Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A crumb from a reader in Redlands, California

As reported in the Illinois Belleville News-Democrat, Stanford Kipping, 82, and his wife Patty, 70, were caught between a rock and a hard place. Should they keep up payments on their 1998 Buick, or buy prescription medicines they need to stay well? They decided to buy the medicine, and before long a repo man named Jim Ford came and towed their Buick away. "When I got home that night," Ford recalls, "I said to myself, 'They are a real nice elderly couple. I gotta do something. I can't just take their car.'"

Using the online service "GoFundMe," he raised more than $3,500 in one night. After paying the fee for services, he paid the bank the $2,501 the Kippings owned on the car. Then he put $1,000 in cash into an envelope and a co-worker bought the Kippings a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Ford fixed the old Buick's headlights, topped off the radiator and changed the oil, and then hooked up the car for the return tow to the Kipping's home. Stanford and Patty Kipping didn't know what they would do without their car, and when they got it back paid off, with a turkey and a $1,000 gift, they called it "a miracle come true." It was the best Christmas gift they could have wished for.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

When there's hope, anything is possible

Meet Harris Rosen, a self-made hotel magnate in Orlando, who decided about 20 years ago that it was time to give back. Not far from one of his hotels he adopted the Orlando suburb of Tangelo Park. About 800 families, mostly African America, lived there amid drug-trafficking, prostitution and unsafe streets. The high school graduation rate was only 25%. Students saw no point in graduation since nobody could afford college, until Rosen arrived to deliver one simple gift -- hope.

Today, the graduation rate in Tangelo Park is 100%. Why? Because Rosen worked through community organizations to give every high school graduate a full scholarship to any school in the state, including tuition, room, board, books and travel. There are no hoops to jump through or promises to keep. If you graduate from high school and are accepted by any college, junior college or vocational school in Florida, it's a free ride, guaranteed. So far, over 200 students have received Rosen scholarships, and 75% graduated from college. Meanwhile, Tangelo Park property values are going up. People are moving in. Crime is down at least 50%, making it safer than some affluent suburbs. How long does Rosen plan to continue providing hope? He says, "I will be involved in the program until Tangelo Park is a gated community and the average home sells for $1 million. Then I'm gone."

Monday, November 28, 2016

The desire to give and receive love remains

Last year, the Pima Animal Care Center in Tucson, Arizona, accepted over 2,000 kittens which were either orphaned, abandoned or homeless. Many were so young they needed to be bottle-fed to survive. To meet this need, the animal care center partnered with the Catalina Springs Memory Care Center. The kittens are nourished, and dementia and Alzheimer's patients feel a purpose and a joy.

                                                                                                     Pima Animal Care Center
Catalina Springs health director Rebeca Hamilton says "the kittens have enriched the lives in this center in indescribable ways." For some residents, nursing the kittens recalls childhood memories. One patient remembered growing up on a farm with 19 cats. Watching patients interact with baby kittens, Hamilton has observed that "there are skills emotions and needs that do not just leave a person with dementia or Alzheimers." She says the kittens prove that "the desire to give love and receive love remains," even after memory is lost.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A harvest of neighborly love

CONNERSVILLE, Ind. -- Steve Wollyung was about to harvest the final 100 acres of his farm this month when his 4-year-old granddaughter Ayla became trapped in the hay wagon. She died from her injuries. Because of this tragedy, a harvest seemed unlikely until neighbors heard about Steve's need.

