Friday, November 30, 2018

Advocacy knows no age limit

When sisters Isabelle and Katherine Adams were only 5 and 8 years old, their dad showed them the intricate paper folding techniques of origami. About that time, a friend told them that girls in poor countries sometimes can't go to school because they must carry water all day because of lack of wells. The sisters knew they had to help. So they founded "Paper for Water," selling origami ornaments to raise money. They dreamed of raising $200 toward the $9,200 needed to sink a well in Ethiopia by selling origami in Starbucks.

Within two months they raised $10,000 for the well, and that was just the beginning. Their hobby became a passion, and in the past seven years they have sold enough origami to create 160 water projects in 15 nations. So far, they've helped about 48,000 people have clean, accessible water.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A reader in Bloomington, Indiana, shared this crumb

Last September, Dutch government officials decided to send an Armenian family back to their homeland. The Tamrazyans fled Armenia nine years ago after receiving death threats, and were given asylum in the Netherlands. Now officials have changed their mind, and are prepared to expel the parents and their three children. There's just one problem. By law, Dutch police cannot enter a church during services.

                            Hayarpi Tamrazyan, 21, and her younger brother and sister.

Hayarpi Tamraazyan appealed for help on social media and the family was given refuge in the Bethel Church in the Hague. To keep police from entering the building, 300 volunteer pastors have conducted a round-the-clock worship service since Oct. 27. A candle has been passed from one minister to the next -- for about 700 hours, and more clergymen are being called to assist. "It's so impossible to express how special it feels when so many people help you," says Hayarpi. A petition to grant the family permanent asylum has received over 250,000 signatures, so far. Let us pray.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Middle-schoolers go to war for charity

Students and staff from Wallenpaupack Middle School in Hawley, Pennsylvania, empty their piggy banks for a competition called Penny Wars, and last month the proceeds were given to an animal shelter and a fire company. It's a "war between grades" where pennies are considered positive points and other coins or paper money are negative points which students give to opposing grades.

The goal is to have the lowest possible score at the end of the week-long competition. When the war is underway, it is competitive. Teachers give as well, and bring their students to give their coins during the opposing grade's lunch period. Each year the money collected goes to worthy causes. An eighth-grade member of the student council, Frankie Toppi, said says the competition is fun because of how much is raised, and how students work together to make it happen.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

An encore crumb from 2017

In the Bible we read, "I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude...saying Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." (Rev. 19:6) If that happened today, it would probably be in a church, right? Or maybe a concert hall? But could it happen in a busy store during rush hour, where customers would stop buying stuff to listen? Believe it or not, yes. Here's where, and why.

When John Wanamaker opened his department store in Philadelphia, he was such a devout Christian that he refused to advertise in the Sunday newspaper. He never served alcohol in his famous Crystal Tea Room. He felt shopping should be a cultural experience, so in 1909 he hired 13 freight cars to bring the 10,000 pipe organ from the St. Louis World's Fair to his store. It was installed on one wall of the Grand Court, a seven story atrium. He expanded the instrument to more than 28,000 pipes, making it the world's largest. (The biggest pipe is so wide that a Shetland pony once posed inside it.) Wanamaker also built a radio transmitter atop his store, so that customers who owned radio receivers (which he sold) could hear live organ concerts right at home. In addition to the organ, he purchased a bronze eagle from the St. Louis World's Fair's German Exhibit. Weighing more than a ton,  it has 5,000 bronze feathers and sits on a granite base. Since its installation in the Grand Court, all Philadelphians know what it means when you say, "Meet me under the eagle."

On Oct. 30, 2010, hundreds of shoppers searching for bargains noticed the organ began playing louder than usual during the daily noontime concert in the store, which is now called Macy's. Then they were startled when 688 singers, disguised as shoppers, burst into the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah.

If you have five spare minutes and would like to "meet me under the eagle" for this event, please visit and follow the prompt.  See for yourself how true "Christmas shopping" sounds. You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Thousands of Jews and Muslims work together

In a display of loving solidarity, several hundred Muslims and Jews rallied together to serve hot soup to the homeless. It was a means of celebrating Mitzvah Day, a day of social action for people of different faiths. Jews and Muslims met at the East London Mosque in November to make 1,000 bowls of chicken soup.

