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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 
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
May 14, 2002

Last week, Sara Tucholsky, a 5-foot-2-inch softball player in her senior year for Western Oregon University, was playing in a big game with Central Washington University. Both teams were vying for the Division II NCAA playoffs. Sara, who was batting less than .200 all season, hit the ball over the fence with two runners on.

She had never hit a ball out of the park before, even in practice. She was so excited, she missed first base. Realizing this, she turned to go back but collapsed in agony as her knee gave out. Her first-base coach yelled that she had to crawl back to first base because if anyone on Sara’s team touched her, she’d be out and her home run would be nullified. Her coach encouraged her to try to crawl around the other bases to preserve her home run, but it was out of the question.

That’s when the star player on the other team, Mallory Holtman, asked the umpire if she and a teammate could carry Sara around the bases. It was an unprecedented request from an opponent fighting for a playoff berth, but the rules allowed it.

Without hesitation, Mallory and shortstop Liz Wallace lifted Sara and carried her, lowering her to touch each base with her good leg. Tears poured down Sara’s cheeks. The first home run she had hit in her life and she thought she couldn’t have it until two players from the other team made sure she could.

To Mallory it was simple: “In the end, it’s not about winning and losing so much; it was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain and deserved a home run.”

Mallory was right. It is just common decency. But it is uncommon valor.

All the coaches, players, and spectators who were stunned by this spontaneous act of sportsmanship; they wept. Mallory became a national hero.

Mallory’s team lost 4-2, but Mallory set a standard that blazed a trail. No one knew the National Media would be broadcasting this act of sportmanship and uncommon valor over every station Nationwide. This young girl rose above the game and set a standard for life.

Michael Josephson
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
May 6, 1996

We found out that Jenny was hearing impaired, when she was four and a half years old. Several surgeries and speech classes later, when she was seven, we found out that Jenny had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.

She could not put pressure on the heels of her feet, so she walked on tiptoe and when the pain became unbearable, I carried her. Jenny was fortunate though, because she did not suffer the deformities often associated with JRV.

All through grade school and on into high school, Jenny suffered yet never complained. She took her medicine and I would often wrap her feet in steaming towels and hold her until the pain eased. But, as soon as she could withstand the pain, Jenny immediately carried on as though she were pain free.

She wore a smile on her face, a song on her lips and a love and acceptance of others, that was simply amazing. I don’t remember her ever voicing self-pity. She ran when she could run. She played when she could play and she danced when she could dance. And, when she could do none of these things, she took her medicine and she waited until she could.

Jenny, a beautiful blonde with warm brown eyes, was never a cheerleader. She never competed in a sport. She could not even take part in a Gym Class though she took the same health class four years in a row just so she could pass with a substitute credit each year. She joined the band. She won a place in the Governor’s School for the Arts; yet, no one in the Charleston, South Carolina School System knew quite what to do with Jenny. The perimeters were simply not in place to deal with a student, who was both active and handicapped.

Jenny continued to have one surgery after another all through school. Her hearing improved to 60% and she taught herself to read lips. She carried a pillow to school all through high school and once when she suddenly experienced crippling pain, her friends scooped her up and carried her from class to class.

She was totally mainstreamed, popular and funny, attending every football game, cheering the team on, carrying her pillow everywhere she went so that she could cushion the pain when she sat down. Then came her senior year. She would be considered for scholarships; however school activities, especially sports, could often mean the difference between receiving an award or losing out.

So Jenny came to a decision; and in her quirky unorthodox manner, she began to bombard the high school football coach. She begged. She pleaded. She promised. She got her best friend to sign up with her. Finally the coach gave in, with the admonition, “If you miss ONE game, you’re out!” So Jenny became Manager of the Garrett High School Football Team.

She carried big buckets of water to her teammates. She bandaged knees and ankles before every game. She massaged necks and backs. She gave pep talks. She was continually at their beck and call, and it turned out to be one of the best years for Garrett High School Football Team, in its twenty-five year history. Often Jenny could be seen carrying a bucket of water in each hand, nearly dragging them, along with her pillow tucked under her arm.

