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Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
October 14, 2004

A woman who died found herself standing outside the Pearly Gates, being greeted by St. Peter.

She asked him, “Oh, is this place what I really think it is? It’s so beautiful. Did I really make it to Heaven?”

To which St. Peter replied, “Yes, my dear, these are the Gates to Heaven. But you must do one more thing before you can enter.”

The woman was very excited, and asked of St. Peter what she must do to pass through the gates.

“Spell a word,” St. Peter replied. “What word?” she asked.

“Love,” answered St. Peter.  The woman promptly replied, “L-o-v-e.”

St. Peter congratulated her on her good fortune to have made it to Heaven, and asked her if she would mind taking his place at the gates for a few minutes while he went to the bathroom.

“I’d be honored,” she said, “but what should I do if someone comes while you are gone?”

St. Peter reassured her, and instructed the woman to simply have any newcomers to the Pearly Gates to spell a word as she had done.

So the woman is left sitting in St. Peter’s chair and watching the beautiful angels soaring around her when a man approaches the gates. She realizes it is her husband.

“What happened?” she cried, “Why are you here?”

Her husband stared at her for a moment, then said, “I was so drunk when I left your funeral, I was in an accident. And now I am here. Did I really make it to Heaven?”

To which the woman replied, “Not yet. You must spell a word first.”

“What word?” he asked.

The woman responded, “Czechoslovakia.”

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

Vintage Dilbert
August 17, 1998

Standing in the middle of the gymnasium, I faced the Special Olympics athletes, wall-to-wall bleachers filled with energy and excitement. The incessant chatter and constant movement was interrupted only occasionally when an athlete would break loose and dash across the room. Their enthusiasm could not be stifled – this was their special day.

I was an inexperienced high-school junior. When I signed up to volunteer as a team leader, I had no idea what it would entail. Standing there completely baffled, I surveyed the chaos, wondering how the Games could ever be organized.

As I waited anxiously for my team of girls to be called, a small mob of schoolgirls, wearing matching Special Olympics T-shirts, closed in on me. Each girl had a distinctive gait. Some moved as if they were going to attack me, while others had difficulty putting one foot in front of the other.

One young woman bounced clumsily toward me with such liveliness, gravity seemed to have no effect. Strands of brown hair swayed back and forth in front of her blue eyes with every step, and a huge smile warmed her full, freckled face.

I felt paralyzed as I realized she was headed directly toward me. She stood next to me, placed her arm on my shoulder, and said, “Hi, I’m Jane.”

“Hi, I’m Sandy.”

Then, moving even closer, she said, “Hi, Sandy. I’m Jane.”

Smiling, I asked, “How are you, Jane?”

“Fine,” she said, her gaze focused on my face.

Just then the whistle announced the first event – a basketball – dribbling relay. The girls lined up behind the starting line, ready to dribble the ball to the cone at the other end of the court, and back again.

At the sound of the bell, my first team member picked up the ball and put as much energy as she could into her task. Bounce . . . Catch . . . Step. Bounce . . . Catch . . . Step.
“Come on! You can do it!” I yelled. Bounce . . . Catch . . . Step . . . Smile. Crossing the finish line, she passed the ball to the next girl, who took off. “Go! Go!” I screamed.

Handling the basketball with confidence as she zigzagged down the court and back, she passed the ball to Jane.

“Watch, Sandy. I can do this.” As Jane attempted to dribble, her bouncing gait kept her from controlling the ball. With almost every step, Jane’s foot would kick the ball, sending it flying across the gymnasium.

“You can do it, Jane!” I yelled.

Her smile never faded as she happily retrieved the ball and resumed where she had left off. As if the ball had a mind of its own, it took two more trips across the gymnasium before Jane was back at my side.

“I did good, didn’t I, Sandy?” Jane asked proudly. “Yes, you did fine.”

Then, as if she needed reminding or felt I did, Jane once again placed her arm on my shoulder and declared, “Hi Sandy, I’m Jane.”

“Yes, you are Jane, a wonderful young lady.” I responded, with a reassuring smile. This game continued throughout the other events.

I admired Jane’s zeal and her extraordinary attitude. She faced each challenge optimistically. Nothing fazed her. Nothing could erase the beautiful smile from her face. Each setback seemed to fuel her exuberant joy.

