Reflections for the
Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, & Advisor

Courtesy of Pack/Troop/Crew 196

stories for around the campfire
(faithfully compiled and submitted by M.Monostori,
and last updated on 24AUG2005)


A Keeper 
 
I grew up in the 40s/50s (even into the early 60's) with practical 
parents.  A mother, God love her, who washed aluminum foil after
she cooked in it, then reused it. She was the original recycle 
queen before they had a name for it... A father who was happier
getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones. 

Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends
lived barely a wave away. I can see them now, Dad in trousers, tee
shirt and a hat and Mom in a house dress, lawn mower in one hand, 
and dishtowel in the other. It was the time for fixing things... 
a curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the
hem in a dress... things we keep. 
 
It was a way of life and sometimes it made me crazy.  All that 
re-fixing, eating, renewing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. 
Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there'd
always be more. 
 
But then my mother died, and on that clear summer's night, in the
warmth of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning
that sometimes there isn't any more. Sometimes, what we care about
most gets all used up and goes away... never to return.  
So, while we have it, it's best we love it and care for it and fix
it when it's broken and heal it when it's sick. 

This is true for marriage... and old cars... and children with bad 
report cards... and dogs with bad hips... and aging parents... 
and grandparents.  We keep them because they are worth it, because
we are worth it. 
 
Some things we keep. Like a best friend that moved away or a 
classmate we grew up with. There are just some things that make
life important, like people we know who are special.....
and so, we keep them close! 

TEN THINGS GOD WON'T ASK ON THAT LAST DAY. 
 
1. God won't ask what kind of car you drove. He'll ask how many
   people you drove in the car who didn't have transportation. 
2. God won't ask the square footage of your house. 
   He'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home. 
3. God won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet. 
   He'll ask how many you helped to clothe. 
4. God won't ask what your highest salary was. 
   He'll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it. 
5. God won't ask what your job title was. 
   He'll ask if you performed your job to the best of our ability. 
6. God won't ask how many friends you had. 
   He'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend. 
7. God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived.  
   He'll ask how you treated your neighbors. 
8. God won't ask about the color of your skin. 
   He'll ask about the content of your character. 


A Billion

The next time you hear a politician use the words "billion"
casually, think about whether you want that politician
spending your tax dollars.  A billion is a difficult
number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did
a good job of putting that figure into perspective:

A billion seconds ago, it was 1959.
A billion minutes ago, Jesus was alive.
A billion hours ago, our ancestors were living in 
  the Stone Age.
A billion dollars ago was only 8 hrs and 20 min age,
  at the rate Washington spends it.

Remember the famous quote by our illustrious junior
Senator from our great state of Illinois, said in 
jest of course...

 "A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon
  you are talking about real money!" 
  - Senator Everett McKinley Dirkson (1951 thru 1969)


Teaching

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the
very first day of school, she told the children an
untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her
students and said that she loved them all the same.
However, that was impossible, because there in the
front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named
Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs.Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and
noticed that he did not play well with the other
children, that his clothes were messy and that he
constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be
unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson
would actually take delight in marking his papers with
a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a
big "F" at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was
required to review each child's past records and she
put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed
his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright
child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and
has good manners... he is a joy to be around.."

His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent
student, well liked by his classmates, but he is
troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and
life at home must be a struggle."

His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has
been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his
father doesn't show much interest, and his home life
will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."

Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is
withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He
doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in
class."

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was
ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her
students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in
beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for
Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the
heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag.
Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of
the other presents. Some of the children started to
laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some
of the stones missing, and a bottle that was
one-quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the
children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the
bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the
perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after
school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs.
Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to."

After the children left, she cried for at least an
hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading,
writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach
children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to
Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come
alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he
responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become
one of the smartest children in the class and, despite
her lie that she would love all the children the same,
Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets.."

A year later, she found a note under her door, from
Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he
ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from
Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school,
third in his class, and she was still the best teacher
he ever had in life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying
that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed
in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate
from college with the highest of honors. He assured
Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite
teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter
came. This time he explained that after he got his
bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further.
The letter explained that she was still the best and
favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a
little longer.... The letter was signed, Theodore F.
Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet
another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this
girl and was going to be married. He explained that
his father had died a couple of years ago and he was
wondering if Mrs.Thompson might agree to sit at the
wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the
mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs.Thompson did. And
guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with
several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure
she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his
mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in
Mrs.Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for
believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel
important and showing me that I could make a
difference."

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back.
She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the
one who taught me that I could make a difference. I
didn't know how to teach until I met you."

(For you that don't know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at
Iowa Methodist in Des Moines that has the Stoddard
Cancer Wing.)

Random acts of kindness?


We've always done it that way!
      
