Welcome to Vellickara.org's Stories page.The Goal of this page is to provide you the Best Inspirational Stories at your finger tips. Enjoy the Reading !.
"Educating oneself, through the reading of books, is the key to the liberation of the mind"

Inspirational Stories

A Girl in CD Store Adrift 24 Things To Remember
And This Too Shall Pass Animal Crackers Army Son, The
Around the Corner Ass and His Masters Beauty Is in the Eye of ....
Bottom Line, The Cat's in the Cradle Cheering Me On
Cherry Tree, The Communicate with the .. Concentration
Courage and Love Daddy Is Driving Daddy Doesn't Want to..
Dark Candle, The Empty Chair Father's Gift
Father's Heartfelt Words Flowers on the Bus Footprints in Time
Color of Friendship Banishing a Ghost Great Expectations
His Life's Work Honest Abe Ice Cream Prayer
If You Love Her Enough Information Please The Gift of Insults
Lord's Baseball Game Lunch Bag Million Dollar Lesson
Mr. Washington My Miraculous Family Jenny's Pearl Necklace
Optimist Lessons from an Oyster Rebellion Against the...
Right Moves, The Secret of Jimmy Yen Secrets of Heaven and Hell
Slave to His Destiny Song of the Bird Sword of Damocles
Training for Presidency Wallet Weakness or Strength?



















































A Girl in CD Store
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

There was once a guy who suffered from cancer... a cancer that can't be treated. He was 18 years old and he could die anytime. All his life, he was stuck in his house being taken cared by his mother. He never went outside but he was sick of staying home and wanted to go out for once. So he asked his mother and she gave him permission.

He walked down his block and found a lot of stores. He passed a CD store and looked through the front door for a second as he walked. He stopped and went back to look into the store. He saw a young girl about his age and he knew it was love at first sight. He opened the door and walked in, not looking at anything else but her. He walked closer and closer until he was finally at the front desk where she sat.

She looked up and asked, "Can I help you?"

She smiled and he thought it was the most beautiful smile he has ever seen before and wanted to kiss her right there.

He said, "Uh... Yeah... Umm... I would like to buy a CD."

He picked one out and gave her money for it.

"Would you like me to wrap it for you?" she asked, smiling her cute smile again.

He nodded and she went to the back.

She came back with the wrapped CD and gave it to him. He took it and walked out of the store. He went home and from then on, he went to that store everyday and bought a CD, and she wrapped it for him. He took the CD home and put it in his closet. He was still too shy to ask her out and he really wanted to but he couldn't. His mother found out about this and told him to just ask her.

So the next day, he took all his courage and went to the store. He bought a CD like he did everyday and once again she went to the back of the store and came back with it wrapped. He took it and when she wasn't looking, he left his phone number on the desk and ran out...

!!!RRRRRING!!!

The mother picked up the phone and said, "Hello?"

It was the girl!!! She asked for the boy and the mother started to cry and said, "You don't know? He passed away yesterday..."

The line was quiet except for the cries of the boy's mother. Later in the day. The mother went into the boy's room because she wanted to remember him. She thought she would start by looking at his clothes. So she opened the closet. She was face to face with piles and piles and piles of unopened CDs. She was surprised to find all those CDs and she picked one up and sat down on the bed and she started to open one.

Inside, there was a CD and as she took it out of the wrapper, out fell a piece of paper. The mother picked it up and started to read it.

It said: Hi... I think U R really cute. Do u wanna go out with me? Love, Jacelyn

The mother opened another CD...

Again there was a piece of paper. It said: Hi... I think U R really cute. Do u wanna go out with me? Love, Jacelyn Love is... when you've had a huge fight but then decide to put aside your egos, hold hands and say, "I Love You"

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Adrift
(by: Adam Khan, , Self-Help Stuff That Works)

In 1982 Steven Callahan was crossing the Atlantic alone in his sailboat when it struck something and sank. He was out of the shipping lanes and floating in a life raft, alone. His supplies were few. His chances were small. Yet when three fishermen found him seventy-six days later (the longest anyone has survived a shipwreck on a life raft alone), he was alive -- much skinnier than he was when he started, but alive.

His account of how he survived is fascinating. His ingenuity -- how he managed to catch fish, how he fixed his solar still (evaporates sea water to make fresh) -- is very interesting.

But the thing that caught my eye was how he managed to keep himself going when all hope seemed lost, when there seemed no point in continuing the struggle, when he was suffering greatly, when his life raft was punctured and after more than a week struggling with his weak body to fix it, it was still leaking air and wearing him out to keep pumping it up. He was starved. He was desperately dehydrated. He was thoroughly exhausted. Giving up would have seemed the only sane option.

When people survive these kinds of circumstances, they do something with their minds that gives them the courage to keep going. Many people in similarly desperate circumstances give in or go mad. Something the survivors do with their thoughts helps them find the guts to carry on in spite of overwhelming odds.

"I tell myself I can handle it," wrote Callahan in his narrative. "Compared to what others have been through, I'm fortunate. I tell myself these things over and over, building up fortitude...."

I wrote that down after I read it. It struck me as something important. And I've told myself the same thing when my own goals seemed far off or when my problems seemed too overwhelming. And every time I've said it, I have always come back to my senses.

The truth is, our circumstances are only bad compared to something better. But others have been through much worse. I've read enough history to know you and I are lucky to be where we are, when we are, no matter how bad it seems to us compared to our fantasies. It's a sane thought and worth thinking.

So here, coming to us from the extreme edge of survival, are words that can give us strength. Whatever you're going through, tell yourself you can handle it. Compared to what others have been through, you're fortunate. Tell this to yourself over and over, and it will help you get through the rough spots with a little more fortitude.

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24 Things To Always Remember
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

Your presence is a present to the world.
You are unique and one of a kind.
Your life can be what you want it to be.
Take the days just one at a time.

Count your blessings, not your troubles.
You will make it through whatever comes along.
Within you are so many answers.
Understand, have courage, be strong.

Do not put limits on yourself.
So many dreams are waiting to be realized.
Decisions are too important to leave to chance.
Reach for your peak, your goal and you prize.

Nothing wastes more energy than worrying.
The longer one carries a problem the heavier it gets.
Do not take things too seriously.
Live a life of serenity, not a life of regrets.

Remember that a little love goes a long way.
Remember that a lot Ö goes forever.
Remember that friendship is a wise investment.
Lifeís treasure are people together.

Realize that it is never too late.
Do ordinary things in an extraordinary way.
Have hearth and hope and happiness.
Take the time to wish upon a start.

AND DO NOT EVER FORGET Ö.
FOR EVEN A DAY
HOW VERY SPECIAL YOU ARE !

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And This Too Shall Pass
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, "Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it."

"If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty," replied Benaiah, "I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?"

"It has magic powers," answered the king. "If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy." Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.

Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of he poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day's wares on a shabby carpet. "Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?" asked Benaiah.

He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.

That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity. "Well, my friend," said Solomon, "have you found what I sent you after?" All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled.

To everyone's surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, "Here it is, your majesty!" As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: "gimel, zayin, yud", which began the words "Gam zeh ya'avor" -- "This too shall pass."

At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.

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Animal Crackers
( by: Jennifer Tovell,Source Unknown )

The asphalt walkway was a beautiful thing to roller skate on, with its little hills and valleys that you could almost effortlessly glide on, ever so smoothly.

I frequented the housing complex with my metal skates clipped on over the toes of my shoes and the leather strap buckled around my ankles. What a beautiful feeling, to glide along in the sun, feeling the summer breeze in my hair. It made me feel like I hadn't a care in the world.

This one afternoon, I took my time there enjoying the warm afternoon with no reason to hurry home for supper. I knew there'd be no "real" dinner waiting. These last few days were the leanest my family had ever seen since my father left.

My mother was great at making something-out-of-practically-nothing taste really good, but even the practically-nothings seemed to be just about gone.

But as a kid, you don't worry too much about things like that. My sister and I would make grape jelly sandwiches (if there was any bread and jelly, and peanut butter was usually just a wish) but there was always a book to read to take my mind off of my growling tummy. I especially liked to read Dr. Seuss. But this day, I knew, would be a long one, with lots tummy-growling, lots of reading.

As the sun began to settle, resting after blazing long in the summer sky, I turned to go home. There may not have been food there, but it was my home and my family was there, and a book.

I skated back on the smooth, winding asphalt walkway making my way home. As the light in the sky grew dimmer, I could almost feel the night entering my soul.

I crossed the street and headed for our doorway. We lived in a small, second floor apartment next to Sam's Fish Market. My mom used to go in there and ask if she could buy food "on credit", with a promise to pay him as soon as she got some money. Sam was usually kind enough to allow it, seeing she had a large family, how could he turn her away? But she couldn't go in there these days. No, the bill was getting just a little too high and my mother was a proud woman.

I turned toward our stoop and the big glass door that loomed just past it when I noticed there was something on the step.

Someone must have left something here, I thought. I wonder if they're coming back?

Then, as though a light switch was thrown on in my head, it registered just what it was. Two large, two very large, brown, grocery bags, just brimming with food!

There was long, crusty bread hanging over the top of one of them, and when I peeked inside I could see spaghetti and rice and cans of vegetables and sauce and, and, cookies! Animal crackers they were, to be precise. My favorite!

I think my heart just leaped to the sky with happiness as I realized that maybe, just maybe, this food was left for us. But who would have left it here? It didn't matter. Mom will be so happy!

I tore off my skates and grabbed one of the bags and ran upstairs just as fast as I could, making sure not to let anything spill out.

"Mom, Mom!" I cried, as I ran huffing and puffing up the stairs. I was so out of breath from the excitement that I could barely answer her question of where the food came from as I practically crash-landed the bag on the kitchen table.

"Mom, Mom!" I cried. "You're not going to believe this, but there's another bag! There's another bag! I don't know who forgot it on our step, but can we keep them?"

My mother was silent but so overjoyed that tears came to her eyes. She didn't jump and shout like I did, and I don't think she even got out of breath when she went down the stairs to get the other bag.

She just closed her eyes and said, "Thank you for hearing my prayer."

At that moment, I joyfully figured we were keeping the food as she seemed to know who left it for us.

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Army Son, The
( by: Author Unknown, Aspiring to Greatness )

The Creightons were very proud of their son, Frank. When he went to college, naturally they missed him; but he wrote and they looked forward to his letters and saw him on weekends. Then Frank was drafted into the army.

After he had been in the army about five months, he received his call to go to Vietnam. Of course, the parents' anxiety for his first letter was greater than ever before. And ever week they heard from him and were thankful for his well-being. Then one week went by without a letter ~ two weeks ~ and finally three. At the end of the third week a telegram came, saying, "We regret to inform you that you son has been missing for three weeks and is presumed to have been killed inaction while fighting for his country."

The parents were shocked and grieved. They tried to accept the situation and go on living, but it was tragically lonesome without Frank.

About three weeks later, however, the phone rang. When Mrs. Creighton answered it, a voice on the other end said, "Mother, it's Frank. they found me, and I'm going to be all right. I'm in the United States and I'm coming home soon."

Mrs. Creighton was overjoyed, with tears running down her cheeks she sobbed, "Oh, that's wonderful! That's just wonderful, Frank."

There was silence for a moment, and then Frank said, "Mother I want to ask you something that is important to me. While I've been here, I've met a lot of wonderful people and I've really become close friends with some. There is one fellow I would like to bring home with me to meet you and Dad. And I would like to know if it would be all right if he could stay and live with us, because he has no place to go."

His mother assured him it would be all right.

Then Frank said, "You see, he wasn't' as lucky as some; he was injured in battle. He was hit by a blast and his face is all disfigured. He lost his leg, and his right hand is missing. So you see, he feels uneasy about how others will accept him."

Frank's mother stopped to think a minute. She began to wonder how things would work out, and what people in town would think of someone like that. She said, "Sure frank, you bring him home~ for a visit, that is. We would love to meet him and have him stay for a while; but about him staying with us permanently, well, we'll have to think about that." There was silence for a minute, and then Frank said, "Okay, Mother," and hung up.

A week went by without any word from Frank, and then a telegram arrived ~ "We regret to inform you that your son has taken his life. We would like you to come and identify the body."

Their wonderful son was gone. The horror stricken parents could only ask themselves, "Why had he done this?" When they walked into the room to identify the body of their son, they found a young man with a disfigured face, one leg missing, and his right hand gone.

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Around the Corner
( by: Henson Towne, Source Unknown )

Around the corner I have a friend
In this great city that has no end,
Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year is gone

And I never see my old friends face,
For life is a swift and terrible race,
She knows I like her just as well
As in the days when I rang her bell,

And she rang mine.
We were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game,
Tired of trying to make a name.
"Tomorrow" I say "I will call on Jane"
"Just to show that I'm thinking of her"

But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.
Around the corner!-yet miles away,
"Here's a telegram sir-"
"Jane died today."
And that's what we get and deserve in the end.
Around the corner, a vanished friend.

If you love someone, tell them.
Remember always to say "what you mean".
Never be afraid to express yourself.
Take this opportunity to tell someone what they mean to you.
Seize the day and have no regrets.
Most importantly, stay close to your friends and family,
They have helped to make you the person you are today,
What it's all about anyway. Pass this along to your friends.
Let it make a difference in your day and theirs.

