Monday, 4 September 2017

Things Change

For most people, graduation is an exciting day - the culmination of years of hard work. My graduation day... was not.

        I remember that weekend two years ago. Family and friends had flown in from across the country to watch our class walk across that stage. But like everyone else in my graduating class, I had watched the economy turn from bad to worse my senior year. We graduates had degrees, but very limited prospects. Numerous applications had not panned out and I knew that the next day, when my lease ended, I would no longer have a place to call home.

        The weeks ahead weren't easy. I gathered up everything I couldn't carry and put it into storage. Then, because I knew my small university town couldn't offer me any opportunities, I packed up my car and drove to Southern California to find work. But what I thought would take a week dragged into two, and then four, and 100 job applications later, I found myself in the exact same spot as I was before. And the due date to begin paying back my student loans was creeping ever closer.

        You know that feeling when you wake up and you are just consumed with dread? Dread about something you can't control - that sense of impending failure that lingers over you as you hope that everything that happened to you thus far was just a bad dream? That feeling became a constant in my life.

        Days felt like weeks, weeks like months, and those many months felt like an unending eternity of destitution. And the most frustrating part was no matter how much I tried, I just couldn't seem to make any progress.

        So what did I do to maintain my sanity? I wrote. Something about putting words on a page made everything seem a little clearer - a little brighter. Something about writing gave me hope. And if you want something badly enough... sometimes a little hope is all you need!

        I channeled my frustration into a children's book. Beyond the River was the story of an unlikely hero featuring a little fish who simply refused to give up on his dream.

        And then one day, without any sort of writing degree or contacts in the writing world - just a lot of hard work and perseverance - I was offered a publishing contract for my first book! After that, things slowly began to fall into place. I was offered a second book deal. Then, a few months later, I got an interview with The Walt Disney Company and was hired shortly after.

        The moral of this story is... don't give up. Even if things look bleak now, don't give up. Two years ago I was huddled in my car drinking cold soup right out of the can. Things change.

        If you work hard, give it time, and don't give up, things will always get better. Oftentimes our dreams lie in wait just a little further upstream... all we need is the courage to push beyond the river.

        - Alex W. Miller

 - Sent from Inspirational Short Stories (android app),

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Conquering the world

There once lived a powerful king who undertook an expedition to conquer foreign lands. His wise counselor asked him, "Great king, to what purpose do you set out on this endeavor?" "To become master of Asia", the king replied. "And then what?" asked the counselor. "I shall invade Arabia", said the king. "And after that?" "I shall conquer Europe and Africa; and finally, when the whole world is under me, I shall rest and live at ease."

 To this the wise counselor retorted, "But what keeps you from resting and living at ease here and now, if that is all you want? You could settle down this very day without the trouble and risks."

Accidental Angel

When I was in school, I participated in an undergraduate internship with a hospital chaplain. This largely consisted of me visiting with specific hospital patients and then discussing the interaction with the chaplain. I had no specific training in this, and introducing myself to strangers was not one of my natural talents.

        On one particular visit, I cautiously entered a darkened room to find an elderly man lying in the bed. There was no one else in the room, and I initially thought he was sleeping. When I moved closer to the bed, I realized that he was very much awake, but also very confused and anxious. He desperately wanted to communicate something, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He seemed weak and frail, and I couldn’t tell if he was in pain, or just scared. I knew nothing about this man’s life or history, and I felt totally helpless. He obviously didn’t want me to leave, but I felt so lost and uncomfortable that I had to leave the room after only a couple of minutes.

        The next time I was at the hospital, I was assigned to make follow up visits with the same list of patients. I expected my time with the confused man to be just as short as the last time...if he was even still alive. It seemed pointless to frustrate myself trying to interact with someone so disoriented.

        As I arrived at the room, the first thing I noticed was that the lights were on. His daughter was there visiting with him. He was sitting up in the bed and much more alert. I introduced myself to the daughter and explained that I had come by before. Addressing the patient, I then suggested that I was certain he didn’t remember me at all.

