Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Who will take care of Fonzi?

Rudolph and Sandy Rodriguez were driving from northern California to Oceanside this month when they were in a traffic accident. California Highway Patrol officer Todd Cookston was among the first responders. Rudolph suffered a broken leg, and had to be taken to the hospital. Sandy was not hurt, but seeing her husband "laid out in the street" made her distraught. She had to go to the hospital with him, but who would take care of their dog Fonzi? She was sure being in a shelter would stress him out, and he might die.

                                                                                         Santa Clarita Valley Signal
Cookston, who owns a bulldog himself, offered to care for the dog until the couple returned home from the hospital, and that's how Fonzi became a lovable temporary mascot at the Highway Patrol Station in Newhall. "He kind of does his own little thing and he sleeps a lot," said Cookston. "He definitely eats a lot."

Monday, January 30, 2017

"Here if you need me" a true story

Drew Braestrup was a Maine state trooper considering ministry training when he was killed in an auto accident. After profound grief, his wife Kate took his place at the Unitarian Seminary in Bangor. "I'm Drew's remains," she told a professor. Her book, "Here if you need me" is a superbly crafted memoir of love, loss, grief, hope and faith. After graduation, she became a chaplain for Maine game wardens who conduct search and rescue missions. Why would game wardens need a chaplain? Because victims are sometimes found dead, and wardens believe death has a spiritual dimension.

One episode makes this clear. A deeply depressed young mom took an overdose of sleeping pills and walked into the Maine woods to sleep forever. Her brother was near the scene when wardens found her body. He just nodded silently when they told him, "your sister is dead," but then the warden said, "and here is Chaplain Braestrup." When the victim's brother saw her collar, he began sobbing. He asked if his sister was eligible for a church funeral. He said "she went to church last Sunday,and the minister said suicide is the only sin God NEVER forgives." Here's what Chaplain Braestrup told him as they stood alone in the cold Maine woods. "God is holding your sister close to His tender heart. She is safe. She is forgiven, and she is free from pain.Why am I so sure? The game wardens have searched the woods in the cold rain all day, trying to find your sister so they could bring her home to you. And I am sure God is not less merciful than a Maine game warden." Check your library for "Here if you need me," or buy a copy at www.amazon.com/Here-If-You-Need-Me/dp/B002SB8QZ0

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Recycling out-dated motels

In 2014, Los Angeles, California, mayor Eric Garcetti pledged to create accommodations for all the city's homeless veterans by the end of 2015. The timeline was impossible, since Los Angeles is suffering an epidemic of homelessness. But the city and charitable groups like STEP UP didn't get discouraged. Instead, they began remodeling this old motel, which had been vacant.

                                                                                                                            STEP UP
Not only does this facility provide shelter for homeless vets, but it also offers much-needed services including job search assistance. Thanks to vouchers from the Department of Veterans' Affairs, veterans placed in this facility may stay up to 15 years, free of charge. Since the mayor's 2014 promise, the number of homeless veterans in Los Angeles has fallen from 4,362 to 3,071. Five hundred new units are in the planning stage, and the city has donated $138 million to combat veteran homelessness.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Restaurant owner turns a lemon into lemonade

Last October, a faulty water heater ignited a fire in the back room of the historic El Moro Spirits and Tavern in Durango, Colorado. After complete repairs it now looks as good a new, and reopened this month.

                                                                               EL MORO SPIRITS AND TAVERN/FACEBOOK
What happened to the restaurant's 42 employees during the repairs? Did they file for unemployment? No. Restaurant management continued paying employees their full wages as long as they volunteered for local charities, with the promise they'd return to their normal jobs when the restaurant reopened. One employee volunteered at a day program for adults with development disorders. Others helped the San Juan Mountains Association with their largest fund-raiser, a Christmas tree sale. Others volunteered at the La Plata Humane Society, and the Sexual Assault Services Organization. "I definitely feel we were well taken care of and we're more of a family now," said wine director Sarah Moxam.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Are you too old to academia?

Amy Craton lives in Hawaii. She's 94, and can't picture herself "just sitting around watching Netflix all day," so she decided to improve her mind. She put formal education aside back in 1964 to be a full-time mom. But now her kids are out of the nest, so she enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University because it reminded her of her girlhood years in New England.

