Good Works Stories

Good Works Stories

Trash Bags Are for Trash
By Mackenzie Snyder, nine years old

I walked through the den on my way to get ready for bed and looked once again at the amazing mountain of duffel bags. Each bag had a stuffed animal, a luggage tag and a note from me inside of it. The pile of bags went from floor to ceiling, more than five thousand bags, enough for each and every foster-care kid in three states. My dream was coming true – big time.

After I went to bed, right before I went to sleep, I closed my eyes and thought back to when it all started…when I got the idea for my dream…

I had been in second grade when I went with my two brothers and my parents to Paris, France. My brothers, Brock and Cory, and I had entered an essay contest about what we were going to do to change the world to make it a better place to live. We won and were chosen as three of ten kids who would represent the United States at the Children’s World Summit. Nine hundred kids from around the world were chosen to meet with each other and talk about world issues. We exchanged ideas on solving the problems in our world today and had lots of fun during the days we were together.

While I was there, I met two foster-care kids. They were two boys, and after getting to know them, I learned a lot about what foster-care kids go through. They told me that when kids go into the foster-care system, they don’t just lose their parents and their home, sometimes they are also separated from their brothers and sisters. Not every foster-care home wants to care for an entire family of kids. Foster-care kids also lose most of their toys and clothes. They told me that when the kids are picked up from their home by a social worker, they are given only a trash bag to put their few belongings into. This trash bag is what foster-care kids carry with them when they are moved from home to home.

I felt really sad when I heard this. I couldn’t even imagine what life would be like without my family and home – much less what it would be like to have to live out of a trash bag. Trash bags are for trash, not for kids to carry their belongings in.

After I came home from France, I saw an after-school movie that was about a girl living in foster care. It was just like what the boys had described to me at the Children’s World Summit, and it made me cry. Right then I decided that I wanted to help foster-care kids. These kids needed my help, because they were not being respected like they should be.

My whole family is into volunteering. Brock and Cory had started a project after they saw a show on television about some kids who died in a fire. The kids had died because the fire department didn’t have this special camera that can see through smoke to find people in a burning house. My brothers began Project Rescue Vision in 1996 to raise needed money for our town’s fire department. Of course, I helped, too. I was only four years old, and I was the “President of the Art Department.” My job was to hand-color all of the information envelopes that were given out. I helped them until I was seven. Then I began my own project for foster-care kids.

I started by asking my mom to stop at garage sales when I saw suitcases or duffel bags for sale. I would tell the person who was having the garage sale what I wanted to do with the bags, and most of the time they gave me the bags for free. I tried to put myself into the mind of a foster-care kid, and I decided that the kids should have a stuffed animal in the bag, too. I figured that if I was in that situation I would want a cuddly friend to hug when I was sad and felt lonely for my parents. People often gave those to me for free, too.

In October 1998, I helped organize a luggage drive during our local “Make a Difference Day.” Some congresspeople and senators showed up to give their support, and I came up with this idea for everyone to get their hand painted and then put their handprint on a big banner to show that they had made a difference that day. I got all these kids to help paint people’s hands. It was really funny to watch these important people have their hands painted.

The senators and congresspeople went back to Washington and told other people about my project, and then a company named Freddie Mac set up a grant for me and donated fifteen thousand dollars. I am the youngest person they have ever granted money to. Because of this grant, I had a story about my project and me on the cover of the Washington Post. Then the most amazing thing happened. President and Mrs. Clinton read about me and wanted to meet me. I was really excited! They were so nice, and I gave the president one of my bags with a Beanie Baby in it to give to any foster kid that he may meet. A few days later, he sent some bags to me from his own collection to give to foster-care kids, so I did.

My project really started growing because of all the media attention. Radio stations called me for interviews about what I was doing and some TV shows had me on. More people then heard about me from the TV and radio interviews and from word-of-mouth, and they called me to offer help.

Every week I called my friends and family to see if they wanted to come and put bags together. I always had help from many people. My class even helped, too. My teacher announced to my class what I was doing, and everybody started bringing stuffed animals and duffel bags to school. One of my friends brought in ten big bags full of stuffed animals!

On each bag, I put a luggage tag designed by me. On the front of each luggage tag is a picture of a girl and a suitcase with wheels on it. In each bag, I put a cuddly stuffed animal and a special note I wrote, letting them know that I love and care about them. My mom helped me type this note:

Dear Friend,

Hi, my name is Makenzie Snyder. I am nine years old, and I’m in the third grade. I collect suitcases and duffel bags as an act of kindness for those who are in need of them. God told me you could use a duffel bag and a cuddly friend so I sent this with love to you. I want you to always know that you are loved, especially by me. And, always remember to be positive, polite and never give up.

Love, your friend,
Makenzie Snyder

After the bags are stuffed, I call social workers to tell them they can come and pick up the bags to hand out to the foster-care kids. I have had a lot of support from several big companies, schools, churches, organizations and individuals who have donated money, or sent me bags and stuffed animals. I’ve even been on the Rosie O’Donnell Show! Several thousand bags have been sent out so far, and right now I have five thousand more ready to go, sitting in my den. Those bags will go to kids in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

I have had a lot of help from a lot of people, but most importantly from my parents and my brothers. My brother Brock came up with the name for my project. He said I should call it “Children to Children” since it was all about kids knowing what other kids want and helping them get it. My brothers have also given me good advice about always sending thank-you notes to the people who help me. They told me I had to work hard, call tons of people and to never give up…and I haven’t.

