Monthly Archives: June 2015

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
July 1, 1991

One of the more interesting traditions in golf is the handshake at the end of the round. It’s an agreeable gesture, and one that suggests the just-finished match was somehow comparable to gentlemanly combat.

But there’s another good reason to shake hands. Call it sudden and fleeting friendship. I’ve seen it happen countless times: at both heavily starched clubs and weather-beaten munis.

Some bond occurs during a round. Four strangers meet on the 1st tee, eye one another carefully and set off. A few hours later, they will be striding off the 18th, wreathed in convivial grins and sticking out their paws like old lodge brothers.

Acrimony is possible, of course, even if it’s unspoken. Like all social interactions, there is always the danger of some livid fractiousness. Curiously enough, it will likely have nothing to do with politics.

The golf course might be the last place left on the planet where snorting political opposites can meet in charmed equanimity. In golf, there is, however, a real social chasm that divides people. Religious differences have nothing on this. Economic disparity, you say? No, it’s much more grave than that. It’s all about pace.

Take those four strangers on the 1st tee. As they work their way down the fairway, they are glancing nervously at one another’s golf game and get-up, dealing with the gnawing fear that one of them might be the jerk who ends up trashing the afternoon round.

The gaper who views a round of golf as an excuse for laughing it up with pals and a cooler of beer on the back of a cart, this guy will be a little trepidatious about sharing a round with some lean and hungry police dog of a player.

You know the guy — pressed and immaculate, hits a 2-iron farther than you hit your driver, finds time to count everybody else’s strokes and penalties. As my mother used to say, a real pill.

But if, like me, you hate carts and love a good, zesty walk and a snappy tempo, the sight of a guy weaving up to the first tee in a golf cart, steering with his elbows as he juggles a mug of beer and a slice of pepperoni pizza… this is enough to make you grind your teeth into powder.

The handicap system might make it possible for players of various skills to play together, but there is no equivalent system for balancing out the fast players and those who play at what might politely be called a leisurely pace.

The brisk players don’t call it that, of course. Especially when they’re trimming their jets on the tee-box of a par 3, their faces turning steamed lobster red while the cheery schmoozers on the green ahead pause to finish off some magnificent shaggy-dog story. If the jolly putters only dared look back at the tee-box, they would see the walking definition of Lock & Load.

I would count myself among the game’s hot-footers, even while I know there are some scratch players among my acquaintance who consider me slower than Bolivian mail. It’s all relative. I hate to be one of those seething schmucks, forever jingling the change in his pocket as he waits in the fairway, but that’s the way I’m wired.

It was one of those chance meetings on the golf course, however, that changed my whole attitude. After work one day I had stopped off at a short executive course for a fast nine. I had, alas, not quite left the office tensions behind. Ripping along at an over-caffeinated pace, I was just butchering the ball.

After hockey-sticking the ball around the 3rd green, I stormed up to the next tee-box and came upon an old man, sitting alone. A sad smile came over him and he waved me through. “Go on, feller,” he said.

Stooped, frail and quavery, he was in shocking shape. Studying him more closely, I was gripped by the fear that he was minutes away from death. I throttled back instantly and said, ever so casually, that I’d be glad to join him if he so obliged. He was so tiny, so sparrowlike, I figured that if something happened I could carry him back to the clubhouse on my back.

After bunting a short little drive up the fairway, he confessed that he’d just left the hospital, where his insides had been keelhauled. He had spent four months on his back, dreaming of the watercolors he’d paint someday and thinking of this very course. We poked along in the gloaming, talking of all these matters.

When we were done, I walked him back to his car. He pulled out a little portable canvas seat so he could change his shoes. He told me to look in the trunk, and there I saw some of his new watercolors.

The lines were done by a shaky hand, but they were bold. I helped him put his clubs away and we shook hands one last time. As he drove off, it occurred to me that after joining up with him, I had played out the last six holes in level par.