With a perfect GPA of 4.0, she recently earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing and English, but could not get to the New Hampshire campus for graduation. So several university officials flew to Hawaii to present her diploma in person. She said it feels good to "finish that part of my life, but I feel I'm still on the road. I have so much more to learn." Which is why she's enrolled in a Master's degree program.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

She mothered eleven!

With apologies to poet Edgar Guest, "She mothered eleven! From her they learned that in the world outside are cruelty and vice and selfishness and pride. From her they learned the wrongs they ought to shun; what things to love; what work must still be done. Somewhere this mother toils and is alive, no more as one, but in the hearts of eleven." This describes Isabelle "Sis" Lennon, some of whose children sang on the weekly Lawrence Welk show for 13 years beginning in 1955. Just as they prepared to "graduate" from the Welk show to their own variety program, a delusional man who had stalked the family murdered their dad.  Their father was only 53, and all were crushed by his loss.

Later, they agreed that, in moments of total despair, their mother was the glue that held them all together. Eventually they returned to show business, touring the nation with Andy Williams, and a few Lennon Sisters (now grandmothers) are still singing today. What restored their faith and joy after their father's murder? They weren't sure until their mom passed away in 2005. After her funeral, all eleven children met to share recollections of her. Peggy, one of the original Lennon Sisters, said they discovered something very special that afternoon. "As we reminisced, we suddenly realized that each one of us assumed we were mom's favorite," she said. "That's how she made us all feel." Thank you, Sis Lennon, for your example of impartial, unwavering mother love.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

In gratitude to Katherine Johnson

This blog rarely promotes a book or movie, but today is an exception. Now in theaters, "Hidden Figures" is a movie everyone needs to see. It tells the experiences of many talented black women who worked for NASA in the 1950s, helping put our first astronauts into space. These ladies' contributions were ignored for decades, until President Barak Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to one of the hidden figures, Katherine Johnson, shown here, in 2015.

                                                                                                                              White House
In the movie, a youthful Katherine astonishes white male scientists in the NASA space program when she outshines them as a math wizard. They won't drink out of her coffee pot because she's black, and she must run almost half-a-mile from her desk to the nearest restroom open to black women, but at least one astronaut recognized her incredible talents. In 1953, after an IBM computer calculated the trajectory of his first orbital flight, John Glenn refused to launch until "the girl" verified the computer numbers. She improved upon them, adding a few more decimal points. Now 97. she was present last May when NASA dedicated its newest research facility, named in her honor.  See the movie!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"He just yanked me right out of there."

Audrey Berndt, 40, often accompanies her husband Kevin Wiseman, in case something goes wrong when he grooms trails for a snowmobile club in west Quebec, Canada. Something went terribly wrong last Wednesday. Kevin steered the snowcat out of the bush onto what he thought was a field, but it was actually snow-covered McMullin Lake, near Val-des-Monts. The snowcat plunged through the ice and sank 12 feet before hitting the bottom. The cab began filling with frigid water, and doors and windows would not open, so Kevin used his head as a battering ram to smash the windshield.

He quickly surfaced, but found his wife was still trapped below the ice in the cab. At that moment, Audrey took two gulps and said, "This is how I am going to die." Twice, Kevin dove back down to the snowcat, but couldn't find Audrey before he ran out of air. Then he dove a third time. "Something in my head said, 'You are going back under. You're staying there, if you don't have your wife.'" As he dove the third time, Audrey moved to his seat in the cab. "I felt his hand, and he just pulled me right out of there," she said. The next day, as they enjoyed the warmth of their Buckingham home, Audrey wept and hugged her husband of 15 years. "I call him my hero," she said. "If not for him, I would not be here."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Canine devotion astonishes SPCA worker

Yellowknife is the capitol of Canada's Northwest Territories. It's so far north that residents can see the Northern Lights every fall and winter. It's also home to an amazing dog named Ted, a German shepherd and Akita mix. . He arrived at the SPCA shelter this month and was scared. He would not let anybody walk him. He just cowered in the back of his tiny kennel. Enter SPCA staffer Abbey Boyd. When Ted refused to walk with her, she fed him cheese-flavored bacon strips "to try to get him to love me." She also asked the maintenance man to build Ted a larger kennel. She had no other contact with Ted that day, and went home at the end of her shift.

