Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Library books delivered on horseback

By 1933, in the depth of the Great Depression, unemployment in Appalachia reached 40% and many towns had nothing to read, so the Works Progress Administration created the Pack Horse Library -- women hired by Uncle Sam to saddle up at dawn and ride through snow and muddy creeks to deliver reading material to isolated mountain communities in Kentucky.

Local schools helped cover the costs, and books, magazines and newspapers were all donated. The book women rode 100 to 120 miles per week on their own horses or mules. They had designated routes, regardless of the weather. If the destination was too far to reach on horseback, they walked the final miles. All the book women were recruited locally, so they would be familiar faces to otherwise distrustful mountain folk.  By the end of 1938, there were 274 librarians riding in 29 counties. In total, the program employed nearly 1,000 riding librarians.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Teens run village in India

Today's crumb comes from a reader in Indiana. It concerns the remote village of Thennamadevi in the state of Tamil Nadu, in India. The adult men in the village are racked by alcoholism. Most participate in daily drinking sessions -- drinking themselves to death. So far, about 90 women and families have been widowed. But in the past six months, something has changed for the better. The teenage daughters of the drunken men took over the running of the town.

                                                                                           Mark Townsend for the Observer
A self-titled "Young Girls Club" has fixed the street lights, completed a health audit among residents, and insured that mobile clinics visit their village. Aid agencies and politicians across the state have taken notice. At a recent meeting, the club debated a petition urging better transport links, since no busses reach their village. After each debate there is a show of hands. Only when consensus is reached do the teens move on to the next issue. The president of the club is 16-year-old Says Sowmya. She explains, "We are tying to transform our village by this process. We are empowered to be leaders."

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloween costumes with a message

In 2016, 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 last 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."

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Children naturally love nature

Elena Karneeva is a celebrated Russian photographer, based in Moscow, who is known to create magical and mesmerizing photo series. She uses no computer trickery in her photos but plans out every shot carefully. 

In this beautiful photo, we see the link between child and animal as instinctual friendship, immediate and simple. This photo brings the inner beauty of innocence into view.

Friday, October 27, 2017

It's alright to say "I love you"

Today's crumb is a poem by Amos Yoder, an Amish educator from Indiana. It appeared in a magazine called School Echoes, supporting education in one-room Amish school houses.

It's alright to say, "I love you!"
To someone every day,
To obey our Lord's commandment
In a real and vital way.
The world is filled with sorrows
That sometimes touch us all,
And to know that we are loved
Lifts us when we fall.

The heart can be a lonely place
When no one comes to call
But when someone says, "I love you!"
We feel we're ten feet tall.
Three little words can mean so much
And they're not hard to say.
It's alright to say, "I love you!"
To someone every day.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Patient sheds tears of joy at dental office

Kenny Wilstead is a dentist in Marshall, Texas. Kyleigha Scott recently went to his office to have wisdom tooth removed, but when he inspected her mouth, he asked why her front tooth was do damaged. It was chipped and yellowed, and she explained it happened when her abusive ex-boyfriend head-butted her two years ago. She told Dr. Wilstead she planned on fixing it once she got her money from her tax return.

But Dr. Wilstead would have none of it. "No," he said, "we're gonna' fix that tooth right now, for no charge." The procedure only took about ten minutes, but when he gave her a mirror, Kyleigha burst into tears of gratitude. "It looks amazing," she said tearfully. Why did Dr. Wilstead do this? In his words, "To all those who have struggled, she is an awesome example of someone determined to rise above her past and use it to reinvent her future."

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Einstein reveals secret of a happy life

The year was 1922. German-born physicist Albert Einstein learned he was about to receive the Nobel Peace Prize while he was on a lecture tour in Japan. He was staying at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo when a Japanese courier delivered a message to his room. Apparently Einstein had no small change available to tip the courier, so he wrote him a note instead.