I know that this is just the beginning. There are 530,000 foster-care kids in the United States. My dream is for all the foster-care kids in the entire United States to receive a duffel bag and a cuddly friend. I know it can be done if everyone helps out. It is a lot of work but I never get tired of it. I remember the girl in the movie that I saw. If she had been given one of my duffel bags, she would have known that someone out there cared about what happened to her. I don’t want any kid, anywhere, to go through what she or the two boys did. Kid to kid, children to children – that’s what it’s all about.

 The Window
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour a day to drain the fluids from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. And every afternoon when the man in the bed next to the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed would live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the outside world.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake, the man had said. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Lovers walked arm in arm amid flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Unexpectedly, an alien thought entered his head: Why should he have all the pleasure of seeing everything while I never get to see anything?

It didn’t seem fair. As the thought fermented, the man felt ashamed at first. But as the days passed and he missed seeing more sights, his envy eroded into resentment and soon turned him sour. He began to brood and found himself unable to sleep. He should be by that window – and that thought now controlled his life.

Late one night, as he lay staring at the ceiling, the man by the window began to cough. He was choking on the fluid in his lungs. The other man watched in the dimly lit room as the struggling man by the window groped for the button to call for help. Listening from across the room, he never moved, never pushed his own button which would have brought the nurse running. In less than five minutes, the coughing and choking stopped, long with the sound of breathing. Now, there was only silence–deathly silence.

The following morning the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths. When she found the lifeless body of the man by the window, she was saddened and called the hospital attendant to take it away–no works, no fuss. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up one elbow to take his first look. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it all himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

Moral of the story: The pursuit of happiness is a matter of choice…it is a positive attitude we consciously choose to express. It is not a gift that gets delivered to our doorstep each morning, nor does it come through the window. And I am certain that our circumstances are just a small part of what makes us joyful. If we wait for them to get just right, we will never find lasting joy.

The pursuit of happiness is an inward journey. Our minds are like programs, awaiting the code that will determine behaviors; like bank vaults awaiting our deposits. If we regularly deposit positive, encouraging, and uplifting thoughts, if we continue to bite our lips just before we begin to grumble and complain, if we shoot down that seemingly harmless negative thought as it germinates, we will find that there is much to rejoice about.

Not a One!

Little Chad was a shy, quiet young man.  One day he came home and told his mother that he’d like to make a valentine for everyone in his class.  Her heart sank.  She thought, “I wish he wouldn’t do that!” because she had watched the children when they walked home from school.  Her Chad was always behind them.  They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other.  But Chad was never included.  Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son.  So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons.  For three weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 valentines.
Valentines Day dawned, and Chad was beside himself with excitement.  He carefully stacked them up, put them in a bag, and bolted out the door. His mother decided to bake him his favorite cookies and serve them nice and warm with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school.  She just knew he would be disappointed and maybe that would ease the pain a little.  It hurt her to think that he wouldn’t get many valentines – maybe none at all.

That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table.  When she heard the children outside, she looked out the window.  Sure enough, there they came, laughing and having the best time.  And, as always, there was Chad in the rear.  He walked a little faster than usual.  She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside.  His arms were empty, she noticed and when the door opened she choked back the tears. “Mommy has some cookies and milk for you,” she said. But he hardly heard her words.  He just marched right on by, his face aglow, and all he could say was: “Not a one. Not a one.” Her heart sank. And then he added, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”
Those who do Gods Work will get Gods Pay

THE PARABLE OF THE KEYS

The truth the parable attempts to amplify is stressed in section 128 of  the Doctrine and Covenants.  There Joseph Smith wrote: “My dearly beloved brothers and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation.  For their salvation is necessary and
essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers-that they without us cannot be made perfect-neither can we without our dead be made perfect?.  Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also.”  (VS 15,18)

Once there was a little boy and a little girl who loved Jesus very much, and He loved them.  They were kind and always told the truth, and whatever Jesus wanted them to do they tried their best to do. “You may come to my house,” Jesus told them one day, “and there I will give you a gift.” They put on their best clothes, made sure they were clean, and went to Jesus’ house. It was a beautiful house, and it made them feel beautiful too, just to be inside it.  They met Jesus, and he gave them his gift.  It was a key – a wonderful key. “Take care of this key,”  He said.  “Put it next to your heart. Don’t let it tarnish or get rusty.  Always keep it with you.  One day it will open a wonderful door.  Whenever you wish, you may return to my house, but each time, I will ask to see the key.” They promised him they would, and they went home. They returned often to Jesus’ house, and each time he asked if they still had the key.  And they always did.
 

