Friday, July 31, 2015

Students never forgot this Sunday School teacher

Very few metropolitan newspapers cover the retirement of Sunday School teachers. But when June Gill resigned at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Abilene, TX, in 2012, the Reporter-News was there. Gill taught the third grade Sunday School class for 47 years. At 79, she summarized her half-century of service in seven words. "It was a real blessing for me."

Two of her pupils, shown below, attended her farewell class. They saw the same wall decoration their parents and grandparents had seen -- the books of the Bible. Gill expected third graders to know the books of the Bible by heart, and as a trained pianist and organist, she created a song to make the lessons fun. Using an old upright piano, she plunked out her Bible verse tune, and also taught old-time hymns. Sometimes she taught students to play "Chopsticks" which inspired a few to study piano.

                                                                                                 photo by Joy Lewis, Reporter-News    
Thirty years later, one of Gill's former pupils uses the same tune to teach the books of the Bible to her Sunday School class at First United Methodist Church in Coppell. "It was really catchy," said Susan Coleman, who was in Gill's class of '81. But Coleman learned more than the books of the Bible in that class. She learned what it takes to be a great teacher.

"I remember her always being so happy to see us!" said Coleman. She was a figure of stability for her class. "They always knew I was going to be here," Gill remembered. Each Sunday she'd put a Bible sticker by her students' names on the attendance chart. She wrote Scripture on the chalk board and her third graders would read it. She also had her pupils make wind socks as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit.  "I just liked it, and the children seemed to enjoy it," she said modestly. Love was her legacy.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Another police "incident" to be aware of

"When we see something that's not right, we want to fix it," says Sgt. Ken Skibbe of the Kalamazoo, MI,  police department. He knew something wasn't right recently when officers received a call about a man trying to mow his lawn in a wheelchair. Officer Joe Hutson drove to the man's home to investigate, and that was just the beginning.

                                                                                               Courtesy of Kalamazoo Police Dept.

Hutson immediately called for back-up, and a few minutes later officer John Khillah arrived with more fire power -- the public safety department's push mower, weed trimmer and leaf blower. Officers didn't know a photo of them mowing grass would appear online. So far, it's had more than 120,000 views.

"It was just the right thing to do," said Khillah. "Nobody planned any of this. We just kinda knew what had to be done. What would you do if you saw someone mowing his lawn in a wheelchair?"

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Postman delivers more than mail

Ron Lynch is a postman in Sandy, Utah, USA. Recently he was shocked to see 12-year-old Matthew Flores sifting through a junk mail bin for something to read.  Lynch struck up a conversation the lad, and Matthew asked if Lynch had any spare junk mail he might read. "He didn't want electronics. He didn't want to sit in front of the TV playing games all day. The kid just wanted to read," Lynch remembers. Matthew didn't have any books of his own, and his family couldn't afford bus fare to go to the library. So he was stuck reading ads and fliers. Lynch took a picture of Matthew and put it on Facebook, asking if anyone could send the boy a few spare books.

                                                                                                                    Facebook photo by Ron Lynch
He never expected such a big response. So far, Lynch has delivered more than 300 books to Matthew's home from as far away as the United Kingdom, Australia and India. Matthew intends to read every one of them. "It's super-fun and it's interesting," he said, "and (reading books) also makes you smarter."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Only mothers understand mothers

Kaylee Goemans appreciates the kindness of other mothers. Recently she had to rush her 5-week old son Dominic to the Royal Victoria Regional Health Center in her hometown of Barrie, Ontario, Canada. She didn't have $15 to park in the garage. Instead, she found $3 in change and bought four hours on a parking meter. She figured four hours was enough. She was wrong. Dominic needed an ultrasound and x-rays. Kaylee knew the meter would run out, and wasn't sure if she'd get a ticket or be towed.  She didn't want to leave Dominic, so she reached out to a Facebook group of Barrie mothers, asking if her car would be towed. The response amazed her.