After that, whenever I’ve felt my nerves ratcheting up like a paint-making machine and my game about to go spiraling out of control, I try to think of the calm deliberation I felt that evening with the old man. Next to him, I felt like Hercules. So why not feel that way all the time?

A year later I saw that man again. He was on the next fairway over and waved heartily as he strode down the fairway. He still had that determined stride; stronger, but calm and paced.

That day a year ago, I thought I was helping him; but it was he who taught me a lesson of a lifetime.

Chris Hodenfield
Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Golf Book 
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
January 29, 2010

Opening Day of the East Marietta Little League season, I sat in the bleachers overlooking the Sewell Mill Park ball field. I was excited as I anticipated something very special.

Every spring in Marietta, Georgia, the Little Leaguers dress in their uniforms, gloves and ball caps, pile in pickup trucks and parade down the main strip to the field for opening ceremony.

Today was extra special; it was the twentieth anniversary of the 1983 Little League World Series, when the team from Marietta won it all.

My ten year old, John sat on his glove in the field next to his teammates, waiting for the men at the podium to speak. Eleven of the fourteen players on that historic team were there including one who’d gone on to pitch for the Chiago Cubs.

But really everything that morning seemed to revolve around the man in the middle, the skipper for that team and many others during his thirty-eight years coaching Little League; the man my son called his favorite coach, Richard Hilton.

“What was it that made him stand out from all the other coaches?” I wondered. “He looks like Santa, just not as big.” I overheard one of the younger kids say, I laughed. Coach Hilton certainly drew those comparisons with his white hair, white beard and rosy smiling face.

I’d first met Coach Hilton the year before, when John played on his ball team. Everyone had rave reviews. “Did you know he turned down a promotion at work so he could still coach the kids?” another parent asked me. That didn’t surprise me once I saw how good he was with John.

The first team Coach Hilton ever managed was his son’s team and now 38 years later, he still treats his players like family.

My son really wanted to play second base, but since he wasn’t a strong fielder, other coaches had him stuck in right field. When Coach Hilton got John, he put him on second and began to develop the skills in John necessary to play second.

The Coach gave John extra fielding practice to help him become more at ease and flexible in a variety of circumstances. I got used to waiting 15 minutes after practice, watching my son field grounders or take a few last swings in the batting cage.

Coach Hilton cared about the boys off field as much as he did on field. One afternoon last fall, I found John at the table doing his homework before practice-without nagging from me. I must have looked startled because John said, “Coach says we should get our homework done before we play ball.”

It was far more than winning with Coach Hilton. Character and attitude were very important to him. He encouraged the kids continually to find better ways to say and express how they were feeling.

But it didn’t seem to me that it was those things alone that set Coach Hilton apart. There was more, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Everyone had the same love and respect for him that the kids had. What was that special something that was so hard to define?

The ceremony started. One by one, the former players shared stories from that magical season twenty years ago. Back then, the boys had to win fourteen games in a row to take home the Little League World Series Title. [Today, a round robin tournament means a team can lose and still advance if they win all their other games.]

What really amazed me is how successful each of those players twenty years ago, went on to be. They had become presidents of companies, managers, police officers, doctors, teachers and one went on to play Pro Baseball.

Each one in turn, credited their coach as a role model and mentor. The pitcher for the Cubs? He had come back to Marietta and inspired by Coach Hilton, signed up to coach one of the Little League teams, himself. The Coach had passed the baton and a new story is in the making.

I saw my son John sitting on the field, listening closely and enthralled by what he heard. The Ceremony ended and John and I, headed home to relax before returning for practice in a few hours. “I think I want to coach someday,” John told me as we walked to the car. Was that what made a truly great coach? Someone who inspires others to follow in their path?

John couldn’t stop talking about all the former players until it was almost time to drive back to the field. He went to get his things. Why was he taking so long? “We’re going to be late!” I said, as I was walking down the hall to his room. John was rifling through his closet. He looked up at me, clearly upset. “My glove,” he said, “I can’t find it.” We searched the whole house to no avail.

