Thursday, February 28, 2019

Let me be a little kinder

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Teacher goes the extra mile

Shannon Grimm, 31, teaches kindergarten at Meador Elementary School in Willis, Texas. One day last fall she noticed one of her pupils, 5-year-old Priscilla Perez, was extra quiet in class, and seemed sad. She was feeling down because other kindergarteners were making fun of her new haircut, saying that it made her "look like a boy." Priscilla was so embarrassed that she wore a cap to school and refused to take it off during class.

Miss Grimm was heartbroken over Priscilla's melancholy, so when students returned after winter break, they were shocked to find their teacher had cut off her waist-length hair to get the same haircut as Priscilla. She said, "I had to show them that boys can have long hair like girls, and girls can have short hair like boys." She even brought matching bows to class, so she and Priscilla could wear the same ribbon to class each day. According to Grimm, Pricilla's confidence shot through the roof, and the haircut also taught her a valuable lesson. She told her teacher, "When I get big like you, I will have friends who will be mean to me, but I will be nice to them, just like you."

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

How one dad felt about his daughters

"The Children's Hour" is a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It first published in the September, 1860, issue of The Atlantic Monthly. The poet describes his three daughters, "grave Alice, and laughing Allegra, and Edith with the golden hair." This group portrait of the girls was widely reproduced and distributed with the poem. How beloved were the ideas in this poem? A copy was found near the body of a Union soldier who died at the Battle of Gettysburg in July, 1863. No doubt he was a dad with daughters waiting for him at home, as he went into his final battle.

In the early 20th century, "The Children's Hour" was one of the poems most frequently taught in American schools. In 1924, it was taught to children in grades 3 to 6. Of all Longfellow's poems, none is so personal and touching as this affectionate letter to his daughters. If you ever loved a daughter, this poem will make sense to you. To hear it, visit

Monday, February 25, 2019

Inspiration on Taco Bell menu

Kelly Stewart, 27, has worked at the Fairmount Taco Bell near Syracuse, New York, for several months. Along with tacos, staff must give each customer a survey form, and part of the back of the form in blank. So Kelly decided to write brief motivational messages in the blank space. She's included hundreds of these messages with people's orders, and folks have noticed. Some diners reposted the messages on social media, and called on Taco Bell's corporate branch to recognize her for going beyond the call of duty.

She simply says she writes the notes because she "loves people" and because she wants to be a good role model for her 6-year-old son. "I may just work in a fast food place," she explained, "but you have to take pride in what you do. Especially with how hard today's times are, it's nice to put a smile on someone's face."

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Dogs force children off highway

Two little kids under age six wandered off while playing in their yard. They live in the town of Holt, about 40 miles northeast of Pensacola, Florida. Before long, they ended up on the side of a busy interstate highway and could have been hit by traffic, except that two dogs were with them.

Both dogs were some sort of shepherd mix, which really mattered, because the dogs literally blocked the kids and shepherded them off the highway. Because of the dogs, both children are fine. Their foster-dad and siblings were looking for them when the police arrived. The dad saw them walk off, but has a medical condition and could not follow them. So police determined he didn't do anything wrong. When asked why they wandered away, the kids said they were "chasing a rainbow."

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Recent random acts of kindness

1) When a single mom couldn't afford much for Christmas, an older guy who lived in her apartment building showed up on Christmas Eve dressed as Santa Claus and he brought a bunch of presents for her five-year-old child.

2) A man had very little money after his dad passed away. So the funeral director helped him out, and paid his RENT for three months.

3) A teen who just got her driver's license realized she didn't know how to pump gas. While she was trying to figure it out, a stranger walked up and showed her how to do it, AND paid for her gas.