                                                                                                                              Courtesy photos

More than 100 mothers answered. Many asked what car she drove and where it was parked.  Five promised to feed her meter. Stephanie Gouguen works at the hospital and saw Kaylee's post. She replied, "Two more hours added. No need to worry. Give baby a hug." Rachel Banks replied that she lives near the hospital, so "contact me if your meter is running out or you just need coffee or food." Kaylee spent nine hours with her son in the hospital that day. "Knowing I had all these ladies there to help me with parking, meals and even hugs, made me able to focus just on my son and his needs," she said.  Another gold star for Facebook.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Kind teacher's feat will warm students' feet

"Crumbs of Comfort" has now garnered 11,000 page views, including readers in Russia, China, Israel and India. Today's crumb comes from Australia, where 32-year-old Bri Dredge recently appeared on the TV show "Millionaire Hot Seat," a spin-off of the American program "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Dredge teaches at Youille Park Community College, which, despite its name, is really a K-8 primary school in Ballarat, Victoria.  Boys and girls in Ballarat endure long, cold winters, and after winning about $15,000 (US) on the program, she vowed to buy new leather shoes for every child in her school -- all 200 of them.

                                                                                                                              Thinkstock Photos
She believes having dry, warm feet will help the students learn better, and apparently they agree. "I walked into school and every student in the whole school has given me a hug and said thank you," she said. "The look on their faces was worth all the money that I won."

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Remember Charlie and the MTA?

Back in 1959, the Metropolitan Transit Authority in Boston, MA, was immortalized by a hit song called "Charlie and the MTA." The Kingston Trio sang of a man named Charlie who boarded an MTA train with a dime. During his ride, the fare increased, and since he had no more change, he had to say on the train for the rest of his life. Hear the trio sing this tongue-in-cheek ballad at

Fortunately, times have changed since Charlie disappeared. The MTA has grown into the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority) and some drivers, like John Lohan, are known for their kindness. Last week he was piloting bus 35 to the Dedham Mall when he noticed kids running a lemonade stand on the curb. On his next trip, he asked his seven passengers if they'd mind stopping at the stand. He offered to buy everyone a cup of lemonade. They agreed, so he pulled over. The kids were astonished. This had never happened before.


The lemonade cost 50 cents a cup, so the tab was $3.50, but Lohan paid with a $10 bill and didn't ask for change, convinced the children would have a story they could tell for the rest of their lives and so would the passengers.

"I was surprised because usually none of the busses stop," said 11-year-old Shannon McGovern. "He gave us ten dollars, so he's awesome," added 14-year-old Erin Starkey. "I gave them a little bit of a tip," Lohan laughed, "but it was still the cheapest round I've ever sprung for."

Saturday, July 25, 2015

It takes a village...

One morning last March, single mom Diane McLean and her three children walked together out the front door of their apartment building in New York City, carrying backpacks on their way school and work. Hours later, all they had was their backpacks, the clothes they were wearing, and their lives. Everything else vanished later that morning, when their building exploded killing two and injuring 22.
                                                                                                     AP Photo by Bebeto Matthews

At first glance, all seemed lost, but one thing was gained -- urban kindness. Neighbors provided places for them to stay. A friend took them to see the new Cinderella soon after the explosion, where the children heard Cinderella's mom tell her to have courage and kindness. Now the kids often discuss how they may not have material stuff, "but that's what we do have, courage and kindness." Their school organized a clothing donation drive. A local store donated sneakers to each child. The kindergarten organized a "celebration of love" party for all Diane's children where other students surrounded them and sang songs, before enjoying pizza. And a GoFundMe page started by Diane has received $78,000, so far. She admits, "As a single mother you often say it takes a village to raise a child, and I know it takes a community. I'm fortunate to be part of a wonderful one."

Friday, July 24, 2015

Do not open today's "Crumb of Comfort"

While the Friday, July 24, crumb was created, my computer became infected with malware. The problem has been corrected, but to protect your computer, please do not open the crumb accompanying this message. The title is "Too old to be a happy camper." Instead of opening this crumb, please press DELETE. Thank you. Future crumbs should be safe to open.

Too old to be a happy camper?

