Taking a mugger for dinner

Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner. But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn. He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife. “He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you go,'” Diaz says. As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”

The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, “like what’s going on here?” Diaz says. “He asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?'”

Diaz replied: “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me … hey, you’re more than welcome.”You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help,” Diaz says.Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth.

“The manager comes by, the dishwashers come by, the waiters come by to say hi,” Diaz says. “The kid was like, ‘You know everybody here. Do you own this place?'” “No, I just eat here a lot,” Diaz says he told the teen. “He says, ‘But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.'” Diaz replied, “Well, haven’t you been taught you should be nice to everybody?” “Yea, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way,” the teen said.

Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. “He just had almost a sad face,” Diaz says. The teen couldn’t answer Diaz — or he didn’t want to. When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for this bill ’cause you have my money and I can’t pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.” The teen “didn’t even think about it” and returned the wallet, Diaz says. “I gave him $20 … I figure maybe it’ll help him. I don’t know.”

Diaz says he asked for something in return — the teen’s knife — “and he gave it to me.”Afterward, when Diaz told his mother what happened, she said, “You’re the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time, you gave them your watch.”

 

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Ignoring Wisdom

Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan’s destructive tsunami . But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day. “High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” the stone slab reads. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan’s northeastern shore. Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old. Collectively they form a crude warning system for Japan, whose long coasts along major fault lines have made it a repeated target of earthquakes and tsunamis over the centuries.

The markers don’t all indicate where it’s safe to build. Some simply stand – or stood, until they were washed away by the tsunami – as daily reminders of the risk. “If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis,” reads one. In the bustle of modern life, many forgot.More than 12,000 people have been confirmed dead and officials fear the number killed could rise to 25,000 from the March 11 disaster. More than 100,000 are still sheltering in schools and other buildings, almost a month later. A few lucky individuals may move into the first completed units of temporary housing this weekend.

 

“People had this crucial knowledge, but they were busy with their lives and jobs, and many forgot,” said Yotaru Hatamura, a scholar who has studied the tablets.

One stone marker warned of the danger in the coastal city of Kesennuma: “Always be prepared for unexpected tsunamis. Choose life over your possessions and valuables.”

Tetsuko Takahashi, 70, safe in her hillside house, watched from her front window as others ignored that advice. She saw a ship swept a half-mile (nearly a kilometer) inland, crushing buildings in its path.”After the earthquake, people went back to their homes to get their valuables and stow their ‘tatami’ floor mats. They all got caught,” she said. Earlier generations also left warnings in place names, calling one town “Octopus Grounds” for the sea life washed up by tsunamis and naming temples after the powerful waves, said Fumihiko Imamura, a professor in disaster planning at Tohoku University in Sendai, a tsunami-hit city.”It takes about three generations for people to forget. Those that experience the disaster themselves pass it to their children and their grandchildren, but then the memory fades,” he said.

 

 

 

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The angel on the cliff

In those bleak moments when the lost souls stood atop the cliff, wondering whether to jump, the sound of the wind and the waves was broken by a soft voice. “Why don’t you come and have a cup of tea?” the stranger would ask. And when they turned to him, his smile was often their salvation.

For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia’s most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour called The Gap. Local officials say around one person a week commits suicide there, but the man widely regarded as a guardian angel and named a citizen of the year has shepherded countless people away from the edge.

.Each morning, he climbs out of bed, pads over to the bedroom window of his modest, two-story home, and scans the cliff. If he spots anyone standing alone too close to the precipice, he hurries to their side. Some he speaks with are fighting medical problems, others suffering mental illness. Sometimes, the ones who jump leave behind reminders of themselves on the edge — notes, wallets, shoes. Ritchie once rushed over to help a man on crutches. By the time he arrived, the crutches were all that remained.

In his younger years, he would occasionally climb the fence to hold people back while Moya called the police. He would help rescue crews haul up the bodies of those who couldn’t be saved. And he would invite the rescuers back to his house afterward for a comforting drink. But he remains available to lend an ear, though he never tries to counsel, advise or pry. He just gives them a warm smile, asks if they’d like to talk and invites them back to his house for tea. Sometimes, they join him.

“I’m offering them an alternative, really,” Ritchie says. “I always act in a friendly manner. I smile.”

A smile cannot, of course, save everyone; the motivations behind suicide are too varied. But simple kindness can be surprisingly effective. Mental health professionals tell the story of a note left behind by a man who jumped off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way to the bridge, the man wrote, I will not jump.