4) A couple went on their honeymoon, but didn't have much money. They splurged on a nice hotel anyway. Then another guest found out they were newlyweds and paid their entire hotel bill. Now they plan to return to the hotel someday and pay it forward by doing the same thing for another couple.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Homelessness is not forever

Dawn Gieber works at the Pulaski County Circuit Court in Little Rock, Arkansas. On her way to work each day, she saw a homeless man named James. People said James was very angry, and usually Dawn ignored him, but one day she stopped and asked him why he was homeless. It turns out he wasn't angry. He was hungry after eating out of dumpsters, and he was cold. He'd been homeless for 15 years. James told Dawn he'd lost his way and his family, and did not know how to contact them. So Dawn's husband Jodi used Google to find some numbers. After leaving many voicemail messages, they received a call from James' niece. She said James' family had looked for him, and assumed he was dead. It was just before Thanksgiving.

Dawn arranged for James to speak with his family, and he was very emotional when he heard their voices. They lived in Illinois, 600 miles from Little Rock, but Dawn turned to Jodi and said, "Road trip!" Jodi bought James some clothes and drove him back to their house, but then they learned James had outstanding warrants in Little Rock. So Dawn went before the judge and offered to pay all James' fines, and the charges were dismissed. Then they packed the car and drove James to Illinois. According to his brother, James is now living with his family again, and doing well. Dawn just felt it was the right thing to do.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Police and inmates save a baby

It happened this month outside the courthouse in New Port Richey, Florida. A couple strapped their one-year-old into a car seat and tossed the keys in the front seat. When the husband closed the back door, he realized the Chevy Tahoe was locked. There were several police nearby, and they could have broken a window, so the child was never in danger. But the police didn't have a slim jim to get the doors open easily. That's when they called for help -- from a group of inmates on work release, fixing a median in the road nearby.

It was a unique situation, so police allowed inmates to use their skills to break into the car for the right reasons. The mother captured it all on her cell phone. In the end, the child was only locked inside the car for five minutes, and was never in danger.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Won't you be my neighbor?

Fifty-one years ago this week, the children's show Mister Rogers Neighborhood debuted on public television. The show's creator, Fred Rogers, was a Presbyterian minister who was displeased with the way television programs addressed children. For 33 years, the show was produced at WQED-TV in Pittsburgh, with new episodes every weekday.

Rogers, who projected a kind-hearted, grandfatherly personality, not only hosted the show. He also wrote it, and as a musician he composed the music. In 2018, the U.S. Post Office unveiled this stamp of Mister Rogers wearing his famous sweater next to "King Friday."" Rogers (1928-2003) received two Peabody Awards, four Emmy Awards, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Oldest junior ranger

On a recent visit, a 103-year-old woman became a junior ranger for Grand Canyon National Park. Rose Torphy is three years older than the park. The junior ranger program is open to anyone aged four or above, so she qualifies. It encourages people to learn about preserving and protecting national parks.

                                                     Photo by daughter Cheryl Stoneburner
While Torphy and her daughter Cheryl Stoneburner visited the park, Torphy admired the wheel chair access which let her overlook the canyon. While visiting the gift shop, she asked to be sworn into the program. "She just had her 10th great-great-grandbaby, so she's happy the Grand Canyon is being protected and will be there for all the generations to see," said Stoneburner.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Encore crumb: A town without Jews

Not one of the 50,000 citizens of Kutno, Poland, is Jewish. But children from schools all over town each year stage an impressive concert of Jewish music, singing old hits in Yiddish and Hebrew with a fluency few adults could match. It is the finale of an annual Festival of Jewish Culture the town has held since 1993. The reason for the festival goes back to World War II.

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland, Kutno's entire Jewish community of 8,000 people was marched at gunpoint to the grounds of a deserted factory at the edge of town where Jews spent two years in filth, hunger and cold before being killed in gas vans at the Chelmno death camp.

When the war ended, the town's survivors learned to function without their Jewish tailors, shoemakers, lawyers and merchants, but Kutno had a hole in its heart. Feelings of curiosity, loss and kinship led a handful of people in Kutno to hold the first Sholem Asch Festival in 1993, and the event has come a long way since then. It now includes a literary competition on a Jewish theme attracting entries from all over Poland. There's a local Jewish dance band and Jewish theater performances.  In other words, it's more than just a token effort.