A family friend called a few farmers who were done harvesting to ask for their help. Word spread, and more than 60 farmers from several counties offered to donate time and equipment.  The fleet of combines, semis and grain carts were in the fields by 10 a.m. Friends and neighbors donated sandwiches, soup and snacks. Despite his grief, Steve said he was "totally shocked" by the generosity of his fellow farmers. "I couldn't believe it when I saw everyone show up to help," he said. Working together, they harvested over 18,000 bushels by 5 p.m. Steve said it would have taken him a week. Said one of the volunteer helpers, "It felt so good to help them. They are a wonderful family. We all know Steve would drop everything to help us."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Students raise funds to help their crossing guard

His name is Fetene Yezengaw. For the past ten years, he's stood at the corner of E. 8th St. and Harvard St. in Houston, Texas, helping boys and girls get to and from Harvard Elementary School. He's known for his happy smiles and love for kids. A few have noticed that he walks with a limp, because of his prosthetic leg. He grew up in Ethiopia, where government forces made him a child soldier at age 15. Two years later, he stepped on a landmine and lost his leg. Then he survived 12 years in refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda before coming to the United States. Maybe that's why he says, "Every time I see a kid, I just want to see the kid smile." Students say Fetene makes them laugh.

                                                                                                                  Screenshot / ABC13
When students at Harvard Elementary learned that his leg needs repair, and he has other health problems, they did two things. They organized a bake sale, and then they created a GoFundMe account for him. So far, they have raised over $8,000 to cover his medical expenses. Knowing the community stands behind him means the world to Fetene. "It makes me cry," he says.

Friday, November 25, 2016

It's a dog-carry-dog world out there

David Mazzarella, 48, is a BNSF railway worker. In November of 2007 he and his wife Edie bought a six-month-old puppy St. Bernard named Blizzard. Four years later, after Blizzard was fully grown, they bought a much smaller puppy named Lulu when she was only five weeks old. As soon as Lulu saw Blizzard, she adopted him as her daddy. She followed him around and slept with him, eventually snoozing on his back. She became so comfortable on his back that she stayed there as they explored the great outdoors together.

As their unusual friendship developed, little Lulu became the boss, and Blizzard doesn't mind. "Blizzard is the most laid back dog," says his owner. "He doesn't have a mean bone in his body. So Lulu wears the pants in the family.She always gets her way with Blizzard." David created an instagram account for the pair five weeks ago. So far, they have over 2,000 followers on social media.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

When police stop your car, Texas style

A woman was driving a battered old car through Fort Worth, Texas, this week, when she saw flashing lights behind her and heard a siren. She knew she had to pull over. She could not afford to pay for a ticket. She could not even afford to fix the seat belts in her car, and she had to use a wrench to open the door. After she stopped by the side of the road, the police car stopped behind her with lights flashing, and an officer slowly approached.

She began to tell him that she could not afford a ticket. In fact, she could barely afford to buy food. Then she noticed he was not holding a ticket book. He was holding a frozen turkey, and she began to cry as he gave it to her. Why did this happen? Because Metro Ministries gave Fort Worth police 25 turkeys to give away in needy neighborhoods this week. According to the police department Facebook page, "Instead of handing out the usual traffic tickets, we decided to hand out turkeys, to show how thankful we are for our awesome citizens." Happy Thanks & Giving Day.

Monday, November 21, 2016

On Thanksgiving, grandmas feed everyone

Jamal Hinton, 17, was sitting in class at Desert Valley High School in Mesa, AZ, when his phone lit up with texts from a group chat. One said, "Thanksgiving dinner is at my house on Nov. 24 at 3 p.m. Let me know if you're coming. Hope to see you all." Jamal was confused, so he texted back asking who the sender was. She said she was his grandma.

Jamal was still doubtful, so he asked for her picture, and when it arrived, it was obvious the woman was NOT his grandma.  He sent a selfie of himself back to the mystery woman, showing her they were not related, but asked if he could come to her Thanksgiving dinner anyway? She replied, "Of course you can. That's what grandmas do...feed everyone. The exchange has gone viral online, and the woman is now being called "everyone's grandma."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

"Don't know much about history...."

Remember civics class -- that mandatory semester course that often left us yawning? It may be more important now than ever before, after the recent election. As reported in The Christian Science Monitor, some of Nathan McAlister's history class students at Royal Valley Middle School in Mayetta, Kansas, believe Donald Trump will repeal Obamacare on his first day in office. Others are just as sure Hillary Clinton would have taken away everyone's guns if she won.

