One morning last month a man drove a dusty SUV into Santa Cruz, California. He was fleeing a northern California wild fire was consuming entire towns. His SUV was packed with personal belongings and his three small dogs. He was trying to find his wife and had not slept in three days. Could anyone direct him to the nearest safe highway? Chyna Darby helped him get his bearings, but as he drove off, her 11-year-old daughter Reese couldn't stop thinking about the man, and others who had lost everything. How could she help? She and her friends started planning a bake sale. It took on a life of its own. Now many students a Pacific Elementary School were soliciting donations, making posters and booking entertainment. Chyna remembers, "The tables weren't even set up on Pacific Avenue before members of the Santa Cruz community were buying goods and donating money. In two ways, the bake sale earned over $1,800 for victims of the northern California fires.
Courtesy of Pacific Elementary School
But it had a larger impact than just donations for fire victims. It helped the children talk about and understand loss, in a positive way. They talked about it during class, recess and lunch. Teachers at Pacific Elementary used the fundraiser as a learning tool. Kids had to calculate profits after expenses for the sale. They had to decide how to mail gift cards to victims. They had to discuss and vote on where the funds should go. But most important, the bake sale give students a hands-on way to feel empathy for others and become empowered to help -- all while having fun.
It happened on Christmas Day in the small community of New Harmony, Utah. An 8-year-old boy was chasing his dog across a pond when the ice cracked and the child plunged into frigid water. Another child saw him fall, but couldn't help, so he ran and told family members who reported the incident at about 5 p.m. One of the first to arrive on the scene was Sgt. Aaron Thompson, a Washington County Sheriff's deputy. A bystander told him the boy's hand had just been seen above the ice, so Thompson stripped off his police gear and used his fists and forearms to punch his way through the ice, shown here.
Alex Cabrero KSL-TV
"The ice got thicker. I couldn't break it with my arms and fists anymore, so I had to jump up and down and put my weight on it to get it to break," he said. Eventually he was wading up to his neck in 37 degree water, about 25 feet from shore. "Really, I couldn't feel anything. I didn't notice anything when I was doing it. I knew that time was of the essence. I had a very short window to get that child out of the water." Finally he bumped into the boy's body and lifted his head above water. He'd been underwater 30 minutes, and when Thompson brought him to shore EMT's rushed him to the hospital in a rescue helicopter. His condition has not been released, but deputies say they are hopeful.
Who can forget the power outage that crippled the world's busiest airport on December 17? When Haratsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, went dark, thousands of passengers were stranded, so the mayor called Atlanta-based Chick-fil-a for help. There was just one problem. December 17 was a Sunday, and the restaurant is always closed on Sunday.
According to a company spokesman, "The mayor called about 10 p.m. and asked for assistance. We immediately mobilized staff and team members who live and work near the airport, and they began making sandwiches and delivering them to the Emergency Operations Center. City and airport officials (and the CEO of Chick-fil-a) then distributed more than 5,000 free sandwiches to hungry, stranded passengers." Dunkin Donuts also gave away free donuts.
Over 200 homeless people in London have been treated to a holiday party thanks to some rail workers at the Euston Train Station. Fifty volunteers from Britain's Network Rail worked alongside charity staff to throw a Christmas bash complete with decorations.
"Using a train station to give homeless people a Christmas dinner and festive cheer is a great thing to do," says a rail official. "Thousands of my colleagues will be working on Christmas day. It's pretty much par for the course for many of us. But this year, since I and a handful of coworkers were not scheduled to work, we came up with this plan to feed some of London's homeless. It beats 'working on the railway.'"
For more than ten years, Wayne Anderson has dressed up as Santa and visited prisoners in Tennessee's Sullivan County Jail. But Anderson isn't Jolly Saint Nick. He's the county sheriff. This Christmas there are 701 prisoners in his jail, and he believes everyone deserves some type of gift at Christmas.
"These inmates are in here for a lot of bad reasons," he says, and "I've always enjoyed doing this." He and the jail pastor go into each cell block. The pastor has a short prayer and reminds the inmates why they're locked up on Christmas. Then the inmates line up to get a large plastic bag of toiletries and cookies. "They get excited to get shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes," says Anderson. This year, in few of the cell blocks, prisoners volunteered to sing Christmas carols like "Jingle Bells" as Sheriff Anderson visited.
