Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Would you have believed this?

Wednesday is April Fool's Day, a time to remember the biggest hoax any major news bureau ever pulled. It happened in 1957, when the British Broadcasting Corporation ran a three-minute television news report on the current events program Panorama. Respected broadcaster Richard Dimbleby, the British equivalent of Walter Cronkite, claimed to be reporting from the canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland, where locals were holding a Harvest Festival to celebrate their bumper spaghetti crop. Swiss housewives were seen picking spaghetti from trees. The superior crop was attributed to a mild winter and the virtual disappearance of the "spaghetti weevil."

Pasta was not an everyday food in the United Kingdom in 1957, and many Brits did not know it's made from wheat flour and water. An estimated eight million people watched the broadcast on April 1 and hundreds phoned the next day to request more information about spaghetti farming. Could they grow their own spaghetti trees? BBC operators advised callers to "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best." The next day, the network admitted the hoax.

Why not celebrate April Fool's Day by watching the original BBC telecast, linked here. Would have have believed it?  www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVo_wkxH9dU

Monday, March 30, 2015

The baby whisperer

Jim O'Connor does not baby his math students at St. Francis High School in La Canada, CA. The Vietnam veteran and former engineer teaches algebra and calculus at the boys' prep school, and his classes are not fun. If a student is caught even looking at the clock, he's in trouble for the rest of the period. Until recently, most students thought O'Connor was too tough, but now some want to emulate him -- to model themselves after him. What changed their minds?

In 2013, one of his students, Pat McGoldrick, visited Childrens' Hospital Los Angeles as part of a school blood drive. When he looked at the list of major donors, he was astonished to see his math teacher's name at the top. O'Connor has Type O negative blood, which can be transfused into any patient. So far, he had donated 72 gallons! But nurses told McGoldrick his no-nonsense math teacher gives more than blood. He also gives love. "We really do depend on him," said nurse Sherry Nolan.

The hard-nosed math teacher found his other calling at the hospital where, for the past 20 years, he's spent several days a week cuddling sick babies. "They seem to take to him as much as he takes to them. He holds them, feeds them, walks around with them, gets to know them, and he can always coax a smile out of them," says Nolan. "They just stare at him adoringly and he can get the crabbiest baby to calm down. He's a natural-born cuddler."

O'Conner is especially drawn to babies who have nobody; babies on "hospital hold" waiting for foster homes or babies who are dying and their parents are too traumatized to visit the hospital. He says the babies he cuddles "can do no wrong. They just want to be held by somebody."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

How do kids define love?

A group of children between four and eight years old were asked to define love. Here are some of their answers.  "When people love you, they say your name different. You know your name is safe in their mouth." (Johnny, age 4)  "If you want to learn how to love, you better start with someone you hate." (Sue, age 6)  "Love is when you tell a boy you like his shirt, and he wears it everyday." (Georgia, age 7)  "Love is when you go to dinner with someone and you give them most of your french fries without making them give you any." (Bruce, age 8) "Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken." (Annie, age 5)

Now here's a sweet video shared by a reader in northern Indiana. It was made by Samaritan's Purse, and asks children the simple question, "What is love?' Samaritan's Purse is an international relief program helping meet the physical and spiritual needs of people around the world. Franklin Graham is the president of Samaritan's Purse, which reaches out to more than 100 nations. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tempted to slow down?

In the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA, USA, Canada's Donovan Bailey ran the 100-meter sprint in 9.84 seconds. He was acclaimed the world's fastest man, and experts analyzed the race tapes to learn how he did it. All agreed that he started in the back of the pack and then overtook other runners in a dramatic mid-race surge.  The victory almost didn't happen. After so many wins, Bailey admitted he'd become overconfident and found it difficult to obey his coaches and maintain rigorous training, but the tapes also revealed that he was still accelerating at the end.

I've almost finished "the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1) and sprinting is no longer an option. When someone at church asks me to teach Sunday School I'm tempted to say, "Been there. Done that. Let the younger folks do it now." But like Bailey's coach, my Coach won't let me coast. Growing older means I have more time to exercise the gifts God has given me. Instead of slowing down, I want to be accelerating when I cross the finish line.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The government of April?

In a few days, it will be April and the cherry trees will bloom around the Tidal Basin in our nation's capital. My boyhood Sunday School teacher was a poet, and when he read an unusual comment in a New York newspaper, it inspired him to write a poem called "The Government of April." Here's the comment he found, and his response.

Sherpa Tensing, scaler of Mt. Everest, was born in April, and is domiciled in India. The government of both of these countries must therefore be consulted in matters concerning him.

