Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The magic trick two boys will never forget

Drake Krainbrink of Reno, Nevada turned ten in February. Last year, his birthday party was held at Impossible's Magic Shop, where local magician Justin Impossible entertains with tricks. It was so much fun that Drake agreed to have this month's party there too. About 50 children and adults attended the party. Many noticed the TV cameras focused on the stage, but were told Justin's act was being recorded for a commercial. Only Justin and Drake's mom and dad knew better.

                                                                                                Jason Bean / Reno Gazette-Journal
To start the act, Justin asked everyone to yell "abracadabra" after he ducked under a curtain. Everyone yelled, and the curtain fell and the magician was gone! In his place stood Drake's dad, Sgt. Ben Krainbrink, who has been deployed in Kuwait and Iraq for the past year. Drake and his brother Zach, both astonished, rushed on stage to hug their dad. Justin said later that he receives special requests all the time, but "this was the first one that had real meaning to it." Sgt. Krainbrink said he "wanted to make a special moment for my boys."

Monday, February 27, 2017

Let me be a little kinder...

Believe it or not, when I was in sixth grade we had opening exercises every morning. First we stood and faced the flag and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. (The words "under God" had just been added by President Eisenhower.) Then one of the students stood and read a few verses from our classroom's King James Bible. We only used the old testament, so our Jewish classmates could be included. (When it was my turn, I usually read the 91st Psalm.)  Then we bowed our heads in a moment of silent prayer. But I wasn't sure what to whisper to God. Should I ask for good grades? Or ask to be appointed to the safety patrol? That's what I wanted most!

When I told Dad and Mom about this, they said I shouldn't ask God for anything. They wrote down a little prayer (originally by Edgar Guest) and made me read it over and over and over, until I knew it by heart. They said if I recited it to myself during silent prayer, and really meant it, my whole day would be better. Since then, I've asked my campers at summer camp to memorize it, and the kids I've taught in Sunday school, and do you know why? Because this prayer works! Maybe you'd like to memorize it too? But remember, it only works if you really mean it.

Let me be a little kinder,
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those about me.
Let me love a little more.

Let me be when I am weary
Just a little bit more cheery.
Let me think more of my neighbor
And a little less of me.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tears of joy

As reported on Facebook, a little girl named Heloisa, who lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil, just turned six years old. She loves her grandparents, and for her EVERY elderly person is like a grandparent. So her mom, a photographer, asked Heloisa if she'd like to have her sixth birthday party at a home for the elderly. She loved the idea.

Mom contacted a local home for seniors and planned everything with the coordinator. She went a few days before the party and took a professional portrait of each resident. Family members of all the residents were invited to the party, where each resident gave his or her family a professional self-portrait. Then everyone joined in fun games and activities. There was so much joy! Everyone had such big smiles, and soon the residents and their families were crying for happiness. Heloisa will remember that birthday party for the rest of her life.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

We thank an alert reader in Peru, IN, for this crumb

Rossville, Indiana, has about 1,600 residents. Eleven miles away, Delphi, Indiana, is slightly bigger, with about 2,800. Each town is tight-knit, and Delphi suffered tragedy recently when Libby German, 14, and Abby Williams, 13, never returned home from hiking together. Their bodies were found on Valentine's Day in the woods near Deer Creek. Investigators suspect a double-homicide.

Down in Rossville, Keaden Thomas heard about the girls' death. He wanted to help, but as a third-grader he didn't have much to give, until he came up with the idea of "Penny Prayers." Students at his Rossville Elementary could help by donated pennies and a prayer to the grieving families. He started a three-day collection with his Principal, Chad Dennison, and collected $4,500, which will be divided between the German and Williams families. Dennison admits, "we did pass the bucket at our basketball game against Faith Christian High School, and raised over $1,300 that night among the two schools. It was a big crowd."

Keaden Thomas' mother, Kristi Harris, said, "Not everyone is in the financial situation to give a large amount, but kids always have a penny to spare. It's really the thought that counts, and showing that you're thinking of them in time of need." Principal Dennison adds, "In the end, we are building citizens at this school."