One day he asked if they would follow him.  He led they to a hill covered with green grass and trees.  On top of the hill was a mansion in the middle of a beautiful garden.  Even in their dreams they had never imagined anything so magnificent. “Who lives here?” They asked him.   “You may,” he answered.  “This is your eternal home.  I’ve been building it for you.  The key I gave you fits in a lock in the front door.  Now run up the path and put your key into the lock.” They ran up the hill and through the garden to the front door. “If it’s this beautiful on the outside,” they said, “it must be even more wonderful inside!” But when they reached the front door, they stopped.  It was the strangest door they had ever seen.  Instead of one lock, the door was covered with locks, hundreds of locks, thousands of locks.  And they only had one key. They put their key into one of the locks.  It wouldn’t fit.  They put it into another.  It didn’t fit that one either.  They tried many different locks.  Finally they found the one that fit.  They turned the key and the lock clicked.  But the door wouldn’t open. They ran back to Jesus.  “We cannot open the door,” they said.  “It is covered with locks and we only have one key.”

He smiled at them and said:  “Do you think you would be happy living in your mansion all alone?  Is there anyone you would like to live with you there?” They thought for a while and then answered, “We would like our families to live with us.” “Go and find them,” He said.  “Invite them to my house, and I will give each one their very own key.  Soon you will have many keys.”  They rushed out eagerly to find their families.  They found their fathers and mothers, their brothers and sisters, and all of their cousins and brought them to Jesus’ house.  Just as he had promised, he gave each one a key.  When all had been given a key, together they returned to the great door of the mansion.

Now they had dozens of keys, but there were thousands of locks, and the door still wouldn’t open.  They needed more keys. Once again they returned to Jesus.  “We have brought our families,” they said.  “But the door still won’t open.” “Do your parents have a mother and father and brothers and sisters?” He asked them.  “Do you think they will be happy living in the beautiful mansion without them?  If you look hard enough, you will find many, many people.  Bring them all to my house, and I will give each one a key.” They looked very hard, just as Jesus had told them.  They found mothers and fathers.  They found brothers and sisters.  They found grandmas and grandpas and great-great-grandmothers and great-great-great grandfathers.  They found aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews and cousins. They found them in big cities.  They found them in tiny villages. Some lived by the seashore. Some lived in the open prairie.  Some lived near the mountains.  Some lived far across the ocean.  And some lived close, just over the next hill. Some were blacksmiths and some were farmers.  There were cobblers and tailors and fishermen.  There were teachers and mechanics and shopkeepers. Some were tall with strange-looking hats.  Others were short and wore wooden shoes.  They spoke different languages and came from many different countries. They found some with long blond hair that hung far down their backs in braids.  They found some with short red hair that stuck straight up and had to be hidden under a hat.

The boy and girl search until they had found everybody and all their families. They brought all the fathers and mothers, the brothers and sisters, the aunts the uncles, the nieces, and nephews, the grandmothers and grandfathers to Jesus’ house.  Inside he gave each one his or her, own key. Soon all the families were gathered before the great door.  There was a lock for every key.  They turned the keys, but the door remained closed. There was one final lock, a great big one right in the middle of the door, and no one had its key.

The boy and the girl returned to Jesus, “We have found all our families,” they said.  “But the door still won’t open.  We’re missing a key and don’t know where to find it.” Jesus smiled, put his arms around them, and gave each one a kiss.  “I have the last key,” he said, and he held it up.  It was bright and shining beautiful. “This is the key of my atonement,” he said.  “Am I not a member of the family?   Do you think you will be happy living in your mansion without me?  Do you think I would be happy living without you?  Now that you have found the whole family, all my brothers and sisters, all our Father’s children, together we will enter our eternal home, for home will always be where families live and love together.”  He took their hands, and the whole family opened the door, entered the mansion, and spent an eternity of happiness together.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions,” Jesus said.  “I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” (John 14:2-4)

INFORMATION PLEASE
Thomas S Monson

When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood.  I remember well the polished old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother used to talk to it.

Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person – her name was Information Please and there was nothing she did not know. Information Please could supply anybody’s number and the correct time.

My first personal experience with this genie-in-the-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor.  Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer.  The pain was terrible, but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy.  I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway – The telephone!  Quickly I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing.  Climbing up I unhooked the receiver in the parlor and held it to my ear. Information Please I said into the mouthpiece just above my head.

A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear. “Information.”

“I hurt my finger. . .” I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily enough now that I had an audience.

“Isn’t your mother home?” came the question.

“Nobody’s home but me.” I blubbered.

“Are you bleeding?”

“No,” I replied. “I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.”

“Can you open your icebox?” she asked.  I said I could. “Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger.”

After that I called Information Please for everything.  I asked her for help with my geography and she told me where Philadelphia was.  She helped me with my math, and she told me my pet chipmunk I had caught in the park just the day before would eat fruits and nuts.

And there was the time that Petey, our pet canary died.  I called Information Please and told her the sad story.  She listened, then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child.  But I was unconsoled.  Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers, feet up on the bottom of a cage?

She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.”  Somehow I felt better.

Another day I was on the telephone. “Information Please.”

“Information,” said the now familiar voice

“How do you spell fix?” I asked.

All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest.  Then when I was 9 years old, we moved across the country to Boston.  I missed my friend very much. Information Please belonged in that old wooden box back home, and I somehow never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the hall table.

Yet as I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me; often in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about half an hour or so between plane, and I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now.  Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, “Information Please.”