                                                                                                                            Abbey Boyd
At 6 a.m. the next morning, she saw a dog sitting on her deck. She noticed he had a nick on his nose and "that's when I realized it had to be Ted." Calling the SPCA, she learned Ted had busted out of his kennel and escaped through a chain-link fence. Then he walked from the industrial park on the outskirts of town past the airport and through several suburban neighborhoods directly to Abbey's house. According to one breeder, dogs like Ted are extremely loyal. "They have a mind of their own and a strong drive to achieve something." "It's kind of put a new spin on my life," says Abbey, who is in the process of adopting Ted.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

85-year-old saves two lives

Lindell Marbut lives in Burleson, Texas. He's 85 years old and uses a cane to move about. Recently he was sitting in front of his house with his caretaker, Sondra Young, when a car came down the road at a high speed. The driver lost control and the car flipped over into Marbut's driveway, where it caught fire.

                                                                                                                               FOX4 NEWS
Marbut's caregiver quickly ran next door to call 911 and get help. That left Marbut sitting alone, watching the car burn. He had to do more. "I got my walking stick and pulled it out, and seen this woman's hand sticking out and I got her and pulled her out," he said. Actually he pulled her all the way to safety inside his garage. By then Young had returned from calling 911, and together they pulled another young woman from the burning car into the safety of the garage. Even first responders were stunned. "For him to do that on his own was absolutely amazing," said Alicia Wingfield with the Johnson County Fire Department. Marbut says he does not feel like a hero. "I just feel like an old man trying to save somebody's life," he said. "I'd do it again if I had too."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

He gave more than pizza. He gave kindness.

The next time you're stuck in an endless traffic jam, don't assume nobody will deliver hot pizza to you in your car. That's what happened recently in Genoa, Italy. Fires in the hillsides around town block the highway with heavy smoke. Motorists were stranded for several hours.

                                                                                                                     La Pizza di Egizio
Simone Di Maaria owns La Pizza di Egizio in Genoa. When he heard about folks getting hungry as they waited for the smoke to clear, he went out on the highway and delivered as many pizzas and and as much bottled water as he could, all free. "You can't leave people starving at dinner time," he wrote on Facebook. "A margherita pizza is a small gesture that can get a bad day back on track." One stranded motorist called Di Maria a "godsend" for delivering food in a moment of need.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Mother escapes abusive relationship. You'll never guess how.

Cara Brookins of Little Rock, AR, always has a book in her hand. Either she's reading one or writing one. She also has four wonderful children, but an abusive relationship depressed her hope -- her daughter Hope. Hope says the hardest part was watching her mom experience domestic violence and feeling helpless. But she admits she's a stronger person today because of the way her mom dealt with the violence.

After Cara ended the abusive relationship, she dreamed of buying a four bedroom home so each of her children could have their own room. But home prices were too high. "All we could afford were the supplies," says Cara, "so we just put it together ourselves." Hope was 17 when construction began. She was shocked. "How are we going to build a house?" she asked. "We have no idea what we're doing." So, with no prior knowledge, they watched YouTube tutorials and learned how to construct everything. "First we figured out how to lay foundation block," says Cara. "There was a lot of asking people at Home Depot for help." Cara has written a book about the experience called "Rise, How a House Built a Family," available in stores now. What does Cara say to other women facing domestic violence? "Do something big. Take a big leap and set an impossible goal. With enough determination, you can do it."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Don't we all deserve a second chance?

As a teen, Brandon Chrostowski needed a second chance. He was arrested and faced a 5-10 year sentence, but the judge gave him a year of probation instead. During that year, Brandon met a chef who mentored him until he knew he wanted to spend his life in a kitchen, not in jail. Now he's giving the same opportunity to other men and women leaving prison. He started a luxurious French restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio. It's called Edwins Leadership and Restaurant, and all the employees are ex-offenders.

He wanted to build a restaurant "that teaches everything I was taught, all the little lessons of humility and hard work and respect, the skill of a team." Employees get a free, six-month career course, and a $350 bi-weekly stipend for their work. After a day of instruction, they work evenings cooking and serving classical French food to Edwins' patrons. Many eateries suffer a lack of skilled labor, and 35 restaurants who are currently waiting to hire Edwins graduates. Best of all, not one of Edwin's 90-plus graduates has returned to prison. Not one.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mayor saves woman from burning house

Gary Stevenson is mayor of Paulsboro, New Jersey. But before that, for 12 years, he was the town's fire chief. A few days ago, he was on his way to Trenton to hear Governor Chris Christie's state of the state address when he saw white smoke over a house. As he approached, he noticed flames.