The US standard railroad gauge (distance between rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 
inches.  That's an exceedingly odd number.  Why was that gauge used? 
Because that's the way they built them in Great Britain, and expatriates 
from there built the US Railroads.  Why did the folks from Britain build 
them like that?
   
Because the pre-railroad tramways used that gauge.  Why did "they" use that 
gauge then?  Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs 
and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
      
Why did wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?  If they tried to use 
any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long 
distance roads in England because that was the spacing of the wheel ruts.
      
So who built those old rutted roads?  Imperial Rome built the first long 
distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions.  The roads have 
been used ever since.
      
And the ruts in the roads?  Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, 
which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. 
Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the 
matter of wheel spacing.
      
So, the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived 
from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. 
Bureaucracies live forever!
      
So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what "horse's 
rear end" came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial 
Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rumps of 
two war horses.
      
        Now here's a twist to the story. . .
      
When you see a space shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big 
booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank.  These are 
solid rocket boosters, or SRBs.  The SRBs are made by Morton-Thiokol.  The 
engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit 
fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the 
launch site.  The raidroad line from the factory happens to run through a 
tunnel in the mountains.  The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel.  The 
tunnel is just slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad 
track is about as wide as two horses' rear ends.  So, a major space shuttle 
design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation 
system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's 
rear end.
      
. . .and you thought being a HORSE'S REAR END wasn't important!


Washington Monument 

On the aluminum cap atop the Washington Monument in Washington DC
are two words: Laus Deo. 
No one can see these words. In fact.. most visitors to the monument 
have no idea they are even there and, for that matter, probably 
could care less! 

But there they are 555 feet, 5.125 inches high perched atop the 
monument to the father of our nation overlooking the 69 square
miles which comprise the District of Columbia capital of the 
United States of America. 

"Laus Deo" Two seemingly insignificant, unnoticed words out of sight
and, one might think, out of mind but very meaningfully placed at 
the  highest point over what is the most powerful city in the world. 
And what might those two words comprised of just four syllables and
only seven letters mean? Very simply, "Praise be to God!" 

Though construction of this giant obelisk began in 1848 when 
James Polk was President of the United States, it was not until 1888
that the monument was inaugurated and opened to the public. It took
twenty five years to finally cap the memorial with the tribute Laus Deo!
Praise be to God! 

From atop this magnificent granite and marble structure a visitor can
take in the beautiful panoramic view of the city with its division
into four major segments. And from that vantage point one can also
easily see  the original plan of the designer, Pierre Charles l'Enfant,
a perfect cross imposed upon the landscape with the White House to the
north, the Jefferson Memorial to the south, the Capitol to the east,
and the Lincoln Memorial to the west. 

A cross. How interesting! And no doubt intended to carry a meaning for
those who bother to notice. Praise be to God! 
Within the monument itself are 898 steps and 50 landings. As one climbs
the steps and pauses at the landings the memorial stones share a message. 
On the 12th Landing is a prayer offered by the City of Baltimore; 
on the 20th is a memorial presented by some Chinese Christians; 
on the 24th a presentation made by Sunday School children from New York
and Philadelphia quoting Proverbs 10:7, Luke 18:16, and Proverbs 22:6. 
Praise be to God! 

When the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4th,  
1848 deposited within it were many items including the Holy Bible 
presented by the Bible Society. Praise be to God!
 
Such was the discipline, the moral direction, the spiritual mood given
by the founder and first President of our unique democracy "one nation,
under God." 

I am awed by Washington's prayer for America. Have you never read it? 
Well now is your opportunity, read on! 
"Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the 
United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts
of its citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to
government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another
and for their fellow citizens of the United states at large." 
"And  finally  that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us
all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that 
charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the 
characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and 
without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can 
never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." Laus Deo! 

Our Pledge of Allegiance includes the phrase "under God."
It is clear when one studies the history of our great nation that 
Washington's America was one of the few countries in all the world 
established under the guidance, direction and banner of Almighty God, 
to whom was given all praise, honor and  worship by the great men who
formed and fashioned her pivotal foundations.  And when one stops to
observe the inscriptions found in public places all over our nation's
capitol ... one will easily find the signature of God. 


Censorship of History

Immediately after creating the Declaration of Independence, the
Continental Congress voted to purchase and import 20,000 copies
of Scripture for the people of this nation. 
 
Patrick Henry, who is called the firebrand of the American 
Revolution, is still remembered for his words, "Give me liberty or 
give me death"; but in current textbooks the context of these words 
is omitted. Here is what he actually said: "An appeal to arms and 
the God of hosts is all that is left us. But we shall not fight our 
battle alone. There is a just God that presides over the destinies 
of nations. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone. Is life so 
dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains 
and slavery? Forbid it Almighty God. I know not what course others 
may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death." 
 