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Ass and His Masters, The
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

An ass, belonging to an herb-seller who gave him too little food and too much work made a petition to Jupiter to be released from his present service and provided with another master. Jupiter, after warning him that he would repent his request, caused him to be sold to a tile-maker. Shortly afterwards, finding that he had heavier loads to carry and harder work in the brick-field, he petitioned for another change of master. Jupiter, telling him that it would be the last time that he could grant his request, ordained that he be sold to a tanner. The Ass found that he had fallen into worse hands, and noting his master's occupation, said, groaning: "It would have been better for me to have been either starved by the one, or to have been overworked by the other of my former masters, than to have been bought by my present owner, who will even after I am dead tan my hide, and make me useful to him."

He that finds discontentment in one place is not likely to find happiness in another

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Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

She was not beautiful.
Nothing about her was extraordinary.
Nothing about her made her stand out in a crowd.
She grew up in a family of six.
The eldest, she learnt responsibility at an early age.
As she grew stronger, and brighter,
She instilled a sort of light cheer to whomever she met.

She was not beautiful.
But she made others feel beautiful about themselves.
She meets a rebel boy who thinks he's all man.
Befriending him, she teaches him how to read,
A little boost the man needed to go to college.

They became friends fast and she fell,
Fast in love with her rugged, handsome student.
The "man" then finds himself in a dilemma
He soon found himself in love with a girl.
A girl so beautiful, she turned even the grouchiest men's head.
Her hair was a halo of light around her,
Her eyes the bluest blue of ocean.

Like an angel he tells his tutor
Like a beautiful angel.
The girl swallows a lump at her throat

She was not beautiful
She did not possess the heart of the one she loved
But she did not care.
As long as he was happy,
She would be or so she tried to.

She helped him write the most beautiful letter to his angel
All the time envisioning that it was she herself
Receiving those very letters.
And so the girl helped him choose the right words,
Buy the right gifts for his angel
His angel brought him much joy
And much pain to the girl who cried behind her smiles.
But that never stopped her from giving more
Than she will ever receive.

Then one day, all hell broke loose
The angel he loved left him for another man,
A richer, more successful man.
The boy was stunned
He was so hurt he did not speak for days
The girl went to him
He cried on her shoulder and she cried with him
He hurt and so did she.

Time went by.
And so the wounds heal.
The boy realizes something about his friend/tutor
He never realized before.
How her laughter sounded heavenly
Or how her smiles brightened up the darkest days.
Or simply how beautiful, yes beautiful she looked to him!

Beautiful.
This plain, simple girl was beautiful to him.
And he began to fall.
Fall so in love with this beautiful girl.

On one day, he picked up all his courage to see her.
He walked to her house, nervous ad fidgeting.
Running his thoughts over and over in his head.
He was going to tell her how beautiful she was to him.
He was going to tell her how wonderfully n love he was with her.
He knocked.
No one was home.

The next day he found out,
The beautiful girl he fell in love with had brain aneurysm
That put her into a coma.
The doctors were grim and the family decided to let her go.

One final time he got to see her.
He held her hand.
He stroked her hair,
And he cried for this beautiful girl.
He cried for he will never see her smile
Or hear her speak his name

He cried.
But it was too late.

The beautiful girl was buried and the heavens broke out
In a beautiful spring shower, a cry for their loss.
She was the most beautiful girl in the world.

Look around you.
Aren't there a lot of plain faces?
Take a good look
A real good look or you might miss out
On that beautiful person.

Forever.

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Bottom Line, The
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

There was a man who loved fine art. He loved it so much he lived for it. It had become his whole life, and had literally engulfed him. He would work really hard to save up some money, just so he could buy another piece of fine art. He would buy Rembrandt's and Picasso's and many others works of fine art.

The man had been widowed some years before but he had a son. As he raised his son, he included him in his hobby of collecting art. As his son grew, he also became a great art collector. His dad was very proud of him. Collecting fine art was something that they both loved to do and it brought them very close together.

Some time passed by and their country suddenly became engulfed in a war. The son, like so many other young men, enlisted and went off to serve his country. He had been gone for some time, and then it happened.

One day the father received a letter. It said, we regret to inform you that your son is missing in action. The father's heart was broken. He loved his son so dearly and now he truly realized how much his son meant to him. It hurt so badly not knowing what had happened to him.

A few weeks passed, and then another letter came. This letter just ripped his heart in two. It said, we regret to inform you that your son has been killed in action. The father could hardly bear to read on, but as he did he discovered the circumstances that his son had died under. The letter said that his son had made it back to safety. But that he had seen wounded soldiers out on the battlefield. And one by one, he would go back onto the battlefield and carry them to safety. As he was carrying in the last wounded soldier, a bullet struck him and killed him. A month passed by and it was now Christmas Day. The father didn't even want to get up out of bed. He just couldn't imagine spending Christmas without his son. Then he heard the doorbell ring so he went downstairs to see who was there. When he opened the door he found a young man standing there holding a package.

The young man said, Sir you don't know me. But I was the wounded soldier that your son was carrying when he was killed.

He said, "I'm not a wealthy man. I don't have anything of value that I can give you for what your son did for me. Your son had told me of your love for art, and although I'm not much of an artist, I painted a portrait of your son, and I'd like for you to have it."

The father took the package into the house and opened it. Then he went into the drawing room and took down the Rembrandt that was hanging over the fireplace. In its place he hung up the portrait of his son.

Then with tears streaming down on his face he told the young man, "This is my most prized possession. It is more valuable to me than any other work of art in my house."

The father and the young man shared a meal and Christmas Day together and then the young man left. A few years later, the father became very ill. A short time later he died. News of his death spread far and wide. Everyone was in anticipation of the great auction that was to take place for all the pieces of art the man had collected.

Finally it was announced that the auction would be held on Christmas Day. Museum curators and collectors came from all around the world.

They were all eager for the chance to bid on the fine art that was to be auctioned.

The house swelled full of people. Then the auctioneer stood up and said, "I'd like to thank you all for coming. The first piece up for auction will be the portrait behind me."

From the back of the room someone yelled out, "That's just a picture of the old man's kid! Why don't we just skip it, and get on to the real treasures?"

The auctioneer said, "We have to sell this portrait first, and then we can move on."

The auctioneer asked, "Who would start the bidding at $100?" No one answered so he asked, "Would anyone bid $50?"

Still no one answered so he asked, "Would any one bid $40?" Again no one would bid on the portrait. So the auctioneer asked, 'Will nobody bid on this portrait?"

An elderly man stood up and asked, "Would you take $10 for it? You see $10 is all that I have. I'm the neighbor from across the street and I knew the boy. I watched him grow up and I really liked him. I'd like to have the portrait. So, would you take $10 for it?" The auctioneer said, "$10 going once, going twice, and sold!" Immediately a cheer went up and the people said to each other,

"Oh boy, now we can get on to the real art."

The auctioneer then said, "I'd like to thank you all for coming. It's been a pleasure having you here today. That concludes our auction today."

The crowd grew very angry and asked, "What do you mean the auction is over? You haven't even begun to take bids on all these other works of art!"

The auctioneer said, "I'm sorry but the auction is closed. You see, according to the will of the father, WHOEVER TAKES THE SON GETS IT ALL!!! And that's the bottom line."

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Cat's in the Cradle
( by: Author Unknown, Aspiring to Greatness )

My child arrived just the other day,
He came to the world in the usual way.
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay,
He learned to walk while I was away;
And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it,
And as he grew he'd say, "I'm gonna be like you, Dad,
You know I'm gonna be like you."

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When ya comin' home, Dad?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then,
You know we'll have a good time then."

My son turned ten just the other day,
He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play.
Can you teach me to throw? "I said, "Not today, I got a lot to do."
He said, "That s okay." And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed,
It said. "I'm gonna be like him, yeah, You know I'm gonna be like him."

Well, he came from college just the other day,
So much like a man, l just had to say, "
Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for awhile?"
He shook his head and he said with a smile.
"What I'd really like Dad, is to borrow the car keys.
See you later, can I have them please?"

I've long since retired, my sons moved away.
I called him up just the other day. I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind.
"He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if can find the time.
You see, my new jobs a hassle and the kids have the flu,
But it's sure nice talkin' to you, Dad, It's been sure nice talkin' to you."

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me,
He'd grown up just like me, my boy was just like me.

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon. "When you comin' home, Son?"
"I don't know when, But we'll get together then, Dad, We're gonna have a good time then."

"Don't allow this to happen in your lives. These precious moments --each experience and stage of life--can only be lived once."

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Cheering Me On
( by: Kelly, Heartwarmers4u )

I close my eyes as tight as they can go.

The lights go off, and my imagination switches on. Pictures flash through my mind like an old film from the fifties.

I remember driving home by myself for the first time. Now, I look into the future and imagine that I am walking across the stage to receive my college diploma. The years pass, and I hear my fianc ť say "I do." I look further and listen to the gentle gurgles coming from my baby's nursery. A smile discreetly appears as memories past and thoughts of the future travel through my soul.

I journey to memories of my high school graduation, and a tear suddenly trickles down my cheek. I look into the bleachers packed with families and friends. I see my parents wrapped in pride, and I look to their side for Katie and Kevin's approval. But Katie, my older sister, is not there.

My eyes abruptly open as I am snapped back into reality. I remember being called out of Spanish class in tenth grade and taken to the hospital to see Katie, who had cancer, for the final time. It was an excruciating task, but I found the good in Katie's tragic death.

Katie's room is exactly the way she left it on a Friday night in September, 1993, when she was carried to the ambulance on a stretcher. Her James Dean poster hangs on one wall; her elementary school track ribbons and collection of porcelain masks hangs on the others. Her bed is neatly made and lined with stuffed animals -- typical of a girl who would visit her sloppier friends and, without prompting, start vacuuming their rooms.

Katie died just a few weeks into her freshman year at the University of Miami. At eighteen she was 5'5'' tall and had straight shoulder length blond hair, big blue eyes, and pale clear skin. Her senior year in high school, Katie was the varsity cheerleader captain and valedictorian.

More importantly, though, she was my best friend. After all, when she was six years old, she had declared herself old enough to take care of her little sister and brand new baby brother, because she thought our mother was not sharing us enough with her. This caring attitude continued throughout her life. Katie would always braid my hair, go shopping with me, and let me go out with her and her friends when I was lonely and bored. Katie would always tutor Kevin, who has a learning disability, when he needed help with his homework. She would continually drill him on his studies until he got it right. Afterwards, she would take him to go get ice cream as a reward. Clearly, Katie was not just our older sister. She was also our teacher, friend, and second mother.

Katie always surrounded herself with friends. She was constantly opening her ears, heart, and arms to someone in need. The phone was constantly ringing and her room was always crowded with people in it. Now, my house is silent.

I realize that getting caught in a pool of depression only leads to drowning. I live by looking for the positive in the worst situations. I now have a relationship with my parents and brother that means everything to me. I know what is important in life, and it is not always partying and getting A's. But most of all, I know that I can handle anything. Life is not easy, but I overcame one of its toughest obstacles.

I believe, the hardest part of death is the experiences it steals. Katie will not be clapping for me when I finally get my college diploma or giving me advice on my wedding day. My children will only hear stories of the girlhood of their aunt, both stories of reality and an imagined future.

I close my eyes as tight as they can go.
v A diploma is placed in my hand. "I do" echoes from a distance. Katie says she loves me and hugs me tight on a September afternoon in 1993. Just before I cross my high school auditorium stage, I look out at the spectators in the bleachers, and I see mother and father and Kevin.

Katie is sitting right beside them, cheering me on.

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Cherry Tree, The
( by: M.L.Weems, Good Stories for Great Holidays )

When George Washington was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet of which, like most little boys, he was extremely fond. He went about chopping everything that came his way.

One day, as he wandered about the garden amusing himself by hacking his mother's pea- sticks, he found a beautiful, young English cherry tree, of which his father was most proud. He tried the edge of his hatchet on the trunk of the tree and barked it so that it died.

Some time after this, his father discovered what had happened to his favorite tree. He came into the house in great anger, and demanded to know who the mischievous person was who had cut away the bark. Nobody could tell him anything about it.

Just then George, with his little hatchet, came into the room.

"George," said his father, "do you know who has killed my beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? I would not have taken five guineas for it!"

This was a hard question to answer, and for a moment George was staggered by it, but quickly recovering himself he cried: --

"I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie! I did cut it with my little hatchet."

The anger died out of his father's face, and taking the boy tenderly in his arms, he said: --

"My son, that you should not be afraid to tell the truth is more to me than a thousand trees! yes, though they were blossomed with silver and had leaves of the purest gold!"

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Communicate with the Death
( by: Geoffrey (Jeff) Nickerson, Source Unknown )

Do you have unresolved issues with one who is no longer in your life? Perhaps that person has passed on? I know from personal experience that this can be a haunting thing. One young woman I know had a fight with her mother just before her mother committed suicide. She feels that this one and only fight with her mother, in which she told her mother (as a young teen daughter) that she hated her mother was a large contributor to her mother's decision to give it all up.

Perhaps you've had a similar situation in your life. Maybe you even blame God bitterly for taking this person while things were unresolved with your loved one. It is not God's decision and He wants only to love you now. When you realize this you can let go. If you blame God, you are turning away your best source for comfort, love and peace. You will know very little joy.