In 2006, the government recognized Ritchie’s efforts with a Medal of the Order of Australia, among the nation’s highest civilian honors. It hangs on his living room wall above a painting of a sunshine someone left in his mailbox. On it is a message calling Ritchie “an angel that walks amongst us.”One woman he saved, who came back to thank him. He spotted her sitting alone one day, her purse already beyond the fence. He invited her to his house to meet Moya and have tea. The couple listened to her problems and shared breakfast with her. Eventually, her mood improved and she drove home.A couple of months later, she returned with a bottle of champagne. And about once a year, she visits or writes, assuring them she is happy and well.

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Till Death do us part

A devoted Iowa couple married for 72 years died holding hands in the hospital last week, exactly one hour apart.The passing reflected the nature of their marriage, where, “As a rule, everything was done together,” said the couple’s daughter. Gordon Yeager, 94, and his wife Norma, 90, left their small town of State Center, Iowa, on Wednesday to go into town, but never made it. A car accident sent the couple to the emergency room and intensive care unit with broken bones and other injuries. But, even in the hospital, their concerns were each other.

“She was saying her chest hurt and what’s wrong with Dad? Even laying there like that, she was worried about Dad,” said the couple’s son. “And his back was hurting and he was asking about Mom.”When it became clear that their conditions were not improving, the couple was moved into a room together in beds side-by-side where they could hold hands.”They joined hands; his right hand, her left hand,” Gordon Yeager died at 3:38 p.m. He was no longer breathing, but the family was surprised by what his monitor showed.”Someone in there said, ‘Why, then, when we look at the monitor is the heart still beating?'” Sheets recalled. “The nurse said Dad was picking up Mom’s heartbeat through Mom’s hand.””And we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Mom’s heart is beating through him,'” Norma Yeager died exactly an hour later.”Dad used to say that a woman is always worth waiting for,” Dennis Yeager said. “Dad waited an hour for her and held the door for her.”            Story – Tim SJ

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Giving Up Sugar

A woman once came to Gandhi and asked him to please tell her son to give up eating sugar. Gandhi asked the woman to bring the boy back in a week. Exactly one week later the woman returned, and Gandhi said to the boy, “Please give up eating sugar.” The woman thanked the Mahatma, and, as she turned to go, asked him why he had not said those words a week ago.”

Gandhi replied, “Because a week ago, I had not given up eating sugar.”

Courtesy of  Catherine Ingram

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The Silk Parachute

Here is a parable for Easter. The world is at war. The British Isles are cloaked in darkness. Into the midst of this black night a German pilot, his aircraft disabled by hostile fire, bails out to save his life. Perhaps he prays as he plummets to the ground into the heart of enemy territory. Perhaps, as he struggles to release his parachute, he has a flashback image of the girl he left behind and dares not hope to see again. Minutes later his parachute becomes entangled in a tree, and he lies unconscious on the ground.

Dawn breaks. A young woman passes by. She is lost in thought. Her lover has asked her to marry him. She longs to say yes. But who can afford to celebrate a wedding in these dark days? Where will they find the ingredients for a wedding cake? Whatever could she wear for a bridal gown? Warning voices tell her to wait until the war is over—but who knows when that might be, and she loves him and longs to be his bride now…for tomorrow may never come.

And then her reverie is brutally interrupted. She almost stumbles over the German airman lying in her path. Her heart knows what she must do. She covers him gently with her coat and places her jersey under his head. There is still a pulse. There is still life. She fetches help. The casualty will be cared for—at least in his immediate need. Beyond that, who knows?

The next day her path takes her back past the spot where she found him. The torn parachute is still there, caught in the branches. She gazes at it but now, in her mind’s eye, she no longer sees a parachute hanging there in the tree but the possibility of a silk wedding gown, a gift from God. For the next weeks she spends every spare moment with her needle, painstakingly transforming an abandoned parachute into a uniquely beautiful wedding gown.

From his bed in the military hospital, a lonely young German airman, recovering from disaster, sees the bridal couple pass by. His heart leaps with a sudden surge of hope. This time next year, perhaps, he will be with his own young bride once more. He little guesses that this English bride is wearing his parachute.

Story Courtesy of Margaret Silf
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Gandhi and Generosity

A pair of shoes is better than one!

As Gandhi stepped aboard a train one day, one of his shoes slipped off and landed on the track. He was unable to retrieve it as the train was moving.

To the amazement of his companions, Gandhi calmly took off his other shoe and threw it back along the track to land close to the first.

Asked by a fellow passenger why he did so, Gandhi smiled. “The poor man who finds the shoes lying on the track,” he replied, “will now have a pair he can use.”

Courtesy of http://peopleforothers.loyolapress.com/2011/09/23/wisdom-story-75/

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