Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The best prom date ever

Melissa Potter never attended her senior prom. After growing up in 23 different foster homes, the teenager was pregnant with her son Trey and transitioning out of foster care into a homeless shelter. She and her baby lived in a shelter for the first two years of his life. She was told her son could never thrive, because she came through the foster care system and "you can't give him what you don't have."

But Melissa proved everyone wrong. After turning her life around, she became a successful makeup artist and foster youth advocate. She was discovered as a magazine model, and took care of Trey all by herself. This spring Trey graduates from high school in Gahanna, Ohio. And who did he invite as his date to the prom? Out of respect and appreciation for all she's done for him, he invited his mom. And she accepted.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Another "police" story

Nine-year-old Bryce lives in Cleveland, and has been collecting Pokemon cards for three years. He's proud of his collection. Recently he was taking it to a friend's house when another boy grabbed his card binder and ran away with it. The Cleveland Police Department assigned officer Jimmy Grotenrath to the case. Other children identified the thief. Grotenrath went to the suspect's home and spoke with his parents. At this point, the suspect apologized and returned the heist. Bryce noticed most of the cards were there, but a few important ones were missing.

                                                                                                      Courtesy of Jimmy Grotenrath
Grotenrath, 26, felt Bryce's pain because he too collected Pokemon cards as a boy. He went home that night and found his old stash of cards, and gave them as a gift to Bryce. "He was grinning from ear to ear," Grotenrath said. "Anything we can do to put a smile on a citizen's face is a job well done in our book."

Sunday, May 29, 2016

BC graduation "very emotional" for one janitor

Fred Vautour, shown below, never went to college. Now 62, he's been working since he was 14, and for the past 15 years he's worked the night shift as a janitor at Boston College. Why? Because BC has a policy that any employee's children can attend tuition free, if they are accepted. His oldest daughter was 14 when Dad began the night shift as janitor. She worked hard in high school and was accepted by BC. Since then, his other four kids were also accepted, and on Monday, May 23, his youngest daughter graduated with a degree in nursing.

                                                                                                                   Keith Bedford/Globe Staff
Because Dad kept polishing mirrors and cleaning toilets and mopping floors, his family's tuition costs, including room and board, fell from $66,000 per year to only $3,000 per year, as each child was also awarded scholarships. "It's kind of bittersweet," Fred said. "My oldest daughter started here in 1998 and now it's 2016 and my last one is graduating. I've always had a kid at BC." But even after his nest is empty, Fred plans to continue working as a janitor. Why? "Working here makes me feel young."

Saturday, May 28, 2016

No tears in baseball?

On May 13 in Menifee, California, the Pony Baseball and Softball League hosted a scrimmage, but it wasn't about balls and strikes. One of the team moms -- Janet Brock -- knew her husband, Marine Master Sgt. Randy Brock, would be returning home earlier than expected after a six-month overseas deployment. Janet asked if she could reunite him with their children in a special way, and league officials agreed to sponsor the scrimmage for that reason. Ten-year-old A.J. Brock wasn't expecting his dad to come home from Japan for another month.

The surprise was the sole reason for the scrimmage, which explained why a larger-than-usual crowd gathered to watch. Master Sgt. Brock was disguised as the umpire, and called the balls and strikes until his son A.J. came to bat. With A.J. almost in the batter's box, the umpire paused to brush dirt from home plate and then removed his mask. The picture above shows what happened next. And yes, there are tears in baseball.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A video that will touch your heart

Is there something that really scares you? Is there someone you hate? Dr. Shamanie Thompson was afraid her breast cancer would return and she'd die young. And she hated her ex-husband. Their relationship had been toxic for years. Then another cancer survivor encouraged her to replace the fear that was paralyzing her with unconditional love. But how could she do that? It felt silly at first, but she and her kids made a sign that said, "I am giving unconditional love for $0 to heal my fear of cancer." They set up the sign in a nearby park and prepared zero dollar "receipts" with encouraging words for strangers. She gave (and received) hugs from 40 strangers in 30 minutes

Afterward, she said her heart felt so big it was outside her chest. She felt totally full of unconditional love.  Then she and the kids drove to a sports event where her ex- would meet them. To find out what happened next, watch this five minute video. It proves unconditional love can cure anything.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ll05XL7O_Hs   Be sure you have a tissue handy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wedding photos briefly interrupted

Bride and groom Hannah West and Mark Jefferies had just gotten married and were posing for wedding photos on the grounds of Dumbleton Hall near Evesham in Gloucester, England. There was a lake in the background, and photographer Rosie Hardy had taken a few pictures when everyone heard a fearful squawking from the lake. A nasty black swan had stolen a gosling from two geese and had its beak around its neck, trying to drown it.  Without missing a beat, Faye West, sister of the bride, kicked off her shoes and marched into the lake.

