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Encouraging

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
September 3, 2003

Christmas is officially over. Today I dragged the tree with its fifteen remaining needles out to the curb, tied the Christmas lights into one great big ball like I found them, and dumped the odd remains of two ham-a-ramas and a jalapeño cheese log into the cat’s dish, which caused him to immediately jump up onto the telephone stand and look up the address for the Humane Society’s self-admittance wing.

But it’s done. Kaput. Finé. The yuletide has ebbed. And not a moment too soon, because now it’s time for . . . Valentine’s Day. Not to worry though, because this year I’m ready.

Last February I was fooled by the pact my wife and I made that we weren’t going to bother with Valentine’s Day. What I thought she meant was that she didn’t expect a gift. What she really meant was that only a chump would think it was okay not to get his wife (who was put on this earth for no greater reason than to serve her husband’s every need, although said husband could count on serving certain needs himself until further notice) a gift.

And even though it was quite a bonding experience camping out in my backyard in February with my brother-in-law, who had wondered why everyone was buying flowers on Washington’s birthday, I think I’d rather spend the rainy season inside this year.

So I grabbed the garbage bag full of Christmas cards and wrapping paper to drop off at the local landfill and headed off to the Hallmark store, that magical place full of those beautiful poetic musings that women love.

I settled on a card with a romantic, soft-focus photograph of a young couple laughing and hugging in a wooded glen, taken no doubt just seconds before they realized they were standing waist deep in poison oak. Then I headed across the mall to the lingerie store.

The place was mobbed with guys all holding intimate apparel, trying to picture their wives in them. One guy was holding his selection upside down wondering, I suspect, why the thing had snaps at the neck.

I was about to explain when a saleslady approached wearing a button that said “All Our Bras Are Half Off.” She looked frazzled. Her hair was mussed. Her makeup was smeared, and she had bags under her eyes. “Let me guess,” she said. “Gift for the wife?” Before I could compliment her on such a quick assessment of the situation, she moved me to one side and yelled over my shoulder. “Please don’t mix the satin panties up with the silk ones.” Two guys, who were each holding a dozen pair of panties, smiled sheepishly, like they just got caught during a midnight raid at the female dorms.

“I hate Valentine’s Day,” she muttered. Then with a forced smile she asked, “So, what did you have in mind?” “I dunno. Something sexy, I guess.” “Novel idea. What’s her favorite color?” “Uhh . . . brown?” “Brown? Brown’s her favorite color?” “Green?” “You don’t know, do you?” “Well, our cat is gray and white and she likes him a lot.”

I thought briefly about the cat and wondered if he’d still be there when I got home. Meanwhile, the saleslady moved me to one side again. “Sir. Siiirrrr.” A large, bald man in a three-piece suit glanced up. “It’s Velcro,” she said. “As you have no doubt observed, it will make that same sound over and over.”

She shook her head, turned her attention back to me and was about to speak when a tall, thin guy approached us wearing a teddy over his T-shirt and boxer shorts. “Whaddya think?” he asked. I thought the red was a little too bright for his complexion and was about to say so when the saleslady jumped up onto a clearance counter and addressed the entire store.

“Okay. Here’s what we are going to do. I want every one of you to take out the amount of money you want to spend and step up to the counter. I will hand you an item that costs that amount of money. Do not worry about the color or size. Your wives will be in here to exchange your gifts tomorrow. Now, who’s first?” We all hesitated.

She held up her watch. “The mall closes in fifteen minutes, gentlemen, and they are predicting a particularly cold February this year.” I thought I caught a whiff of damp tent. Then I quickly took out my wallet and got in line.

Ernie Witham (c) 1996
From Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
September 4, 2002

My classroom was a sort of “dumping ground” at one point in my career.

The counselor, Mr. H., had a habit of coming to me with a timid smile and saying, “I have a kid for you who you’ll just love.

That was code for “I need to put a ‘bad’ kid in your class who’s gotten kicked out by another teacher.”

I sighed and answered, “Well, alright.” And thus, in walked Josh.

Some kids put up a little wall to prevent others from knowing their vulnerabilities. Josh had military-grade body armor.