Ali Leipzig, 28, and Michelle Goldblum, 31, became BFFs as children at Camp Towanda in Honesdale, PA. Now adults, they dreamed of recapturing summer camp fun for grown-ups. Last summer they rented Camp Towanda for a long weekend and invited campers over age 21 to enjoy three days of fitness, yoga, nutrition and spiritual enrichment, plus tons of fun. They call it Soul Camp, and as you can see in the photo below, it was a success. Soul Camp will meet at Camp Towanda again this year (Sept. 9-13) and also at California's Wonder Valley (Oct. 28-31). A third site will be added in 2016. Why is Soul Camp necessary?

"Many of us have taken on roles and identities, like 'I'm an executive' or 'I'm a mother.'" says Michelle. "Camp was a time before these labels." At Soul Camp, adults get back to who they really are "and form friendships from that authentic place, having nothing to do with what they do out in the world." Best of all, Soul Camp has no wi-fi. Michelle admits "certain areas have service in case someone needs to call home, but we really, really encourage digital detox. Our schedule is just like Camp Towanda, but instead of tennis and basketball it's yoga and meditation."

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A drug-infested community with soul

Vancouver police sergeant Mark Horsley was fed up with cowardly crooks who robbed disabled residents in Vancouver's drug-infested downtown East Side (DTES). With the help of rehab specialists, he launched sting operation. He borrowed an electric wheelchair, grew a messy beard and wheeled himself into the DTES pretending he was brain injured and disabled from a motorcycle accident. He'd be an easy mark, baiting criminals by flashing cash and valuables. He was hoping to be assaulted and make an arrest.

During five days undercover, with loose cash in a unzipped fanny pack, he was "contacted" by 300 passers-by, but nobody robbed him. Even though he was not panhandling, people dropped coins in his lap. Two strangers bought him pizza. Another stranger asked permission to pray for him to heal. When one man leaned over him and reached for his fanny pack, Horsley prepared to grab the perp, but the stranger just zipped his pack shut and asked him to be more careful with his things.

After the operation ended, Horsley explained what it taught him. "The people of the downtown are watching," he said. "They care and they take care of their vulnerable people. This community has soul."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

To cracked-pot readers of this blog

Today's crumb comes from a reader in California, USA.

Long long ago, a Chinese woman had two large water pots. Each hung at the opposite end of a pole she carried on her shoulders. One pot was perfect, but the other had a crack. On long walks from the stream to her house, the perfect pot arrived full, while the cracked pot leaked and arrived half empty. The perfect pot was proud, but the cracked pot felt ashamed that it leaked so badly. One day the leaky pot apologized to the woman. She replied by asking it a question.

"Have you noticed the flowers blooming on your side of the path? There are none on the other side. When I noticed you leaking, I planted the seeds, and you watered them each day. I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Unless you were just the way you are, there would be no flowers to grace my home."

Cracks and flaws are what make our life with each other so rewarding. Each of us is needed, just as we are. And so, my cracked pot friends, have a happy day, and remember to smell the flowers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Send a hero's kid to camp

Imagine you're a child, and your Mom or Dad is on active duty overseas, or a first responder here at home -- a firefighter or policeman. You know about harsh realities like separation and danger, but your friends at school might not understand why you're sometimes sad or angry. For many children of heroes, like the ones shown below, a few weeks at summer camp can be a blessing. It lets them be regular kids again and helps them form new friendships that last a lifetime.

If you want to thank their Moms and Dads for being heroes, and let their son or daughter be a regular kid for a few weeks by sending them to camp, visit

Monday, July 20, 2015

Another "incident" involving police

Today's crumb comes from a faithful reader in Redlands, CA, USA. Sarah Robinson went to Wal-Mart in Roeland Park, KS, this month and tried to steal diapers, baby wipes and children's shoes. She was caught by the store manager, who called police. Roeland Park officer Mark Engravalle responded, issuing her a citation for misdemeanor theft. She and her six children were gathered in the parking lot crying, certain that Mom would go to jail. Robinson told Engravalle her family had struggled since her husband drowned in 2011. They were now living in their car, which had recently been robbed. She had no choice but to steal. Engravalle noticed the children were barefoot, so instead of arresting Robinson he returned to Wal-Mart and quietly purchased the items she tried to steal. He even let her daughters pick out their own shoes. "Obviously she is going through a tough time," he said, spending $300 of his own cash.  Robinson was overwhelmed, calling his response "a shocker."

