Saturday, December 29, 2018

A new approach to wedding "gifts"

Brad and Jessica Bond were married in Orlando, Florida, this winter. Instead of asking for wedding presents, they took their entire wedding party of 100 people to Target. They gave each wedding guest a $10 gift card and asked them to buy a gift for Toys for Tots.

A lot of guests ended up spending a lot more than $10, so the couple walked out with a LOT of gifts to give away. And Jessica did the whole thing in her wedding gown. It wasn't just a random act for them. It was a tradition. Brad took Jessica to Target on their first date seven years ago, and they picked out gifts together for Toys for Tots.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Giving away everything

Kim Ringeisen is a combat veteran with 15 years of search and rescue experience. He was recently deployed to search for survivors in Paradise, California, after a devastating fire destroyed most of the town. He searched about 100 homes, and when he returned home, he and his wife Annette decided to do more.

They will be moving to North Carolina soon, and instead of paying to ship all their furniture and household goods, they opted to donate everything to the 40 firefighters who lost their homes in the wildfires. Except for a few sentimental possessions, they filled up this 26-foot truck with the contents of their house. They also donated everything in their storage unit, and since Annette makes dolls for a living, she packaged up dozens of homemade toys as Christmas gifts for the children of firefighters.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

This father really loves his daughter

Hal Vaughan knows he's not getting any younger, and every Christmas matters. This year he wanted to spend it with his daughter Pierce Vaughan, but she's a flight attendant for Delta and he's never flown on any of her flights. Until this Christmas.

In order to be with her, Hal bought a ticket for each of her Christmas Eve and Christmas Day flights. Pierce says her dad made it on every flight, calling it a "Christmas miracle" because her dad was flying stand-by as a parent of a flight attendant, and there was always an extra seat for him. If that's not a miracle, consider this. He even got to travel first class on RSW-DTW (between Fort Myers, FL, and Detroit, MI).

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Meeting Wonder Woman in person

It happened on December 11, 2015. Nancy Jundi of Los Angeles, California, stopped for coffee at a 7-Eleven when a four-year-old girl saw her, hid behind her mother, and screamed. Then she started to cry, and as her Mom stooped to comfort her, the child whispered something. In broken English, the mother told Nancy, "She thinks you're Wonder Woman. You're her favorite. Could you...I'm so sorry." So Nancy bent down to speak with the child, who asked, "Why aren't you wearing your uniform?" Nancy explained she worked with non-super heroes during the day. "But when do you wear your boots and tiara?" the youngster asked.
"I'll tell you a secret," Nancy said. "Even when you can't see it, I'm wearing my crown. It's like my invisible Jet. Want to touch it?" The little girl froze. She was so excited. She touched my head and smiled, saying "You have hair just like mine!" Nancy asked if the child would like her crown, since "I have more, I promise, but I want you to have this one." The child hugged Nancy and thanked her. Looking back, Nancy hopes that, "Until something in this world tells her differently, she'll carry herself like she's wearing that crown, and hopefully it will help her if the world ever tells her she's less than worthy."

Monday, December 24, 2018

A Christmas reminder from poet Edgar Guest

God builds no churches. By His plan, that labor has been left to man. No spires miraculously arise, no little mission from the skies falls on a bleak and barren place to be a source of strength and grace. The humblest church demands its price of human toil and sacrifice.
The humblest spire in mortal ken, where God abides, was built by men. And if the church is still to grow, is still the light of hope to throw across the valleys of despair, man still must build God's house of prayer. God sends no churches from the skies. Out of our hearts they must arise!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Christmas miracle?

Roxli Doss was diagnosed this year with an inoperable brain tumor. She lives in Buda, Texas, and even though there is no cure, doctors gave the 11-year-old weeks of radiation. Neighbors and friends came together to support the Doss family, but there was no hope, so Gena and Scott Doss decided to pray for a miracle.