“Maybe you left your glove at the field,” I said, “We’ll look for it there.” John got into the car, but he wasn’t a happy camper. Neither was I. “No way that glove is still there all these hours later…” I thought. First day of practice and no glove; a sad way to start the season.

We pulled into the parking lot. I was surprised to see Coach Hilton’s red and white truck. What was he doing here? I waved at him. “I thought you would be out celebrating,” I told him.

“Well, I was going to,” he said. “But I couldn’t let one of my Little Leaguers practice without this.” He pulled a worn leather glove from his truck, John’s glove. “I found it on the field.”

There, I had it-the answer to my question. What makes a great Coach or a great person? Putting other people first, leading with love and encouragement. In Little League or in life, it’s those little extras- putting focus on another’s life, looking for ways to lift up, encourage or help another on their journey. That’s the difference between a good coach and a great coach. Great coaches are more than just coaches; they are great leaders. They lead by example.

“Thank you, Coach!” John said, as he bounded off toward the field. I couldn’t tell who was happier-John or his favorite Coach.

A Coach for the Ages by JoEllen Langmack [Marietta, Georgia]
From Guideposts
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
June 24, 2015

We live in a world where Sports Figures make way too much money and have way too little character. Sports Role Models are getting extremely hard to come by.

We watched a Megabuck football player walk off the Super Bowl field without shaking anybody’s hand. We watched a top golfer leave the Masters without a word of thanks to the fans or congratulations to the winner. We watched a[n] NFL lineman kick a man’s helmetless head without a thought.

It seems Sports is becoming- win at any cost, humiliate your opponent and self-pride rules. Love, compassion and respect of fellow man are being devalued by High Profile Sports Figures at an increasingly rapid pace.

So if you think sportsmanship is toast, this next story is an all-you-can-eat buffet to a starving man.

It happened at a junior varsity girls’ softball game in Indianapolis this spring. After an inning and a half, Roncalli was womanhandling the inner-city Marshall team. Marshall pitchers had already walked nine Roncalli batters. The game could’ve been 50-0 with no problem.

It’s no wonder. This was the first softball game in Marshall history. A middle school trying to move up to include grades 6 through 12, Marshall showed up to the game with five balls, two bats, no helmets, no sliding pads, no cleats, 16 players who’d never played before and a coach who’d never even seen a game.

One Marshall player asked, “Which one is first base?” Another: “How do I hold this bat?” They didn’t know where to stand in the batter’s box. Their coaches had to be shown where the first- and third-base coaching boxes were.

That’s when Roncalli did something crazy. It offered to forfeit.

Yes, a team that hadn’t lost a game in 2½ years, a team that was going to win in a landslide purposely offered to declare defeat. Why? Because Roncalli wanted to spend the two hours teaching the Marshall girls how to get better, not how to get humiliated.

“The Marshall players did not want to quit,” wrote Roncalli JV coach Jeff Traylor, in recalling the incident. “They were willing to lose 100 to 0 if it meant they finished their first game.”

But the Marshall players finally decided if Roncalli was willing to forfeit for them, they should do it for themselves. They decided that maybe — this one time — losing was actually winning.

That’s about when the weirdest scene broke out all over the field: Roncalli girls teaching Marshall girls the right batting stance, throwing them soft-toss in the outfield, teaching them how to play catch. They showed them how to put on catching gear, how to pitch and how to run the bases. Even the umps stuck around to watch.

“One at a time the Marshall girls would come in to hit off of the [Roncalli] pitchers,” Traylor recalled. “As they hit the ball their faces LIT UP! They were high fiving and hugging the girls from Roncalli, thanking them for teaching them how to play the game.”

This is the kind of thing that can backfire with teenagers — the rich kids taking pity on the inner-city kids kind of thing. Traylor was afraid of it, too.

“One wrong attitude, one babying approach from our players would shut down the Marshall team, who already were down,” wrote Traylor. “But our girls made me as proud as I have ever been. … [By the end], you could tell they all were having a blast. The change from the beginning of the game to the end of the practice was amazing.”

