligence to say there were no fish in the bowl. They felt frustrated, because they could not BUY THEIR OWN MISCONCEPTION. 

Does our world appear to be filled with countless mortals -- fighting for money, fighting for freedom, or fighting for life by fighting each other? Do we look at fragile, vulnerable mortals and think we see man's true identity? Are we bent on buying our own misconception of man, who is made in the "image and likeness" of God? (Genesis 1: 26)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The monkeys and the rice

Long ago, hunters used to go to Africa to capture monkeys for display in American zoos. The monkeys had to be caught unharmed, and hunters knew exactly how to do it. First they found an area where monkeys lived. Then they collected coconuts; bored a small hole in each coconut; poured out the milk, and poured in whole grains of uncooked rice, which monkeys love to eat. Finally, they used ropes to secure each coconut to a nearby tree, and then left the area overnight.

When they returned the next morning, can you guess what the hunters found? Sitting next to each coconut was a live and frisky monkey, with one hand stuck inside the coconut.

Each monkey could easily have freed himself, but after reaching into the coconut, and grabbing some rice which he would not release, he could not remove his bulging fist from the coconut. Each monkey ignorantly believed he was trapped. But you and I both know THE RICE HAD NO GRIP ON THE MONKEYS.

If we ever feel trapped by sadness or frustration or anger because we're clinging to a false belief about ourself or others and won't let it go, why that's just ignorance -- making a monkey out of us!