                                                   Royal Valley Middle School

McAlister uses these misconceptions as teaching opportunities. "We've lost, I'd say, 10 to 15 years of good civic education and historical thinking skills for students -- it's almost like we've turned our president into a monarch," he says. "Think about it. They assume he has all this power, and that's just not reality." Other teachers are also using the recent election to help students understand why civic knowledge is essential to preserve a government that is by the people, for the people. Sometimes these teachers face parental blowback and accusations that they are teaching "politics," but McAlister feels students deserve to know how their country works and how they can engage in mechanisms of change.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

How immigrants coexist in Canada

It happened in North York, Ontario. Salma Hamidi was riding the subway when a Latino man came on board, put his head in his hands, and kept saying, "Oh God." A Russian man with an accent asked if he was okay. The Latino said he had a bad headache and was going to a job interview. Salma offered him an Advil, which he took, saying "thank you," but without any water, he could not take it.

A middle eastern woman wearing a hijab took a juice box from her child's backpack and gave it to the Latino man, telling him to take the pill now and he'd feel better by interview time. The Russian man advised him to walk confidently, and tie his hair back, if he could. A Chinese teenager sitting nearby overheard his remark and gave the Latino man a hair tie from her own wrist.  The Muslim lady told him to smile a lot, and apologize if he arrived late, but make no excuses. When the Latino man's station arrived, his fellow passengers waved and wished him good luck as he left the car.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Policeman risks life to save animals

It happened in Franklin, NJ. A fire was reported at a pet store that had not opened for the day. Police officer Rafael Burgos and his partner were the first to respond, even before the fire department. The building was already in flames, with lots of smoke, and officer Burgos made sure there were not people inside the store. Then he began rescuing frightened animals.

According to Franklin Police Detective Nevin Mattessish, officer Burgos "was running these animals out and putting them in his car." Although Burgos suffered smoke inhalation, he kept bravely reentering the smoke-filled building to rescue trapped animals. Neighbors opened their homes to many of the displaced animals, while others were taken to a nearby veterinary hospital for safe keeping. A veterinarian said the fire could have killed the animals. "Especially the birds," he said. "They're extremely sensitive to things in the air. Luckily they got out quickly."

Thursday, November 17, 2016

About 300 people daily enjoy a "crumb of comfort"

This blog now has over 800 archived "crumbs of comfort" and is grateful for over 35,000 page views. Today's crumb comes from southeast England, were Melody Driscoll suffers with a rare neurological disorder. She was not expected to live more than four years, but now she's nine, and her favorite entertainer is Ed Sheeran. Some call him Melody's Prince Charming. Whenever pain threatened to destroy the child's will to live, her mother would put in a video of him singing, and Melody would start fighting back.

Melody's mom tried to get Sheeran to visit Melody in person, but it was difficult until local police began supporting the cause. Soon Sheeran's manager contacted Melody's mom, and the singer appeared at Melody's bedside at Epsom Hospital in Surrey on November 9. "Melody is still on cloud nine," writes her mom. "Whenever Ed's name is mentioned she starts smiling and giggling and tapping our phones so we can play videos of her with him. Then she kisses the phone."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Veronica will never forget this election day

Autumn Scudder and her husband Matthew have three teenage daughters. Some might say that's enough for any parents, but they wanted more! When they found out that a 3-year-old girl named Veronica and her one-year-old brother Preston had been in foster care since birth, they opened their home and their hearts.

They began fostering the two children in December, 2015, and started the adoption process six months later. The process ended on election day, when the adoptions were finalized. Autumn explained, "Adoption is a wonderful thing. It takes people from here and there and brings them together as one family with a common goal of supporting and loving each other no matter what. American can learn from this. We are all part of the American family."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Students eager to see art in carpet

The Peter Woodbury School in Bedford, NH, recently installed new shaggy carpet. It inspired custodian Ron Munsey, 60, to think outside the vacuum cleaner. He became a carpet artist. Using his vacuum, he started vacuuming shapes and pictures into the rugs.