According to a relative of the courier, Einstein told him, "Maybe if you're lucky this note will become more valuable than just a regular tip." On Imperial Hotel stationary, Einstein wrote in German, "A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest." It is not possible to determine if the note was a reflection on Einstein's own musings on his growing fame," says Roni Grosz, the archivist in charge of the world's largest Einstein collection, at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Kids say their parents are "the coolest ever"

Jon and Helen Cluett went on vacation this month to a remote part of Scotland. With their four children, ages 6, 8, 10 and 12, they paddled a canoe across a lake to stay in a tiny cottage. But during the night the lake water rose and washed away their canoe. The only way back was a long walk through a swamp. And that's when it happened --a miserable trip they'd never forget turned into a vacation they'd always remember.

Luckily, Jon and Helen had a cell signal, so they called for help. It turned out there were some railroad tracks about a quarter mile away and the next train scheduled to pass was the one used in the Harry Potter movies. In the movies, it's called the Hogwarts Express. In real life it's called The Jacobite, and does sight-seeing tours. Police contacted the conductor and had the train make an extra stop to pick up the family.

Monday, October 23, 2017

"The most unpromising boy of the whole lot."

Following a wave of immigration, New York City in the 1800's had thousands of orphaned children called "street urchins." They begged for food to survive. A few lived at the Children's Aid Society Orphanage, but founder Charles Brace felt kids need families, not orphanages, so he organized the orphan trains. Between 1854 and 1929, about 120,000 abandoned children were given a set of new clothes and sent on trains to rural towns in the south and midwest for adoption by farm families. Upon arrival at each town, they were lined up for inspection. If an adult wanted a child and the child agreed, the deal was done. Most farmers preferred boys who could be raised as farmhands. Girls were last to be chosen, since many farm wives felt threatened by them. Most adoptees picked well-groomed, polite children, but not Judge John Green. He picked John Brady. Perhaps he remembered the Bible verse where God reminds the prophet Samuel, "...I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart." (I Sam. 16:7)

John Brady was an Irish Catholic boy who had lived on the streets of NY to avoid his father's drunken beatings. When he turned 11, he declared himself an orphan and boarded an orphan train bound for Indiana. After it arrived in Noblesville, he and fellow-orphans were fed at the Ferguson Hotel and put on display for possible adoption.
"It was the most motley crowd of youngsters I ever did see," said Judge Green, who lived in the nearby town of Tipton. "I decided to take John home with me because I felt he was the homeliest, toughest and most unpromising  boy in the whole lot. I wanted to see what could be done with such a specimen of humanity." What was done?

John grew into a fine young man, respected by everyone. After high school, he was appointed master of the Mud Creek Public School in Sharpesville.  Eventually he continued his education, graduating from Yale University in 1874. He moved to Alaska, where in 1878 he founded a college to train Eskimos. He then served three terms as Governor of Alaska, all because Judge Green picked him instead of a "more promising" orphan.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

MIT students produce comfort for Syrian refugees

During a freshman pre-orientation exercise last year at the Massachusetts Institute Sloan School of Management, a group of students were discussing start-up ideas.Vick Liu scribbled his idea on a napkin. He called it TravelPack -- a tight, durable, water-resistant sleeping bag that can withstand the icy cold Syrian winters. With fuel and shelter hard to find, many Syrians have can't keep warm in winter. He decided to create something that would help them. "It's a simple solution to a big problem," he said.

Liu and his team spoke directly to refugees to understand their needs. They said they had no way to securely store valuables, so each TravelPack contains one outside storage compartment and five inside compartments. To test it, Liu slept on the roof of his fraternity house overnight one snowy night when temperatures in Boston fell to 15 degrees, and he kept warm. They launched a GoFundMe page and raised $15,000 to send TravelPacks to Syrian refugees.After reaching out to about 80 potential manufacturers, they partnered with one in April to make the bags. Nu Day Syria signed on to distribute the packs within resettlement areas in northwest Syria. "We've been really lucky the whole way through," says Liu.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

And a little child shall lead them

The village of Ishpeming is on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That's snow country, and a five-year-old girl named Sunshine Oelfke lives there. Like most little girls, Sunshine has a piggy bank. She is saving to buy a snowmobile. But one day her grandma saw her open the bank, count the coins, and put them all in a zip-lock bag. Grandma asked why, and Sunshine explained, "I'm taking it for my friend Layla. She doesn't get milk at school -- her mom doesn't have milk money, and I do."