                                                                                                    Photo by Rosie Hardy / Facebook
"She didn't break speed as she hit the water," Hardy recalled, "and within seconds the swan had gotten her message." After scaring off the swan, West scooped up the tiny chick and returned it to its mother on the opposite bank, and soon the geese swam off happily. Photographer Hardy posted her photos on Facebook, adding, "Shot my first wedding of the spring yesterday. I didn't expect a bridesmaid to jump into the lake mid-formals to save a baby gosling. Faith in humanity restored!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"I don't want to die before I sing at a baseball game."

When Hermina was 17 and about to finish high school in Czechoslovakia, she and her family were forced to move into a Jewish ghetto. Instead of a prom, she went to a concentration camp, actually four of them, including Auschwitz, where she lost her mom, dad, and three brothers. Somehow she was still alive when Allied forces released the starving inmates in 1945. Once freed, she hitched rides back to her birthplace, and spent a year in a sanitorium regaining her health. That's when a cousin set her up on a blind date with Bernard Hirsch, and they have been husband and wife for 69 years. In 1953 they moved to Southfield, Michigan, started a big family, and became longtime Tigers fans.

Now she's 89 years young, and a few weeks ago she told her grandchhildren, "I don't want to die before I sing at a baseball game." They knew she loved the national anthem, and sang it often, so they contacted the front office, and the Tigers could not say no. On May 21, before the Tigers took on the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park, Hermina's dream came true. Why wasn't she nervous?  "I have nothing to lose. I'm an old woman," she said.  Her granddaughter added, "It's one of her favorite songs, because she's so patriotic, just because of everything she's been through and how she got here." Thousands of fans cheered when Hermina hit the high note, and many wept. Happy Memorial Day.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Planning a cook-out this Memorial Day?

Why not also comfort a widow?
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Two ways to retain good employees?

The exact cost of training new employees varies from job to job, but one study from the Center for American Progress says training can cost 16 to 21 percent of an employee's annual salary. That's why smart bosses want good employees to remain loyal. Take Chich Huang, for example. He's CEO of a New Jersey firm called BOXED WHOLESALE. To encourage company loyalty, he already pays the college tuition of employees' children  (out of his own pocket) and recently he took his generosity up a notch.

He has 122 full-time employees. One of them, Marcel Graham, 26, works in the shipping fulfillment center. He was set to marry Tara Aucoin, but his mother became ill and he spent all his wedding money for her care. That's when Huang stepped in. He arranged for Tara to be at the fulfillment center when he announced a new company policy for all employees. The firm will contribute $20,000 toward the wedding of any employee who ties the knot. Most employees agree Huang is the most empathetic, big-hearted boss you will ever find, and company loyalty is VERY strong.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A moment Leila Lacase will never forget

Legendary former Beatle Paul McCartney, 73, spotted 10-year-old Leila Lacase in the audience during his May 17 show at the Argentinian capital's La Plata Stadium. She was holding a sign asking him to sign her teddy bear, so he invited Leila and her mother to the stage. Then Leila revealed the real reason she grabbed his attention. "I want to play the bass with you," she said, as the audience cheered. What happened next she will never forget.

"I didn't see this coming!" McCartney said as a roadie draped a white base guitar over the girl's shoulders. It hung near her feet, but she still plucked along and McCartney lowered the mike so she could add vocals. At the end, he asked the audience, "What did you think of that?" to thunderous applause, and Leila took the mike to say, "Muchas gracias," unfazed by sharing the stage with rock royalty. To see a priceless five-minute video of the event, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn_jP-w0bco

Friday, May 20, 2016

When adversity brings out the best in us

Early this month, a massive wild fire forced the sudden evacuation of Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada. The neighboring town of Lac La Biche, shown below, has less than 3,000 residents, but opened its heart to 9,000 evacuees overnight.  At Squirrely's Gas Bar, employees worked 24/7 to serve evacuees. The store ran out of beef jerky and jerry cans and had to double its order of snacks and pop.