"The Government of April" -- oh, what a lovely name!
The conferences of nations will be no more the same
with April at the table to bring smiles to every face
and touch to tears the steely heart with speech of lissom grace.

The Prime Minister of April, is, of course, a lady fair
with violets in her corsage and cowslips in her hair.
Her dress is sprigged with bluebells from some scented primrose wood,
and she speaks a springtime language by all men understood.

The Government of April commands neither planes nor guns
but deploys a cosmic battery of thirty shimmering suns
and thirty starry evenings and thirty soft night skies,
with March and May on either flank to guard them from surprise.

What is its constitution? I find that hard to tell.
It has a King and Queen I'm sure and a President as well.
But which one has the final word no one will ever know;
they settled all their differences a billion years ago.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Is our Father proud of us?

As a second-grader, my youngest step-daughter was the Energizer Bunny. To help her let off steam, I took her to the local high school tennis courts, where we'd hit the ball back and forth over the net -- sometimes 100 times without missing. I got most of the exercise, since she still held her tennis racquet with two hands and could only swing forehand. No matter where her returns landed on my court, I had to retrieve them and return them with one gentle bounce to her forehand. Even after an hour, she always asked to play longer, and we often did.

As she grew older, I showed her how to hold her racquet with one hand, and how to swing backhand and how to launch an overhead serve. She was a quick study, and by middle school she didn't need me anymore. She was manager of the school tennis team. In high school she played varsity tennis -- a girl to be reckoned with. Recently I learned she's teaching her second-grade son how to play tennis, and like her, he's a quick study.

The happiness I felt when I learned this gave me an clue how our heavenly Father must feel when we do the things He's taught us, like love our neighbor as ourself; love our enemies; care for widows and orphans, and live in the light of His truth. I bet He forgets all the messes of the past, and tells anyone who will listen, "That's MY child!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A shoebox full of love

Quezon City is a suburb of Manila, in the Philippines. Fourteen years ago, a child named Joana attended vacation Bible school in Quezon City. That Christmas, students in her class received shoe boxes from children in the United States, containing modest holiday gifts. Her box also contained the address and a snapshot of the seven-year-old donor, Tyrel Wolfe. He was from a place called "Idaho" and wore a cowboy shirt. Joana wrote to thank him for the gifts, but he never received her letter.

"I still wanted to thank the person who packed the box for me," she said, so after eleven years she tried to locate him on Facebook. She found several people named Tyrel Wolfe, but only one from Idaho. Since he was dressed in cowboy attire, she submitted a friend request from "a random girl in the Phillipines." He was intrigued, and over the next year they exchanged letters and pictures. Despite a 15-hour time difference, they set aside time each morning and night for Facebook visits. Finally in 2013, Tyrel saved enough money to fly to Manila and meet Joana. "Once I saw his face, an amazing feeling came over me," she remembers. "I was so happy I cried." Tyrel stayed for 10 days. "All I knew was that Joana was the one." He returned again the next year for a month, and asked Joana's Dad (in the Tagalog language) for permission to marry her. They obtained a fiancee visa for Joana and the couple were wed at an outdoor ceremony on Tyrel's parents' 400-acre cattle ranch. Tyrel wore a barong, the traditional embroidered shirt worn by Filipino grooms.

Instead of gifts, the couple asked their wedding guests to pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child which is sponsored by Samaritan's Purse and has several drop-off stations in Idaho. Shown above, they later delivered their own boxes in person to Samaritan's Purse headquarters in Boone, North Carolina, and told their unforgettable story. "I remember as a little boy I was so excited to know the toys I put in the box would bring joy to another child somewhere in the world," said Tyrel. "I just didn't know the joy it would bring back to me one day."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The bridge to creativity and kindness

When it opened in 1950, the Mystic River Bridge was the largest bridge in New England, carrying US1 traffic north from the Athens of the east to scenic New Hampshire and Maine. Twenty-six-million vehicles crossed it each year -- on the lower deck going north or the upper deck going south. From the toll booth on the upper deck, you could see the majestic Boston skyline, as shown here.