There are 20 students in Sunshine's class at Birchview Elementary School. Half of them cannot afford to buy the 45-cent milk cartons at snack time. Paying for all these children's milk would cost the school $180 per month. So Sunshine brought Layla's milk for her, and then gave her teacher all the money in her piggy bank -- $30. Sunshine and her grandma then started a GoFundMe page to help raise more milk money. News of Sunshine's compassion went viral, and the page raised $6,000. Her grandma says Sunshine does not realize the huge impact she is making. All she knows is that now all her friends are able to get milk at school.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Not all substitute teachers are disrespected

Walter Erickson is an 80-year-old retired teacher, but he still subs almost every day at Champlin Park High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "He's the kind of sub where he connects with us more on a personal level, and he obviously loves what he does and that makes it more encouraging for us to learn," says Katie Blodgett, a senior. "He is saving up to pay for his wife to get cataract surgery and much needed dental work," adds Kelsy Breiter, also a senior, "and we found the surgery may not be covered, so we wanted to help."

Blodget and Kelsy Breiter and another friend started a GoFundMe page for Mr. Erickson, and small donations from students came pouring in. The initial goal was $500, but the latest total is $13, 905. The students at Champlin Park left a permanent impression on their substitute teacher. Erickson said he was "just overwhelmed." As for his sub-teaching career, he said he won't be stepping down soon.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The story of a family's Bible

Rewind to 1939, the pit of the Great Depression. Nelson Hutchinson's family was dirt poor. They lived in a small house on the Homosassa River, four miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Nelson's dad struggled to make a living as commercial fisherman. To help, Nelson and his mom gathered oysters in season, or chopped wood to sell to the folks in town. Sometimes they'd make $2 a day. His mom attended the Church of Jesus Christ in town, and always wanted a Bible in her home, but could never afford one, until one day when his dad came home from work with an empty boat. He had caught nothing all day, and acted like he never wanted to see the river again

Nelson watched his mother, as she got into the boat, arranged the nets, started the motor and headed downstream. After a mile, she cut off the motor; knelt in the little boat, a talked with God. She told Him she wanted a Bible in her home for her children. She promised that if God would help her catch a few fish, she'd sell them and buy a Bible before sunset. Then she started the motor and threw the net into the water. Almost immediately fat mullet began jumping into it. She had never seen anything like this. As fast as she emptied the net into the boat, it filled again. After an hour, there was hardly enough room in the boat for her. When she got home, she took Nelson with her to sell the fish in town. She had caught nearly 300 pounds, as much as his dad would catch in a good week. The wholesaler paid her three cents a pound, and they went straight to the book store to buy the best Bible. Forty years later, the Bible was still in the family. In December, 1976, Nelson's parents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with a ceremony at church. "My mother and father held the family Bible between them" Nelson remembered, as proof that miracles can still happen.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Where ill children can be kids again

Young folks with medical conditions that require special attention often think of themselves as "patients" instead of children. But for two days each summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they can quit being patients and let loose. They can be kids again at Rainbow Day Camp. Doctors and nurses are on staff so campers are well cared for. Siblings, who are sometimes overlooked when a brother or sister needs care, are also welcome. If you're an only child you can bring your best friend. The camp is designed to allow any child in attendance to participate, no matter what limitations they have.

                                                                                                             Photo by Josh T. Decker
Does Rainbow Day Camp really make a difference? Or is it just fun and games? Studies show that extended illness can crush a child's spirit. "There was a child in the clinic who didn't speak much," remembers camp director Lenny Kass. "He would hardly talk at all, but here at camp we literally could not keep him quiet." And it's not just the campers who are transformed. "This is soul food for our staff," says Dr. David Margolis. "Some have gone on to become medical students. Parents too find joy in seeing kids come out of their shells, living as children instead of as patients."