When asked why he thought that the team was winning all their games even in the face of injury, one linebacker explained in his soft Charleston drawl, “Well, when you’ve been knocked down and you can’t seem to move, you look up and see Jenny Lewis, limping across the field, dragging her buckets and carrying her pillow. It makes anything the rest of us may suffer seem pretty insignificant.”

At the Senior Awards ceremony, Jenny received a number of scholarships to several Universities. Her favorite scholarship, however, was a small one from the Charleston Women’s Club. The President of the Women’s Club listed Jenny’s accomplishments, starting with her grades and ending with a closure, “…and the first girl to letter in football, in Charleston History. But more important, what an inspiration. She excelled in the face of adversity, inspired an entire football team to new heights and gave hope to the future of every student at Garrett High School. Jenny will change the life of every one she meets.


By - Jaye Lewis 
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
May 11, 1995

Pappy ran a little Novelty Shop. He didn’t make much money, but he enjoyed the company. His wife was dead and his daughter had moved away many years ago. He was so lonely.

At first, he did not see her. Her shiny, soft curls barely topped the counter. “And how can I help you, little lady?” Pappy’s voice was jovial. “Hello, sir.” The little girl spoke almost in a whisper. She was dainty.Bashful.Innocent. She looked at Pappy with her big brown eyes, then slowly scanned the room in search of something special.

Shyly she told him, “I’d like to buy a present, sir.” “Well, let’s see” Pappy said, “Who is this present for?” “My grandpa, It’s for my grandpa. But I don’t know what to get.” Pappy began to make suggestions. “How about a pocket watch? It’s in good condition. I fixed it myself,” he said proudly.

The little girl didn’t answer. She had walked to the doorway and put her small hand on the door. She wiggled the door gently to ring the bell. Pappy’s face seemed to glow as he saw her smiling with excitement. “This is just right,”” the little girl bubbled. “Momma says grandpa loves music.”

Just then, Pappy’s expression changed. Fearful of breaking the little girl’s heart, he told her, “I’m sorry, missy. That’s not for sale. Maybe your grandpa would like this little radio.” The little girl looked at the radio, lowered her head and sadly sighed, “No, I don’t think so.”

In an effort to help her understand, Pappy told her the story of how the bell had been in his family for so many years and that was why he didn’t want to sell it. The little girl looked up at him, and with a giant tear in her eye, sweetly said, “I guess I understand. Thank you, anyway.”

Suddenly, Pappy thought of how the rest of the family was all gone now, except for his estranged daughter whom he had not seen in nearly a decade. Why not, he thought. Why not pass it on to someone who will share it with a loved one? God only knows where it will end up anyway.

“Wait…little lady.” Pappy spoke just as the little girl was going out the door and as he was hearing his bell ring for the last time. “I’ve decided to sell the bell. Here’s a hanky. Blow your nose.”

The little girl began to clap her hands. “Oh, thank you, sir. Grandpa will be so happy.” “Okay, little lady. Okay.” Pappy felt good about helping the child; he knew, however, he would miss the bell. “You must promise to take good care of the bell for your grandpa..and for me, too, okay?” He carefully placed the bell in a brown paper bag.

“Oh, I promise,” said the little girl. Then, she suddenly became very still and quiet.There was something she had forgotten to ask. She looked up at Pappy with great concern and again almost in a whisper, asked, “How much will it cost?” Well,let’s see. How much have you got to spend?” Pappy asked with a grin.

The child pulled a small coin purse from her pocket then reached up and emptied two dollars and forty-seven cents onto the counter. After briefly questioning his own sanity, Pappy said, “Little lady, this is your lucky day. That bell costs exactly two dollars and forty-seven cents.”

Later that evening as Pappy prepared to close up shop, he found himself thinking about his bell. Already he had decided not to put up another one. He thought about the child and wondered if her grandpa liked his gift. Surely, he would cherish anything from such a precious grandchild.

At that moment, just as he was going to turn off the light in memory hall, Pappy thought he heard his bell. Again, he questioned his sanity; he turned toward the door and there stood the little girl. She was ringing the bell and smiling sweetly.

Pappy was puzzled as he strolled toward the small child. “What’s this, little lady? Have you changed your mind?”