These sentences have been erased from our textbooks.  Was Patrick 
Henry a Christian? The following year, 1776, he wrote this: "It 
cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great 
Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on 
religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone,
people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here." 
 
Consider these words that Thomas Jefferson wrote in the front of 
his well-worn Bible: "I am a real Christian, that is to say, a 
disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our 
whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our creator." He 
was also the chairman of the American Bible Society, which he 
considered his highest and most important role. On July 4, 1821, 
President Adams  said, "The highest glory of the American 
Revolution was   this: "It connected in one indissoluble bond the 
principles of civil Government with the principles of 
Christianity." 
 
Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President of the United States reaffirmed 
this truth when he wrote, "The foundations of our 
society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the 
Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these 
teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country." 
 
In 1782, the United States Congress voted this resolution: "The 
Congress of the United States recommends and approves 
the Holy Bible for use in all schools."  William Holmes McGuffey is 
the author of the McGuffey Reader, which was used for over 100 
years in our public schools, with over 125 million copies sold, 
until it was stopped in 1963. President Lincoln called him the 
"Schoolmaster of the Nation." 
 
Listen to these words of Mr. McGuffey: "The Christian religion is 
the religion of our country. From it are derived our nation, on the 
character of God, on the great moral Governor of the universe. On 
its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free 
Institutions. >From no source has the author drawn more 
conspicuously than from the sacred Scriptures. For all these 
extracts from the Bible, I make no apology." 
 
Of the first 108 universities founded in America, 106 were 
distinctly Christian, including the first, Harvard University, 
chartered in 1636. In the original Harvard Student Handbook, rule 
number 1 was that students seeking entrance must know Latin and 
Greek so that they could study the Scriptures: "Let every student 
be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the 
main end of his life and studies, is to know God and Jesus Christ, 
which is eternal life, John 17:3; and therefore to lay Jesus Christ 
as the only foundation for our children to follow the moral 
principles of the Ten Commandments." 
 
James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution of the United 
States, said this: "We have staked the whole future of all our 
political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to 
govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten 
Commandments." 
 
Most of what you read in this article has been erased from our 
textbooks. Revisionists have rewritten history to remove the truth 
about our country's Christian roots. You are encouraged to share 
this with others, so that the truth of our nation's history will be 
told. This information shared is only a drop of cement to help secure
a foundation that is crumbling daily in a losing war that most of the
country doesn't even know is raging on, in, and around them. 


In case you wondered Why We Forward Jokes

A man and his dog were walking along a road.  The man was enjoying
the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He 
remembered dying, and the dog walking beside him had been dead for 
years.  He wondered where the road was leading them.  After  a while,
they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road.
It looked like marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by
a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight.

When he was standing before it he saw a magnificent gate in the 
arch that looked like Mother of Pearl, and the street that led to
the gate looked like pure gold.

He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he
saw a man at a desk to one side.  When he was close enough, he 
called out,"Excuse me, where are we?"

"This is heaven, sir" the man answered.
"Wow!  Would you happen to have some water?" the man asked.
"Of course, sir.  Come right in, and I'll have some ice water
brought right up."  The man gestured, and the gate began to open.
"Can my friend", gesturing toward his dog, "come in too? the
traveller asked. "I'm sorry sir, but we don't accept pets."

The man thought a moment and then turned back towards the road and
continued the way he had been going with his dog.  After another
long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt
road that led through a farm gate that looked as if it had never 
been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw
a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book. "Excuse me!"
he called to the reader.  "Do you have any water?"

"Yeah, sure, there's a pump over there."  The man pointed to a 
place that couldn't be seen from outside the gate. "Come on in."
"How about my friend here?" the traveller gestured to the dog.
"There should be a bowl by the pump."
They went through the gate and sure enough, there was an old 
fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it.  The traveller filled
the bowl and took a long drink himself, then gave some to the dog.
When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who
was standing by the tree waiting for them.  "What do you call this
place?" the traveler asked. "This is Heaven." was the answer.
"Well, that's  confusing." The traveler said.  "The man down the
road said that was Heaven, too."
"Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? 
Nope. That's Hell."

"Doesn't it make you mad for them to use your name like that?"
"No. I can see how you might think so, but we're just happy that 
they screen out the folks who'll leave their best friends behind".

So, sometimes when you wonder why friends keep forwarding jokes
to us without writing a word, maybe this could explain:  When you
are very busy, but still want to keep in touch, guess what you do?
You forward jokes.  When you have nothing to say, but still want 
to keep contact, you forward jokes.  When you have something to
say, but don't know what, and don't know how, you forward jokes.  
And to let you know that you are still remembered, you are still
important, you are still loved, you are still cared for, guess 
what you get? A forwarded joke.