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Hospital invents life-saving disease

In September, 1943, the Nazi's occupied the city of Rome. Albert Kesselring was the German officer in charge of the city until the Germans left in June, 1944. During nine months of occupation, more than 1,000 Roman Jews were arrested and deported to death camps. Very few survived. But a few were never deported, thanks to a young doctor named Adriano Ossicini. He worked at the Fatebenefratelli Hospital on Tiber Island, not far from Rome's Jewish ghetto.

At least 40 Jews from the ghetto, including some children, were taken to a special wing of the hospital and diagnosed with Syndrome K (named after Albert Kesselring). Syndrome K was claimed to be highly infectious and deadly. It was also entirely fake. Dr. Ossicini was letting Jews hide in the hospital, disguised as patients, but he remembers, "Even though they were healthy, we had to write something on their medical records, so I made up Syndrome K. That way, all doctors would know they did not need medication, and outsiders could not guess their identities. We told Nazi officers to be careful not to go into the Syndrome K wing, or they might catch the disease. Since they were not either smart or brave, it was easy to scare them off."  Everyone working at the hospital knew about the fake disease. If even one doctor or nurse had told the Germans, the scheme would have failed.  But nobody ever said a word.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

You want love with your lunch?

Homeless men and women in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have a friend in 10-year-old Liam Hannon. "Whenever I see them, they seem like they're sort of sad or depressed, but when we go over to them they sort of light up and become more open," he explains. That's because Liam isn't alone. He's bring lunch to the homeless.

He's launched a project called Liam's Lunches of Love, and some of his pals help him. He got the idea from a summer reading program, and an educational Web site. He and his friends prepare about 56 brown bag lunches each week, and he tries to vary the menu. "Sometimes peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese or turkey and cheese," he says. Plus fruit, a snack and water. Liam says he feels proud that he's doing something good for the world, even if he's making just a small difference.

One prayed FOR help; another prayed HOW to help

Jessica Haley, 29, is a marketing director in Miami, Florida. Recently she posted this story on Facebook. She had just gotten into her car at a bank parking lot when someone tapped on her window. She said, "My name is Kimesha and I'm stranded by hurricane Irma." Kimesha had come to Miami to attend her Dad's funeral, and the airport closed and the shelters were full so she'd been paying to sleep in a hotel lobby. She'd used up all her money and could no longer afford to eat..

Kimesha didn't know it, but Jessica is a Energizer Bunny who solves problems for breakfast. She had just returned to Miami, so she called Southwest Airlines and donated her points to get Kimesha on a flight home. Then she took Kimesha back to her house and cooked her a healthy dinner. She also gave her snacks for the flight home, and let her pick through a pile of clothing she was about to donate. Says Jessica, "She prayed for help...while I prayed for a way to know who/how to help." Another halo from hurricane Irma.

Ferris wheel hero escapes with broken finger

It happened recently at a carnival in Greensboro, North Carolina. As the ferris wheel moved slowly around, one of the gondolas tipped over, stopping the wheel. The gondola was hanging sideways with two boys, ages 7 and 5, inside. They were about 20 feet above the ground, and they had to hang on to keep from falling out. One boy was yelling, "I don't want to die!"

At that moment, a 25-year-old carnival worker named Albert Irwin started climbing up the ferris wheel to save the kids. When he got to them, he told them to keep calm, and he managed to free their gondola so it swung back into the safe position. But then he lost his footing and he fell. He landed on a gondola below and bounced off it. He tried to grab the side of the ferris wheel on his way down, but could not hold on. So he landed pretty hard. But thankfully, he was not hurt at all, except for one broken finger. He's now known as the ferris wheel hero.

Making a difference in Charlottesville

Chris Long and his wife Megan are both from Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists clashed with Antifa protesters last August. They were sorry to see hatred flooding into their hometown, so they decided to do something positive for the community they love.

When Chris was growing up in Charlottesville, he attended an exclusive private school called St. Anne's-Belfield. It reportedly costs about $24,000 per year. His base salary as a defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles is $1 million, and he's going to donate over a third of his salary (paychecks for the first six games) as a scholarship for his school. He's working with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Virginia. Two kids will get free tuition, from sixth grade all the way through high school.