“No,” she grinned, “Momma says it’s for you.” Before Pappy had time to say another word, the child’s mother stepped into the doorway and choking back a tear, she gently said, “Hello, Dad.”

As tears flowed down Pappy’s face, the little girl tugged on his shirttail. “Here, Grandpa. Here’s a hanky. Blow your nose.

By Phyllis Caldwell
All Rights Reserved 
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
May 4, 1994

He possessed a five-day supply of food, a Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress- his two treasures, a small ax for protection, and a blanket. With these, Legson Kayira eagerly set out on the journey of his life. He was going to walk from his tribal village in Nyasaland, north across the wilderness of East Africa, 3000 miles to Cairo, where he would board a ship to America to get a college education.

It was October 1958. Legson was sixteen or seventeen, his mother wasn’t sure. His parents didn’t know exactly where America was or how far. But they reluctantly gave their blessing to his journey.

To Legson, it was a journey derived from a dream – that fueled his determination to get an education. He wanted to be like his hero, Abraham Lincoln, who had risen from poverty to become an American president, then fought tirelessly to end slavery and to heal a wounded nation. He wanted to be like Booker T. Washington, who had cast off the shackles of slavery to become a great American reformer and educator, giving hope and dignity to himself, to all races and to a nation.

Like these great role models, Legson wanted to serve mankind and to make a difference in the world. To realize his goal, he needed a first-rate education. He knew the best place to get it was in America.

Forget that Legson didn’t have a penny to his name or a way to pay for his ship fare.Forget that he had no idea what college he would attend, where to find it, how to appy or if he would even be accepted.

Forget that Cairo was 3,000 miles away and in between were hundreds of tribes that spoke more than fifty strange languages, none of which Legson knew.

Forget all that. Legson did. He had to. He put everything out of his mind except the dream of getting to the land where he could shape his own destiny.

He hadn’t always been so determined. As a young boy, he sometimes used his poverty as an excuse for not doing his best at school or for not accomplishing something. I am just a poor child, he had told himself. What can I do?

Like many of his friends in the village, it was easy for Legson to believe that studying was a waste of time for a poor boy from the town of Karongo in Nyasaland. Then, in books provided by missionaries, he discovered Abraham Lincoln and Booker T. Washington. Their stories inspired him to envision more for his life and he realized that an education was the first step. So he conceived the idea for his walk.

After five full days of trekking across the rugged African terrain, Legson had covered only 25 miles. He was already out of food, his water was running out, and he had no money. To travel the distance of 2,975 additional miles seemed impossible. Yet to turn back was to give up, to resign himself to a life of poverty and hopelessness. “I will not stop until I reach America”, he promised himself. “Or until I die trying.”

Sometimes he walked with strangers. Most of the time he walked alone. He entered each new village cautiously, not knowing whether the natives were hostile or friendly. Sometimes he found work and shelter. Many nights he slept under the stars. He foraged for wild fruits and berries and other edible plants. He became thin and weak. A fever struck him and he fell gravely ill. Kind strangers treated him with herbal medicines and offered him a place to rest and convalesce. Weary and demoralized, Legson considered turning back. Perhaps it was better to go home, he reasoned, than to continue this seemingly foolish journey and risk his life.

Instead, Legson turned to his two books, reading the familiar words that renewed his faith in his reasons, in his goal, in his purpose and in his God. He continued on. On January 19, 1960, fifteen months after he began his perilous journey, he had crossed nearly a thousand miles to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. He was now growing stronger in body and wiser in the ways of survival. He remained in Kampala for six months, working at odd jobs and spending every spare moment in the library, reading voraciously.

In that library he came across an illustrated directory of American colleges. One illustration in particular caught his eye. It was of a stately, yet friendly looking institution, set beneath a pure blue sky, graced with fountains and lawns, and surrounded by majestic mountains that reminded him of the magnificent peaks back home in Nyasaland.

Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, Washington, became the first concrete image in Legson’s seemingly impossible quest. He wrote immediately to the school’s Dean, explaining his situation and asking for a scholarship. Fearing he might not be accepted at Skagit, Legson decided to write to as many colleges as his meager budget would allow.