Jayden Perez, eight, of Woodland Park, New Jersey, wanted to donate his Christmas toys this year to kids in Puerto Rico. He knew about the hurricane, and was worried they might not get anything. But his mom recommended that he think bigger, so they ended up holding a toy drive.
They posted a video asking folks to donate toys, and set up a makeshift donation center in their front yard. People in their area dropped off hundreds of toys, and folks online also got involved. One man in Pennsylvania said he had a trailer full of toys his community donated. At last count, Jayden had collected over 1,000 toys for kids in Puerto Rico, and they're still coming in.
Today's crumb was shared by a reader in Indiana. More than 400 needy people enjoyed fun and free food at an annual holiday party in Burlington, Vermont this month. The party has been thrown every December for 37 years by Anthony Pomerleau, 100, who pays the entire tab. Over the decades, his parties have fed at least 40,000 under-privileged children. This year's party cost $13,000, but Pomerleau doesn't mind because he "was brought up the hard way" and wants to help the less fortunate.
Pomerleau spent his first century building one of the largest fortunes in Vermont history, mostly through small-scale real estate developments. His son, Ernie, is now president of Pomerleau Real Estate. His dad calls him "an outstanding guy." Ernie jokes that when most dads were giving their sons footballs or basketballs, his dad gave him a briefcase. Pomerleau won't say how much money he's donated to good causes, but his name is on the police station, the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club, where he has entirely funded the Early Promise Education Program offering college scholarship to area children. He pledged $1 million to the program. And over the years, he's collected a few mottos to guide him in business. These include, "You never go broke making a profit" and "Timing is the success of everything" and "Don't get too big too fast too soon" and"Never skin a bear until you shoot him."
It happened at a Goodwill store in Fort Collins, Colorado. An employee got on the intercom and announced that every single child in the store could pick out a free toy. That's because someone wrote a big check to purchase ALL the toys in the store, so every kid who came in that day got one.
This isn't the first time it's happened. The same donor has been doing it every year for almost a decade, and never reveals his name. Goodwill employees know about it beforehand, and set up extra toys inside the store to make sure they have enough. Each child can selected a toy, a stuffed animal or a children's book. The store won't reveal how much the anonymous donor spends each year. He says he just likes to give back.
All across Great Britain, before Aldi grocery stores close their doors for Christmas, the supermarket chain will give back to the community. The stores will give away all their unsold fresh food to the less fortunate on Christmas Eve.
The stores will be closed from Christmas Eve until December 27 and will have a good quantity of surplus food products to distribute to the less fortunate. Otherwise, the food would go to waste. The chain expects 20 to 30 crates of unsold food to be left in each store, and people can take as much as they like. The food giveaway is only in the United Kingdom, but may eventually spread to the United States.
Today's crumb comes from the Herald-Times in Bloomington, Indiana, where Dillen Friend is a Deputy Sheriff. But he won't be home for Christmas this year. He always wanted to be a Marine, so he joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. When Marines go on a mission but don't have enough men, they call up- the Reserve to fill the vacancies. Friend was called up, and is overseas now, probably in Afghanistan.
Friend's Marine base does not have a postex, or post exchange -- a small store where soldiers buy hygiene supplies and other small comfort items. He never gets these unless they come by mail. One of Friend's fellow Monroe County deputies has been collecting items to mail him at Christmas. Then Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain emailed all the county sheriffs in the state, asking them to send Friend a Christmas card. The response was immediate. Friend won't return to the U.S. until next summer, so if you'd like to send him a gift or card, even if you don't live in Indiana, address it to LCpl Dillen Friend, (Sector), Task Force-Southwest, Camp Shorab, APO, AE 09354.
A tweet from a journalist in Ireland went viral after it described a very sweet court exchange. According to Sarah Jane Murphy, a Dublin man was being selected for jury duty when he asked to be excused. He told the judge, "I can't serve. I'm away for the weekend." The judge replied, "We don't sit on weekends."
The prospective juror continued his plea. "I'm away until Monday. I'm 54 years old, and I'm a bachelor, and it's my first time in love. The judge answered, "Then you GO and you GO with my blessing." Murphy says it was an epic moment. "I had to force myself not to stand up and applaud."