The mayor pulled over at the house and found the doors locked, so he started pounding on them. Someone told him there might be a woman inside. She was a shift worker and was still asleep, until his banging woke her up. He got her out, and then he and others checked the entire house to see if anyone else was inside. He said fire crews came quickly, but it made him realize how long it SEEMS to take, to people at an actual fire. The mayor thanked firemen for their hard work in frigid weather.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Let's call him Captain Christian

After many years as a "top gun" test pilot flying experimental jets, he retired, but his skills were still needed so he worked part-time, flying the newest fighter jets from their factory to air bases where they would be stationed. One day as he approached a destination airport, flight control asked him, "How much extra fuel do you have?" He said, "Enough to do whatever you need." The tower said, "We're fogged in. Visibility is zero until you get down to 100 feet. There's a young pilot in a Piper Cub flying above the fog. He just got his license, and he has no radar so he can't see the airport. Can you assist?" The captain agreed. He spotted the Piper Cub on radar and circled around behind it, finally flying right beside it, wingtip to wingtip. "I almost had to raise my canopy to get enough drag to fly that slow," he said. The Piper Cub was running out of fuel, and the young pilot was so scared that he kept staring straight ahead and never saw the fighter jet until the captain found his frequency and yelled, "Look to your left!"

"Just follow me," said the captain. "I'll make two big circles. You stay close behind me. After two circles, I'll descend into the flog, guided by radar. You descend right behind me. Don't worry if you can't see anything." After circling twice, the fighter jet sank into the pea soup fog, and the helpless Piper Cub followed. The young pilot was flying blind, but he had no choice. After descending a few seconds they reached 100 feet and the fog vanished. The runway was clearly visible, right in front of them! After both planes landed, the young man hugged the captain and thanked him for saving his life. "That's what we Christians do," said the captain. "When we find someone who is lost, we guide him through the fog of fear and lead him safely home." Amen.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Octogenarian knits 10,000 socks

Bob Rutherford of Saskatoon, Canada, is 88 years old. When his wife passed away in 2010, he felt he had nothing left to do. His son suggested he help himself by helping others. As reported by the CBC, Rutherford built a high-speed knitting machine in his living room. He calls the operation "Socks by Bob."

                                                                                                                                 CBC News
How fast is his machine? "It could be knitting at 90 stitches a second," he says. Custom Woolen Mills near Calgary donates a lot of wool for the socks, and with the help of some "elderly" buddies, Rutherford has knitted 10,000 pairs so far, which he donates to homeless shelters in Saskatoon and across Canada. "Socks by Bob has given me something to do," he says gratefully.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Is there one teacher you can't forget?

As shared on the Web of Good News, noted author Brad Meltzer's life was changed forever by his ninth grade teacher, Ms. Shelia Spicer. "You can write," she told him, and tried to transfer him to honors English, but schedules prevented this. So she told him to ignore what she taught the other kids and do honors work in her class. She made him love Shakespeare, and even read the words of Romeo aloud while a girl he had a crush on read Juliet. Now fast forward 10 years. Meltzer's first book has just been published. He went back to her classroom and she didn't recognize him without his hair. "My name is Brad Meltzer," he said, handing her a copy of the book, "and I wrote this for you." She started crying. She'd been considering early retirement because she felt she wasn't having enough impact on her students. Brad changed her mind.

                                                                                                  Brad Meltzer
She finally did retire, 13 years later. Brad went to her farewell party. When it was her turn to say a few words, she told the faculty, "For those of you complaining that kids have changed and it's harder to teach these days, you're getting old. You're getting lazy. These kids haven't changed. You have. Do not give up on these kids!" Brad says the other teachers cheered and "I was ready to apply for a teaching certificate." He knew he'd always be her student, and what about the girl who read the part of Juliet? She's his wife now.  He owes Ms. Spicer for that, too.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"Pawsome" kindness in Florida

After serving in the Air Force, retired Master Sgt. Ron Landbeck suffered for years from post-traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes he'd stand on his bed screaming because of night terrors and flashbacks of airplane crashes. He's even have panic attacks in large public places. But as reported in The Villages Daily Sun, all that ended when Yaz, his therapy dog, arrived.

