Thursday, December 31, 2015

When American children were Santa Claus

During World War I, the USS Jason usually carried coal to fire U.S. Navy dreadnoughts. But in 1914, President Wilson let her set sail from New York harbor with 5 million Christmas presents bound for children in England and Europe whose fathers were fighting and dying in combat.

Nicknamed "The Santa Claus Ship," its cargo included 12,000 tons of stockings, petticoats, sweets, nuts, gloves, toys and other gifts. Stopping first in Plymouth, Devon, it unloaded presents for children across England, starting with those whose fathers had been killed in battle. The humanitarian mission resulted from a huge charity drive which started in Chicago but quickly spread across the United States. Fatherless English children who expected no Christmas gifts that year were thrilled to receive even the smallest present from boys and girls across the ocean in America.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Student has no time to be scared

As reported by Mary Keck in The Herald-Times of Bloomington, Indiana, USA, 11-year-old Logan Combs, who attends Grandview Elementary School, is being called a hero because of something he did during the ride home from school on December 10. As bus No. 186 turned left from State Road 45, Logan (shown below with his younger brother) saw the driver slump in his seat. Logan went to the driver and pushed the brake pedal until the bus stopped. "I know the big one's go and the little one's stop," he explained about the pedals. Then he saw a semi truck in the rear view mirror. It was speeding and its breaks were screeching but Logan knew it could not stop before hitting the bus, so he pushed the "big" pedal and moved the bus forward just enough to avoid a crash. Then the bus driver regained consciousness and took control.

                                                                                                   Photo by Jeremy Hogan / Herald-Times
Logan has trouble thinking of himself as a hero. "That was just one of those things that there's not a lot of time to be scared," he said.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What's wrong with this picture?

In the 1950's, children on Christmas vacation from school were told to "go out and play, but be home by dark." As playing outdoors became more dangerous, many kids enjoyed the safety of indoor sports like roller skating or bowling. But today? Well, see for yourself.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Absent Dad included in Christmas photo

Staff Sergeant Joshua Beugh was serving in Kuwait during the 2014 Christmas holidays, but his wife Katrina wanted to include him in the photo on their family Christmas card. Her clever solution, shown here, will warm your heart.

Thankfully, the family was together this Christmas in St. Augustine, Florida. Katrina says, "The holidays are so much more meaningful when we are all together. My heart is with everyone this year who has a loved one deployed."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Nothing can overpower community effort

Ron and Stephanie Martin of Yuma, AZ, wanted to honor a friend who loved the outdoors, so they donated $100,000 to fund a creative playground. Land was acquired in 2005, and 5,000 school children gave design suggestions. The Yuma community donated another $450,000, and in 2007, 8,000 volunteers built the park, shown below, in ten days.

It features a castle, dragon slide, climbing wall, airplanes, a giant spider web and a tree house tower. Kids loved it until Christmas, 2014, when an arsonist set fire to the park. It was a total loss, but within a week after the fire local residents raised $70,000 to rebuild it. Then the City of Yuma learned insurance would fully cover the loss, and the insurance settlement included labor. Using the $70,000 to add new features enjoyed by both abled and disabled kids, the park rose from the ashes, better than before. Construction began last September, and on Dec. 19, 2015, it reopened, proving that nothing is stronger than community effort.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Chinese may never have Obamacare, but...

Residents of Juanxin village outside of Chongqing have 36-year-old Dr. Ji Zhengyong. When Dr. Ji was only 14, he lost his right leg in a car accident. His recovery cost him a year of school, but as soon as he graduated he began studying medicine in order to help others who are suffering. In 2003, he opened a practice in his hometown, walking to his patients' homes on one leg. Over the past 12 years, he has worn out 45 crutches.

One of his many patients, Qin Tiansu, was confined to bed after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage last year. His family had no money to send him to a hospital for treatment, but Dr. Ji visited regularly to care for him and bring him medicine, never asking for any payment. Qin can now walk again. "Dr. Ji is my savior," he says.

Villages regard Dr. Ji as "an angel in white," but he says "I've simply done what any doctor is supposed to do."