Roncalli High School’s girls’ softball team demonstrated true compassion and caring to the newly formed Marshall High team. But Roncalli wasn’t done.

Coach Traylor asked all the parents of his players and anybody else he knew for more help for Marshall — money for bats, gloves, helmets, cleats, sliders, socks and team shirts.

Roncalli came up with $2,500 and worked with Marshall on the best way to help the team and their program with that money. Roncalli also connected Marshall with former Bishop Chatard coach- Kim Wright, who will advise the program.

“We probably got to some things 10 years quicker than we would have had without Roncalli,” says Marshall principal Michael Sullivan.

And that was just the appetizer.

A rep from Reebok called Sullivan and said, “What do you need? We’ll get it for you.” A man who owns an indoor batting cage facility has offered free time in the winter. The Cincinnati Reds are donating good dirt for the new field Marshall will play on.

“This could’ve been a thing where our kids had too much pride,” says Sullivan. “You know, ‘I’m not going to listen to anybody.’ But our girls are really thirsty to learn and are so appreciative to the Roncalli girls, the Roncalli Coach and the Roncalli School in general.

They are grateful for all the corporations and people who came alongside and helped them get their program off the ground.”

And they are better. Marshall has not yet won a game, but actually had leads in its last three games. In fact, it went so well, the players and their parents asked if they could extend the season, so they’re looking to play AAU summer softball.

Just a thought: Major League Baseball is pulling hamstrings trying to figure out how to bring baseball back to the inner city. Maybe it should put the Roncalli and Marshall girls in charge?

Anyway, it’s not an important story, just one that squirts apple juice right in your face. It leaves you with a very good taste in your mouth.

And who knows? Maybe someday, Marshall will be beating Roncalli in the final inning, realize how far it has come and forfeit again, just as a thank you.

Rick Reilly [Opening partially rewritten]
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
June 21, 2003

One of the most interesting Americans who lived in the 19th century was a man by the name of Russell Herman Conwell. He was born in 1843 and lived until 1925. He was a lawyer for about fifteen years until he became a clergyman.

One day, a young man went to him and told him he wanted a college education but couldn’t swing it financially. Dr. Conwell decided, at that moment, what his aim in life was, besides being a man of the cloth – that is. He decided to build a university for unfortunate, but deserving, students.

He did have a challenge however. He would need a few million dollars to build the university. For Dr. Conwell, and anyone with real purpose in life, nothing could stand in the way of his goal.

Several years before this incident, Dr. Conwell was tremendously intrigued by a true story – with its ageless moral. The story was about a farmer who lived in Africa and through a visitor became tremendously excited about looking for diamonds.

Diamonds were already discovered in abundance on the African continent and this farmer got so excited about the idea of millions of dollars worth of diamonds that he sold his farm to head out to the to search for a diamond mine.

He wandered all over the continent, as the years slipped by, constantly searching for diamonds, wealth, which he never found. Eventually he went completely broke, became depressed and threw himself into a river and drowned.

Meanwhile, the new owner of his farm picked up an unusual looking rock about the size of a country egg and put it on his mantle as a sort of curiosity. A visitor stopped by and in viewing the rock practically went into terminal convulsions.

He told the new owner of the farm that the funny looking rock on his mantle was about the biggest diamond that had ever been found. The new owner of the farm said, “Heck, the whole farm is covered with them” – and sure enough it was.

The farm turned out to be the Kimberly Diamond Mine…the richest the world has ever known. The original farmer was literally standing on “Acres of Diamonds” until he sold his farm.

Dr. Conwell learned from the story of the farmer and continued to teach it’s moral. Each of us is right in the middle of our own “Acre of Diamonds”, if only we would realize it and develop the ground we are standing on before charging off in search of greener pastures.

Dr. Conwell told this story many times and attracted enormous audiences. He told the story long enough to have raised the money to start the college for underprivileged deserving students. In fact, he raised nearly six million dollars and the university he founded, Temple University in Philadelphia, has at least ten degree-granting colleges and six other schools.