Friday, February 24, 2017

Driver sacrifices Tesla to save a life

Manfred Kick, 41, of Munich, Germany, was driving down the Autobahn (a federally controlled highway with no speed limit) when he noticed a Volkswagen swerving dangerously across the highway. When Manfred peered into the Volkswagen's windows, he saw the driver had fallen unconscious against the steering wheel.

                                                                                                                   Feuerwehr Munchen
Manfred never hesitated. He pulled his Tesla Model S in front of the Volkswagen and breaked until the VW rear-ended his car. Then he slowed both cars to a stop, rushed to the man's side and performed first aid until EMTs arrived and took the driver to the hospital, where he was described in stable condition. Manfred was stuck with a $10,000 repair bill for his Tesla, until Tesla CEO Elon Musk heard about his deed. "Congrats to the Tesla owner who sacrificed damage to his own car to bring a car with an unconscious driver to a safe stop," wrote Musk. "In appreciation, Tesla is providing all repairs costs free of charge and expedited."

Thursday, February 23, 2017

"If you're not honest, what are you?"

Charlotte McCourt, 11, is a sixth-grader in South Orange, New Jersey. She's also a girl scout who hoped some of the cookies she sold this year would be donated to troops.  But of the first 92 boxes she sold, only two were donated to troops. So she wrote an email to a rich family friend, hoping he would donate more. In her email, she gave each type of cookie a score from 1 to 10. She gave Savannah Smiles a 7 "for it's divine taste." But Toffee-tastic didn't even score 1. Why? Because, she wrote, it's "a bleak, flavorless, gluten-free wasteland. I'm telling you it's as flavorless as dirt."

Her family friend was so impressed with her honesty that he bought 25 boxes for the troops. But then another family friend read her letter on Facebook, and it went viral. As of February 1, she had sold over 16,000 boxes of cookies, including 7,000 donated to our troops. At first she was a little worried the Girl Scouts might be mad at her for grading the cookies, but she felt truth-in-advertising was more important. Why is truth so vital to her? She answered, "If you're not honest, what are you?"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

School bus driver helps his passenger

Thomas Mitchell is a mechanic who repairs school busses in Clarksville, Tennessee. Sometimes he also drives them, when a regular driver is absent. Part of his route includes picking up special needs children, and that's when he noticed Lydia Despain, who goes to school in a wheelchair. There are stone steps in front of Lydia's house, but she uses a little aluminum ramp to get in and out. Sadly, it does not quite reach the top step, so it's a struggle for her every day.

Mitchell didn't know Lydia, but when he saw her struggling he called her mom and offered to build a "real" ramp as a gift. Her mom was very grateful, so Tom and some of his friends used lumber donated by a local hardwood store to build a brand new wooden ramp on the side of Lydia's house. Lydia's mom said, "I didn't even realize my predicament because I am so used to doing it."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Let's have another cup of coffee," or ketchup soup?

When my Dad was twenty-something, he left home in Baltimore to find work in Philadelphia. Like many guys his age, he rented a bedroom in a "boarding house," but stoves were not allowed and no food was served. On a modest income, where could he eat? He always went to the nearest Horn & Hardart Automat. There were several in Philly, and even more in New York City. Each had a marble floor and ornate ceiling, with shiny enamel tables, art deco lighting and stained glass windows. Patrons didn't use paper plates or plastic spoons. They received real dishes and flatware, but there were no waitresses or cashier. Instead, there was a lady in a kiosk in the center of the room. Her job was to make change using only nickels. Give her a dollar and her busy fingers would slide 20 nickels to you. Why? Because all the food was displayed behind small glass doors along the wall, and you could open a door and remove the food by inserting one (or more) nickels.