Let me share with you what I told this young woman, and something I KNOW to be true. I told her that she needed to forgive herself for what she did and that I KNOW her mother understood her and forgave her. Most importantly, her mother loves her dearly and watches over her now. I didn't just say this as a cart blanche sort of statement, but rather knew it was true in this instance particularly, because I felt it. I knew it was true, confirmed by that chill from God saying "Yes."

Her mother had many personal problems and she made the ultimate decision, as do we all. I suggested that she face the fact that she was perhaps a contributor and put that to rest forgiving herself, making a personal vow to herself to always try to let others know of her love for them. To strive to know the truth of her feelings and speak of them through love and not from fear. Then I told her the thing I know is true for all lives.

There is no such thing as an "end" to anything. When we die, no matter how we've lived our lives individually, we all continue to exist and live as the individuals we are - and much more. I know this without a doubt. Furthermore, we can still communicate with whoever we wish after they die. In many instances in a more concise manner than if they were here with us today, though at first it may never feel like it's enough, not being able to hold that person and see them again in the ways we could before.

I say we can communicate sometimes more clearly after their death, because a deceased person has total clarity and no ego getting in the way. The path to understanding and communication through feeling and experiences is paved on their side. Is yours? That is up to you.

We must forgive that person because we harm ourselves and the potential connection of love that can bring peace to any situation. Hate and anger are felt only for those for whom we care deeply. They are fear based feelings. Let them go.

Think of the things that separate you and that person in your heart. Live it all again, and allow the pain and tears to heal you. Forgive and let go of it all. Then you will forget it very soon. Talk to that person as if they can hear you, and they will.

After I told this young woman of this, I could tell it struck her as I watched a bolt of energy chill her body letting her know the truth of it. She put faith in what I told her. She thought about it during that very painful time in her life. Resolution is often a painful process, because it requires open honesty.

A few days later, her mother came to her in a dream. Her mother was lovelier and more peaceful than ever, as the daughter had never known her mother. Still, the apparition in the dream was distinctly her mother. Her mother told her that she forgot about their argument long ago and that she knew her daughter loved her very deeply. That her realizing that she could still communicate with her allowed her to come to bring her peace at that time.

She further told her that her decision for suicide was because she just had to start over again. She couldn't bear to go on and needed the peace that her mind and body didn't afford her. She said that the life she was living was just too much for her. She said she regretted her decision because it hurt others, but that it was the best she could do at the time. She just knew of no other way.

She said, "My dear child, I'm so sorry I hurt you and that it was so hard on you to not be able to tell me of your love before I died, but I knew. I didn't mean to hurt you. Most of all, know that it had nothing to do with our argument. You, darling, are such a vital part of me. Please forgive yourself as I have myself. Please know it's good between us. I love you, my precious child. I always will.

" She hugged her, held her, and stroked her hair. They had love and peace between them once again - more than ever. The dream ended.

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Concentration

After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull's eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot. "There," he said to the old man, "see if you can match that!" Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain. Curious about the old fellow's intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log. Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge, the old master picked a far away tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit. "Now it is your turn," he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground. Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at a target. "You have much skill with your bow," the master said, sensing his challenger's predicament, "but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot."

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True Story of Courage and Love
( by: David L. Kuzminski, Source Unknown )

Walking down a path through some woods in Georgia, I saw a water puddle ahead on the path. I angled my direction to go around it on the part of the path that wasn't covered by water and mud. As I reached the puddle, I was suddenly attacked! Yet I did nothing for the attack was so unpredictable and from a source so totally unexpected. I was startled as well as unhurt, despite having been struck four or five times already. I backed up a foot and my attacker stopped attacking me. Instead of attacking more, he hovered in the air on graceful butterfly wings in front of me. Had I been hurt I wouldn't have found it amusing, but I was unhurt, it was funny, and I was laughing. After all, I was being attacked by a butterfly!

Having stopped laughing, I took a step forward. My attacker rushed me again. He rammed me in the chest with his head and body, striking me over and over again with all his might, still to no avail. For a second time, I retreated a step while my attacker relented in his attack. Yet again, I tried moving forward. My attacker charged me again. I was rammed in the chest over and over again. I wasn't sure what to do, other than to retreat a third time. After all, it's just not everyday that one is attacked by a butterfly. This time, though, I stepped back several paces to look the situation over. My attacker moved back as well to land on the ground. That's when I discovered why my attacker was charging me only moments earlier. He had a mate and she was dying. She was beside the puddle where he landed.

Sitting close beside her, he opened and closed his wings as if to fan her. I could only admire the love and courage of that butterfly in his concern for his mate. He had taken it upon himself to attack me for his mate's sake, even though she was clearly dying and I was so large. He did so just to give her those extra few precious moments of life, should I have been careless enough to step on her. Now I knew why and what he was fighting for. There was really only one option left for me. I carefully made my way around the puddle to the other side of the path, though it was only inches wide and extremely muddy. His courage in attacking something thousands of times larger and heavier than himself just for his mate's safety justified it. I couldn't do anything other than reward him by walking on the more difficult side of the puddle. He had truly earned those moments to be with her, undisturbed.

I left them in peace for those last few moments, cleaning the mud from my boots when I later reached my car.

Since then, I've always tried to remember the courage of that butterfly whenever I see huge obstacles facing me. I use that butterfly's courage as an inspiration and to remind myself that good things are worth fighting for.

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Daddy Is Driving
(by: Author Unknown, Aspiring to Greatness)

A speaker (Dr. Wan) has once shared his experience:

While his family and he were in Europe, there was once that they need to drive 3 days continuously, day and night, to get to Germany. So, they all got into the car -- he, his wife, and his 3 years old daughter.

His little daughter has never traveled at night before. She was scared the first night in the car, with deep darkness outside.

"Where are we going, Daddy?" "To your uncle's house, in Germany."

"Have you been to his house before?" "No."

"Then, do you know the way?" "Maybe, we can read the map."

Short pause. "Do you know how to read the map?" "Yes, we will get there safely."

Another pause. "Where are we going to eat if we get hungry before arriving?" "We can stop by restuarants if we are hungry."

"Do you know if there are restaurants on the way?" "Yes, there are."

"Do you know where?" "No, but we will be able to find some."

The same dialogue repeated a few times within the first night, and also the second night. But on the third night, his daughter was quiet. The speaker thought that she might have fallen asleep, but when he looked into the mirror, he saw that she was awake and was just looking around calmly. He couldn't help wondering why she was not asking the questions anymore --

"Dear, do you know where we are going?" "Germany, Uncle's house."

"Do you know how we are getting there?" "No."

"Then why aren't you asking anymore?" "Because Daddy is driving."

Because Daddy is driving. This answer from a 3 years' old girl has then become the strength and help for this speaker for the many years follow whenever he has questions and fears on his journey with the Lord. Yes, our Father is driving. We may know the destination (and sometimes we may just know it like the little girl -- "Germany", without understanding where or what it really is). We do not know the way, we do not know how to read the map, we do not know if we can find restaurants along the way. But the little girl knew the most important thing -- Daddy is driving -- and so she is safe and secure. She knows that her Daddy will provide all that she needs.

Do you know your Daddy, the Great Shepherd, is driving today? What are your behavior and response as a passenger, His child?

You may have asked many questions before, but can you like the little girl, starts to realize the most important focus should be "Daddy is driving?"

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Daddy Doesn't Want to Play with Me!
(by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

Once there was a little boy who wanted his dad to teach him how to play catch. One sunny day the little boy's father was sitting on the couch, drinking a beer, while watching a baseball game. The boy rushed into the house exclaiming

"Daddy, daddy, daddy, show me how to play catch!" The father, blankly starring at the television screen, replied " In a little while son, let me finish watching this inning, come back in five minutes."

"Okay daddy" said the boy and ran out of the room. Five minutes later the boy returned screaming "Daddy, let's go, let's play some catch now!"

The father turned to the boy and said hold on son the inning is not quite over come back in five more minutes. "Okay, daddy" said the boy as he shuffled out the room. Five minutes later the boy returned ball and glove in hand eagerly awaiting for his father to play some catch.

"Daddy, lets go, I want to be Ken Griffey Jr.!" shouted the boy.

By this time, the father had cracked open another cold one and another inning was taking place. Frustrated by the boy's constant hindrances, the dad scanned the room. While scanning the room the father notice a magazine underneath the coffee table. On the cover of the magazine was a large picture of the world. The father, who was angered & annoyed, began tearing the magazine cover in to small pieces. After a few moments, of shredding up the magazine cover, the father placed the torn pieces on the magazine. Then, the father turned to his boy and said "Son, once you put this picture of the world back together we can play catch, but do not interrupt me again until you are done!"

Apprehensively, the boy took the magazine and sulked into his room. As he sobbed "Okay, daddy I won't".

A few moments later the boy returned and said, "I'm done daddy can we play catch now?"

Stunned, the father glanced towards his child, and there in his small hands laid the magazine with the world pieced perfectly together. Amazed, the dad asked his child how he put the world together so quickly.

"It was simple" stated the boy "On the back of the world was a picture of a person, and once I put the person together that's when their world came together."

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Dark Candle, The
( by: Strickland Gillilan, Aspiring to Greatness )

A man had a little daughter-an only and much-beloved child. He lived for her ~ she was his life. So when she became ill and her illness resisted the efforts of the best obtainable physicians, he became like a man possessed, moving heaven and earth to bring about her restoration to health.

His best efforts proved unavailing and the child died. The father was totally irreconcilable. He became a bitter recluse, shutting himself away from his many friends and refusing every activity that might restore his poise and bring him back to his normal self. But one night he had a dream. He was in Heaven, and was witnessing a grand pageant of all the little child angels. They were marching in an apparently endless line past the Great White Throne. Every white-robed angelic tot carried a candle. He noticed that one child's candle was not lighted. Then he saw that the child with the dark candle was his own little girl. Rushing to her, while the pageant faltered, he seized her in his arms, caressed her tenderly, and then asked: "How is it, darling that your candle alone is unlighted? "Father, they often relight it, but your tears always put it out." Just then he awoke from his dream. The lesson was crystal clear, and its effects were immediate. From that hour on he was not a recluse, but mingled freely and cheerfully with his former friends and associates. No longer would his little darling's candle be extinguished by his useless tears.

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Empty Chair, The
( by: Author Unknown, Rainbow Garden )

A man's daughter had asked the local pastor to come and pray with her father. When the pastor arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The priest assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. "I guess you were expecting me," he said.

"No, who are you?" "I'm the new associate at your local church," the pastor replied. "When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up."

"Oh yeah, the chair," said the bedridden man. "Would you mind closing the door?"

Puzzled, the pastor shut the door.

"I've never told anyone this, not even my daughter," said the man. "But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head.."

"I abandoned any attempt at prayer," the old man continued, "until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, 'Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here's what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It's not spooky because he promised, 'I'll be with you always.' Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you're doing with me right now."

"So, I tried it and I've liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I'm careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm."

The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her daddy had died that afternoon.

"Did he seem to die in peace?" he asked.

"Yes, when I left the house around two o'clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange, In fact, beyond strange--kinda weird. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed."

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Father's Gift, The
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer's showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted.

As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study. His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautifully wrapped gift box.

Curious, and somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the young man's name embossed in gold. Angry, he rose his voice to his father and said "with all your money, you give me a Bible?" and stormed out of the house.

Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realised his father very old, and thought perhaps he should go to him. He had not seen him since that graduation day.

Before he could make arrangements, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son. He needed to come home immediately and take care of things.

When he arrived at his father's house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search through his father's important papers and saw the still gift-wrapped Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. His father had carefully underlined a verse, Matt.7:11, "And if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,how much more shall your Heavenly Father which is in Heaven, give to those who ask Him?"

As he read those words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer's name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words PAID IN FULL.

How many times do we miss God's blessings because we can't see past our own desires?

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Father's Heartfelt Words, A
( by: David Zinman, Source Unknown )

My 23 year-old son Dan stood in the doorway, ready to say goodbye to his home. His rucksack was packed and ready for the journey. In a couple of hours he was going to fly out to France. He was going to be away for at least a year to learn a foreign language and experience life in a foreign country.

It was a milestone in Danís life, a transition from school days to adulthood. When we were to say goodbye, I looked closely at his face. I would like to provide him with some good advice that would last longer than just here and now.

But not a sound came over my lips. There was nothing that broke the silence in our house by the sea. I could hear the sharp cry of the seagulls outside, while they circled over the ever-changing and roaring surf. Inside I stood motionless and silent, looking into my sonís green eyes with that penetrating look.

I knew that this wasnít the first time I let such an opportunity pass me by, and that made everything even more difficult. When Daniel was a little boy, I followed him to the bus on his first day in preschool. I felt the excitement in his hand that held mine when the bus came round the corner. I saw the colour spread in his cheeks when the bus stopped. He looked at me - just like he did now.

Whatís it like, Dad? Can I do it? Will I do all right? And then he boarded the bus and disappeared. The bus drove away. And I hadnít said a word.

Some ten years later, a similar episode took place. His mother and I drove him to the university where he was going to study. On the first night he went out with his new friends, and when we met the next morning, he threw up. He was sick with glandal fever, but we thought he had a hangover.

Dan was ill in bed in his room when I wanted to say goodbye. I tried to come up with something to say, something that could inspire courage and self-confidence in him in this new era of his life.