When Doctor Russell H. Conwell talked about each of us being right on our own “Acre of Diamonds”, it is a timeless truth. This story does not get old…it will be true forever.

Opportunity does not just come along – it is there all the time – we just have to find and develop it.

“Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened…”

Earl Nightingale
1921-1989, From Our Changing World Radio Transcript
Author of The Strangest Secret 

Memories do Fathers Day…

Morning Story and Dilbert

Morning Story and Dilbert Vintage Dilbert
January 21, 1999

Kleenex Alert

Her hair up in a pony tail,
her favorite dress tied with a bow.
Today was Daddy’s Day at school,
and she couldn’t wait to go.

But her mommy tried to tell her,
that she probably should stay home.
Why the kids might not understand,
if she went to school alone.

But she was not afraid;
she knew just what to say.
What to tell her classmates,
on the Daddy’s Day.

But still her mommy worried,
for her to face this day alone.
And that was why once again,
she tried to keep her daughter home.

But the little girl went to school,
eager to tell them all.
About a dad she never sees,
a dad who never calls.

There were daddies along the wall in back
for everyone to meet.
Children squirming impatiently,
anxious in their seats.

One by one the teacher…

View original post 547 more words

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
June 17, 2006

The service ended that Sunday in 1996 and I trudged out of church into the torpid heat of an Atlanta summer, feeling further from God than ever. It wasn’t the sermon or the hymns or the prayers. It was me. I was at a dead end.

I’d been a television reporter for years, working in cities up and down the East Coast. My goal had been to make it to the network level by the age of 35. My ultimate goal was to be a correspondent for 60 Minutes someday.

But here I was, almost 36, at a local affiliate, a general assignment reporter for Alanta’s WSB-TV. The only other job in sight was for a golf magazine. My finances were in bad shape and the golf gig would pay more than I was making. I was tempted… really tempted.

I headed down the sidewalk, squinting against the blinding sun. I thought God had given me a dream, but now I wondered if He really cared what I did. How long was I going to keep banging my head against the wall? What if I never made it?

Failure is what most people expected of me growing up. I had a terrible stutter and I struggled academically. I spent a lot of time in remedial classes. I was subjected to lots of ridicule, “Byron’s stupid.” “His name should be Moron.” I heard the whispering and those taunts drove me to try harder even though I felt inferior.

Those memories drove me to keep a tape of my worst reporting work and I watched it almost every morning, replaying my mistakes as I tried to learn from them. I used the tape to get me going, to motivate myself to try harder. But maybe all that effort wasn’t worth it. I was at a dead end with no where to go.

I glanced back at the tall brick steeple. Why hadn’t I found the comfort in worship that I used to? Had God deserted me? Church was the highlight of my week when I was a kid. Sunday mornings I’d settle next to Mama in our pew at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore and drink in the wonders around me: the stunning stained-glass window framing the pulpit, the rise and fall of the preacher’s voice making Bible stories come alive, the joy on Mama’s face as she sang “His Eye is on the sparrow”-so different from the weariness on her face after a long day at her seamstress job.

Church made me happy because it made Mama happy. But it also made me happy for another reason. It was my refuge. I didn’t stutter when I sang and there were no teachers to call on me and make me sweat over how I was going to fake an answer. I was a scrawny kid with big glasses and an even bigger secret; a secret that didn’t seem to be such a burden on Sundays.

You see, I couldn’t read. Ten years old and I couldn’t do much more than spell my name and recognise the words “St Katharine’s” on my school building. My secret kept me feeling inferior and scared someone would find out. I tried so hard, but I just couldn’t get it. I was falling farther and farther behind. I was a scared little boy.

I was great at memorizing and that’s how I was able to get through. I’d get Mama or my older brother, Mac, to read passages from my textbooks and then if a teacher called on me, I would repeat what I’d heard, word for word.

I passed first, second and then third grades barely, even with Mama spending a couple hours every night going over my homework with me. She never guessed I couldn’t read. I was too scared and ashamed to tell her or anyone. I thought there was something wrong with me. Everyone else could do things I thought, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know why because I tried really hard.