Engagement ring lost, and found

Kimberly Garcia of New Jersey had a flat tire recently in Paramus. She is engaged to be married, but Mr. Right was not with her, so she had to change the tire herself. While she was switching out the flat with the spare in the trunk, her engagement ring fell of. She never noticed it was missing until she got home.

When she went back to where she changed the tire, she looked around carefully but could not find the ring, so she reported it to the police.  The next day an officer named Jon Henderson went back to the scene IN HIS SPARE TIME and searched for the ring. He found it on the side of the road and gave it back to her. Then someone at his precinct posted this photo where they are posing together and the ring is back on her finger. Jon knows she's spoken for, but wanted to help anyway.

On vacation for five days or more

Dear reader, The reason you're receiving multiple crumbs today is because I'll be away from the computer for five days or more. You won't receive any crumbs until I return.  If you need more comfort before your daily crumbs resume, 1,100 crumbs are archived by date on the right side of the blog, going back to June, 2014.  Feel free to scroll down the list for titles that interest you, and thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Kidnapped teenage girl is "the real hero"

Earl Melchert, 65, was driving his truck on his farm in Alexandria, Minnesota on September 5 when he saw something moving in the tall grass. He recalls, "When she came walking out of the grass, I'm thinking, 'You've got to be kidding me.'" After seeing missing person posters for weeks, he knew right away it was 15-year-old Jasmine Block. She went missing from her family home in Alexandria on August 8, after getting into a friend's car to help with "a relationship problem." He had driven her to his home, where she was restrained with zip ties and assaulted by her captor and two of his friends for the next 29 days.

While in captivity, Jasmine was taken to several locations, including a foreclosed lake home in Grant County. Thats where, when her kidnappers left to get some food, she bravely ran to neighboring houses to find help, Finding nobody at home, she swam across a portion of Thompson Lake, coming ashore at the farm where Melchert saw her. He told her, "Just get in the pick-up and we're going to help you now," and they sped to the nearest town to alert police, who soon captured all three suspects. But the best was yet to come. A few days later, as Jasmine watched, police gave Melchert a $7,000 reward for helping them find the teen. As soon as the chief handed Melchert the check, he turned and gave it to Jasmine. He said he believes the young lady who came running toward him that day is "the real hero."

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Behind a successful man is a wise mother

In 1973, Tom Bradley was elected the first black mayor of Los Angeles, California. He kept being re-elected until he served five terms, transforming the city into the modern metropolis we know today. But you might be surprised at his background. One of his grandfathers was a slave. His mom and dad had five boys, and then his dad left. So Tom was raised in poverty by a single mom who worked long hours as a maid. She came home after supper each night (but had cooked it earlier for her boys) and then washed their clothes before going to bed. He felt his mom was responsible for his later success in life. Here's one reason why.

During the week, the young Bradley boys were mostly on their own, but on Sunday their mom took them all to New Hope Baptist Church -- their Sunday home. She wanted them to know they were not fatherless! They had a heavenly Father. Tom hated to disappoint his mom, but sometimes poverty triggered temptation, and he and his school buddies stole small items from the local five-and-dime. One day he was caught with pockets bulging with stolen goods -- a pencil, a sharpener shaped like a globe, two candy bars and some trinkets. He was not arrested, but was required to return the goods to the store. "That night mother had only one thing to say to me," he remembered. He was sad to have disappointed her, and she told him something he remembered for the rest of his life. She said, "It's not what I think, son. It's what God thinks that matters."

Monday, October 9, 2017

What are the odds?

In 2007, Jessica Gomes and Aaron Bairos attended rival high schools in Taunton, Massachusetts. Mutual friends introduced them, and they soon began dating. "I knew from the very beginning that he was different," she remembers. "He was respectful and he made me laugh." But Jessica became suspicious. "I thought he was trying to pull a smooth one and win me over," she says, when Aaron told her they had the same birthday. But he was right, as they found when they took driver's ed together and compared their learner's permits.