He was a typical, tough-acting, fourteen-year-old boy: smack in the middle of adolescence, something to prove but nothing to prove it with just yet.

He didn’t like school and school didn’t like him.

The mention of Josh’s name yielded growls and steam in three grade levels of middle-school teachers.

I got him for four periods during his eighth-grade year.

He was in my history class, my study hall, my “student assistant” period, and he sat in my room during another teacher’s class, with whom he “didn’t get along.”

He worked some, but mostly, he drew lots and lots of pictures.

He brought with him frustration from other classes every day and would come in angry, ignore me, and get out paper.

I let him draw, but I frequently complained to him that he ought to be doing work for his other teachers.

He was difficult, so I just left him alone most of the time.

Pretty soon, Josh and I had come to an understanding. He held it together just enough to keep me sane.

When he was finished with his work for me he would ask for paper and pencils to draw.

I would reluctantly agree, as I knew it was not a battle I needed to pick during my busy day.

Other teachers had complained over and over that he drew pictures in their classes, so I was reluctant to encourage him.

He left a folder in my classroom with his drawings, but I never looked at it. I made it through the year, just barely, with my Josh-heavy experience.

At the end of the school year, I spoke briefly with Josh’s mother.

She explained that Josh’s father had been deployed for over fourteen months to Iraq and was frequently in combat.

I do not know how I didn’t know this — no one at the school had mentioned it.

I suppose there were so many deployments among our military families that it was overlooked.

Josh had to help her take care of his younger brother with special needs.

He hadn’t had a good year at school, but he’d had an even worse year at home.

The stress of the deployment had taken a toll on his family.

Because Josh liked to draw, the family psychologist suggested he draw whenever he felt frustrated or angry or sad or scared.

He drew all the time at home too. I felt so terrible.

Josh’s mother gave me a beautiful, handmade book. It had several of the most amazing drawings I had ever seen, and a couple of photos of Josh “to remember him by,” since they would be moving soon.

I couldn’t believe he was so talented and I had never taken a moment to notice.

He had drawn me working at my desk, the view out the classroom window, the furniture in my classroom, vegetables, fruits and many other things. They were amazing.

When I asked why she had given the book to me, she explained that she knew what a difficult child he was.

She told me that I was the only teacher who had not thrown his drawings away.

She said Josh had actually described me to the family psychologist as the “glue” that held his world together since his dad left. He said that I was the only teacher who was kind to him.

Because I had let him draw when he was sad or angry, he wanted me to have the book to say “thank you.”

She said he was too embarrassed to give me the book himself. She gave me a tearful hug and she left. I have not seen them since.

I do think about Josh a lot; I have one of his pieces — a radish — framed in my kitchen.

I am grateful that he thought of me as his school glue. But I regret not taking more advantage of a situation in which I could have more of an inspiration and encouragement to a young man who needed me.

I will not miss the opportunity again. I look for it in every encounter.

A teacher’s job is difficult. We forget sometimes, however, that day-to-day life can be far more difficult for many of our students.

I try to find something special in every student, but because of Josh, I try harder with the “complicated” kids.

I knew I had tried to be kind as difficult as it was sometimes, but I never knew I was glue — my eye opener.

But now I want to be more than glue; I want to be the cement stepping stone to encourage a child to the next level.

We all need a Josh to open our eyes to take a closer look at those around us to whom we can make a life a little brighter and be the glue that helps them keep things together.

Dorothy Goff Goulet
Teacher Tales
Chicken Soup for the Soul...
http://www.chickensoup.com
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
September 1, 2001

An old legend tells of a French monastery that was well-known throughout Europe

because of the extraordinary leadership of a man known only as Brother Leo.

Several monks began a pilgrimage to visit Brother Leo to learn from him. Almost

immediately, the monks began to bicker as to who should do various chores. On

the third day they met another monk who was also going to the monastery.

This monk never complained or shirked a duty. Whenever the others would fight

over a chore, he would gracefully volunteer to do it himself. By the last day,

the other monks were following his example, and everyone worked together

smoothly.

When they reached the monastery and asked to see Brother Leo, the man who

greeted them laughed. “But our brother is among you!” pointing to the fellow who

had joined them late in the trip.