So my friend, next time if you get a joke, don't think that 
you've been sent just another joke, but that you've been thought
of today and your friend on the other end of the computer wanted
to send you a smile. Have a great day.


The value Of A Penny

Several years ago, a friend of mine and her husband
were invited to spend the weekend at the husband's
employer's home. My friend, Arlene, was nervous about
the weekend. The boss was very wealthy, with a fine
home on the waterway, and cars costing more than her
house. The first day and evening went well, and Arlene
was delighted to have this rare glimpse into how the
very wealthy live.

The husband's employer was quite generous as a host,
and took them to the finest restaurants. Arlene knew
she would never have the opportunity to indulge in
this kind of extravagance again, so was enjoying
herself immensely. As the three of them were about to
enter an exclusive restaurant that evening, the boss
was walking slightly a head of Arlene and her husband.
He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for
a long, silent moment. Arlene wondered if she was
supposed to pass him. There was nothing on the ground
except a single darkened penny that someone had
dropped, and a few cigarette butts. Still silent, the
man reached and picked up the penny. He held it up and
smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a
great treasure. How absurd! What need did this man
have for a single penny? Why would he even take the
time to stop and pick it up?

Throughout dinner, the entire scene nagged at her.
Finally, she could stand it no longer. She causally
mentioned that her daughter once had a coin
collection, and asked if the penny he had found had
been of some value.

A smile crept across the man's face as he reached into
his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to
see. She had seen many pennies before! What was the
point of this? "Look at it." He said. "Read what it
says." She read the words "United States of America."
"No, not that; read further." "One cent?" "No, keep
reading." "In God we Trust?" "Yes!" And?" "And if I
trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin.
Whenever I find a coin I see that inscription. It is
written on every single United States coin, but we
never seem to notice it! God drops a message right in
front of me telling me to trust Him! Who am I to pass
it by?

When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust
IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as
response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short
time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I
think it is God's way of starting a conversation with
me lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are
plentiful!"

When I was out shopping today, I found a penny on the
sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up, and realized
that I had been worrying and fretting in my mind about
things I cannot change. I read the words, "In God We
Trust, and had to laugh. Yes, God, I get the message.
It seems that I have been finding an inordinate number
of pennies in the last few months, but then, pennies
are plentiful... And God is patient...


Parachutes

Charles Plumb was a U.S. Navy jet pilot in Vietnam.  After 75 combat
missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air
missile.  Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands.  He was
captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese
prison.  He survived the ordeal and now gives lectures on lessons he
learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at
another table came up and said to him, "You're Plumb!
You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk.
You were shot down!"

"How in the world did you know that?" asked Plumb.

"I packed your parachute," the man replied.

Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude.

The man pumped his hand and said, "I guess it worked!"

Plumb assured him, "It sure did.  If your chute hadn't worked, I
wouldn't be here today."

Plumb couldn't sleep that night, thinking about the man.  Plumb now
says, "I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white
hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers.  I wonder how many times I
might have seen him and not even said 'Good morning, how are you?' or anything
because, you see, I was a fighter pilot, and he was just a sailor."

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden
table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the
shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each
time the fate of someone he didn't know.  Now, Plumb asks his audience, "Who's
packing your parachute?"

Everyone has someone who provides what he or she needs to make it
through the day.  Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when
his plane was shot down over enemy territory -- he needed his physical
parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual
parachute.  He called on all these supports before reaching safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is
really important.  We may fail to say hello, please, or thank
you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to
them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason.  As you go
through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachute.


The Search For An Honest Man (extract from Sports Illustrated)

The game was played in Wellington, Florida.  In it, a seven-year-old first baseman,
Tanner Munsey, fielded a ground ball and tried to tag a runner going from first to
second base.  The umpire, Laura Benson, called the runner out, but young Tanner
immediately ran to her side and said, "Ma'am, I didn't tag the runner." 
Umpire Benson reversed herself, sent the runner to second base, and Tanner's
coach gave him the game ball for his honesty.  Two weeks later, Laura Benson was
again the umpire and Tanner was playing shortstop when a similar play occurred.
This time Benson ruled that Tanner had missed the tag on a runner going to third
base, and she called the runner safe.  Tanner looked at Benson and without saying
a word, tossed the ball to the catcher and returned to his position.

Benson sensed something was wrong.  "Did you tag the runner?" 
She asked Tanner.   His reply: "Yes, ma'am."

Benson then called the runner out.  The opposing coaches protested until she
explained what had happened two weeks earlier.  "If a kid is that honest,"
she said, "I have to give it to him."