So far, he's "drawn" Charlie Brown and a witch for Halloween. The children never meet Ron because he only works in the school at night, but every morning they rush into their classroom to see what picture awaits them on the rug.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A better way......

A woman was given a candle,
And she hid it away on the shelf.
"It is all I have," she murmured,
"And hardly enough for myself
So I must not let anyone see it,
But all through the coming night
I'll know it is ready and waiting
In case I should need the light."

Another was given a candle,
And she stepped out into the night.
"It is all I have," she murmured,
"I must make the most of its light.
There are hearts that are breaking somewhere,
There are lives that are sad and drear.
I must hurry along with my candle
To let them know it is here.

The two women met in the morning,
As the eastern skies grew red.
One came from her happy journey,
One came from her sleepless bed. 
Each held in her hand a candle,
But the eyes of the one were sad:
"I could not light it, my sister,"
"Because it was all I had."

The other one made no answer,
But her face, in the sunrise glow
Looked like the face of an angel,
And she only whispered low:
"O Love divine, I thank Three!"
For she saw, now that night was gone,
She had lighted a thousand candles
From that poor little flickering one.

By Louise Knight Wheatley
Christian Science Journal, Oct. 1912

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Reshaping reality through prayer

Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum leads an Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem. Last year she and Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah transformed a music school in the Holy City for one week into a communal house of prayer called "Amen." The congregation was unlike any other in Jerusalem. Orthodox Jews wore modest dress and a kippah. But next to them, other worshippers had crosses hanging around their necks. Others wore the traditional black robe of Copts. Others wore the Muslim hijab and several nuns wore full habits. It was not your typical church service, but they prayed together.

                                                                                                                             Photo by Mical Fattal
Rabba Elad-Abblebaum looked at the congregation and said, "Today we all do something very brave. I never believed something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians. But this is not a political project. We wanted people to come from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond ideology. Here we are reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer."

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Groom repeats special vows to step-daughter

When Mike Seldon of Laguna Beach, CA, began dating Brittany Williams, her daughter Heidi was only 14 months old. Mike was always understanding when Brittany had to pause a movie on TV so she could feed Heidi and rock her to sleep, or break a date because of her responsibilities as a mom. He never stayed overnight when Heidi was there, until he and Brittany became engaged in 2015. After that he began doing fatherly things for Heidi, like tucking her in bed at night and kissing her goodbye when he left for work in the morning. Finally, on October 28, he and Brittany were married, and he recited two sets of vows.

                                                                                                         Chard Photographer
After promising to love and honor Brittany "'til death do us part," he kneeled down and made these promises to his step-daughter, Heidi. "I vow to be fair and honest with you. I promise to support you in every way I can. I promise to always hold your hand and brush your hair when you ask me to. I promise to tuck you into bed every night.  I vow to show you how a man should treat a woman through my relationship with your mom. And above all else, I vow to protect you, care for you, and love you 'so big' forever." There was hardly a dry eye in the church.

Friday, November 11, 2016

On the 241st anniversary of the Marine Corps

In a crowd you're bound to spot him; he stands so very tall. Not too much impresses him. He's seen and done it all. His hair is short. His eyes are sharp, but his smile's a little blue. It's the only indication of the hell that he's been through. He belongs to a sacred brotherhood, always faithful 'til the end. He has walked right into battle and walked back out again.

So next time you see a devil dog standing proud and true, be grateful for all he's given. He's given it for you. Don't go up and ask him what it's like to be in war. Just thank God that it's your country he's always fighting for. And thank him too for all the hell he's seen in cammie green. Thank him for having the guts to be a United States Marine.  (by Geraldine Mihalko)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mom's artistry helps son feel loved

When Huxley Harvey, 4, goes to pre-school each morning, he takes his lunch in a paper bag, but not just any paper bag. Every night after Huxley goes to bed, his working mom Angela sits down to draw an exciting picture on tomorrow's lunch bag. She has no art training, but has enjoyed seeing her work evolve from simple doodles to elaborate illustrations.