Author Unknown - Please comment if you know the author
 so credit can be given
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
August 13, 2013

A few weeks after my first wife, Georgia, was called to heaven, I was cooking dinner for my son and myself. For a vegetable, I decided on frozen peas. As I was cutting open the bag, it slipped from my hands and crashed to the floor. The peas like marbles, rolled everywhere. I tried to use a broom but with each swipe the peas rolled across the kitchen, bounced off the wall on the other side and rolled in another direction.

My mental state at the time was fragile. Losing a spouse is an unbearable pain. I got on my hands and knees and pulled them into a pile to dispose of; I was half laughing and half crying as I collected them. I could see the humor in what happened, but it doesn’t take much for a person dealing with grief to break down.

For the next week, every time I was in the kitchen, I would find a pea that had escaped my first cleanup. In a corner, behind a table leg, in the frays at the end of a mat, or hidden under a heater, they kept turning up. Eight months later I pulled out the refrigerator to clean and found a dozen or so petrified peas hidden underneath.

At the time I found those few remaining peas, I was in a new relationship with a wonderful woman I met in a widow/widower support group. After we married, I was reminded of those peas under the refrigerator. I realized my life had been like that bag of frozen peas. It had shattered. My wife was gone. I was in a new city with a busy job and a son having trouble adjusting to his new surroundings and the loss of his mother. I was a wreck. I was just like that bag of spilled, frozen peas. My life had come apart and scattered.

When life gets us down; when everything we know comes apart; when we think we can never get through the tough times, remember, it is just like that bag of scattered, frozen peas. The peas can be collected and life can be put back together. We will find all the peas. First the easy peas come together in a pile. We pick them up and start to move on. Later we will find the harder peas. When we pull it all together, life will be whole again.

The life we know can be scattered at any time. We will move on, but how fast we collect our peas depends on each of us. Will we keep scattering them around by trying to pick them up all at once or will we pick them up one-by-one and put our life back together, one piece at a time?

Author - Michael T. Smith
Morning Story and Dilert

Vintage Dilbert
August 28, 2008

The stars shone bright in the blue-black sky that night as my twin-engine Beechcraft Baron airplane took off from the runway in Dunkirk, N.Y. Everything was in order, according to my instruments, and I settled in for the 20-minute flight back home to Erie, Pa.

I had just dropped my father off in Dunkirk, and now, all alone in the air, my thoughts drifted to the day we’d spent together. We’d flown down to North Carolina for the funeral of my sister-in-law’s father. He was a friend, but I still found it hard to pull myself away from work, even for a day.

I run a roofing business with my dad, brothers and sisters. It was doing pretty well when I started, but in the past few years it had expanded into dozens of locations across the country. Sure, I was happy that business was good, but there was a downside to our success.

We had so many clients in so many different places, it was hard to keep track of them all. I liked to have my hand in the day-to-day goings-on, to make sure every job was done right. But now I was constantly on the move, hurrying from site to site, reviewing details with employees I hardly knew.

Things had been different in my father’s day. Back then, most business was settled with a handshake and a promise. Dad never tried to cut corners to save money or get a job done quickly. He took the time to do his best, and he always treated his customers and employees with respect and generosity.

I want to be that way, I thought, but it’s tough to do business these days. I knew contractors who cut corners left and right and barely finished one job before starting another one. What can I do? I thought. If I’m not as aggressive as my competitors, they’ll walk all over me.

But deep inside, I wondered if that was really true. I’d been raised on the Golden Rule, and even though I thought of myself as a good man, I had to ask myself if I was living up to my end of the bargain.

I stared over the plane’s nose at the dark horizon. Any minute now, I’d see the runway lights from the airfield in Erie. I radioed the tower and was cleared for landing.

I checked the instruments once more. The needle of the left fuel gauge was much lower than the right. In a plane like mine, it’s not uncommon for one engine to use more fuel than the other. Between the two, I knew I had enough fuel to get as far as Cleveland, let alone cover the few minutes of flying I had left.

But just as a safety precaution, I decided to use the cross-feed fuel mechanism, which would allow the left engine to share fuel with the right. No sooner had I leaned over to flick the switch than the plane gave a sickening lurch.