Listening to a high school music program last week recalled my years in senior high choir at Mt. Pleasant High School in Wilmington, Del. It was the '50s -- the era of penny loafers, saddle shoes, English bikes and paper routes. Being 15 wasn't easy, and singing in public was unthinkable, except in choir. My audition of "He's got the whole world in His hands" won me a seat in the bass section, and we rehearsed during the last period Tuesday and Thursday, when all clubs met. Our director, Mr. Cole, who also conducted band and orchestra, let us sit on chairs to discuss our music, but made us stand when singing. From September through December, we practiced for the Christmas concert. Beside familiar carols, Mr. Cole threw in some classics. I'll never forget singing "Kyrie eleison" (Lord have mercy) and can still hear us harmonize "Gloria in Excelisis Deo" (Glory to God in the highest), even though I didn't understand the words and had never heard of Vivaldi.
On the bright side, Mr. Cole was not like other teachers. Choir was pass/fail and nobody failed, so he was more like a friend. We could take any problem to him, no matter how personal, and he always had time to listen and discuss it. He never judged us (unless he had a conductor's baton in his hand) so we felt loved. We loved back by trying to please him. On the dark side, our early rehearsals were always terrible. He'd stop us over and over with "No, that's wrong! You can do better! Be quiet and look at me." We'd sing Kyrie eleison countless times, and it always sounded the same to me. As Christmas drew near, our rehearsals got even worse. Begging us to concentrate, he'd warn, "We're not going to be ready!" We began to wonder if our performance would be a flop.
Parents and friends filled the bleachers in the gym on concert night. A Christmas tree glowed beneath a basketball hoop. The orchestra was already seated and tuned up when we choir members filed onto risers behind it, being careful not to trip on our green and white robes. The risers were so crowded that everyone touched elbows. Lights dimmed and Mr. Cole, looking stern, raised his baton.
That's when the magic happened. Don't ask how, but on his downbeat we were no longer 30 voices struggling to blend. We were just one voice, thinking as one, singing as one, in perfect harmony. "Kyrie eleison" floated over the audience like a prayer rising to heaven, and Mr. Cole's frown became a smile. He nodded affirmatively. We forgot the gym. We forgot the audience. We forgot the time. We just sang for him, and it was Christmas! Thank you, Mr. Cole (and music directors at all high schools) for helping fragile teens develop self-confidence. Sixty years later, I still remember.
In the Bible we read, "I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude...saying Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." (Rev. 19:6) If that happened today, it would probably be in a church, right? Or maybe a concert hall. But in a busy store during rush hour where customers might stop buying stuff to listen? Believe it or not, yes. Here's where, and why.
When John Wanamaker opened his department store in Philadelphia, he was such a devout Christian that he refused to advertise in the Sunday newspaper. He never served alcohol in his famous Crystal Tea Room. He felt shopping should be a cultural experience, so in 1909 he hired 13 freight cars to bring the 10,000 pipe organ from the St. Louis World's Fair to his store. It was installed on one wall of the Grand Court, a seven story atrium. He expanded the instrument to more than 28,000 pipes, making it the world's largest. (The biggest pipe is so wide that a Shetland pony once posed inside it.) Wanamaker also built a radio transmitter atop his store, so that customers who owned radio receivers (which he sold) could hear live organ concerts right at home. In addition to the organ, he purchased a bronze eagle from the St. Louis World's Fair's German Exhibit. Weighing more than a ton, it has 5,000 bronze feathers and sits on a granite base. Since its installation in the Grand Court, all Philadelphians know what it means when you say, "Meet me under the eagle."
On Oct. 30, 2010, hundreds of shoppers searching for bargains noticed the organ began playing louder than usual during the daily noontime concert in the store, which is now called Macy's. Then they were startled when 688 singers, disguised as shoppers, burst into the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah.
If you have five spare minutes and would like to "meet me under the eagle" for this event, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp_RHnQ-jgU and follow the prompt. See for yourself how true "Christmas shopping" sounds.
Today's crumb came from a faithful reader in North Carolina. He attributes it to a Dec. 6, 2002, mailing from Cedars Camps.
When my son Nicholas was in kindergarten, he spent weeks memorizing songs for his school's Winter Pageant. Parents who could not attend were invited to dress rehearsal. That morning I found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Because our public schools had stopped referring to "Christmas" I expected songs about reindeer and snowflakes. So when my son's class rose to sing "Christmas Love" I was taken aback by the bold title.