At the end of the day, each athlete received a ribbon. No one on my team came in first – it wasn’t important. The only thing that mattered was a job well-done and contented hearts. These girls were no different than any Olympian in Barcelona or Sydney; they had given their all, and now they looked at their ribbons with as much pride as a gold medalist.

“See! I did good!” Jane announced as she proudly showed me her ribbons.

It was time to go. Jane stood by my side and propped her arm on my shoulder. “Bye, Sandy. I had fun. I did good, didn’t I?”

“You did your best. I am so proud of you,” I answered, looking into her distant eyes.

Digging a piece of folded paper and small pencil from the pocket of her shorts, Jane handed it to me. “Can I have your address, Sandy?” she asked graciously.

“Sure,” I said, jotting it down.

“I could write you and then you could write me, huh? That would be good.”

“Yes, I would like that.”

All but one of the girls walked out of my life. Jane and I continued to communicate through letters and phone calls. We talked about comic books and baby dolls – trivial things to me, but to her, prized possessions.

A year later, as the Special Olympics approached, Jane wrote, “Can you come watch me in the Special Olympics?”

That year, I went as an observer. I stood next to Jane’s mother during the floor-hockey competition. Occasionally I shouted, “Good, Jane, good!”

“I’m glad you came,” her mother said. “You mean so much to my daughter. She talks about you all the time. When she asked if she could invite you, I said yes, but I also told her I didn’t think you would come.”

Looking at her in disbelief, I thought, Why would you assume such a thing? I replied, “Jane and I have developed a close relationship this year. She is my friend, and I’m happy to come.” Pausing for a moment, I smiled and added, “Besides, I love Jane.”

“I know you do, dear,” her mother said. “It’s just that . . . she’s been disappointed so many times before.”

The game ended, and Jane ran over to me. “I did good, didn’t I, Sandy?”

Hugging her, I said, “Yes you did, Jane!” We walked to lunch, arm in arm, and then said our good-byes. That was the last time I saw her. Although we corresponded during most of my college years, the letters eventually stopped.

A few years later, I sent a letter to my special friend. I wanted her to come to my wedding. I pictured her saying, “You did good, Sandy,” cheering me on like I had done for her. Unfortunately, the letter was returned – “No such person at this address.” I felt heartbroken.

Because of Jane, I now find joy in the little things. I know that winning isn’t the only thing that matters. When life sends me in an unexpected direction, I now get right back on course and start again, as I try to wear Jane’s smile.

Every once in a while, I can feel her arm rest on my shoulder as she says, “Hi Sandy, I’m Jane. You did good.”

Sandra J. Bunch
http://www.chickensoup.com 
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
July 15, 2004

Garage sales are a peculiar pastime. I am not one of those people who enjoy rummaging through other people’s unwanted items. My mother was, and she convinced me to accompany her one cool and dreary morning. I jumped at a chance to hand off my new baby to Grandpa and spend some adult time with my mother.

We went to several garage sales and finally stopped at a pleasant cottage in the woods. The elderly owner told me that he and his wife were moving into a retirement complex. His wife had been a teacher before she had a stroke and retired. She missed teaching with all her heart.

As we were perusing the sale items, I heard the gentleman’s small, frail wife say her name to someone, and I immediately realized who she was. She looked at me and said, “You are Lisa Miller.” I stared at her in awe, for it had been nearly thirty years since I had been in her class.

My mother immediately apologized to her for any trouble I might have caused. She did that routinely now after learning that my brothers and I were not the sweet little angels she thought. She assumed that if this woman remembered me after so many years, I must have really done something horrible. My teacher looked at my mother and softly said, “Oh no, she was very good,” and my mother stared at her in disbelief.

My teacher explained that during the last week of school, I brought her a plant from my mother’s garden. It was a Lamb’s Ear, a small plant with leaves that look and feel like a lamb’s ear. She said it came to her roots and all and was probably pulled out that morning as I ran out the door. (My mom knew that it was probably a peace token, and I had in fact done something that needed some sort of atonement.)

My teacher took us to a patch of plants and told us that she planted the Lamb’s Ear in her garden, and over the years it spread. As I looked down her driveway, I was taken aback at the site of Lamb’s Ears lining both sides of it. She looked at me and said, “Every day when I leave my house and drive up the driveway, I think of you. And when I come home these plants greet me, and I think of you.” Tears welled up in my eyes. There at her home, among all her belongings, was a piece of my life that she had nurtured.