Friday, December 25, 2015

Sweet memory found at grocery story

Today's Crumb was contributed by a faithful reader in southern California. Kimberly Grandinette of Ohio was waiting in the check out line at Meijer's with her 3-year-old son Paul recently when she struck up a conversation with the cashier, Kristen Clark. Kimberly confided to Kristen that her infant son was in the hospital and this was upsetting to her older son, Paul. Then Paul asked the cashier if he could help ring up their groceries.
                                                                                         Photo by Kimberly Grandinette
Kristen said "Certainly," and brought the boy behind the register with her, picking him up. "She was so patient as she let him help scan the coupons," said Kimberly on Facebook. "She made him feel like a million bucks. He skipped out of the store with a smile on his face." Kristen, a community college student, was surprised by how much attention her photo received on Facebook. She said she likes to get to know people, even if it's only for three minutes as they are checking out.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Love is never forgotten

When she was only three months old, Amanda Scarpinati was on the brink of pneumonia, so her parents put her on a couch near a hot steam humidifier. She had not yet learned to roll over, so they never expected she'd try that day, but she rolled off the couch onto the humidifier and lay there 60 seconds, burning her face and hands, before she was rescued and rushed to the Albany NY Medical Center.
                                                                                            Amanda Scarpinati / Facebook
The medical center's annual report for 1977 included pictures of Amanda and the nurse who cared for her, and Amanda has kept them for years. She tried to locate the nurse before the era of social media, but the hospital could not identify her. This year she decided to try again, via Facebook. Soon a woman named Angela replied that she worked with this nurse and her name was Susan Berger. A local news station confirmed Berger was the unnamed nurse. She is still nursing and lives near Syracuse, about 2.5 hours from Scarpinati's home in Athens, NY. Berger is touched that Scarpinati is looking for her, since she also has kept the photos all these years. Scarpinati's birthday is soon, and she says meeting the nurse who loved her as a baby will the most rewarding present possible.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Asking mall Santa for a Christmas miracle

It happened at the Dutch Square shopping mall in Columbia, SC, this month. Prestyn Barnette, 4, waited in line until it was his turn to see Santa. Then he told St. Nick he wanted a Lionel train set, and one thing more. Would Santa pray with him? Prestyn's grandma told him about a two-month old boy named Knox Stine who is fighting for his life in a hospital in Las Vegas. Would Santa pray with him for a Christmas miracle for baby Knox?

                                                                                                                                        Instagram Photo
Those who believe Santa Claus and healing through prayer are both imaginary may find this photo ironic, but others may see more. The photo went viral on social media and Prestyn unwittingly helped bring many prayers to baby Knox. Even Knox's mother, Mindi Stine, saw the picture.

"I thought it was beautiful," she told ABC. "It spoke to my heart. Even though I am experiencing pain that is unbelievable, that brought joy to me." Baby Knox's family continues to hope for his recovery, and if this picture proves anything, it proves the prophecy of Isaiah, "a little child shall lead them."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Christmas miracle worth noting

According to REUTERS and other media, it happened this week in Mandera, in northeast Kenya, the same area where gunman stormed a Nairobi-bound bus last year, separating Muslims passengers from Christians and killing 28 Christians.

This time, more than ten militants boarded the bus and ordered Muslim's to separate from Christians, but they refused. "We even gave some non-Muslims our religious attire to wear in the bus so they would not easily identified," said Muslim passenger Abdi Mohamud Abdi. "The militants threatened to shoot us, but we still refused and protected our brothers and sisters. Finally they gave up and left, but warned us they would be back."

Monday, December 21, 2015

Everyone has a need to give

A young woman was sipping coffee at a Starbucks in Barnes & Noble. The restaurant area was crowded, so she sat beside a shelf of books in the store and was reading one when a stranger approached. "I assume he was old, or at least older," she recalled, "because he had white hair. He just said, 'this is for you,' and handed me a card."

"I said, 'Thank you' and he walked off. I assumed it was a Christmas card, so after a few minutes I got the courage to open it up. The front of the card said, 'Love, Peace and Joy' and inside were printed the words, 'An enjoyable old fashioned Christmas to you and yours.' On the left side of the card, in handwriting, it said, 'Recently my wife passed away and I no longer have that beautiful person to give a gift to. You are a beautiful person. Have a good holiday.'" Inside card was as $50 bill.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

12,000 mini-miracles from Canada

Today's Crumb was provided by a faithful reader in Canada. He explains that WestJet is the second largest commercial airline in his country, and this year they mandated all 12,000 employees to do something special for someone at Christmas. Good deeds came in many sizes, from teddy bears to a Hawaii vacation. If you have five minutes, click the blue link to see and hear the beautiful responses of folks who received the miracles. It will touch your heart.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Another response to Syrian refugees

 Just days after their wedding, Mohamad al-Noury and his bride Athar Farroukh had to flee bombings in their hometown in Syria. They honeymooned in a refugee camp before being resettled in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. They never had time to have wedding pictures taken. Hearing their story, CBC reporter Eman Bare offered to snap their photos in a few days.