Last summer, all toll booths were removed and traffic began flowing non-stop thanks to electronic toll collection. But for half-a-century, toll-takers were eccentric, sometimes brilliant people. One year, seven toll-takers quit their jobs after passing the Massachusetts State Bar exam to become lawyers. Former Boston mayor Kevin White began public service in the fraternity of toll-takers, who were trained to keep traffic moving by talking as little as possible. Paul Thomas, who collected tolls for 26 years on the upper deck, was often asked by drivers "how do I get to Harvard from here?" He answered with two words, "Study hard!" But toll booth attendants sometimes warmed drivers' hearts. Lee Hanson of Orlando, FL recalls a day in 1973 when she was a 32-year-old widow heading home from Boston over the bridge. She was exhausted after a hard day as an advertising agent. She had to work long hours to pay someone to babysit her two small children. She had no reason to be happy. As she approached the toll booth she rolled down her window and stuck out her arm to hand the toll collector the coins. To her surprise, she recalls, "when I stopped, the young man gently grasped my hand in both of his, looked into my eyes and said, 'Where have you been? The martinis are warm!'" She grinned and chuckled all the way home.

My Mystic River Bridge memories come from 1984, when friends and I often crossed it en route to antique shops along the Maine coast. The toll that year was 50 cents, and we would always hand the toll collector two one-dollar bills with the remark, "the three cars behind us are with us." He'd snatch the cash, and from our rear view mirror we'd watch him wave the next three cars through the toll booth free. We hoped it made their day. It always made ours.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A lesson from Henrietta

Today's crumb is adapted from an article by Fred Bauer in the September 2005 issue of Guideposts.

Finally the people helping restore my 1931 Model A Ford -- Henrietta by name -- finished their work, and I hauled her home on a big red trailer. This deluxe two-door sedan had a new roof, new upholstery, new floor covering, new door panels, new chrome door and window handles, a new engine block, a new radiator, and to top it off, a new forest green paint job with black fenders and apple green wire wheels.

I couldn't wait to take the kids and grandkids for a spin in my prize. They'd heard me brag about this gem in engineering and styling. When the time came, I stepped on the starter and prepared to give them a thrill, but the motor wouldn't start. The battery was charged, but something was amiss. I called an expert who said the car was not adequately grounded. After sanding the battery posts and replacing the cables, the car started and my family got a ride they will not soon forget.

What's the moral of my story? If I asked my wife, she'd say, "Pride goeth before a fall." But I see more application to the car's grounding problem. When I became detached from my heavenly Father and became a cocksure prodigal, thinking I could act on my own, I learned the folly of not staying in touch with the One who promised to direct my path. We all need to be spiritually grounded, well-connected to our Power Source. Otherwise, like Henrietta, we may do a lot of sputtering but not go anywhere.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mother's love revives dying baby

In 2010, an Australian couple, Kate and David Ogg, were told one of their newborn premature twins died in childbirth. Baby Emily survived, and doctors worked on her brother Jamie for 20 minutes before they knew all hope was gone. Kate demanded the doctor give Jamie to her. His body was cold, and what happened next proves the power of mother love.

The twins are now five years old and their parents recently told them about the miraculous birth. They love to talk about when they were babies, and they have a little brother named Charlie, age 3, who tells anyone who will listen, "When I was born I was fat, but the twins were skinny. And Jamie was also dead, but now he's alive." To meet Kate and hear her full story, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1O4Sa6QgRo

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Forgive, as ye would be forgiven

About ten years ago, a few people in rural Owen County, Indiana, formed a non-denominational church. They had no building until 2010, when they acquired a vacant edifice near the town of Spencer. Church leaders asked one of their founding members, Danaye Taylor, to serve as unpaid treasurer, and since she was a former stock broker, she agreed to care for church finances. Everyone trusted her and nobody held her accountable.

Eventually the congregation grew to 180 members, and after saving for six years, they were ready to expand their church building. That's when they discovered the church was almost broke. Taylor had stolen $224,277 from church accounts. Now confined to a wheelchair, she said she had huge medical expenses. So what did the church do?

                                                                                                          Photo by Laura Lane

First, the members agreed to pray. Then, to expand their building without any savings, one member offered to be general contractor. Another member volunteered to do electrical work. The whole congregation pitched in. "We pulled together," said pastor Bill Grandi. "Our people refused to let it get us down. We did not talk much about what we had lost."

During Taylor's sentencing hearing, Grandi asked in behalf of the members that she not be sent to jail. Instead, she was put on 15 years probation and must repay the stolen funds. Her husband got a second job to help with repayment, and she has already repaid $13,000. Grandi said the church has no ill-will toward Taylor. "When her attorney cross-examined me in court, he said he had never seen a church more gracious," Grandi said. "It just felt good to know, because we believe we were doing what Jesus would want us to do."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Work will win when wishing won't...

Since Crumbs of Comfort began last August, it has received over 7,000 page views from readers in the United States, Ireland, Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Russia and Ukraine, and is still featured on the Web sites of three newspapers in the United States. Today's crumb was sent in by a reader in Plymouth, IN, USA.