Employee Cora Schaub said many people wanted to share their experiences, so she listened as they described harrowing escapes and mourned over things they lost to the fire. "I let them release their heartache and pain," she said. "This was a very sad event in their lives." Over at Omar's Barber Shop, Omar Saleh put out a sandwich board offering free hot shaves for evacuees. He did 120 shaves in five days, so many that he ran out of straight razors and had to buy more. "They fled their houses, and the last thing you remember to take with you is your razor, so a shave makes you happy, right?" he asked. A week after the evacuation, cook Shaun Petrie had gone through 500 pounds of potatoes, cooking free meals for evacuees, emergency crews, and volunteers at the Royal Canadian Legion. His two hot meals a day included roast beef and turkey dinners, lasagna, perogies and cabbage rolls. "It's the right thing to do," he said, and everyone knows he's right.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What does it mean to be a school teacher?

Everyone felt grumpy as they boarded flight JQ527 a few weeks ago from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia. People argued over overhead luggage space. All except one teenager, who was smiling and laughing. His name was Shamran, and he had Down syndrome. After the short flight, the cabin crew said they could not land the plane because one passenger, Shamran, would not return to his seat. He felt sick and lay on the floor, refusing to get up. The plane circled above the airport, running low on fuel. Finally cabin manager John Chasson made an unusual announcement. "Is there a special needs teacher on board?"

                                                                                                                          Photo by Paul Jeffers
Sophie Murphy, 42, with 20 years of teaching experience, is completing a PhD at the University of Melbourne. She found the boy sprawled on his belly. After speaking quietly to his parents, she lay on her stomach to face him. "It was teacher mode, teacher talk, teacher voice," she said. She asked where he was from and what was his favorite book. He said "Winnie the Pooh," so she held his hand as they talked about Piglet and Eeyore and SpongeBob SquarePants too. Eventually they sat together, as his parents wept and nodded "thank you." Murphy asked for sick bags and held them, one after another, as Shamran vomited, including on her. "It's OK," she told him. "I'm your friend. We're OK. We're going to do this together." When she asked for tissues to clean up, tissues and wipes were offered from a dozen hands. Natural color came back to Shamran's face. Looking out the window, he pointed out his favorite colors. After taxiing to the gate, the fasten seatbelt sign blinked off, but NO ONE MOVED. There was no stampede. Passengers let Shamran and Murphy walk down the aisle first, quietly clapping and smiling as they disembarked. Later a young woman approached Murphy. She had been sitting one row back with her husband, a physician. "He didn't know what to do," she said. "He was actually watching you, and taking notes."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Graduation caps with a message

The traditional black mortar board cap worn at graduation is no longer plain. Grads are decorating their hats with messages. Some students mark how much money their diploma has put them into debt. But others tell the story of adversity overcome.
A grad named Graciela wrote her name on the top of her cap. She explained, "This Saturday I will graduate with my B.A. I will also be the first Latina in my school's history to ever give the commencement speech! The road to graduation was not easy. When I was 16, I had to run away from an abusive adoptive family. I was homeless as I travelled the country in search of a new beginning. Eventually I found myself in Wisconsin where a teacher took me in and allowed me to start fresh. My diploma and speech are dedicated to all the women and children like me who were told they could not accomplish anything in life. They tried to bury us, but they didn't know we were seeds!"

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

You must hear this to believe it

Rapid reconstruction to repair damage suffered in Zadar, Croatia, in WWII turned much of the seafront into a drab concrete wall. Today, inviting white marble steps lead from a university campus down to the water. Hidden below these steps are a system of tubes and a resonating cavity that turn the site into a huge organ, played by the wind and sea.

Below the steps are 35 musically tuned tubes with whistle openings on the steps above. Movement of the sea pushes air through the tubes and musical chords are played. The waves create random harmonic sounds. To visit the Sea Organ for a fews minutes and relax to it's enchanting tones, click on www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRYUindZvt8

Monday, May 16, 2016

Today's post from a reader in Moline, Illinois

Farmer Alan James of Penrhyncoch, North Wales, has 15 sheep dogs on his family farm. One is named Pero. A friend told Alan that another famer in Cockermouth needed a dog that could round sheep and follow a quad bike, so Alan drove Pero 240 miles north to Cockermouth to "give him a try." A few days later, as he was herding sheep in Cockermouth, Pero disappeared.

