Years ago, a fishing fleet went out from a small harbor on the east coast of Newfoundland. In the afternoon there came a great storm. When night settled down, not a single vessel of all the fleet had found its way into the port.
All night long, wives, mothers, children and sweethearts paced up and down the beach, wringing their hands and calling on God to save their loved ones. To add to the horror of the situation, one of the cottages caught fire. Since the men were all away, it was impossible to save the home.
When the morning broke, to the joy of all, the entire fleet found safe harbor in the bay. But there was none face with a picture of despair - the wife of the man whose home had been destroyed. Meeting her husband as he landed, she cried, Oh, husband, we are ruined! Our home and all it contained was destroyed by fire!"
But the man exclaimed, "Thank God for the fire! It was the light of our burning cottage that guided the whole fleet into port."
A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one would pop up.
Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire, and soon the pots came to boil. In the first pot she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.
Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see."
"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied. Her grandmother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The grandmother then asked the granddaughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the grandmother asked the granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma then asked,
"What does it mean, grandmother?"
Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.
"Which are you?" she asked her granddaughter.
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. "We must do something about Grandfather," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor". So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed their dinners together.
Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.
The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?" Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when you get old." The four year old smiled and went back to work.
The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
A boy and a girl were playing together. The boy had a collection of marbles. The girl had some sweets with her. The boy told the girl that he will give her all his marbles in exchange for her sweets. The girl agreed.
The boy kept the biggest and the most beautiful marble aside and gave the rest to the girl. The girl gave him all her sweets as she had promised.
That night, the girl slept peacefully. But the boy couldn't sleep as he kept wondering if the girl had hidden some sweets from him the way he had hidden his best marble.
There was a king who presented his daughter with a beautiful diamond necklace. The necklace was stolen and his people in the kingdom searched everywhere but could not find it. The king then asked them all to search for it and put a reward for $50,000 for anyone who found it.
One day, a clerk was walking home along a river next to an industrial area. This river was completely polluted and filthy and smelly. As he was walking, the clerk saw a shimmering in the river and when he looked, he saw the diamond necklace. He decided to try and catch it so that he could get the $50,000 reward.
He put his hand in the filthy, dirty river and grabbed at the necklace, but some how missed it and didn't catch it. He took his hand out and looked again and the necklace was still there. He tried again. This time he walked in the river and dirtied his pants in the filthy river and put his whole arm in to catch the necklace.
But strangely, he still missed the necklace! He came out and started walking away, feeling depressed. Then again, he saw the necklace, right there. This time he was determined to get it, no matter what. He decided to plunge into the river. Although it was disgusting, he plunged in and searched everywhere for the necklace. Yet one more time, he failed. This time he was really bewildered and came out feeling very depressed that he could not get the necklace that would get him $50,000.
Just then, a saint who was walking by, saw him, and asked him what was the matter. The clerk didn't want to share the secret with the saint, thinking he might take the necklace for himself, so he refused to tell him anything.
The saint could see this man was troubled. Being compassionate, he again asked the clerk to tell him the problem and promised that he would not tell anyone about it. The clerk mustered some courage and decided to put some faith in the saint. He told him about the necklace and how he tried and tried to catch it, but kept failing.
The saint then told him that perhaps he should try looking upward, toward the branches of the tree, instead of in the filthy river. The clerk looked up and true enough, the necklace was dangling on the branch of a tree. He had been trying to capture a mere reflection of the real necklace all this time.
A long time ago in a remote valley, there lived a farmer. One day he got tired of the daily routine of running the farm and decided to climb the cliffs that brooded above the valley to see what lay beyond.
He climbed all day until he reached a ledge just below the top of the cliff; there, to his amazement was a nest, full of eggs.
Immediately he knew they were eagle's eggs and, even though he knew it was profoundly un-ecological and almost certainly illegal, he carefully took one and stowed it in his pack; then seeing the sun was low in the sky, he realized it was too late in the day to make the top and slowly began to make his way down the cliff to his farm.
When he got home he put the egg in with the few chickens he kept in the yard. The mother hen was the proudest chicken you ever saw, sitting atop this magnificent egg; and the cockerel couldn't have been prouder.
Sure enough, some weeks later, from the egg emerged a fine, healthy egret. And as is in the gentle nature of chickens, they didn't balk at the stranger in their midst and raised the majestic bird as one of theirown.