A few days later, the couple went to a local hotel, expecting an impromptu wedding photo shoot, but thanks to social media their story had touched many hearts. One woman baked a wedding cake. Another donated a wedding dress for Athar and a suit for Mohamad. The hotel gave the party a banquet room. How did the refugees feel?

"We're blessed that we're in Saskatoon and we've seen a lot of great things and met a lot of great people, and it's a dream come true for us," said Athar, pictured above.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Oldest Boy Scout lives near founder's camp

Daniel Carter Beard helped found the Boy Scouts of America when he started Troop 1 in Flushing, NY, around 1910. Until 1940, he welcomed Scouts at his Outdoor School for Boys in the Pocono Mountains near Hawley, PA. Just a day's hike away from Beard's historic camp is the village of Bethany, PA, where the oldest Boy Scout in the world, Tony Seccia, just turned 101. This photo was taken last year, on his 100th birthday.

Seccia joined the Boy Scouts in 1927 when he was twelve. doing odd jobs to earn enough money to buy his first uniform. He married his late wife, Margit, in 1938 and says he still thinks about her every day. He has lived at Bethany Village for three years, where fellow residents voted him "Most Friendly." He was deeply honored when local Scouts attended his 101st birthday celebration. They saluted him and presented him with an official shirt and scarf. Dan Beard would be proud.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Muslims are "just our neighbors"

Terre Haute, Indiana, isn't a metropolis like Chicago or St. Louis, but it's a town with a heart. Home to Indiana State University, it also has an Islamic Center for Muslim worshippers who reject violence and seek to be good neighbors. A few months ago, someone painted a swastika on the Center's parking lot, but last week someone else, perhaps an entire family, defied Islamophobia by leaving a token of Christian kindness at the front door -- a small Christmas tree.

                                                                                    Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza
Mohammad Alam, chairman of the Center's board of trustees, said the congregation expected backlash from recent shootings, and were surprised by the tree, whose branches are hung with homemade paper decorations with messages in different handwriting. Some decorations are shaped like hearts. One says, "Thank you for being GREAT neighbors." On another are the words, "We were born to unite with our fellow man and to join in community with the human race."

Delana Pearman lives near the center. She did not give the tree, but is glad someone did. "They're just our neighbors," she said of Muslims. "They're wonderful people."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Offer ends at 11:59 p.m. CST, December 16

Back in 1960, Betty Gordon was office secretary for Snyder Hall at the University of Illinois. She convinced residents to sing or play carols for random callers around the holidays. A tradition was born, and today most students in the building participate for one week each December (between the end of finals and end-of-semester goodbyes) regardless of religion or musical ability. Initially they played vinyl records for most callers, but over the years they decided to sing them all, sometimes out of tune, to relieve the stress of finals.

Their favorite callers are teachers from elementary school classrooms, but anyone can dial in a request. When phone lines opened this year, students received 1,000 calls from all 50 states in the first 14 hours. They will be singing this year until 11:59 p.m. CST on December 16. To request a carol, dial (217) 332-1882. If you don't read this until the deadline has past, be sure to save the number for next December.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gift under tree makes sisters cry

Santa came early to the Solstad home in McKinney, Texas, this year. Courtney Solstad wrote on Facebook that the family welcomed a little boy, Nathan, into their family last week through adoption. Their daughters were already excited about the baby, but didn't know when it would arrive.

"The girls knew nothing about Nathan until this," Courtney wrote on Facebook. "We met them at the door and told them we had been out Christmas shopping and got them a gift so share, and it was under the tree." They all jumped around and screamed with excitement about the new baby boy. One of the daughters started crying with happiness. The other warned, "I'm going to wet my pants." Courtney wrote that welcoming Nathan into the family was one of the "most magical experiences of our lives."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Free haircuts for North Carolina boy

Last August, nine-year-old Kamarian Fox of Gastonia, NC, went the Next Level Barbershop for the first time. Mike Shelton cut his hair, as as they talked, Shelton learned Kamarian was about to start fourth grade. "I could really tell he was a bright kid, so I just said, 'Look, I'll make you a deal.'" What was it? Free haircuts for life as long as Kamarian earned good grades.