A few days later, Pero turned up at the front door of his former home in Penrhyncoch. "We have no idea how he did it," said Alan. "He must have Sat-Nav in his brain. A sheep dog can go all day and cover a lot of ground, but it's a mystery how he found his way here." When he arrived home, he was not hungry or weak. "We are very happy to have him home again with us on the farm," Alan said.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fifth graders appreciate encouragement

When students in Ms. Langford's fifth-grade class at Evergreen Avenue School in Wooodbury, NJ, entered their classroom to take their PARCC standardized tests, they were surprised. Each of the 17 student desks had an encouraging note from Langford. When pictures of the desks were uploaded to Facebook, they quickly went viral. Here's one.

Each note is written with a dry erase marker, so it can be cleaned up prior to starting the test. She wrote the notes after many students expressed concern about the test, fearing they would be "held back" if they did not pass. Langford feels students are sometimes tested too much. She believes we should let kids be kids.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Cuddles flown south to owner

For the past few days, Suncor Energy has flown about 6,000 people from camps up north to Calgary and Edmonton, Canada. But one flight was unusual. 80,000 people were suddenly ordered to evacuate Fort McMurray because of an advancing wild fire. They only got a two-minute warning,  and many had to leave loved pets behind. Suncor Energy felt it made sense to break the rules and fly as many animals as possible south. Passengers on the flight included cats, dogs, rabbits and chinchillas.

                                                                                                                 Courtesy Keith Mann
Two dogs had to be stored in the bathroom for the safety of the rabbits and chinchillas. Reunions at the airport were thrilling. Allison Wisemn saw her dog Cuddles after the pet was left behind amid the blaze. "I'm never putting her in this kind of danger again," she said.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Domino's staff save favorite customer's life

Kirk Alexander of Salem, Oregon, has been ordering meals online from a local Domino's Pizza restaurant for seven years. He orders a different entree each time. Employees came to expect his order every few days, so they were concerned recently when he did not order anything for eleven days. They called his home to check on him but always got voicemail. Then the restaurant sent a driver, Tracy Hamblen, to Alexander's home late at night. She knocked on his door and could see lights and a TV on inside, but nobody answered, so she called 911.

                                                                                       Danielle Peterson/ Statesman Journal
Marion County sheriff's deputies heard a man calling for help from inside the house. They found Alexander on the floor of his home. Paramedics said they believed he had a stroke. They took him to the hospital where his condition stabilized. The Domino's staff said Alexander was like part of their family, and they wish him a full recovery.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A good idea whose time has come?

Ever notice how much food people leave behind in American restaurants? It all goes in the dumpster, but in India a popular restaurant called Pappadavada is encouraging customers to put leftover food in a refrigerator outside the eatery.

Homeless or hungry people can take whatever they want from the fridge with no questions asked. The restaurant manager, Minu Pauline, called the fridge on the sidewalk "nanma maam," which means "tree of goodness."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

An ideal book for summer reading

You may enjoy my new book, God's Fingerprints, which became available last month. More than 100 copies have already been sold nationwide. A reader from Vermont writes, "It's beautifully written and easy reading." A North Carolina reader adds, "I couldn't put it down. Many times I laughed out loud at the humor." A reader from Illinois writes, "I know the book will do much good to lift and soften the hearts of those who read it."

The 150 page paperback costs $15 + $5 for shipping and handling. To order, call Hawthorne Publishers at 317-867-5183. No need to use a credit card. We trust you. You'll receive your book in the mail with an invoice. Be sure to ask about discounts when ordering four copies or more.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

He's not heavy. He's my brother.

Brandon Gandee, 9, of Temperance, Michigan, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age one. He usually uses a walker to get around. But in 2014 his older brother Hunter decided to carry Brandon on his back on a "Cerebral Palsy Swagger" to raise awareness and understanding of the disease. Their first swagger went 40 miles. In 2015 they hiked 57 miles. This year they walked 111 miles in five days, with help from Brandon's other siblings.