Laura Marks, who founded Mitzvah Day, says it's about common values that underlie both religions -- the commitment to social justice. "Most of the Jews here today have never been in a mosque before, and most Muslims don't have Jewish friends. But here we are, chopping vegetables together."

Friday, November 23, 2018

Sometimes a letter is better than an email

John Metzler lives in Wendell, Idaho, and keeps a special letter on his bookshelf. It was written by a girl in sixth grade, and he received it (randomly) when he was a 23-year-old Army helicopter sniper in Vietnam. He received it on Christmas day, 1970, and it said, "Dear Serviceman, I want to give my sincere thanks for going over to war to fight for us. The class hopes you will be able to come home." It was signed "DonnaCaye." Metzler said the letter helped him survive Vietnam. Why? "It's because she said thank you." Not long ago, he asked his family members to find DonnaCaye, but they couldn't.

Or at least that's what they told John. In fact, they found DonnaCaye Ludemann Sica living in Florida and contacted her. "I remember writing that letter," she said. "I hoped to make a serviceman's life a little simpler for a couple of minutes." In sixth grade she took the assignment seriously, and she still does. That's why she flew from Florida to Idaho to surprise her unsuspecting soldier. "You're real!" John said when he saw her. "Yes, I'm real," she replied.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Thanksgiving turkey AND a Christmas gift!

As reported in the Illinois Belleville News-Democrat two years ago, Stanford Kipping, 82, and his wife Patty, 70, were caught between a rock and a hard place. Should they keep up payments on their 1998 Buick, or buy prescription medicines they need to stay well? They decided to buy the medicine, and before long a repo man named Jim Ford came and towed their Buick away. "When I got home that night," Ford recalls, "I said to myself, 'They are a real nice elderly couple. I gotta do something. I can't just take their car.'"

Using the online service "GoFundMe," he raised more than $3,500 in one night. After paying the fee for services, he paid the bank the $2,501 the Kippings owned on the car. Then he put $1,000 in cash into an envelope and a co-worker bought the Kippings a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Ford fixed the old Buick's headlights, topped off the radiator and changed the oil, and then hooked up the car for the return tow to the Kipping's home. Stanford and Patty Kipping didn't know what they would do without their car, and when they got it back paid off, with a turkey and a $1,000 gift, they called it "a miracle come true." It was the best Christmas gift they could have wished for.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A good reason to miss a college exam

Miguel Carnacho is a college student in Tampa, Florida. Recently he was sitting on a park bench studying for an exam, and while taking a break he hopped onto Facebook and saw a post about a missing dog. The dog was named Zeus, and knew how to KITEBOARD. Zeus had been stolen by a strange in his 60s or 70s driving a gray sedan.

Just as Miguel was reading the post, a guy in his 60s or 70s pulled up in a gray sedan and hopped out with a dog. Miguel confronted him, and they argued until Miguel yelled "Zeus!" and the dog ran right to him. The guy who stole Zeus took off, but Miguel was able to reunite Zeus with his family. He missed his exam, but when the professor heard his story, he said he could take it later.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Can a trash man be a hero? Sure!

Margaret Newsum, 93, of Paradise, California, personally witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. Later, she worked as a back-up singer for Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack. In her 70s, she tried hang gliding, but this month she was eating breakfast in her Paradise, California, home, when she turned on the morning news and heard about a fire. She's recovering from a broken back, and her care-giver had already left town. With no family to help her, she stepped out on her front porch hoping someone might see her. That's when Dane Ray Cumings pulled up in his "big green monster" trash truck.

                                                                         Kendra Kostelecky/Waste Management
Cummings had been told by his boss to stop working and get out of town, but he'd driven the same route for eight years and knew where all the seniors lived. He decided to be sure they were safe, and Newsum was his last stop. Neighbors helped boost the fragile senior into the truck and she rode five hours with Cummings -- to safety. After hearing her life story, he said he wished he knew her when she was younger, because "I'd have married her." Giving a non-employee a ride in his truck broke company protocol, but it led to a fierce new friendship and turned a trash man into a hero.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Do sports really teach kids life lessons?