Miraculously, I heard again the small, clear voice I knew so well, “Information.” I hadn’t planned this but I heard myself saying, “Could you tell me please how-to spell fix?”

There was a long pause.  Then came the soft spoken answer, “I guess that your finger must have healed by now.

I laughed, “So it’s really still you,” I said.  “I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time.
“I wonder, she said, if you know how much your calls meant to me.  I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls.

I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.

“Please do, just ask for Sally.”

Just three months later I was back in Seattle. . .A different voice answered Information and I asked for Sally.

“Are you a friend?”

“Yes, a very old friend.”

“Then I’m sorry to have to tell you. Sally has been working part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.”  But before I could hang up she said, “Wait a minute.  Did you say your name was Paul?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Sally left a message for you.  She wrote it down. Here it is.  I’ll read it: ‘Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in.  He’ll know what I mean’.

I thanked her and hung up. I did know what Sally meant.

GOOD WORKS
We didn*t want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn*t talk on the way. Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but they need money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, *Can*t we all sacrifice to help these poor people? We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering. When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100.00. The missionary was excited. He hadn*t expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, *You must have some rich people in this church.*
Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87.00 of that *little over $100.* We were the rich family in the church! Hadn*t the missionary said so? From that day on I*ve never been poor again. I*ve always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus.

I have been impressed with the fact that there is a spirit growing in the world today to avoid giving service, an unwillingness to give value received, to try to see how little we can do and how much we can get for doing it. This is all wrong. Our spirit and aim should be to do all we possibly can, in a given length of time, for the benefit of those who employ us and for the benefit of those with whom we are associated.
The other spirit – – to get all we can, and give as little as possible in return – – is contrary to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not right to desire something for which we do not give service or value received. That idea is all wrong, and it is only a question of time when the sheep and the goats will be separated.*- – Heber J. Grant
 

THE RICH FAMILY IN OUR CHURCH
By Eddie Ogan
I*ll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy 12, and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died 5 years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money. By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home.
A month before Easter, the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially. When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20.00 of our grocery money for the offering. When we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn*t listen to the radio, we*d save money on that month*s electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible and both of us baby sat for everyone we could. For fifteen cents, we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for one dollar. We made 20 dollars on pot
GOOD WORKS
holders. That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we*d sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so we figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the Pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.
The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before. That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn*t care that we wouldn*t have any new clothes for Easter; we had $70.00 for the sacrificial offering. We could hardly wait to get to church!
On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn*t own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn*t seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet. But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt so rich. When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us girls put in a $20. As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes!
Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn*t say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1*s. Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn*t talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn*t have our mom and dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the fork or the spoon that night. We had two knives which we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn*t have a lot of things that other people had, but I*d never thought we were poor.
That Easter Day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor. I didn*t like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed that I didn*t want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor. I decided I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time.
We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn*t know. We*d never known we were poor.

NO CHARGE
My little boy came into the kitchen this evening while I was fixing supper.
And he handed me a piece of paper he’d been writing on.  So, after wiping my hands on my apron, I read it, and this is what it said:

For mowing the grass, $5.
For making my own bed this week, $1.
For going to the store $.50.
For playing with baby brother while you went shopping, $.25.
For taking out the trash, $1.
For getting a good report card, $5.
And for raking the yard, $2.

Well, I looked at him standing there expectantly, and a thousand memories flashed through my mind.  So, I picked up the paper, and turning it over, this is what I wrote:

For the nine months I carried you, growing inside me, No Charge.
For the nights I sat up with you, doctored you prayed for you, No charge.
For the time and the tears, and the cost through the years, No Charge.
For the nights filled with dread, and the worries ahead,  No Charge.
For advice and the knowledge, and the cost of your college, No Charge.
For the toys, food and clothes, and for wiping your nose, No Charge.
Son, when you add it all up, the full cost of my love is No Charge.
 

Well, when he finished reading, he had great big tears in his eyes. And he looked up at me and he said, “Mama, I sure do love you.” Then he took the pen and in great big letters he wrote, PAID IN FULL.

“No Charge” was written by Gospel singer Shirley Ceasar.

Three Marbles
During the waning years of the depression in a small southeastern Idaho community, I used to stop by Brother Miller’s roadside stand for farm-fresh produce as the season made it available. Food and money were still extremely scarce, and barter was used extensively.

On one particular day, as Brother Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me, I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas. Upon paying for my potatoes I move to leave, but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between Brother Miller and the ragged boy next to me.

“Hello Barry, how are you today?”

“H’lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus’ admirin’ them peas–sure look good.”

“They are good, Barry. How’s your Ma?”

“Fine. Gittin’ stronger alla’time.”

“Good. Anything I can help you with?”

“Nosir. jus’ admirin’ them peas.”

“Would you like to take some home?”

“Nosir. Got nuthin’ to pay for’em with.”

“Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?”

“All I got’s my prize aggie–best taw around here.”

“Is that right? Let me see it.”

“Here ’tis. She’s a dandy.”

“I can see that. Hmmmm, only thing is this one is blue I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?”

“Not ‘zackley–but almost.”

“Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red taw.”

“Sure will. Thanks, Mr. Miller.”