Again the words let me down. I mumbled something like "I hope youíre better, Dan." Then I turned around and left.

Now I stood in front him and recalled all the times when I hadnít made use of those opportunities. How often has that not happened to all of us? A son graduates or a daughter is married. We do what has to be done at those kinds of ceremonies, but we donít pull our children aside to tell them what they have meant to us. Or what they might expect of the future.

There was one chance I didnít miss, however. One day I told Dan that the biggest mistake in my life was that I had not taken a yearís sabbatical after I graduated from university. I could have travelled around the world, because I believed that was the best way to get a deeper insight to life. When first I was married and began working, the dream about living in another culture soon had to be shelved.

Dan thought about it. His friends told him it was crazy of him to put off his career. But he quickly realised that it probably was not that bad an idea. And after he graduated from university, he worked as a waiter, a messenger, and an assistant in a bookstore, so he could make enough money to go to Paris.

The night before his departure, I lay twisting and turning in bed, puzzling about what to tell him. I couldnít think of anything. Maybe, I thought, it wasnít really necessary after all. Seen in the perspective of an entire life, how important is it that a father tells his son what thinks of him deep inside?

But when I stood in front of Dan, I knew that it really did mean something. My father and I were fond of each other, and yet I have never felt sorry that he never expressed his feelings for me in words, that I didnít have a memory of such a moment. Now I felt my palms becoming moist, and my throat draw together. Why does it have to be so difficult to tell your son what you feel? My mouth was dry, and I knew that I could only say a few words.

"Dan," I finally stammered out, "if I had the choice myself, I would have chosen you."

That was all I could say. I was not sure he understood what I meant. But then he stepped towards me and put his arms around me. For a short while the world and everything in it disappeared, there were only Dan and me in our home by the sea.

He was about to say something, but my eyes welled up and I didnít catch what he said. I only noticed his stubble pressing against my face. Then the moment was over. I went to work and a couple of hours later, Dan took off with his girlfriend.

It all happened a while ago. I think about him when I walk along the beach. Many miles away he may be hurrying across Boulevard St. Germain, strolling through the halls of Louvre, or having a drink at a cafť on the left bank of the Seine.

What I told Dan was clumsy and commonplace. It was nothing. And yet it was everything.

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Flowers on the Bus
( by: Jean Hendrichson, Source Unknown )

We were a very motley crowd of people who took the bus every day that summer 33 years ago. During the early morning ride from the suburb, we sat drowsily with our collars up to our ears, a cheerless and taciturn bunch.

One of the passengers was a small grey man who took the bus to the centre for senior citizens every morning. He walked with a stoop and a sad look on his face when he, with some difficulty, boarded the bus and sat down alone behind the driver. No one ever paid very much attention to him.

Then one July morning he said good morning to the driver and smiled short-sightedly down through the bus before he sat down. The driver nodded guardedly. The rest of us were silent.

The next day, the old man boarded the bus energetically, smiled and said in a loud voice: "And a very good morning to you all!" Some of us looked up, amazed, and murmured "Good morning," in reply.

The following weeks we were more alert. Our friend was now dressed in a nice old suit and a wide out-of-date tie. The thin hair had been carefully combed. He said good morning to us every day and we gradually began to nod and talk to each other.

One morning he had a bunch of wild flowers in his hand. They were already dangling a little because of the heat. The driver turned around smilingly and asked: "Have you got yourself a girlfriend, Charlie?" We never got to know if his name really was "Charlie", but he nodded shyly and said yes.

The other passengers whistled and clapped at him. Charlie bowed and waved the flowers before he sat down on his seat.

Every morning after that Charlie always brought a flower. Some of the regular passengers began bringing him flowers for his bouquet, gently nudged him and said shyly: "Here." Everyone smiled. The men started to jest about it, talk to each other, and share the newspaper.

The summer went by, and autumn was closing in, when one morning Charlie wasn't waiting at his usual stop. When he wasn't there the next day and the day after that, we started wondering if he was sick or -- hopefully -- on holiday somewhere.

When we came nearer to the centre for senior citizens, one of the passengers asked the driver to wait. We all held our breaths when she went to the door.

Yes, the staff said, they knew who we were talking about. The elderly gentleman was fine, but he hadn't been coming to the centre that week. One of his very close friends had died at the weekend. They expected him back on Monday. How silent we were the rest of the way to work.

The next Monday Charlie was waiting at the stop, stooping a bit more, a little bit more grey, and without a tie. He seemed to have shrinked again. Inside the bus was a silence akin to that in a church. Even though no one had talked about it, all those of us, who he had made such an impression on that summer, sat with our eyes filled with tears and a bunch of wild flowers in our hands.

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Footprints in Time
( by: Lauren Posey, Source Unknown )

Two young lovers, Walking on the sand,
Gazing at each other, Talking hand in hand,
The prints they leave behind them,
Marking memories of the past,
The long beach laid before them,
Hoping love will last,
The ocean captures the footprints,
And erases them from the shore,
Taking with it remembrances,
And leaving them with more,

Many years have passed,
Time flies when you're having fun,
And before you know it innocence fades,
And the teen years are done,
Now she's back on the beach,
Except she is alone,
Watching and waiting,
For the love that hadn't grown,
She walks along the ocean,
Two footprints, not four,
Wondering where the laughter went,
Why he didn't love her more,
Then she stops to sit,
And draws his name in the sand,
A celestial stranger comes along,
And reaches out a hand,
Hesitantly she takes it,
And he listens to her cries,
He's been there before,
He's heard many lies,
They decide to walk,
And she follows, not knowing why,

Love will always be reborn again,
Even if it may die,
She is more cautious than before,
And as she looks back at the footprints,
She smiles seeing not two, but four,
This time will be different,
Her heart trying to say,
Something magical happened,
She felt it the first day,
Something clicked when they touched,
A jolt from inside,
She knew he'd be there always,
If she had something to confide,
Now here it is twenty years later,
And his love for her,
Is now even greater,
He looks at her like the first time they met,
And despite all the years gone by,
They can never forget,
Those four special footprints,
That are never washed away,
They'll stay forever on her heart,
Until their dying day.

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Color of Friendship, The
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

Once upon a time the colors of the world started to quarrel.
All claimed that they were the best.
The most important.
The most useful.
The favorite.

Green said:
"Clearly I am the most important. I am the sign of life and of hope. I was chosen for grass, trees and leaves. Without me, all animals would die. Look over the countryside and you will see that I am in the majority."

Blue interrupted:
"You only think about the earth, but consider the sky and the sea. It is the water that is the basis of life and drawn up by the clouds from the deep sea. The sky gives space and peace and serenity. Without my peace, you would all be nothing."

Yellow chuckled:
"You are all so serious. I bring laughter, gaiety, and warmth into the world. The sun is yellow, the moon is yellow, the stars are yellow. Every time you look at a sunflower, the whole world starts to smile. Without me there would be no fun."

Orange started next to blow her trumpet:
"I am the color of health and strength. I may be scarce, but I am precious for I serve the needs of human life. I carry the most important vitamins. Think of carrots, pumpkins, oranges, mangoes, and papayas. I don't hang around all the time, but when I fill the sky at sunrise or sunset, my beauty is so striking that no one gives another thought to any of you."

Red could stand it no longer he shouted out:
"I am the ruler of all of you. I am blood - life's blood! I am the color of danger and of bravery. I am willing to fight for a cause. I bring fire into the blood. Without me, the earth would be as empty as the moon. I am the color of passion and of love, the red rose, the poinsettia and the poppy."

Purple rose up to his full height:
He was very tall and spoke with great pomp: "I am the color of royalty and power. Kings, chiefs, and bishops have always chosen me for I am the sign of authority and wisdom. People do not question me! They listen and obey."

Finally Indigo spoke, much more quietly than all the others, but with just as much determination: "Think of me. I am the color of silence. You hardly notice me, but without me you all become superficial. I represent thought and reflection, twilight and deep water. You need me for balance and contrast, for prayer and inner peace."

And so the colors went on boasting, each convinced of his or her own superiority. Their quarreling became louder and louder. Suddenly there was a startling flash of bright lightening thunder rolled and boomed. Rain started to pour down relentlessly. The colors crouched down in fear, drawing close to one another for comfort.

In the midst of the clamor, rain began to speak:
"You foolish colors, fighting amongst yourselves, each trying to dominate the rest. Don't you know that you were each made for a special purpose, unique and different? Join hands with one another and come to me."

Doing as they were told, the colors united and joined hands.

The rain continued:
"From now on, when it rains, each of you will stretch across the sky in a great bow of color as a reminder that you can all live in peace. The Rainbow is a sign of hope for tomorrow." And so, whenever a good rain washes the world, and a Rainbow appears in the sky, let us remember to appreciate one another.

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Banishing a Ghost
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

The wife of a man became very sick. On her deathbed, she said to him, "I love you so much! I don't want to leave you, and I don't want you to betray me. Promise that you will not see any other women once I die, or I will come back to haunt you."

For several months after her death, the husband did avoid other women, but then he met someone and fell in love. On the night that they were engaged to be married, the ghost of his former wife appeared to him. She blamed him for not keeping the promise, and every night thereafter she returned to taunt him. The ghost would remind him of everything that transpired between him and his fiancee that day, even to the point of repeating, word for word, their conversations. It upset him so badly that he couldn't sleep at all.

Desperate, he sought the advice of a Zen master who lived near the village. "This is a very clever ghost," the master said upon hearing the man's story. "It is!" replied the man. "She remembers every detail of what I say and do. It knows everything!" The master smiled, "You should admire such a ghost, but I will tell you what to do the next time you see it."

That night the ghost returned. The man responded just as the master had advised. "You are such a wise ghost," the man said, "You know that I can hide nothing from you. If you can answer me one question, I will break off the engagement and remain single for the rest of my life." "Ask your question," the ghost replied. The man scooped up a handful of beans from a large bag on the floor, "Tell me exactly how many beans there are in my hand."

At that moment the ghost disappeared and never returned.

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Great Expectations
( by: Barry Spilchuk, Source Unknown )

Pete Rose, the famous baseball player, and I have never met, but he taught me something so valuable that it changed my life. Pete was being interviewed in spring training the year he was about to break Ty Cobb's all time hits record. One reporter blurted out, "Pete, you only need 78 hits to break the record. How many at-bats do you think you'll need to get the 78 hits?" Without hesitation, Pete just stared at the reporter and very matter-of-factly said, "78." The reporter yelled back, "Ah, come on Pete, you don't expect to get 78 hits in 78 at-bats do you?"

Mr. Rose calmly shared his philosophy with the throngs of reporters who were anxiously awaiting his reply to this seemingly boastful claim. "Every time I step up to the plate, I expect to get a hit! If I don't expect to get a hit, I have no right to step in the batter's box in the first place!" "If I go up hoping to get a hit," he continued, "then I probably don't have a prayer to get a hit. It is a positive expectation that has gotten me all of the hits in the first place."

When I thought about Pete Rose's philosophy and how it applied to everyday life, I felt a little embarrassed. As a business person, I was hoping to make my sales quotas. As a father, I was hoping to be a good dad. As a married man, I was hoping to be a good husband.

The truth was that I was an adequate salesperson, I was not so bad of a father, and I was an okay husband. I immediately decided that being okay was not enough! I wanted to be a great salesperson, a great father and a great husband. I changed my attitude to one of positive expectation, and the results were amazing. I was fortunate enough to win a few sales trips, I won Coach of the Year in my son's baseball league, and I share a loving relationship with my wife, Karen, with whom I expect to be married to for the rest of my life! Thanks, Mr. Rose!

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His Life's Work
( by: Wyverne Flatt, Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work)

When his wife died, the baby was two. They had six other children - three boys and three girls, ranging in age from 4 to 16.

A few days after he became a widower, the man's parents and his deceased wife's parents came to visit.

"We've been talking," they said, "about how to make this work. There's no way you can take care of all these children and work to make a living. So, we've arranged for each child to be placed with a different uncle and aunt. We're making sure that all of your children will be living right here in the neighborhood, so you can see them anytime..."

"You have no idea how much I appreciate your thoughtfulness," the man responded. "But I want you to know," he smiled and continued, "If the children should interfere with my work, or if we should need any help, we'll let you know."

Over the next few weeks the man worked with his children, assigning them chores and giving them responsibilities. The two older girls, aged 12 and 10, began to cook and do the laundry and household chores. The two older boys, 16 and 14, helped their father with his farming.

But then another blow. The man developed arthritis. His hands swelled, and he was unable to grip the handles of his farm tools. The children shouldered their loads well, but the man could see that he would not be able to continue in this vein. He sold his farming equipment, moved the family to a small town and opened a small business.

The family was welcomed into the new neighborhood. The man's business flourished. He derived pleasure from seeing people and serving them. Word of his pleasant personality and excellent customer service began to spread. People came from far and wide to do business with him. And the children helped both at home and at work. Their father's pleasure in his work brought satisfaction to them, and he drew pleasure from their successes.

The children grew up and got married. Five of the seven went off to college, most after they were married. Each one paid his or her own way. The children's collegiate successes were a source of pride to the father. He had stopped at the sixth grade.

Then came grandchildren. No one enjoyed grandchildren more than this man. As they became toddlers, he invited them to his workplace and his small home. They brought each other great joy.

Finally, the youngest daughter - the baby, who had been two years old at her mother's death - got married.

