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Encouraging

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
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]
http://espn.go.com/
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
Guideposts
http://guideposts.com/

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
http://www.chickensoup.com/ Changing Lives One Story At A Time 
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
June 12, 2002

 ….you may need a Kleenex on this one!!!  Kenny  T

 

Well, here it was… one of the most exciting days of my youth, my very first trip to college! Twelve years of school had led to this very important day.

I am not sure who was more excited, my mother or me. Just being able to attend college was a miracle in itself since Daddy had passed away three years earlier.

I always knew that funds were scarce after he died. But Momma was somehow able to provide for us.

I thought I had understood the extent of her sacrifice, but it was on this day, driving in the car with my mother to college, that I learned one of my life’s most important lessons.

As we drove, she offered no profound advice — not about safety or financial responsibility or anything else of any importance.

There really was no need for such conversations on this road trip because these talks had happened long before.

Instead, the lesson came in the form of a few words spoken as we listened to songs on the radio.

My mother said, “San, do you have any gum?”

My mother never, ever chewed gum. Since I was the one driving the car, I told her to help herself to the gum in my purse.

My surprise continued when Momma pulled the gum from my purse and said, “Oh, honey, this is my favorite gum. Even when I was a child, I always loved this gum.”

Okay, now I was really, really shocked. Not only did she chew gum, but she actually had a favorite gum?

How was it possible that this precious woman who raised me enjoyed such a simple pleasure in life, yet I never knew?

As I watched my mother take the gum from the silver foil and begin to chew, I decided that I had to know the scoop about the gum.

“Momma, I have to ask, how did I not know that you chewed gum?”

Before giving her a chance to answer, I went on to reflect on what I remembered as a child…

Whenever we went anywhere as a family, we would pile in Daddy’s truck, Momma and Daddy in the front and all six of us in the back.

Like a tradition engraved in stone, Daddy would always stop and get three Cokes in the bottle, one to share with Momma, one for the three girls and one for my three brothers.

In addition to the Cokes, Daddy always bought a pack of gum, and it was the very flavor that my mother had just taken from my purse.

After I finished rambling on, my mother just smiled and said: “Honey, the pack only had seven sticks.”

It was at that exact moment that I realized my precious Momma had made a choice all those times, years ago.

She’d given each of us children a stick and then one to Daddy — seven sticks gone and the pack empty, leaving none for her.

To some, this may not seem like a large sacrifice for a loved one to make. But my realization that she spent years giving up even the smallest of pleasures forever changed my heart.

I realized that day that, although my mother made huge sacrifices for us, that she also made a million small ones that went unnoticed.

People say being in the right place at the right time is the secret to success.

All I know is that a single stick of gum opened a world of knowledge about someone I had known and loved all my life and about the unspoken sacrifices she had made over the years.

To this day, I am very thankful for the college education I received those many years ago. But it is my momma who taught me the lessons of true love.

By the way, every year since that time, I always nestle a pack of that flavored gum in the bow adorning her Christmas gift.

Sandy M. Smith
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom [ditto...]
http://www.chickensoup.com/  Changing Lives One Story At A Time
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
June 11, 2011

“Doesn’t he look old?” my dinner companion asked as she nodded at a man sitting across the restaurant. I looked to see who she meant.

It was a “girls’ night out” for the two of us — husbands and kids, and in my case, grandkids,  left behind for a couple of hours as we caught up on a little girl talk.

We had known one another since junior high school and had graduated in the same high school class.

Time, careers, husbands and families had taken us on different paths in life, but recently she and her family had returned to our little hometown with its two stoplights.

We were both in our mid-sixties now, and the outing tonight was our own private celebration of the renewal of our friendship.

I glanced again at the man sitting alone across the room, enjoying a solitary meal. We had all attended the same high school,  although he was a year older than she and I.

“His hair has gotten so gray, that is what little he has left,” my friend commented. “And look at all those wrinkles!”

I thought back to our high school years. He had been the “Fonzie” of the school — the “cool cat” with the black leather jacket and coal black hair combed into a “duck tail,” the style of the day.

He even rode a motorcycle, something almost unheard of for a high school kid back in the early 1960s — at least in our small town. In fact, back then very few teens had any kind of transportation they could call their own.

Oh, the girls might beg to drive the family car for a Sunday afternoon spin with girlfriends, and if the boys did have a set of wheels, it was usually a “fixer upper” bought in a junkyard.

That meant the guys would spend most Saturday afternoons under the hood trying to find why this hose leaked or that valve malfunctioned.

