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Childless, his Strong Arms were Loving

Childless, his Strong Arms were Loving

BabySometimes things just aren’t the way they seem. As we all know, it is so easy to judge people by their outward behavior, only to get pleasantly surprised to find out there is much more lurking inside. I am reminded of a TV character from years ago. For those of you who watched the program, Mash, you’ll recall that Colonel Potter (played by the late Harry Morgan) was a tough taskmaster. But the more programs we watched, the more we learned he was a softy at heart.

Students at St. Francis High School near L. A. thought they knew Jim O’Connor, their calculus teacher. On the surface, in the classroom, they found the 70-year-old vet of Viet Nam to be crusty and hard-nosed. In a story reported by Steve Hartman (12/21/13), they learned about a whole new dimension.

First, when they showed up for a blood drive at Children’s’ Hospital, they found out that Mr. O’Connor’s name was on a plaque. He was at the top of a listing of blood donors. Then they were most surprised to hear hospital staff refer to their teacher in glowing terms. They found out that, in addition to donating blood, he had also volunteered in a most unexpected way—he held sick babies, often feeding them. He wanted to give the parents a break, and the babies usually enjoyed his loving attention. Nurses reported he had a special knack for calming the babies down.

The students were surprised and thrilled to hear Jim O’Connor had such a soft side. And they were astounded when told that the unmarried, childless, man had not been loving on these sick babies for just a few years. Would you believe three times a week for twenty years? Hats off to you, Jim O’Connor, for demonstrating such Love Lived Large.

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How Sweet it Was

How Sweet it Was

sweet-potato-pie-25448_640[The perpetrator of the crime referenced below, Dylann Roof, was recently convicted and sentenced to death. Let us focus on a more positive side of this story.]

As the rest of the nation was astounded by the sweet healing that started immediately after the tragic shooting of nine black church members (June,’15) by a white supremacist in Charleston, S. C. something else involving sweet love was taking place in far-away Minnesota.

As reported in the Minneapolis StarTribune (8-19-15), members of the Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley (a suburb of Mpls.) organized a pie-baking event, with support from the G. V. Community Foundation. They were intent on bringing their love through pies, to be delivered to the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston.

And these were not your ordinary apple pies. No, they were sweet potato pies—so important to the southern and African-American cultures. Over fifty pies were delivered directly to the Bible study group who tragically lost nine members. But what do a bunch of Scandinavians know about sweet-potato pie? Reports are they tasted terrific (“best since mom’s”), although maybe the extra love behind them made them taste extra sweet to the biased taste testers.

The response of the church community was most positive and overwhelming, with one church member calling the pies “food for the soul.”  Local media even covered the event the day of the delivery. A Charleston Council member was a direct recipient.

The driving force behind this effort was Rose McGee, a retired educator, who believes in the special value of baked goods in human relations. (She has delivered a “TED” talk on the power of pies.) She commented that the recipients “recognized the power and love that was demonstrated.”

Without a doubt, Love Lived Large in this extraordinary pie-making effort. But it was just a small piece of the love that abounded throughout the Charleston community in the weeks and months that followed. A grateful nation, so weary of the tragedies in Ferguson, MO, has watched in amazement.

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When Ordinary is Really Extraordinary

When Ordinary is Really Extraordinary

hands togetherThey call themselves “12 Ordinary Women.” No doubt they chose the word, “ordinary,” to show they are no different from you or me. But therein lies the irony. They typically go above and beyond what the rest of us would think to do. And now their movement is spreading. From Franklin, Tennessee, where the organization was founded, to Texas, Minnesota, Florida, and who knows where else. The ground is indeed fertile.

The group’s work entails two key components: connecting with someone in need, and anonymously delivering care packages of hope. As reported in the Minneapolis StarTribune (Natalie Daher, 8-18-15), one example of this group’s good work took place in the Twin Cities this past August. The group had discovered that a single mom with four children (three on the autism spectrum) was having a garage sale. She hoped it would help meet their financial needs for the upcoming school year, including tuition to a special school for one of the children.

Who would show up at her driveway but a group of anonymous, ordinary women? They came bearing a basket laden with hope, including gift cards for groceries and gasoline, school notebooks, a book of encouragement, and a children’s Bible. The gesture understandably brought the single mom to tears.

“12 Ordinary Women”, which tries hard to retain its anonymity in each instance, also tries to think of gifts appropriate to the need. Gifts have included a dozen hand-written letters, a computer for a high school graduate, a photo shoot for her children for a dying mother, and even tickets to a professional baseball game. Often the focus is more about creating hope, rather than financial aid.

The original group maintains a blog at: http://www.12ordinarywomen.com. Offshoot groups have also sprung up, such as “12 Ordinary Joes” and “12 Ordinary Families.” The founder of the group sums up things nicely, citing the proverb “blest be the gift and the giver alike.” She adds, “I think there’s more blessing for all of us who give than there will ever be for a recipient.” Thanks, “12 Ordinary Women” for being extraordinary with your Love Lived Large.

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Finding Love in a Small Town

Finding Love in a Small Town

 

I’ve lived most of my life on the outskirts of a large city (Mpls.), but I’ve often wondered about the appeal of a smaller town. Some of the good folks of Balsam Lake, WI, could give us all a lesson or two.

They’ve figured out how to adopt a 64-year-old chronic evader of the law. As reported by Boyd Huppert of Kare 11 television station on May 10, 2016, Danny Amos was released from prison last year after a life of crime that began at the age of eleven. Parole officer Nichole Strom had to figure out how best to integrate him into the community. Danny left prison with mothing more than the clothes on his back, a check for $3.70, and a crime sheet six inches thick. With no family, nor support group, Danny’s chances of success were slim. Nicole turned to her church, the Alliance Church of the Valley, for help.

Members there responded to the challenge, becoming mentors to Danny. In effect they had to teach him how to live life all over again. Among other things, he knew nothing about how to buckle his seat belt, how to operate a can opener, or even what size underwear to buy. Doors that opened automatically at Walmart startled him.

Danny began his new life in a homeless shelter—the same facility that had housed a jail cell from which he once escaped. A retired courthouse worker who saw him take off that day, Dorene Hendrickson, now rents a house to Danny, who has been fixing up the once vacant home with the help of donations from the community.

Now a member of the Alliance Church, Danny also spends time on church projects. In return, other church members have taught him how to drive, how to cook, and how to fish—a must for someone living in a town named after a lake.

Danny appreciates his new freedom and vows to never go back to his old life. He hopes one day to help other inmates with their transitions back into society. Danny has indeed turned his life around. Many thanks must go to Love Lived Large  by some good folks in Balsam Lake, WI.

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