                                                                                                            Courtesy Jessica Gomez
It turns out both Gomes and Bairos were born April 28, 1990, at Morton Hospital in Taunton. And they were the only two babies born at the hospital that day. Celebrating their mutual birthday was just the beginning. In 2015, Bairos proposed to Gomes as they walked through the Boston Public Garden. The romantic proposal caught Gomes completely off guard and "did the trick." They married last September at Holy Family Church in East Taunton, where generations of the Gomes family have been married. "We hope our story can bring a smile to other people's faces," said Gomes, "because that's what the world needs now."

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A hamster would make her "do better in school"

An eight-year-old girl named Serenity recently wrote a letter to Petco, asking if they could give her a hamster. She said she was in second grade, and never had a pet. In her letter, she promised that if she had a hamster, she would "do better in school, make more friends, and become responsible."  Her school teacher helped her look up the address of the nearest Petco, and they mailed her letter. But the teacher had looked up the wrong address!

Instead of going to Petco, her letter went to the customer service department at PEPCO, which stands for Potomac Electric Power Company. From there it should have gone into the circular file, or been returned to her. But a PEPCO employee named Cornell Reddon had another idea. He and a co-worker decided to help Serenity. They contacted Petco and described her letter. Then Petco gave Serenity the hamster she wanted, along with a free cage. Serenity's mom says she's been studying how to care for hamsters for two years, and is thrilled.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Cornell should have offered him a free-ride scholarship

Almost 70 years ago, A. James Clark was growing up in Bethesda, Maryland, and his parents didn't have much money. After high school, he wanted to go to Cornell, but he could not afford the tuition. So he went to his state school -- the University of Maryland -- instead, where he studied engineering and graduated in 1950.

He got a job with a construction company, and eventually became company president, before starting Clark Construction Group. Since then, Clark became one of the largest construction companies in the United States, with building projects like the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. He lived to be 87 years old, passing away in 2015. And he bequeathed almost a quarter of a BILLION dollars to his alma mater, University of Maryland. The exact amount was $219 million -- intended to double the amount of financial aid current students receive. It's the largest donation the school ever received, and the sixth largest in U.S. history.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Groom saves drowning boy during wedding photo shoot

It happened recently near Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Brittany Cook had just said "I do" to her new husband, Clayton Cook. They were posing for wedding photos in a nearby park, where three little kids were following them around, cheering them on. The couple were close to a lake, and Clayton suddenly noticed there were only two kids. The third had fallen into the water and could not swim. He was struggling to get air.

So Clayton jumped in the water and rescued the boy. His bride didn't see the boy, but she saw her husband jump in the water and shouted, "What are you doing?" Meanwhile, Clayton reached out to the boy and said, "Grab my hand," and then he picked him up and put him on dry land. Of course the wedding photographer never stopped snapping pictures. Now Brittany calls Clayton her "hero husband."

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Veteran is "human shield" for total stranger

It happened in September in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sgt. Cory Hinkle was driving home to Forest City on Boiling Springs Highway in Shelby when he saw a head-on collision in front of him. He saw "dust and smoke go everywhere." As an Iraq combat veteran, he automatically ran toward to car that was smoking. As he approached, Brandy Guin, 28, was trying to climb out of the car, but had a broken ankle.
                                                                                                          Brandy Guin
Sgt. Hinkle and another passer-by helped her to safety on the side of the road, but then fire began to spread over her car. The shock absorbers started to explode, sending hot debris flying everywhere. Brandy remembers, "He shielded me with his body and said, 'It's going to have to go through me to get to you.'" A piece of metal hit his ankle, but his Army boot stopped it, so all he got was a bad bruise. Brandy is a mother of two, and Sgt. Hinkle has a wife and two daughters. He said, "I hope that if my wife was in the same situation, someone would stop and do the exact same thing."

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Paying it forward under golden arches

Think back to September 21, when a drive-in customer stopped at "the first window" at McDonalds in Ocean Springs, Mississippi to pay for the food she ordered. She was a regular, so staff were not too surprised when she told them she also wanted to pay for the car behind her, even though she did not know them. General manager Heidi Waters said this kind of generosity happens many mornings at the restaurant. Maybe five or ten drivers learn their tab has been paid and agree to pay for the car behind them. The eighth car (give or take) just grabs the free food and drives off. This time it was different.

