Saturday, January 31, 2015

What is your soul?

Today's crumb recalls the morning when a Sunday School teacher asked her young scholars how they'd answer a question that's puzzled theologians for centuries. "What is your soul?" Some dictionaries say soul is the spiritual part of a human being, regarded as immortal. Others say it's the ultimate internal principal by which we think and act. In his book De anima, Aristotle defines soul as the "first actuality" of an organic natural body.

But what would a child say? After the class discussed the question for several minutes, Lucas finally raised his hand. "I know exactly what my soul is," he told the teacher. "It's the part of me that you can't see that looks like God."

Friday, January 30, 2015

She won't miss what she never had

About 17,000 people live in Strabane, Northern Ireland, on the east bank of the River Foyle. Not long ago, Strabane had the highest unemployment rate in the industrial world, and as recently as 2005, it was voted the 8th worst place to live in the United Kingdom. If that's not bad enough, during the Troubles (early '70s through '90s) it was the most bombed town in Northern Ireland. But that's all changing now, thanks to local resident Margaret Loughrey, shown here.

In December, 2013, on her way home from the Job Center, Margaret bought a Euromillions lottery ticket and hit the jackpot, winning the equivalent of about 40 million dollars. She was living on public benefits of about $75/week when she heard the good news. At last she could escape from her rundown hometown and live the life of luxury. But she didn't. Instead, she's been giving her winnings to neighbors in need.

"I spent half my adult life unemployed, and the other half earning minimum wage. I know what it's like to have nothing. That's why I'm giving it away," she said, adding "I can't miss what I never had. I always said if I ever won, I'd keep one million and give the rest to the town."

So far she's handed out half her fortune. Today she's a director of nine new local companies set up since May. She also paid $1.5 million for attractive town property and plans to convert it into a major leisure and tourism site, creating scores of permanent, full-time job opportunities.

Margaret explains why. "There is so much talent here in the Strabane area. People just need to be given a chance. Everyone has the right to work for a living, to support their families, to buy their own home, to run their own business. People just need to be given opportunities."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"His heart is so big"

Last Christmas eve, Utah Highway Patrol trooper Jared Clanton was driving near the mouth of American Fork Canyon in Alpine. It was near midnight when he noticed something shiny by the side of the road. He turned around and drove back to see what it was and found a wrapped Christmas gift with no name on the box. When he unwrapped it and discovered a Lego robot, he knew some child would be disappointed not to get it. "I didn't have much to go on except the label of the store in Minnesota that sold it," he said, so he posted it on the Utah Highway Patrol Facebook page and and called all six branches of the store in Minnesota to pass the word. Two weeks later, his cell phone rang. It was Amy Fish. She had purchased the Lego set for her son Stuart, and after it was lost, she went back to the store to buy another one. The cashier happened to remember the Utah trooper who called about the toy, and told her. She couldn't believe it.

Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Clanton mailing toy to Minnesota

"I was so grateful for Jared Clanton's determination to make sure a child didn't go without a Christmas gift, she said. "His heart is so big."

But that's not the end of the story. Stuart celebrated his 11th birthday in January. Clanton paid to ship the Lego set overnight so it would arrive on Stuart's big day. He also enclosed a $10 bill and a note that said, "Stuart buddy, I heard you lost something but you didn't know what it was. I also heard it's your birthday as well, so happy birthday." When the package arrived, his parents recorded the moment when Stuart opened the gift and read the note aloud, fighting back tears. "It shows he's really nice," Stuart said, "and right now a lot of people think a bunch of cops are bad, but this shows a lot of them are also good, really good people."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Are you ever in a pickle?

Today's crumb was contributed by a faithful reader in northern Indiana. It's a short video lesson that explains how we can avoid being in a pickle. To see the video, click this link.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Is God a motion sensor?

It takes courage to quit standing still and step forward in faith on a new adventure. Remember the iconic image from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy is high up in a mountain? He comes out of the mountain and finds himself standing at the edge of the cliff face, just a quick tumble from certain death. He looks at his book of clues and it talks about a "step of faith," so he knows what he has to do. Yes, he steps out into thin air. There's nothing visible under him but air. Then a path appears, but only after he took that first step and it was too late to go back.

I remember walking down the lane where I lived in Carmel, Indiana, a few years ago. There were no street lights and it was dark at night. But as I strolled forward, motion sensor lights over each garage door would click on, lighting the way. If I stood still, they'd go out. They only worked when I moved forward. Some folks think God looks like an old man with a long beard. I wonder if He looks like a motion sensor?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Jehovah sees everything, even at the home of the Whopper

Janelle Jones stopped at the Burger King drive-through in Rochester, NH, around 4:30 p.m. last Friday. She ordered a junior spicy chicken sandwich and sweet tea. On her way home, she discovered there was no food in the sandwich bag. Instead, it was filled with money. She immediately called her husband, Matthew, and told him what happened. He suggested she continue home, where the couple inspected the windfall -- $2,631 in unmarked bills --most of it in two bank deposit bags.