                                                                                                                                   Daily Sun
Landbeck raises black lab puppies for a year as potential guide dogs, but Yaz didn't make the cut. So Landbeck kept him as a therapy dog, and they have a deep bond. When Landbeck is asleep and Yaz senses he's about to have a panic attack, the dog licks his face or lays across his chest. "When you have a 70 pound lab on your chest, you're going to wake up," he says. But what if Landbeck has a panic attack in a public place? Then Yaz does something to distract him. "It takes my mind off what's stressing me and makes me focus on him," he explained. Landbeck also takes Yaz to the local hospice to share his love with others. "It's just overwhelmingly wonderful," he confides. "Come on, life can't get any better."

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Pawsome" kindness in Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey, got quite a bit of snowfall this month, and cold temperatures were uncomfortable for many. But in addition to people, Istanbul has an estimated 150,000 homeless dogs. Most had to sleep in the harsh weather, but a few found comfort in an elegant mall.

The Atrium Mall in Bakiroy, shown here, opened its doors to homeless pups during the snow. Volunteers went to the mall with blankets and food for the strays. Volunteers were sad to leave the dogs at the mall, but were grateful to know they were sheltered from the environment. One individual documented the dogs on their Imgur account, and the photo below shows clearly how glad they were to have somewhere to stay.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Parking lot grandma saves the day

Late on New Year's Eve, Kristin Sherman of Essexville, Michigan, went shopping at Meijer's to  buy party snacks for her two tired sons and, most important, some milk they'd need for the coming holiday. The store was crowded, and her youngest son almost had a "melt down," but she calmed him until they got back to the car, where he was crying as she fastened his seatbelt. All she wanted was to get home, but the milk slipped out of her hand, hit the pavement, and splattered. It made her cry as she pushed her cart the cart return area. A woman inside the car next to the cart return area saw her tears. That's when she, known only as "the parking lot grandma," got out of her car.

Kristin posted what happened next on Facebook, and it went viral. In her own words, "A woman got out and said, 'I'm so sorry you spilled your milk. I'm a grandma. I know how that is. Please let me go in and get you another one.' I said 'no, that's okay,' but she insisted and finally I agreed because I knew the boys needed their milk tonight. She told me to wait and she'd be right back. She came back and I offered to pay her. She wouldn't accept it. I begged her to take some money. She wouldn't. She said Happy New Year's. I thanked her, gave her a hug, and got into the car. Not only did she get my gallon milk, but she got an additional gallon and a Meijer gift card! I was feeling exhausted and defeated for most of this week, and this stranger's random act of kindness made me cry like a baby."
The story was repeated on a local TV station, and as a family watched the newscast, their grandmother said, "that was me!" Granny is not on Facebook, but her daughter contacted Kristin via social media and Kristin was able to thank "the parking lot grandma" one more time for comforting and encouraging her when she cried over spilled milk.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"A delightful way to start the new year."

Nelson Miller of Caldwell, Idaho, was feeding his horses on New Year's Day when he noticed a frightened sparrow unable to fly. The bird got its feet wet while drinking from the horses' tub, and then found itself frozen to the fence in sub-zero temperatures.

                                                                                                 Nelson Miller courtesy photo
As reported in the Daily Mail, Miller gently grabbed the flapping bird as it started to fall backward. After holding it in his warm grasp for 30 seconds to calm it down, he started breathing on the bird's tiny feet. As he blow, the layer of frost on the metal pipe began to disappear, and he was able to softly lift the sparrow from the pole. He released it, and seconds later it was back in the skies. Miller said it was "a delightful way to start the new year."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A reason to be thankful

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner
fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by
an encounter with another human being. We
should all be thankful for those people 
who rekindle our inner spirit."

Albert Schweitzer

Monday, January 9, 2017

Media kindness brings tears of joy

Television station FOX5 in Las Vegas, Nevada, has a group of employees called the Surprise Squad. They go into action when someone deserves recognition, and they were busy last fall. That's when Daniel Rivas, 17, tried to get a date for the Shadow Ridge High School homecoming dance. Nobody accepted his invitation, perhaps because he has Down syndrome? Then a 10th grader named Kylie Fronius invited him to the dance. He accepted. Kylie said she didn't ask him out of pity, but because she expected to have a wonderful time. She doesn't see him as disabled, but only as "learning in a different way." When the FOX5 Surprise Squad heard that, they made sure it was an evening the kids would never forget.