                                                                                                                                        Terrance Floyd
On November, Kamarian walked in saying, "I'm here for my free haircut." He showed Shelton his straight-A report card. Shelton said he plans to cut Kamarian's hair every week. "As long as you keep your grades right, I will keep you looking right," he said.

Kamarian now calls his barber Uncle Mike, and his single mother, Cameron Fox, is grateful Shelton acts like an uncle and father-figure to her son. "I appreciate his open arms, and giving Kamarian something to look forward to," she said.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Another "police incident" worth knowing about

Eleven-year-old Tontrevion Campbell of Memphis, TN, and his mom were at church when thieves broke into their home. Items missing included his Xbox and the video games he loves to play. When police investigated, they asked Tontrevion if he'd get a new Xbox for Christmas. He said he wouldn't ask him mom for one, because "all the money she makes goes to pay the bills." Back at the station, the officers told his story, and fellow officers chipped in to buy a replacement.

                                                                                                    Memphis Police Department/Facebook
When the store manager learned why police were buying an Xbox, he donated an extra controller so two friends can play together. The investigating officers returned to the Campbell home with the Xbox and asked Tontrevion if it was the one he lost. "No sir," the boy said. "Mine was older." Then they revealed the new one was for him, which moved him and his mother to tears.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Boy empties piggy bank to help Muslims

After the tragic massacre in Paris last month, some folks in Pflugerville, Texas, near Austin, took revenge. They splattered feces on a local mosque and tore up pages of the Koran. Seven-year-old Jack Swanson found out about it, and he wanted to help, so he emptied his piggy bank and gave the $20 he'd saved to the congregation. "It's twenty bucks," said Faisal Naeem, a board member of the defaced Islamic Center, but coming from Jack collecting his pennies it's worth $20 million bucks to me and our community. This gives me hope."

                                                                                              by Laura Swanson/Facebook
After Jack made unintended headlines for his kindness, international human rights lawyer and author Arsalan Iftikhar decided to thank him. Iftikhar contacted his mom, Laura Swanson. When she told him Jack had been earning 50 cents a chore in hopes of buying an iPad someday, Iftikhar sent one to him by overnight mail. He got it the next day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Are we worshipping Truth?

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it -- ALWAYS.

Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Looking back, did your life make a difference?

In this photo from a 1988 issue of Children's Nurse Magazine, nurse Lynn Bartos is shown caring for little Nicole Frye, who was born with a birth defect at Children's Hospital in Wisconsin. Nicole called her nurse "Sweet Lynnie" and the nurse called Nicole "Ninni" -- pronounced "nee-nee." Eventually Ninni regained her health and the two lost touch, until recently.

After almost 25 years, they met again and Lynn learned how much difference she made in the lives of her patients. This time, she was the patient, being treated at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin for arthritis. She felt something familiar about her nurse and read the name on her tag. "Ninni?" she asked? Nicole answered, "Oh my God, yes."

"When you get to be my age," said Lynn, "you look back and wonder if you made a difference. I feel so good about this. What I did mattered."

                                                                                                                                          Michael Sears

Monday, December 7, 2015

Canadian sponsors 50 Syrian refugee families

Today's Crumb comes from a faithful reader in Canada, who noticed that an Ontario businessman has arranged to sponsor not just one Syrian refugee family, but fifty families. His name is Jim Estill, and he is CEO of an appliance company called Danby in Guelph, Ontario. He will personally foot the bill of over $1 million "because it's the right thing to do."

                                                                                                                          Submitted by Jim Estill
Looking at the refugee crisis, Estill calls fifty families "a drop in the bucket" and completely absorbable in a city the size of Guelph. To launch his initiative, he contacted local clergy including the Muslim society and asked if they would be on board? Everyone agreed. Each refugee family will have an Arabic-speaking mentor and an English-speaking mentor to assist them in opening bank accounts and obtaining health cards. Each family will receive free clothing from the Salvation Army Thrift Store. "If you ask, people will give," says Estill. "You just have to ask."

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Nutcracker ballerina defends mice

Annabel Averett, 7, lives in Nebraska. This month she's performing for the first time in a production of "The Nutcracker" at Creighton University in Omaha. She plays a mouse, and when she realized the other characters were afraid of the mice, or hated them, she began a backstage effort advocating for mice rights. She called it the Mouse Freedom Front.