Matthew and Janelle Jones

"We're not perfect human beings," Matt later told a reporter. He admitted they considered keeping the money, which they certainly could use. Why didn't they? He said he and his wife are Jehovah's Witnesses, and "Jehovah sees everything."

When they returned the money about an hour later, employees at the store were extremely thankful, he said. "It felt a lot better than keeping it."

"One person at the store said they would have been fired," Janelle added, "so it felt good knowing we helped them keep their jobs. The manager told me they would give me five free meals, and that their corporate office said 'thank you.'"

If you feel she deserves more than five meals, send your gift to her in care of Manager, Burger King, 250 N. Main St., Rochester, NH 03867. Mark it "for Janelle, from Jehovah."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Before fast food

Someone asked me the other day, "What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?" I told him we didn't have fast food. All food was slow. "Where did you eat?" he asked incredulously. I told him I ate at home. Mom cooked every day, and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table. If I didn't like what we were having that night, I was allowed to sit there until I did like it. Here are a few others things I could have told him about life before fast food.

Some parents NEVER owned their own home. Mine never wore Levis or set foot on a golf course or traveled out of the country or had a credit card. In their twilight years, some parents had a "revolving charge card" but it was only good at Sears & Roebuck. Since we only had one car, my parents never drove me to school. On wet days they made me wear a yellow canvas "raincoat" with a hood. There were cartoons printed inside the hood, and I could see them if I looked sideways, so it was fun. I never went to soccer practice, because nobody had heard of soccer. I had an "English" bike with three speeds and hand brakes.

I bought it used with money earned on my paper route. In those days, all papers were delivered by boys. The Wilmington News-Journal cost 7 cents, and I got to keep two. Every Saturday morning I had to collect 49 cents from each customer. My favorite customers gave me two quarters and told me to keep the change. Their papers went inside the screen door on rainy days. I can still fold a newspaper so it won't fall apart when thrown 100 feet from a moving English bike. Can you?

In my neighborhood, each home had one telephone and one television. The TV screen was black and white, and all three channels went off the air at midnight after playing the national anthem and a poem about God. Pizza was never delivered to our home, but milk was. I had my first pizza in college. It was called a pizza pie. When I bit into it, it burned the roof of my mouth and the cheese slid off. I've had better pizza since, sometimes after going to a movie. Movies were different then. There were no ratings because movies were not intended to offend. Movie stars slept in twin beds and kissed with their mouths closed, at least on screen. And that's the way it was, before fast food.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Is this your lucky day?

"Crumbs of Comfort" just recorded its 5,000th page view, with readers in the US, Germany, Australia, Poland, France and Costa Rica. Today's crumb is from Ohio, USA.

Myles Eckert, 9, is a reluctant celebrity. His path to fame began last February at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Maumee, OH. He was super excited as he walked in the door, because he'd just found a $20 bill in the parking lot and planned to buy a video game. But then a guy in a military uniform entered the restaurant. The soldier reminded Myles of his Dad, who he never met. Army Sgt. Andy Eckert died in Iraq five weeks after Myles was born. So Myles found a piece of lined paper and carefully printed a note. Dear Soldier, My Dad was a soldier. He's in heaven now. I found this $20 in the parking lot when we got here. We like to pay it forward in my family, so this is your lucky day. Thank you for your service. Myles, a Gold Star kid. Then he wrapped the money inside the note, walked over and handed it to the soldier, who happened to be Lt. Col. Frank Dailey of the Air National Guard. After lunch, Myles asked his Mom to stop at the cemetery so he could walk alone to his Dad's grave and tell him about it.

Daily says Myles' note gave him more than $20. It gave him a lifetime direction. "I look at it every day," he said. But it did even more. When people heard about Myles' gift, many wanted to give him back his $20. Instead of accepting money, the Eckerts directed these donations to Snowball Express, a charity helping kids who lost a parent in war. So far, Myles' $20 bill has multiplied into more than a quarter million dollars. But that's not the end of the story.

Myles has an older sister, Marlee Freedom Eckert. She's eleven, and her middle name is Freedom because she was born during her Dad's first overseas deployment. Her parents wanted her to always remember that he fought for her freedom, and the freedom of folks he'd never met.

Enter Scott Fish, lead singer for the group Distant Cousinz. Scott wrote a song about Myles' note, and later, when he learned Marlee's name, it inspired him to write a musical tribute to her Dad's service. How did he find the right words? "'Marlee's Freedom' was a whisper in my ear," he said. "I wrote it while sitting on a forklift at work, and I even called my voicemail and sang the chorus to myself so I would not lose it."

"Marlee's Freedom" is part of a charity CD supporting the Red Cross, and Scott decided to share the copyright with the Eckert family. Myles' Mom, Tiffany, and Scott plan to do some "altruistic things" with proceeds, which will be donated to Tiffany's new non-profit organization. Speaking of Scott, Tiffany says, "We forged a really good relationship in the last few months. He's just a really good guy and very talented. I'm blessed to know him." Not surprisingly, her new non-profit is called Lucky Day.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The British Schindler

The idea for today's crumb comes from a reader in Gaithersburg, MD, USA.