In a world where bitter sectarian conflicts grab most of the headlines, a Jewish festival in a town without Jews is surely worth celebrating. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Former drug addict donates $9 million to help homeless

Tyson Fury is a heavyweight boxing champion, but for many years he struggled with drug addition and mental health issues. Now 30, he's nicknamed "The Gypsy King" in the ring, where last December he squared off against Deontay Wilder. Before the fight, he went to Los Angeles for a media conference and was shocked to see so many homeless people on the streets.

What he saw made him offer to donate the purse from his next fight to several United Kingdom charities that provide housing for recovering alcoholics and addicts.  After the fight, he told a reporter, "I did give away my last purse (roughly $9 million), but I don't do charity work for a pat on the back," he said. "I do it to help people, but I do not want praise for it. I don't want to be called a do-gooder."

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Being in the right place at the right time

A hair salon near Ocean City, New Jersey caught fire this month. Within minutes it was an inferno. Someone took a picture of it, showing the back half of the building engulfed in flames, including a set of stairs. The stairs were important, because two men lived in an apartment above the salon and the stairs were their only way out. So they were trapped.

That's when a miracle happened. A man named Jim Cox, who owns a contracting company, was driving by with his daughter. He saw the fire and knew the stairs were burning, so he grabbed a 20-foot ladder from the top of his van, and it was tall enough to reach an upstairs window. The two men escaped just in time. Jim left before the local news arrived, and when interviewed later, he said he didn't want any credit. He said he's just happy he was in the right place at the right time.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Gift for student nurse working two jobs

Kayla Cooper was hoping to buy a car at a dealership near San Diego, California, recently. She's working two jobs to pay her way through nursing school, and has borrowed cars from friends to get to work. She hoped to get her own car, an inexpensive Toyota Corolla, but she could not afford the down payment, and she left the dealership in tears.

That same day, a guy named Dan Laguardia was at the dealership to trade his old Scion for a BMW, a nice upgrade. He saw Kayla's disappointment, and asked the sales guy if he had her number. Then he told him to call her back to the dealership, because he wanted to give her his trade-in. When Kayla got back to the dealership, she couldn't believe it at first. But Dan made it official. He signed over the title and gave her the keys. He said he was glad to help, and "if everybody did that for everybody else, we'd be in a much better place."

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Painting happy little mistakes

Brady Sloane teaches 8th grade art at Madison Middle School in Abilene, Texas. She has 48 students between two pre-Advanced Placement classes, and most are low-income. Recently she noticed many students felt stressed because of their workload, so she wanted to give them a break. She decided to host a Bob Ross flash mob. After a successful fundraiser on Donors Choose, she used $500 to buy enough paints for four dozen students.

                                                   Photo by Greg Jaklewicz, Abilene Reporter-News

Then she and the students whipped up four dozen Bob Ross costumes, and found four dozen Bob Ross wigs. When the day arrived, Sloane set up a projector in the school auditorium and screened an episode of Ross's beloved TV show. With palettes in hand, and using music stands for easels, students peacefully painted their stress away while creating "happy" little accidents of their own. Sloane said the day went great. "They came in, got their wigs on, and got to work. I was so proud of them." And as you can see, the student art is very good!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

What would you do if it rained money?

It happened last January 14. Kim Steenburg was on her way to the bank in Gloversville, New York, to deposit $8,500 for her father's property tax, and also to help pay for a honeymoon trip she planned with her husband, Rich, before he was killed in an auto accident. She intended to scatter his ashes at sea. While Kim fastened her niece's seatbelt, she placed the envelope of cash on the roof of the car, and forgot it was there.