And the man, his life's work completed, died.

This man's work had been the lonely but joyful task of raising his family. This man was my father. I was the 16- year-old, the oldest of seven.

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Why Lincoln Was Called 'Honest Abe'
(by: Noah Brooks, Good Stories for Great Holidays )

In managing the country store, as in everything that he undertook for others, Lincoln did his very best. He was honest, civil, ready to do anything that should encourage customers to come to the place, full of pleasantries, patient, and alert.

On one occasion, finding late at night, when he counted over his cash, that he had taken a few cents from a customer more than was due, he closed the store, and walked a long distance to make good the deficiency.

At another time, discovering on the scales in the morning a weight with which he had weighed out a package of tea for a woman the night before, he saw that he had given her too little for her money. He weighed out what was due, and carried it to her, much to the surprise of the woman, who had not known that she was short in the amount of her purchase.

Innumerable incidents of this sort are related of Lincoln, and we should not have space to tell of the alertness with which he sprang to protect defenseless women from insult, or feeble children from tyranny; for in the rude community in which he lived, the rights of the defenseless were not always respected as they should have been. There were bullies then, as now.

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Ice Cream Prayer, The
(by: Author Unknown, Rainbow Garden)

Last week I took my children to a restaurant. My six-year-old son asked if he could say grace. As we bowed our heads he said, "God is great and God is Good. Let us thank Him for the food, and I would even thank you more if mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And Liberty and justice for all! Amen!"

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, "That's what's wrong with this country. Kids today don't even know how to pray. Asking God for ice-cream! Why, I never!"

Hearing this, my son burst into tears and asked me, "Did I do it wrong? is God mad at me?" As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my son and said, "I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer." "Really?" my son asked. "Cross my heart."

Then in theatrical whisper he added (indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing), "Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes."

Naturally, I bought my kids ice cream at the end of the meal. My son stared at his for a moment and then did something I will remember the rest of my life. He picked up his sundae and without a word walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, "Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes and my soul is good already."

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If You Love Her Enough
( by: Bill Walls, Source Unknown)

My friend John always has something to tell me. He knows so much that young men have to have older and more worldly wise men to tell them. For instance who to trust, how to care for others, and how to live life to the fullest.

Recently, John lost his wife Janet. For eight years she fought against cancer, but in the end her sickness had the last word.

One day John took out a folded piece of paper from his wallet. He had found it, so he told me, when he tidied up some drawers at home. It was a small love letter Janet had written. The note could look like a school girl's scrawls about her dream guy. All that was missing was a drawing of a heart with the names John and Janet written in it. But the small letter was written by a woman who had had seven children; a woman who fought for her life and who probably only had a few months left to live.

It was also a beautiful recipe for how to keep a marriage together.

Janet's description of her husband begins thus: "Loved me. Took care of me. Worried about me."

Even though John always had a ready answer, he never joked about cancer apparently. Sometimes he came home in the evening to find Janet in the middle of one of those depressions cancer patients so often get. In no time he got her into the car and drove her to her favourite restaurant.

He showed consideration for her, and she knew it. You cannot hide something for someone who knows better.

"Helped me when I was ill," the next line reads. Perhaps Janet wrote this while the cancer was in one of the horrible and wonderful lulls. Where everything is -- almost -- as it used to be, before the sickness broke out, and where it doesn't hurt to hope that everything is over, maybe forever.

"Forgave me a lot."

"Stood by my side."

And a piece of good advice for everyone who looks on giving constructive criticism as a kind of sacred duty: "Always praising."

"Made sure I had everything I needed," she goes on to write.

After that she has turned over the paper and added: "Warmth. Humour. Kindness. Thougtfulness." And then she writes about the husband she has lived with and loved the most of her life: "Always there for me when I needed you."

The last words she wrote sum up all the others. I can see her for me whe she adds thoughtfully: "Good friend."

I stand beside John now, and cannot even pretend to know how it feels to lose someone who is as close to me as Janet was to him. I need to hear what he has to say much more than he needs to talk.

"John," I ask. "How do you stick together with someone through 38 years -- not to mention the sickness? How do I know if I can bear to stand by my wife's side if she becomes sick one day?"

"You can," he says quietly. "If you love her enough, you can."

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Information Please
(by: Author Unknown, Aspiring to Greatness )

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.

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The Gift of Insults

There once lived a great warrior. Though quite old, he still was able to defeat any challenger. His reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him.

One day an infamous young warrior arrived at the village. He was determined to be the first man to defeat the great master. Along with his strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move.

Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old master gladly accepted the young warrior's challenge. As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. He threw dirt and spit in his face. For hours he verbally assaulted him with every curse and insult known to mankind. But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself. Knowing he was defeated, he left feeling shamed.

Somewhat disappointed that he did not fight the insolent youth, the students gathered around the old master and questioned him. "How could you endure such an indignity? How did you drive him away?"

"If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it," the master replied, "to whom does the gift belong?"

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Lord's Baseball Game, The
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

Bob and the Lord stood together, watching a baseball game. The Lord's team was playing Satan's team. The Lord's team was at bat, the score was tied zero to zero, and it was the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs. Bob and the Lord continued to watch as the batter, Love, stepped up to the plate. Love swung at the first pitch and hit a single, because Love never fails. The next batter was named Faith, who also got a single because Faith works with Love. The next batter up was named Godly wisdom. Satan wound up and threw the first pitch; Godly Wisdom looked it over and let it pass, because Godly Wisdom does not swing at Satan's pitches. Ball one. Three more pitches and Godly Wisdom walked, because Godly wisdom never swings at Satan's throws. The bases were loaded.

The Lord then turned to Bob and told him He was now going to bring in His star player. Up to the plate stepped Grace. Bob made a face... Grace certainly didn't look like much to him! Apparently Satan's whole team agreed: they all relaxed and laughed a little when they saw Grace. Thinking he had won the game, Satan wound up and fired his first pitch. To all but one's amazement, Grace hit the ball harder than anyone had ever seen. But Satan was not worried; his center fielder, the Prince of the air, let very few get by. He went up for the ball, but it went right through his glove, hit him on the head and sent him crashing to the ground; then it continued over the fence for a home run! And so the Lord's team won.

The Lord then asked Bob if he knew why Love, Faith, and Godly Wisdom could get on base but could not win the game by themselves. Bob, looking a bit sheepish, admitted that he didn't know. The Lord explained, "If your love, faith and wisdom could win the game, you would think you could win it by yourself. Love, faith and wisdom will get you on base, but only My grace can get you home. My grace is the one thing Satan cannot stop."

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Lunch Bag, The
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

(A true story of Robert Fulghum and his 7-year-old daughter Molly)

It was Molly's job to hand her father his brown paper lunch bag each morning before he headed off to work. One morning, in addition to his usual lunch bag, Molly handed him a second paper bag. This one was worn and held together with duct tape, staples, and paper clips.

"Why two bags" Fulghum asked.

"The other is something else," Molly answered.

"What's in it?"

"Just some stuff. Take it with you."

Not wanting to hold court over the matter, Fulghum stuffed both sacks into his briefcase, kissed Molly and rushed off. At midday, while hurriedly scarfing down his real lunch, he tore open Molly's bag and shook out the contents: two hair ribbons, three small stones, a plastic dinosaur, a pencil stub, a tiny sea shell, two animal crackers, a marble, a used lipstick, a small doll, two chocolate kisses, and 13 pennies.

Fulghum smiled, finished eating, and swept the desk clean - into the wastebasket - leftover lunch, Molly's junk and all.

That evening, Molly ran up behind him as he read the paper.

"Where's my bag?"

"What bag?"

"You know, the one I gave you this morning."

"I left it at the office. Why?"

"I forgot to put this note in it," she said. "And, besides, those are my things in the sack, Daddy, the ones I really like - I thought you might like to play with them, but now I want them back. You didn't lose the bag, did you, Daddy?"

"Oh, no," he said, lying. "I just forgot to bring it home. I'll bring it tomorrow."

While Molly hugged her father's neck, he unfolded the note that had not made it into the sack: "I love you, Daddy."

Molly had given him her treasures. All that a 7-year-old held dear. Love in a paper sack, and he missed it - not only missed it, but had thrown it in the wastebasket. So back he went to the office. Just ahead of the night janitor, he picked up the wastebasket and poured the contents on his desk.

After washing the mustard off the dinosaurs and spraying the whole thing with breath-freshener to kill the smell of onions, he carefully smoothed out the wadded ball of brown paper, put the treasures inside and carried it home gingerly, like and injured kitten. The bag didn't look so good, but the stuff was all there and that's what counted.

After dinner, he asked Molly to tell him about the stuff in the sack. It took a long time to tell. Everything had a story or a memory or was attached to dreams and imaginary friends. Fairies had brought some of the things. He had given her the chocolate kisses, and she had kept them for when she needed them.

"Sometimes I think of all the times in this sweet life," Fulghum concludes the story, "when I must have missed the affection I was being given. A friend calls this 'standing knee deep in the river and dying of thirst.' "

We should all remember that it's not the destination that counts in life - it's the journey.

The little girl smiles, the dinosaurs and chocolate kisses wrapped in old paper bags that we sometimes throw away too thoughtlessly, each day, each a tiny treasure.

The journey with the people we love is all that really matters. Such a simple truth so easily forgotten.

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Million Dollar Lesson, A
( by: Petey Parker, Heart At Work )

A cab driver taught me a million dollar lesson in customer satisfaction and expectation. Motivational speakers charge thousands of dollars to impart his kind of training to corporate executives and staff. It cost me a $12 taxi ride.

I had flown into Dallas for the sole purpose of calling on a client. Time was of the essence and my plan included a quick turnaround trip from and back to the airport. A spotless cab pulled up. The driver rushed to open the passenger door for me and made sure I was comfortably seated before he closed the door. As he got in the driver's seat, he mentioned that the neatly folded Wall Street Journal next to me was for my use. He then showed me several tapes and asked me what type of music I would enjoy. Well! I looked around for a "Candid Camera!" Wouldn't you? I could not believe the service I was receiving! I took the opportunity to say, "Obviously you take great pride in your work. You must have a story to tell."

"You bet," he replied, "I used to be in Corporate America. But I got tired of thinking my best would never be good enough. I decided to find my niche in life where I could feel proud of being the best I could be. I knew I would never be a rocket scientist, but I love driving cars, being of service and feeling like I have done a full day's work and done it well. I evaluate my personal assets and... wham! I became a cab driver. One thing I know for sure, to be good in my business I could simply just meet the expectations of my passengers. But, to be GREAT in my business, I have to EXCEED the customer's expectations! I like both the sound and the return of being 'great' better than just getting by on 'average'"

Did I tip him big time? You bet! Corporate America's loss is the travelling folk's friend!

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Mr. Washington
(by: Les Brown, A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul )

One day in 11th grade, I went into a classroom to wait for a friend of mine. When I went into the room, the teacher, Mr. Washington, suddenly appeared and asked me to go to the board to write something, to work something out. I told him that I couldnít do it. And he said, "Why not?"

I said, "Because Iím not one of your students."

He said, "It doesnít matter. Go to the board anyhow."

I said, "I canít do that."

He said, "Why not?"

And I paused because I was somewhat embarrassed. I said, "Because Iím Educable Mentally Retarded."

He came from behind his desk and he looked at me and he said, "Donít ever say that again. Someoneís opinion of you does not have to become your reality."

It was a very liberating moment for me. On one hand, I was humiliated because the other students laughed at me. They knew that I was in Special Education. But on the other hand, I was liberated because he began to bring to my attention that I did have to live within the context of what another personís view of me was.

And so Mr. Washington became my mentor. Prior to this experience, I had failed twice in school. I was identified as Educable Mentally Retarded in the fifth grade, was put back from the fifth grade into the fourth grade, and failed again, when I was in the eighth grade. So this person made a dramatic difference in my life.

I always say that he operates in the consciousness of Goethe, who said, "Look at a man the way that he is, he only becomes worse. But look at him as if he were what he could be, and then he becomes what he should be." Like Calvin Lloyd, Mr. Washington believed that "Nobody rises to low expectations." This man always gave students the feeling that he had high expectations for them and we strove, all of the students strove, to live up to what those expectations were.

One day, when I was still a junior, I heard him giving a speech to some graduating seniors. He said to them, "You have greatness within you. You have something special. If just one of you can get a glimpse of a larger vision of yourself, of who you really are, of what it is you bring to the planet, of your specialness, then in a historical context, the world will never be the same again. You can make your parents proud. You can make your school proud. You can make your community proud. You can touch millions of peopleís lives." He was talking to the seniors, but it seemed like that speech was for me.

I remember when they gave him a standing ovation. Afterwards, I caught up to him in the parking lot and I said, "Mr. Washington, do you remember me? I was in the auditorium when you were talking to the seniors."

He said, "What were you doing there? You are a junior."

I said, "I know. But that speech you were giving, I heard your voice coming through the auditorium doors. That speech was for me, Sir. You said they had greatness within them. I was in that auditorium. Is there greatness within me, Sir?" He said, "Yes, Mr. Brown."

"But what about the fact that I failed English and math and history, and Iím going to have to go to summer school. What about that, Sir? Iím slower than most kids. Iím not as smart as my brother or my sister whoís going to the University of Miami."