Sir Nicholas Winton, 105, of London, England, never expected so much fuss. In 2002 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. In 2010 he was named British Hero of the Holocaust, and in 2014 he was awarded Czechoslovakia's highest honor, the Order of the White Lion, by President Milos Zerman. All because of something he did 50 years ago and never mentioned to anyone.

Winton being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

It began around Christmas, 1938. While working as a broker at the London Stock Exchange, Winton planned a ski vacation in Switzerland, but decided instead to visit Prague to assist the British Committee for Refugees with Jewish welfare work. During his three-week vacation, all by himself, he set up an organization to aid Jewish children in danger from the Nazis. When the British House of Commons allowed entry for children under 17 provided they had host parents and a warranty of fifty pounds, Winton found homes in Britain for 669 boys and girls. The British Home Office was sluggish about granting entry permits, claiming "nothing will happen in Europe," but Winton felt war was coming so he forged the permits. Nine months later, when war was declared and immigration no longer possible, Winton gathered all his papers into a notebook and stored it in his attic, telling no one about it -- not even his wife. Decades passed, and 669 children grew into adults, never understanding how they happened to be safe in England when their families perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The mystery continued until one day when Winton's wife Grete accidentally found the notebook. What happened next can be seen on this 10-minute video. Before it ends, you will hear the Dalai Lama of Tibet praise Winton, and you will have tears in your eyes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What is "real love?"

Today's crumb, shared by an affectionate reader in Chandler, AZ, USA, is based on an article by CNN contributor Bob Green.

For half-a-century, the world has applauded astronaut John Glenn as an American hero. On Feb. 20, 1962, he was the first American to orbit the earth in a tiny, fragile capsule called Friendship 7. Decades later, after he retired from the U.S. Senate, NASA invited him to suit up again and become the oldest American to fly in space. But few know that, during all those years, Glenn had his own hero, his wife Annie. John and Annie first met (literally) in a playpen when they were infants and their parents were neighbors. They attended the same high school, where Glenn was a three-sport varsity athlete, Mr. Everything, and he only had eyes for Annie. She was bright and talented, but stuttered so badly that 85% of the time she could not speak words. When she tried to recite a poem in elementary school, everyone laughed. In restaurants she had to point to things on the menu. As an adult, she silently handed taxi drivers notes telling where she needed to go. But John Glenn never stopped loving her, and they married on April 6, 1943.

After having two children, she wrote, "Can you imagine living in a modern world and not being able to use a telephone? 'Hello' used to be so hard to say. I worried that my children might be injured and need a doctor." As a Marine aviator, Glenn flew 59 combat missions in WWII and Korea. His last words to Annie before leaving were always the same. "I'm just going to the corner store for a pack of gum." She always struggled to reply, "Don't be too long." Those were the words he used before riding Friendship 7 into space in 1962, and also in 1998 when, at age 77, he returned to space on the shuttle Discovery. But before his final flight, he actually gave her a pack of gum which she carried next to her heart until he returned safely.

John and Annie in 1998

When she was 53, Annie found a cure for her stuttering and could speak freely. John says the first time he heard her speak, he fell to his knees with a prayer of gratitude. He says, "I saw Annie's perseverance and strength through the years and it just made me admire her more. I don't know if I would have had the courage."

Today John is 93. Annie will be 95 next month. She believes they will "make it to 100, together. John and I have always kept our closeness," she says, "and it's been wonderful because we have had real love. I'm going to cry, but it's true."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Howard Chandler Christy

Howard Chandler Christy was a famous American artist. He is often remembered for his painting "Signing of the Constitution of the United States," which is 20 feet tall and 30 feet wide, and was painted from Sept. 1939 until April 1940 at the Navy Shipyard in Washington DC, since there was no art studio large enough to hold it. The canvas weighed 1,700 pounds. The painting, shown here, was hung in the east stairway of the House wing of the United States Capitol and unveiled in 1940.

Before starting this painting, Christy wrote a letter which was published an April, 1937, issue of Time Magazine. He wrote:

"It is fitting I should give testimony of my healing in Christian Science on this Easter morning, as it was 28 years ago at Easter time when first my health was returned to me. Previous to this time I had been partially blind, and numb from the knees down. I had tried all kinds of cures but no help. I tried to forget through drink. The doctors said I could live but a few months.  One day my relative, a Christian Science practitioner, called on me. I managed to hobble into the front room where she was sitting, and during the conversation she asked if I would like her to pray for me. Right then something told me from within that I should regain all my strength, so I answered 'Yes, go ahead.' While she was talking everything in the room began to clear. I could even see the color of her eyes, which were blue. It was as if a fog had lifted. I stood up and wanted to walk out in the clear air and did, for a three mile walk. That night I read three pages of the Christian Science textbook Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, and had no trouble reading the fine print. The next day I went to work and have worked ever since. In a few minutes time, my life was changed from discouragement to joy and light and happiness, and gratitude is mine and will always be so long as I live."  (Signed)  Howard Chandler Christy

Monday, January 19, 2015

Stray cat saves abandoned baby

Perhaps you've already heard about the homeless cat in Russia who helped save the life of an abandoned baby boy? Masha is a stray who is looked after by some residents in the town of Obninsk, about 40 miles from Moscow. She's like an apartment building mascot.