But not our friend across the room. He drove a Harley and was the envy of all the guys and the dreamboat for all the girls.

“His hands are even trembling,” my companion exclaimed, and sure enough, when I glanced again, I saw a slight shaking as he lifted his coffee cup to his lips.

We had dated for a while when he was a senior and I was a junior. I remembered lazy summer afternoons on the back of the Harley, clinging to his leather jacket and laughing into the wind. Life had seemed so perfect and so innocent.

Then he had graduated from high school and without any fanfare or notice, decided college wasn’t his lot in life, so he joined the Army.

Before long he was shipped overseas while I finished my high school years and went off to college. We lost touch then, as he never wrote, but one day he returned, bringing with him a girl he had met and married while stationed in Europe.

She was pretty and outgoing, and I liked her. By then, I was married, too, and starting my own family. I would see the two of them occasionally at a community event or shopping in a local store.

We would exchange pleasantries as people do while standing in the produce aisle. But when he and I looked at one another, there was something there — a smile, a remembrance, that passed between us quietly and innocently, and I could almost feel the wind in my hair once again.

“He just looks like a dried up little old man,” my friend continued. “Doesn’t he look old to you?”

I smiled. “No,” I said.

And I meant it. For when I looked at my friend across the table from me and the other sitting across the room, I still saw them as they once were. I saw my first love and my forever friend.

I was looking at them with different eyes than perhaps most people saw them. I was seeing them through eyes of love. I knew neither would ever look old to me.

And as I glanced across the room once more, his piercing blue eyes met mine and he gave me that crooked smile. I thought — no, I am certain — that I felt the wind in my hair one more time. And it was a sweet memory indeed.

Eyes of Love By Anna B. Ashby
From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for the Young at Heart
http://www.chickensoup.com/ Changing Lives One Story At A Time
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
June 10, 2000

My son Gilbert was eight years old and had been in Cub Scouts only a
short time. During one of his meetings he was handed a sheet of paper,
a block of wood and four tires and told to return home and give all to
“dad.” That was not an easy task for Gilbert to do. Dad was not
receptive to doing things with his son. But Gilbert tried. Dad read
the paper and scoffed at the idea of making a pine wood derby car with
his young, eager son.

The block of wood remained untouched as the weeks passed. Finally, Mom
stepped in to see if I could figure this all out. The project began.
Having no carpentry or mechanical skills, I decided it would be best if
I simply read the directions and let Gilbert do the work. And he did.
I read aloud the measurements, the rules of what we could do and what we
couldn’t do. Within days his block of wood was turning into a pinewood
derby car. A little lopsided, but looking great (at least through the
eyes of Mom).

Gilbert had not seen any of the other kids cars and was feeling pretty
proud of his “Blue Lightning,” the pride that comes with knowing you did
something on your own. Then the big night came. With his blue pinewood
derby in his hand and pride in his heart we headed to the big race.
Once there my little one’s pride turned to humility. Gilbert’s car was
obviously the only car made entirely on his own. All the other cars
were a father-son partnership, with cool paint jobs and sleek body
styles made for speed. Gilbert’s car was an unattractive vehicle. To
add to the humility Gilbert was the only boy without a man at his side.
A couple of the boys who were from single parent homes at least had an
uncle or grandfather by their side, Gilbert had “Mom.”

As the race began it was done in elimination fashion. You kept racing
as long as you were the winner. One by one the cars raced down the
finely sanded ramp. Finally it was between Gilbert and the sleekest,
fastest looking car there. As the last race was about to begin, my wide
eyed, shy eight year old ask if they could stop the race for a minute,
because he wanted to pray. The race stopped.

Gilbert hit his knees clutching his funny looking block of wood
between his hands. With a wrinkled brow he set to converse with his
Father. He prayed in earnest for a very long minute and a half. Then he
stood, smile on his face and announced, ‘Okay, I am ready.”

As the crowd cheered, a boy named Tommy stood with his father as their
car sped down the ramp. Gilbert stood with his heavenly Father within
his heart and watched his block of wood wobble down the ramp with
surprisingly great speed and rushed over the finish line a fraction of a
second before Tommy’s car.

Gilbert leaped into the air with a loud “Thank you” as the crowd
roared in approval. The Scout Master came up to Gilbert with microphone
in hand and asked the obvious question, “So you prayed to win, huh,
Gilbert?”

To which my young son answered, “Oh, no sir. That wouldn’t be fair to
ask God to help you beat someone else. I just asked Him to make it so I
don’t cry when I lose.”

Author Unknown - Please comment if you know the author 
so credit can be given
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