But by the fouth grade, I couldn’t fake it any longer. The school knew something was wrong.

The school insisted I take a battery of tests. One afternoon, a man came to our house with the results. I sat next to my mom and my dad on the sofa, trying not to squirm. I was so scared. Would Mama disown me? The man cleared his throat. “I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs. Pitts, but Byron is functionally illiterate.” I was crying inside. The only kid on the planet who couldn’t learn and now everyone knew. I knew then why kids put on fronts. If I had one, I would have put it on to hide. But for me, there was nowhere to go.

My dad looked away, frowning. My mom raised her hand to her mouth, shocked. I felt deserted by the two people I needed the most. I was so scared. The man went on. “We don’t know why, but he has never learned to read.” My secret was out.

Mama came to my rescue. She looked at me in front of my dad and the School Administrator and said, “Keep your head up, son. We will get through this. We’ll just work harder. We will spend four hours a night on your homework. We will pray when we start, pray when we get tired and pray when we finish. The Lord will get us through this.”

We worked for months and months, but it didn’t seem I could get out of the starting gate. I could learn my homework, but I just couldn’t grasp rote memory reading. I couldn’t put the alphabet together. But Mama never gave up and she constantly told me to trust the Lord to build my foundation.

I was put in remedial classes at school that met in the school basement. All I could see were the feet of the people walking by outside and I felt life was passing me by. Did the Lord really care like Mama said He did? I cried often when no one was looking. No one tried harder than me, yet everyone got it but me. I knew what those people outside thought, “That’s where the dummies are sent. Those kids are losers and failures.” And for me, I agreed with them. I was a dummy, loser and failure. My stuttering was worse. It wasn’t fair.

One day at home I was watching TV and saw a commercial for a reading program for adults. “If they can teach grown-ups,” I said to Mama, “Maybe they can teach me.” Mama called the program. Soon, a special monitor was delivered to our house. It cost Mama far more than she could afford. Mama sacrificed a lot for me over the years…

I put slides in it that displayed words, letters and pictures. Day after day, I sat in front of it, trying to learn what the different letters looked and sounded like. “I’m never going to get this.” I told Mama. “Everyone is right. I’m a m-m-moran.” Mama had heard me use the moran word one time too many. She was ready with her speech…

“Son, everyone doesn’t say that. Everyone knows how hard you try. But it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says, it only matters what you think and say. God is listening. He wants to know that you trust him. God is doing something in your life that we don’t understand. But don’t give up on God and don’t give up on yourself. Please don’t ever use that word again. You are special. When God is doing something in someone’s life that He is not doing in everyone else’s life, that person is special to God. Always remember that, son; cling to it.”

“Byron, did I ever tell you about the job I had driving a tractor-trailer? I wrestled with shifting those gears every day and people laughed at me. But I didn’t let that bother me. I laughed with them. I smiled at them. But I kept my eyes on what I wanted to do. I wanted to learn to shift those gears. And I finally got it. I could shift as well as any of them. After I got it, no one remembered the struggle. No one remembered the past. They just treated me like a truck driver. You will do this. You just have to keep working at it and above all, trust the Lord to help you learn.”

I took her words to heart. I sat with that monitor and with my school books and studied. I sounded out words over and over. I prayed just like Mama said-when I started, when I got tired and when I finished; especially when I got tired. My simple prayer? “Lord, please help me to read.”

Toward the end of the sixth grade, my teacher sent me home with a note. I called Mama and told her she had to come home immediately so I could show it to her. She knew it was just a note and it could wait, but she also knew how important it was to me, so she came home. She sat down at the dining room table and listened attentively.

I stood next to her and carefully unfolded the note and read it slowly. “Byron is doing much better at school. He is making p-p-progress.” My stuttering wasn’t nearly as bad as it was and this was the first time, someone besides Mama affirmed me. I looked at Mama. She was crying. God had come to her son’s rescue. She hugged me and kept whispering “Lord, thank you.”