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby came over to help me. With a smile she said: “There are two other boys like him in our community–all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn’t like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or orange perhaps.”

I left the stand, smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Utah but never forgot the story of this man and the boys–and their bartering.  Several years went by each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Brother Miller had died.  They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.

Upon our arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore short haircuts dark suits and white shirts obviously potential or returned Mormon missionaries. They approached Sister Miller standing smiling and composed by her husband’s casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as one by one each young man stopped briefly, placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket and left the mortuary awkwardly wiping his eyes.

As our turn came to meet Sister Miller, I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. Eyes glistening she took my hand and led me to the casket.  “This is an amazing coincidence.” she said. “Those three boys that just left were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim ‘traded’ them. Now at last when Jim could not change his mind about color or size they came to pay their debt. We’ve never had a great deal of the wealth of this world.” she confided “but right now Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho.”  With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three magnificent shiny red marbles.

Uncle Elias
By President Monson-

Seemingly little lessons of love are learned by children as they silently observe the examples of their parents.  My own father, a printer, worked long and hard practically every day of his life.  I’m certain that on the Sabbath he would have enjoyed just being at home.  Rather, he visited elderly family members and brought cheer into their lives. 

One such family member was his uncle, who was crippled by arthritis so severe that he could not walk or care for himself.  On a Sunday afternoon dad would say to me, “Come along, Tommy.  Let’s take Uncle Elias for a short drive.”  Boarding the old 1928 Oldsmobile, we would proceed to Eighth West, where, at the home of my uncle, I would wait in the car while dad went inside.  Soon he would emerge from the house, carrying in his arms like a china doll his frail and crippled uncle.  I would then open the door and watch how tenderly and with such affection my father would place Uncle Elias in the front seat so that he would have a fine view while I occupied the rear seat.

The drive was brief and the conversation limited, but oh, what a legacy of love!  Father never read to me from the Bible about the good Samaritan. Rather, he took me with him and Uncle Elias in that old 1928 Oldsmobile and provided a living example I have always remembered.

WHO PACKED YOUR PARACHUTE?

Charles Plumb, a US Naval Academy graduate, was a 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 lectures on lessons 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, 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 that man.

Plumb 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 they need 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!

GOOD WORKS

In 1921, Lewis Lawes became the warden at Sing Sing Prison. No prison was tougher than Sing Sing during that time. But when Warden Lawes retired some 20 years later, that prison had become a humanitarian institution. Those who studied the system said credit for the change belonged to Lawes. But when he was asked about the transformation, here’s what he said, “I owe it all to my wonderful wife, Catherine, who is buried outside the prison walls”.

Catherine Lawes was a young mother with three small children when her husband became the warden. Everybody warned her from the beginning that she should never set foot inside the prison walls, but that didn’t stop Catherine! When the first prison basketball game was held, she went walking into the gym with her three beautiful kids and she sat in the stands with the inmates.

Her attitude was: “My husband and I are going to take care of these men and I believe they will take care of me! I don’t have to worry!

She insisted on getting acquainted with them and their records. She discovered one convicted murderer was blind so she paid him a visit. Holding his hand in hers she said, “Do you read Braille?”

“What’s Braille”, he asked. Then she taught him how to read.

Years later he would weep in love for her.

Later, Catherine found a deaf-mute in prison. She went to school to learn how to use sign language. Many said that Catherine Lawes was the body of Jesus that came alive again in Sing Sing from 1921 to 1937.

Then, she was killed in a car accident. The next morning Lewis Lawes didn’t come to work, so the acting warden took his place. It seemed almost instantly that the prison knew something was wrong.

The following day, her body was resting in a casket in her home, three-quarters of a mile from the prison. As the acting warden took his early morning walk, he was shocked to see a large crowd of the toughest, hardest-looking criminals gathered like a herd of animals at the main gate. He came closer and noted tears of grief and sadness. He knew how much they loved Catherine. He turned and faced the men, “All right, men you can go. Just be sure and check in tonight!” then he opened the gate and a parade of criminals walked, without a guard, the three-quarters of a mile to stand in line to pay their final respects to Catherine Lawes.  And every one of them checked back in.   Everyone!

As a man walked a desolate beach one cold, gray morning he began to see another figure, far in the distance. Slowly the two approached each other, and he could make out a local native who kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out into the water. Time and again he hurled things into the ocean.

As the distance between them continued to narrow, the man could see that the native was picking up starfish that had been washed upon the beach and, one at a time, was throwing them back into the water.

Puzzled, the man approached the native and asked what he was doing. “I’m throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, it’s low tide right now and all of these starfish have been washed up onto the shore. If I don’t throw them back into the sea, they’ll die up here from lack of oxygen.”

“But there must be thousands of starfish on this beach,” the man replied. “You can’t possibly get to all of them. There are just too many. And this same thing is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this coast. Can’t you see that you can’t possibly make a difference?”

The local native smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea he replied, “I made a difference to that one!”

Each of us is but one person: limited, burdened with our own cares and responsibilities. We may feel there is so much to be done, and we have so little to give. We’re usually short of everything, especially time and money. When we leave this shore, there will still be millions of starfish stranded on the beach. Maybe we can’t change the whole world, but there isn’t one of us who can’t help change one person’s whole world. One at a time. We can make a difference.

