In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning disabled
children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school career,
while others can be mainstreamed into conventional schools.
At a Chush fund-raising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered
a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling
the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, "Where is the perfection
in my son, Shay? Everything God does is done with perfection. But
my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child
cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is
The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father's anguish
and stilled by the piercing query. "I believe," the
father answered, "that when God brings a child like this into the world,
the perfection that he seeks is in the way people react to this child."
He then told the following story about his son Shay:
One afternoon, Shay and his father walked past a park where some boys
Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they will
let me play?" Shay's father knew that his son was not at all athletic
and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shay's father
understood that if his son was chosen to play it would give him a
comfortable sense of belonging.
Shay's father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shay
could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his team-mates.
Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said "We are
losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he
can be on our team and we'll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning."
Shay's father was ecstatic as Shay smiled broadly. Shay was told to
put on a glove and go out to play short center field. In the bottom
of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind
by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again
and now with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning
run on base. Shay was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let
Shay bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game?
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that it was all
but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly,
let alone hit with it. However as Shay stepped up to the plate, the
pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay should at
least be able to make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. One of Shay's
team-mates came up to Shay and together they held the bat and faced the
pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps
forward to toss the ball softly toward Shay. As the pitch cam in, Shay
and his teammate swung at the ball and together they hit a slow ground
ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could
easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have
been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the pitcher took
the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach
of the first baseman. Everyone started yelling, "Shay, run to first.
Run to first." Never in his life had Shay run to first. He scampered
down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached first
base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball
to the second baseman who would tag out Shay, who was still running.
But the right fielder understood what the pitcher's intentions were,
so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman's head. Everyone
yelled, "Run to second, run to second." Shay ran towards second base
as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home.
As Shay reached second base, the opposing short stop ran to him, turned
him in the direction of third base and shouted, "Run to third." As
Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming,
"Shay run home." Shay ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys
lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit
a "grand slam" and won the game for his team.
That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "
those 18 boys reached their level of God's perfection."
Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us
than what we think of ourselves.
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings,
but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend
more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger
houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have
more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge but less judgment; more
experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness. We have
multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much,
love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to
make a living, but not a life; we've added years to life, not life to
years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble
crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We've conquered outer space,
but not inner space; we've cleaned up the air, but polluted
the soul; we've split the atom, but not our prejudice. We have higher
incomes, but lower morals; we've become long on quantity, but short on
quality. These are the times of tall men, and short character; steep
profits, and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace,
but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food,
but less nutrition. These are days of two incomes, but more divorce;
of fancier houses, but broken homes. It is a time when there is much
in the show window and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology
can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to
make a difference or just hit delete.
Keep reaching for that level of perfection.
This is a story about a little girl who, on the way home from church, turned to her mother and said, "Mommy, the Preacher's sermon this morning confused me." The mother said, "Oh! Why is that?" The girl replied, "Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?" "Yes, that's true," the mother replied. "He also said that God lives within us. Is that true too?" Again the mother replied, "Yes." "Well," said the girl. "If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn't He show through?"
There is one Christmas carol that has had me baffled. What in the world
do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially that
partrridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with
Christmas? Today I found out!
>From l558 until l829, Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to
practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as
a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning; the
surface meaning, plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their
church.Ý Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious
reality which the children could remember.
The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ. Two turtle doves were the
Old and New Testaments. Three French hens stood for faith, hope and
love. The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John.
The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of
the Old Testament. The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of
creation. Seven swans a-swimmig represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy
Spirit. Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exortation, Contribution, Leadership,
The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes. Nine ladies dancing
were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience,
Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.
The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments. Eleven pipers piping
stood for the eleven faithful disciples. Twelve drummers drumming
symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
So there is your history lesson for today. Now I know how that strange
song became a Christmas Carol.
Ice Cream for the Soul
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 good. God is
great. Thank you 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 gentle man 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 kid's 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."
He was in the first third grade class I taught at
Saint Mary's School in Morris, Minn. All 34 of my
students were dear to me, but Mark Eklund was one in a
million. Very neat in appearance, but had that
happy-to-be-alive attitude that made even his
occasional mischievousness delightful.
Mark talked incessantly. I had to remind him again
and again that talking without permission was not
acceptable. What impressed me so much, though, was his sincere
response every time I had to correct him for
misbehaving - "Thank you for correcting me, Sister|"I
didn't know what to make of it at first, but before
long I became accustomed to hearing it many times a day.
