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Highlighted in Yellow
A Short Course in Living Wisely and Choosing Well
By H. Jackson Brown Jr., Rochelle Pennington
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2001 H. Jackson Brown, Jr., and Rochelle Pennington
All rights reserved.
The Radio Quiz
Kindness. I came to fully understand its impact in only a few short minutes while taking one of the more important examinations of my life.
The test was oral. The test giver was a radio announcer. The classroom was my car.
While traveling along in the rain on a Monday morning, a voice coming from the little speaker next to my steering wheel asked, "Can you name the last Nobel Peace Prize winner?" I knew I should remember, but the name escaped me. While I was trying to think, more questions were asked: "Can you name a recent Pulitzer Prize winner?" Again, I couldn't. "Can you name athletes who received gold medals in the last Olympics? Or the last woman to be crowned Miss America?"
Or ... or ... or. No ... no ... no. Music, literature, art, government officials, scientists—I was zero for zero and wondering how many other listeners were answering correctly.
And then it happened. A question was asked that I could answer: "Can you name the last person who told you they loved you?" My heart melted as I remembered, vividly and without hesitation, my children running for the bus that morning, yelling over their shoulders simultaneously, "Love you!"
Another question, and again I had the answer. "Can you name the last person who hugged you?" Certainly. Most definitely.
Still others: "Can you name a person who showed you kindness recently?" Of course. "Can you name a person to whom you showed a kindness recently?" Again, of course. Yes, of course. "Can you name someone whose smile makes a difference in your day? Or a teacher whose dedication made a difference in your life?" Yes, yes, I know. Oh, who to choose? There are so many.
The announcer spoke of the friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers who touch our lives, and I continued to smile. He spoke of helpfulness, of generosity, of thoughtfulness and charity. I felt like laughing out loud. What a way to start one's day! And on a Monday. In the rain.
Kindness matters. It is longed for and lived for. The mighty accomplishments and praiseworthy achievements of the past may be chiseled in stone, but it is the quiet and lovely acts of kindness that are written on our hearts.
1 * Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
We have committed the Golden Rule to memory. Now let us commit it to life. —Edwin Markham
* * *
2 * Make it a habit to do nice things for people who'll never find out.
That best portion of a good man's life, his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love. —William Wordsworth
* * *
3 * Feed a stranger's expired parking meter.
Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good; try using ordinary situations. —Jean Paul Richter
* * *
4 * When someone you know is down and out, mail them a twenty-dollar bill anonymously.
Kindness is the inability to remain at ease in the presence of another person who is ill at ease, the inability to remain comfortable in the presence of another who is uncomfortable, the inability to have peace of mind when one's neighbor is troubled. —Rabbi Samuel H. Holdenson
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5 * Be kinder than necessary.
Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. —Henry James
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6 * Carry a couple of inexpensive umbrellas in your car that you can give to people caught in the rain.
Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day. —Sally Koch
* * *
7 * Be open and accessible. The next person you meet could become your best friend.
Behave toward everyone as if receiving a great guest. —Confucius
* * *
8 * Never underestimate the power of a kind word or deed.
It takes so little to make people happy—just a touch, if we know how to give it, just a word fitly spoken, or a slight readjustment of some bolt or pin or bearing in the delicate machinery of a human soul. —Frank Crane
* * *
I expect to pass through this world hut once. Therefore if there be any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again. —William Penn
* * *
9 * Seek out the good in people.
I will speak ill of no man, and speak all the good I know of everybody. —Benjamin Franklin
* * *
10 * When you pass a family riding in a big U-Haul truck, give them the "thumbs-up" sign. They need all the encouragement they can get.
Giving is so often thought of in terms of the gifts we give, but our greatest giving is of our time, and kindness, and even comfort for those who need it. We look on these little things as unimportant—until we need them. —Joyce Hifler
The Circle of a Good Deed Returns
It happened decades ago in Scotland. "Help me! Help me! Someone please help me!" came the screams from a nearby bog. A poor Scottish farmer heard those cries and ran into the dangerous area to aid. There he found a boy sinking in thick, black muck. It was nearly too late for the child to be rescued, but with the farmer's help, the boy was saved.
A knock was heard at the farmer's cottage the next day. Opening the door, the peasant was greeted by a wealthy gentleman—perhaps royalty—who arrived in a stately carriage. The poor man was confused why someone of such obvious stature had come to call upon him. His question would soon be answered.