Instinctively, I grabbed the throttle and pulled, trying frantically to right the plane. I could tell by the way it listed that the left engine had died. I was losing altitude fast. If I stalled the plane, I would nosedive. Just fly the plane, I told myself, staring intently at the instrument panel before me. Just fly the plane.

I’d been at about 3,000 feet when the engine died. How long would it take for me to fall? As the plane hurtled through the darkness my mind was surprisingly clear, my hands steady on the controls.

I called the tower to report that I wasn’t going to make it, and my voice was as calm as it had been when I called for clearance. It felt like the plane was being supported under its wings, guided to the ground even, while I did nothing more than watch the scene unfold. I saw a blur in front of me. Was it a tree or a building? Before I knew it my plane was sitting on the ground.

I unbuckled my seat belt and opened the cockpit door, then walked down an alley and around a corner, knowing where to go as surely as if I were being led. Behind me, I heard two huge, booming explosions. I collapsed on the ground as the thought hit me: I should be dead!

Within minutes, emergency units arrived and whisked me to the hospital. My only injuries were a few bruises and a slight burn on my shoulder, none of which I’d felt in the landing.

Witnesses said I had been heading directly for a gas station. If I’d hit that, the resulting explosion could have wiped out several city blocks. But only moments before impact, the plane had swerved, catching its wing on a tree.

Instead of splitting up or skidding hundreds of feet as it should have, the plane came to rest in the empty lot of a welding shop, a space so small a stunt pilot couldn’t have landed there given a thousand tries. On one side of the crash site lived a family with seven children, on the other an elderly woman, and not 80 feet away there was the gas station.

As the full story got around, a hospital security guard asked to shake my hand. I’ve always wanted to meet someone who was touched by an angel, he said.

I considered the miraculous string of events that had saved my life, and decided that man just might be right. And I had a pretty good idea what God’s messengers were telling me. I didn’t have to worry; about my competitors or about staying on top of my business or about all those things I fretted over. As long as I was doing the best I could and treating people right, God would see me through the rough patches and guide me to safety.

When I went back to work a few days later, I decided to take things a little slower, to treat my employees as I’d want to be treated myself and to leave the rest to God.

So far, business has never been better and life has never been sweeter.

Author - John Farrell
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
August 31, 2007

It was a crisp fall morning in the Bronx, a bit cold but still nice enough to have the windows open before we left for school.

I was living off campus in a three-story brownstone, starting my first year at Fordham University. My roommates had already headed out and I was about to sit down to a quick breakfast.

I went back to my bedroom for a moment to get a book. By the time I returned, a squirrel had planted himself squarely in the middle of the kitchen table.

He must have climbed the fire escape and entered the open window. Judging from the puddle on the table, he had either sampled my orange juice or marked his new-found territory in a most vulgar manner. Now he was eating my toast.

“Shoo!” I commanded. The squirrel ignored me and continued stuffing rye bread in his cheeks.

“Shoo!” I repeated, this time waving my hands and approaching a bit closer…

He stopped rather deliberately, looking a bit peeved and swiveled his head slowly to peer at the interruption to his meal.

In all my country years of squirrel interaction, I’d never actually looked one in the eye. They usually scurried away rather meekly, fearful of a big, mighty human.

But this squirrel’s stare was as cold as his tail was fluffy. I was suddenly reminded, ‘I was no longer in Kansas, Toto.’ I was nose-to-nose with a New York City tree dwelling rodent. ‘A rat in the hood.’

“Shoo!” I said again, not sure what else to say. I did not speak squirrel, especially NYC-squirrel.

Without losing eye contact, he tossed the toast to the side and turned methodically, squaring his body to face me.

I sensed a showdown.

In our back woods, my dad once cut down a tree that a squirrel was residing in. The squirrel leaped from the falling tree and ran for what he thought was another tree.

It was my dad’s leg. He got about hip high before he realized trees don’t usually wear jeans, gave my dad the squirrel equivalent of the “What have I done? !” and leaped again.

Happy ending — my dad lived, the squirrel relocated and the balance of power between Man and Mini-fur-things was maintained.

