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March 5th, 2009

Story : Entertaining Angels

Helping Angels Unaware

It was fifty years ago, on a hot summer day, in the deep south. We lived on a dirt road, on a sand lot. We were, what was known as “dirt poor”. I had been playing outside all morning in the sand.

Suddenly, I heard a sharp clanking sound behind me and looking over my shoulder, my eyes were drawn to a strange sight! Across the dirt road were two rows of men, dressed in black and white, striped, baggy uniforms. Their faces were covered with dust and sweat. They looked so weary, and they were chained together with huge, black, iron chains. Hanging from the end of each chained row was a big, black, iron ball.

They were, as polite people said in those days, a “Chain Gang,” guarded by two, heavily armed, white guards. I stared at the prisoners as they settled uncomfortably down in the dirt, under the shade of some straggly trees. One of the guards walked towards me. Nodding as he passed, he went up to our front door and knocked. My mother appeared at the door, and I heard the guard ask if he could have permission to get water from the pump, in the backyard, so that “his men” could “have a drink”. My mother agreed, but I saw a look of concern on her face, as she called me inside.

I stared through the window as each prisoner was unchained from the line, to hobble over to the pump and drink his fill from a small tin cup, while a guard watched vigilantly. It wasn’t long before they were all chained back up again, with prisoners and guards retreating into the shade, away from an unrelenting sun.

I heard my mother call me into the kitchen, and I entered, to see her bustling around with tins of tuna fish, mayonnaise, our last loaf of bread, and two, big, pitchers of lemonade. In what seemed “a blink of an eye”, she had made a tray of sandwiches using all the tuna we were to have had for that night’s supper.

My mother was smiling as she handed me one of the pitchers of lemonade, cautioning me to carry it carefully” and to “not spill a drop.” Then, lifting the tray in one hand and holding a pitcher in her other hand, she marched me to the door, deftly opening it with her foot, and trotted me across the street.

She approached the guards, flashing them with a brilliant smile. “We had some leftovers from lunch,” she said, “and I was wondering if we could share with you and your men.” She smiled at each of the men, searching their dark eyes with her own eyes of “robin’s egg blue.”

Everyone started to their feet. “Oh no!” she said. “Stay where you are! I’ll just serve you!” Calling me to her side, she went from guard to guard, then from prisoner to prisoner, filling each tin cup with lemonade, and giving each man a sandwich.

It was very quiet, except for a “thank you, ma’am,” and the clanking of the chains. Very soon we were at the end of the line, my mother’s eyes softly scanning each face.

The last prisoner was a big man, his dark skin pouring with sweat, and streaked with dust. Suddenly, his face broke into a wonderful smile, as he looked up into my mother’s eyes, and he said, Ma’am, I’ve wondered all my life if I’d ever see an angel, and now I have! Thank you!”

Again, my mother’s smile took in the whole group. “You’re all welcome!” she said. “God bless you.” Then we walked across to the house, with empty tray and pitchers, and back inside.

Soon, the men moved on, and I never saw them again. The only explanation my mother ever gave me, for that strange and wonderful day, was that I “remember, always, to entertain strangers, for by doing so, you may entertain angels, without knowing.”

Then, with a mysterious smile, she went about the rest of the day. I don’t remember what we ate for supper, that night. I just know it was served by an angel.

March 5th, 2009

Story : The Hand that reaches out

Hand that reaches out

The first grade teacher gave her class a fun assignment — to draw a picture of something for which they were thankful.

Most of the class might be considered economically disadvantaged, but still many would celebrate the holiday with turkey and other traditional goodies of the season. These, the teacher thought, would be the subjects of most of her student’s art. And they were.

But Douglas made a different kind of picture. Douglas was a different kind of boy. He was the teacher’s true child of misery, frail and unhappy. As other children played at recess, Douglas was likely to stand close by her side. One could only guess at the pain Douglas felt behind those sad eyes.