It wasn’t necessary. The Dean at Skagit was so impressed with Legson’s determination, he not only granted him admission, but also offered him a scholarship and a job that would pay his room and board.

Another piece of Legson’s dream had fallen into place – yet still more obstacles blocked his path. Legson needed a passport and a visa, but to get a passport, he had to provide the government with a verified birth date. Worse yet, to get a visa he needed the round-trip fare to the United States. Again, he picked up pen and paper and wrote to the missionaries who had taught him since childhood. They helped to push the passport through government channels. However, Legson still lacked the airfare required for a visa.

Undeterred, Legson continued his journey to Cairo believing he would somehow get the money he needed. He was so confident he spent the last of his savings on a pair of shoes so he wouldn’t have to walk through the door of Skagit Valley College barefoot.

Months passed, and word of his courageous journey began to spread. By the time he reached Khartoum, penniless and exhausted, the legend of Legson Kayira had spanned the ocean between the African continent and Mount Vernon, Washington. The students of Skagit Valley College sent $650 to cover Legson’s fare to America.

When he learned of their generosity, Legson fell to his knees in exhaustion, joy and gratitude. In December 1960, more than two years after his journey began, Legson Kayira arrived at Skagit Valley College. Carrying his two treasured books, he proudly passed through the towering entrance of the institution.

But Legson Kayira didn’t stop once he graduated. Continuing his academic journey, he became a Professor of Political Science at Cambridge University in England and a widely respected author.

Like his heroes, Abraham Lincoln and Booker T. Washington, Legson Kayira rose above his humble beginnings and forged his own destiny. He made a difference in the world and became a magnificent beacon whose light remains as a guide for others to follow.

“I learned I was not, as most in undesirable circumstances believe, the victim of my circumstances, but that I could be master of them, if I pursued my dream, my goal and my purpose; if I persisted and trusted in God. What made the difference was when the missionaries, Dean, Faculty, Staff and Students of Skagit Valley College came alongside…”

He would have made a good spokesman for Nike,
“Just do it.”

Excerpted from "Unstoppable" Copyright 1998 by Cynthia Kersey

Cynthia Kersey 
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
May 01, 2001

It was June of 1968, and I was fleeing for my life, carrying my two-month-old, baby daughter. My brother had managed to scrape together enough money for a First Class ticket on an airplane traveling from Atlanta to Detroit. My first marriage had become too dangerous, and as I flew home to be with my family, I felt very agitated. Anything, God, I silently prayed. Anything to break the monotony of my own tortured thoughts.

Across the aisle from me was a very handsome and very friendly man. We started talking to each other. I introduced myself and he told me that his friends called him “Chuck.” As we were visiting, I just could not get out of my mind, that I knew this man from somewhere. I certainly knew no one who traveled First Class. The only reason I was in First Class was my brother. It would have been unlikely that we had ever met. He was traveling from Los Angeles. I was traveling from the south and we had no similar points of reference, except Atlanta.

His voice was mesmerizing. It was so familiar. Strong and evenly tempered. Where had I heard that voice? All of a sudden, I knew him! I was sitting across from a very famous man- Charlton Heston! I couldn’t believe it and we were talking like we were old friends! Should I tell him that I recognized him? What could I say?! “I just loved you in The Ten Commandments?!” How stupid would that sound? Tell him that he was the famous Charlton Heston? I don’t think so. I was pretty certain that he knew exactly who he was. I didn’t think that he needed me to inform him. And breaking into his privacy, to ask for an autograph, was simply not going to happen. So, I never said a word.

He was charming and kind. He held my little girl and he played the typical baby games, speaking to her in a warm and coaxing way. She crowed in his face and giggled. I don’t remember what we talked about. Ordinary things. We visited for three and a half hours. I didn’t tell him that I was fleeing for my life from a sour marriage and he never told me that he was a famous movie star.

All too soon our trip was over. The plane landed and we both got our carry-ons. Mine was a diaper bag. His was something more Samsonite. He gathered his things and I picked up my infant daughter. He left the plane to be greeted by the press and cameras. I left to obscurity. We both hugged our families and my last sight of him was to see him smile and nod his head at me, as he began to answer questions from someone holding a microphone. I smiled back and we parted forever.

