Saturday, June 30, 2018

A coincidence? Really?

Earlier this month, a 2-year-old boy from Michigan somehow escaped from his bedroom, opened the front door,and wandered away. He was missing for several hours. Luckily the family dog went with him.

The dog stayed by his side as he wandered about a mile from home into a muddy, wooded area. Police were able to find him by following the dog's paw prints. The boy was badly bitten by bugs, but will be alright. Coincidentally (?), the town where this happened is about an hour south of Grand Rapids. It's called Paw Paw.

Friday, June 29, 2018

A crumb from Harrogate

Last year, Georgia Duffy opened an independent bookstore in Westminster Arcade on Parliament Street in downtown Harrogate, England. Business has been up and down, but a recent Monday was her worst sales day ever. She posted on social media that she earned only $16.16 that day, and invited readers to help. "If anyone is thinking about buying a book, now would be a great time!" she wrote.

                                                                                                                          Georgia Duffy
Within a few days, book orders and donations began pouring in from all over England. According to the BBC, the store sold 70 books in one day, compared to the usual 12. Welsh author Allison Pearson offered to stop at the store to do a book reading and signing. "The response has been phenomenal," said Duffy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A teacher's last gift to her students

Earlier this month Tammy Waddell of Georgia passed away at 58. She had been a teacher at several schools in the Forsyth County school district, and before she died, she asked for people to bring backpacks filled with school supplies to her funeral.

At one point in her 30-year teaching career, she was named Teacher of the Year, and nobody was surprised when she used her funeral as a means of giving back to her students. The backpacks will be donated to Project Connect, a school district initiative that donates school supplies to the region's neediest students.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Passengers touched by kindness on flight

A gentleman named Tim, who appeared to be both blind and deaf, boarded an Alaska Airlines flight at Boston's Logan Airport recently. He was assigned a middle seat, but the man on the aisle gladly switched with him. Flight attendants tried to help him, and graciously they let him feel their faces, but they could not communicate with him. Finally they paged to ask if any passenger knew sign language. That's when a 15-year-old Clara raised her hand.

She learned ASL because she has dyslexia and it was the easiest foreign language for her to learn. For the rest of the flight, she attended to Tim and made sure all his needs were met. She signed one letter at a time into his hand. He was able to read her signing and they carried on an animated conversation. He was obviously delighted to have someone to talk to. Clara didn't think twice about helping a fellow passenger, proving there are still good people willing to reach out and help others.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The lesson of peanut week

Have you ever felt ignored by someone who owed you a kindness? Were you resentful?  I was, and I think you'll understand why.

The camp I attended as a boy had an event each summer called Peanut Week. We all received a peanut with someone else's name wrapped around it. We ate the peanut and some of us also ate the paper, to keep the name secret. It was the name of our peanut, the camper we'd do nice things  for all week, anonymously. We were his "shell." Next weekend, one at a time, we'd each reveal our identity to our peanut and give him a homemade friendship stick, usually a slightly decorated twig.

I'm third from right, in dark t-shirt.

I tried to do something nice for my peanut each day. Once I made his bed. Another time I snuck a copy of Hot Rod Magazine under his pillow. He had no clue how it got there. But nothing good happened to me! Not on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. I asked my counselor if I had a shell, and he said "yes, don't worry about it," but I was mad. I could hardly wait for Saturday so I could tell my shell "thanks for nothing!" in front of everybody.

At the end of the week, we all gathered around a big council fire to exchange sticks. One at a time, each camper learned who his shell was. Finally a counselor got up and walked over to me. He was my shell, and he gave me the most elaborate friendship stick anyone had ever seen at camp. It was delicately cut from a birch log, with my name carved into it, and the year, on a surface carved into diamond shapes. Everybody around me admired it, and I was no longer mad.

Peanut Week taught me a lesson that summer. We're all peanuts, and God is our shell. Even if we don't see evidence of God every single day, we can rest assured He hasn't forgotten us, and at the final council fire (if not sooner), He'll give us the best gift anyone ever received.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Feed Canadians, not landfills

The world's first pay-whatever-you-can grocery is open in Toronto, Canada, where the shelves are stocked with food that was destined for the landfill. The "Feed it Forward" store sells food and ingredients donated by large grocery chains who can't sell the products, which may be bruised or misshapen but still delicious.