Irna Lavora, who lives in the building, helps feed the stray cat. Last week she heard Masha whining loudly outside. "She is very placid and friendly," Lavora said, "so when I heard her meowing, I thought perhaps she had hurt herself."

Lavora found Masha in a cardboard box outside the front door, and beside her was a 12-week-old baby boy. Masha had climbed into the box when she found the abandoned baby and snuggled up against him to keep him warm, since Obninsk temperatures drop into the 20's at night. Then the cat whined to attract attention of passersby.

Reports say the baby was left with a pacifier, bottle and diapers and was dressed warmly, even wearing a little hat, but he would have had difficulty surviving an entire night outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures. An ambulance whisked the baby to a local hospital but not before Masha tried to ride along. "She ran right behind us, meowing. She seemed quite intelligent," said paramedic Vera Ivanina. The baby was well-fed, clean, and showed no signs of neglect, except being left out in the cold to be found by a concerned cat.

Neighbors say Masha lives in the hallway of their apartment building, where they give her food and water. Now a hero, Masha is being "spoiled rotten" with all of her favorite foods.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Just a school custodian

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US, honoring the life of the slain civil rights leader. Dr. King once said, "The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human, and, therefore, brothers." Today's crumb salutes a neighbor who fits this description. His name is Charles Clark.

Twenty-five years ago, Clark took a custodial position at Trinity High School in Euless, TX. He expected to stay until he found something better, but he never left. And when alumni return to Trinity for class reunions, most want to see Clark first. Why?

School custodian Charles Clark

Early on, Clark realized many Trinity students came from single-parent homes, lacking any father figure. Clark's strong bond with his own Dad made him realize how important it is for kids to have positive role models, or at least someone who will listen and care. During his years as custodian, he's purchased clothing and shoes for needy students; provided transportation to jobs, and even taken students into his home when they needed a place to stay.

Assistant principal Stephanie Millar recalls how Clark helped Ryan McBean. She says McBean was a lost soul when he came to Trinity from Jamaica until Clark took him under his wing and let him sleep at his home. McBean joined the school football team and later played in college. Now he's playing for the NFL. But Charles kept on him to finish his college degree, and he did.

Clark would not trade his job for any other. He says "what is rewarding is when students come back and tell me that something I said or did 17 or 18 years ago had a positive influence on their life."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"My heavenly Father hear my prayer"

Today's post shares lessons learned by Mrs. Cecilia Rexin, as reported by my good friend Dann Denny in the Feb. 25, 1992 issue of the Herald-Times in Bloomington, IN, USA. Here are excerpts from Dann's article.

When 74-year-old Cecilia Rexin is asked what she learned during her eight years in concentration camps before and during WWII, her gray-green eyes sparkle and her wrinkled face spreads into a smile. "I find that when everything is taken away from you," she says, pointing a bony finger toward the sky, "God is enough."

Rexin ought to know. In the camps she was beaten, starved and humiliated. A tattered dress was her only possession. Her 'name' was No. 2657. But she says that even during her darkest, loneliest hours, God was with her. Her final days at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp were hellish. She was tossed into a 3x5 foot cell which was pitch black and frigid. She had to sleep on the bare concrete floor. She lived there eight weeks in her short-sleeved cotton dress, surviving on water and scraps of food. Then for five days she was given no food, only water. She could barely stand up. She dropped to her knees and prayed, "It's OK, God, if You want me to die and be with You. But I've been here seven-and-a-half years and I don't want to die now. Please let me live."

Female prisoners at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp

An hour later, her cell door opened and a man from the Swedish Red Cross walked in. Minutes later he returned with a huge meal -- potatoes, a plate of meat and boiled cabbage and liverwurst. She ate every morsel. Then the heat to her cell was turned on.

"It was a miracle," says Rexin. "In my darkness, my heavenly Father hear my prayer and reach down to me."

Today she lives in a small apartment near Bloomington to be with her daughter. Though it's been nearly half-a-century since Rexin spent those dehumanizing years in the camps, she still carries scars on her back and atrocities in her mind. But she also remembers the One who was with her.

"God will never let you down," she says. "He never parts the seas until you arrive at the the shore."

Friday, January 16, 2015

His eye is on the sparrow

Today's crumb is a photo shared by a reader in Long Beach, CA, USA. It may help you decide if you should hesitate a little longer before stepping bravely into a new chapter of your life, or trust your instinct and act now. And it illustrates the words of a beloved gospel hymn, printed beneath the picture.