Now Roxli's brain tumor has vanished. Gena believes their prayers were answered. Now she and Scott cry tears of joy. "When I first saw Roxli's MRI scan, it was actually unbelievable, said her doctor. The tumor was undetectable on the MRI scan, which is really unusual. At Dell Children's Hospital, Texas Children's Hospital Dana-Farber and Johns Hopkins, all the doctors agreed it was inoperable. They can't explain why the tumor disappeared. After going from "no cure" to "no trace," the Doss family say they only have God to thank.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Encore crumb from last December

Listening to a high school music program this month recalled my years in senior high choir at Mt. Pleasant High School in Wilmington, Del. It was the '50s -- the era of penny loafers, saddle shoes, English bikes and paper routes. Being 15 wasn't easy, and singing in public was unthinkable, except in choir. My audition of "He's got the whole world in His hands" won me a seat in the bass section, and we rehearsed during the last period Tuesday and Thursday, when all clubs met. Our director, Mr. Cole, who also conducted band and orchestra, let us sit on chairs to discuss our music, but made us stand when singing. From September through December, we practiced for the Christmas concert. Beside familiar carols, Mr. Cole threw in some classics. I'll never forget singing "Kyrie Eleison" (Lord have mercy) and can still hear us harmonize "Gloria in Excelisis Deo" (Glory to God in the highest), even though I didn't understand the words and had never heard of Vivaldi.

On the bright side, Mr. Cole was not like other teachers. Choir was pass/fail and nobody failed, so he was more like a friend. We could take any problem to him, no matter how personal, and he always had time to listen and discuss it. He never judged us (unless he had a conductor's baton in his hand) so we felt loved. We loved back by trying to please him. On the dark side, our early rehearsals were always terrible. He'd stop us over and over with "No, that's wrong! You can do better! Be quiet and look at me." We'd sing Kyrie Eleison countless times, and it always sounded the same to me. As Christmas drew near, our rehearsals got even worse. Begging us to concentrate, he'd warn, "We're not going to be ready!" We began to wonder if our performance would be a flop.

Parents and friends filled the bleachers in the gym on concert night. A Christmas tree glowed beneath a basketball hoop. The orchestra was already seated and tuned up when we choir members filed onto risers behind it, being careful not to trip on our green and white robes. The risers were so crowded that everyone touched elbows. Lights dimmed and Mr. Cole, looking stern, raised his baton.

That's when the magic happened. Don't ask me how, but on his downbeat we were no longer 30 voices struggling to blend. We were just one voice, thinking as one, singing as one, in perfect harmony. "Kyrie Eleison" floated over the audience like a prayer rising to heaven, and Mr. Cole's frown became a smile. He nodded affirmatively. We forgot the gym. We forgot the audience. We forgot the time. We just sang for him, and it was Christmas! Thank you, Mr. Cole (and music directors at all high schools) for helping fragile teens develop self-confidence. Sixty years later, I still remember.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Instead of Black Friday, why not RAK Friday?

Today's crumb comes from a reader in Palm Beach, Florida, where some families are not crowding stores for good deals on Black Friday. Instead they're showering others with gifts, as part of RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) Friday, which began six years ago. This year, founder Travis Thomas again encouraged people to form RAK teams and share their good deeds on social media. He's seen responses from as far away as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

This year Thomas' children baked cookies and delivered them to Palm Beach County firefighters. Another team borrowed a church van and performed more than 300 acts of kindness in four hours. They dropped off a gift card to a man who lives in his car, returned shopping carts, handed out lottery tickets at McDonalds and scattered pennies on the ground for people to find for good luck. They dropped off dog biscuits for the police K-9 unit, and, after purchasing carousel tickets at Downtown At The Gardens, they taped dollar bills to the horses, for children to find. Other RAK volunteers filled up machines at a coin laundry with quarters, and hid $1 bills around the local Dollar Store for shoppers to find. Thomas says it's a great way to start the holiday season.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

More food, less waste

Truckers often arrive at a supermarket to drop of several pallets of ordered food only to have the food rejected because of an error in the order, or because the food was cosmetically damaged in transit, or delay was caused by equipment failures. This often results in the food going to a landfill, but not in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Indy Hunger Network has created a Food Drop Program which connects drivers with nearby food banks that can put the products to good use. In addition to feeding the hungry, the program also benefits the drivers by saving them from having to pay expensive landfill fees. The Indianapolis program was launched in 2017, but charity workers say they can document over 90,000 pounds of food donated within its first six months.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Long-lost love letter recovered

Jason Holcomb always knew his grandparents, Max and Martha, loved each other. But he'd never seen a love letter Max wrote to Martha in 1954, until this month. It all began at the Walmart in Dalton, Georgia, where employee Jennifer Hendrix learned that one of her co-workers found a letter on the floor of the store. It was dated July 30, 1954, and was from a serviceman (Max) to his sweetheart (Martha) saying how he'd be home in 15 days and they'd get married.