"It doesnít matter. It just means that you have to work harder. Your grades donít determine who you are or what you can produce in your life."

"I want to buy my mother a home."

"Itís possible, Mr. Brown. You can do that." And he turned to walk away again.

"Mr. Washington?"

"What do you want now?"

"Uh, Iím the one, Sir. You remember me, remember my name. One day youíre gonna hear it. Iím gonna make you proud. Iím the one, Sir."

School was a real struggle for me. I was passed from one grade to another because I was not a bad kid. I was a nice kid; I was a fun kid. I made people laugh. I was polite. I was respectful. So teachers would pass me on, which was not helpful to me. But Mr. Washington made demands on me. He made me accountable. But he enabled me to believe that I could handle it, that I could do it.

He became my instructor my senior year, even though I was Special Education. Normally, Special Ed students donít take Speech and Drama, but they made special provisions for me to be with him. The principal realized the kind of bonding that had taken place and the impact that heíd made on me because I had begun to do well academically. For the first time in my life I the honor roll. I wanted to travel on a trip with the drama and you had to be on the honor roll in order to make the trip out of town. That was a miracle for me!

Mr. Washington restructured my own picture of who I am. He gave me a larger vision of myself, beyond my mental conditioning my circumstances.

Years later, I produced five specials that appeared on public television. I had some friends call him when my program, 'You Deserve,' was on the educational television channel in Miami. I was sitting by the phone waiting when he called me in Detroit. He said, "May I speak to Mr. Brown, please?"

"Whoís calling?"

"You know whoís calling."

"Oh, Mr. Washington, itís you."

"You were the one, werenít you?"

"Yes, Sir, I was."

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My Miraculous Family
(by: Michael Jordan Segal, Teaching What I Most Need to Know )

I never considered myself unique, but people are constantly telling me, "I am a miracle." To me, I was just an ordinary "guy" with realistic goals and big dreams. I was a 19-year-old student at the University of Texas and well on my way toward fulfilling my "big dream" of one day becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

On the night of February 17, 1981 I was studying for an Organic Chemistry test at the library with Sharon, my girlfriend of three years. Sharon had asked me to drive her back to her dormitory as it was getting quite late. We got into my car, not realizing that just getting into a car would never quite be the same for me again. I quickly noticed that my gas gauge was registered on empty so I pulled into a nearby convenience store to buy $2.00 worth of gas. "I'll be back in two minutes," I yelled at Sharon as I closed the door. But instead, those two minutes changed my life forever.

Entering the convenience store was like entering the twilight zone. On the outside I was a healthy, athletic, pre-med student, but on the inside I was just another statistic of a violent crime. I thought I was entering an empty store, but suddenly I realized it was not empty at all. Three robbers were in the process of committing a robbery and my entrance into the store caught them by surprise. One of the criminals immediately shoved a .38 caliber handgun to my head, ordered me to the cooler, pushed me down on the floor, and pumped a bullet into the back of my head - execution style. He obviously thought I was dead because he did not shoot me again. The trio of thieves finished robbing the store and left calmly.

Meanwhile, Sharon wondered why I had not returned. After seeing the three men leave the store she really began to worry as I was the last person she saw entering the store. She quickly went inside to look for me, but saw no one -- only an almost empty cash register containing one check and several pennies. Quickly she ran down each aisle shouting, "Mike, Mike!"

Just then the attendant appeared from the back of the store shouting, "Lady, get down on the floor. I've just been robbed and shot at!"

Sharon quickly dropped to the floor screaming, "Have you seen my boyfriend ... auburn hair?" The man did not reply but went back to the cooler where he found me choking on my vomit. The attendant quickly cleaned my mouth and then called for the police and an ambulance.

Sharon was in shock. She was beginning to understand that I was hurt, but she could not begin to comprehend or imagine the severity of my injury.

When the police arrived they immediately called the homicide division as they did not think I would survive and the paramedic reported that she had never seen a person so severely wounded survive. At 1:30 a.m. my parents who lived in Houston, were awakened by a telephone call from Brackenridge Hospital advising them to come to Austin as soon as possible for they feared I would not make it through the night.

But I did make it through the night and early in the morning the neurosurgeon decided to operate. However, he quickly informed my family and Sharon that my chances of surviving the surgery were only 40/60. If this were not bad enough, the neurosurgeon further shocked my family by telling them what life would be like for me if I beat the odds and survived. He said I probably would never walk, talk, or be able to understand even simple commands.

My family was hoping and praying to hear even the slightest bit of encouragement from that doctor. Instead, his pessimistic words gave my family no reason to believe that I would ever again be a productive member of society. But once again I beat the odds and survived the three and a half hours of surgery.

Even though my family breathed a huge sigh of relief that I was still alive the doctor cautioned that it would still be several days before I would be out of danger. However, with each passing day I became stronger and stronger and two weeks later I was well enough to be moved from the ICU to a private room.

Granted, I still could not talk, my entire right side was paralyzed and many people thought I could not understand, but at least I was stable. After one week in a private room the doctors felt I had improved enough to be transferred by jet ambulance to Del Oro Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston.

My hallucinations, coupled with my physical problems, made my prognosis still very bleak. However, as time passed my mind began to clear and approximately six weeks later my right leg began to move ever so slightly. Within seven weeks my right arm slowly began to move and at eight weeks I uttered my first few words.

My speech was extremely difficult and slow in the beginning, but at least it was a beginning. I was starting to look forward to each new day to see how far I would progress. But just as I thought my life was finally looking brighter I was tested by the hospital europsychologist. She explained to me that judging from my test results she believed that I should not focus on returning to college but that it would be better to set more "realistic goals."

Upon hearing her evaluation I became furious for I thought, "Who is she to tell me what I can or cannot do. She does not even know me. I am a very determined and stubborn person!" I believe it was at that very moment that I decided I would somehow, someday return to college.

It took me a long time and a lot of hard work but I finally returned to the University of Texas in the fall of 1983 - a year and a half after almost dying. The next few years in Austin were very difficult for me, but I truly believe that in order to see beauty in life you have to experience some unpleasantness. Maybe I have experienced too much unpleasantness, but I believe in living each day to the fullest, and doing the very best I can.

And each new day was very busy and very full, for besides attending classes at the University I underwent therapy three to five days each week at Brackenridge Hospital. If this were not enough I flew to Houston every other weekend to work with Tom Williams, a trainer and executive who had worked for many colleges and professional teams and also had helped many injured athletes, such as Earl Campbell and Eric Dickerson. Through Tom I learned: "Nothing is impossible and never, never give up or quit."

He echoed the same words and sentiments of a prominent neurosurgeon from Houston, Dr. Alexander Gol, who was a close personal friend of my parents and who drove to Austin with my family in the middle of the night that traumatic February morning. Over the many months I received many opinions from different therapists and doctors but it was Dr. Gol who told my family to take one day at a time, for no matter how bad the situation looked, no one knew for certain what the brain could do.

Early, during my therapy, my father kept repeating to me one of his favorite sayings. It could have been written by both Tom and Dr. Gol and I have repeated it almost every day since being hurt:

"Mile by mile it's a trial; yard by yard it's hard; but inch by inch it's a cinch."

I thought of those words, and I thought of Dr. Gol, Tom, my family and Sharon who believed so strongly in me as I climbed the steps to receive my diploma from the Dean of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas on that bright sunny afternoon in June of 1986. Excitement and pride filled my heart as I heard the dean announce that I had graduated with "highest honors" (grade point average of 3.885), been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and been chosen as one of 12 Dean's Distinguished Graduates out of 1600 in the College of Liberal Arts.

The overwhelming emotions and feelings that I experienced at that very moment, when most of the audience gave me a standing ovation, I felt would never again be matched in my life -- not even when I graduated with a masters degree in social work and not even when I became employed full time at the Texas Pain and Stress Center. But I was wrong!

On May 24, 1987, I realized that nothing could ever match the joy I felt as Sharon and I were married. Sharon, my high school sweetheart of nine years, had always stood by me, through good and bad times. To me, Sharon is my miracle, my diamond in a world filled with problems, hurt, and pain. It was Sharon who dropped out of school when I was hurt so that she could constantly be at my side. She never wavered or gave up on me.

It was her faith and love that pulled me through so many dark days. While other nineteen year old girls were going to parties and enjoying life, Sharon devoted her life to my recovery. That, to me, is the true definition of love.

After our beautiful wedding I continued working part time at the Pain Center and completed my work for a masters degree while Sharon worked as a speech pathologist at a local hospital. We were extremely happy, but even happier when we learned Sharon was pregnant.

On July 11, 1990 at 12:15 a.m. Sharon woke me with the news: "We need to go to the hospital .... my water just broke." I couldn't help but think how ironic it was that my life almost ended in a convenience store and now on the date "7-11" we were about to bring a new life into this world. This time it was my turn to help Sharon as she had helped me over those past years. Sharon was having contractions about every two minutes, and each time she needed to have her lower back massaged.

Since she was in labor for 15 hours that meant 450 massages!! It was well worth every bit of pain in my fingers because at 3:10 p.m. Sharon and I experienced the birth of our beautiful daughter, Shawn Elyse Segal!

Tears of joy and happiness came to my eyes as our healthy, alert, wonderful daughter entered this world. We anxiously counted her 10 fingers and her 10 toes and watched her wide eyes take in the world about her. It was truly a beautiful picture that was etched in my mind forever as she lie in her mother's waiting arms, just minutes after her birth. At that moment I thanked God for blessing us with the greatest miracle of all -- Shawn Elyse Segal.

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Jenny's Pearl Necklace
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them: a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box.

"Oh please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please!" Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl's upturned face.

"A dollar ninety-five. That's almost $2. If you really want them, I'll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them yourself. Your birthday's only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma." As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her piggy bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores. She went to the neighbor, Mrs. McJames, and asked if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.

Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere--Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother had told her that if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.

Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?"

"Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you."

"Then may I have your pearls?"

"Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess--the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She's my favorite."

"That's okay, honey. Daddy loves you. Good night." And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.

About a week later, after the story time, Jenny's daddy asked again, "Do you love me?"

"Daddy, you know I love you."

"Then will you give me your pearls?"

"Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper."

"That's okay, Honey. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you." And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss. A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian-style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek.

"What is it, Jenny? What's the matter?"

Jenny didn't say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. When she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, "Here, Daddy. It's for you." With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny's kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the prized necklace. With the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case. He handed the handsome velvet case to Jenny and told her, "Thank you for giving me your most prized possesion that you even saved for all by yourself. Here Honey, I have this for you also. I wanted to trade you, but I was going to give these to you tonight either way."

As Jenny pryed open the blue velvet box, so nice a thing itself she'd never known, the glistening white sheen of the rich genuine pearls struck her teary eyes.

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Optimist, The
(by: Author Unknown, More Sower's Seeds)

There is a story of identical twins. One was a hope-filled optimist. "Everything is coming up roses!" he would say. The other twin was a sad and hopeless pessimist. He thought that Murphy, as in Murphy's Law, was an optimist. The worried parents of the boys brought them to the local psychologist.

He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twins" personalities. "On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford, and give the optimist a box of manure." The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results.

When they peeked in on the pessimist, they heard him audibly complaining, "I don't like the color of this computer . . I'll bet this calculator will break . . . I don't like the game . . . I know someone who's got a bigger toy car than this . . ."

Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their little optimist gleefully throwing the manure up in the air. He was giggling. "You can't fool me! Where there's this much manure, there's gotta be a pony!"

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Lessons from an Oyster
( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

There once was an oyster
Whose story I tell,
Who found that some sand
Had got into his shell.

It was only a grain,
but it gave him great pain.
For oysters have feelings
Although they're so plain.

Now, did he berate
the harsh workings of fate
That had brought him
To such a deplorable state?

Did he curse at the government,
Cry for election,
And claim that the sea should
Have given him protection?

'No,' he said to himself
As he lay on a shell,
Since I cannot remove it,
I shall try to improve it.

Now the years have rolled around,
As the years always do,
And he came to his ultimate
Destiny ≠ stew.
And the small grain of sand
That had bothered him so
Was a beautiful pearl
All richly aglow.

Now the tale has a moral,
for isn't it grand
What an oyster can do
With a morsel of sand?

What couldn't we do
If we'd only begin
With some of the things
That get under our skin.

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Rebellion Against the Stomach, The
(by: Author Unknown, The Book of Virtues)

Once a man had a dream in which his hands and feet and mouth and brain all began to rebel against his stomach.

"You good-for-nothing sluggard!" the hands said. "We work all day long, sawing and hammering and lifting and carrying. By evening we're covered with blisters and scratches, and our joints ache, and we're covered with dirt. And meanwhile you just sit there, hogging all the food."

"We agree!" cried the feet. "Think how sore we get, walking back and forth all day long. And you just stuff yourself full, you greedy pig, so that you're that much heavier to carry about."

"That's right!" whined the mouth. "Where do you think all that food you love comes form? I'm the one who has to chew it all up, and as soon as I'm finished you suck it all down for yourself. Do you call that fair?"

"And what about me?" called the brain. "Do you think it's easy being up here, having to think about where your next meal is going to come from? And yet I get nothing at all for my pains."

And one by one the parts of the body joined the complaint against the stomach, which didn't say anything at all.

"I have an idea," the brain finally announced. "Let's all rebel against the lazy belly, and stop working for it."

