Archive for February, 2013
THE POWER OF LOVE
- Published on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 13:32
- 0 Comments
Carl was a quiet man. He didn’t talk much. He would always greet you with a big smile and a firm handshake.
Even after living in our neighborhood for over 50 years, no one could really say they knew him very well.
Before his retirement, he took the bus to work each morning. The lone sight of him walking down the street often worried us.
He had a slight limp from a bullet wound received in WWII.
Watching him, we worried that although he had survived WWII, he may not make it through our changing uptown neighborhood with its ever-increasing random violence, gangs, and drug activity.
When he saw the flyer at our local church asking for volunteers for caring for the gardens behind the minister’s residence, he responded in his characteristically unassuming manner. Without fanfare, he just signed up.
He was well into his 87th year when the very thing we had always feared finally happened.
He was just finishing his watering for the day when three gang members approached him. Ignoring their attempt to intimidate him, he simply asked, “Would you like a drink from the hose?”
The tallest and toughest-looking of the three said, “Yeah, sure,” with a malevolent little smile.
As Carl offered the hose to him, the other two grabbed Carl’s arm, throwing him down. As the hose snaked crazily over the ground, dousing everything in its way, Carl’s assailants stole his retirement watch and his wallet, and then fled.
Carl tried to get himself up, but he had been thrown down on his bad leg. He lay there trying to gather himself as the minister came running to help him.
Although the minister had witnessed the attack from his window, he couldn’t get there fast enough to stop it.
“Carl, are you okay? Are you hurt?” the minister kept asking as he helped Carl to his feet.
Carl just passed a hand over his brow and sighed, shaking his head. “Just some punk kids. I hope they’ll wise-up someday.”
His wet clothes clung to his slight frame as he bent to pick up the hose. He adjusted the nozzle again and started to water.
Confused and a little concerned, the minister asked, “Carl, what are you doing?”
“I’ve got to finish my watering. It’s been very dry lately,” came the calm reply.
Satisfying himself that Carl really was all right, the minister could only marvel. Carl was a man from a different time and place.
A few weeks later the three returned. Just as before their threat was unchallenged. Carl again offered them a drink from his hose.
This time they didn’t rob him. They wrenched the hose from his hand and drenched him head to foot in the icy water.
When they had finished their humiliation of him, they sauntered off down the street, throwing catcalls and curses, falling over one another laughing at the hilarity of what they had just done.
Carl just watched them. Then he turned toward the warmth giving sun, picked up his hose and went on with his watering.
The summer was quickly fading into fall. Carl was doing some tilling when he was startled by the sudden approach of someone behind him. He stumbled and fell into some evergreen branches.
As he struggled to regain his footing, he turned to see the tall leader of his summer tormentors reaching down for him. He braced himself for the expected attack.
“Don’t worry old man, I’m not gonna hurt you this time.”
The young man spoke softly, still offering the tattooed and scarred hand to Carl. As he helped Carl get up, the man pulled a crumpled bag from his pocket and handed it to Carl.
“What’s this?” Carl asked. “It’s your stuff,” the man explained. “It’s your stuff back. Even the money in your wallet.” “I don’t understand,” Carl said. “Why would you help me now?”
The man shifted his feet, seeming embarrassed and ill at ease. “I learned something from you,” he said. “I ran with that gang and hurt people like you. We picked you because you were old and we knew we could do it. But every time we came and did something to you, instead of yelling and fighting back, you tried to give us a drink. You didn’t hate us for hating you. You kept showing love against our hate.”
He stopped for a moment. “I couldn’t sleep after we stole your stuff, so here it is back.”
He paused for another awkward moment, not knowing what more there was to say. “That bag’s my way of saying thanks for straightening me out, I guess.” And with that, he walked off down the street.
Carl looked down at the sack in his hands and gingerly opened it. He took out his retirement watch and put it back on his wrist. Opening his wallet, he checked for his wedding photo. He gazed for a moment at the young bride that still smiled back at him from all those years ago.
He died one cold day after Christmas that winter. Many people attended his funeral in spite of the weather.
In particular, the minister noticed a tall young man that he didn’t know sitting quietly in a distant corner of the church.
The minister spoke of Carl’s garden as a lesson in life.
In a voice made thick with unshed tears, he said, “Do your best and make your garden as beautiful as you can. We will never forget Carl and his garden.”
The following spring another flyer went up. It read: “Person needed to care for Carl’s garden.”
The flyer went unnoticed by the busy parishioners until one day when a knock was heard at the minister’s office door.
Opening the door, the minister saw a pair of scarred and tattooed hands holding the flyer. “I believe this is my job, if you’ll have me,” the young man said.
The minister recognized him as the same young man who had returned the stolen watch and wallet to Carl.
He knew that Carl’s kindness had turned this man’s life around. As the minister handed him the keys to the garden shed, he said, “Yes, go take care of Carl’s garden and honor him.”
The man went to work and, over the next several years, he tended the flowers and vegetables just as Carl had done.
During that time, he went to college, got married, and became a prominent member of the community. But he never forgot his promise to Carl’s memory and kept the garden as beautiful as he thought Carl would have kept it.