I sing because I'm happy. I sing because I'm free.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he's watching me.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Back home again in Indiana

Just before Christmas, 2013, 67-year-old Dolores Pittman, who is legally blind, had to vacate the Cedar Lake, Indiana home she'd lived in since childhood. A real estate speculator had bought it at a government auction of tax delinquent properties, paying just $43.

The case was complex. Her family owned the house but a church group owned the land under it. The church sold almost all its holdings, but not her parcel. The church stopped paying taxes on the lot and county officials put it up for sale, even though Pittman assumed the land had been transferred to the town and was paying town rent for it.

Dolores Pittman in her renovated home.

News of her plight brought donations that helped sustain her in an apartment for the past year. She worried her house would be ruined after being vacant so long, until volunteers from Holy Name Church in Cedar Lake, St. John the Evangelist Parish in St. John and St. Michael Parish in Schererville rushed to refurbish its roof, floors, and sagging kitchen and bathroom. 

"I hoped to be back by Christmas," Pittman said, "but when I stopped in December the kitchen and bathroom were still gutted. After her visit, she dreamed one night that she was home again, and there was even a Christmas tree.

The work was finished December 23. "I walked in and there was a Christmas tree my aunt bought me. There were even presents under it," she said.

The town of Cedar Lake bought the home from the real estate speculator for $66,000. Town fathers agreed to let Pittman reside there for the rest of her life.  Which is why many of the state's license plates say, "Back Home Again in Indiana."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How to avoid a broken heart?

According to a new study published in the Health, Behavior and Policy Review journal, people who see every glass as half-full are twice as likely to have healthy hearts. "Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health, compared to their more pessimistic counterparts," says the study's lead author, University of Illinois professor Rosalba Hernandez.

The study compared the cardiovascular health and general attitudes of more than 5,000 adults over 11 years, beginning in July, 2000. It was conducted by professors at Indiana, Northwestern, Harvard and Drexel universities and funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. It's findings agree with a growing pool of research suggesting a correlation between physical health and mental well-being, including a 2012 Harvard study suggesting a link between "positive psychological well-being" and reduced rates of heart disease and stroke. The Harvard study concluded that "optimism is most robustly associated with a reduced rate of cardiovascular events."

Not surprisingly, another study found married people had a 5% lower risk of heart disease than average. Widows had a 3% greater risk, and divorced singles had a 5% higher risk.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A crumb of comfort from Paris

Today's crumb comes from a reader in Paris, France, who describes the rally last Sunday after 17 people died during three days of deadly attacks in the city. More than 40 world leaders joined more than a million Parisians, linking arms in solidarity. Our reader writes:

"The French were stunned by the attacks, but not shocked. There is a ticking time bomb  in a population here, and one explosion just went off, so to speak. No doubt there will be some soul-searching and changes over the next months and years. Let's hope the changes are not just reactive, but proactive, and not just security-based, but cultural. Let's search for the good that must come from this terrible event. Here's a photo I took.

"My husband and I decided to take the kids to the rally on Sunday. It would be a part of history, and was too important to stay home. When we got to the metro, there was no room on the platform. Each train that came was already full, admitting only a few passengers. We got on the 6th train. Every part of your body touched the person next to you. No one was cranky. Everyone said 'Pardon' as we invaded each other's space. Each station we passed had a full platform. When we got off, it took us 15 minutes just to get out of the crowded station. And can I describe it? There was someone in every square foot from the edge of the buildings, over the sidewalks and four lanes of boulevard to the other buildings, as far as we could see. The mood was uplifting because everyone was extremely calm and polite; not happy, but truly content to be part of this movement. They carried signs and children. Some chanted or clapped. They were all determined, but their determination stemmed from peace, not anger. I felt honored to be there.

"I am encouraged and buoyed by what I've seen in the past few days. But the landscape has changed. There are security guards outside our children's school, and Gendarmerie patrolling the metro. Terrorist organizations have threatened more violence. The Jewish population is terrified. My Jewish friend Michelle came here with her parents in the '60s to escape persecution. Now she's 76, and preparing to leave for the US or Israel, for the same reason.

"May we all strive to exhibit tolerance and understanding. May we work to stem the violence. It's never someone else's problem -- it's our problem as well."

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rules for living

Last year I survived a potentially fatal illness. Upon hearing I was in the ICU, one daughter asked her Mom, "does he want to live?" Frankly, I wasn't sure. After 70 fulfilling years, I felt less needed. Weak and helpless, I had no choices left to make. Perhaps it was time to go? Late that night, I was wakened by a light so brilliant it made the ICU appear beautiful. Before it faded, I heard these words, "I am here now, and I know you." To me, it was our Father's voice, promising me I was not alone and still needed by Him. Then began a recovery my doctor later described as "almost a miracle." Since returning home, my daughter's question, "does he want to live?" inspired me to embrace seven rules for living. Here they are:

1) to feed myself each day with prayer, spiritual reading and contemplation
2) to live from the place in me where God is Love, and see others through His eyes
3) to be thankful God's love is never complete 'til it comforts the hearts that fail
4) to remember God is always waiting for my ego to get out of His way
5) to be glad that even sorrow can shake the soul, and let the glory out
6) to recognize life takes courage, and we make life-or-death decisions every day
7) to always choose life

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The road of patience

Today's crumb is a poem written by Peter J. Henniker-Heaton, my Sunday School teacher when I was a high school senior. He was an editor at The Christian Science Monitor when it was an international daily newspaper. In his spare time, he wrote poems. This one is called "The Road of Patience."