In the city, however, the pecking order had seemed to switch. With his cheeks full of bread, this furry urban pint sized bully waddled toward me, swinging his hips like a gunslinger.

He stopped at the edge of the table, still glaring, and made a weird chirping sound. It sounded something like, “Bring it on.”

No way, I thought, am I getting dissed by an arrogant metro-rodent. I laughed and said, “You are SO out of your league, tree-freak.”

I know he understood because he tapped his chest twice and chirped again.

Then he drew in a deep breath, as deep as he could take with a mouth full of stolen rye.

Suddenly, he leapt from the table and ran straight at me, chirping nonstop at the top of his little lungs, spewing bits of toast everywhere.

Surprised and stumbling, I backpedaled into the hallway as fast as I could.

He was inches from me when I slammed the bathroom door in his face, knocking still more bread bits from his cheek.

He scratched viciously at the door, calling me all sorts of bad names in squirrel-talk.

Finally the chattering stopped. I waited a few more minutes, looking about for a weapon with which to defend myself.

I thought about tossing a towel over him. Not my towel, of course.

That could be risky if he escaped, so I passed on the idea.

I grabbed my roommate’s toothbrush to defend myself and peeked out the door.

The little fur-pig was scarfing down the rest of my breakfast.

He glowered back at me, trying to chirp, but was too full to say much.

Instead, in a gesture of squirrelly rebellion, he pushed over my glass of juice, as if to say, “Let this be a warning.”

I thought I could slink down the hallway to my room, get my keys and leave.

He saw me try to escape and jumped to the floor again, running toward me, amazingly quick for a chubby chunk of fur.

I was forced to retreat back into the bathroom.

This went on for nearly forty minutes. That corpulent rodent held rule over my house, keeping me trapped in the bathroom, while he trashed the kitchen.

I was now quite late for class. Finally, he was gone.

The first facet of an event is the experience itself. The rest, the sizzle to the steak as it were, is in the telling.

I suppose I could have lied to my professor and invented a believable story to explain my tardiness.

In hindsight that would have served me better than the peals of laughter that met my telling of the showdown with that little urban bulldozing fur-ball.

And to the person who left the stuffed squirrel in my seat in class the next day — I WILL find you.

By Annie Mannix
Campus Chronicles
101 Humorous and Uplifting Stories about Life on Campus
http://www.chickensoup.com/
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
August 25, 2015

There was a tiny little mouse that decided it was time to live in a house.

He checked the entire neighborhood, through the thickened weeds; to find a place of his his own, one that would fit his needs.

When all at once he saw a home; with an old man who lived there all alone.

He stopped by garbage cans and such, to tell his friends he’d be out of touch; with many sad and teary goodbyes, he left the streets as he let out a sigh.

He settled into the place he called home, and decided to be friends …with the old man who lived alone.

The first night he spent there, he looked all around to see what he’d find, and here’s what he found …

Some pictures of a loving wife, and some kids that he had given life; he saw a letter left in the drawer, And when he read it, this is what he saw …

“My dear, dear husband, I soon will be gone, but please be strong and try to go on; I hope that our children will be kind to you, I hate to leave you darlin’, but my life on earth is through.”

All at once the phone rang loud, the old man answered it and he sounded very proud …”No son, it’s fine … I have places to go, besides, around Christmas, I’m afraid of the snow; Billy, you have a good holiday and please tell the kids Grandpa’s gifts are on their way.”

He hung up the phone and dried away a tear, he looked up toward the Heaven’s and said, “I miss you so, my dear.”

He went to a chair and put on the TV, and changed the channels for something to see; when all at once, he saw me standing there, I thought he’d try to chase me but all he did was stare.

He said, “Hi you little critter … welcome to my home! now I feel much better for I am not alone.”

Well, that was a while ago when all this came about, and now I’m feeling awful … they just carried his body out.

I have such wonderful memories, he was such a gentle old man; I remember the dinners that we’d share, as he fed me right out of his hand.

I never saw his children … Well … not until today; as they went through the entire house and carted things away.

I must go back into the streets where friends of mine still roam; but I’ll miss the old man who lived here, for He made his house my home.

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