COMPASSION IS IN THE EYES
It was a bitter cold evening in northern Virginia many years ago.  The old man’s beard was glazed by winter’s frost while he waited for a ride across the river.  The wait seemed endless.  His body became numb and stiff from the frigid north wind.  Anxiously, he watched as several horsemen rounded the bend.  He let the first on pass by without an effort to get his attention. Then another passed by, and another.  Finally the last rider neared the spot where the old man sat like a snow statue.

As this one drew near, the old man caught the rider’s eye and said, “Sir, would you mind giving an old man a ride to the other side? There doesn’t appear to be a passageway by foot.” Reining his horse, the rider replied, “Sure thing.  Hop aboard.”  Seeing the old man was unable to lift his half-frozen body from the ground, the horseman dismounted and helped the old man onto the horse.  The horseman took the old man not just across the river, but to his destination, which was a few miles away. As they neared the tiny but cozy cottage, the horseman’s curiosity caused him to inquire, “Sir, I noticed that you let several other riders pass by without making an effort to secure a ride.  Then I came and you immediately asked me for a ride.  I’m curious why, on such a bitter winter’s night, you would wait and ask the last rider.  What if I had refused and left you there?” The
old man lowered himself slowly down from the horse, looked the rider straight in the eyes, and replied, “I’ve been around these parts for some time.  I reckon I know people pretty good.  I looked into the eyes of the other riders and immediately saw there was no concern for my situation. It would have been useless to even ask them for a ride.  But when I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident.  I knew, then and there, your gentle spirit would welcome the opportunity to give some assistance in my time of need.”

Those heartwarming comments touched the horseman deeply.  “I’m most grateful for what you have said,” he told the old man.  “May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.” With that, Thomas Jefferson turned his horse around and made his way back to the White House.

A Simple Gesture

Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed the boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove, and a small tape recorder. Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles. Since they were going the same way, he helped the boy carry the burden. As they walked Mark discovered that the boy’s name was Bill, that he loved video games, baseball, history, that he was having a lot of trouble with his other subjects, and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend. They arrived at Bill’s home first and Mark was invited in for a coke and to watch some TV. The afternoon passed pleasantly with a few laughs and some shared small talk, then Mark went home.

They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together once or twice, then both graduated from high school. They ended up at the same college where they had brief contacts over the years. Finally the long awaited senior year came, and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk. Bill reminded him of the day years ago when they had first met. “Do you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things from school that day?” asked Bill. “You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother’s pills and I was going home to kill myself. But after we spent some time together, I realized that if I had, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow. So you see, Mark, when you picked up my books for me that day, you did a lot more. You saved my life also.”

AND JESUS WEPT
By Helen Selee

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  (Matt. 25:40)

It had been several years since Margaret attended a sacrament meeting; and as she walked into the chapel and quickly found a seat, she felt like a stranger. She had let a Word of Wisdom problem keeps her away all that time.  How often the bishop had visited her and counseled with her to “put the horse before the cart.”  He told her that the more often she attended church and the more she prayed, the easier it would become for her to conquer her hurtful habit.

Though nearly all the ward members were now new to her, Margaret gradually began to feel as though she had come home after a long absence. The main speaker talked of willingness to sacrifice for the gospel, and Margaret determined that this was her answer.  Too soon the closing prayer was said and she edged her way out with the crowd.  She caught bits of conversations around her, silently longing to be part of them.  Then suddenly a whispered voice behind her seemed to scream above all the others and pierce the very depths of her soul: “Well, did you smell the cigarettes?  I could barely keep my
mind on the talk.  I’ll have to be more careful of where I sit.”
 …and Jesus wept.

The light drizzle had turned to a heavier rain as Carl drove home from priesthood meeting, hoping the family would be ready and waiting.  He had talked to some of the brethren longer than he should have and just barely had time to get Jan and the boys and return to Sunday School before it started.  On the way home he rounded a curve, and seeing a stalled car, he slowed down. He should offer to help, but if he did they would surely be late.  Still, this was dreadful weather to be stuck along the road, and it was nearly three miles to the nearest service station. Carl slowed down even more, as if in response to his conscience; but as he pulled close enough to see the driver, he pushed down hard on the accelerator and hurried by.  “Just some bearded hippie-type anyhow,” he said to himself. “Let him get wet.”

…and Jesus wept.

Brian hurried through the gym’s swinging doors, throwing his jacket over his shoulder.  He hoped he could catch a ride with Jim or one of the other guys. He knew they would all be headed for Taco Town after the game.  Even if he were the only Mormon in the gang, the guys were all right, and Brian enjoyed being with them. Being in such a small ward gave him no choice but to hang around with nonmembers.  Sure, it was hard to live church standards when the rest of the group didn’t, but free agency certainly gave the guys the right to live the way they wanted to.  It never seemed to be necessary to voice his beliefs. After all, they were a private thing between himself and the Lord.  At any rate he had no intention of preaching to his friends. As the boys sat around the cars laughing about the way they had beaten North High so badly, one of them pulled out a six-pack of beer and passed it around. “Here’s to the greatest team in the league,” he said, and everyone cheered their agreement to the toast. For a long moment Brian sat frozen.  He didn’t want to break the Word of Wisdom, but neither did he want the guys to think he was so prudish that he couldn’t show his loyalty by toasting the team.  Then as he quickly tipped the can to his lips, he said to himself, “Who’ll ever know if it’s just this once?” …and Jesus wept.
 