Lynn Kelley's heart was broken in 1995, when she saw young disadvantaged girls struggle with self-confidence in her gym class. One day while teaching jump rope, she had an idea. Those slender ropes could become lifelines to empower girls! Soon she started a performance team called the Firecrackers -- 24 girls in grades four through eight from the Warren County Kings School District near South Lebanon, OH. The community rallied behind the Firecrackers, who use light-weight beaded jump ropes during their seven-minute shows. They began performing during half-time at local high school basketball games. Since then they've performed at college basketball games, in presidential inaugural parades and on the Dave Letterman Show. In 2009, Kelly was named by USA Weekend as one of America's ten "Most Caring Coaches."

"One of our slogans during practice is the six W's," said Kelly -- 'WORK WILL WIN WHEN WISHING WON'T.'" The girls practice two hours a day, six days a week. In addition, they must take a four-hour etiquette course and learn public speaking. One of the team's core values is community service. "We do a lot of things at Christmas for disadvantaged families," Kelly said. "We try to educate the whole child and develop character more than just jump rope." But their jump rope skills are truly astonishing. To meet the Firecrackers and see them perform, visit http://www.kingsfirecrackers.com/  Be prepared to be surprised.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Flames cannot destroy church

A 150-year-old church in Southold, Long Island, NY, burned to the ground last Saturday. On Sunday afternoon, members walked around the parameter of the property weeping openly about the church where they raised their children, and sharing memories. Beth Young recalled, "When I was a little girl, I was scared to get dressed up for church. I'd inevitably go jump in a mud puddle as soon as the service was over and ruin another nice dress. But the great thing about this church is that the grown-ups kind of liked it when kids jumped in mud puddles. They were people who liked being free."

Pastor Jeff Gablee told reporters the church was established in 1837 and the building has stood since 1860. "It's a big part of Southold's history," he said.  When firefighters were able to rescue the church bell, they brought full circle a little-known legacy. The bell in their fire station was a gift from the church in 1889.

"It's important for us to remember that we lost our building, but a church is not a building," said church teen advisor Regan Batuello. Pastor Jef agreed. "The church is the people," he said. "There's certainly a lot of history here, but we can still come together." The building was insured, and members have vowed to rebuild, in the spirit of these words by poet Edgar Guest.

"The humblest spire in mortal ken, where God abides, was built by men. And if the church is still to grow, is still the light of hope to throw across the valleys 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!"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Modern-day foot washing?

During the difficult months when Victoria Mitchell lived in her car with her baby daughter, the happiest day of the month was laundry day. Once each month she'd walk to a local laundromat and take advantage of Laundry Love, a growing faith-driven movement that helps the homeless by washing their dirty clothes for free.

It's about more than just free soap and quarters. Volunteers actually befriend their patrons and often find additional ways to help them. "It's an elegantly simple model where you do something necessary for people who don't have the means to do it themselves," said USC religion expert Richard Flory.

Laundry Love was launched about ten years ago by members of an Episcopal church in Ventura, CA. It's now spread to 100 locations throughout the country, embracing many Christian denominations plus mosques and synagogues. Dave Clark has come to Laundry Love since losing his job as an aerospace machinist. He gets more from the washing sessions than savings. "It gives me time to come and socialize with some nice, upbeat people, and feel a little bit better about myself," he said. To learn more about Laundry Love or start a branch at your church, visit http://laundrylove.org/

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Manna, with a side of waffle fries

The Chick-fil-A restaurant in Inverness, Alabama, has a Web page that claims the store is committed to providing "Second Mile" service. To know what that means, remember back to January, 2014. Locals were expecting a "light dusting" of snow, but instead they got an ice storm. Highways clogged and thousands of motorists were stranded, including many on Highway 280. Meanwhile, a mile-and-a-half away. owner Mark Meadows closed his Chick-fil-A and sent his employees home early, but many soon returned, unable to navigate the icy roads. After they told Mark what they'd seen on the highway, where drivers had been trapped for hours without food or water, he and his staff cooked several hundred sandwiches and hiked across the ice to Highway 280, where they stood in the snow on both sides of the road, handing out free sandwiches to anyone they could reach.

They slipped and slid on the slick pavement as they gave away hot, juicy chicken breasts tucked between two buttered buns, refusing to take a penny for the sandwiches. For the frozen drivers, it was more than a sandwich; it was manna from heaven. Manager Audrey Pitt said many motorists were surprised the sandwiches were free. Why not make some extra money during the storm? Chick-fil-A had a captive crowd of hungry customers. Why give the food away?