"Superb idea!" all the other members and organs agreed. "We'll teach you how important we are, you pig. Then maybe you'll do a little work of your own."

So they all stopped working. The hands refused to do lifting and carrying. The feet refused to walk. The mouth promised not to chew or swallow a single bite. And the brain swore it wouldn't come up with any more bright ideas. At first the stomach growled a bit, as it always did when it was hungry. But after a while it was quiet.

Then, to the dreaming man's surprise, he found he could not walk. He could not grasp anything in his hand. He could not even open his mouth. And he suddenly began to feel rather ill.

The dream seemed to go on for several days. As each day passed, the man felt worse and worse. "This rebellion had better not last much longer," he thought to himself, "or I'll starve."

Meanwhile, the hands and feet and mouth and brain just lay there, getting weaker and weaker. At first they roused themselves just enough to taunt the stomach every once in a while, but before long they didn't even have the energy for that.

Finally the man heart a faint voice coming from the direction of his feet.

"It could be that we were wrong," they were saying. "We suppose the stomach might have been working in his own way all along."

"I was just thinking the same thing," murmured the brain. "It's true that he's been getting all the food. But it seems he's been sending most of it right back to us."

"We might as well admit our error," the mouth said. "The stomach has just as much work to do as the hands and feet and brain and teeth."

"Then let's get back to work," they cried together. And at that the man woke up.

To his relief, he discovered his feet could walk again. His hands could grasp, his mouth could chew, and his brain could now think clearly. He began to feel much better.

"Well, there's a lesson for me," he thought as he filled his stomach at breakfast. "Either we all work together, or nothing works at all."

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Right Moves, The
(by: Tom Crabtree, Source Unknown )

One day, many years ago, when I was working as a psychologist at a children's institution in England, an adolescent boy showed up in the waiting room. I went out there where he was walking up and down restlessly.

I showed him into my office and pointed to the chair on the other side of my desk. It was in late autumn, and the lilac bush outside the window had shed all its leaves. "Please sit down," I said.

David wore a black rain coat that was buttoned all the way up to his neck. His face was pale, and he stared at his feet while wringing his hands nervously. He had lost his father as an infant, and had lived together with his mother and grandfather since. But the year before David turned 13, his grandfather died and his mother was killed in a car accident. Now he was 14 and in family care.

His head teacher had referred him to me. "This boy," he wrote, "is understandably very sad and depressed. He refuses to talk to others and I'm very worried about him. Can you help?"

I looked at David. How could I help him? There are human tragedies psychology doesn't have the answer to, and which no words can describe. Sometimes the best thing one can do is to listen openly and sympathetically.

The first two times we met, David didn't say a word. He sat hunched up in the chair and only looked up to look at the children's drawings on the wall behind me. As he was about to leave after the second visit, I put my hand on his shoulder. He didn't shrink back, but he didn't look at me either.

"Come back next week, if you like," I said. I hesitated a bit. Then I said, "I know it hurts."

He came, and I suggested we play a game of chess. He nodded. After that we played chess every Wednesday afternoon - in complete silence and without making any eye contact. It's not easy to cheat in chess, but I admit that I made sure David won once or twice.

Usually, he arrived earlier than agreed, took the chessboard and pieces from the shelf and began setting them up before I even got a chance to sit down. It seemed as if he enjoyed my company. But why did he never look at me?

"Perhaps he simply needs someone to share his pain with," I thought. "Perhaps he senses that I respect his suffering." One afternoon in late winter, David took off his rain coat and put it on the back of the chair. While he was setting up the chess pieces, his face seemed more alive and his motions more lively.

Some months later, when the lilacs blossomed outside, I sat starring at David's head, while he was bent over the chessboard. I thought about how little we know about therapy - about the mysterious process associated with healing. Suddenly, he looked up at me.

"It's your turn," he said.

After that day, David started talking. He got friends in school and joined a bicycle club. He wrote to me a few times ("I'm biking with some friends and I feel great"); letters about how he would try to get into university. After some time, the letters stopped. Now he had really started to live his own life.

Maybe I gave David something. At least I learned a lot from him. I learned how time makes it possible to overcome what seems to be an insuperable pain. I learned to be there for people who need me. And David showed me how one - without any words - can reach out to another person. All it takes is a hug, a shoulder to cry on, a friendly touch, a sympathetic nature - and an ear that listens.

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Secret of Jimmy Yen, The
(by: Adam Khan, , Self-Help Stuff That Works)

A jury of distinguished scholars and scientists, including Albert Einstein and Orville Wright thought enough of Jimmy Yen to vote him one of the top ten Modern Revolutionaries of the Twentieth Century. Yet all he did was teach Chinese peasants to read.

What made that so amazing was that for four thousand years reading and writing in China was only done by the Scholars. "Everybody" knew, including the peasants themselves, that peasants were incapable of learning.

That thoroughly ingrained cultural belief was Jimmy Yen's first impossible" barrier. The second barrier was the Chinese language itself, consisting of 40,000 characters, each character signifying a different word! The third barrier was the lack of technology and good roads. How could Jimmy Yen reach the 350 million peasants in China?

Impossible odds, an impossibly huge goal-and yet he had almost attained it when he was forced (by Communism) to leave his country.

Did he give up? No. He learned from defeat and expanded his goal: Teach the rest of the Third World to read. Practical reading programs, like the ones he invented in China, started pumping out literate people like a gushing oil well in the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kenya, Columbia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Ghana, India-people became literate. For the first time in their entire genetic history, they had access to the accumulated knowledge of the human race.

For those of us who take literacy for granted, I'd like you to consider for a moment how narrow your world would be if you'd never learned how to read and there was no access to radios or TVs.

180,000 Chinese peasants were hired by the Allied Forces in WW1 as laborers in the war effort. Most of them had no idea-not a clue-where England, Germany or France was, they didn't know what they were being hired to do, and didn't even know what a war was!

Try to grasp, if you will, the vacancy, the darkness, the lack that existed in those people because they couldn't read. Jimmy Yen was a savior to them.

What was the secret of Jimmy Yen's success? He found a real need, and found in himself a strong desire to answer that need. And he took some action: He tried to do something about it even though it seemed impossible. He worked long hours. And he started with what he had in front of him and gradually took on more and more, a little upon a little.

The English author Thomas Carlyle said, "Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand." And that's what Jimmy Yen did. He started out teaching a few peasants to read, with no desks, no pens, no money, no overhead projectors. He started from where he found himself and did what was clearly at hand.

And that's all you need to do. Start now. Start here. And do what lies clearly at hand.

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Secrets of Heaven and Hell, The
(by: Fr. John W. Groff Jr., A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul)

The old monk sat by the side of the road. With his eyes closed, his legs crossed and his hands folded in his lap, he sat. In deep meditation, he sat.

Suddenly his zazen was interrupted by the harsh and demanding voice of a samurai warrior. "Old man! Teach me about heaven and hell!"

At first, as though he had not heard, there was no perceptible response from the monk. But gradually he began to open his eyes, the faintest hint of a smile playing around the corners of his mouth as the samurai stood there, waiting impatiently, growing more and more agitated with each passing second.

"You wish to know the secrets of heaven and hell?" replied the monk at last. "You who are so unkempt. You whose hands and feet are covered with dirt. You whose hair is uncombed, whose breath is foul, whose sword is all rusty and neglected. You who are ugly and whose mother dresses you funny. You would ask me of heaven and hell?"

The samurai uttered a vile curse. He drew his sword and raised it high above his head. His face turned to crimson and the veins on his neck stood out in bold relief as he prepared to sever the monk's head from its shoulders.

"That is hell," said the old monk gently, just as the sword began its descent. In that fraction of a second, the samurai was overcome with amazement, awe, compassion and love for this gentle being who had dared to risk his very life to give him such a teaching. He stopped his sword in mid-flight and his eyes filled with grateful tears.

"And at," said the monk, "is heaven."

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Slave to His Destiny, A
(by: Adam Khan, , Self-Help Stuff That Works)

One morning a sixteen-year-old boy was kidnapped from his house by a band of knife-wielding thugs and taken to another country, there to be sold as a slave. The year was 401 AD.

He was made a shepherd. Slaves were not allowed to wear clothes, so he was often dangerously cold and frequently on the verge of starvation. He spent months at a time without seeing another human being -- a severe psychological torture.

But this greatest of difficulties was transformed into the greatest of blessings because it gave him an opportunity not many get in a lifetime. Long lengths of solitude have been used by people all through history to meditate, to learn to control the mind and to explore the depths of feeling and thought to a degree impossible in the hubbub of normal life.

He wasn't looking for such an "opportunity," but he got it anyway. He had never been a religious person, but to hold himself together and take his mind off the pain, he began to pray, so much that "...in one day," he wrote later, "I would say as many as a hundred prayers and after dark nearly as many again...I would wake and pray before daybreak -- through snow, frost, and rain...."

This young man, at the onset of his manhood, got a 'raw deal.' But therein lies the lesson. Nobody gets a perfect life. The question is not "What could I have done if I'd gotten a better life?" but rather "What can I do with the life I've got?"

How can you take your personality, your circumstances, your upbringing, the time and place you live in, and make something extraordinary out of it? What can you do with what you've got?

The young slave prayed. He didn't have much else available to do, so he did what he could with all his might. And after six years of praying, he heard a voice in his sleep say that his prayers would be answered: He was going home. He sat bolt upright and the voice said, "Look, your ship is ready."

He was a long way from the ocean, but he started walking. After two hundred miles, he came to the ocean and there was a ship, preparing to leave for Britain, his homeland. Somehow he got aboard the ship and went home to reunite with his family.

But he had changed. The sixteen-year-old boy had become a holy man. He had visions. He heard the voices of the people from the island he had left -- Ireland -- calling him back. The voices were persistent, and he eventually left his family to become ordained as a priest and a bishop with the intention of returning to Ireland and converting the Irish to Christianity.

At the time, the Irish were fierce, illiterate, Iron-Age people. For over eleven hundred years, the Roman Empire had been spreading its civilizing influence from Africa to Britain, but Rome never conquered Ireland.

The people of Ireland warred constantly. They made human sacrifices of prisoners of war and sacrificed newborns to the gods of the harvest. They hung the skulls of their enemies on their belts as ornaments.

Our slave-boy-turned-bishop decided to make these people literate and peaceful. Braving dangers and obstacles of tremendous magnitude, he actually succeeded! By the end of his life, Ireland was Christian. Slavery had ceased entirely. Wars were much less frequent, and literacy was spreading.

How did he do it? He began by teaching people to read -- starting with the Bible. Students eventually became teachers and went to other parts of the island to create new places of learning, and wherever they went, they brought the know-how to turn sheepskin into paper and paper into books.

Copying books became the major religious activity of that country. The Irish had a long-standing love of words, and it expressed itself to the full when they became literate. Monks spent their lives copying books: the Bible, the lives of saints, and the works accumulated by the Roman culture -- Latin, Greek, and Hebrew books, grammars, the works of Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Homer, Greek philosophy, math, geometry, astronomy.

In fact, because so many books were being copied, they were saved, because as Ireland was being civilized, the Roman Empire was falling apart. Libraries disappeared in Europe. Books were no longer copied (except in the city of Rome itself), and children were no longer taught to read. The civilization that had been built up over eleven centuries disintegrated. This was the beginning of the Dark Ages.

Because our slave-boy-turned-bishop transformed his suffering into a mission, civilization itself, in the form of literature and the accumulated knowledge contained in that literature, was saved and not lost during that time of darkness. He was named a saint, the famous Saint Patrick. You can read the full and fascinating story if you like in the excellent book How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.

"Very interesting," you might say, "but what does that have to do with me?"

Well...you are also in some circumstances or other, and it's not all peaches and cream, is it? There's some stuff you don't like -- maybe something about your circumstances, perhaps, or maybe some events that occurred in your childhood.

But here you are, with that past, with these circumstances, with the things you consider less than ideal. What are you going to do with them? If those circumstances have made you uniquely qualified for some contribution, what would it be?

You may not know the answer to that question right now, but keep in mind that the circumstances you think only spell misery may contain the seeds of something profoundly Good. Assume that's true, and the assumption will begin to gather evidence until your misery is transformed, as Saint Patrick's suffering was, from a raw deal to the perfect preparation for something better.

Ask yourself and keep asking, "Given my upbringing and circumstances, what Good am I especially qualified to do?"

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Song of the Bird
(by: Anthony de Mello, SJ, A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul )

I was doing well, running a district office in Denver for a Fortune 500 company. I had a company car, was making good money, was my own boss and could come and go as I pleased. And I was bored. I was discovering the stress associated with doing something that neither held my attention nor gave me pleasure. I found myself getting into the office by 10:00 A.M. to avoid the rush hour traffic, and leaving by 4:00 P.M. to beat the traffic home. Subtract two hours for lunch, an hour for whatever, and I was working three hours a day.

My wife suggested that I go back to school to get a graduate degree. I took her advice, and my future was forever changed.

I was well-schooled in the world of business, comfortable with a spreadsheet and calculator. But because I had found people so different and so unpredictable, I'd stopped worrying about the people involved in a project with me and focused on just moving forward. Enter Leonard Chusmir, a former executive with Knight-Ridder and a formidable instructor. Leonard taught me that people do matter. He taught me to look behind the drama in people's lives. He helped me to see better the "why" in what people do or don't do. The power of his teaching lay not in the ability to analyze others, but in the ability to analyze myself.