No other characteristic has suffered more in our society than honesty. 
It's lacking in the workplace, it's lacking in many of our marriages, it's lacking
in our government, and sometimes it's even lacking in our churches.
Like Diogenes of ancient Greece, we sometimes feel the urge to take
our lantern and begin our search for an honest man.


Article from the Houston Chronicle
  
      On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist,
came on stage to give a  concert at Avery Fisher Hall
at Lincoln Center in New York City.  If you  have ever
been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on
stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken
with polio as a child, and so he  has braces on both
legs and walks with the aid of two crutches.
  
      To see him walk across the stage one step at a
time, painfully and slowly,  is an sight. He walks
painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his
chair.   Then he sits down, slowly, puts
his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps  on his
legs, tucks one foot back and extends the
other foot forward. Then he  bends down and picks up
the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the
conductor and proceeds to play.
  
      By now, the audience is used to this ritual.
They sit quietly while he makes his way across the
stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent
while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait
until he is ready to play.
  
      But this time, something went wrong. Just as he
finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his
violin broke. You could hear it snap - it  went off
like gunfire across the room.  There was no mistaking
what that  sound meant. There was no mistaking what he
had to  do.
  
      People who were there that night thought to
themselves:   "We figured  that he would have to get
up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches  and
limp his way off stage - to either find another violin
or else find another string for this one."
  
      But he didn't. Instead, he waited a moment,
closed his eyes and then  signaled the conductor to
begin again. The orchestra began, and he played from
where he had left off. And he played with such passion
and such power and such purity as they had never heard
before. Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible
to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I
know  that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak
Perlman refused to know that.
You could see him modulating, changing, recomposing
the piece in his head.  At one point, it sounded like
he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from
them that they had never made before.
  
      When he finished, there was an awesome silence
in the room.   And then people rose and cheered. There
was an extraordinary outburst of applause  from every
corner of the auditorium.  We were all on our feet,
screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to
show how much we appreciated what he had done.
  
      He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow,
raised his bow to quiet us,  and then he said, not
boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive,  reverent tone: 
"You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find
out how much music you can still make with what you
have left."
  
      What a powerful line that is.

      It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it.
And who knows?      Perhaps that is the way of life -
not just for artists but  for all of us.
  
      Here is a man who has prepared all his life to
make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a
sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with
only three strings. So he makes music with three
strings, and  the music he made that night with just
three strings was more beautiful,  more sacred, more
memorable, than any that he had ever made before,  
when he had four strings.
  
      So, perhaps our task in this shaky,
fast-changing, bewildering world in  which we live is
to make music, at first with all that we have, and
then, when that is no longer possible, to make music
with what we have left.
  
      -- Jack Riemer, Houston Chronicle


Andy Rooney's Thoughts On Life

 I've learned ... that life is like a roll of toilet paper.  The
 closer  it gets to the end, the faster it goes.
 
 I've learned ... that the best classroom in the world is at the
 feet of an elderly person.
 
 I've learned ... that when you're in love, it shows.
 
 I've learned ... that just one person saying to me, "You've made
 my day!"  makes my day.
 
 I've learned ... that having a child fall asleep in your arms is
 one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.
 
 I've learned ... that being kind is more important than being right.
 
 I've learned ... that you should never say no to a gift from a child.
 
 I've learned ... that I can always pray for someone when I don't
 have the strength to help him in some other way.
 
 I've learned ... that no matter how serious your life requires you
 to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.
 
 I've learned ... that sometimes all a person needs is a hand to
 hold and a heart to understand.
 
 I've learned ... that simple walks with my father around the block
 on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.
 
 I've learned ... that we should be glad God doesn't give us
 everything we ask for.
 
 I've learned ... that money doesn't buy class.
 
 I've learned ... that it's those small daily happenings that make
 life so spectacular.
 
 I've learned ... that under everyone's hard shell is someone who
 wants to be appreciated and loved.
 
 I've learned ... that even the Lord didn't do it all in one day.
 What makes me think I can?
 
 I've learned ... that to ignore the facts does not change the
 facts.
 
 I've learned ... that love, not time, heals all wounds.
 
 I've learned ... that the easiest way for me to grow as a person
 is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.
 
 I've learned ... that everyone you meet deserves to be greeted
 with a smile.
 
 I've learned ... that opportunities are never lost; someone will
 take the ones you miss.
 
 I've learned ... that when you harbor bitterness, happiness will
 dock elsewhere.
 
 I've learned ... that I wish I could have told my Mom that I love
 her one more time before she passed away.
 
 I've learned ... that one should keep his words both soft and
 tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.
 
 I've learned ... that a smile is an inexpensive way to improve
 your looks.
 