Hendrix was determined to return the letter to its owners. In her research, she discovered that both Max and Martha are deceased, but according to Max's obituary, he was survived by a grandson named Jason Holcomb. Hendrix found Holcomb on Facebook and sent him a message about her discovery. He messaged back, "Can you call me?" so she did. Holcomb said his family never knew about the letter, and he was emotional when reading the words of his late grandfather. "They were defiantly selfless people," he said later. "They always thought about each other before they did anything."

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Another dog crumb

Two restaurant chains, Dunkin' (Donuts) and Baskin-Robbins are spending more than $2 million to bring full-time therapy dogs into American pediatric hospitals. The Joy of Childhood Foundation, an independent charity hosted by the two chains, is launching Dogs for Joy, a program to bring in-residence pups that are trained as service dogs to "work"full time at children's hospitals across the United States.

The facility dogs will offer children needed distraction, motivation and joy, which lowering stress and anxiety for pediatric patients. Very few of the 220 pediatric hospitals in the U.S. have this program, and the Dogs of Joy Foundation plans to increase that number.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Dog adopts UPS driver

Jason Coronado has never really been a dog person. He's a UPS driver in Grand Island, New York, just outside Buffalo, and last October he was delivering a package to an animal shelter when a pit-bull mix named Ernie jumped into his truck and wouldn't get out.

So Jason went home and talked to his family about Ernie. And they decided to adopt him. Ernie likes being with Jason more than anyone else, and follows him around the house all the time. He's already trained, so they have not had any issues. Jason says he's basically just a big lap dog.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Santa thanks a war veteran

It happened at the Concord Mall in my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. Gina Wilbur was sitting on a bench watching Santa greet children at his workshop. There was a line of kids waiting to sit on Santa's lap, but he briefly stepped away from his chair so he could walk over to 93-year-old Bob Smiley, a World War II veteran, who was sitting nearby.

Bob stood as Santa approached him, got down on one knee, shook his hand and thanked him for his service. Then Santa returned to the children. As an observer, Gina took this photo. She posted it on social media where it has been shared thousands of times.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Voting for snowball fights

Dane Best is nine years old and lives in Severance, Colorado, a small town outside Fort Collins. For almost a century, Severance had a law on the books banning snowball fights. It said you can't throw objects at people, animals or property. It meant rocks that might hurt someone. Nobody was ever arrested for throwing snowballs, but technically, snowball fights were illegal.

Recently Dane put on his best bow tie and went to a city council meeting. He gave a three minute speech on why the law is unjust. After he was done, the city council voted unanimously to overturn the law. Then the mayor presented Dane with two snowballs outside. And he and his four-year-old brother got into the first legal snowball fight in the town's history. In the future, he plans to argue against a law that says people can only have three pets. He has four, so he's fostering an illegal guinea pig.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Oh holey night?

A massive pothole recently opened in the middle of a street in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and people in the neighborhood reported it to the city. But the city never got around to fixing it, and it kept getting bigger every day. So finally someone decided to force the city into action.

A woman named Marietta Spak was digging around for decorations in her attic when she found an artificial tree she'd forgotten about. She thought it would be funny to plant it in the pothole.  Actually, the tree did help people avoid the hole when they drove down the street, And she finally got the city's attention. When this photo went viral, the city made the pothole a priority, whatever that means.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A compassionate stranger

Kelsey Rae Zwick was flying from Orlando to Philadelphia with her 11-month-old daughter Lucy earlier this month. Lucy suffers from chronic lung disease, and they were going to the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. Kelsey was pushing a stroller, had a diaper bag on one arm, and was lugged an oxygen machine for Lucy. But as they settled into their pre-assigned seats, something unexpected happened.