"You saved my son yesterday, and I am here to give you a reward," spoke the fine gentleman. The farmer, however, could not accept any of the money offered to him. The rich gentleman, desperately wanting to bestow a gift of gratitude on the man for his heroic deed, looked into the humble abode and spotted a young boy. "Since you helped my son, I will help yours," said the gentleman. "If you will allow me to take your child with me, I will see that he receives the finest education available in all of the country." The poor man smiled and accepted the offer.
The generous promise was kept, and the Scotsman's son later graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London. Because of the educational gift he had received from the wealthy gentleman, the poor farmer's son, in turn, gave a gift to the world: he discovered penicillin. His name was Sir Alexander Fleming.
The nobleman's son's life would be threatened for a second time. Now grown, he lay dying of pneumonia. Ironically, it was the poor farmer's son who saved him this time when penicillin was prescribed. The nobleman, Lord Randolph Churchill, had provided for the education of Sir Alexander Fleming, and that education had saved his son, Winston Churchill.
11 * Whenever you hear an ambulance siren, say a prayer for the person inside.
More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. —Alfred, Lord Tennyson
* * *
12 * Never allow a friend to grieve alone.
Friendship improves happiness and abates misery by doubling our joy and dividing our grief. —Joseph Addison
* * *
13 * Be there when people need you.
If someone comes to you asking for help, do not say in refusal, "Trust in God; He will help." Rather, act as if there were no God and no one to help except you. —Zaddik
* * *
14 * Practice empathy. Try to see things from other people's point of view.
Be kind—everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. —Plato
* * *
15 * Remember that the nicest thing you can do for yourself is to do something nice for someone else.
If you were to go around asking people what would make them happier, you'd get answers like "a new car," "a bigger house," "a raise in pay," or "winning the lottery." Probably not one in a hundred would say "a chance to help people," and yet that is what brings about the most happiness of all. —George Burns
* * *
16 * Call three friends on Thanksgiving and tell them how thankful you are for their friendship.
Hold a true friend with both hands. —Nigerian Proverb
Is There a Santa Claus?
6:00 P.M., December 23, 1961. I am writing this en route from New York to Los Angeles by plane. When I get home to Honolulu tomorrow, I must have a Christmas story ready to tell to the neighborhood children. They have asked me to title it, "Is There a Santa Claus?" How can I possibly give an honest answer to skeptical youngsters?
I hope we get to Los Angeles on time. Almost everyone aboard has a connection to make.
8:10 P.M. The pilot has just given us bad news. Los Angeles is fogged in; no aircraft can land. We have to detour to Ontario, California, an emergency field not far from Los Angeles.
3:12 A.M., December 24. With one problem and another, we have just landed in Ontario—six hours behind schedule. Everyone is cold, exhausted, hungry, and irritable. All of us have missed our connections. Many will not make it home by Christmas Eve. I am in no mood to make up a story about Santa Claus.
7:15 A.M. I am writing this at the Los Angeles airport. A lot has happened in the last four hours. The airfield at Ontario was bedlam. Scores of Los Angeles-bound planes had to land there. The frantic passengers—over 1,000 of them—had hoped to get word to their families that they would be late. But the telegraph office was closed, and there were endless lines at the telephone booths. No food. No coffee.
The employees at the small terminal were just as frenzied and fatigued as the passengers. Everything went wrong. Baggage was heaped helter-skelter, regardless of destination. No one seemed to know which buses would go where, or at what time. Babies were crying; women were screaming questions; men were grumbling and being sarcastic. The mob pushed and jostled, like a swarm of frightened ants, in the effort to find luggage. It hardly seemed possible that this was the day before Christmas.
Suddenly, amid the nervous commotion, I heard a confident, unhurried voice. It stood out like a great church bell—clear, calm and filled with love.
"Now don't you worry, ma'am," the voice said. "We're going to find your luggage and get you to La Jolla in time. Everything's going to be just fine." This was the first kind, constructive statement I had heard in a long while.
I turned and saw a man who might have stepped right out of The Night Before Christmas. He was short and stout, with a florid, merry face. On his head was some sort of official cap, the kind that sightseeing guides wear. Tumbling out beneath were cascades of curly white hair. He wore hunting boots, as if, perhaps, he had just arrived after a snowy trip behind a team of reindeer. Pulled snugly over his barrel chest and fat tummy was a red sweatshirt.
The man stood next to a homemade pushcart, composed of an enormous packing box resting on four bicycle wheels. It contained urns of steaming coffee and piles of miscellaneous cardboard cartons.
"Here you are, ma'am," said the unusual man with the cheerful voice. "Have some hot coffee while we look for your luggage."