Not through the valleys lies the road of patience,
But over lofty peaks of right desire,
On every hand the wonders of God's presence
And His serene and sun-bright atmosphere.

Not through the slough of tedium and depression
The road of patience runs, but on the hills
Of firm resolve and steadfast recognition
That man expresses God and never fails.

Sometimes it seems a highway thronged and busy,
Sometimes a sheep path where we walk alone;
But Love is there to make rough places easy
And, though we stumble, hold and help us on.

No human effort builds the road of patience.
God laid it well before the world began,
Himself the God of love, the God of patience,
For man, his perfect son, to walk upon.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A video to warm your heart

Today's crumb is an unforgettable 13-minute video contributed by a reader in Granger, Indiana, USA. It tells the story of Reggie Ho, a cardiologist at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Ho specializes in electrophysiology, and his expertise is widely respected. But he was respected even before he became a physician.
 Dr. Reggie Ho

At 5 feet, five inches tall and weighing only 135 pounds, he was the shortest and lightest player on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 1988 football team. On Sept. 10, in his first collegiate game, played under the lights in front of a national TV audience, he nailed all four of his field-goal attempts, including a game-winning 26-yarder with 73 seconds left on the clock, to help Notre Dame knock off Michigan and jump-start a championship season. Even today, as he helps heal failing hearts in grateful patients, the modest Ho deflects attention from himself. "It was a team effort," he says. "We all won the game together."  But in Notre Dame lore, it's still called "The Reggie Ho Game." After it ended, the team held a big victory party, but Ho wasn't there. He was in the library, studying, because he wanted to be a doctor.

The video lasts 13 minutes, but you won't regret seeing it. It will warm your heart.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Does old age have a bad rap?

Is age really a ticking time bomb? Or is it only a number? If it's only a number, when does it begin? That depends on your age today. A Pew Research survey finds that folks under 30 today believe old age starts at 60. Folks over 65 disagree. They say old age begins at 74. Don't ask what folks older than 74 think. Most of them are too busy enjoying life to care.

Many folks between age 18 and 64 agree with Mae West, who said "old age ain't for sissies." They expect no favors from Father Time, but maybe they're wrong. Fifty-seven percent of them expect memory loss when they're older, but only 25% of seniors become forgetful. Forty-five percent of young folks expect to loose their driver's license when they're old, but only 14% actually do. Forty-two percent of young folks expect old age to bring serious illness, but three out of four seniors remain healthy.

So what are the sunset years really like? A telephone survey of old geezers (65 and older) found 65% enjoy more time for hobbies; 86% have more time to share with family; 52% do more volunteer work and traveling, and 64% have more financial security than when they were younger. Best of all, almost 60% report less stress, and unlike Rodney Dangerfield, 59% believe they get more respect with white hair.

Okay, old age may have some benefits, but we all get less creative in our dotage, don't we? Not necessarily. Consider Mark Twain, Paul Cezanne, Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Einstein and Robert Frost. These scholars relied on wisdom, which increases with age. And what about laborers on the factory floor? Aren't old timers less productive? In jobs that require experience, some studies show older adults have an advantage. They make fewer mistakes and better decisions.

So maybe it's true. Age is nothing more than mind over matter. If you don't mind, then age doesn't matter.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

God send someone. God send someone.

Today's crumb appeared in many newspapers in 1955, and was featured in the March, 1959, New Yorker magazine.

Boston, MA (June 15, 1955)  Thomas Whittaker, 44, who works for Stoneham Welding Service, got a powerful hunch yesterday afternoon. He had a feeling something was wrong, but he didn't know what. He felt compelled to get in his car and start driving. Several times along the way he tried to turn toward his home, but intuition kept him from doing so. Time after time he turned instead toward Washington Street, where his company was doing some work. "This is ridiculous," he thought. "That Washington Street job was suspended," but he kept edging toward the area. When he got there, he looked down into the 14-foot deep trench in the center of the street and at the bottom he saw a cave-in. The sides of the trench had collapsed, and projecting out of the dirt, sand and debris was a human hand.  "What a feeling," he said, "when I saw that hand waving out of the dirt."

He jumped in the trench and tried to claw away some dirt with his own hands. When he dug deep enough to see a wrist watch, he knew it belonged to his best friend and boss, John H. Sullivan, 41, owner of the welding service. Frantic now, Whittaker scrambled to the top of the trench and called for fire and police to help dig Sullivan out.