                                                                                                              Photo by Erin Walcek Averett
She created a 12-point manifesto to help stamp out intolerance of mice, including "If people join the club we give them free cheese" and "We find out how to destroy mouse traps." Annabel's Dad helped her make a pamphlet and she passed out 80 copies backstage during the opening performance. Other mice in the cast vowed to post pamphlets in six different Omaha schools. A parent volunteer let Annabel give a speech. Annabel believes "mouse freedom is a really big thing that we should fight for, and people know mice are nice." It's a sweet message to emerge from a Christmas ballet.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Gratitude for US soldiers

California businessman Shlomo Rechnitz owns a chain of nursing homes. Last November, during a flight to Israel, he had a lay-over at Shannon Airport in Ireland. In the terminal he spotted 400 GIs who were also waiting for connecting flights. They were eating field rations while they waited.

                                                                                                                                       Public Domain
Rechnitz asked their commander if he could treat the troops to dinner at any of the airport's trendy restaurants. He encouraged them to each spend up to $50 and "put it on my tab." The total was about $20,000.
The commander asked him to tell the GIs why he was so generous. "You guys risk your lives to protect me and protect my family," Rechnitz said. "I just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Friday, December 4, 2015

Homeless choir to sing at White House

Donal Noonan is head of music ministry at the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. About three years ago, he noticed homeless men sitting around the Central Night Shelter and on the walls around the church, looking bored. Noonan remembered advice his Mom told him, "if God gives you talent, you better use it or answer for it." So he invited the homeless men to form a choir. "I can make you sound 'purty,'" he promised, and he succeeded beyond his wildest expectations. On December 21, the Atlanta Homeward Choir will sing at the White House.

                                                                                        Brant Sanderlin, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Southwest Airlines offered round-trip tickets for the group. Central Night Shelter donated $2,100 to buy each man new clothes. Since the invitation arrived, nobody has been late for choir practice. The men even asked for extra rehearsals. They are not sure if the President or his family will stroll by and hear them singing. "One can only hope," said Bryant Allen, 27, a tenor from Detroit. "I can't wait to go."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Hanukkah reunion

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, begins December 6. It has special meaning this year for Michael Hochberg, 77, of Haifa, Israel. During a month-long visit to the United States, he reunited Wednesday with Krystyna Jakubowska, 86. She lives in Warsaw, Poland, and once saved his life.The reunion was organized by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.

In 1942, when Polish Jews were herded by Nazis into the Warsaw Ghetto, 4-year-old Michael was smuggled out by friend and given to the Jakubowska family for safekeeping. During German occupation, Poles who hid Jews faced certain death.

                                                                                                                                           NBC NEWS
Michael never saw his parents again, but Krystyna, then a teenager, pretended he was her little brother. For two years she shared her rations with him and made sure he only went outside at night. Both Krystyna's parents died during German occupation, but only after the war did she turn him over to a Jewish orphanage where he was claimed by a relative. Today Krystyna has five grandchildren and Michael has eight, but he never forgot what she did for him, and made sure she was recognized as a Righteous Gentile Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the World Center for Holocaust Research and Documentation, in Jerusalem. Happy Hanukkah!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Who doesn't deserve a second chance?

James Eldridge owns Gracie Furniture, a company in the tiny town of Dillon, deep in the Montana Rockies. Dillon is out there, but most Gracie employees don't mind the boonies. Half of them have criminal records. One new hire spent seven years in isolation and suffers from schizophrenia, but he makes beautiful furniture.

                                                                                                                       Courtesy Company / Getty
When Eldridge took over the company and rebranded it, many former employees left and a few had to be dismissed. This created an opportunity. Unemployment in Dillon was only 2.5 percent but among ex-offenders it's 60 percent, so Eldridge contacted the local Probation and Parole office. If applicants pass his initial interview, he tells them, "I don't care what you've done," and they get a second chance. "Without them I would not have a business," he admits.

Lacey Galloway, 34, was hired at Gracie last July. How does he feel about the job? "James treats me as a friend, not just an employee. I'm glad he gave me the opportunity to show him how hard of a worker I am," he says.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Feeling judgemental today?

I dreamed I died the other night,
and heaven's gates swung wide.
An angel with a friendly grace
ushered me inside.
And there to my astonishment
stood friends I'd known on earth.
Some I had judged and called unfit
and some of little worth.
Indignant words rose to my lips
but never were set free,
for every face showed shocked surprise.
No one expected me!!!!
(Author unknown)

Smoking or non?