A flight attendant approached them and said there was a man seated in first-class who wanted to switch seats with her. Kelsey remembers, "I cried my way up the aisle while my daughter Lucy laughed." She thanked the kind man as they passed, but added more on a social media post that went viral. "Thank you. Not just for the seat itself but for noticing. For seeing us and realizing that maybe things are not always easy. It reminded us how much good there is in this world. I can't wait to tell Lucy someday, and meantime, we will pay it forward."

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A much-needed moment of hope

Courtney Werblow and her family returned to her parent's home in Paradise, California recently. The home was totally destroyed by the deadly wildfire, but as they looked at the ashes, something moved. She spotted a beige cat with a brown face looking at them from the distance. It was their beloved cat, Timber, standing near the ruins, after surviving a week alone.

Courtney wept as she called Timber for a bowl of cat food. After some hesitation, Timber walked over to Courtney as she cried, "You made it! You made it!" She says it was a much-needed moment of hope for her family and parents, who lost everything else.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

An unexpected family

Genevieve Purinton is 88 years old, and lives in Tampa, Florida. She never raised any children, and her siblings have all passed away, so she's alone in the world. She did have a baby when she was 18. She was going to up it up for adoption until she was told it died at birth. Which wasn't exactly true.

Doctors told Genevieve the baby died to make the adoption process easier for her. But Connie (Moultroup) didn't die.  She was adopted and grew up in California. Today she's 69 years old, and last Christmas she got an Ancestry DNA kit as a gift. She soon found out Genevieve is her biological mom. Recently they met for the first time, and it was emotional. Genevieve is not alone anymore. She has a daughter, and two great-grandchildren.

Monday, December 10, 2018

How do we make church?

Early one Sunday morning, Mrs. Benson was greeting several children to her first-grade Sunday School class. All the "regulars" were on time, but a visitor arrived late. His name was Tom, and he'd been born with only one arm. He was very friendly, and the other children liked him immediately. Nobody seemed to notice his empty shirt sleeve. During the class, children listened attentively to Bible stories and colored lovely pictures of Jesus and his disciples. Near the end of the hour, Mrs. Benson had an idea. She'd reward their good behavior by teaching them the classic finger-play nursery rhyme, "This is the church, this is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people."  No sooner had she begun than she remembered Tom only had one hand, so how could he make a church?  The class grew silent as other boys and girls realized Tom would be left out. Then a little girl named Anne grinned. She was sitting next to Tom. "If we try, we can make a church together," she said, holding one of her hands up against his. And that's how church is really made. Never alone. Always together.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

This library is a haven of safety

The Haskell Free Library straddles the national border between the US and Canada. It's actually on the border between Quebec and Vermont. It has parking lots in each nation, but there is only one entrance. It's an unlikely haven where immigrants from both countries can meet safely. No passport is required to enter the library, so families can meet here without fear of being detained or prevented from returning to the US.

According to former library board member Susan Granfors, "You park on your side. I'll park on my side, but we're all going through the same door." Iranian student Shirin Estahbenati drove six hours north from New York City to see her parents for the first time in almost three years. While she hugged her parents amid walls of library books, she said she wished she could stop all the clocks all over the world so their reunion would never end.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Kindergarteners "sing" to custodian

James Anthony just turned 60. He's worked as a custodian for the Coffee County School District in Tennessee for more than 20 years -- including the last 15 at Hickerson Elementary School. Anthony is hearing impaired and reads lips, so kindergarten teachers Amy Hershman and Allyssa Hartsfield decided to teach there students how so sing "Happy Birthday" in sign language as a surprise for his birthday.

He said he was overwhelmed and touched by the children's effort. According to the Principal, he's an excellent role model for the students. He teaches students sign language now and then, but also teaches them good manners and how to treat other people.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Less than a penny on the dollar

A reader in Bloomington, Indiana, shares the true story of Judith Jones, 80, and Carolyn Kenyon, 70, who live in Ithaca, New York. They know how medical debt caused by high health care costs can wreck people's lives. So they raised $12,500 during the summer and donated it to a charity called RIP Medical Debt. The charity was started four years ago by former debt collectors Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton. It is able to buy up overdue medical debt for less than a penny on the dollar.