During the Great Depression, many folks felt lucky to have ten cents for lunch. At the automat they could buy a chicken pie or a dish of baked beans. If they didn't have a nickel, they might do what Marlo Thomas did in an episode of her TV show "That Girl," -- put free ketchup and saltine crackers into a cup of free hot water and call it tomato soup. Ketchup soup was very popular during the Depression. Does this mean automats were hang-outs for bums? Not at all. Taxi drivers ate there, but so did Robert DeNiro while making the movie "Taxi Driver." Rich and poor were equal in the automat -- a great comfort during the Depression. How did famous people feel about automats?

Neil Simon said, "To have your own stack of nickels placed in your tiny hands and be able to choose your own food, displayed like museum pieces; to make quick and final decisions at age eight, was a lesson in finance that two years at Wharton could not buy today." Tony Curtis adds, "I used to shine shoes when I was 14, and when I was a little ahead, I'd stop at Horn & Hardart." Dick Clark claims he lived at the automat when he only had $2/day to eat on. "The food was delicious, and it was wonderful," recalled Woody Allen. For many, going to the automat became a family "tradition," not just a meal. If you have five free minutes, here's a video worth watching! It explains how Horn & Hardart automats gave birth to fast food, while giving dignity to the poorest of the poor. youtube.com/watch?v=Gz3yTInPJa0

Monday, February 20, 2017

Can girls work for Google?

Chloe Bridgewater is seven years old. She lives in Hereford, England, and would like to work for Google someday. So she wrote a letter to "Dear Google boss" to ask for a job. She'd seen online photos of the tech giant's headquarters where employees can ride go karts, play on slides and sit on beanbag chairs. She wrote, "When I am bigger I would like to work for Google. I like computers and have a tablet I play games on. My teachers tell my Mum and Dad I'm very good in class. Thank you for reading my letter. I have only ever sent one other letter, and that was to Father Christmas."

                                                                                                                            Liverpool Echo
Her impressive resume caught the attention of Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, who responded four days later. Chloe's Dad, Andy Bridgewater, said she was "over the moon" when the letter arrived. Pichai wrote to her, "I think if you keep working hard and following your dreams, you can accomplish everything you set your mind to. I look forward to receiving your job application when you are finished with school!" According to her Dad, Chloe is now "even more eager to do well in school and work for Google."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Muslim teen helps catch man who hit Jewish woman

High school student Ahmed Khalifa, 17, was riding the Q train in Brooklyn, New York, when he saw Rayvon Jones, 31, slap a 56-year-old Jewish woman across the face. The attack drew blood and broke her glasses (she was reading a book) and she fell unconscious. Others on the train tried to help her, and Jones left the train at the next stop. Ahmed told the driver to call for help. Then he took off after the assailant.

The teen lost sight of Jones and tried (unsuccessfully) to flag down a police cruiser. But an Orthodox Jewish man in a car offered him help. They finally found Jones waiting at a bus stop and called police with his location. As Jones boarded the bus, police surrounded it. He kicked the doors and yelled threats, but was eventually arrested. Ahmed said, "Some people are like 'she's Jewish. Why did you help her?' I'm like everyone is equal. I treat everyone the same way."

Saturday, February 18, 2017

"and a little child shall lead them"

An alert reader from Columbus, Indiana, shared today's crumb as reported by her local paper, The Republic.  Fourth-grader Lily Davis of Columbus recently decided to celebrate her 10th birthday by doing good deeds for others -- 10 good deeds, to be exact. Why? "There are a lot of unhappy people in the world," she says, "so if I do something nice for someone, hopefully they will pay it forward.

                                                                                                        Mike Wolanin / The Republic
Lily's ten acts of kindness are very significant. They include collecting and delivering canned goods to Love Chapel; leave change in random vending machines; work at a hot meal site; make cards and deliver them to a senior center or nursing home; drop off a roll of quarters at a local laundromat; donate coloring books and crayons to the pediatric floor of the hospital; bake and deliver cookies to local fire stations, and volunteer at the humane society. An example for all of us?