 I've learned ... that I can't choose how I feel, but I can choose
 what  I do about it.
 
 I've learned ... that when your newly born grandchild holds your
 little finger in his little fist, that you're hooked for life.
 
 I've learned ... that everyone wants to live on top of the
 mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.
 
 I've learned ... that the less time I have to work with, the more
 things  I get done.
 
 Author - Andy Rooney


In honor of breast cancer awareness and in memory of
 Erma Bombeck who lost her fight with cancer. 

 IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER by Erma Bombeck

 I would have talked less and listened more.

 I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was
 stained and the sofa faded.

 I would have eaten the popcorn in the "GOOD" living room and
 worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light
 a fire in the fireplace.

 I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble
 about his youth.

 I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a
 summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

 I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it
 melted in storage.

 I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried
 about grass stains.

 I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and
 more while watching life.

 I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the
 earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

 I would never have bought anything just because it was practical,
 wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

 Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have
 cherished every moment realizing that the wonderment growing 
 inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

 When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said,
 "Later.  Now go get washed up for dinner."

 There would have been more "I love you" ...  more "I'm sorry"...
 but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...
 look at it and really see it...  live it...  and never give it back.

 I would tell all my friends that I need and love them and that my
 life would be empty without them!


The Last Supper

The story of the painting, The Last Supper, is extremely interesting
and instructive. The two incidents connected with it afford a most
convincing lesson on the effects of right thinking or wrong thinking 
in the life of a boy or girl, or of a man or a woman.

The Last Supper was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, a noted Italian
artist; and the time engaged for its completion was seven years.
The figures representing the twelve Apostles and Christ himself were
painted from living persons.  The life-model for the painting of the
figure of Jesus was chosen first.

When it was decided that Da Vinci would paint this great picture, hundreds
and hundreds of young men were carefully viewed in an endeavor to
find a face and personality exhibiting innocence and beauty, free from the
scars and signs of dissipation caused by sin. Finally, after weeks of
laborious searching, a young man nineteen years of age was selected as a
model for the portrayal of Christ. For six months, Da Vinci worked on the
production of this leading character of his famous painting.

During the next six years, Da Vinci continued his labors on this sublime
work of art. One by one fitting persons were chosen to represent each
of the eleven Apostles; space being left for the painting of the figure
representing Judas Iscariot as the final task of this masterpiece. This
was the Apostle, you remember, who betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces
of silver, worth in our present day, currency of $16.96.

For weeks, Da Vinci searched for a man with a hard callous face, with
a countenance marked by scars of avarice, deceit, hypocrisy, and crime;
a face that would delineate a character who would betray his best friend.

After many discouraging experiences in searching for the type of person
required to represent Judas, word came to Da Vinci that a man whose
appearance fully met his requirements had been found in a dungeon in Rome,
sentenced to die for a life of crime and murder.    Da Vinci made the trip to
Rome at once, and this man was brought out from his imprisonment in the
dungeon and led out into the light of the sun.   There Da Vinci saw before
him a dark, swarthy man; his long, shaggy and unkempt hair sprawled over
his face, which betrayed a character of viciousness  and complete ruin.
At last, the famous painter had found the person he wanted to represent
the character of Judas in his painting.

By special permission from the king, this prisoner was carried to Milan
where the picture was being painted; and for months he sat before Da Vinci
at appointed hours each day as the gifted artist diligently continued his task
of transmitting to his painting this base character in the picture representing
the traitor and betrayer of our savior.

As he finished his last stroke, he turned to the guards and said, "I have
finished. You may take the prisoner away."

As the guards were leading their prisoner away, he suddenly broke loose
from their control and rushed up to Da Vinci, crying as he did so, 
"O, Da Vinci,  look at me! Do you not know who I am?"

Da Vinci, with the trained eyes of a great character student, carefully
scrutinized the man upon whose face he had constantly gazed for six
months and replied, "No, I have never seen you in my life until you were
brought before me out of the dungeon in Rome."

Then, lifting his eyes toward heaven, the prisoner said,
"Oh,  God, have I fallen so low?"  Then turning his face to the painter
he cried, "Leonardo  Da  Vinci !  Look at me again for I am the same man
you painted just seven years ago as the figure of Christ."

This is the true story of the painting of The Last Supper
that teaches so strongly the lesson of the effects of right or wrong
thinking on the life of an individual.  Here was a young man whose
character was so pure, unspoiled by the sins of the world that he
presented a countenance of innocence and beauty fit to be used
for the painting of a representation of  Christ.  But within seven years,
following the thoughts of sin and a life of crime,  he was changed
into a perfect picture of the most traitorous character ever known
in the history of the world.