In that moment, she taught me more about life than I could imagine. We give pieces of ourselves every day without thought or expectation. We rarely envision the effects that we have on others’ lives. That piece may grow and spread, becoming an integral part of a life. In the end it is not the big things that matter, but the small things that make all the difference in the world.

This is the lesson that I take with me to my classroom every day, and the lesson that got me through lymphoma and chemotherapy. I never had a chance to thank her, but I hope she took a Lamb’s Ear with her to her new home.

Garage sales are a peculiar pastime — you just never know what you will find. Every item has a story. A lot of those stories have a life lesson attached, if we will listen. I found my calling.

Lisa Miller Rychel
Teacher Tales
Chicken Soup for the Soul
http://www.chickensoup.com/
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
July 8, 2015

One afternoon I had the chance to meet a couple of friends on the course for a quick nine. We were paired together for a scramble at our church the next weekend and we admittedly needed the practice.

As I was driving to meet them, I started reflecting on my marriage. After seven years, we had become too predictable. No itches mind you, but more than enough rashes and hives from the children.

With the kids, the mortgage, the bills and, of course, the job to pay for all of the above, we had landed in a sand trap.

In college, it seemed like everything enjoyable in life centered around our time together. People always said that we were the ones who lit the fires, but lately it seemed like we had forgotten the matches.

Golf was an escape for us. I’d chase that stupid white ball around a deep green golf course and would never get any better.

My wife drove the electric golf cart, always wearing a shorts-and-tank-top set, dark sunglasses, and a white golf visor. For ten yards in either direction, you could smell the unmistakable scent of cocoa butter. The only reason she went was to get a suntan.

If the truth were known, the only reason I went was to watch her.

One afternoon, she studied my golf swing more intently than ever before. Finally, on the seventeenth hole, she came out with her notion.

“Let me try to hit one.”

At first, I thought it was a novel idea. Then I changed my mind. Golf was a man’s sport, or so I thought. “You? You can’t hit a golf ball. You’re a girl.”

“Thanks for noticing. Just the same, I think I can lose golf balls as well as you can.”

A very true observation.

I handed over my 3-wood and dug the tee into the hard clay at the tee box. Without even a practice swing, she promptly knocked the ball straight down the middle of the fairway.

When we got to our balls, her drive was five yards further than mine. From that day on, she started playing golf.

Some of the best times we shared early in our marriage were on the golf course. We’d go in the mid-morning before the temperature would climb.

The time we spent together laughing and teasing under the sun cemented our relationship. As I pulled into the parking lot outside the clubhouse, I realized how much I missed seeing her on a golf course.

All the guys at church looked forward to playing our annual tournament. Mike and Danny, a couple of fellow church members, were going to play on my team along with a mystery partner.

Hopefully someone who could drive and putt, our collective shortcomings.

Every team invited someone outside our church to play. Sort of a community involvement thing.

What I always found amazing was how all these strangers could hit the cover off the ball and always straight down the middle!

Let’s face it, there are more ringers in a church golf tournament than in the children’s bell choir.

When I got to the practice green, I saw Danny and his wife, Beth, pulling out Danny’s clubs. A second golf bag was resting on the side.

“Whose clubs are those, Danny?” I asked, expecting him to say that next week’s mystery golfer was already inside the clubhouse, paying for our tickets.

“Why, they’re mine,” said Beth as she threw them across her shoulder.

“Yeah, she’s my secret weapon today. She tees off from the women’s tee box, you know. With her drives, we are guaranteed at least a good one.”

I snickered at the thought of a woman playing golf… then I caught a whiff of cocoa butter.

The three of us spent the afternoon chasing balls, hitting horrible iron shots and missing almost every putt.

Danny and Beth didn’t care. They enjoyed playing golf together in a way that I suddenly recalled.

It’s not the winning but the losing together that matters most.

As we were starting to leave, the conversation came to the tournament. Danny asked, “Well, do you think you can find a fourth player by Saturday?”

“Yeah. Playing this afternoon reminded me of the perfect partner.”

I came home to find my wife in the kitchen. She smiled and asked, “Did you play well?”

“Nope. Just as hopeless as usual.”

“How did the others play?”

“Hopeless as well. We need a fourth player for the tournament and I think I found one.”

She looked up at me with those bright eyes and asked, “Really, who?”

“You.”

Surprise grew across her face. “Me? I haven’t played golf in years. I can’t help you win.”