Friday, February 17, 2017

When children make us REALLY PROUD

Students on the 5th grade boy's basketball team at St. John the Apostle Catholic School in New Jersey have been playing together for several years. There are not enough girls at the school for form a female team, so two girls who love basketball have always played on the boys' team. Nobody was concerned about this until recently, when the Archdiocese said the female players could no longer play with the boys. With only two games left in the season, and a possible championship at stake, the coach asked for a vote. Would the team rather play without girls, or forfeit the rest of the season?

                                                                                                                                  John O'Boyle
The vote was unanimous to forfeit the rest of the season if the girl teammates could not play. An 11-year-old player whose first name is appropriately Christian said, "If the girls can't play, we won't play either. It's just unfair to the girls. We're not gonna ditch them, and it's a team." This outstanding display of sportsmanship caught media attention, and three members of the team appeared recently on the "Good Morning America" television show. To watch their interview, visit /gma.yahoo.com/video/co-ed-basketball-team-forfeits-223042649.html

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Israeli youth send clothes to Syrian refugees

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, the Zionist youth movement HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed and members of the Combat Genocide Association have collected about 3,000 boxes of blankets, sleeping bags, coats, gloves, boots and other winter supplies as part of "Operation Human Warmth." An unnamed aide organization is delivering the goods to impoverished refugees in Syria to help them survive winter cold. The delivery date and method are secret. And that's not the only secret. Any logos or tags featuring Hebrew writing have been removed from more than 100 tons of supplies collected from Israelis, "to protect the recipients.
                                                                                                                             Jerusalem Post
"I thought people would be reluctant to support an effort they would not get credit for," said one leader of the collection effort. "I'm amazed to see how wrong I was. The generosity of people just caring for those who suffer from the cold winter on the other side of the border, in an 'enemy' country, overwhelmed me. The most moving part of the operation for me is to see thousands of Israelis from different religions join forces in a humanistic effort, emphasizing the similarities in the core values of all of us who simply try to make good on this planet, no matter what our backgrounds may be."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Taking single-parenthood outside the box

When Whitney Kittrell of St. George, Utah, became a single mom three years ago, she promised herself she'd do everything she could to give her kids a normal life. Recently her son, who is in kindergarten, came home with a note about a special party called "Dads and Doughnuts Day." Kittrell asked him if he'd like to invite his grandfather to school that day.

He just smiled and said, "No, I want you to go. You're my mom and dad." So she found her best dad outfit, painted on so facial hair and went to the school event with her son. She admits she was embarrassed, but after seeing her son's smile, she knew it was the right thing to do. She remembers, "When I went to leave, he ran after me and hugged me tight around my neck and whispered, 'mom, I know you'll always be there and do anything for me.'" She posted the event on Facebook, and in just two days it had 8,100 likes and 3,600 shares.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Driving Miss Norma

For 67 years, Norma and Leo of Michigan were sweethearts. When he finally went to Tender Care Hospice in Southfield, she visited him, walking down the long halls to the last room on the right, reserved for the dying. Two days after Leo passed away, her doctor told Norma she had a likely cancerous growth. He outlined the options, surgery, radiation and chemo, and asked how she'd like to proceed. Looking him straight in the eye, she said, "I'm 90 years old and I'm hitting the road." He told her, "you are doing exactly what I would want to do in this situation. Have a fantastic trip!"

Her kids were fully supportive. They live in a mobile RV and had already agreed to take her wherever she wants to go. So far, they've explored several national parks, travelled 12,000 feet above sea level in the Rocky Mountains and below sea level in New Orleans. Recently they took a hot air balloon flight over central Florida. Norma is shown here enjoying her first mimosa. She is not in pain. Her mind is sharp, and signs of cancer have reduced. How is she dealing the loss of Leo? Norma says, "Keep praying every day, and God will take care of you, even if it feels like you can't take care of yourself." A Facebook page called "Driving Miss Norma" lets you join her adventure. Just visit www.facebook.com/DrivingMissNorma/

Monday, February 13, 2017

Police reimburse Girl Scout for stolen cookie money

It happened this month in Union City, New Jersey. A 12-year-old Girl Scout and her mother were standing in the cold rain outside the Safeway supermarket on Decoto Road, selling cookies. A man, believed to be a teenager, approached and asked about buying cookies, but made no purchase. A short time later he returned with a handgun and took all the cash the mother had received from from cookie sales.