I worked even harder in junior high and high school. I had a lot of catching up to do. But now I could at least somewhat read. I wanted to go to college. I studied hard. Then one day, Mama dropped me off at Ohio Wesleyan University. It was one of the proudest and most grateful days of my life. Grateful to Mama and God. Mama was so proud, but you could always hear her whispering, “Lord, thank you.”

I was beginning a new trek, but starting college for me was academic culture shock. I felt so out of my league. This was so out of my depth, I felt like I was back in the fourth grade again, sounding out words while my classmates were buzzing through entire books. I failed my freshman English class.

My English professor called me into his office. “I’ll make this brief. You are not Ohio Wesleyan material. I think you should leave this university.” He looked me straight in the eyes. “That’s all. Good luck to you.”

I left his office numb. Maybe I would never get out of the basement no matter how hard I tried. It would break Mama’s heart if I left college, but what else could I do? I prayed.

I went to University Hall and picked up the forms to withdraw from school. Papers in hand, I sank down on a bench outside and burst into tears-nose running, shoulder shaking tears. “Young man, are you okay?” someone asked. I looked up and a middle aged woman was standing there.

Maybe it was the kindness in her expression, but I blurted, “I don’t belong h-h-here. I was fooling myself to think I could make it.” Everything poured out of me; what my professor said, how hard I tried, how ashamed I was to be failing and how stupid I felt. I was crying, sniffling and stuttering.

“That’s nonsense. Promise you will speak to me tomorrow before you make any decision to drop out. My name is Ulle, Ulle Lewis. My office is on the second floor of Slocum Hall. I also am an English Professor. Byron, we can do this, if you don’t give up. Please see me tomorrow at eleven.” The Lord had sent my angel.

She met with me three, sometimes four hours a week. She went over my writing assignments, correcting the grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. When I got those basics down, she made me set higher goals. “Never settle for less,” she constantly told me. “Push harder and you will see you can climb a lot higher than you thought. You are smart. You just have a minor glitch and we will run over that.” Dr. Lewis taught me to love the written word.

And the spoken word? The person who changed my life there was my speech professor, Ed Robinson. “How long have you stuttered?” he asked me gruffly one day after I stumbled over an answer in class. “I think I can help you.” And he did. He improvised as we went along. I practiced speaking with pencil in my mouth, read Shakespeare forward and then backward, sing sentences before I spoke them and anything else he could think of to get me to speak without being self conscious.

He was about to change my life and set my career in motion. He encouraged me to host a show on the college radio station. Then it happened. I never stuttered on the air and I fell in love with broadcasting. I discovered my calling.

I graduated with a degree in journalism. It was Dr. Lewis and Dr. Robinson that made it happen. Without them, I couldn’t have gotten out of the starting gate. Thank you both from the bottom of my heart. And thank you Lord for sending Dr. Lewis and Dr. Robinson. It is awesome professors like these, that make Ohio Wesleyan the great University that it is.

I landed a reporting job at WNCT-TV in Greenville, North Carolina. From there I worked my way up to TV stations in bigger markets like Norfolk, Orlando, Tampa, Boston and now Atlanta.

Which brings us full circle. Here I was in the heat of a Georgia summer, trudging down the sidewalk after church, wondering if broadcasting was the right path after all.I was tired of worrying about how to pay the bills, and telling myself, “When I get to the network, everything will be okay.”

Yes, I was having a little pity party. “All those people who helped me and who believed in me; their trust must have been unfounded. Where had my struggles gotten me? This was not my dream.

I stepped into the intersection. Suddenly I sensed something to my right and jumped back on the curb. A car zipped past, just inches from me. A couple of birds that had darted up from the road circled in front of me. They made me think of the words of Mama’s favorite hymn, “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.”