Maureen glanced around the room at the Relief Society sisters singing the opening song as she directed them.  It was good to see that new Sister Jackson there, although she seemed so lonely sitting by herself.  Several times during the song Maureen’s eyes darted to that lone figure on the back row, and she made a mental note to extend a special welcome after the meeting.  She could go back there and sit, but that would be awkward when she would have to direct the closing music.  And sometimes if there were much whispering going on, it was difficult to hear everything.  Then too, Sister Jackson ought to know that she should put forth effort to become better acquainted on her own.  She
could have chosen a seat next to someone. The music was finished and all thought of Sister Jackson vanished as Maureen turned her full attention to the meeting.  However, pangs of guilt were sharp when she stood to lead the closing hymn.  One look at Sister Jackson and it was obvious that she was fighting back tears.  Perhaps she hadn’t been just lonely.  It was possible there was a great need to share some problem with a friend.  And maybe Maureen had been the only one to notice. Absolutely the moment the prayer was said she would hurry back and at least offer friendship.  As the “amen” was said, Maureen looked up to see Sister Jackson slip out of the door.  “Oh, well,” she said to herself, “I’ll catch her next week.”

…and Jesus wept.

The president of the Sunday School had just come into the classroom to introduce Sister Carter to the students as their new teacher.  For nearly three months the class had been taught by various substitutes, none of whom ever seemed to come back.  The boys boasted of having made one sister leave the room in tears.  The girls thought Sunday School was a bore and spent most of the time chattering. As Sister Carter opened her books and began to talk, someone passed a note around that read: “Don’t answer any questions and don’t give her your right name, and see how quick she gets mad.”  Each one snickered and passed it on, and the well-planned lesson was lost.

…and Jesus wept.

Someone cried because of a careless remark.
Someone needlessly broke a promise.
Someone turned away and pretended not to see a wrong.
Someone was excluded because he wasn’t with the “in” crowd.
Someone used the Lord’s name in a moment of anger.
Someone neglected a responsibility he had agreed to fulfill.
Someone was too busy to lend a much-needed ear.
Someone carelessly revealed a confidence.
And Jesus wept.
The Ensign, April 1973 issue, pg. 14-15.

  Thanks … Again!

A British family journeyed to Scotland for a summer vacation. The mother and father were looking forward to enjoying the beautiful Scottish countryside with their young son. But one day the son wandered off all by himself and got into trouble. As he walked through the woods, he came across an abandoned swimming hole, and as most boys his age do, he took off his clothes and jumped in. He was totally unprepared for what happened next. Before he had time to enjoy the pool of water, he was seized by a vicious attack of cramps. He began calling for help while fighting a losing battle with the cramps to stay afloat.

Luckily, it happened that in a nearby field a farm boy was working. When he heard the frantic cries for help, he brought the English boy to safety. The father whose son had been rescued was of course very grateful. The next day, he went to meet the youth who had saved his son’s life. As the two talked, the Englishman asked the brave lad what he planned to do with his future. The boy answered, “Oh I suppose I’ll be a farmer like my father.” The grateful father said, “Is there something else you’d rather do?” “Oh, yes!” answered the Scottish lad. “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. But we are poor people and could never afford to pay for my education.” “Never mind that,” said the Englishman. “You shall have your heart’s desire and study medicine. Make your plans, and I’ll take care of the costs.” So, the Scottish lad did indeed become a doctor.

There is more. Some years later, in December of 1943, Winston Churchill became very ill with pneumonia while in North Africa. Word was sent to Sir Alexander Fleming, who had discovered the new wonder drug, penicillin, to come immediately.  Flying in from England, Dr. Fleming administered his new drug to the ailing Prime Minister. In doing so, he saved Churchill’s life for the second time. For it was the boy Winston Churchill whom Alexander Fleming had rescued from the swimming hole so many years before.

From The Speakers Library of Business
from A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul
Copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Barry Spilchuk

THE BUCKET AND THE DIPPER PARABLE
author unknown

Once upon a time it was discovered that everyone has a bucket.  No kidding.  It’s a bucket which is kind of like a cup — in that it can be filled . . . even to overflowing.  I guess it’s sort of like a source of peace, comfort, love, strength, and such.  And the fuller it is, the easier it is to share what’s in the bucket with others.

There are a lot of wonderful ways in which we can put things in each others’ buckets.  For example, we can say, “Good Morning!” when we see each other.  That’s a great way to put something in someone else’s bucket.  And, you can double the contribution by adding someone’s name — “Good Morning, Mrs. Smith!”  Other things which can fill up a bucket are hugs, listening, sincere praise, pointing out strengths, being sensitive to needs (and doing something about them when you can), cheerfulness, honesty, patience (almost sounds like a description of THE PURE LOVE OF CHRIST: CHARITY, when you think about it).  Anyway, one of the things we all ought to spend time doing, is helping to fill others’ buckets.