                                                                                     Jere Keyes / Union City Police Department
This is the 100th year Girl Scouts have sold cookies, and nobody can recall another time when a Scout was robbed of her cookie money at gunpoint. Union City police Sgt. Steve Mendez said officers, after hearing of the robbery, said "'Oh my God!' and started busting out their wallets and handing money over." The suspect is still at large, but the mother delivered dozens of boxes of cookies to police (as shown above) and Sgt. Stan Rodrigues also provided a check for all the unsold cookies. The total amount donated by officers and the police association was more than $1,000.00.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Chinese man who refuses to give up

Wang Enlin, now in his 60s, lives on the outskirts of Qiquhar in the Heilongjiang Province of China, according to the People's Daily Online. He'll never forget the 2001 Lunar New Year. He was playing cards and cooking dumplings with his neighbors when suddenly his home and farmland were flooded with toxic waste from the nearby Qihua factory. Wang had dropped out of school after the third grade, so he had no idea what laws Qihua had broken, but he was determined to find out.

He could not afford books, so he went to a local bookstore and offered the shopkeeper free bags of corn if he could sit in the store and read. Using a dictionary, he spent 16 years studying a dozen law books. He taught his neighbors, whose land was also polluted, exactly how to gather legal evidence. In 2007, a Chinese law form began providing free legal advice, and helped the villagers petition the court, where the case was delayed eight years. But thanks to the evidence Wang had gathered, he and his neighbors won the court battle. Of course Qihua Group has appealed the ruling, but Wang will not give up. "We will certainly win," he says. "Even if we lose, we will continue to battle."

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Afghan translator safe in United States

Qismat Amin is one of 13,000 Afghans who have helped American troops serving in that war torn nation.  Captain Matthew Bell was one of those troops. The former Army ranger said Amin protected him during a mission in one of Afghanistan's most dangerous areas. Since then, Bell has returned to the U.S. and is a law student at Stanford University. Meanwhile, Amin waited two years for a visa to come to the United States. He went into hiding after receiving death threats from the Taliban for working with American troops. His visa finally arrived this month.

                                                                                                                              Associated Press
Afghanistan is not among the seven nations where refugee immigration was halted by President Trump, but Bell was told by officials that the list of nations might soon be expanded, so he paid $1,000 for Amin's ticket to fly to San Francisco immediately. For now, Amin will live in Palo Alto with Bell and his wife. Amin said he was nervous before the trip, but that quickly changed once he stepped off the plane to see people holding signs that said "Welcome to America" and "Welcome Home." Amin took a few minutes to call his mother and let her know he arrived safely, before going to see the ocean for the first time.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Flight attendant offers more than coffee or tea

It happened in 2011. Stewardess Shelia Fedrick was working an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to San Francisco when she noticed something odd. A very well-dressed man had the aisle seat in row 10. Next to him, a disheveled teenage age girl sat by the window. "She looked like she'd been through pure hell," Fedrick remembers. When Fedrick attempted to chat with the man, he was defensive, and the girl, who appeared to be 14 or 15, said nothing. Later in the flight, Fedrick was able to whisper to the girl to use the bathroom, where she'd left a note for her on the mirror. The girl used the note to write "I need help."

Fedrick immediately informed the pilot about the situation, and he contacted the San Francisco tower. When the plane taxied to a stop, police officers were waiting at the exit gate and arrested the man. Fedrick says she wrote her own phone number on the note in the bathroom, "and I guess she memorized it, because a few weeks later she called me." The two have kept in touch since then, and the former victim is now attending college.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What is it about Chick-fil-a customers?