One day he approached the new minister and told him that he couldn’t care for the garden any longer. He explained with a shy and happy smile, “My wife just had a baby boy last night, and she’s bringing him home on Saturday.”
“Well, congratulations!” said the minister, as he was handed the garden shed keys. “That’s wonderful! What’s the baby’s name?”
“Carl,” he replied.
That’s the whole gospel message simply stated.
This beautiful story came to me today in an email … I hope you experience and feel the inspiration that love in it’s purest form brings to all!
Love, Light and Smiles,
IS THIS MARCH MADNESS?
- Published on Sunday, 17 February 2013 20:31
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HAPPY VALENTINES DAY
- Published on Thursday, 14 February 2013 13:32
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The History of St. Valentine’s Day
The tradition of St. Valentine’s Day mixes elements of both ancient Roman rites and Christian tradition. Just to confuse matters further, three different saints called Valentine are recognised by the Catholic Church.
One legend is that Valentine was a priest in Rome during the third century. Emperor Claudius II decreed that marriage was to be outlawed for young men, as he thought that single men made better soldiers than those who were married with families.
Valentine, felt the decree was unjust and unfair, and defied the Emperor by performing secret marriages for young lovers. When his actions for undercover lovers was discovered, Claudius ordered valentine be executed. Variations on this legend say that Valentine was put to death for trying to help fellow Christians escape from harsh Roman prisons where they were often tortured.
According to another legend, Valentine may have actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself in 270 AD the day before he was to be executed for refusing to renounce his Christian beliefs. Allegedly he sent note of appreciation to his jailer’s blind daughter for bringing him food and delivering messages while he was imprisoned, signed “from your Valentine.
While we can never be certain as to the true origin of the St. Valentine legend, one thing is for certain, it must have been an appealing and enduring story because by the Middle Ages, Valentine had become one of the most popular saints in France and Britain.
St. Valentine’s Day was set at February 14th by Pope Gelasius, at around 500 AD. By this time, the ‘lottery’ system for romantic dating was deemed un-Christian and had been outlawed. During the Middle Ages, the practice of love lotteries carried on as ‘Chance Boxes’. In France , drawings from the boxes allotted couples one year to get married or part company. In England, it was a common practice for men to wear the name of the girl they drew from the chance boxes on their sleeve, encircled with a heart.
Also at this time, it was commonly believed in parts of England and France that February 14 marked the beginning of birds’ mating season, which increased the notion that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.
Valentines messages started to appear around the beginning of the Fifteenth century, and even in these formative times they were often given anonymously, perhaps harking back to the unknown recipients of the Roman lotteries.
The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London.
In the United Kingdom, St. Valentine’s Day became a popular celebration around the 1600’s. It continued to take hold, with the familiar “roses are red, violets are blue” verses making their debut sometime in the seventeenth century. By the 1850’s, it was common for lovers from all social standings to give their adored ones small gifts or handwritten letters. At the same time, in France, people began to decorate their valentines with ribbons and lace.
By the start of the twentieth century, the handwritten letters gave way to cards as advances in printing technology had improved the quality of printed cards. At the time, it was culturally discouraged for people to show their emotions in such a direct way as a letter, so a printed card was a more acceptable method. More affordable postage costs and increasing use of the postal system probably contributed to the rise in popularity of the Valentine’s card.
Americans probably first began exchanging handmade valentines with verses in the early 1700s. In the mid nineteenth century, the first mass-produced valentines began to go on sale in America. Miss Esther Howland, an artist and entrepreneur, became the first regular publisher of valentines in the USA. Often referred to as ‘the Mother of the Valentine’, Miss Howland designed many elaborate creations using lace, ribbons and colourful pictures known as “scrap”. Her cards usually cost between $5 – $10 each, with some as much as $35, astonishingly expensive for the time.
The Greeting Card Association estimates that if we include children’s classroom valentines, over one billion valentine cards will be opened this year. St. Valentine’s Day is the second largest card-sending time of the year, accounting for 25% of all seasonal card sales (Christmas accounts for 60%).
It is estimated that women purchase 80 percent of all valentine’s cards, which means that a large proportion of men either forget, or aren’t very romantic when it comes to reciprocating! Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the USA, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, and Australia, and is increasing in popularity in many other parts of the world.
Facts about Valentine’s day cards (from the Greeting Card Association)
Approximately 25% of individual valentine cards are humorous, with adults aged 35-and-under being the most likely to send humorous cards. Valentines Day is the largest e-card sending occasion of the year. An estimated 14 million e-valentines will be sent in 2008. Greeting cards are traditionally the most popular Valentines Day gift in the U.S., ranking ahead of chocolates, flowers or dinner out. American men may be more serious about Valentines Day than women. In a national survey for GCA in 2007, 45% of women said they were likely to give a humorous valentine to their sweetheart, compared to only 34% of men. The percentage of individual valentines exchanged through the mail in comparison to hand delivery is approximately 50-50. Red is the most popular color choice for valentine cards, follow by pink and then white. Hearts, roses, Cupid and lace are traditional valentine card icons.
- Published on Monday, 04 February 2013 22:01
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