Other products are donated because they are too close to their expiration date for sale in supermarkets, even though they may still have a shelf life of several months. Customers at "Feed it Forward" are free to fill up their baskets and pay whatever they can. If they have no money, they can take the food for free. Patrons who can afford to have the option to pay it forward and cover the cost of someone else's groceries.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Animal stuffed with love

Last fall, four-year-old Will Ketcher of Brooklyn, New York, was driving with his parents through Rhode Island. He was hanging his favorite stuffed animal out the window and dropped it. Because they were on the interstate, it was not possible to go back and pick it up. Will was devastated! So his parents told hime to write a letter to highway patrol when they got home. His letter said the stuffed animal's name was Roger. He was a cheetah, and Will loved him. He even drew a picture of Roger so the police would recognize him. It was not an easy letter to write (or print).

A Rhode Island cop named Lawens Fevrier got the letter and realized how sad his own son would be if that happened to him. So he sent someone out to look for Roger on the side of the highway, but it was never found. Will's parents never expected to hear from the police again, but several months later Will got a letter from the highway patrol saying they were sorry they could not find Roger, but they did find another cheetah who needed a home. Along with the letter was a brand new stuffed animal that Will named Rhody. This is the kind of police "incident" that deserves more publicity.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Remember your first fort?

Let's face it. Every little boy wants to build a fort, and Brandon Bailey of Rankin County, Mississippi, is no exception. He waited patiently two long weeks for the delivery of a new refrigerator so he could have the box. Then he could fly a spaceship, or hide in a secret getaway or do anything his heart desired. Finally the new fridge arrived! But it had no box.

Brandon was heartbroken, and the Lowe's delivery driver remembered how "every boy needs an awesome fort," so he drove all the way back to his store and returned with a box for Brandon, whose Mom wrote, "There's a thrilled six-year-old in my house this morning who also learned an important lesson today about kindness."

Friday, June 22, 2018

World Cup filled with compassion

Even if you don't follow sports, the World Cup often brings wonderful stories of international peace and compassion. This year's tournament in the Russian city of Sochi was no exception. For starters, Japanese fans made headlines for continuing their practice of picking up trash and cleaning up stadiums after their games. Next, a pictures posted on the World Cup Twitter page shows Colombian and Mexican fans hoisting up an Egyptian man in a wheelchair so he can watch his team play.

The Senegalese fanbase cleaned up the stadium after they team's historic win against Poland. And finally, the Mexican fanbase were photographed handing out sombreros to disabled Russians. According to GNN Russian correspondent Timofey Yakovets, the Mexican sombreros were really given to any Russian who shared Mexico's love of the World Cup.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Teacher gives back, big time

Genevieve Via Cava taught special needs students for many years in Dumont, New Jersey, not far from Manhattan. She lived into her 80's before passing away in 2011. We're hearing about her now because of something amazing she did before she died. About ten years ago, she told the superintendent of her school district she wanted to donate a million dollars to the school. He assumed she was joking, and laughed. But she was serious.

She had earmarked a million dollars in her will to set up a scholarship for special needs students. Starting next year, one special needs student who wants to go to college or attend a trade school will be eligible for a $25,000 scholarship. There's enough money to give our scholarships for 40 years. How did Mrs. Via Cava save so much money? Her friends say she liked saving more than spending, partly because she lived through the Depression. But nobody knew what she was saving for, until now.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Next time you hear dogs yapping, remember this

Remy Merritt is three years old. She lives in Missouri. Her dog, a Yorkshire terrier, is named Fat Heath. Recently they both went missing. Over 150 volunteers search the cornfields near her home until dark. Then they resumed searching the next morning. After searching for 12 hours, Fat Heath responded to barks from one of the search dogs. "One of our dogs barked, and a weaker bark was returned," said Clark Parrott, a sergeant with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. "We came out to find it was Remy and her Yorkshire terrier.

                                                                                                Missouri State Highway Patrol
"That dog stayed with her all night," he said. Parrot remembered feeling a sense of relief. "The dogs yapping at each other is a neat little moment."