Eddie is homeless. He and his dog Socks are regulars at a Chick-fil-a in Corpus Christi, Texas. Eddie never asks the restaurant for a handout. He only orders water and a few nuggets for his dog. This month, three local teens, Ryan Cook, Joshua Mechell and Albert Montiel were eating at the restaurant when they noticed Eddie and Socks. Eddie was quietly crying as he spread change on the table in front of him to see if he could afford a meal. The teens also noticed a well-worn Bible on his table, and that inspired them to pool their money and buy him gift cards.

But that's not all. They asked Eddie to wait while they went next door to Dick's Sporting Goods and bought him a new coat, some shirts, a first-aid kit and a winter hat. Chick-fil-a donated a few items plus $20 toward their purchases. Eddie said he got nothing for Christmas, so they told him to think of these as belated Christmas gifts. The teens kept in touch with Eddie, and got him a hotel room and a meal on Sunday, February 5, so he and Socks could watch the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Ordinary people can make a big difference

Homeless people were sleeping in front of the Pall Mall Court in Manchester, England, recently. "It's a spot where people can keep warm and sheltered," said Jennie Platt, a local mom. To keep the homeless away, Pall Mall Court installed beds of spikes over the heat vents on the sidewalk to keep the homeless away. Jennie saw the installation on her local news, and was horrified. So she took action.

                                                                                                             Platt Family / Facebook
She recruited her sons, George and Sam, for a special Sunday shopping mission. Together they bought pillows and chocolate bars from Primark. Then they went to the mall to cover the painful spikes with soft cushions. They also left sandwiches, and a sign that said, "Take a seat and have a bite to eat." Jennie said she thought the spikes were "a Scroogey thing to do. People don't need to be that mean." After a public outcry, the benches of spikes were removed, just 48 hours later.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Saved by Grace

Marc Hadden is a fireman in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Back in November, 2011, he responded to a call from a pregnant woman and realized she was in labor and wouldn't make it to a doctor. So he delivered the baby himself. The baby was immediately put up for adoption, and Marc and his wife Beth decided to adopt her. Within 48 hours, they had signed adoption papers and brought the baby home. She is named Grace.

                                                                                                                   Marc Hadden
Now fast-forward five years. Grace loves her two older brothers and her mom, but she's totally a "Daddy's girl." They share Daddy-daughter date nights at her favorite restaurant, Chick-fil-a. "She's my best friend. We have an amazing bond," says Marc. Grace knows how she came into the world and tells the story by heart. She says "Daddy delivered her in the back of an ambulance." Beth says she and Marc "had it in our hearts for years to adopt, but we just left it in God's hands." Some might feel the couple saved Grace on the night she was born, but they believe Grace chose and saved them.

Monday, February 6, 2017

"pretty much in tears about the ticket"

Naomi Norelli is a single mom from Colorado. During her second pregnancy, she was diagnosed with cancer. After overcoming that condition, she moved to Denver for a job, but it fell through. Finally she was able to find another job, but then her car died, and she still owed $400 for new registration tags. She could not afford them. "Trying to cover rent, child care, food, groceries, the whole nine yards on one budget is really hard," she said.  Things could not get worse, but then they did. She was pulled over by police because of her expired tags. She explained why she could not afford them, and received a ticket. She arrived at work that morning "pretty much in tears about the ticket."

                                                                                                                          KDVR via CNN
That's when two officers showed up at her office unexpectedly. They had bags of groceries. She learned that anonymous donor had paid her ticket. Then the officers brought more groceries, a Starbucks gift card, and a toy for her son. "I was totally and completely stunned," Naomi said.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Musical road helps enforce speed limit

A section of America's mother road, Route 66, now plays "America the Beautiful" when someone drives over it. Funded by National Geographic, the rhythmic stretch of road east of Tijears, New Mexico, helps drivers go the speed limit -- exactly 45 miles-per-hour. If drivers go to fast or slow, they hear nothing. The engineering behind the road is simple. Anything that vibrates 330 times per second produces an E note. So to produce an E, the car must hit 330 rumble strips in one second, which happens when driving 45 miles per hour over strips that are 2.4 inches apart.