                                                    Kim Steenburg and her late husband Rich.
Terry Brubaker happened to be driving through Gloversville that day when she suddenly saw pieces of paper falling from the sky. She had no idea what it was, but pulled over out of curiosity. Then she noticed paper bills, a LOT of them, so she dodged traffic and started picking them up. She found a total of $8,000, and took it to the local police station, where Kim was filing a report about the missing money. "I can't thank Terry enough for finding the money and returning it," said Kim.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Local police retreat from hostile crowd

It happened recently in Duvall, Washington. Police were advised of a group of "suspicious characters in a local park armed with improvised projectiles." Three squad cars sped to the park,where police jumped out and lined up behind a riot shield as if they faced a hostage crisis.

After a few moments, the police retreated because they were outnumbered  -- by kids throwing a barrage of projectiles of fluffy snow. It was the first snow day in Puget Sound in a very long time. Schools were closed, so kids had nothing else to do. The police response was part of a department effort to engage children in the area and let them know the police are their friends.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Is life like a train journey?

In many ways, everyday life is like a railroad journey. Have you noticed how some seats on the train of life face forward, and some face backward? In our youth we always faced forward, leaning out the window to see as far ahead as possible. The station names were alluring. "Next stop, marriage. Next stop, parenthood."

But when the train crested the hill called middle age, our fascination with the future began to fade. Now stations suggested the end of the line was near. "Next stop, social security. Change here for assisted living." This was when many of us moved to seats facing backward. The rush of events was finally behind us. Look! We can see how the kids turned out, and how many of our hopes came true. But when we sit facing backward, misfortune seem to happen with no advance warning. We have to honestly admit, "I just never saw it coming."

Facing forward or backward changes our viewpoint, but not our destination. The last stop is the same, and we have a one-way ticket. Life conforms to a fixed material order, like a railroad schedule, as long as we measure it by the clock and calendar. But is death really our final stop?

In their hearts, many believe life transcends death. They've noticed a slender emergency cord above the windows on the train of life. It's marked "faith" but it seems hard to reach as the train picks up speed on the downhill slope. Let's grab this emergency cord and hold on to it for dear life, until we begin to feel dear life holding on to us -- and the train rolls to a gentle stop. What shall we do now? We've viewed life through the window of hours and minutes for so many years! What will happen if we turn away from this limited view, and step off the train into the deathless life that Jesus found on Easter morning? The joy that shone in his disciples' faces will shine in ours, and the vision of poet Thomas Moore will be fulfilled.

When from the lips of Truth one mighty breath
Shall, like a whirlwind, scatter in its breeze
The whole dark pile of human mockeries;
Then shall the reign of Mind commence on earth,
And starting fresh, as from a second birth,
Man, in the sunshine of the world's new spring,
Shall walk transparent, like some holy thing.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

His only shot of the entire season

Clay Walker is 18, and lives near Des Moines, Iowa. He's legally blind, but he's always loved basketball and actually joined his high school team. It's hard for him to really play, so he's never been in a game, but he always comes wearing his uniform. It was an honorary thing, until Senior Night.

Since he's a senior, the coach actually put Clay into the game, for the first time. He only got to take one shot -- his only shot of the season -- and he drained it from 15 feet. Everyone went nuts. Even the players on the other team clapped for him. Clay's team was behind, but wining or losing didn't seem to matter. One of his teammates said the only part of the game that truly mattered was Clay hitting that shot.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Dog saves neighbor's life

Noreen is 87 years old. She lives in Alexandria, Minnesota. A few days ago, when the temperature was below zero, she knew birds would be hungry and walked out to fill her bird feeder. She slipped in the snow and fell. There was nothing to grab onto, and she didn't have enough strength to lift herself up from the snow. So she lay there, for about half-an-hour.

That's when her neighbor, Tim Curfman, took out his trash, and his four-year-old black lab named Midnight went with him. The dog started acting strange. Her ears were perked up, so Tim decided to let her go and follow her. She led him right to Noreen. Time got Noreen inside and dry and warmed up, and she didn't suffer frostbite or any serious injuries. But she's sure Midnight saved her life, and Tim gave the lab an excessive amount of treats that night.