(author of this illuminated version unknown)


A chance meeting

One day during the depression of the thirties, a poor young man 
who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through
college, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry. He
decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his
nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.  Instead of a meal he asked
only for a drink of water.  She thought he looked hungry so she brought him a
large glass of milk.  He drank it slowly, and then asked, "How much do I owe
you?"  "You don't owe me anything," she replied. "Mother has taught us never
to accept pay for a kindness."  He said....."Then I thank you from my
heart."  As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger
physically, but his faith in God and man was strong also.  He had been
all but ready to give up and quit.  He never forget this event.
  
Year's later that young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were
baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in a
specialists to study her rare disease.  Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for
the consultation.  When he heard the name of the town she came from, a
strange light filled his eyes.   Immediately he rose and went down the hall
of the hospital to her room.   Dressed in his doctor's gown he went in to see
her.  He recognized her at once.  He went back to the consultation room
determined to do his best to save her life.  From that day he gave special
attention to here rare case.
  
After a long struggle months in the hospital, the battle with the infection
was won.  Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to
him for approval.  He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge and
the bill was sent to her room.   She feared to open it, for she was sure
it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all.   Finally she looked,
and something caught her attention on the side of the bill.
She read the the words... "Paid in full with one glass of milk"
                                                      (Signed)
                                               Dr.Howard Kelly.
 
Tears of joy flooded her eyes as her happy heart prayed to God.
Only now, did she realize where she had met her doctor before.


The Eagle

Like the eagle "spead wide your wings"
  and "soar far above" the trouble life brings,
for the eagle knows that the higher he flies, 
  the more tranquil and brighter become the skies.
And there's nothing in life God  'er asks us to bear,
  that we can't soar above "on the wings of a prayer".
And in looking back over the "storm you passed through",
  you'll find you've gained strenghth and courage anew.
For in facing "life's storms" with an eagle's wings,
  you can fly far above earth's small, petty things.
                                   -author unknown                            


A quotation to live by...

"Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.  
 Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviors.  
 Keep your behaviors positive because your behaviors become your habits.  
 Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
 Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny."

 - Mohandes Gandhi


A Life Lesson - The Big Rocks

One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group
of business students and, to drive home a point, used an 
illustration those students will never forget.

As he stood in front of the group of high powered over-achievers
he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon,
wide mouthed Mason jar and set on the table in front of him.
Then he produced about a dozen fist sized rocks and carefully
placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled
to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is 
the jar full?"

Everyone in the class said, "Yes."

Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out
a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the 
jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the
space between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more,
"Is the jar full?"

By this time the class was on to him.
"Probably not," one of them answered.

"Good!" he replied. He reached under the table and brought out 
a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it
went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.
Once more he asked the question, "Is the jar full?"

"No!" the class shouted.

Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water
and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.
Then he looked at the class and asked,
"What is the point of this illustration?"

One eager student raised his hand and said, "The point is,
no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you
can always fit some more things in!"

"No," the speaker replied, "That's not the point. The truth this
illustration teaches us is: If you don't put the big rocks in
first, you'll never get them in at all.  What are the 'big rocks'
in your life?

Your children.... Your spouse....Your loved ones.... 
Time for yourself and your relationship with God....
Your education.... Your dreams....  A worthy cause....
Teaching or mentoring others....Doing things that you love....
Your health...."

"Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you'll never get
them in at all.  If you sweat the little stuff (the gravel,
the sand) then you'll fill your life with little things to worry
about that don't really matter, and you'll never have the real
quality time you need to spend on the big, important stuff
(the big rocks).  So, tonight or in the morning, when you are
reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question:
What are the 'big rocks' in my life?
Then, put those in your jar first."


Food for Thought

1. To the world you might be one person, but to one person
   you might be the world.
2. Going to church doesn't make you a good Christian any more
   than going to McDonald's makes you a hamburger.
3. Real friends are those who, when you feel you've made a
   fool of yourself, don't feel you've done a permanent job.
4. A coincidence is when God performs a miracle and decides
   to remain anonymous.
5. Sometimes the majority only means that all the idiots are
   on the same side.
6. I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.
7. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you respond
   to it.
8. Did it ever occur to you that nothing occurs to God?
9. Life is like an onion; you peel off one layer at a time
   and sometimes you weep.
10.Learn from the mistakes of others.  You can't live long
   enough to make them all yourself.
11.Following the paths of least resistance is what makes
   rivers and men crooked.

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach
of God's grace.  And your best days are never so good that
your beyond the need of God's grace.






Build wisely

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire.   He told his
employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business
and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family.
He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.
The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could
build just one more house as a personal favor.

The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart
was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior
materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.
When the carpenter finished his work the employer came to inspect the
house. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter.
"This is your house," he said, "my gift to you."