Sarah Robinson and officer Mark Engravalle

"He's a really good guy with a compassionate heart," said police chief John Morris. Everyone was impressed except Engravalle. "I didn't give it a second thought," he explained. "I just wanted to do right by the children." Since then, the police department has received many calls from people wishing to help the family. A local radio station recently raised more than $6,000 for them. "I'm so appreciative," said Robinson. "I'm embarrassed that I was stealing, but it couldn't go to more deserving girls." If you'd like to help, send donations to "The Sarah Robinson Donation Account" at The Mission Bank, 5115 Roe Blvd., Roeland Park, KS 66205.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"Dude, we're totally twins!"

Today's crumb comes from the US edition of The Guardian.  Anais Bordier always knew she was adopted. She was born in South Korea but raised in France by parents who look nothing like her. Her adoption papers said she was the only child of a very young unmarried woman. In 2012 Anais was studying fashion in London when a fellow student posted a YouTube video of her on her Facebook page. But she never made any video! As she watched it, she realized it was an American girl who looked exactly like her. Her American look-alike was Samantha Futerman. Sam was also born in Korea, and they had the same birthday. Finally Anais got enough courage to message Samantha to "check out my Facebook page." When Sam wrote back, she enclosed a copy of her adoption records. Both girls were born in the same clinic. Sam wrote to Anais, "Dude, we're totally twins!"

When a friend, Dr. Nancy Segal, offered them DNA testing, both girls swabbed their cheeks together on Skype and agreed to meet. Sam came to London. They realized they have the same sense of humor and understand each other perfectly. Then Dr. Segal called to say they were identical twins.

Says Anais, "I had a very happy childhood and never felt anything was missing, but there was one thing I wanted: to look like someone else in my family. What could be better than an identical twin? I'll always have her in my life now."  Thanks to YouTube.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The legend of the praying hands

Albrecht Durer, 1471-1528, grew up near Nuremberg, Germany -- one of 18 children. He and one of his brothers shared a dream. They both wanted to be artists, but their family could not afford art training. So they made a pact. They would flip a coin. The loser would work in the nearby mines and earn money to pay for the winner to attend art school. When the winner finished his art training after four years, he'd return and pay for the loser to study art, using money from his paintings or working in the mines. Albrecht won, and by the time he graduated, he was earning huge fees for his commissioned art work. He became the greatest draftsman in the history of Western art.

His most famous pen and ink drawing is "The Praying Hands," shown here. It has a rich backstory. When Albrecht returned home after four years, he was prepared to send his brother away for art training. But four years as a miner had crippled his brother's hands and he could not longer make delicate brush strokes. But he was not resentful. He rejoiced over Albrecht's fame, and one day was seen kneeling on the floor, with hands upheld, praying for his brother's continued success.

When Albrecht saw this, he decided to honor his unselfish brother by painting his hands in prayer. Since the sketch was finished in 1508, it has become the best-known drawing of its kind in the world. Even today, it appears on postcards, is sold as sculpture and distributed on posters. The backstory is pure legend. There are no mines near Nuremberg. The model's hands are not calloused by manual labor. But the point of the legend remains valid. Nobody succeeds alone. Everyone has a helper, and the best helpers pray for their brother's prosperity.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sikh grandfather risks life for love

Today's crumb comes to us from the Times of India. A 62-year-old man who wishes to remain nameless recently arrived in Australia from India to visit his children and his 18-month-old granddaughter. They were at Wentworthville station in Sydney where he was buying a train ticket. He did not know it, but for weather reasons the platform is slightly slanted toward the tracks, This caused his grandchild's untended buggy to roll away, as shown here, until it crashed down onto the tracks.

Instantly the grandfather ran after the baby. He jumped down onto the track bed and lifted the pram (with his granddaughter in it) up to the waiting arms of her Mom and grandmother. Then he noticed a freight train racing toward him.

He was unable to climb back up on the platform. The train blew its horn to warn him, and a security camera caught him running for his life down the tracks until he found a spot just wide enough to squeeze aside as the train zoomed by. Railroad inspector Paul Reynolds summed up the incident this way: "Baby very lucky. Grandfather just as lucky." The platform will soon be regraded to make it completely flat.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Has this ever been your role?