We've all seen pictures of Paradise, California, on the news. It was almost entirely destroyed by the recent Camp Fire, displacing thousands of residents, including high school athletes. Last week Paradise Adventist Academy was scheduled to play Forest Lake Christian School in Auburn, California, in the Northern California Division VI girls volleyball semi-finals. The girls from Paradise decided to go to the game, even though fire had destroyed their uniforms, pads, and almost everything else. Before the game, Forest Lake players asked permission to waive the admission fee and take donations instead for the team from Paradise.

When the girls from Paradise arrived after a two-hour drive, they found brand new uniforms, knee pads and socks for every player, plus a truckload of donated clothes. There was a dinner planned, along with a roomful of goods for player's families. Paradise Adventist coach Jason Eyer was given $300 gift cards for each of his players. These donations came together in 24 hours, and the gym was packed with people who had never watched a volleyball game in their life, but wanted to support a good cause. Forest Lake Christian won the game, but the biggest victory was their kindness.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Is it possible to hate-in-person?

Emmy Award winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan is a daughter of immigrants, a Muslim woman, a feminist and a human rights activist. She wanted to discover whether people who hate Muslims or immigrants or feminists could hate her in person, so she arranged to meet with the leader of the US Socialist Movement (neo-Nazi.) She felt very intimidated. He wanted to meet her in his neighborhood. "What if he's armed, or if he brings people with him?" she worried.

When he arrived it was awkward at first, but she said that, because she was willing to listen, everything changed. They talked about life, family, and politics. and Khan said that, as she hoped, he could not hate her in person. "It reminded me that they are just people," she said. "I've spent my entire life being stereotyped. I am not going to turn around and do that to somebody else."

Friday, November 16, 2018

Feeding California firefighters

Tavern 101 Grill & Tap House was under an evacuation order in Agoura Hills, California. The owner, Marco Gonzalez, was one of thousands evacuated from the community because of the Woolsey Fire. As he watched news coverage of the fires, he knew he had to help. The next day he went to fire command and was cleared to reopen his business, where he cooked hot meals for more than 700 firefighters.

When he ran out of food, his sister-in-law created a Venmo account where $25,000 was quickly raised. People who donated money also came in to the restaurant to help. They created a "thank you" banner for the firemen.  Within 24 hours, more than 1,000 firefighters enjoyed a hot meal and had time to sit down, watch television and rest before heading back out to the woods to protect homes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Going the extra mile, or at least half-a-mile

Shannon Ranger lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She arrived at her son's school recently to walk him home like she does everyday. Her son, Matthew Gessner, 6, uses a wheelchair. The weather was bad that day, The area got its first heavy snow. Shannon thought she could push her son home in his chair, but she soon became stuck in the snow.

She tried to call a cab, but they told her it could not come for 20 minutes. Then a man came out of a nearby house with a shovel and started to shovel the sidewalk. Soon another man came out and suggested that, instead of shoveling, it would be easier to pick up Matthew in his wheelchair and carry him. "They ended up carrying him about half-a-mile, all the way home," Shannon said. "I've had issues before, like when the elevator is broken at the train station and I have to carry him in his chair up the stairs. People just walk past us, so it was very amazing to see such kindness."

Monday, November 12, 2018

Closing the political divide

Years ago, Congressmen spent most of the year in Washington. They got to know each other socially, and even knew each other's spouses and children. But today they must spend vast amounts of time raising money, so they return to their home districts almost every weekend and only see their fellow legislators "at work." To remedy this, the American Congressional Exchange flies members of Congress from across the political spectrum to the districts of opposing party members, where they spend 48 hours learning about each other's personal lives and their communities.