Nicholas was aglow. Those in the front row held large letters to spell out the song's title. As they sang "C is for Christmas" a child would reveal the letter C, and so on, until the entire title was spelled out. It went smoothly until a little girl in the middle held the letter M upside down, so it appeared to be W. The student audience snickered, but she had no idea they were laughing at her. Laughter continued until all the letters were displayed, and then we saw it.
A hush came over the room. Suddenly we understood the reason we were there; why we celebrated the holiday in the first place. For when the last letter was displayed, the message read loud and clear -- CHRISTWAS LOVE.
Spencer Sleyon is a 22-year-old aspiring young rapper from Harlem. Roz Guttman is an 81-year-old resident of a retirement community in West Palm Beach, Florida. They don't have much in common, except Words With Friends. Both enjoy playing the game of online Scrabble, and two years ago the app paired them up as opponents.
Since then, they've battled through 324 games, and while competing, the two sent messages to each other (a feature on Words With Friends) with compliments, criticism, and chit-chat. Eventually they became close friends. Sleyon told his pastor about the friendship, and she shared it in a sermon called "Relationships Change Us." Then she went a step farther. She bought two airline tickets to Florida and arranged for Sleyon and Guttman to finally meet. Judging by the looks on their faces, it appears that words failed them. Sleyon later tweeted, "Life is crazy. I've never even been to Florida, y'all"
Jia Sarnicola and Zuri Copeland are four years old. Their birthdays are two days apart. They go to the same pre-school, and are inseparable. As often as possible, they try to wear the same outfits to school. They have a special bulletin board in their school room celebrating their two-year friendship. But they're not just best friends. They really believe they're twins.
Ron Johnson Photography
At a birthday party recently, another kid told them that they could not be twins, because they have different skin colors. Jia didn't buy that argument. (Remember, she's only four.) She said, "You don't know anything. We're twins because we have... the same soul."
It happened recently in Las Vegas, Nevada. A grandpa was babysitting his two grandchildren, a three-year-old girl and a 10-month old boy. He was cooking something on the stove and went into a back room and forgot the food. It caught fire, and grandpa was unable to make it back into the kitchen, or reach his grandchildren, because of heavy smoke. Both kids were yelling for help.
Kelsey Thomas, KSNV
A homeless man named Anival Angulo, who lives on the streets and happened to be walking by, heard the children screaming and saw smoke coming from the house. He immediately jumped a fence, tore open the deadbolted screen door and pulled both children to safety. "I wrapped up the babies and pulled them out," he said. "I knew I had to get them out." Firefighters said without his help, both children probably would have died. Meanwhile, neighbors helped grandpa escape from the room where he was trapped, through a window.
It began with a multi-car crash on the A1, the north-south thoroughfare through England. Yorkshire police officer Martin Willis was first on the scene, and saw a van teetering on the edge of an icy bridge with the driver trapped inside. "Every time a lorry went by I could see the van sway and I just thought, 'It's perched right over the A64. If this van goes over, it will kill the driver." Willis assured the driver he'd be safe and told him not to move. While other officers closed the road below, Willis grabbed the van's rear wheel, as shown here.
His grip on the wheel prevented the van from falling from the bridge onto the highway below. He held on for 15 minutes, until West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service was able to stabilize the van and rescue the 25-year-old driver, who suffered serious leg injuries. Willis later claimed he was just doing his job.
Maybe you thought it was a rumor, but it's true. The third Friday of each December is National Ugly Sweater Day. And if you wear one on that day, you'll get special treatment by Alaska Airlines. Here's how it works.
If you're flying on Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air on December 15, wear your ugly Christmas sweater and you'll get early boarding. "Travel during the holidays can be stressful," explains Natalie Bowman, the company's managing director of marketing. "This promotion not only allows guests to board early, but gives people another opportunity to dust off that ugly holiday sweater hanging in the back of their closet." The airline will post pictures of the most ugly sweaters on its Facebook page.