“Can’t help us lose either. But it sure would be nice to see you out there again.”

That next Saturday, the four of us played golf on perhaps the most beautiful spring day that I can recall.

We laughed and teased all over the course as shot after shot missed the mark.

On the last hole, we finished with a score of 79, seven shots above par, buried deep in last place.

Afterward, the awards were handed out and we got the prize for having the roughest day, a kind way to say we lost.

Each of us received a sleeve of shiny pink golf balls for our hard day’s work.

On the way back to our table, I put my arm around my wife’s waist and whispered to all four of us, “These guys just haven’t figured out who really won…”

Harrison Kelly
Chicken Soup for the Soul: [Tales of Golf and Sport]
http://www.chickensoup.com/  Changing Lives One Story At A Time 
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
April 28, 1999

Hurricane Bertha left me in a bad mood.  I had managed to maintain my sour disposition for several days in spite of the attempts of almost everybody to cheer me up.  I had leaks in my ceiling at the gallery, the floors were flooded, the showcases dirty, there was no air conditioning or electricity, and I had over one hundred artists calling me to see if their work had been damaged.  On top of all that, I had to drive over to Jacksonville in the pouring rain and choking heat, and the air conditioner in my truck had quit working. I was not happy.

As I motored along North Carolina’s Highway 24 to Jacksonville, my faithful truck was trying to tell me something . . something important like . . . YOU FORGOT TO BUY GAS!  For the first time in my life I had run out of gas.  I’d always smirked at the friends and family who’d done this, as if to say, “How could you be so stupid?  There’s a gauge on the dashboard to tell you that your tank is empty, and all you have to do is read it.” I was right: There was a gauge, and it said EMPTY. I was not happy.

I coasted to the side of the road, saying several things about my own mental abilities . . . several things about Hurricane Bertha . . . and vowing to sit there until the darn truck rotted and fell apart.

As I contemplated the possibility of getting a job with the French Foreign Legion, I heard a motorcycle pull up beside me: a big, throaty, rumbling, growling Harley-Davidson.  I opened my door and was face to face with a throwback to the 1960s.

Snakes were painted all over his face shield and helmet and tattooed all over his body.  He wore the traditional Harley-Davidson garb: denim jacket, jeans and biker boots.  Chains hung from every available hook or loop.  His hair was so long that he had it doubled up and tied to keep it out of his wheels.  The Harley was straight out of Easy Rider – extended front fork; suicide rack on the back; black, purple and green paint job, and the gas tank painted to look like a skull with glowing green eyes.

“S’wrong?” he said.  His shield and helmet completely masked his face. “I’m out of gas,” I whispered. “B’right back.”  And he rode off.  About fifteen minutes later he returned with a can of gas.

When I offered to pay him he said, “Wait till ya get to the station.”

I started my truck and drove the two or three miles to the station as he followed along (in the pouring rain). Again I offered to pay him.  He said, “Pay the guy inside.  Everything okay now?”  I said yes.  He said, “See ya!”  And off he rode down Highway 24 toward Jacksonville, hair undone and flying in the wind, Harley roaring and throwing up spray from the pavement.

After pumping twenty-four dollars worth of gas, I went into the station and gave the attendant thirty dollars.  He said, “It’s only four dollars.  The other guy paid twenty and said to tell you to ‘pass it on, Brother.'”

I will always remember the kindness of the snakes-and-chains stranger on the Harley with the glowing green eyes, and I will never again judge by looks or perception -a promise I had often made to myself before God let me see, He truly works in mysterious ways.  And I will always wonder, “Who was that masked man?” ….As for the twenty dollars . . . I pass it on every chance I get.

Robert R. Thomas (c) 1996
Chicken Soup for the Soul www.chickensoup.com  
Image from www.allposters.com 
Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
April 24, 2004

I grew up on a farm in the mountains of northwest Arkansas. As children, my brother and I roamed every inch of the little mountain facing my parents’ house. We knew where every giant boulder and animal burrow was on that little piece of mountain bordering my dad’s farm.

One day, my grandpa came to visit from his home several miles away. We sat on the front porch swing looking at the mountain, and he began to tell me a story. It was a delightful tale about him and me living in a little cabin on the mountain.

 “Can you see it?” he asked. “It’s right there by that big acorn tree. See it?”

Of course I saw it. What eight-year-old child wouldn’t see what her imagination wanted her to see?