Friday, February 8, 2019

"This is the world I want for her..."

Former U.S. Marine Kevin Armentrout had been waiting to catch a plane from Las Vegas to San Diego. He was with his daughter Carter, and she was being herself -- trying to meet and say "hi" to everyone she could. But when she said "hi" to Joseph, a Samsung sales manager from Oklahoma,

he reached out and asked if she wanted to sit beside him. And for the next 45 minutes, until the plane was ready to board, Joseph taught Carter how to draw pictures on his tablet; watched cartoons with her; and even accepted her generous offer to share her snacks.  Armentrout wrote later, "Watching them at that moment, I couldn't but think, different genders, different races, different generations, and the best of friends. This is the world I want for her."

Thursday, February 7, 2019

White House chef now feeds homeless

As a former White House chef, Roberto Mendoza cooked for Barak Obama, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Donald Trump, and has served a chef for the Academy Awards. Since leaving the White House, he's been managing a restaurant and cooking for the homeless in Charlotte, North Carolina. His mother recently traveled to the U.S. from Guatemala for a visit, and while with him, she got a "lucky feeling" and told him to buy a lottery ticket.

He does not like to gamble, but on her advice he bought a $5 scratch-off ticket from a local convenience store and was stunned to find he'd won the top prize of a quarter million dollars. After taxes, he took home $176,876, and plans to use every cent to finish building a kitchen that will feed the homeless in the Dominican Republic.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A canine crumb from Thailand

It happened in January, when 43-year-old Khemjira Klongsanun was seven miles into a marathon in western Thailand. She saw runners ahead of her side-stepping something in the middle of the road. It turned out to be a puppy. There were no houses or dogs near, so she knew the pup was lost or abandoned. Instead of running around it like the others, she scooped it up and ran with it for 19 miles.

A puppy might not seem like much to carry, but two or three pounds at the start feels pretty heavy after a while. She says it made the marathon twice as hard, but the puppy was too cute to leave behind. After the marathon, she tried to find the owner, but no one came forward, so she took the puppy to vet, got him vaccinated, and ended up adopting him. She named him Chombueng, the name of the area where the marathon was held.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

When you REALLY need help with homework

Antonia Bundy, 23, was on her regular shift at the 911 dispatch center of the Lafayette, Indiana Police Department on January 14. It was a quiet time with no emergency calls, until a young boy (who was never identified) called 911. "Um, can you hear me?" he asked. When Antonia said she could hear him, he confided, "I've had a really bad day." She asked him why, and he explained he had a ton of homework.

He confided he was in 5th grade and was really bad with fractions. Since Antonia likes to help people, she asked if there was a problem she could help with. The boy was having trouble with 3/4 + 1/4, so she patiently walked him through it. Once he understood, he said, "I'm sorry for calling you, but I really needed help." Then he hung up, before she could tell him that next time he should ask his parent or a teacher rather than call 911.

Monday, February 4, 2019

How one person can make a difference

Real estate broker Candice Payne, 34, is not rich. She describes herself as "a regular person, a little black girl from Chicago's south side." But to some in Chicago, she's far from regular. Thanks to her, more than 100 homeless people unexpectedly found themselves with food, fresh clothes, and a warm place to stay in January when wind chills reached 50 below. "I knew they were going to be sleeping on ice, and I had to do something," she said.

First, she contacted hotels and found 30 vacant rooms at the Amber Inn for $70/room. She paid for them with her credit card. Then she used Instagram to ask for people to transport homeless folks from the tent city where they have lived for years. Soon she had a caravan of cars, SUV's and vans with volunteer drivers. Two pregnant women and a family of five were among the first she picked up. Meanwhile, donations were pouring in to her Cash App account. She bought toiletries, food, prenatal vitamins, lotions, deodorants and snacks and made care packages so people would feel comfortable. Restaurants donated trays of food. People started calling the Amber Inn anonymously, paying for rooms, and the inn lowered it's price to welcome more homeless. What began as 30 rooms doubled to 60, and with donations of more than $10,000, Candice was able to house homeless in the hotel longer than expected. Contributions came from all round the world, said Candice. And the homeless? "They were so appreciative," she said. "They couldn't wait to get in a bath and lay in a bed."