Pushing the cart before him, pausing only long enough to hand coffee to others, or to say a cheerful "Merry Christmas to you, brother!" or to promise that he would be back to help, he searched among the sprawling piles of luggage. Finally, he found the woman's possessions. Placing them on the push-cart, he said to her, "You just follow me. We'll put you on the bus to La Jolla."
After getting her settled, Kris Kringle (that's what I had started calling him) returned to the terminal. I found myself tagging along and helping him with the coffee. I knew that any bus wouldn't leave for about an hour.
Kris Kringle cut a swath of light through the dismal field. There was something about him that made everyone smile. Dispensing coffee, blowing a child's nose, laughing, singing snatches of Christmas songs, he calmed panicky passengers and sped them on their way.
When a woman fainted, it was Kris Kringle who pushed through the helpless group around her. From one of his cartons, he produced smelling salts and a blanket. When the woman was conscious again, he asked three men to carry her to a comfortable settee and told them to use the loudspeaker system to find a doctor.
Who is this funny little man who gets things done, I wondered. I asked him, "What company do you work for?"
"Sonny," he said to me, "see that kid over there in the blue coat? She's lost. Give her this candy bar, and tell her to stay right where she is. If she wanders around, her mother won't ever find her."
I did as ordered, then repeated, "What company do you work for?"
"Shucks, I'm not working for anyone. I'm just having fun. Every December I spend my two weeks' vacation helping travelers. It's my Christmas present to myself.
"What with this rush season, there are always thousands who need a hand. Hey, look what we have over here."
He had spotted a tearful young mother with a baby. Winking at me, Kris Kringle perked his cap at a jaunty angle and rolled his cart over to them. The woman was sitting on her suitcase, clutching her baby.
"Well, well, sister," he said, "that's a mighty pretty baby you have. What's the trouble?"
Between sobs, the young woman told him that she hadn't seen her husband for over a year. She was to meet him at the hotel in San Diego. He wouldn't know what had delayed her and would worry, and the baby was hungry.
From the pushcart, Kris Kringle produced a bottle of warmed milk. "Now don't you worry. Everything will be all right," he said.
As he guided her to the bus for Los Angeles—the one I was to leave on—he wrote down her name and the name of the hotel in San Diego. He promised her that he would get a message to her husband.
"God bless you," she said, climbing aboard and cradling the now sleeping child in her arms. "I hope you have a merry Christmas and receive many wonderful presents."
"Thank you, sister," he said, tipping his cap. "I've already received the greatest gift of all, and you gave it to me. Ho, ho," he went on, seeing something of interest in the crowd, "there's an old fellow in trouble. Good-bye, sister. I'm going over there to give myself another present."
He got off the bus. I got off, too, since the bus wouldn't leave for a few minutes. He turned to me. "Say," he said, "aren't you taking the jalopy to Los Angeles?"
"Okay, you've been a good assistant. Now I want to give you a Christmas present. You sit next to the lady and look after her and the baby. When you get to Los Angeles"—he fished out a piece of paper—"telephone her husband at this hotel in San Diego. Tell him about his family's delay."
He knew what my answer would be because he left without even waiting for a reply. I sat down next to the young mother and took the baby from her. Looking out the window, I saw Kris Kringle in his bulging red sweatshirt disappearing into the crowd.
The bus started. I felt good. I began thinking of home and Christmas. And I knew then how I would answer the question of the children in my neighborhood: "Is there a Santa Claus?"
I had met him.
—William J. Lederer
* * *
A pessimist, they say, sees a glass of water as being half-empty; an optimist sees the same glass as half-full. But a giving person sees a glass of water and starts looking for someone who might be thirsty. —G. Donald Gale
* * *
17 * Rekindle old friendships.
Go oft to the house of a friend, for weeds choke up the unused path. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
* * *
18 * Remember that the people on our planet are not standing in a line single file. Look closely. Everyone is really standing in a circle, holding hands. Whatever you give to the person standing next to you, it eventually comes back to you.
There is a destiny that makes us brothers; None goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others Comes back into our own. —Edwin Markham
19 * When you see someone sitting alone on a bench, make it a point to speak to them.
When you carry out acts of kindness you get a wonderful feeling inside. It is as though something inside your body responds and says, "Yes, this is how I ought to feel." —Rabbi Harold Kushner
* * *
20 * Let people pull in front of you when you're stopped in traffic.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. —Aesop
Excerpted from Highlighted in Yellow by H. Jackson Brown Jr., Rochelle Pennington. Copyright © 2001 H. Jackson Brown, Jr., and Rochelle Pennington. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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