                                                                                                                           Angela Harvey
"I usually consult him first on what he'd like on his lunch bags, but I can only do Power Rangers so many times before I switch it up on him," she says. Angela insists she's not a super-mom. When she doesn't always have time to do a bag, she ends up with "a despondent toddler that doesn't have an ankylosaurus on his lunch bag that day." Bottom line? She feels her lunch bag pictures are just a little way she can "make my kid feel special and loved."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Have we achieved "freedom from want"?

In his State of the Union address in January, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt hoped WWII would end with peace that guaranteed four freedoms. One of these was freedom from want, which illustrator Norman Rockwell depicted in this famous painting on the cover of the March 6, 1943, Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell fussed a long time over this picture, concerned it might convey overabundance instead of freedom from want. He often used neighbors and friends as models for his paintings. Mrs. Thaddeus Wheaton, the Rockwell family cook, was the grandmother serving the bird, and Rockwell actually painted the turkey on Thanksgiving day, 1942. "Mrs. Wheaton, our cook, cooked it. I painted it and we ate it," he recalled.

How would the picture look if Rockwell painted it today? Would grandpa be wearing a necktie and coat? Would there be wine or beer on the table? Would everyone be looking at each other, or glancing at "hand-held devices" like cell phones? Would the table be set with the family china? (It's not dishwasher safe.) Would three generations ever be together at the same table? If they were, would they be chatting happily, or watching "the game" on a nearby TV? How many would be absent to take advantage of deep discounts in big box stores on Thanksgiving Day? Would those who came to dinner be laughing, or making plans for Black Friday? What exactly is "freedom from want" in 2016? Maybe it's freedom from wanting more "stuff" in our lives? Maybe it's freedom from discontent. Maybe it's gratitude for each other's love. If so, maybe it's still possible?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Won't you be my neighbor?

According to TV Guide, Fred Rogers drove a plain old Impala for years. One day it was stolen from the street near the TV studio. When Rogers filed a police report, the story was picked up by every newspaper, radio and media outlet around town. Amazingly, within 48 hours the car was left in the exact same spot where it was taken, with an apology on the dashboard which read, "If we'd known it was yours, we never would have taken it."

Monday, November 7, 2016

Wise words to ponder...

Today's crumb introduces us to Henry Van Dyke, 1852-1928. After graduating from Princeton University (with classmate and future President Woodrow Wilson) Henry became a professor of literature at Princeton.

One of his friends was Helen Keller, who said of him, "Dr. van Dyke is the kind of a friend to have when one is up against a difficult problem. He will take trouble, days and nights of trouble, if it is for somebody else or for some cause he is interested in."

Among his many inspiring writings, Van Dyke asks a question, which we might ask ourselves today.

"Are you willing to consider the needs and the desires of children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, but rather to ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people bear in their hearts; to trim your lamp so it will give more light and less smoke; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate wide open -- even for one day?"

In one of his many poems, Van Dyke explains why one day may be long enough. His words were read at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. He wrote,  "Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is not.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

News you might have missed on TV

Last week, 74 of the 140 members of the Israeli national legislature (Knesset) passed a bill that protects Holocaust survivors' monthly stipends from taxation. Maybe you didn't know it, but the government of Germany pays Holocaust survivors $578 each month. But this stipend has always been taxed by the Israeli government -- so survivors only receive about $354.

The new bill revises the stipend definitions so that recipients will receive the full amount, tax-free. And here's the best part. Guess who spearheaded the effort? Three lawmakers from the Joint Arab List, the third largest party in the Knesset, with 13 elected legislators. "I had the privilege to be part of the initiative for this important bill, said Arab lawmaker Ayman Odeh. "I am especially proud that we managed to assist so that Holocaust survivors who are still with us can live decently."

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Why is airline passenger dressed like a donut?