Yes, his picture was different. When asked to draw a picture of something for which he was thankful, he drew a hand. Nothing else. Just an empty hand.

His abstract image captured the imagination of his peers. Whose hand could it be? One child guessed it was the hand of a farmer, because farmers raise turkeys. Another suggested a police officer, because the police protect and care for people. Still others guessed it was the hand of God, for God feeds us. And so the discussion went — until the teacher almost forgot the young artist himself.

When the children had gone on to other assignments, she paused at Douglas’ desk, bent down, and asked him whose hand it was.

The little boy looked away and murmured, “It’s yours, teacher.”

She recalled the times she had taken his hand and walked with him here or there, as she had the other students. How often had she said, “Take my hand, Douglas, we’ll go outside.” Or, “Let me show you how to hold your pencil.” Or, “Let’s do this together.” Douglas was most thankful for his teacher’s hand.

Brushing aside a tear, she went on with her work.

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The story speaks of more than thankfulness. It says something about teachers’ teaching and parents’ parenting and friends showing friendship, and how much it means to the Douglases of the world. They might not always say thanks. But they’ll remember the hand that reaches out.

March 5th, 2009

Story : The Love that makes you sigh

Little girl with her puppy

Danielle keeps repeating it over and over again. We’ve been back to this animal shelter at least five times. It has been weeks now since we started all of this,” the mother told the volunteer.

“What is it she keeps asking for?” the volunteer asked.

“Puppy size!” replied the mother.

“Well, we have plenty of puppies, if that’s what she’s looking for.”

“I know…we have seen most of them,” the Mom said in frustration. ..

Just then Danielle came walking into the office.

“Well, did you find one?” asked her Mom. “No, not this time,”

Danielle said with sadness in her voice. “Can we come back on the weekend?”

“You never know when we will get more dogs. Unfortunately, there’s always a supply,” the volunteer said.

Danielle took her mother by the hand and headed to the door. “Don’t worry, I’ll find one this weekend,” she said.

Over the next few days, both Mom and Dad had long conversations with her. They both felt she was being too particular. “It’s this weekend or we’re not looking any more,” Dad finally said in frustration. “We don’t want to hear anything more about puppy size either,” Mom added.

Sure enough, they were the first ones in the shelter on Saturday morning. By now Danielle knew her way around, so she ran right for the section that housed the smaller dogs. Tired of the routine, Mom sat in the small waiting room at the end of the first row of cages.

There was an observation window so you could see the animals during times when visitors weren’t permitted. Danielle walked slowly from cage to cage, kneeling periodically to take a closer look. One by one
the dogs were brought out and she held each one. One by one she said, “Sorry, you’re not the one.”

It was the last cage on this last day in search of the perfect pup. The volunteer opened the cage door and the child carefully picked up the dog and held it closely. This time she took a little longer.

“Mom, that’s it! I found the right puppy! He’s the one! I know it!” she screamed with joy. “It’s the puppy size!”

“But it’s the same size as all the other puppies you held over the last few weeks,” Mom said.

“No not size —- the sighs. When I held him in my arms, he sighed,” she said.

“Don’t you remember? When I asked you one day what love is, you told me love depends on the sighs of your heart. The more you love, the bigger the sigh!”

The two women looked at each other for a moment. Mom didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. As she stooped down to hug the child, she did a little of both.

“Mom, every time you hold me, I sigh. When you and Daddy come home from work and hug each other, you both sigh. I knew I would find the right puppy if it sighed when I held it in my arms,” she said. Then holding the puppy up close to her face she said, “Mom, he loves me. I heard the sighs of his heart!”

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Close your eyes for a moment and think about the love that makes you sigh. I not only find it in the arms of my loved ones, but in the caress of a sunset, the kiss of the moonlight and the gentle brush of cool air on a hot day. They are the sighs of God. Take the time to stop and listen; you will be surprised at what you hear.

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