One motorist commented, "Just drove over the rumble strip to hear 'American the Beautiful' loud and clear. My 87-year-old mother-in-law was thrilled." Another recalls, "Our 5-year-old grandson loves to listen to the musical road when we go to Nana's house. We all have to stay very quiet so he can hear it." To drive along Rt. 66 and hear the music, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=6l2vSsavVZs

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Librarian reads to homeless children

As reported in the New York Times, Colbert Nembhard has managed the Morrisania Branch Library in Bronx, New York, for 25 years. The Crotona Inn homeless shelter is only a ten-minute walk from the library, but some homeless families don't feel comfortable going to the library, so for the past eight years he's walked to the shelter pulling a rolling suitcase filled with children's books.

                                                                                   Christian Hansen for the New York Times
Eighty-seven families live at the shelter, and children get excited when the intercom crackles, "Mr. Nembhard is here to read stories and sing songs to your children." His visit is similar to a Mister Rogers script. He begins by singing "Good morning to you" followed by "Wheels on the Bus," where children join in the chorus. Squirming toddlers become fascinated as he opens a lift-a-flap book called "Dear Zoo." After reading a few pages, the librarian entertains with finger puppets. Toddlers stare in amazement. Mr. Nembhard knows most of the children by name. "You build relationships with them so that when you see them they feel comfortable," he explained.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Secret handshake helps students learn

Ashley Park Elementary/Middle School is in Charlotte, North Carolina. For the past two years, Barry White has taught 5th grade reading. He knows reading is important for academic success, and he admits that "some of my students come from tough things at home and they may be down, but when they get to my class they know I'm always going to be their cheerleader." How do they know?

Last year, White created a special handshake for one student. Since then, 42 of his 58 reading students have asked for a unique handshake before they enter his classroom and he's learned them all by heart. "I saw them become more invested because I took the time to do a five-second handshake with them," he says. "They could see that I care about them." Each handshake is tailored to the student. "They're geared towards who they are," says White. After a video of White's students went viral, NBC Evening News visited the school to record White's special efforts to increase learning. Ashley Park principal Meghan Loftus says White's strong relationship to his students enables him to hold them to high expectations, and they respond with determination and hard work. To see a video of White greeting students, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5rfSQE6bsc

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Sometimes angels wear blue

In Spokane, Washington, this week Kimberly Novak was driving home from the store when her car suddenly died. Nothing would work. Not even the manual door locks. She could not open the doors or windows. Then she noticed smoke coming from the engine, and then flames, lots of them. She was terrified, until Officer Tim Schwering of the Spokane Police Department appeared outside her door.

Footage from his body camera show him using his baton over and over again to eventually smash the car window, even when flames were licking at his arm. Finally he shattered the safety glass, and he and a neighbor pulled Kimberly safely from the vehicle. So now Officer Schwering is her angel, her hero and her new best friend. "He's going to get tired of me in this life," she says, "because he's going to know me forever."

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What does it mean to be a "perfect" stranger?

As reported in the New York Post, Roseann Sdoia was a spectator near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon when two pressure-cooker bombs went off near her. One of the first responders was firefighter Mike Materia. He ran to her aid and comforted her during her ride to Massachusetts General Hospital. "I asked him if I was going to die," she remembers. "He told me that I was going to be okay; that I only had a flesh wound."

Materia returned to the hospital a few days later to visit her. "I was probably not the nicest to him from the get-go. I was in pain," she says. But as weeks passed, the pair struck up a friendship. Materia helped her find a prosthetist and get back on her feet, physically and emotionally.  She was starting to like him "because he was so kind and caring." She says he had an "unbelievable smile." Two months later, the pair went on their first date, and last month Materia proposed to her and she said yes. "I do feel that, in a sense, things happen for a reason," she admits. "He's seen me on my worst day." In March they plan to release a book called "Perfect Strangers."