Then I met a fellow night-scholar named Bruce Fitch. He ran the Professional Development Program for the Colorado Outward Bound School, and he asked me to participate in an upcoming program. He had a "Rolex" group coming in - senior executives making lots of money. Bruce felt my business background would help supplement the staff's professional background in mountaineering.

So there I was with a group of "go-getter" executives and managers from a Fortune 500 organization. We're out in some of the most beautiful land in the world. We're hiking, we're climbing, we are having the time of our lives.

I became friends with the group's senior ranking executive. "Would you like to go for a walk?" he asked me one night. We walked through the clear, star-filled night with the full moon as our guide. I was as content as a person can be, when suddenly, this senior executive started to cry. Then his shoulders started to heave and he appeared to be unraveling. I was schooled in business, not the human heart. We were miles from base camp and I was at a loss as to what to do.

After a while he began to speak of a life lived with no relationship with his wife, his children, or even with himself. "Do you want to know what a day in my life is like?" he asked. "When I finally get home, I have two or three martinis and fall asleep in front of the television, only to wake up and start over the next day. I've been dead from the neck down for as long as I can remember. For the first time, on this trip, I feel alive." And then he thanked me. I realized that this man's awakening to the poverty of his life was what my experiences, friends and wife had been telling me.

With that insight, I sat at the crossroads between could and would. I could continue to live my life as I had been, or I could choose a life that would make a difference in someone's life, such as this man's.

Today, I only work with clients on what they would like to do, not on what they could do. I invite everyone to take a walk in the "woulds."

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Sword of Damocles, The
(by: James Baldwin, The Book of Virtues)

There once was a king named Dionysius who ruled in Syracuse, the richest city in Sicily. He lived in a fine palace where there were many beautiful and costly things, and he was waited upon by a host of servants who were always ready to do his bidding.

Naturally, because Dionysius had so much wealth and power, there were many in Syracuse who envied his good fortune. Damocles was one of these. He was one of Dionysius's best friends, and he was always saying to him, "How lucky you are! You have everything anyone could wish for. You must be the happiest man in the world."

One day Dionysius grew tired of hearing such talk. "Come now," he said, "do you really think I'm happier than everyone else?"

"But of course you are," Damocles replied. "Look at the great treasures you possess, and the power you hold. You have not a single worry in the world. How could life be any better?"

"Perhaps you would like to change places with me," said Dionysius.

"Oh, I would never dream of that," said Damocles. "But if I could only have your riches and your pleasures for one day, I should never want any greater happiness."

"Very well. Trade places with me for just one day, and you shall have them."

And so, the next day, Damocles was led to the palace, and all the servants were instructed to treat him as their master. They dressed him in royal robes, and placed on his head a crown of gold. He sat down at a table in the banquet hall, and rich foods were set before him. Nothing was wanting that could give him pleasure. There were costly wines, and beautiful flowers, and rare perfumes, and delightful music. He rested himself among soft cushions, and felt he was the happiest man in all the world.

"Ah, this is the life," he sighed to Dionysius, who sat at the other end of the long table. "I've never enjoyed myself so much."

And as he raised a cup to his lips, he lifted his eyes toward the ceiling. What was that dangling above him, with its point almost touching his head?

Damocles stiffened. The smile faded from his lips, and his face turned ashy pale. His hands trembled. He wanted no more food, no more wine, no more music. He only wanted to be out of the palace, far away, he cared no where. For directly above his head hung a sword, held to the ceiling by only a single horsehair. Its sharp blade glittered as it pointed right between his eyes. He started to jump up and run, but stopped himself, frightened that any sudden move might snap the thin thread and bring the sword down. He sat frozen to his chair.

"What is the matter, my friend?" Dionysius asked. "You seem to have lost your appetite."

"That sword! That sword!" whispered Damocles. "Don't you see it?"

"Of course I see it," said Dionysius. "I see it every day. It always hangs over my head, and there is always the chance someone or something may cut the slim thread. Perhaps one of my own advisors will grow jealous of my power and try to kill me. Or someone may spread lies about me, to turn people against me. It may be that a neighboring kingdom will send an army to seize this throne. Or I might make an unwise decision that will bring my downfall. If you want to be a leader, you must be willing to accept these risks. They come with the power, you see."

"Yes, I do see," said Damocles. "I see now that I was mistaken, and that you have much to think about besides your riches and fame. Please take your place, and let me go back to my own house."

And as long as he lived, Damocles never again wanted to change places, even for a moment, with the king.

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Training for the Presidency
( by: Orison Swett Marden, Good Stories for Great Holidays )

"I meant to take good care of your book, Mr. Crawford," said the boy, "but I've damaged it a good deal without intending to, and now I want to make it right with you. What shall I do to make it good?"

"Why, what happened to it, Abe?" asked the rich farmer, as he took the copy of Weems's "Life of Washington" which he had lent young Lincoln, and looked at the stained leaves and warped binding. "It looks as if it had been out through all last night's storm. How came you to forget, and leave it out to soak?"

"It was this way, Mr. Crawford," replied Abe.

"I sat up late to read it, and when I went to bed, I put it away carefully in my bookcase, as I call it, a little opening between two logs in the wall of our cabin. I dreamed about General Washington all night. When I woke up I took it out to read a page or two before I did the chores, and you can't imagine how I felt when I found it in this shape. It seems that the mud-daubing had got out of the weather side of that crack, and the rain must have dripped on it three or four hours before I took it out. I'm sorry, Mr. Crawford, and want to fix it up with you, if you can tell me how, for I have not got money to pay for it."

"Well," said Mr. Crawford, "come and shuck corn three days, and the book 's yours."

Had Mr. Crawford told young Abraham Lincoln that he had fallen heir to a fortune the boy could hardly have felt more elated. Shuck corn only three days, and earn the book that told all about his greatest hero!

"I don't intend to shuck corn, split rails, and the like always," he told Mrs. Crawford, after he had read the volume. "I'm going to fit myself for a profession."

"Why, what do you want to be, now?" asked Mrs. Crawford in surprise.

"Oh, I'll be President!" said Abe with a smile.

"You'd make a pretty President with all your tricks and jokes, now, would n't you?" said the farmer's wife.

"Oh, I'll study and get ready," replied the boy, "and then maybe the chance will come."

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Wallet, The
(by: Author Unknown, A Month of Inspiration)

As I walked home one freezing day, I stumbled on a wallet someone had lost in the street. I picked it up and looked inside to find some identification so I could call the owner. But the wallet contained only three dollars and a crumpled letter that looked as if it had been in there for years.

The envelope was worn and the only thing that was legible on it was the return address. I started to open the letter, hoping to find some clue. Then I saw the dateline--1924. The letter had been written almost sixty years ago. It was written in a beautiful feminine handwriting on powder blue stationery with a little flower in the left-hand corner. It was a "Dear John" letter that told the recipient, whose name appeared to be Michael, that the writer could not see him any more because her mother forbade it. Even so, she wrote that she would always love him. It was signed, Hannah. It was a beautiful letter, but there was no way except for the name Michael, that the owner could be identified. Maybe if I called information, the operator could find a phone listing for the address on the envelope.

"Operator," I began, "this is an unusual request. I'm trying to find the owner of a wallet that I found. Is there anyway you can tell me if there is a phone number for an address that was on an envelope in the wallet?"

She suggested I speak with her supervisor, who hesitated for a moment then said, "Well, there is a phone listing at that address, but I can't give you the number." She said, as a courtesy, she would call that number, explain my story and would ask them if they wanted her to connect me. I waited a few minutes and then she was back on the line. "I have a party who will speak with you."

I asked the woman on the other end of the line if she knew anyone by the name of Hannah. She gasped, "Oh! We bought this house from a family who had a daughter named Hannah. But that was 30 years ago!" "Would you know where that family could be located now?" I asked.

"I remember that Hannah had to place her mother in a nursing home some years ago," the woman said. "Maybe if you got in touch with them they might be able to track down the daughter." She gave me the name of the nursing home and I called the number.

They told me the old lady had passed away some years ago but they did have a phone number for where they thought the daughter might be living. I thanked them and phoned. The woman who answered explained that Hannah herself was now living in a nursing home.

This whole thing was stupid, I thought to myself. Why was I making such a big deal over finding the owner of a wallet that had only three dollars and a letter that was almost 60 years old? Nevertheless, I called the nursing home in which Hannah was supposed to be living and the man who answered the phone told me, "Yes, Hannah is staying with us. "

Even though it was already 10pm, I asked if I could come by to see her. "Well," he said hesitatingly, "if you want to take a chance, she might be in the day room watching television."

I thanked him and drove over to the nursing home. The night nurse and a guard greeted me at the door. We went up to the third floor of the large building. In the day room, the nurse introduced me to Hannah. She was a sweet, silver-haired old timer with a warm smile and a twinkle in her eye. I told her about finding the wallet and showed her the letter.

The second she saw the powder blue envelope with that little flower on the left, she took a deep breath and said, "Young man, this letter was the last contact I ever had with Michael." She looked away for a moment deep in thought and then said softly, "I loved him very much. But I was only 16 at the time and my mother felt I was too young. Oh, he was so handsome. He looked like Sean Connery, the actor."

"Yes," she continued. "Michael Goldstein was a wonderful person. If you should find him, tell him I think of him often. And," she hesitated for a moment, almost biting her lip, "tell him I still love him. You know,"she said smiling as tears began to well up in her eyes, "I never did marry. I guess no one ever matched up to Michael..."

I thanked Hannah and said goodbye. I took the elevator to the first floor and as I stood by the door, the guard there asked, "Was the old lady able to help you?" I told him she had given me a lead. "At least I have a last name. But I think I'll let it go for a while. I spent almost the whole day trying to find the owner of this wallet."

I had taken out the wallet, which was a simple brown leather case with red lacing on the side. When the guard saw it, he said, "Hey, wait a minute! That's Mr. Goldstein's wallet. I'd know it anywhere with that bright red lacing. He's always losing that wallet. I must have found it in the halls at least three times."

"Who's Mr. Goldstein?" I asked as my hand began to shake.

"He's one of the old timers on the 8th floor. That's Mike Goldstein's wallet for sure. He must have lost it on one of his walks." I thanked the guard and quickly ran back to the nurse's office. I told her what the guard had said. We went back to the elevator and got on.

I prayed that Mr. Goldstein would be up. On the eighth floor, the floor nurse said, "I think he's still in the day room. He likes to read at night. He's a darling old man."

We went to the only room that had any lights on and there was a man reading a book. The nurse went over to him and asked if he had lost his wallet. Mr. Goldstein looked up with surprise, put his hand in his back pocket and said, "Oh, it is missing!"

This kind gentleman found a wallet and we wondered if it could be yours?" I handed Mr. Goldstein the wallet and the second he saw it, he smiled with relief and said, "Yes, that's it! It must have dropped out of my pocket this afternoon. I want to give you a reward."

"No, thank you," I said. "But I have to tell you something. I read the letter in the hope of finding out who owned the wallet." The smile on his face suddenly disappeared. "You read that letter?"

"Not only did I read it, I think I know where Hannah is." He suddenly grew pale. "Hannah? You know where she is? How is she? Is she still as pretty as she was? Please, please tell me," he begged.

"She's fine...just as pretty as when you knew her." I said softly. The old man smiled with anticipation and asked, "Could you tell me where she is? I want to call her tomorrow." He grabbed my hand and said,"You know something, mister, I was so in love with that girl that when that letter came, my life literally ended. I never married. I guess I've always loved her. "

"Mr. Goldstein," I said, "Come with me." We took the elevator down to the third floor. The hallways were darkened and only one or two little night-lights lit our way to the day room where Hannah was sitting alone watching the television. The nurse walked over to her.

"Hannah," she said softly, pointing to Michael, who was waiting with me in the doorway. "Do you know this man?" She adjusted her glasses, looked for a moment, but didn't say a word. Michael said softly, almost in a whisper, "Hannah, it's Michael. Do you remember me?"

She gasped, "Michael! I don't believe it! Michael! It's you! My Michael!" He walked slowly towards her and they embraced. The nurse and I left with tears streaming down our faces. "See," I said. "See how the Good Lord works! If it's meant to be, it will be."

About three weeks later I got a call at my office from the nursing home. "Can you break away on Sunday to attend a wedding? Michael and Hannah are going to tie the knot!" It was a beautiful wedding with all the people at the nursing home dressed up to join in the celebration. Hannah wore a light beige dress and looked beautiful. Michael wore a dark blue suit and stood tall. They made me their best man. The hospital gave them their own room and if you ever wanted to see a 76-year-old bride and a 79-year-old groom acting like two teenagers, you had to see this couple. A perfect ending for a love affair that had lasted nearly 60 years.

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Weakness or Strength?
(by: Author Unknown, Bits & Pieces, August 15, 1996, Economic Press Inc )

Sometimes your biggest weakness can become your biggest strength. Take, for example, the story of one 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn't understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move.

"Sensei," the boy finally said, "Shouldn't I be learning more moves?"

"This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you'll ever need to know," the sensei replied.

Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.

Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.

This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened.

"No," the sensei insisted, "Let him continue."

Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.

"Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?"

"You won for two reasons," the sensei answered. "First, you've almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grap your left arm."

The boy's biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.

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( by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown )

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