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Cops close down kids lemonade stand?

Did you ever sell lemonade as a kid, to make a little money or just to kill a long, boring afternoon? Some kids still sell it today, but it some areas (believe it or not) it's illegal to sell lemonade with a permit. And to permit costs so much that it soaks up all the profits.

Not long ago, some kids in Denver, Colorado, got shut down by the cops, even though they were raising money for charity. But here's the good news. The company that makes Country Time Lemonade just launched a new Web site called "Country Time LEGAL Ade." If your kid can't sell lemonade without a permit this summer, Country Time will pay for the permit, or pay the fine, up to $300.

Monday, June 18, 2018

"Thank you for delivering me, sir!"

A New Jersey State Trooper recently stopped Matthew Bailly in Kingwood Township for a minor vehicle violation. As they talked, Bailly mentioned that he was a retired Piscataway cop. Patterson told Bailly that Piscataway was his hometown. Bailly asked what street he grew up on. When Patterson answered, Bailly said he was very familiar with it.

                                                                                                         New Jersey State Police
He recalled that when he was a rookie copy 27 years ago, he delivered a baby at a home on that street. Patterson delivered the baby while on the phone with a doctor, who talked him through it. Bailly remembered the baby's name was Michael. "I'm Michael Patterson," said the trooper. Thank you for delivering me, sir!"  Bailly never got a ticket. Just a handshake and a hug.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Do the unexpected

The crowd was surprised recently when Sef Scott stepped up to the podium during graduation ceremonies at Plano Senior High School in Texas. Because Sef has autism and a social communications disorder, he rarely speaks. So when he proceeded to give a powerful speech about "doing the unexpected," students and spectators were in awe.

For weeks, Sef worked with family members to perfect every sentence of the commencement address so he could surprise his peers. And he did.  By the end of the speech, spectators (several of whom were in tears) jumped to their feet to give him a standing ovation.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Filling potholes with pizza?

Well, not exactly. But Domino's Pizza is helping local authorities fill potholes in Bartonville, Texas, Milford, Delaware, Athens, Georgia and Burbank, California. Why fill in cracks and bumps in the road? "We know the feeling when you bring home a carry-out order from your local Domino's, and we don't want you to lose any great-tasting pizza to a pothole," said Russell Weiner, president of Domino's USA.

                                                                                                                      Domino's Pizza
In Milford, Delaware, for example, Domino's crew helped fix 40 potholes on 10 roads in 10 hours. The city manager was grateful, explaining that "this is an opportunity to get additional money to stretch our city's limited resources." So don't be surprised if Domino's soon patches a pothole near you!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Everybody cried

The new documentary about Mr. Rogers, "Won't you be my neighbor?" first appeared in select theaters on June 8. To nobody's surprise, ALL the reviews are filled with inspiration and love. The hashtag #WontYouBeMyNeighbor on Twitter is filled with posts from adults expressing adoration of this biopic. Many noticed something unusual among those watching the movie. Everybody cried.

For example, Julie Williams, 42, of Tampa, Florida, said she grew up in an abusive household. "I promised myself if I ever had children of my own, I'd parent them in a way Mister Rogers made me feel, safe and worthy and joyful. I did that," she said, "I broke the cycle of generational abuse in no small part due to Mister Rogers." Plan now to see this wonderful movie, and take some tissues. Here's the trailer.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dolls for young girls in hospital

Six-year-old Brinley Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma, spent several days in the hospital in 2017. While there, she was given an American Girl doll, and it really lifted her spirits. After returning home, she decided every girl in the hospital should get a similar gift, so she started raising money. From a lemonade stand she earned $400. Then she worked in a restaurant owned by a family friend.

After community members learned what Brinley was doing, she raised another $1,500 in tips, enough to buy the dolls, which she will deliver to the hospital in person.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A helping hand, a gentle hug

Maurice Adams Jr. and his mother were driving through Milledgeville, Georgia, on May 26 when they spotted an unnamed lady trying to climb steps at an intersection, using a walker. He asked his mom to stop, jumped out of the SUV and walked with the lady, with one hand holding her walker and another on her back to steady her. A passerby named Riley Duncan saw the boy and began filming.