Nico was in second grade when his teacher told the class they would put on a play for Thanksgiving. All the Moms and Dads would be invited. Some students would be pumpkins. One would be a scarecrow. A few would be tall cornstalks. And a few would be pilgrims. The teacher said there would be enough parts for EVERYONE, and nobody would be left out.

Nico wanted to be in the play, but he was shy and afraid to make mistakes on stage. What if he was a pumpkin and rolled the wrong way? Or a pilgrim who forgot what to say? He hoped his part would be important, but not scary. The parts would be assigned on Friday.

His Mom knew Nico was worried when he went to school Friday morning. She hoped he'd get a part that made him feel happy and confident. When he came home, he was beaming. "My role is really important," he said, "and I don't have to worry about making mistakes. I'm part of the group that is responsible for clapping and cheering!"

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The stranger

When I was in first grade, my Dad met a stranger who was new in town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated by this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with us. He was quickly accepted, and as I grew up I never questioned his place in my family. My parents were a good team: Mom taught me right from wrong and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger...he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours with his adventures. If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers. He even seemed able to predict the future! He took me and my family to our first major league ball game. He often made me laugh, and sometimes cry. He almost never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind. Now and then, Mom would get up while we were shushing each other to hear what the stranger was saying. She'd go into the kitchen for peace and quiet.

Dad ruled our house with firm moral convictions. We were never allowed to swear, but our long-time visitor got away with four-letter words that made Mom blush. Dad wouldn't let us smoke or drink, but the stranger made cigarettes look cool and encouraged us to sample some liquor. He also talked much too freely about sex. These comments were often suggestive and always embarrassing. But let me be honest. I now know that all my early concepts about relationships were influenced by our stranger. He taught me what it really means to "be a man" or to "be a woman." Time after time he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked and NEVER asked to leave.

More than 50 years have passed since he moved in with us. He's not nearly as fascinating as he once was. But if you walk into my parents' den, you'll still see him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to talk to. What's his name?

We just call him TV.

Did I mention that he got married a few years ago? His wife's name is Computer, and they just had a baby named Smartphone, since she's even smarter than her Dad.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Is a stone spiritual?

In the 1800s, when Mary Baker Eddy was investigating the power of prayer, she answered this question. "To erring material sense, No! but to unerring spiritual sense it is a small manifestation of Mind, a type of spiritual substance." Most folks said she was crazy to think a stone could have spiritual value, but students at Kittredge Elementary School in North Andover, Massachusetts understand.

Their discovery began ten years ago, when Kyra Brown, Celia DiSalvo and Alex Gamble were in second grade. One day at recess they noticed what looked like a small stone in the ground behind their school. They felt compelled to dig it up. From then on (except when the ground was frozen) they spent every recess digging. First they used twigs; then little plastic spoons stolen from the cafeteria. Playground assistants told them to stop and took away their spoons. They were repeatedly sent to the principal's office, but they never quit. Finally, when they were in fifth grade, Richard Cushing became principal. According to DiSalvo, the new principal understood it "wasn't just a rock." He gave them shovels and buckets. "When it was being uncovered, different people had different opinions about it," Gamble said, "but this is not just a slab of stone. It's much more than that." Once the rock was uncovered, Principal Cushing hired heavy equipment to lift it from the ground and place it near the playground, and this spring, as Kyra, Celia and Alex graduated from high school, they returned to Kittredge Elementary where the rock was dedicated. They were rock stars, literally and figuratively. But why?

"Traits such as ambition and determination that led us to dig up the rock even though we probably weren't supposed to and knew it, these traits have made us successful in our careers as students," Brown explained. Whenever current and future Kittredge students sit on the rock, they will remember these traits, and these memories give the rock spiritual value. Already, its become a beacon for kids who get picked on. If they sit on the rock, by the end of recess someone will sit with them. Just ask Walter Wanyoike. "I sat on the rock and then eventually some kids came and that changed my life forever," he said. "I thought I'd just sit there alone at recess. When I made these new friends, it felt magical."