Now. . .  it must needs be, so they say, that there is opposition in all things.  And so, just as we all have a bucket, we all have a dipper. And sometimes, other people can get their dipper in your bucket!!  It’s been known to happen!

Just imagine that we’re going out to eat with some friends at a nice restaurant.  There’ll be fine linens and candles and everything.  We’re sitting at the table, visiting and I accidentally knock over my glass of V-8 juice.  Big red spot.  I am so embarrassed.  I am turning redder than usual.  But, the juice just keeps crawling across the table right toward our hostess.  It’s like a flood!  It won’t stop!  And, then finally it does dribble on her!  She jumps a little, but is being nice even though it’s wet and gooey.  And then, old bright eyes, down the table a little, looks up and says, “You spilled your juice.”  He got HIS dipper in MY bucket!

Tell me how old you have to be to know . . . you made a mistake!? .. . .that you’re not perfect!?

Can you remember sitting down to breakfast with your family and your little brother spilled his milk?  And about 35 people (it seemed) said “You spilled your milk!”  All those great big dippers in such a tiny little bucket!

Have you ever noticed that when your bucket is low, or empty — when you need most to have someone put something in it — THAT is when you’re most irritable to people?  We chase people away when we need them most. We try hard to figure out WHY we run around with our dippers out.  We’re busy trying to get our dippers in other people’s buckets — and they don’t want their bucket to have our dipper in it!

This is where the trap is.  Have you ever noticed that when you get your dipper in somebody’s bucket . . . you’re pointing out something wrong with them?  You tell them they’ve got wrinkles in their socks . . . and they don’t have them on yet?  You tell her she’s moody and then you find out she’s got a toothache.  You tell someone there’s a spot on their face and then find out that your glasses are dirty.  You’ve got YOUR dipper in someone else’s bucket!  It might feel good, sort of, when you first shove your dipper into someone else’s bucket — but after a while it doesn’t feel good anymore.

Do you know what a DIP-IN is?  It’s not exactly like a drive-in or a sit-in . . . It’s when several people get together and just DIP someone good!  Next time you realize that’s happening, point it out and then stop.  “Hey, we’ve all got our dippers in little sister’s bucket!  Let’s fill it instead of emptying it!”

Sometimes you say to yourself, “Self, she’s got a LID on her bucket!” Or you may ask, “Hey, does anyone know where I can buy a lid for my bucket?  There are a lot of DIPS around this place!  Some of you may even think you don’t HAVE a bucket!  Or you may feel that your bucket’s been shot full of holes.

Well, for SURE  we’re just not the same when our bucket is empty, and that’s all there is to it.  And, we’re not the same when we’re dipping instead of filling, and that’s all there is to that, too!  My friends, keep your dippers out of other’s buckets.  FILL their buckets . . . you’ll discover yours is getting fuller too.  Full and overflowing — you’ll have so much, much more to share.  It really could be that way. It really CAN be that way.  Love one another . . . enrich and lift and bless and fill one another.”

  

THE CRACKED POT
A Water Bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck.  One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master’s house.  Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made.  But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.  After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it
spoke to the Water Bearer one day by the stream.

“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”  “Why?” asked the bearer.  “What are you ashamed of?”   “I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house.  Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said. 

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his Compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some.  But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.  The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side?  That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it.  I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them.  For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table.  Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”
  

Each of us has our own unique flaws.  We’re all cracked pots.  But if we will allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to grace His Father’s table.  In God’s great economy, nothing goes to waste.  So as we seek ways to minister together, and as God calls you to the tasks He has appointed for you, don’t be afraid of your flaws.  Acknowledge them, and allow Him to take advantage of them, and you, too, can be the cause of beauty in His pathway.  Go out boldly, knowing that in our weakness we find His strength, and that “In Him every one of God’s promises is a Yes.”

THE LITTLEST SCREW
–Author Unknown

Once upon a time there was a village that was beautiful and well kept.  The people were very proud of their village and were loyal citizens. They held a meeting one-day to decide what type of monument could be erected on the Town Square –a final touch — something both useful and lovely. They thought for some time and finally decided to erect a beautiful, impressive clock.

They sent for the best materials — for they wanted the finest clock they could have.  The materials needed should be able to stand all kinds of weather and not tarnish, rust, or warp — the very finest of clock makers was brought to the town to do the work.

Finally, it was finished and all the people came to see the clock. As each went around the clock looking at the exquisite workmanship, they each commented on the huge, impressiveness of the main spring that made the clock run.  And each time something was said about the big spring, a little screw located just above the spring wiggled and twisted and in envy said, “I’m not important, I’m not needed.  No one notices me.”

The day went on and more and more people came to see the clock and over and over again the little screw would comment and wiggle and twist and feel very much unnecessary and unhappy.

Toward the end of the day just as the last few people were viewing the clock, someone made a remark about the main spring.  It was the last straw for the little screw– it gave a twist and jerk and came right out of its place. As it fell to the base of the clock it said, “No one notices me — I’m not important.”

But when the screw came out, the big main spring also fell out of place. You see, the whole clockwork depended on the little screw.