Kyrie and Brielle Jackson were twins born on October 17, 1995, at the Medical Center of Central Massachusetts in Worcester. They were premature -- a full 12 weeks before their due date. The girls were placed in separate incubators to reduce the risk of infection. Kyrie, who weighed 2 lbs, 3 oz, made good progress and gained weight. But Brielle had breathing problems. She gained little weight and her oxygen level was low. On November 12, Brielle went into critical condition. Her arms and legs turned bluish gray as she gasped for breath. That's when nurse Gayle Kasparian tried a procedure common in Europe but unknown in the United States. She placed both twins in the same bed.
As soon as the incubator door closed, Brielle snuggled up to Kyrie and calmed down. As she dozed, Kyrie wrapped her left arm around her smaller sister. Brielle's heart rate stabilized and her temperature rose to normal. In due time, the twins went home, and their parents placed them in the same bed. Even after five years, the twins still slept together.
Since then, University of Massachusetts Memorial Hospital has co-bedded at least 100 sets of premature twins, and has never found a single case of infection. Studies have shown the twins enjoy substantial benefits when placed together in the same bed.
Nathan Neidigk is a teacher at Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His wife recently passed away, and his son was diagnosed with leukemia. During one of his classes, Mr. Neidigk happened to mention that he might not have much money to buy Christmas gifts for his son this year, because of costly hospital bills. Then he took a week off from class, to spend time at the hospital with his son.
While he was away, his 12th grade students each pitched in $20 and bought him a new Nintendo Switch gaming console with two games and a case. He was speechless when he opened the packages on his desk. But that's not all. His friends have set up a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $30,000, and have already received $13,000. His students like Mr. Neidigk a lot!
Today's crumb comes from a reader in South Bend, Indiana. It is a three-minute video guaranteed to touch your heart. Follow the prompt on the link below, and prepare to be truly inspired. http://www.youtube.com/embed/WxjZB5S_g7s?rel=0
Mesannie Wilkins was 63 and living a hard life in Minot, Maine. She was ill and her doctor told her she might live two or three more years if she rested. She had no one to care for her, and was about to lose her house. So she asked God what to do. He told her to go to California. To be sure she heard the Lord right, she flipped a coin. Heads she'd go. Tails she'd stay. It came up heads over and over and over, so she bought a tired summer camp horse, saddled up and started for California with her dog on a long leash. She had $32 in cash. "I go forth as a tramp of fate among strangers," she said, but instead of strangers she found friends.
"I figured I could rest in the saddle," she recalled, but parts of the trip were grueling and dangerous. Sixteen months and 7,000 miles later, she reached the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, she was feted by several state governors, sketched by Andrew Wyeth, and even appeared on the Art Linkletter TV show. When her horse died before the end of her journey, Linkletter bought her a new one. She also declined a marriage proposal from a western goat farmer.
Her health improved as she rode, and after reaching California she wrote a book about her journey called Last of the Saddle Tramps. If it's not in your library, it's available online. It will cheer your heart to see how a sick woman finds health while blessing others from coast to coast.
Bailey Sellers of Maryville, Tennessee, lost her dad Michael five years ago, when she was only 16. But before he died, he pre-paid to have flowers and a personal note sent to her every year on her birthday. She looks forward to her birthday note from her dad, but this year was special. She's now a student at East Tennessee University, and her latest bouquet from dad came with his final note.
Well, it wasn't exactly final. It contained a promise that will last a lifetime. He wrote that he does not want her to be sad for him anymore. He says he is in a better place, and she should live life to the fullest. Then he promises, "I will still be with you through every milestone. Just look around, and I will be there." Bailey shared his note on Twitter and it was re-tweeted 360,000 times and received 1.5 MILLION likes. She's gotten thousands of responses of people supporting her, and says her dad would be proud to know his letter touched so many people.
My book, "God's Fingerprints," is still available from Prayerful Living. On the Prayerful Living Web site you can read eight fascinating pages of the book before deciding if it's an ideal gift for someone you love. Here's the link you need. http://www.csdirectory.com/shop/BK-horn.html Happy holidays!
This November, a man in the Bronx, New York, (who wishes to remain nameless) was mugged. He was hit on the head with a baseball bat and spent several days in the hospital. The guy who mugged him did not get his wallet, but while the victim was fleeing his attacker, his wallet fell on the ground. Sadly, it held $1,700 cash for his rent, and now it was gone. His brother paid the rent for him while he was in the hospital. But how could he ever pay his brother back?