"Our company is based on taking care of people and loving people before you worry about money or profit," Pitt explained.

Lauren Dango was a stranded motorist who knows Mark Meadows. She was stunned to see him walking from car to car giving away sandwiches. Later she wrote to Chick-fil-A headquarters, "Kudos to Mark for not only preaching the 'Second Mile' concept, but for actually living it."

It's no secret that Chick-fil-A is run on biblical values. That's why it's closed on Sunday. What happened in Inverness is an example of how these values play out.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Mayberry we never saw

Many remember watching The Andy Griffith Show, set in the fictional town of Mayberry, NC. Characters included not only sheriff Taylor, deputy Barney Fife, Aunt Bea, Opie and Floyd the barber, but the town itself. Mayberry became a symbol of the humor, patience and gentle kindness viewers missed in modern life. Structurally, the town itself was fake -- just a bunch of false fronts on the Desilu back lot. But the kindness was real -- in ways we never knew. For example:

The cast and crew were devastated in 1963 when actor Howard McNear, who played Floyd the barber, suffered a debilitating stroke that put him briefly in a coma. After awakening, he was unable to work while recovering, but Andy never forgot McNear and when the time was right, he called the actor's wife to see if Floyd might come back to the barber shop. Helen McNear told Andy "that would be a prayer answered." Andy knew McNear had limited mobility and little use of his left arm, so he made sure scripts had Floyd seated or standing behind the barber chair using a hidden brace to support his unseen left arm, as in this picture. McNear rejoined the cast of friends he loved and played Floyd for several more happy seasons. His son Kit said, "I don't think any other cast or individuals had the guts Andy Griffith did. I think it's virtually unheard of for a production company to look after one of its members like that. But that's the way Andy wanted it. I'll always respect and admire him for that."

Griffith played down praise like this. "I wish I could be more like Andy Taylor," he said. "He's nicer than I am -- more outgoing and easygoing. I'm not as good as Andy Taylor; he almost always tries to live his life so that he is responsible, and he realizes this responsibility -- not only to his family but to his friends, his girl, and his community." An example for us all.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Do we think, or just think we think?

With appreciation to poet Max Dunaway:

Not what we do or say, but what we think
Determines what we are.
Within the realm of high and noble thought
Soars mankind's highest star.

There is no deed of valor, might or right
Without the thought behind.
No work of love was ever wrought or taught
But started in the mind.

No king, dictator or president defines
What thoughts we choose to think.
No prison bars can hold or stay the thought
That is with God a link.

Would you rule over all that life can bring,
Be joyous, strong and free?
Guard then the thoughts of every hour, for these
Are life and destiny.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"I'm not keeping my cookies!"

Rewind to the beginning of WWII. Ten days after the attack of Pearl Harbor, a train filled with Nebraska National Guard was expected to pass through North Platte en route to war. North Platte was a tender point for steam trains, where they paused ten minutes to top off water levels and lubricate wheels. Hundreds of relatives and friends of local servicemen showed up to meet the train with gifts of food, but when the train arrived, it carried soldiers from another state. Folks on the platform weren't sure what to do, until 26-year-old Rae Wilson shouted, "I'M NOT KEEPING MY COOKIES!" and passed them up to a soldier on the train.

Others followed her lead, but this was only the beginning. The next day, Rae wrote to the local newspaper suggesting army and navy mothers meet every troop train with food and love. She offered to run the project for free, and the railroad gave her the station restaurant, which became the North Platte Canteen. President Roosevelt sent a personal check for $5.00, but no other federal funds were used. Canteen costs averaged $225/week, all donated from over 200 Nebraska farm communities. If hospital trains carried wounded veterans who were immobile, women would walk up and down the aisles distributing food. The canteen was open from 5 a.m. until midnight every day until the war ended, serving six million soldiers and sometimes meeting 32 trains per day.

If you have a few spare minutes, enjoy this video about the canteen. At the very end, a young woman calls her grandpa who she knows served in WWII. Did he ever go through North Platte? He lives in a nursing home and has dementia. He often forgets her name. What happens next may cost you a tear. www.youtube.com/watch?v=07DGeLvDw8I

Friday, March 13, 2015

Community defends shamed six-year-old

Nicole Garloff, mother of first-grader Hunter Cmelo, took him to Lincoln Elementary School in Grants Pass, OR, late again this month because of her poor health and the family's broken-down car. Later that morning she returned to school around lunch time. Hunter was in the cafeteria eating with his classmates. Well, not exactly WITH them. School superintendent John Higgens had a policy that any child who was tardy four times must eat alone behind a cardboard screen, segregated from his classmates. Nicole saw him crying as he nibbled lunch, and snapped this picture, which Hunter's grandmother posted on Facebook.