When Kyra, Celia and Alex started digging in second grade, they wondered if they might find an eternal treasure. Apparently they did.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone

Almost overnight, thanks to social media, nine-year-old Daniel Cabrera became poster boy for poor children in the Philippines. He's in 3rd grade at an elementary school in Mandaue City. His father died in prison, and their home burned down five years ago. He and his siblings live in a food stall where his Mom, Christina Espinoza, earns $1.77 a day as a domestic helper for the stall's owner. They have no electricity. Instead of begging for money like most street children, Daniel does homework on the street using light from a McDonald's restaurant. That's where medical student Joyce Torrefranca saw him and snapped this photo which she posted on Facebook.

Daniel used to have two pencils, but a fellow student stole one, so he's using his only pencil to finish his homework. He wants to be a policeman or a doctor, and insists on going to school even when his Mom has no lunch money for him. He tells her, "I don't want to stay poor. I want to reach my dreams."

After his photo went viral, donations poured in from around the world. Daniel now has a scholarship to take him all the way through college. He also received school supplies, and his family received cash. His Mom says, "I don't know what I will do with all these blessings. Now Daniel will not have to suffer to finish his studies." Joyce Torrefranca didn't expect "a simple photo could make a huge difference. I hope Daniel's story will continue touching our hearts," she said.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What is your ministry?

Mother Teresa attended a gathering with kings and presidents and statesmen from all over the world. They were adorned in crowns and jewels and fancy clothes. She wore her sari held together by a safety pin. One statesman spoke to her of her work with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. He asked her if she didn't become discouraged because she saw no success from her work. Mother Teresa answered, "No, I do not become discouraged. You see God has not called me to a ministry of success. He has called me to a ministry of mercy."

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

They knew what they had to do

Brenda Hurst has been head custodian at Boiling Springs High School in South Carolina for twenty years, but she does more than mop floors. According to former student Drew Peden, "When somebody's just having a bad day, she's always the first person to run up and give them a hug. She's always at every sporting event, going crazy. She's the life of Boiling Springs High." When not at school, Hurst and her brother lived in the house where they grew up, until last year, when it burned to the ground. As soon as students heard about the fire, Alexis Ork, then student body president, went on a mission with the student council. Helped by community members and Carpenters for Christ, students built a new home where the old one stood. Recently a police car escorted Hurst down the street where she used to live. She was blindfolded and a huge crowd was waiting. When she removed the blindfold, she screamed for joy and her knees buckled. She cried as she walked through the front door.

She'd lost everything in the fire except her Bible. "The top was burnt. The bottom was burnt, but everything inside was still intact," she said. "I give God the praise and glory for that." But God did even more.  "The Lord allowed us to have the home fully furnished," said Carpenters for Christ spokesman Mike Ravan. Since Boiling Springs High colors are red and black, new furniture includes a red sofa and black table and chairs. When she saw her huge walk-in closet, Hurst danced around inside it, shouting, "I feel like I'm in Beverly Hills."

Alexis Ork explained, "She changed my life, and I'm honored that I was part of changing hers for the better.  "I just thank God for everything," said Hurst.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The best way to make friends

(By Abigail Wortman, West Long Branch, NJ, for Guidepost Magazine)

On the first day of first grade, I stood by the door with butterflies in my stomach. I voiced my biggest concern to my mother: "How will I make friends?" Crouching in front of me, she handed me advice I carry with me to this day.

"Be Switzerland!" she said. Be friends with everyone. Treat everyone equally and fairly. For all my 20 years, I've lived by these words. Soon I will graduate and become a part of the real world. And on that first day, nervously facing new responsibilities, I know I will whisper two words to myself. "Be Switzerland."

Monday, July 6, 2015

All this and heaven too?

Pastor Jim Maher died in a traffic accident on March 16, 2011, when his motorcycle was hit by a truck near Kansas City, MO. He was only 63, and had not always been a "man of God." After serving in combat in Vietnam he became a hippie, wandering vainly through various cults and philosophies in search of peace. He finally found it at the International House of Prayer, where he rose to become a senior member of the missionary staff. Many were blessed by his example and love, and none more than his granddaughter Kaitlyn, who was only seven years old when he died.