Three-year-old Molly and her dad were flying out of Boston's Logan Airport late last month. They were en route to San Francisco. Some passengers wondered why Molly was wearing a donut costume until her dad gave everyone on the flight a note. Here's what it said.

                                                                                            Stephanie Kahan / Twitter
Molly was miffed that she'd miss trick-or-treating in order to take the flight on Halloween. So her dad gave each passenger some candy, and then Molly showed off her donut costume as she went down the aisle collecting treats. Fellow passenger Stephanie Kahan posted about the incident on Twitter where it got retweeted nearly 60,000 times and "loved" over 100,000 times! Molly's dad, who wishes to remain anonymous, made everyone on the flight a little happier by sharing Molly with them.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Isn't every hour a gift?

"Don't forget to turn back your clocks, folks!" say TV announcers each autumn as we switch from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time.  "You have an extra hour of sleep tonight," they add, and we're happy that we've gained an hour. Honestly, what better way to use it than to sleep longer?

But time is relative. What if we really did gain an hour to our life? What if the Lord said, "Here, I'm giving you one extra hour." What would we do with it? Sleep? Maybe the end of Daylight Saving Time should remind us that every hour -- each one of them, including this one -- is a gift. That's why it's called "the present." Something my grandma used to say comes back to me at this time of year. "Live every hour as if it was your last." Instead of sleeping, maybe we should spend our bonus hour this fall in grateful prayer.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"My faith looks up to Thee..."

It was the night before one of the great battles of the American Civil War. Six or eight Christian soldiers gathered in a tent to pray. They knew some of them would die the next morning, so they decided to copy a hymn familiar to them all, and sign it with their names. The hymn they selected begins, "My faith looks up to Thee." But where did it come from?
It was written by Rev. Ray Palmer (1808-1887), shown here with a Congregational church he pastored. In 1830, Palmer was just out of college, and plagued by illness and loneliness. Suddenly a verse came to him straight from his heart. "I gave form to what I felt by writing with little effort the stanzas," he said later. "I wrote with tender emotion, and ended the last line in tears." He copied the words on a piece of paper and put it in his pocket, where it remained for almost two years, until he met Dr. Lowell Mason, a celebrated composer, on a street in Boston. Mason asked Palmer if he had any lyrics for the upcoming book, Spiritual Songs for Social Worship. Palmer reached in his pocket and gave Mason the folded paper. Mason set the words to music, and a few days later when they met again Mason told him, "Sir, you may live many years and do many things, but you will always be known as the author of these words." Since then, the hymn has been translated into almost every language and dialect in the world. So today, when we sing this beloved old hymn, let's feel the comfort it brought to Civil War soldiers preparing to die in battle, and to its author, Ray Palmer, as he found the words in his heart.  Here are the first and last verses. "My faith looks up to thee, thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine! Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away. O let me from this day be wholly thine!  When ends life's transient dream, when death's cold, sullen stream shall o'er me roll; blest Savior, then in love, fear and distrust remove; O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul!"

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Child heals insomnia...with love

Dan was browsing the aisles of a supermarket recently when a four-year-old girl he did not know suddenly spoke to him. "Hi, old person," she said, "It's my birthday today!" The child's name was Norah. Why did she speak to Dan? According to her mom, Norah is a self-proclaimed lover of old folks, for several reasons. "They walk slow like I walk slow, and they have soft skin like I have soft skin. They're all gonna' die soon, so I'm gonna' love 'em all before they die," says Norah.

                                                                                                                   Tara Woods / Facebook
After chatting a while, Norah asked Dan if they could take a picture together for her birthday. He was surprised, but agreeable. When Norah and her mom thanked Dan for taking time to talk with them, he said "No, thank YOU. This is the best day I've had in a long time." He and Norah have visited often since then, and whether he likes it or not, he's now part of the Woods family. He later admitted he had not slept normally since his wife died, but after meeting Norah, he's been sleeping very well. He believes she may have healed him through her love.