Enter Frankie Burns, 8. He lives in upstate New York, but just happened to be in the Bronx getting ready for a Gaelic football playoff match. It's like rugby, but not as rough. As he was unloading his team's equipment, he spotted the wallet on the ground and saw that it contained $1,700, which is like a million dollars to a pre-teen. But Frankie never thought about keeping it, since he had not earned it. Instead, he gave the wallet to his dad, who used the ID to track down the owner. Now the mugging victim had money to repay his brother for his rent, and as a reward, he gave Frankie one of the $100 bills, which the boy is using to buy a new pair of cleats.
"Whenever 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.
Meet Mikayla Holmgren of Stillwater, Minnesota. She's a 22-year-old student at Bethel University, who has loved dancing and gymnastics for many years. On November 25, she competed in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. She didn't win, but she should have been named "Miss Congeniality" because, as her dad says, "she never has a bad day." Did I mention that she has Down syndrome?
Denise Wallace, the Miss Minnesota executive director, said, "Anybody that even spends five minutes with Mikayla knows that she is the right person to be the first to represent a community of people that need to see themselves doing something like this." By the way, this is not Mikayla's first beauty pageant. And hopefully not her last.
Everyone knows about the traditional sports stadium "wave," but the Iowa Hawkeyes have put a new spin on it. During a football game against the Wyoming Cowboys recently, everyone in the sold-out Kinnnick Stadium was asked to turn towards the U. of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital across the street and wave to sick kids on the top floors.
The heartwarming gesture is just one of many initiatives the Hawkeyes have taken to assist the hospital. A "Touchdown for Kids" campaign has asked Hawkeye fans to pledge $1 to the hospital for every touchdown the team scores. Last year alone, the team raised $40,000 for the hospital.
As reported in The Christian Science Monitor, Tulsa, Oklahoma is becoming an incubator for the power of philanthropy to overcome poverty. That's partly because of George Kaiser, a billionaire benefactor funding preschools for the poorest children in town. His preschools are not just babysitters. They're about education. His classrooms include cozy nooks, fairy lights, play kitchens, lots of books, and two (count 'em, two) certified early education teachers per room.
Does his program really help preschoolers succeed? One mother thinks so. Cheryl Remache wept at a preschool board meeting a few years ago, because one of Kaiser's schools had accepted both of her autistic sons. Today her younger son Jayden is in sixth grade and a member of his school's debating team.
Rosalynd Harris, 25, is a professional dancer in Washington, DC, but she took a part-time job as a waitress to earn money to move to a new apartment. She still wasn't sure if she had enough money to pay the up-front costs of moving. She waitressed last winter in a cafe called Busboys and Poets, a liberal restaurant with African-American art on the walls. Then three Texans walked in and sat at one of her tables. One was a dentist named Jason White. He was wearing a signature "Make America Great Again" red cap, which he quickly put away. Harris had just participated in the Women's March, so even though she was sure the three Texans were Trump supporters in town for the inauguration, she was in good spirits and happily greeted them and took their order.
Courtesy Rosalynd Harris
When the men finished their meals, White decided to leave a personal note on the receipt. The meals totaled $72.60. He wrote, "We may come from different cultures and may disagree on certain issues, but if everyone would share their smile and kindness like your beautiful smile, our country would come together as one people. Not race. Not gender. Just Americans." Then he added a tip of $450. The men were gone before Harris saw the receipt. "This definitely reshaped my perspective," she said later. "Republican, Democrat, liberal are all subcategories to what we are experiencing. It instills a lot of hope."
If the title of this post rings a bell, you already may know about the most famous editorial ever written in an English-language newspaper. But you may not know the backstory.
In September, 1897, classmates teased 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon because she still believed in Santa Claus. They told her there was no Santa, so she asked her dad. Instead of answering her, he urged her to write to a local newspaper called the Sun, because "if you see it in the Sun, it's so." When her note arrived in the newsroom, it simply asked, "Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?" The editor passed it off to a sardonic veteran Sun editorial writer named Frank Church. A former Civil War correspondent who'd seen lots of suffering in the war, Church reportedly "bristled and pooh-poohed" at first, but under deadline and in fewer than 500 words he composed an editorial which would later be translated 20 languages and even set to music. Since editorials are not signed, Church's authorship was not revealed until his death is 1906.