The effort started in 2016, and hopes to bring bipartisanship back to Capitol Hill. The founder, Jonathan Perman, was uncertain if lawmakers would actually participate, but he's been pleasantly surprised by their reactions.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Player makes touchdown in Senior Night game

Kieran Johnson is diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition that can cause developmental delays. During four years at Montwood High School in El Paso, Texas, he's been the football team's strongest fan. "He's been our loudest supporter," says the coach, "and for four years he's dreamed of suiting up for a varsity game."

"We thought it was a good time to get him out in the game for some action. He's super excited." In the second quarter of the game, a teammate handed Kieran the ball and he took off. "All I saw was the goal line and I went for it!" he said. "Game on! I tried and I made it, baby. I'm feeling great after that one."

Saturday, November 10, 2018

As the Christmas delivery season approaches

Do you know your UPS driver? Jerry Bollinger retired not long ago after 40 years as a UPS driver. He's not sure about future plans, but he's thankful he won't have to deal with holiday deliveries for the first time since 1978. He wasn't expecting a gold watch or a farewell party, but his customers had other plans.

About six months ago, he started telling customers October 31 would be his last day. And one of them decided to honor him by dressing like HIM for Halloween. All of them bought UPS hats and jackets or made their own. It started out with just one office, but after word got out, other customers wanted in on it. His retirement day was moved to October 30, but they all adjusted and when he showed up with final deliveries they were all there, dressed like him and cheering his name. They also did a retirement fundraiser for him and collected about $4,500. He says he's just "flabbergasted."

Friday, November 9, 2018

Do you want cheese with your ballot?

A charity named Pizza to the Polls is dedicated to serving pizza to voters stuck in long lines at polling places. The charity, run from Portland, Oregon, is staffed entirely by volunteers. It launched in 2016 as a way of easing the strain of waiting in long lines to vote.

                                                                                                                 Images from Twitter
The charity uses the Slice pizza delivery app to locate pizzerias near crowded polling places, so they can send several dozen pies to the voters. This year, volunteers say they delivered  to 576 polling places across 43 states. What's more impressive is that the charity has trouble spending all the donations sent to them by voters. They finished this election day with an extra $154,600 in contributions.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Does faith or destiny rule our life?

There's a 14-year-old girl in the Houston, Texas, area who was hit recently by a bullet fired through the wall of her bedroom. The bullet grazed one of her arms.

                                                                                                                      Stock Photo
Based on the bullet's trajectory, police believe if she had been standing, or laying in bed, the shot could have been fatal. The reason she received only a flesh wound is because she was kneeling beside her bed at the time.  The shooting is under investigation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Pizza essay wins admission to Yale

Carolina Williams, 19, calls Brentwood, Tennessee, her home. She applied for admission to several universities last year, including Yale and Auburn. For her Yale application she had to write 10 essays. One essay was about "what you love to do," in less than 200 words. She wrote about her love for ordering Papa John's pizza from home, explaining in part, "When the delivery person rings my doorbell, I instantly morph into one of Pavlov's dogs, salivating to the sound that signals the arrival of the cheesy, circular glory." An admissions officer emailed back that she was accepted to Yale, adding that "I laughed so hard at your pizza essay, and then ordered pizza."

                                                                                                                         Kathy Williams
Papa John himself responded, offering her an internship, free pizza for a year, and a free pizza party in her new college dorm. But it won't be at Yale. She decided to attend Auburn University in Alabama instead. Why? "Because I love the South and the whole school spirit there." She's the first person in her family to go to college, and believes "Auburn is just a better fit for me." And Auburn has one more advantage. "They have a Papa John's in their student center on campus, so I'll be there all the time."

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Companions for courage

Karl lives in Eustis, Florida. He's a white boxer who was almost put to sleep by his breeders because he was born deaf. Thanks for an organization called Companions for Courage, he now has an important career. He's available to encourage children called to court and asked to testify against their abusers. One little girl was frozen with fear when called to the stand in the 9th Circuit Court in Florida to face the man who wronged her. That's when she "signed" Karl to come sit by her, and he did. Karl knows simple sign language, and always obeys signs. Loud courtroom noises don't bother him. He's always calm.