The fifth driver offered to pay for the sixth. And the sixth paid for the seventh, and the seventh for the eighth, until the  McDonalds crew began to wonder how long it would last. "It makes us feel that we're appreciated, even at McDonalds, said Waters. You know the community appreciates the hard work you do." On this day, the run of good will continued for OVER AN HOUR! Before it ended, 125 customers in a row paid for the car behind them before they left.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Mr. Rogers was right!

If Mr. Rogers had seen news about the shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday, October 1, he would have noticed Taylor Winston. Winston joined the Marine Corps when he was only 17, and served two tours in Iraq before being discharged in 2011 as a Sergeant. He was in the crowd when he heard shots ringing out, and his military instincts kicked in. "The shots got louder and louder and closer to us, and I saw people getting hit," he says. "Once we got to the festival fence, I helped throw a bunch of people over and got myself over. It was a mini war zone, but we couldn't fight back."

Once outside the fence, Winston found ignition keys had been left inside a white Chevrolet Silverado parked in the lot. He put some wounded concertgoers into the truck and piled more on the bed, and sped to Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center about five miles away. This was before any ambulances arrived at the festival. He transported as many as 30 victims in the stolen pickup truck. "Once we dropped them off, we were like well, let's go back for round two and get some more," he said, adding that "I think a lot of my training helped me in the situation. We needed to get them out of there regardless of our safety." Since then, he has returned the keys to the truck's owner, and does not want to be hailed as a hero for doing the right thing. Semper Fi!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Mother-in-law from heaven

When I was growing up, the words "mother-in-law" were often pejorative. A few newlyweds called these bonus parents Mom, but mothers-in-law usually received dual monikers like "Mother Benson" or "Mother Smith," and even with good intentions, they sometimes behaved like Mother Superior.

So imagine my surprise when my bride-to-be introduced me to her Mom -- a woman so devoid of criticism, so unwilling to take sides, so invisible (even when staying overnight at our home) that I've always described her to friends as the mother-in-law-from-heaven.

Her name was Betty, and she knew the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Somehow Betty learned my favorite foods, and whenever I visited her home she always had a QUART of homemade potato salad and at least two-dozen freshly deviled eggs in the fridge. She insisted I take some home, since they were "too much" for her.

Betty survived the Great Depression, so she knew the value of a dollar. She wore the same comfortable winter coat until it was threadbare, and when she received a red plastic wristwatch as a prize at Burger King, she wore it every day until the battery died.

Until Betty, I never knew anyone who washed and reused cellophane. When her granddaughters were little and had the sniffles, she went through the house cutting the Kleenex boxes in half, so the tissues would last twice as long.

Betty may have been a packrat, but she was never a tightwad. At 80, she refused to re-carpet her living room because "I'll never live long enough to enjoy it," but she spent freely on airline tickets. Beside visiting nearly all 50 states, she toured England, Europe, Morocco (where she rode a camel), Japan, Hong Kong and the Great Wall of China.

Can you guess what souvenirs she brought home to remember these journeys? Candid snapshots, and matchbooks. Matchbooks were always free, even in China. And easy to pack.

Betty was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She liked to work as much as play. When she was 50 and considered too old for secretarial jobs, she returned to college and earned her BA and MA and a bit of a PhD. These sheepskins guaranteed her a job at the local elementary school, where she taught first grade well beyond the usual retirement age.

But for me, Betty's finest role was mother-in-law. In all the years I knew her, I never heard her complain. Even at 92, when her doctor told her she had about one more year to live, she simply said, "that's OK." She was not a martyr, but had no time for self-pity. Hospice workers at our home said, "She doesn't need us. She's happy already."

Betty's joy came from the little things in life. Her favorite collectables were paper placemats used in small-town restaurants. She felt mats showing different kinds of birds or barns were beautiful, and often asked the waitress for a fresh one to take home and tape to her kitchen wall.

Betty is gone now, but it's no secret where she went. Last week, my wife and I remembered her when we visited a Pancake House and noticed placemats with pretty pictures of covered bridges.

"I hope they have placemats in heaven," my wife said softly.  "Amen," I replied.