It was not Hunter's fault he was late, and when the school began receiving emails from all over the country demanding an end to punishment by shame, Higgens changed the policy. From now on, students who are tardy four times or more will make up work in a private space with a teacher's aide with a positive tone. But there's more.

Local radio personality Bill Meyer saw the picture and launched a campaign to get the family a better car. Rapid Repo and Collections, helped by other businesses, donated a refurbished 2001 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. Kelly's Automotive Service, who repaired the van, donated free oil changes for a year and $100 in free gas. Hunter's father, Marc Cmelo, told KPTV he was "blown away that there are still good people out there, and people who care."

Thank heaven for grandmothers with Facebook pages!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The secret to beauty and good health

There is now evidence that people who spread a little kindness are happier, healthier and more attractive than those who get caught up in "me, and what is going on in my life." Steven W. Cole, a professor of medicine at UCLA, conducted a study which found that our genes can tell the difference between a kindness-driven life and a shallower one. Researchers in China discovered the existence of a "halo effect" where subjects are considered more attractive to others if they show positive personality traits, like being kind.

Clinical psychologist Jo Lambie of Sydney, Australia, explains how doing random acts of kindness can make you happy. She says, "Being kind lowers stress levels, which means less cortisol running through our system, lower blood pressure, better sleep and stronger immune systems. Forget fame and fortune," she urges. "Try being altruistic. It's a win-win situation. Helping a friend or being kind to a stranger makes them feel and good and you feel even better."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gabi has friends in high places

Today's crumb was discovered by a reader in northern Indiana, USA.

Lots of folks love birds in their garden, but do the birds love them back? Gabi Mann, 8, of Seattle, WA, knows some who do. When she was four, she had a tendency to drop food on the ground. Getting out of the car, a chicken nugget might fall from her lap. A crow would rush to eat it, and then hope for another bite. By first grade, she began rewarding the crows' attention by sharing food from her school lunchbox, and in 2013, Gabi and her mother Lisa began feeding crows each day. Gabi would cover the bird feeder with peanuts. The crows would eat the nuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray. Just a coincidence? Research indicates crows and people can form very intimate relationships. They understand each other's signals.

On day Gabi found a tiny piece of metal with the word BEST carved on it. She does not know if the crow is wearing a matching necklace that says FRIEND, but her Mom would not be surprised. One day Lisa was out photographing a bald eagle as it circled the neighborhood when she dropped her lens cap and could not find it. Before long, it turned up as a trinket on the birdbath! Did the crows return it? To find out, she checked the crow cam on her computer. There was the crow she suspected. "You can see it bringing it into the yard; walks it to the bird bath, and actually spends time rinsing the lens cap," she said.  It's nice to have friends in high places.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke"

Today's crumb is a tribute to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) who was wounded while fighting in the Civil War, but survived to serve as a justice on the United State Supreme Court from 1902 until 1932. Justice Holmes' opinions were often original and pithy, and are still quoted today. Here are some examples. "Certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cocksure of many things that were not so."  "Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke." "Life is like painting a picture, not doing a sum." And my favorite, "Whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade and will look downward and dig, or from Aspiration her axe and cord and will scale the ice, the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart."

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Unless you are a law student, many biographies of Holmes may be academic and tiresome. But one biography brings Justice Holmes out of legal terms into human terms. Published in 1944, this book for non-specialists is Yankee from Olympus by Catherine Drinker Bowen. She follows him from birth and boyhood in Boston through Harvard College and his service in the Civil War. Near the end, she recalls that after retiring in 1932 from three decades on the Supreme Court, Holmes was visited one morning by the newly elected President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR found Holmes, then 92, still in bed, reading a book. When asked what he was doing, Holmes told the President, "Improving my mind."

Bonus: Yankee from Olympus may not be available at your local library, but the full-text is available online. Just open the link below; then sweep your cursor right or left to turn the pages forward or backward. Prepare to enjoy a book you will cherish forever. https://archive.org/stream/yankeefromolympu011670mbp#page/n7/mode/2up

Monday, March 9, 2015

"I put all my faith in God," says 101-year-old man

If you live long enough, the Belmont Restaurant in Manchester, NH, will pay you to eat breakfast. Birthday breakfasts are reduced by a percentage, depending on your age. If you're 50, the tab is reduced 50%. If you're 70, you get 70% off. Last week, Joseph Nelson celebrated his 101st birthday by ordering scrambled eggs, ham, coffee and chocolate cake (with a birthday candle in it). The tab came to $7.00, so he was refunded one percent, or seven cents.