After his rescue, Sullivan said he'd gone to the abandoned site to finish up some work, and was buried when the sides of the trench gave way. He broke his nose and one ankle, and was under two-and-a-half tons of earth and stone for 90 minutes. Only his welder's mask prevented him from suffocating. He tried to yell, but realized nobody could hear him, so he began praying mental distress signals. "God send someone. God send someone" he prayed over and over and over again. That's when Whittaker felt the urge to go to Washington Street.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Survival, and a lot of prayers

Climax, Minnesota, population 267, is even smaller than Garrison Keillor's mythical hometown of Lake Wobegon. There's no Side Track Tap at the railroad station, and no Powdermilk Biscuit Company on the edge of town. But Climax has two things in common with Lake Wobegon. All the women are strong, and all the men are good looking. The children? Well, you decide.

Greater downtown Climax, MN.

Since 2011, the Lady Knights basketball team of Climax-Fisher High School have strung together 84 straight losses. That's four years of ridicule. But coach Jonathan Vonesh never lost faith in the girls. A few quit, but most remained determined to turn the team around. It finally happened, and you won't believe how.

The Knights were one point ahead of Bagley High last month at halftime, and "the crowd was getting into it," remembers player Grace Bowling. Then the Knights got in major foul trouble. First all the seniors fouled out. Then all the juniors fouled out. There were only three Knights left, two sophomores and a freshman -- the least experienced players on the losingest team in the state. Coach didn't tell them to win. He just told them to keep working 'til the end. You can't win three on five.

They didn't score once from the field, but they played stellar defense. When they got the ball, they drew fouls and made free throws, one after another. When the buzzer sounded, the Lady Knights won! What happened next? "We were all hugging and crying and screaming our heads off," said Heather Grove. "It was probably the best moment of my life," added Adrianna Vasek. "You kind of learn that no matter what people say about you, if you keep putting in the time and effort, it will pay off," said Michaela Burstad. That's a lesson the team will never forget.

When Coach Vonesh was contacted by ABC News affiliate WDAZ, he credited the victory to "survival, and a lot of prayers," adding "it was like they won a championship." Thanks to the Lady Knights, Climax now has one more thing in common with Lake Wobegon. All the children are above average.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Harry Truman's health care plan

Today's crumb is from a letter by President Harry S. Truman to Rev. Norman Vincent Peale.

"I have always been of the opinion that to live a long, healthy and happy life, you must be careful to pick the right grandparents on both sides. Apparently that is what I did. Of course, I have obeyed the rules the best I could about the forms of exercise best suited to my age and about eating habits. I eat what I want when I want it, but not as much as I would like.

"One of the principal contributions to good health is a moral code that considers the welfare of the people around you as well as your own. I have found the 20th chapter of Exodus and the 5th, 6th and 7th chapters of Matthew to be nearly perfect guides by which to live. The 10th chapter of Luke also has a wonderful effect upon people who are trying to find the true definition of a good neighbor."

Monday, January 5, 2015

The sincerest "God bless you"

"Crumbs of Comfort" just received it's 4,000th page view, including readers from half-a-dozen nations. Today's crumb is an excerpt from a recent guest column in the Herald-Times of Bloomington, IN. The writer speaks from her heart, and her story may touch yours.

She says she went to a restaurant and was sipping some Sprite when a homeless man came in. He walked up to the counter and was trying to count out coins with hands that were freezing cold. From the look on the cashier's face, it was not his first visit, and he was not welcome.

"I heard her grumble, 'The only reason you're here is because I'd get in trouble for kicking out a paying customer. Once that coffee is gone, it's a different story. Stay away from everyone else. They don't want you around them!' The man bowed his head in shame; nodded in response and shuffled off to a corner booth. By this time his whole body was shaking. He sipped that coffee as slowly as he could. I knew he was trying to warm up, and even the drafty corner booth by the door was warmer than the cold outside.

"While everyone else gave him dirty looks and whispered, I looked on with a broken heart. I was scared to death, but eventually I worked up the courage to move into the booth opposite of him. When he glanced up and saw me with tears in my eyes, he gave me a nod and looked back down, and soon I noticed he had tears running down his cheeks. Alone. Cast aside. Homeless.

"I had $7 in my pocket and a boatload of change in the bottom of my purse. I gathered it all up and sat it on the table where he sat. I said 'I'm sorry it's not enough to get you a hotel or a good meal.' He told me it would buy enough coffee to keep him out of the cold for a couple of nights, if he budgeted it right, and as I left, he whispered the sincerest 'God bless you' I've ever heard. I cried all the way home. I learned a valuable life lesson that day. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

"Please remember those less fortunate this year as weather turns bitter, and help if you can."

Sunday, January 4, 2015

She needed me and I needed her

Nurse Sara Gibbs was supposed to be off duty one night 18 years ago, but she was unexpectedly called to work at the hospital in Corinth, MS. That was the night first responders found a baby abandoned outside a doctor's office next to the hospital. Sara knew the baby was newborn "because she still had a little blood in her hair." The nursing supervisor encouraged Sara to take the baby home, but Sara objected. "What am I going to do with a baby?" she asked. "I work a 12-hour night shift, and I don't have a husband." But a few hours later, her maternal instinct kicked in and the baby, named Janessa, had a new mom -- Sara.