Kylie had just arrived at Daniel's home to pick him up for the dance when the Surprise Squad arrived with TV cameras. Kylie would not need to drive. The couple would go to the dance in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce, and on the way, they stopped at Bistro 57 for a supper of Daniel's favorite food, spaghetti. Daniel's mom, Tonya, wept as she remembered how often they'd driven past the restaurant but "couldn't afford to eat there." When they arrived at the high school, a red carpet had been stretched to the curb and other students were on both sides, cheering. But the Surprise Squad wasn't done yet. During the evening, FOX5 interrupted  the dance to announce that both Kylie's family and Daniel's family would enjoy free vacations at Disneyland. Then the owner of the local Nissan dealership gave Daniel $10,000 for his continuing education after high school (he wants to be a chef). Finally, the owner led everyone outside to the school parking lot and showed Kylie a  beautiful Sentra wrapped with a bow. "It's yours," he said, as she burst into tears. Everyone agreed it was the best homecoming dance ever, all because of one act of kindness.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

When one door shuts, three more open

"Sometimes you lose something and you get something even better," said Lamar Austin of Pittsfield, New Hampshire, after sacrificing his job to be with his wife Lindsay at the birth to their son, Cainan -- the first baby born in 2017 in the Granite State. Austin, an Army veteran, was on a 90-day trial period working part-time as a security guard when he told his boss why he'd be absent on New Year's Day. He got a text saying he was "terminated." His story appeared in the Concord Monitor, and readers questioned whether anyone should be fired for missing work due to the birth of a child.

                                                                                             Leah Willingham / Concord Monitor
New Hampshire is an "at will" employment state, where a boss may generally fire any worker at any time for any reason. So Austin had little legal protection, and that's one reason former town board member Sara Persechino started a GoFundMe campaign to ease his stress until he found another job. In two days, 100 people donated more than $2,000. Best of all, three local employers contacted Austin with job offers, as well as an apprenticeships in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and New Hampshire AFL/CIO. Austin is sure being with his wife at the birth of their child was the right decision.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

What is God to you?

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the
ways and 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 --

Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948

Friday, January 6, 2017

A smile a day keeps the doctor away?

As reported in The Christian Science Monitor, Amsterdam, Netherlands, needs thousands more rooms for university students, so the Humanitas aged care home found a small solution. They offered six rooms to university students -- rent free -- if the students spend 30 hours a month interacting with residents. Students influence the tone of conversation, away from sickness and age toward youth, parties and girlfriends. Young and old people have become very close while living side-by-side.

                                                                                                                           Courtesy Photo
Here a student named Jurrien, 22, shows a resident named Annie, 84, how to use Facebook on her tablet. Of course these friendships sometimes come to a sudden end. Jurrien recalls a 105 year old neighbor. "She wished me a good life, to get the most out of it," he said, shortly before she died. "It's a nice feeling to help them find their final moments of happiness."

Can courage cause a miracle?

Josie Paille suffered a vein occlusion when she was 16 and lost her vision in one eye. She adjusted for it and most folks never knew about it. But years later, doctors diagnosed he same problem in her remaining eye, and said she would become blind. She was heartbroken about this, when her brother suggested she create a visual memory so strong that she'd be able to recall it in her "mind's eye" forever. She should go sky-diving.

As soon as she jumped from the plane, she was sure she'd die. Then suddenly she felt a popping behind her eye. It really hurt, but her instructor dismissed it as ears popping from air pressure. As he released her parachute, she felt a sense of calm and relief, and the next morning when she woke up, she could see through both eyes. A doctor confirmed the blockage had stopped. Some doctors believe the air pressure may have released the blockage and restored her sight. She feels it was a miracle.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

80-year-olds hike over 2,000 miles!

Elrose Couric and Sue Hollinger are 80-year-old identical twins.  They've always been outdoor people. "Our mother told us we've been running around since we were nine months old," says Couric. After being apart nearly 30 years, they are both are now widows and live together in Florida.