As soon as they reached safety at the top of the stairs, the lady hugged Maurice and called him "special." Then he scampered back to his SUV. Maurice did not know he was filmed until Duncan uploaded it and it went viral. Speaking of Maurice's action, his mom said, "It's very touching. It just shows respect and raising your kids right goes a long way."

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Henry David Thoreau would be pleased

Henry David Thoreau was a naturalist philosopher who became famous after living alone in a primitive cabin near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. He once said, "Nature is fair in proportion as the youth is pure," and he was proven right last Sunday in the middle of Walden itself.

                                                                                                          Concord Fire Department
Herman Tsakhaev, 9, of Sudbury, and Bodie Thompson, 11, of Lincoln, were paddleboarding on Walden Pond when they noticed a struggling swimmer. He had a leg cramp and might have drowned, if the boys had not paddled to him and hauled them onto one of their boards. They took him to shore where rescue personnel were waiting. Bodie said if it happened again, he would do what he could. Herman agreed, adding that anyone would have done what they did.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Remember your school's lunch lady?

Probably not, but you would if she was Debra Davis, lunch lady at Hoover High School in San Diego, California, for nearly 30 years. "I feed the kids, I prepare the food, I talk to them, I stop them from fighting," she said recently. "They don't cuss. They have respect, and they call me Aunt Debbie."

During all her years of kindness, the lunch lady drove back and forth to school in a dilapidated 1976 Chevy Malibu. Despite its unreliability, she drove it all over San Diego for her job and volunteer work, until her students said "enough!" State Farm teamed up with the charity Recycled Rides to donate a beat-up 2014 Mazda to the students. Teens in the automotive repair department of another high school worked on the car secretly for three weeks, until it looked and ran like new. When the lunch lady was given the car recently, she was so excited that she danced.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

"Keep sending students our way..."

Back in 1997, Christin Gilmer was a 12-year-old sixth grader in Yuma, Arizona. Her teacher, Judith Toensing, always encouraged her, because she knew how smart she was. On her last report card to Christin, her teacher predicted Christin would someday graduate from Harvard, and asked to be invited to the ceremony. Christin kept that report card for 20 years. It was the first time anyone (other than her parents) believed in her so much.

Now, 21 years later, Christin has earned her Ph.D. in public health -- at Harvard, and her sixth-grade teacher was there to see it. University administrators found out about her note to Christin and paid for the whole trip. The Dean gave a speech and told her story, asking her to, "keep sending students our way."

Saturday, June 9, 2018

She prayed for this moment for 20 years, exactly

Two decades ago, Azita Milanian was jogging in Altadena, California, when one of her dogs stumbled upon what she thought was a dead animal. Instead, it was a newborn baby with its umbilical cord still attached. Just a few hours old, it had been buried alive. Azita dug up the baby, cleared dirt from its mouth and nose, and it was taken to a hospital and eventually place for adoption. But Azita never stopped thinking about the baby. "I always knew we'd get together again," she said.

The baby, now 20-year-old Matthew Whitaker, was reunited with Azita on May 18, after the mother of one of Matthew's friends shared his story with a radio station. "It was overwhelming to to know that God answered my prayers," said Azita. The two went hiking to the spot where she found him 20 years ago. "This could have been my grave," he said. Azita quickly responded, "You were wanted."

Friday, June 8, 2018

When the heartland opened its heart

If you've never seen this video, prepare to have your heart touched. And near the end, it answers the question, "What can waken the memory of an old man suffering from dementia?" Love can.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Why does the lamb love Mary so?

On our first date, Evelyn and I dined at Longfellow's Wayside Inn in Sudbury, MA. Open as Howe's Tavern in 1661, it's the oldest hostelry in the United States. By 1860, Harvard professors vacationed there, and one of them, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was inspired to write "Tales of the Wayside Inn." The tavern almost closed in 1923, until Henry Ford restored and renamed it as an example of colonial Americana. On a hill nearby, he built the New England-style Martha-Mary chapel, honoring his mother and mother-in-law. It's used only for weddings, and if a reception follows at the inn, the couple ride in a "carriage with fringe on top." 