In that moment, I felt like the little boy sitting next to Mama in the pew at New Shiloh, praying that someday I’d be able to read and to overcome my stuttering. Hadn’t that happened? God answered that prayer and threw in a college degree and a career in broadcast journalism. What was I doing, having a pity party? I should be celebrating and rejoicing over how far the Lord had brought me. At that moment, I knew He wasn’t finished.

I had spent so much time replaying the worst of times, I had forgotten all that Mama, my professors and the Lord had taught me; “Replay the best of times and keep your eye on the prize. Keep on going. Don’t stop now.” I threw away my old tapes and my new daily ritual started with Scripture and prayer. “Lord, for now on, I am going to trust you and your purpose for me. It is your plan, not my plan, that I will wait for and look forward to.”

The Bible helped me to reconnect to the reasons I wanted to be a broadcast journalist; telling stories that help people, inform them and inspire them. Those goals would make Mama’s and my professors’ work pay dividends. I owed that to them, myself and to God.

When an opportunity came up at CBS in Washington D.C., I was ready. And the chance to work at 60 Minutes, my dream job? That finally came too.

I keep a Bible here in my office at 60 Minutes. It’s the first thing I read in the mornings, even before my e-mail. One of my favorite passages is from Luke: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.” Not one of us is forgotten either.

The Right Stuff By Byron Pitts

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
June 15, 1995

There are few things in life more heartwarming than someone who affirms us…

Baxter, a rather large gray tabby cat, was raised with a puppy and now lives with three dogs. He truly thinks he is part (if not all) dog too, hence his nickname “puppy-cat.” He takes walks with us, plays fetch and even joins the dogs in panting, if it suits him.

He is unlike any cat I have ever had; he is an unusually social creature. He will greet anyone he comes across and knows no fear of dogs, cats or humans. I’ve had several calls from people saying, “Your cat is here visiting.”

Though he always stays in our neighborhood, Baxter’s social antics were really starting to drive me crazy! He’ll help one neighbor walk his Bassett Hound and help another neighbor walk their baby stroller. Everyone knows Baxter better than they know me!

One day, I spied Baxter out our front kitchen window. He was making a beeline across the street for an elderly lady walking her older Golden Retriever.

I had seen her and her dog a few times before, but I did not know their names, or even what street they lived on. I watched open-mouthed as he ran right up to them and started rubbing around their ankles.

Baxter then proceeded to plop down on the sidewalk in front of them and roll over onto his back to have his belly scratched. This was ridiculous! I thought, “Now, he is preventing people from taking their walks!”

That was it. I dried off my hands and went outside to get my overly social cat. The lady saw me walk over and smiled warmly.

She had obliged Baxter and was scratching his fully-exposed tummy. The dignified Golden was white around the muzzle, and sat patiently, waiting to continue his walk.

“I’m so sorry,” I apologized. “Baxter just really likes people and dogs.”

“That’s okay,” she replied. “He’s just saying hello. Our cat looked just like him and we lost him about a month ago. It’s getting harder for us to go on our walks and seeing Baxter really makes our day.”

I didn’t know what to say. I told her I was sorry for the loss of her cat, and pointed out our house with an open invitation for her to visit any time. After some small talk, they left to finish their walk, and a purring Baxter and I went inside.

The incident really made me think about Baxter and his social life. I thought Baxter was being selfish. But what I was watching was Baxter sharing himself.

What I’d been rolling my eyes and complaining about was something people really enjoyed and it even made their days a little brighter.

I thought about all of the people he visited and all the calls I’d had. Everyone looked forward to their walk or visit with Baxter.

Even more, he seems to innately know which people’s souls need uplifting. I am truly convinced that Baxter is an angel with fur whose mission during his lifetime is to find people who need an extra smile or an extra laugh and provide it for them.

I am in awe of the lesson I’ve learned from him — take the extra second to smile and say hello to someone, regardless of who they are.

I still see the elderly lady and her dog when they take their walks. They seem to get a little slower every day and Baxter never fails to run over and greet them.

Baxter is on his mission and now I just smile and let them enjoy their visit.

Kristin L. Wilson
Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Cat Changing Lives One Story At A Time 
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