 “We’re gonna live in that cabin. We’ll catch a wild cow for our milk and pick wild strawberries for our supper,” Grandpa continued. “I bet the squirrels will bring us nuts to eat. We’ll search the bushes for wild chickens and turkeys. The chickens will give us eggs, and we’ll cook us a turkey over the big ol’ fireplace. Yep, we’ll do that some day.”

From that day on, every time I saw my grandpa, I asked when we would go to live in that little log cabin on the mountain. Then he’d once more spin the story of how the two of us would live in the cabin with the wildflowers and wild animals around us.

Time raced on; I grew into my teens and gradually forgot Grandpa’s story. After graduating high school, I still saw Grandpa and loved him dearly, but not like that little girl did. I grew out of the fantasy of the log cabin and wild cows.

Before long, I married and set up my own house. One day, the phone rang. When I heard my daddy’s sorrowful voice, I knew my grandpa had left us. He had been in his garden behind his house and died there, his heart forever stopped.

I grieved alongside my mother for my dear grandpa, remembering his promises of the cabin in the woods with all its animals and flowers. It seemed I could once again hear his voice telling me the fantasy we shared. I felt my childhood memories being buried with him.

Less than a year later, I went to visit my parents’ farm. Mama and I sat on the front porch admiring the green foliage of the mountain. It had been ten months since Grandpa had passed away, but the longing to hear his voice one more time was still fresh in my soul.

I told Mama about the story Grandpa had always told me, of the cabin in the woods, the wild cow, the chickens and turkey. “Mama,” I said after I had finished my story, “would you mind if I went for a walk by myself?”

“Of course not,” was her reply.

 I changed into old jeans and put on my walking shoes. Mama cautioned me to be careful and went on with her chores.

The walk was invigorating. Spring had come to the country, and everything was getting green. Little Johnny-jump-ups were springing up all over the pastures. New calves were following their mamas begging for milk. At the foot of the mountain, I stopped. Where did Grandpa say that acorn tree was?

“Straight up from the house,” I thought I heard him say.

I began my journey up the little mountain. It was steeper than I remembered, and I was out of shape. I trudged on, determined to find that tree.

Suddenly the ground leveled out. I was amazed to see what was before me. Soft green moss covered a small, flat clearing. Dogwood trees, smothered in pastel blooms, surrounded it. Off to the side stood a tall oak tree — Grandpa’s acorn tree! Scattered among the tufts of moss were vibrant colors of wild wood violets. Green rock ferns and pearly snowdrops were scattered about as well. I could hardly catch my breath.

I don’t know how long I stood there — several minutes, I suppose. Finally I came to my senses and sat down on the moss. In all my childhood wanderings on the mountain, I had never seen this magically beautiful place. Was this what Grandpa meant when he pointed out our special spot on the mountainside all those years ago? Did he know this was here?

A squirrel darted in front of me. He had a nut in his mouth. I watched as he scampered up the oak tree. No, I didn’t see a wild cow or chickens. But in my heart, I knew they were there somewhere.

I decided to go tell Mama what I had found. She would want to see it, too. Before I left I took one more look. It was the most beautiful place I could have ever imagined.

It didn’t take me as long to get back to the house. I burst into the kitchen babbling about the clearing on the side of the mountain. Mama calmed me down enough so she could understand what I was talking about. Daddy heard the conversation and tried to convince me there was no such place up there. He knew the mountain and had never seen anything like that.

On my insistence, he and Mama decided to go see the amazing place I was raving about. Once again I climbed the mountain straight up from the house. Before I knew it, we were at the top.

“We must have missed it,” I told my dad.

He just nodded and we retraced our steps. We searched for over an hour for that little place on the mountain. We never found it. I was devastated.

On the way back home, Mama put her arms around my shoulders.

“Sissy,” she said, “you know what you saw, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I know what I saw and I know it’s there somewhere. We just missed it.”

“No, sweetie, it’s not there anymore. You saw God’s garden. Only special people can see that. Your grandpa loved you so much, and he knew you were grieving inside. Hold that memory in your heart.”

I’m fifty-two years old now. Every time I go back to Mama’s house and sit on the porch, I remember the secret garden Grandpa told me about. But I no longer go out and look for it. No, I know just where it is.

By Bertha M. Sutliff    From Chicken Soup for the Soul: 
Stories of Faith Changing Lives One Story At A Time

 

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