        He corrected me immediately, saying “I remember you. You were the angel that gave me hope in my darkest hour!” I would have thought his memory was delirious, but he then accurately recounted enough details of our first meeting to remove any doubt of his clarity. I was so amazed that, once again, I didn’t know how to respond. We talked a little more, I told him I was glad he was feeling so much better, and we said goodbye.

        In the brief moment of my initial interaction with this inconsolable patient, I had no idea what to say or what to do. I knew of nothing I could offer him. I did absolutely nothing to help this man... except show up. I may never be able to explain it, but somehow he found in me something he needed at a critical point in his life, just because I was there.

        I have thought about this encounter often over the past 25 years. It has shaped the way I see life, the way I see myself, and the way I see others. It has influenced not only my career path, but also the decisions I make on a daily basis. It makes me want to offer whatever kindness I can to others, and I try to recognize and appreciate the kindness that others share with me. Obviously, we can’t know the impact our actions, or even just our presence, will have on life.

        I don’t know who he was. I don’t know his name, where he came from, or what happened to him after that. It took years of hindsight for me to recognize the gift he had given me, so I didn’t even know to thank him at the time.

        So a stranger in the form of a frail old man changed the rest of my life with a single comment. Who was the angel to whom?

        - Scott Shaunfield

Saturday, 19 August 2017

A Special Teacher

Years ago a John Hopkins University professor gave a group of graduate students this assignment:
        Go to the slums. Take 200 boys, between the ages of 12 and 16, and investigate their background and
        environment. Then predict their chances for the future. The students, after consulting social statistics, talking
        to the boys, and compiling much data and information, concluded that 90 percent of the boys would spend
        some time in jail.
        Twenty-five years later, another group of graduate students was given the job of testing that prediction. They
        went back to the same area. Some of the boys - by then men - were still there, a few had died, some had
        moved away, but they got in touch with 180 of the original 200. They found that only four of the group had

        ever been sent to jail.
        Why was it that these men, who had lived in a breeding place of crime, had such a surprisingly good record?
        The researchers were continually told by the boys who were now men: "Well, there was a teacher..." They
        pressed further, and found that in 75 percent of the cases it was the same female teacher.
        The researchers went to this teacher, now living in a retirement home. How had she managed this
        remarkable influence over that group of boys? Could she give any reason why these boys should have
        remembered her?
        "No," she said, "no, I really can't think of any reason that they would remember me." And then, thinking back
        over the years, she reflected, more to herself than her questioners: "I loved those boys..."

How much do you make an Hour ?

With a timid voice and idolizing eyes, the little boy greeted his father as he returned from work, "Daddy, how
        much do you make an hour?" Greatly surprised, but giving his boy a glaring look, the father said: "Look, son,
        not even your mother knows that. Don't bother me now, I'm tired." "But Daddy, just tell me please!? How
        much do you make an hour?" the boy insisted.
        The father, finally giving up, replied: "Twenty dollars per hour." "Okay, Daddy. Could you loan me ten
        dollars?" the boy asked. Showing restlessness and positively disturbed, the father yelled: "So that was the
        reason you asked how much I earn, right?? Go to sleep and don't bother me anymore!"
        It was already dark and the father was thinking about what he had said, and was feeling guilty. Maybe he

        thought, his son wanted to buy something. Finally, trying to ease his mind, the father went back to his son's
        "Are you asleep son?" asled the father. "No, Daddy. Why?" replied the boy partially asleep. "Here's the
        money you asked for earlier," the father said. "Thanks, Daddy!" rejoiced the son, while putting his hand
        under his pillow and removing some money. "Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!" the boy said
        to his father, who was gazing at his son, confused at what his son just said. "Daddy could you sell me one
        hour of your time?"