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Walking by faith, or sight?

It happened on a frigid winter night, 142 years ago . Phil and Lucy Bliss and their two sons, ages one and three, had celebrated Christmas at his parent's home in the tiny farm town of Rome, PA. Then Phil was called back to Chicago on business, so they left the boys with their grandparents for an extended holiday. After arriving in Buffalo on Friday, Dec. 29, Phil and Lucy boarded the Chicago-bound Pacific Express at 2 p.m. It left Buffalo an hour late, and could only go 15 miles per hour because of a blinding snowstorm. As evening approached, the engine headlight threw a short dim flash into the darkening blizzard. Finally, at 7:45 p.m. the crowded train approached Ashtabula, Ohio. To reach the station, it had to cross a 200-foot-long wooden trestle over a ravine.  The train slowed to ten miles per hour as it crept across the bridge in the snowy darkness. According to one passenger, "Only the engine had passed over when the bridge collapsed. I heard a cracking sound in the front part of our carriage. Then another in the back; then a sickening sudden sinking. I was thrown from my seat, hearing splintering and smashing all around me. The train fell 70 feet into the icy riverbed below. Within minutes, broken stoves and lamps set each car on fire. Men who were strong enough escaped through windows into waist-deep icy water, and then tried to rescue their wives."

Fortunately, Phil Bliss was able to escape out a window into the icy water, but his wife Lucy was trapped inside by the tangled metal of broken seats. As flames engulfed the car, Phil saw she could not escape, so he climbed back inside to hold her in his arms. Their remains were never found.  

So who was Phillip Bliss?  He was one of the most famous Christian song writers in history! For 12 years, he wrote hymns which cheered hearts around the world and are still sung today. Maybe you remember "Let the Lower Lights be Burning" or "Dare to be a Daniel" or "Almost Persuaded." As America mourned his death, memorial services were held from coast to coast. At a service in Chicago, the church was filled with 8,000 mourners. Four-thousand more were turned away, but refused to leave, standing outside the church in silent respect.

Before boarding the Pacific Express, Phil had sent his luggage ahead. It arrived in Chicago on another train the next day. When friends opened his suitcase, they found a draft copy of the last hymn he wrote. It begins, "I know not what awaits me, God kindly veils my eyes -- So on I go, not knowing. I would not if I might. I'd rather walk by faith with God, than walk alone by sight."

Saturday, February 2, 2019

525 days in a shelter

Cassie the dog first came to the Humane Society of Greater Dayton, Ohio, on August 9, 2017. On a Facebook post, the shelter says Cassie is "an extremely sweet and loving girl and has been a rock star in our START training program."

During the past 525 days, Cassie was adopted into a few homes, but she was always returned to the shelter. She shelter says, "She has waited every day for her perfect person to walk through the door and pick her out, and today was her day!" Man's best friend is also woman's best friend.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Poetry in motion?

If you ever wondered if practice makes perfect, consider this crumb shared by a reader in Indiana. Alysa Liu comes from Richmond, California. When she was only five, she entered a public skating session and her folks realized she might have potential. Her dad got her private lessons, and she practiced, and practiced, and practiced. She's much older now, almost fourteen, and last month she became the first American woman to land TWO triple axels --- one of the most difficult skating moves, in ONE program. The audience was astonished.

The 4-foot-seven inch teenager did it at the US Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Since then, she's been described as "the future of US ladies' figure skating," but she never lets this go to her head. After all, she's too young to get a driver's license. She says, "I tell myself, 'don't think you're the best in the world. You're not the best -- yet.'"