Raised on New York City's upper east side, Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas was the daughter of a doctor. She pursued a career in education, earning a PhD from Fordham University. Throughout her life, she often received inquiries about her letter, and invitations to read Church's editorial. She died in 1971 at age 81. In 2006, Virginia's great-granddaughter brought the original letter to Antiques Roadshow, where it was appraised at $20,000. To read her letter and Frank Church's famous reply, visit http://www.newseum.org/exhibits/online/yes-virginia/
During World War II when she was a little girl, Hilde Back lived in Nazi Germany. Both her parents died in concentration camps, but a stranger's kindness helped her escape to Sweden. She grew up to be a school teacher, but never forgot her girlhood in Germany where she was denied an opportunity to attend school under Nazi Nuremberg Laws. So she decided to pay for the education of a child who could not otherwise go to school.
The child she sponsored was Chris Mburu. He lived in Kenya, and his family could not afford to pay for his education beyond elementary school. Hilde paid his way through secondary school, and he went on to earn degrees from the University of Nairobi and Harvard Law School. In 2001 he created a foundation to help other children from poor families continue their education. He even tracked down his benefactor, and named the foundation in her honor. It has now helped over 650 poor children continue their studies. In 2012, Hilde traveled with Chris to Kenya, where she celebrated her 90th birthday and met many child helped by the foundation that bears her name.
One night last October, Kate McClure, 27, pulled off an exit ramp of I-95 near Philadelphia because she was running out of gas. A homeless man approached her parked car. It was former Marine Johnny Bobbitt, 34, who sits on the side of the roadside every day holding a sign. "He told me to get back in the car and lock the doors," McClure remembers. A few minutes later he returned with a red gas can. He had spent his last $20 to buy her gas.
Elizabeth Robertson, The Philadelphia Inquirer
She wanted to repay him for his kindness, so McClure and her boyfriend Mark D'Amico, who both live in New Jersey, started a GoFundMe page telling what Bobbitt did for her. They were not sure if anyone would donate, but hoped to raise $10,000 to help Bobbitt get off the street. The story ran in the local paper and, so far, the fund has received over $300,000. McClure says, "The second we told Johnny about this, his first thought was to pay it forward. He is fully aware of the worldwide interest. It will be his decision on what organizations or private parties he decides to help." Meanwhile, Bobbitt has moved from the streets to a comfortable hotel room.
In 1911, William Rathvon, wrote a story that is as meaningful today as it did then. Titled “The Devil’s Yard Sale”, it has been reprinted many times, including on page 17 of the January, 1952 issue of Guideposts Magazine.
It was once announced that the Devil was going out of business and would offer his tools for sale to whoever would pay his price. On the day of the sale, his tools were all attractively displayed, and a familiar lot they were. Malice, envy, hatred, jealously, carnality, deceit, and all the other implements of evil were spread out, each marked with its price. Apart from the rest lay a harmless looking ,wedge-shaped tool, much worn and priced far higher than everything else. Someone asked the Devil what it was,
“That’s the wedge of discouragement ,” he replied.
“Well, why so you have it priced so high?”
“Because," said the Devil, “it is more useful to me than any other tool. I can wedge open and get inside almost anyone's heart with it, when they would never yield to my other tools. Once inside, I can use my discouraged victim in whatever way suits me best. My wedge is so worn out because I use it with nearly everybody, since few people realize it belongs to me.”
“You say you use this wedge of discouragement with nearly everybody. With whom can you not use it.?”
The Devil hesitated a long time and finally admitted in a low voice, “I cannot use it to wedge open a grateful heart."
This week we salute Bob Macauley and Andy Lam. Bob gave others reasons to be thankful, and Andy learned what thanksgiving means.
Bob had a gifted childhood, attending Philips Academy and Yale university, where he was roommates with George H.W. Bush. But from his youth he had a huge streak of generosity. For example, when the Vietnam War ended and Saigon was about to fall in 1975, the United States hoped to airlift 2,000 orphans to the United States. Sadly, the first plane in Operation Baby Lift, carrying more than 100 children, crashed on take-off. Many babies were lost. When Bob heard another military jet would not be available for eleven days, he took things into his own hands. He leased a Boeing 747 from Pan American Airways, mortgaging his home to cover the bill, and arranged to transport crash survivors and other children to America. "Someone will always give you reasons why it can't be done," he said in 1990. "Just mow 'em down. Make things happen."