 - Sent from Inspirational Short Stories (android app),

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Puppies for sale

A store owner was tacking a sign above his door that read "Puppies For Sale." Signs like that have a way of
        attracting small children and sure enough, a little boy appeared by the store owner's sign. "How much are
        you going to sell the puppies for?" he asked. The store owner replied, "Anywhere from $30-$50."
        The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out some change. "I have $2.37," he said. "May I please look
        at them?" The store owner smiled and whistled, out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle of his
        store followed by five teeny, tiny balls of fur. One puppy was lagging considerably behind.
        Immediately the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and said, "What's wrong with that little dog?"
        The store owner explained that the veterinarian had examined the little puppy and had discovered it didn't
        have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame. The little boy became excited. "That is the
        little puppy that I want to buy." The store owner said, "No, you don't want to buy that little dog. If you really

        want him, I'll just give him to you."
        The little boy got quite upset. He looked into the store owner's eyes, pointing his finger, and said, "I don't
        want you to give him to me. That dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I'll pay full price. In
        fact, I'll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid for."
        The store owner countered, "You really don't want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run
        and jump and play with you like the other puppies."
        To this, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg
        supported by a big metal brace. He looked up at the store owner and softly replied, "Well, I don't run so good
        myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!"

 - Sent from Inspirational Short Stories (android app),

Saturday, 22 July 2017

How rich are we?

One day a father and his rich family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose to show him
        how poor people can be. They spent a day and a night on the farm of a very poor family. When they got
        back from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?" "Very good Dad!" "Did you see how poor
        people can be?" the father asked. "Yeah!" exclaimed the son. "And what did you learn?" asked the father.
        The son answered, "I saw that we have a dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to
        the middle of the garden; they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lamps in the garden; they
        have the stars. Our patio reaches to the front yard; they have a whole horizon." When the little boy was
        finished, his father was speechless. His son added, "Thanks, Dad, for showing me how 'poor' we are!"
        Isn't it true that it all depends on the way you look at things? If you have love, friends, family, health, good
        humor and a positive attitude towards life -- you've got everything! You can't buy any of these things. You
        may have all the material possessions you can imagine, provisions for the future, etc.; but if you are poor of
        spirit, you have nothing!
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Friday, 21 July 2017

Shake it Off And Step Up

A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard
        the mule braying. After carefully checking the situation, the farmer felt sorry for the mule, but decided that
        neither the mule nor the well was worth saving. Instead, he called his neighbors and friends together and
        told them what had happened. The farmer asked them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and
        put him out of his misery.
        At first, the old mule was hysterically braying, very upset! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued
        shoveling the dirt into the well, the dirt would hit his back, and a thought came to the donkey. It suddenly
        dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back: he should shake it off and step up!

        This is what the old mule did, shovel after shovel. "Shake it off and step up... shake it off and step up...
        shake it off and step up!" he repeated to encourage himself.
        No matter how painful the dirt, or how distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought "panic" and just
        kept right on shaking it off and stepping up! You guessed it! It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and
        exhausted, stepped triumphantly right over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him, actually
        end up blessing him. All because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

 - Sent from Inspirational Short Stories (android app),

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Fence

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every
        time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into
        the fence. Over the next few weeks as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily,
        gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to hammer those nails into the
        Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father
        suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days
        passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
        The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said "You have done well, my son, but look
        at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar
        just like this one."
        You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry, the wound is
        still there.

This is Good

An old story is told of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit
        of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, "This is good!"
        One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the
        guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns. After
        taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it, and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation the
        friend remarked as usual, "This is good!" To which the king replied, "No, this is NOT good!" and immediately
        sent his friend to jail.
        About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to avoid. Cannibals captured
        him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake, and bound him to
        the stake. As they came close to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being
        superstitious cannibals, they never ate anyone that was less than whole. So the cannibals untied the king,
        and sent him on his way.
        As he returned home, he was reminded of the incident that had blown off his thumb and felt sadness for his
        treatment of his friend. The king went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend. "You were right," he
        said, "it was good that my thumb was blown off." And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just
        happened. "And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this."
        "No," his friend replied, "This is good!" "What do you mean,'This is good'? said the king.
        “How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?" questioned the king.
        "If I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you." said his friend.