 Kaitlyn Maher 

Kaitlyn did more than cry at the funeral. She delivered the eulogy and then sang a song to "Pops," and finally led the crowded auditorium in a spontaneous impromptu prayer for comfort. It was all captured on video, and if you have a few spare minutes, here's the link.  It's best viewed on full-screen with the volume turned up. Be sure to hear what she says to the minister before starting her prayer. You heart may be touched by this proof that "a little child shall lead them."

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Our families, our friends and our God

We've all heard about the financial crisis in Greece, where banks closed last week. But does it make any difference here in the United States? It did to newlyweds Limnioti and Konstantinos Patronis. They saved for a year to prepay flights and hotels, and after being married near Athens, they were honeymooning in New York City when suddenly their Greek-issued credit and debit cards were declined. Within two days, they ran out of cash, eating their final meal at McDonalds.

In desperation, Konstantinos reached out to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in New York, which contacted churches in the Queens' Astoria neighborhood. The couple were offered $350 by St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox church and St. Irene Chrysovalantou. Konstaninos promised to pay the churches back, but they insisted the money was a gift. "That's why we're here," said Rev. Vasillios Louros. "This is a church of Christ and we always help people."

Limnioti said relatives in Greece told her other Greeks abroad were left penniless when the banks closed, including some patients in U.S. hospitals who cannot pay for medical care. "There are only three things saving us now," she said, " our families, our friends and our God."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"I just wanted to see a smile on her face..."

Gabby Garcar, 9, will be in fourth grade this August. More than anything, she wants an iPad, not just to play games but also to access the Internet for school assignments. She knows her Mom can't afford such an expensive gift, so she decided to open a lemonade stand outside her Grandma's condo building in Lake County, Ohio. One of her first customers was a deputy Sheriff who paid $3.00 for a fifty-cent cup and promised to tell fellow officers about her. A few minutes later, deputy Zak Ropos pulled up. He's only 22, and has been with the department eight months. He knew her lemonade stand wasn't going to bring enough money for a tablet, so he drove home to see if his old one still worked. It didn't, so he went to Best Buy and purchased a new tablet for her.

"She's nine years old and willing to work for what she wants," he said. "People have helped me out in my life, so it was kind of like a pay-it-forward type thing." This photo, taken by Gabby's mom, was posted on the Sheriff's Facebook page and viewed more than 2 million times, but Ropos says he didn't expect media attention since he works among other generous officers. One of his lieutenants recently donated $200 to a needy family, and two fellow deputies bought a bicycle for a boy who needed help getting to soccer practice. "That's how it is in Lake County," he says. "Everyone is caring here. We all give our shirt off our back for people. I just wanted to see the smile on the little girl's face. That was worth a million dollars to me, so that's why I did it."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This land is your land

Bremen is the "Lake Wobegon" of rural Indiana -- a town that time forgot and decades can't improve. For many years, its tiny downtown was anchored by the Lehman Mint Distillery. Big bowls of Lehman church mints awaited worshippers in the lobbies of many local chapels. When the factory was running, the entire downtown smelled like mint. Nearby, the quaint Bremen Theater showed moves on weekends, and in summer, before each matinee, the projectionist came forward to announce the latest scores of Little League games underway in Sunnyside Park.

For one week before Independence Day, the Firemen's Festival drew crowds to the park each night to enjoy Leuhr's Wild Rides and homemade fair food including pies by Amish neighbors. The week began with a parade led by the high school band, followed by fire trucks from all surrounding towns, with sirens blasting. Passengers on the trucks threw hard candies to excited kids waiting on the curbs. The town dentist also had a float -- a giant tooth -- from which his hygienists tossed the children containers of floss. The week ended with fireworks, but before it started, before the band marched by, as afternoon sun cast long shadows on the street, the keynote was struck by Salem United Methodist Church (the brick church on the left in this photo), where the minister was blind but had memorized the floor plan of the sanctuary so well that visitors never knew he was sightless. Promptly at 6 p.m. while families waited quietly in lawn chairs on the sidewalks, the church bells would peel, "This land is my land, this land is your land," and the fun would begin. Ah, the age of innocence. See you there?