Americans evacuating Saigon in 1975
Andy was not part of Operation Baby Lift. He was 11 in 1975 when he and his family fled Saigon in a C-130 cargo plane filled with weeping refugees. He was the privileged son of General Lam Quang Thi of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. His Dad decided to stay behind to fight on in the jungle. When Andy's family arrived in the U.S wearing rags, an impoverished aunt took them in -- ten people in her two-bedroom apartment at the end of Mission Street in San Francisco.
That fall his English teacher taught him to say the word Thanksgiving as they decorated classroom bulletin boards with paper pumpkins. "Ssshthanks give in" was as close as he could come. Besides, the holiday had nothing to do with him, since he had nothing to be thankful for. But suddenly he did! His Dad called to say he'd soon join them. He was no longer a war hero, but he brought joy with him. Then Andy remembered his white, black, Filipino and Mexican school friends. One taught him to play baseball. Another protected him from bullies. Another offered to take Andy along on his family vacation. And the English teacher made Andy his pet. That Thanksgiving Day, his family sat on the floor and ate two giant turkeys donated by charities. There was even talk of a trip next summer to a magical place called Disneyland!
Eventually, Andy's Dad became a bank executive. His brother became an engineer. His sister moved into a luxury San Francisco condo, and he became a successful author. But the Thanksgiving he never forgot was his first one, when he sat on the floor wearing donated clothes, and was just learning to pronounce the word.
For Andy, Thanksgiving was a noun. For Bob it was a verb. Which is it to you?
An elementary school cafeteria lunch line is not like a restaurant buffet, where you pick this or that. Federal law requires students to take a certain number of items including a fruit or vegetable. Everyone's serving size is the same, which is too much for some kindergartners and not enough for some husky fifth graders. Until recently, kids just played with food they didn't want and then threw it away. But not anymore, at least not at Aloma Elementary School in central Florida, where unwanted food items go to the Share Table instead of the trash can.
For example, kids who like bananas but not milk, can leave their milk on the table and take a banana, and vice-versa. If the lunch serving is too big for little kids, they can leave some on the Share Table instead of tossing it in the trash. Bigger kids can grab an extra banana or yogurt or chips from the table if they're still hungry. Food sold to students in a school cafeteria cannot be reused in the cafeteria, but staff make sure kids who need more food at home take freely from the Share Table. Believe it or not, the Share Table cuts down on the mess in the cafeteria and school custodians love it.
When the football team at East Coweta High School in Georgia prays before a game, Coach John Small prays with them. Recently the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained to school officials that Small was leading the prayers, but the team says their prayers are student-led, in compliance with federal law. As you can see from the photo below, that wasn't the end of the story.
Hundreds gathered at East Coweta Football Stadium recently even though their was no opposing team, and no game. Everyone came to pray."Nothing that has happened in the past few weeks was a surprise to God," said Coach Small, as he encouraged the crowd. "I would encourage you that when adversity comes your way, you stand up. You look at it, and say 'God, you got this, don't you?'"
Angela Sanchez of Glendale, California, was in 11th grade when, just before Thanksgiving, her Dad, an architect, lost their home because of family and financial problems. For a few months, she and her Dad slept in his car. Finally they found a shelter, but it didn't lessen the stress of poverty and homelessness. Through it all, Angela kept up her grades, and even started a magic club at her school, since she feels "a magician is someone who is withholding knowledge," and she needed hidden knowledge to get her life back on track. But during her senior year, the stress became too great. Her magic club fell apart and her grades began falling. Then something magical happened.
She discovered "School on Wheels," a non-profit that tutors children struggling with poverty. The non-profit paired her with an astrophysics grad student from Cal Tech. He helped her pass AP calculus, and also gave her "secret knowledge" about navigating the college application process. Result? She got enough scholarships to cover the cost of her education, and was accepted at UCLA, where she organized a "School on Wheels" chapter to help other kids who were in the same tough spot she'd been in two years earlier. "Our volunteers took care of everything from supplies to snacks to transportation," she says. "We would go over to the shelters and group homes at night and we would work there with the students." She later earned a Master's degree at UCLA.