How did he grow old enough for a breakfast refund? Nelson told reporters, "I put all my faith in God and I think that all of my life, every decision I've made in my 100 years, I think God made it for me."

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Civil disobedience: a slippery slope for pre-teens

Capitol Hill traffic regulations state, "No person shall coast or slide a sled within Capitol Grounds." But regulations also allow the Capitol Police Board to waive this rule. Last week, as forecasters predicted 4 to 8 inches of snow Wednesday and Thursday, delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) asked for a waiver after the storm. "This could be the last snowstorm the D.C. area gets this winter,"she pleaded. "Children and their parents should be able to enjoy sledding on one of the best hills in the city." Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tweeted that he would co-sign her letter. Capitol Police usually look the other way when kids sled on Capitol Hill, but recently began enforcing the ban, reportedly after complaints from a top member of Congress.

Back in 2010, then-Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn) secured a waver by working with the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, allowing residents to sled on Capitol Hill after a blizzard nicknamed "Snowpocalypse." When Capitol Police failed to respond to Norton's recent request for a waiver, Dodd took his family to Capitol Hill again, to teach them civil disobedience. Here's a brief video of how well they learned the lesson, and had fun too.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjaOplALOrw

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Animals remember human kindness

A British conservationist raised a pair of Western lowland gorillas at Howlett's Wild Animal Park near Canterbury, Kent, England. Eleven years ago, when they were mature enough, Damian Aspinall released them into the wild of Gabon, West Africa. Recently he and his daughter Tansy returned to Gabon, hoping to find the pair. Tansy was just a small child when she last played with the animals. Would the gorillas remember their baby-names and if so, would they recognize Damian and Tansy, who is now a young adult?

The picture above is a spoiler, and the video linked here in blue will touch your heart.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCA63RsSyVw

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sergei Prokofiev's faith

What do "Peter and the Wolf" and the Christian Science Hymnal have in common? The famous children's story is based on a symphony written by Sergei Prokofiev, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.  Prokofiev graduated from St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1914, and became a surprisingly religious composer of symphonies, concerti, operas and ballets. His choice of faith was Christian Science, and he wished he could compose new music for the hymnal.

Sergei Prokofiev at home in Paris

Encouraged by his wife Lina, he read Mary Baker Eddy's textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. His faith explains the stress on moral absolutes in his text-based musical works, and his preference for characters who believe in spiritual causes.

He finally resolved to attend church services, even though the music grated on his nerves. His son Sviatoslav remembers when his famous Dad took him to Sunday School at the church in Paris which they attended in the '20s and '30s. "We used to walk there, or sometimes drive in father's Chevrolet. The church looked quite secular, like a lecture hall in which readings for adults were given. Father criticized the music of the hymns and thought of composing them himself, but never realized this idea," he said. "While we were returning home, father would ask me questions or explain the obscure, or just keep silent, immersed in his own thoughts.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A daily taste of hope and kindness

Today's crumb comes from an alert reader in Plymouth, IN, USA. 

Mason Wartman gave up a desk job on Wall Street to open Rosa's Fresh Pizza, a dollar-a-slice pizza parlor in Philadelphia, PA, the "city of brother love." Business was predictable until the day a customer told him about a policy at many coffee houses in Italy. Caffe sospeso (suspended coffee) let customers pre-pay cups of java for less fortunate folks. The customer suggested Wartman try this policy at Rosa's. Wartman accepted $1 pre-payment for a slice of pizza and put a Post-it note on the wall which a needy person could use to "buy" a slice. He also told other customers about the new policy, and it grew rapidly. 

Soon the walls of his restaurant were covered with Post-it notes, each worth one slice of fresh pizza for any homeless person. Pre-purchased slices are now 10% of Wartman's business, and the community feels the impact. Homeless customers have told him the generosity of strangers helps them avoid committing petty crimes to get money for food. Hear about it first-hand from Wartman and some of his homeless customers by visiting  www.youtube.com/watch?v=brzjeICcIt0&t=16

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

God sets the solitary in families

Chandler, AZ, police officer Bryant Holmes died in a traffic accident on his way to work last October. According to his obituary, he married the love of his life, Stephanie Goodman, at the Latter-day Saints Mesa, AZ, Temple in 2002, and they had two sons, Randon, 8, and Dallin, 5, and two daughters, Ashlyn, 10, and Evelyn, 1. Bryant was devoted to God, and with his family he enjoyed biking, hiking and pillow fights.