RIP Medical Debt accepted the ladies donation of 12,500 and used it to erase $1.5 million in medical debt. 1,284 people whose debt was erased will receive a slim, yellow envelope with a letter telling them their debt is forgiven. In total, RIP Medical Debt has erased $434 million in past-due medical debt so far, although America's total tab is about $750 BILLION.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

You're on the air!

Deke Duncan has always wanted to be a radio disc jockey, so in 1974 he set up a tiny radio station in the garden shed behind his house in England. For the past 44 years, he's been doing his own show. He's never affiliated with a actual radio station, so his only listener has been his wife.

Back in the 70s, the BBC did a story on him, and someone recently tracked down some of the footage. He was billed then as the radio host with the smallest audience in the world. But that's about to change. A BBC affiliate that reaches over 125,000 people each week is giving him his own one-hour Christmas special this year. And his wife is sure to be listening.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A police "incident" you may have missed

It all started when two First District officers responded to a call about an endangered adult in Cleveland, Ohio. By the time they arrived, the 18-year-old had returned home. His name is Elvis, and his mother said he is often bullied because he rides his sister's bike, which is pink.

Once they learned of Elvis' torment at the hands of bullies, the officers decided to buy a new bike for him in his favorite color, red. The Cleveland Police Foundation, which took this photo, bought him a new bike and a special blue helmet with flashing lights. They said, "Elvis couldn't believe he had his own bike, and rode it proudly down the block."

Monday, December 3, 2018

As reported in the Washington Post

Hunter Shamatt, 20, had just arrived in Las Vegas on a Frontier flight from Omaha, Nebraska, when he noticed his wallet was gone. It contained $460 and his ID card. It was his sister's wedding weekend, so he borrowed money from his parents and tried to worry too much. He called Frontier to report the missing wallet, but it had not been turned in. "It being Vegas and all, I thought it was gone forever," he said.

A few days after he returned home, a package arrived. It contained his wallet, plus this note. Instead of being stolen, his wallet had been returned with extra cash! Proving that what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Are you going home for Christmas?

This poem was written by Edgar Guest. The illustration is by Norman Rockwell.

He little knew the sorrow that was in his vacant chair;
He never guessed they'd miss him, or he'd surely have been there.
He couldn't see his mother or the lump that filled her throat,
Or the tear that started falling as she read his hasty note.
And he couldn't see his father sitting sorrowful and dumb,
Or he never would have written that he thought he couldn't come.

He couldn't see the fading of the cheeks that once were pink,
And the silver in the tresses; and he didn't stop to think
How the years are passing swiftly, and next Christmas it might be
There would be no home to visit and no mother dear to see.
He didn't think about it. I'll not say he didn't care.
He was heedless and forgetful, or he'd surely have been there.

Are you going home for Christmas? Have you written you'll be there?
Going home to kiss your mother and show her that you care?
Going home to see your father in a way to make him glad?
If you're not, I hope there'll never come a time you wish you had.
Just sit down and send an email -- it will make their heartstrings hum
With a tune of perfect gladness -- if you tell them that you'll come.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Would you buy a used car from this man?

Jeff Wine bought Great Bridge Auto Sales in Chesapeake, Virginia, earlier this year. He'd made a goal when he was 20 years old to give back to the world, so he put a nomination form on his Wine Automotive web site to give away one car each year. Eligible nominees had to live in Virginia or North Carolina and have a good story to tell.  This year, 15-year-old Taylin O'Neal's story caught Wine's attention.

Taylin told how his mom "does everything she can to make sure we are okay. The family must vacate their house because the landlord let it go into foreclosure. Mom's been waiting for her disability to be approved, and needs a vehicle to fit us all in at the same time." This year on Black Friday, Tiffany O'Neal thought she was going to Wine Automotive so Taylin could have a job interview. That's when Jeff Wine drove a 2011 Buick Enclave around the corner and handed Tiffany the keys. "Oh my God, thank you so much," she said. "I can't believe this!"