We visited the area often as our girls grew up. It was fun watching wedding parties spill from the white-steepled chapel onto the emerald green lawn, and sometimes we saw the bride and groom in their carriage! But our favorite haunt was a small, one-room school house Ford moved to the churchyard from Sterling, MA. Research convinced him it was the school where Mary had a little lamb. Built in 1798, it served as a school until 1856. It was a dirty garage when he had it dismantled and restored near the inn. He found the original school master's desk and chair, and furnished the room with period pieces. It's open each summer for tours. One desk is marked, "Mary sat here." Our girls sat there too.

The nursery rhyme is based on fact. Mary Sawyer (1806-1859) was growing up on a farm when two lambs were born in her barn. One died, and the other was not expected to live, so she asked to care for it in the house. She nursed it all day, and sat up all night with it, feeding it catnip tea. Gradually it improved, but it thought Mary was its mother. It would follow her anywhere if she called it.

One day her brother suggested they take the lamb to school. They arrived before the teacher and placed the lamb under Mary's seat, wrapped in a shawl. It was not noticed until Mary walked to the blackboard to recite and it walked behind her. Everyone laughed except the teacher, who demanded the lamb be taken outside. Of course it stayed by the door, waiting to walk Mary home. 

A 12-year-old scholar named John Roulstone visited school that day. The incident touched him deeply, and afterward he gave Mary a slip of paper with the original verses of the poem. Eventually the poem became famous as part of McGuffey's Reader. Do you remember it? 
Redstone School, 1983

"Mary had a little lamb; its fleece was white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go. It followed her to school one day which was against the rule; it made the children laugh and play to see a lamb at school. And so the teacher turned it out; but still it lingered near and waited patiently about, 'til Mary did appear. 'Why does the lamb love Mary so,' the eager children cry. 'Why Mary loves the lamb, you know,' the teacher did reply."

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Good news from Down Under

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern just launched a $100 million emergency housing plan. It pulls out all the stops to support people in need and urgently increase housing supply this winter. "Our government will make sure EVERYONE IS HELPED to find warm, dry housing," he said.

Now is the cold season in the southern hemisphere, and the government intends to get the country's 40,000 homeless people into proper shelters, housing and facilities. Ardern explained, "We acknowledge this is an emergency. We couldn't stand by and see people sleeping in cars or completely unsuitable housing."

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A video worth watching.....

Good Grief Camp helps comfort grieving children (gold star kids) who lost a loved one in military service.  This brief video explains it beautifully.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Remember teacher appreciation day?

It comes around every spring, and many students give thank-you notes to favorite teachers, or maybe some flowers. But an anonymous former student of Lindley Elementary School in Greensboro, North Carolina, went the extra mile.

First, principal Tracy Root had all the teachers assemble in the auditorium, where she informed them that the unnamed former student, out of gratitude for the work they all do, had give each teacher a voucher for a free vacation for them and their families anywhere in the continental United States. The vouchers have a combined total value of $96,000, and the teachers were thrilled.

Friday, June 1, 2018

An example of true sportsmanship

Christy Lee Rowden of Oologah, Oklahoma, took her two kids, Asher and Mercy, to the park recently to play. It was early and nobody else was there, so the two children played alone. Then a group of 5th grade boys from Oologah Upper Elementary showed up and started playing basketball. Rowden says that since she adopted 7-year-old Asher from Uganda, he's been shy around other kids. He quietly stepped back to watch the boys play, and then something happened that made Christy cry.

The older boys approached little Asher, introduced themselves, and invited him to play with them. "They were so kind," says his mom. "They included him by letting him catch and throw the ball and they cheered him on and high-fived him. It brought tears to my eyes, especially being the mom of a black boy in a mostly white community."

Remember learning fractions?

Corey Simmons, 42, of New York City, has a third grade son who flunked a math test about fractions. While riding the subway, Simmons struggled with a paper full of fraction problems he hoped to solve so he could teach his son how to do them. But he was stuck.

Before long, an older man got on and sat down next to him. He asked Simmons what he was doing, and Simmons explained he had not studied fractions for over 30 years, so he was having a hard time. By coincidence (?) the older passenger was a former math teacher and offered to help Simmons help his son. A woman across the aisle heard the entire conversation and posted this photo on Facebook, where it's been shared 40,000 times.