One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark
talked once too often, and then I made a novice
teacher's mistake. I looked at Mark and said, "If you say one more word,
I am going to tape your mouth shut|"
It wasn't ten seconds later when Chuck blurted out,
"Mark is talking again." I hadn't asked any of the
students to help me watch Mark, but since I had stated
the punishment in front of the class, I had to act on
it. I remember the scene as if it had occurred this
morning. I walked to my desk, very deliberately
opened my drawer and took out a roll of masking tape.
Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark's desk,
tore off two pieces of tape and made a big X with them
over his mouth. I then returned to the front of the room.
As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing, he
winked at me.
That did it|| I started laughing. The class cheered
as I walked back to Mark's desk, removed the tape, and
shrugged my shoulders. His first words were, "Thank you
for correcting me, Sister."
At the end of the year, I was asked to teach
junior-high math. The years flew by, and before I
knew it Mark was in my classroom again.
He was more handsome than ever and just as polite.
Since he had to listen carefully to my instruction in
the "new math," he did not talk as much in ninth grade
as he had in third.
One Friday, things just didn't feel right.
We had worked hard on a new concept all week, and I
sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated
with themselves and edgy with one another.I had to
stop this crankiness before it got out of hand. So I
asked them to list the names of the other students in
the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space
between each name. Then I told them to think of the
nicest thing they could say about each of their
classmates and write it down. It took the remainder
of the class period to finish their assignment, and as
the students left the room, each one handed me the
papers. Charlie smiled. Mark said, "Thank you for
teaching me, Sister. Have a good weekend."
That Saturday, I wrote down the name of each student
on a separate sheet of paper, and I listed what
everyone else had said about that individual. On
Monday I gave each student his or her list. Before
long, the entire class was smiling.
"Really?" I heard whispered. "I never knew that
meant anything to anyone|" "I didn't know others
liked me so much."
No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. I
never knew if they discussed them after class or with
their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had
accomplished its purpose. The students were happy
with themselves and one another again.
That group of students moved on. Several years later,
after I returned from vacation, my parents met me at
the airport. As we were driving home, Mother asked me
the usual questions about the trip - the weather, my experiences in
general. There was a lull in the conversation. Mother gave Dad
a sideways glance and simply says, "Dad?" My father
cleared his throat as he usually did before something important.
"The Eklunds called last night," he began.
"Really?" I said. "I haven't heard from them in
years. I wonder how Mark is."
Dad responded quietly. "Mark was killed in Vietnam,"
he said. "The funeral is tomorrow, and his parents
would like it if you could attend."
To this day I can still point to the exact spot on
I-494 where Dad told me about Mark.
I had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin
before. Mark looked so handsome, so mature. All I
could think at that moment was, "Mark I would give all
the masking tape in the world if only you would talk to me."
The church was packed with Mark's friends.
Chuck's sister sang "The Battle Hymn of the republic."
Why did it have to rain on the day of the funeral?
It was difficult enough at the graveside. The pastor
said the usual prayers, and the bugler played taps.
One by one those who loved Mark took a last walk by
the coffin and sprinkled it with holy water. I was
the last one to bless the coffin. As I stood there,
one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to
me. "Were you Mark's math teacher?" he asked.
I nodded as I continued to stare at the coffin.
"Mark talked about you a lot," he said.
After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates
headed to Chuck's farmhouse for lunch. Mark's mother
and father were there, obviously waiting for me. "We
want to show you something," his father said, taking a
wallet out of his pocket.
"They found this on Mark when he was killed.
We thought you might recognize it."
Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn
pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been
taped, folded and refolded many times. I knew without
looking that the papers were the ones on which I had
listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates
had said about him.
"Thank you so much for doing that," Mark's mother
said. "As you can see, Mark treasured it." Mark's
classmates started to gather around us.
Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still
have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home."
Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to put his in our
wedding album." "I have mine too," Marilyn said. "It's in
my diary." Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her
pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn
and frazzled list to the group.
"I carry this with me at all times," Vicki said
without batting an eyelash. "I think we all saved our lists."
That's when I finally sat down and cried. I cried for
Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.
Written by: Sister Helen P. Mrosla The density of
people in society is so thick that we forget that life
will end one day. And we don't know when that one day
will be. So please, tell the people you love and care
for, that they are special and important. Tell them,
before it is too late.