                                                                                                                                Courtesy Photo
Their hike along the Appalachian Trail began in 1998 with a few friends, but eventually almost all their fellow hikers dropped out, so they decided to finish the trail on their own. Hollinger said she kept going to "spend as much time as possible with my sister. Even if we didn't finish, we wanted to start...". Their 18-year quest was finally finished last July 7. They were exhausted, but felt invigorated. "The last week of our hike, our grandchildren hiked with us," Hollinger said. "They were really into it." The twins plan to set another goal. "We'll continue hiking," said Couric, "if we're able to get up from the couch."

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Maybe your town needs a Friendship Bench?

Getting mental health care in the United States can be hard, but it's almost impossible in Zimbabwe, where 15 million people have only 10 psychiatrists. The Friendship Bench project is a different way to tackle the problem. These benches are placed outside some of Zimbabwe's many health clinics. If you sit down, a Golden Lady (a grandmother) will sit with you and listen. They might help you identify problems or give advice to help you feel more positive.

The Golden Ladies are health care workers trained in problem-solving therapy. So far, over 27,000 people have used a Friendship Bench. How does bench therapy compare with nurse assessment or optional medications? According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, bench visitors were three times less likely to suffer depression six months later. Outcomes were even better for patients with anxiety or suicidal thoughts.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pre-teen offers emotional advice in subway station

Ciro Ortiz, a sixth grader at MS 577 in Brooklyn, NY, has "always been much more mature than whatever grade he was in," says his dad, Adam Ortiz. Ciro hates school but is on the honor roll. Like most kids ahead of their time, Ciro was bullied in school. He needed emotional counseling, and after he got it, he realized it's value. He set up a table and two chairs at the Bedford L train stop in Brooklyn, offering five minute emotional advice sessions for only $2.00. His office hours for the past few months have been Sunday from noon until 2 p.m. His parents hang around the subway station as Ciro works.

On a good day, he can earn $50, but he's generous with his earnings. "He buys food or snacks at school for kids who can't afford them," says his dad. What is the emotional problem he finds most often among his clients? Adults having trouble dealing with change. "They felt a certain way in the past," he says, "and when they look back, they say things were so much better back then." He advises these clients, "We have to accept change. It's going to happen. Life is always changing." Clients say his advice is right on the money, and well worth two dollars.

Monday, January 2, 2017

When the roll is called up yonder....

James Black (1856-1938, shown below) taught Sunday school at a church in Williamsport, PA, where he was also president of the Young People's Society. One day he met a 14-year-old girl. Her father was an alcoholic and she was dressed very poorly. She accepted his invitation to attend Sunday school and join the society.

One evening at a consecration meeting, when members answered the roll call by repeating a Bible verse, she failed to respond. Black spoke to the group about how sad it would be, when our names are called from heaven, if one of us should be absent. He longed for a suitable hymn to sing just then, but found nothing in the hymnal, so the meeting was adjourned.

On his way home, he kept wishing for a song that might express his spiritual  concern. The idea came, "why don't you write it?" He dismissed the idea, convinced he could never write such a hymn.

He arrived home and his wife noticed how troubled he was, but he said nothing.

 "Then the words of the first stanza came to me in full." he remembered. "In 15 minutes I had composed the other two verses. Going to the piano, I played the music just as it is found today in hymn books, note for note. I have never dared to change a single word or note of the piece since."  To hear this beautiful hymn visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LjZfjuOASs

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Meet super-hero Juslims, fighting intolerance

Last year, best friends Yasmin Idris and Casey Pearlman of California were talking about what their religions have in common. Yasmin is Muslim. Casey is Jewish. According to Casey's mom, Catherine Pearlman, "They don't feel different to each other. They feel like eighth-grade girls." Casey's dad Jeff coined a new word to describe the best buddies -- Juslim.

The new word stuck. For Halloween this year, the girls made special super-hero costumes and became The Juslims, an intolerance-fighting super-hero team. Jeff shared this photo of the girls online, and it went viral overnight. Reactions to the photo have been "absolutely amazing and mind-blowing," Catherine said, gaining attention from places like Egypt and the U.K. and even landing a coveted retweet from author J.K. Rowling. And what is their super-power? It's watching each other's backs. "We're a super team," said Yasmin, "like, friends forever."