His friends knew he also enjoyed Daddy-Daughter dates with Ashlyn. But four months later, when Ashlyn's school held a Father-Daughter Dance, she had no one to take her, until officers from the Chandler and nearby Gilbert Police Departments stepped in. All of them accompanied her to the dance, to show their love for her and her Daddy. The Gilbert Police Department posted pictures on its Facebook page of her being twirled on the dance floor, bringing new meaning to the familiar Bible verse, "God setteth the solitary in families." (Ps. 68:6 KJV)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Football is more than a game. It's about life.

In November, 2008, an unforgettable football game took place between Grapevine Faith High School in Grapevine, TX, and Gainesville State School, a maximum security detention center for juvenile delinquents. Gainesville never played a home game, and no fans attended away games, since none could get out. Usually, the only people in the Gainesville stands were 12 uniformed guards with handcuffs in their back pockets. Faith had the latest football equipment and involved parents. The parents of many Gainesville delinquents have disowned them. The Gainesville Tornadoes wore 7-year-old shoulder pads and outdated helmets. So Coach Kris Hogan reached out to his Faith community. He asked half his fans to cheer for the Tornadoes, distributing 400 lists of their names, so the rival players could be cheered individually. He asked half his cheerleaders to root for the Tornadoes. It was a strange experience for the Gainesville players. "I thought maybe they were confused," a Gainesville lineman told ESPN. "They started yelling DEEfense when their team had the ball. I wondered why they were cheering for us."

That night Gainesville played the best game of their lives, scoring two touchdowns. After the game, when both teams gathered mid-field to pray, a Gainesville player named Isaiah asked to lead. Everyone was surprised. What would he say? "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank you, but I never knew there were so many people in the world that care about us."As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus, each player was given a bag for the ride home. It contained a burger, some fries, soda, candy, a Bible and an encouraging note from a Faith player. Before they left, the Gainesville coach found Coach Hogan and told him, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know." Since 2008, Faith has played Gainesville each year in a game called the One Heart Bowl. Fans always split between the two teams. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was so moved when he heard about the games that he invited Coach Hogan and his wife to be his guests at Super Bowl XLIII.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reading Room distributes warm blankets

The Feb. 17 death of a homeless man in Chattanooga, TN, has sparked a city-wide wave of generosity. Douglas King, 64, died while sleeping under a railroad trestle on an icy night. He may be gone, but he is not forgotten. Musicians at Chattamusic are celebrating his life by composing music in his honor and donating proceeds to the homeless. Radio hosts have dedicated parts of their airtime to programs encouraging the homeless to use shelters and overcome alcoholism.

Nancy E. Harrison, a Christian Science practitioner, hung a sign in the window of the Christian Science Reading Room on Market Street (shown above) offering warm blankets to anyone needing them. "It's not our normal outreach," she said. "Our focus is on healing and prayer, but given the news of this man dying needlessly that way -- we wanted to help."

King grew up in a well-to-do family and graduated from Ohio State, said Betsy Seepe, who once dated him and keeps in touch with his family. He wasn't always an alcoholic. An accountant, he'd been married twice and has a daughter. When found, he had money in his pocket and $175 in the bank.

Local musician Joseph Blagg, 62, is writing a song about King's life. "These people need help," he said, "and we've got to find a way to do better than we're doing."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Would you like to give up a grudge?

Meet Dr. Fred Luskin. He holds a PhD in Health Psychology from Stanford University, and serves as director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects, investigating the effects of forgiveness on a variety of populations. He has explored forgiveness therapy with people who suffered violence in Northern Ireland and Sierra Leone, as well as the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. He's a professor at Stanford's Institute of Personal Psychology, where he teaches a HEAL process of forgiveness that can lead to enhanced well-being.  His work has been reported in Time Magazine, USA Today, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Dr. Fred Luskin

Luskin has found several steps are required to give up a grudge. These include telling a few trusted friends about your grudge. Then decide to feel better, knowing forgiveness is for you and nobody else. Recognize that your primary stress comes from hurt feelings NOW, not what happened ten minutes or ten years ago. When you feel resentful, soothe your body's fight-or-flight response. Give up expecting things from other people that they do not choose to give you. Remember that you can hope for (but you cannot demand) love, friendship and prosperity. You will suffer when you demand these things, so look for other ways to get your positive goals met. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Focusing on wounded feelings gives power over you to the person who caused the pain, so put more energy into appreciating what you have. Amend how you look at your past, and remember you have the heroism to forgive. For a 4-minute sample of Dr. Luskin's teaching, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=66Yxs1C_iQo