The carpenter was shocked! What a shame! If he had only known he
was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. So
it is with us.

We build our lives, a day at a time, some of us putting in less than our
best into the buildings we build.  Then with a shock,  later we realize
we have to live in the house we have built. we wish we could do it over.
We'd do it much differently the next time?  But we cannot go back.

You are the carpenter of your life.  Each day you hammer a nail,
place a board,  or erect a wall.   "Life is a do-it-yourself project,"
someone has said.  Your attitudes and the choices you make today,
build the "house" you live in tomorrow.   Build wisely! 


Just a Farmer in the Glen

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while
trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from
a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his
waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free
himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and
terrifying death. 

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse
surroundings.  An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced
himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved. I want to repay
you," said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life."  No, I can't accept
payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied waving off the offer.
At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel.

"Is that your son?" the nobleman asked. "Yes," the farmer replied proudly.
I'll make you a deal. Let me take him and give him a good education. If the
lad is anything like his father, he'll grow to a man you can be proud of." 
And that he did. In time, Farmer Fleming's son graduated from St. Mary's  
Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout
the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterward, the nobleman's son was stricken with pneumonia. What saved
him?   Penicillin. The nobleman's name? Randolph Churchill. His son's name?
Sir Winston Churchill.  

Someone once said: What goes around comes around. Work like you don't need
the money. Love like you've never been hurt.   Dance like nobody's watching. 
Sing like nobody's listening.  And live like it's Heaven on Earth. 


Story number one:

World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Butch O’Hare.
He was a fighter pilot assigned to an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific.
One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission.  After he was airborne,
he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top
off his fuel tank.  He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission 
and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier.
Reluctantly he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.  As he
was returning to the mothership, he saw something that turned his blood cold.
A squadron of Japanese Zeroes were speeding their way toward the American fleet.
The American fighters were gone on a sortie and the fleet was all but 
defenseless.   He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time 
to save the fleet. Nor, could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. 
There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.
Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of
Japanese planes.  Wing-mounted 50 caliber’s blazed as he charged in, 
attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another.  Butch weaved in
and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible
until finally all his ammunition was spent. Undaunted, he continued the
assault.  He dove at the Zeroes, trying to at least clip off a wing or 
tail, in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering
them unfit to fly. He was desperate to do anything he could to keep them 
from reaching the American ships. Finally, the exasperated Japanese 
squadron took off in another direction. Deeply  relieved, Butch O’Hare 
and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.  Upon arrival he 
reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from
the camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of
Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He was recognized as a 
hero and given one of the nation’s highest military honors.  And today,
O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this 
great man.

Story number two:

Some years earlier there was a man in Chicago called Easy Eddie. 
At that time, Al Capone virtually owned the city. Capone wasn’t famous
for anything heroic.  His exploits were anything but praiseworthy. 
He was,  however, notorious for enmeshing the city of Chicago in 
everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder. 
Easy Eddie was Capone’s  lawyer and for a good reason. He was very good! 
In fact, his skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for 
a long time. To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. 
Not only was the money big; Eddie got special dividends.   For instance,
he and his family occupied a fenced in mansion with live-in help 
and all of the conveniences of the day.  The estate was so large 
that it filled an entire Chicago city block.  Yes, Eddie lived the
high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the 
atrocity that went on around him.  Eddy did have one soft spot, however.
He had a son that he loved dearly.  Eddy saw  to it that his
young son had the best of everything;  clothes, cars, and a 
good education.  Nothing was withheld.  Price was no object. 
And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried
to  teach him right from wrong. Yes, Eddie tried to teach his son 
to rise above his own sordid life. He wanted him to be a better man
than he was.  Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were
two things that Eddie couldn’t give his son.  Two things that 
Eddie sacrificed to the Capone mob that he could not pass on to 
his beloved son..a good name and a good example.  One day, Easy Eddie
reached a difficult decision.  Offering his son a good name was far 
more important than all the riches he could lavish on him. 
He had to rectify all the wrong that he had done. 
He would go to the authorities and tell the truth about 
Scar-face Al Capone.  He would try to clean up his tarnished name 
and offer his son some semblance of integrity.  To do this he must 
testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. 
But more than anything, he wanted to be an example to his son.  
He wanted to do his best to make restoration and hopefully have a
good name to leave his son. So, he testified. Within the year,
Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely
Chicago street.  He had given his son the greatest gift he had 
to offer at the greatest price he would ever pay.

I know what you’re thinking. What do these two stories have to 
do with one another? Well, you see, Butch O’Hare was Easy Eddie’s son.


God Bless America - Michael T. Monostori, scoutmaster emeritus, 2000

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