I didn’t watch the news. I didn’t see the interview. I don’t know the rest of his story. I did tell my parents, who doubted that the man was famous. After all, on the plane we were simply two travelers passing time. Somehow, this event was a pivotal point in my life. I had respected the privacy of a famous man, simply because I could. After eleven months of married hell, he had made me feel, well, normal.

Now, that he has passed-on, I remember a man who gave me my first glimpse into a normal life, one where humor and kindness saved the day. Mr. Heston could have been aloof and superior, but somehow I don’t think that was a part of his character. Often in the tumultuous days of my bitter divorce, I would think of that very famous man, who touched my life with so much grace.

Now, nearly forty years later, it occurs to me, how blessed I am, that I did not invade the privacy of that famous man. He did give me an autograph; he wrote his autograph upon my life. For a few precious hours, he shared himself with me.

Jaye Lewis 
Chicken Soup for the Soul
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
April 30, 1990

Eddie Arcaro dreamed of becoming the world’s greatest jockey. But after watching him ride a horse for five minutes, reality reflected a harsh contradiction. He was awkward, clumsy and he couldn’t do one thing right.

He was left behind at the post, he got trapped in traffic jams, he got bumped and boxed in and every other conceivable or inconceivable mishap was his stock-in-trade and appeared to be his destiny. In his first 100 races he never even came close to winning. Still, he got right back on and tried again. He was determined to cross that finish line in first place.

Even as a schoolboy, Eddie had set his own track in life. Because he was only a little over five feet tall and weighed barely 80 pounds, the other students shunned him or picked on him. So he played hookey instead, hanging out at the local race track where a trainer let him gallop the horses.

Eddie’s father reluctantly agreed to let him pursue a career as a jockey, even though he knew it was a very long shot. The trainer had told him so. “Send him back to school,” the trainer said, “He’ll never be a rider. He’s clumsy, accident prone and just plain unlucky. He will never make a place or show, much less a win.”

No one was betting on little Eddie Arcaro, no one that is except little Eddie Arcaro. He was determined not just to ride, but to enter the winner’s circle. Everyone knew or thought they knew, it was just a matter of time, before even Eddie would see the folly of attempting to pursue a jockey career.

He just didn’t have what it takes. But Eddie was determined. He pleaded and persisted until he finally got to ride in a real race. Before it was over, he’d lost his whip and his cap and had almost fallen off the saddle. By the time he finished the race, the other horses were on their way back to the stables. He’d come in dead last.

After that, Arcaro went from track to track, looking for a trainer that hadn’t heard of him. It wasn’t an easy task. Everyone had heard of him. He was the butt joke of the racing circles. Finally, an trainer who felt pity, took him in and gave him his next chance. One hundred trophy-less races later, he was still giving him a chance.

This trainer saw something in this unlucky little jockey. Something he couldn’t define. Something he couldn’t put his finger on, but he could see it. It was there. Perhaps it was potential, perhaps it was resilience, perhaps it was sheer obstinacy, but he wasn’t willing to send Eddie home. He could see the determination and he wanted to watch, to see how this played out.

There were long years when Eddie was broke, homesick, and almost without friends. There were many brushes with death and lots of broken bones. Every time his delicate 63 inch body was trammelled by hoofs, he would get patched up and immediately return to the saddle.

Then it happened. Eddie Arcaro began to win … and win … and win … Now, instead of leaving a path of destruction, he was leaving a path of devastated opponents. In thirty years of riding, he won 4,779 races. By the time he retired in 1962, he had made his trainer and many a owner, a millionaire and in the process, became a millionaire, several times over, himself. He became a legend in his own lifetime.

From the moment he walked onto a track, Eddie Arcaro had his mind on a finish line. Even when it looked impossible and hopeless to everyone else, Eddie knew he was going across that line. And when he finished, he had crossed it close to 5000 times, making him one of the all time greats, with one little bonus…Eddie is the only rider to win the Kentucky Derby five times.

Cynthia Kersey Author of "Unstoppable"

"Persistence is Hope With Enthusiasm" 
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