So it was that the eagle grew up with its brother and sister chicks. It learned to doall the things chickens do: it clucked andcackled, scratching in the dirt for gritsand worms, flapping its wings furiously,flying just a few feet in the air beforecrashing down to earth in a pile of dust andfeathers.
It believed resolutely and absolutely it was a chicken.
One day, late in its life, the eagle-who-thought-he-was-a-chicken happened to look up at the sky. High overhead, soaring majestically and effortlessly on the thermals with scarcely a single beat of its powerful golden wings, was an eagle!
"What's that?!", cried the old eagle in awe. "It's magnificent! So much power and grace! It's beautiful!"
"That's an eagle", replied a nearby chicken, "That's the King of the Birds. It's a bird of the air... not for the likes of us. We'reonly chickens, we're birds of the earth".
With that, they all cast their eyes downwards once more and continued digging in the dirt.
And so it was that the eagle lived and died a chicken... because that's all it believed itself to be.
Deep in his slumber, one night a man had a very real, yet surreal dream. He dreamt that he was walking along the beach with God. As he looked up at the sky, he saw all the scenes of his life flash by along with two sets of footprints: one set for himself, and another for God.
After all the scenes had flashed before him, he looked back at those footprints and noticed something quite disturbing: At the most difficult times in his life, he saw only one set of footprints.
This deeply troubled the man, so he turned and said to God: "You said that if I followed you, then you would always walk with me through thick and thin. In looking back, I see that during the most painful times there is only one set of footprints. Why did you leave me when I needed you the most?"
"I love you and would never leave. It was during those times when you suffered the most that I carried you."
It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man who used to live next door. College, girls, career, life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.
Over the phone, his mother told him, "Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday." Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days. "Jack, did you hear me?" "Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It's been so long since I thought of him. I'm sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago," Jack said. "Well, he didn't forget you. Every time I saw him he'd ask how you were doing. He'd reminisce about the many days you spent over 'his side of the fence' as he put it," Mom told him. "I loved that old house he lived in," Jack said. "You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man's influence in your life," she said. "He's the one who taught me carpentry," he said. "I wouldn't be in this business if it weren't for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important...Mom, I'll be there for the funeral," Jack said.
As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser's funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.
The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture....Jack stopped suddenly. "What's wrong, Jack?" his Mom asked. "The box is gone," he said. "What box? " Mom asked. "There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he'd ever tell me was 'the thing I value most,'" Jack said. It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it. "Now I'll never know what was so valuable to him," Jack said. "I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom."
It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. "Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days," the note read.
Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention."Mr. Harold Belser" it read.
Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack's hands shook as he read the note inside.
"Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It's the thing I valued most in my life." A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch. Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved: "Jack, Thanks for your time! Harold Belser."
"The thing he valued most...was...my time." Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. "Why?" Janet, his assistant asked. "I need some time to spend with my son," he said. "Oh, by the way, Janet...thanks for your time!"
During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one:
'What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?'
Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name?
I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.
'Absolutely,' said the professor. 'In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say 'hello.'
I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.
My mother sent me a bank savings account book on the eve of my wedding. There had $1000.00 in it. My mother smiled and said, 'You both are going to deposit some money in it from time to time, when something is worth for memorable. Besides the money, you both learn that there will have the unlimited of happiness as you both grow old together.'
My husband deposited $500.00 twice later on. Once, he was promoted at work. Another time, I got home after a very successful operation. I felt the absolutely warmest at the bottom of my heart. After all, my good health was the priority of his greatest happiness.
We started fighting a few years later...
My mother said to me, 'First of all, you both spend all the money from your account before the next move!' When we were going for a divorce, I looked into the bank book. I thought on the source of the money. Tears welled up in my eyes because it did accumulated lots of happiness inside. I gave it to him that night. I said, 'Hurry up to spend all the money before we divorce.'
He handed the bank book to me with $1000.00 extra more in it next day.
'This is the first time for me to realize that I'm still very much in love with you, I deposited $1000.00, so.' he said. We were reconciled since then.
Today is our 57th wedding anniversary and we still deposit the money into our account whenever there is something worth for memorable even now.
We know we will celebrate our every wedding anniversary until the end of the rainbow...