Children who must testify are taught a few simple sign language signs that Karl knows well. They feel like they have a secret code known only to Karl. His big muscular build made little girl feel safe. When she could not reach down to pet him, she kicked off her shoes and ran her toes through his fir. With Karl's support, she began to testify and went through the entire process without a hitch.

Monday, November 5, 2018

In Toronto -- Rings of Peace

Hundreds of Canadians of different faiths are standing in support of their Jewish neighbors by forming protective "rings of peace" around synagogues in Toronto. The event was orchestrated by the National Council of Canadian Muslims to show solidarity with Jewish communities.

"It's about the sanctity of life," said Farhad Khadim, a founding director of the Islamic Institute of Toronto. "For everyone on earth, whether you are part of a certain religion or do not practice religon at all, the right to safety is paramount."

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Is a stone spiritual?

In the 1800s, when Mary Baker Eddy was investigating the power of prayer, she answered the question, "is a stone spiritual?" in these words. "To erring material sense, No! but to unerring spiritual sense it is a small manifestation of Mind, a type of spiritual substance." Most folks said she was crazy to think a stone could have spiritual value, but students at Kittredge Elementary School in North Andover, Massachusetts understand.

Their discovery began 13 years ago, when Kyra Brown, Celia DiSalvo and Alex Gamble were in second grade. One day at recess they noticed what looked like a small stone in the ground behind their school. They felt compelled to dig it up. From then on (except when the ground was frozen) they spent every recess digging. First they used twigs; then little plastic spoons stolen from the cafeteria. Playground assistants told them to stop and took away their spoons. They were repeatedly sent to the principal's office, but they never quit. Finally, when they were in fifth grade, Richard Cushing became principal. According to DiSalvo, the new principal understood it "wasn't just a rock." He gave them shovels and buckets. "When it was being uncovered, different people had different opinions about it," Gamble said, "but this is not just a slab of stone. It's much more than that." Once the rock was uncovered, Principal Cushing hired heavy equipment to lift it from the ground and place it near the playground, and three years ago, when Kyra, Celia and Alex graduated from high school, they returned to Kittredge Elementary where the rock was dedicated. They were "rock" stars, literally and figuratively. But why?

"Traits such as ambition and determination that led us to dig up the rock even though we probably weren't supposed to and knew it, these traits have made us successful in our careers as students," Brown explained. Whenever current and future Kittredge students sit on the rock, they will remember these traits, and these memories give the rock spiritual value. Already, its become a beacon for kids who get picked on. If they sit on the rock, by the end of recess someone will sit with them. Just ask Walter Wanyoike. "I sat on the rock and then eventually some kids came and that changed my life forever," he said. "I thought I'd just sit there alone at recess. When I made these new friends, it felt magical."

When Kyra, Celia and Alex started digging in second grade, they wondered if they might find a timeless treasure. Apparently they did.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Sweeter than candy

Libbie Stanton is nine years old and lives in Vail, Colorado. She does not like to eat candy, but loves Halloween anyway. So, for the past three years, she's been getting people to donate their leftover Halloween candy so she send it to troops serving abroad.

Treats for Troops is a program run by a charity called Soldier's Angels. Every year, they sound thousands of pounds of candy to troops and veterans. Libbie got involved in 2016, when she collected about 80 pounds of candy. Her goal this year was 1,000 pounds. She knows she's not just sending soldiers candy. She's also sending them hope, and love.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Helping hands make work light

A store in Southhampton, England, had to move because its rent became unaffordable. The store, called October Books, raised enough money to buy a former bank building nearby, and as moving day approached, they appealed to the community for help.

Volunteers arrived on moving day to make a human chain and transfer more than 2,000 books to the new location. Jani Franck, who took part in the chain, said "It's truly amazing. The power of community coming together and achieving something like this."

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Yes, we do have bananas

Stacey Truman is the cafeteria manager at Kingston Elementary School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She wanted to offer some inspiration to her students, so she started writing down little messages of encouragement on the bananas that she served for lunch.

Students have officially called the healthy treats "talking bananas," and Truman says they are almost always gone by the time lunch is over. School principal Sharon Shrewbridge was so touched by the gesture that she took this photo of the talking bananas and posted it on social media.