"I feel like it was divine intervention," says Sara, "because I wasn't even supposed to be there." Nearly two decades of memories in their baby book prove these two were put in each other's lives for a reason.
Sara and Janessa

"I wanted to be the one to teach her and mold her," said Sara. "I'm just glad I had the means and the resources to afford the opportunities for her to take dance and do gymnastics. I'm proud to have done these things for her." But Sara did even more. Last fall, she sent Janessa off to college. 

How does Janessa feel about her birth mother? "When I think of my birth mom, it makes me feel sad sometimes. I don't think she dropped me off because she didn't want me, but because she couldn't take care of me."

Maybe that's why Janessa calls Sara "the best mom ever." She feels their bond will only grow stronger after 18 years they'll never forget.  "She's always been my mom," says Janessa. "I think she made a good decision, because she needed me and I needed her."

Saturday, January 3, 2015

You can see the stars

My parents never went to college, but they hoped I would. Early in my senior year at Boston English High School, Dad asked the education editor of The Christian Science Monitor where I should apply. She recommended Blackburn College in rural Carlinville, IL. because it offered quality education focused on affordability. It's the only college in the nation with a student-managed mandatory work program. All resident students must work 10 hours each week, even if your uncle donates a library. Students were cooks, waitresses, custodians, office staff. We ran the heating plant. Nine principal buildings on the 80 acre campus were built by students, instructed by skilled contractors. Because student work earns tuition discounts, Blackburn today is the least expensive private, residential liberal arts college in Illinois.

Hudson Hall, built by Blackburn students

Each student cherishes Blackburn for a unique reason. I'll never forget Dr. John Forbes, who taught my freshman political science class. His final exam was 40% of the grade, and was pass-fail. We had to memorize the Bill of Rights, including punctuation. If we wrote it correctly, we passed. If we forgot a comma, we failed. I spent many warm, sunny afternoons walking down dirt roads between cornfields near campus reading and repeating James Madison's famous words, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...etc." I passed.

This fall, a new student walked into the President's office to explain why he likes Blackburn. He grew up in a tough Chicago neighborhood. Many of his high school friends made money selling drugs. He knew he had a choice, sell drugs or go to college, but he had few financial resources. Then he found Blackburn online and told his high school counselor about it. At first, she didn't believe Blackburn was real. After visiting campus, he signed up right away. What does this freshman from inner-city Chicago like about Blackburn? "You can see the stars," he said, "and people are always friendly." To see a 2-minute CNN Money feature on Blackburn, visit

Friday, January 2, 2015

A resolution for every day?

Many thanks to readers who have contributed crumbs of comfort found in local media. Today's crumb comes from an article in the Bundaberg News-Mail in Queensland, Australia.

Lissa Rankin, MD, an author and popular presenter on TEDx, urges us to strip back everything that isn't really us. Peel away all the things we've learned in the world of hard-knocks, and find our inner pilot light or divine spark of love within. Evidence indicates that this helps us recover from physical and emotional illness, and feel well.
Let's trust our natural instinct to actively and warmly care for ourself and others, choosing positive and solution-based approaches to life's challenges, instead of taking an impersonal, hard-line or defeatist approach to problems. Forgetting ourselves and putting others first really feels divine, and invariably makes us healthier.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Helping angels earn their wings

In 1975, Rev. Russell White, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, was moonlighting as truant officer at New Jersey's East Orange High School. Every day he'd round up kids cutting classes and drag them into school where they'd be suspended. One day he told the kids they could do anything, even fly a plane. They didn't believe him, so he took them to Morristown Airport Flight School, where friends who knew him gave them a deal on flying lessons. He named his group the Eagle Flight Squadron. He got them military surplus flight suits with yellow ascots. "Treat them like pilots, dress them like pilots, and they become pilots," he said. To stay in the squad, students needed a B average or better in school. One of White's best remembered comments is, "Get a C? See ya!"

For 20 years the squad met Thursday evenings in a church basement, until the city offered White abandoned Fire House No. 4, which was very run down. The kids refurbished it, and used the extra space to learn close-order drill, which they sometimes perform in local parades. Ground school classes were taught on the upper floor, plus math, English, writing and life skills. On weekends older students had lessons at the airport with a flight instructor.

Rev. White and his Eagle Squadron

By 2013, nearly 300 former high school truants had graduated,  and nearly all went on to college. Many, like Joseph Hayes, became commercial pilots. Hayes is a First Officer with Continental Airlines. "I am indebted to Rev. White," Hayes said. "Without him, I would not have a pilot's license. I'm also grateful for the wisdom he passed on by emphasizing to study, as well as never lowering your sights in a society where race sometimes puts you at a disadvantage."