                                                                                                               Facebook / Hunter Gandee
"There was a point where I was worried we might not be able to go on," Hunter admitted. On the fourth day, I started having a lot of pain in my hip." He said a friend prayed for him, and he was able to complete the journey. Friends, family and strangers joined in along the trek. This was the family's last swagger, since Brandon is now 70 pounds and Hunter will be at college next year. Hunter says, "The goal for this walk was to challenge the world at all levels to take the necessary steps toward inclusion." Even without the swagger, but they will find creative ways to help us all embrace folks with disabilities.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

What does it mean to "have a heart?"

Last September 18 at a hospital in Zhejiang, China, a two-year-old girl with a pre-existing heart condition was being prepped for surgery. Just before the operation, she got scared and began sobbing uncontrollably, yelling "I want daddy!" Her surgeon, Shi Zhuo, Deputy Director of Cardiac Surgery at the children's section of Zhejiang University Hospital, scooped her up and promised they'd get daddy after they played her favorite cartoons on his phone. This comforted her completely.

An anesthetist took this photo and posted it on Chinese social media where it went viral. According to Dr. Shi, children "all get scared in the operating theater." and staff have comforted many in the past. The little girl's Dad never knew how frighted his daughter was, or how Dr. Shi comforted her. "He just told me the surgery was extremely successful. I didn't know until another patient showed me the heartwarming photos. I almost cried," he said. The girl recovered well and was released September 22.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

God still answers knee-mail

If you're reading this on Thursday, May 5, 2016, you should know today is National Prayer Day. The annual event began in 1952 with a joint resolution of Congress, and was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. It's a time for Americans to pause and pray that God will guide our national leaders.

This year's event chairman, Dr. Tony Evans, has written a prayer that will be read from coast to coast at noon, EDT. It says in part, "Dear heavenly Father, you continue to be marginalized and dismissed by both our people and our institutions. Enable us, by your Spirit, to no longer be secret agent Christians but rather to publicly declare and live out your truth in a spirit of love."

NOTE: New crumbs will be posted occasionally until May 14, when daily posting will resume.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Another police "incident" you didn't hear about

Robert McCoy ran the 26-mile Rock 'n Roll Marathon in Savannah, Georgia, this year, in honor of his dad who passed away last spring. He was determined to complete the run, but when he was within 200 yards of the finish line and could see it, he fell down, scraping his face, knees and shoulder. Sgt. John Cain of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department saw him tumble, and rushed to help. Bloody and stunned after his fall, and after running for hours, McCoy told Cain he had to finish the race.

                                                                        Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department
So Sgt. Cain helped him up off the ground, took his arm, and kept McCoy standing for the last 200 yards of the marathon as they passed cheering spectators. McCoy thanked Sgt. Cain by giving the officer his finisher's medal. "He deserved it more than I did," McCoy said, "because if it weren't for him, I wouldn't have finished the race for my dad."

Monday, May 2, 2016

Would you stop a bully?

People had to answer that question last fall as they waited at a bus stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A television network (Up TV) staged a video to test what they call the "bystander effect" on bullying. Using teenage actors, the station had two older girls bully a younger one at the bus stop, asking her if she had any non-imaginary friends; mocking her appearance and poking fun at her study habits.

The video was viewed over 230,000 times the first day, and the results of the social experiment were good. Strangers from different backgrounds, races, ages and genders intervened to stop the bullying. According to director Rob Bliss, "This video sums up the importance of being aware of your surroundings and the warning signs of bullying, even in kids that aren't our own." In other words, it takes a village to stop bullying. To see the 3 minute video, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=75gsCJaXTnQ

Sunday, May 1, 2016

What does BFF really mean?

Steve Mershon, 54, from Indialantic, Florida, was walking on the beach recently when he found a plastic bottle with a note inside. He expected the note would say "hi!" and have someone's name and email address, but when he opened it, he discovered "the most beautiful thing I have ever found." It was a message from a boy named Jonothan Torres, written to his BFF (best friend forever), Daniel.

In case you can't read it, Jonothan wrote, "Dear Daniel, I'm really sorry that you passed away and if you were alive, me and you would be playing football, soccer and basketball and be playing with Matthew and Oscar and Brandon. I am in the fifth grade and you were my best friend and our favorite song was Austin Moon, and I hope you (have) fun with Jesus."

Mershon posted the note on his Facebook page, along with a message to Jonothan, praising him for his bravery and love for his friend. He wrote, "Perhaps your next touchdown, goal or basket you can dedicate to your best friend Daniel."