What Goes Around

One day a man saw an old lady, stranded on the side of the road, but even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her.

Even with the smile on her face, she looked worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He didn’t look safe; he looked poor and hungry.

He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was that chill which only fear can put in you.

He said, “I’m here to help you, ma’am. Why don’t you wait in the car where it’s warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.”

Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad enough. Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire, but he had to get dirty and his hands hurt.

As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn’t thank him enough for coming to her aid.

Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty who had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way.

He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance they needed, and Bryan added, “And think of me.”

He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn’t erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan.

After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill. The waitress quickly went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, but the old lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the napkin.

There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote, “You don’t owe me anything. I have been there, too. Somebody once helped me out, the way I’m helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do: Do not let this chain of love end with you.”

Under the napkin were four more $100 bills.

Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard….

She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, “Everything’s going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson.”

~Author Unknown~


An Inch

In today’s technological age, we often hear about the wide stretches of the Internet. We are used to telescopes making discoveries in distant planets. How often do you hear about the power of an inch?

That’s right just an inch.

I talked with one of my friends yesterday who is staying in another country. Even though it sounded like he was only a few feet away through the phone, the sound was actually traveling thousands of miles. That’s technology and that’s impressive. But I’ve also been impressed lately by the power of an inch.

You are probably saying now “What do you keep talking about the power of an inch, an inch doesn’t have any power.”

I’m talking about the inch that two muscles of each side of your mouth moves when you smile. It takes tens of muscles to frown but only two to smile. This is a power that every person can wield no matter what economic level they are or how much technology they have.

I began to notice the power when going through checkout lines. If I smiled when I got up to the register, it made the cashiers smile even though they had customer after customer to ring up.

Most of the people probably didn’t even consciously notice they were smiling. It was as if my mouth moving a inch on each side made some kind of unconscious knee jerk kind of reflex happen in their brains. Without using hypnosis or offering people money, you could get people to respond.

You never know what one smile can do to a person’s day.

Imagine a homeless person on the street sitting on a corner with dirty clothes on and everybody passing by not wanting to even look at them because they are afraid of what they might beg for.

Now imagine what it would do for that same person if someone looked them straight in the eyes and gave them a big genuine smile and actually spoke to them first and said “Good afternoon, it’s good to see you today.”

Sometimes work beats us down so much that by the time we get home our children may not see a smile the entire evening.

In some marriages, smiles even among spouses have gone the way of the retired practice of opening a car door during dating. As I even thought about it, a smile and knowledge are two of the only things in life that you can give away and have no less for yourself.

As you go through the day, pay attention to how your facial muscles feel when speak to people in passing. Then try to begin with a smile when you speak to people and notice the difference in their response to you.

We traditionally think we are supposed to smile when we are happy. Maybe the reverse is true too; try looking at yourself in the mirror then give yourself the biggest smile. Now notice how the hormonal response of your brain affects the way you feel. When you smile at yourself in the mirror, do you feel happier, the same, or more sad? Now, imagine what others will feel if you can make yourself feel happier.

Just when you may have thought you had nothing or couldn’t afford to give anything, give a smile.

Give them an inch and they will take a smile.

By James Bronner

Love Big

What a beautiful time of year. When we embrace it, we reflect, appreciate and grow from the last 12 months.

For many there is grieving. The world turns its focus on family and giving, but what if we have no family and feel we have nothing to give? It can be a challenge to step outside of these feelings and maintain the true meanings that can bring us joy. What does this season mean to you? For me, I find great comfort in all of the staples of the season. The snow (even if just pictures), Christmas carols, and most of all, the lights of the Christmas tree. It is a beautiful sight. I enjoy celebrating the birth of Jesus with my family and seeing the wonder in children’s eyes when we talk about Santa Claus. There is beauty to be found amidst some tough times for all of us. The holidays don’t need to be a fairy-tale setting. Like any other time of year, we need to rise above what weighs us down and bring life to selflessness. In that basic act can be huge change.

It can be easy to fall prey to the focus on what we don’t have. The world is telling us what we “need” everyday. The spirit of the holiday and the meanings that are healthy to latch onto fall behind empty homes and shameful displays of holiday shoppers. Like everything else, there are many that ruin the true identity of what something should be. Even giving gets corrupted behind big box sales and “giving for show.” Where did the right reasons go?

This year I took time to be inspired by anonymous giving. Stories like this bring me joy and remind me that despite the tragedies people commit, there is beauty in abundance, and I just need to take a moment to see.

Here are some great stories that the Huffington Post put together of the Top 10 Secret Santas this 2011 holiday season.

Focusing on giving for the right reasons can help us combat some of the depressive emotions that can invade. Create new traditions and reach out for assistance if you need it. It is okay to receive when ends can’t be met. Even when we are faced with the uncertain times and situations, you would be surprised how little acts of kindness can change our moods, and the best part is, it’s contagious.

“Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” – Hafiz of Persia

Love big this holiday season. Look around and focus on the blessings that are begging to be recognized. Leave fear and judgement at the door and pick up the faith that has been knocking. You are stronger than you thought you were and the sun shines brighter than you realize.

Merry Christmas my friends.

Places to Give

About Jessica Kristie

“Poetry is my heart, anchors my soul and documents my journey.”
– Jessica Kristie

Jessica Kristie is the writing curator for ArtPlatform and the co-creator and contributor for the ArtPlatform book “Inspiration Speaks.”

Dreaming in Darkness” is her first volume of poetry that is nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize and a current finalist in the Sharp Writ Awards. Jessica’s second book “Threads of Life” will be released in March 2012 through Winter Goose Publishing.

Jessica has been published in several online and print magazines such as Zouch, Muse, A Writer’s Point of View and TwitArt magazines. You can find all of Jessica’s appearances under her Press Page at JessicaKristie.com

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jessica Kristie discovered her passion for writing as a child. She expels emotion from her heart and mind, sometimes in structure and sometimes in free flow, as a way to heal and understand herself and those around her.

Drawing you close to her world through shared emotion, Jessica hopes to inspire you to heal, to love, and to find your own light while Dreaming in Darkness.

Follow Jessica

Jessica also does freelance editing, writing and design for several publishers, writers, poets and artists.

The Christmas Ten Commandments

1. Thou shalt give thy heart to Christ. Let Him be at the top of thy Christmas list.

2. Thou shalt prepare thy soul for Christmas. Spend not so much on gifts that thy soul is forgotten.

3. Thou shalt not let Santa Claus replace Christ, thus robbing the day of its spiritual reality.

4. Thou shalt not burden the shop girl, the mailman, and the merchant with complaints and demands.

5. Thou shalt give thyself with thy gift. This will increase its value a hundred fold, and he who receiveth it shall treasure it forever.

6. Thou shalt not value gifts received by their cost. Even the least expensive may signify love, and that is more priceless than silver and gold.

7. Thou shalt not neglect the needy. Share thy blessings with many who will go hungry and cold unless thou are generous.

8. Thou shalt not neglect thy church. Its services highlight the true meaning of the season.

9. Thou shalt be as a little child. Not until thou has become in spirit as a little one art thou ready to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.

10. Thou shall not forget to share your joy, peace and faith with those around you.

— Author Unknown

Christmas Callie

Christmas is coming. Ginny and I turn on the Hallmark channel and watch Christmas movies. It’s the time of year to open our hearts and feel the love and life around us. We both have soft hearts and love a good cry.

We paused the movie, as I yelled, “No, Callie! Get away from the tree!”

She was just a tiny ball of gray and beige fur living in the grass and brush behind our apartment. I rescued her a few months before Christmas. Ginny named her Callie because she is a calico.

A week after I rescued her, Ginny looked at me, “Mike, the Christmas tree!”

“Huh?” I looked at Gin. “What about it?”

“Mike, what about your tree? Callie will get in it.”

I thought about my precious ornaments. Many came from my childhood. Some were gifts from a dear friend and expensive. “You’re right, Gin. I never thought about that. I’m sure it will be OK.”

I was wrong!

Ginny and I took a trip to the storage shed, piled the boxes of ornaments and the tree into her daughter’s van and brought them home.

As I put the tree together, Callie climbed the branches. Each layer I added, she climbed higher. “Callie, no!” I yelled – my new mantra. I grew impatient and locked her in the bathroom until I was done.

I spent the evening trying to keep her from the tree. She hid behind my shoes and waited for me to look away. As soon as I turned my head, she ran to the tree, pawed at the lower branches and sprinted away before I could get to her.

We found a water bottle. It could squirt water a good 10 feet. It became my weapon of choice to use on the little tree hugger. I’d notice ornaments swaying and know our grey Christmas destroyer was in the tree again. I peered through the branches and saw her looking back at me with a guilty look that said, “I can’t help myself, daddy. It’s even prettier on the inside looking out.” A few squirts of water from my trusty bottle made her climb out and slink away to lick her wet fur.
We can’t leave her alone in the room where our tree is displayed. Ginny made that mistake once. She went shopping with her daughter one day. When she got in the car, she remembered but knew she’d only be out for a little over an hour. “How much damage can she do in that little bit of time?” she reasoned.

When she got home, all the balls on the lower branches were missing. Callie knocked them all off and played with them. Ginny found them in the kitchen and down the hall.

Callie is a handful, but we love her, tree climbing and all. She cried in the brush. We saved her. It’s her first Christmas. She’s making the best of it.

Michael T. Smith

What Do You Want For Christmas?

A poem sent to Dear Abby from a couple who have too much stuff.
So many of you asked us (since Yuletide’s drawing near)
“What do you want for Christmas? What can we give you this year?
If we say, “We want nothing!” you buy something anyway,
So here’s a list of what we’d like; believe now what we say:
Pajamas for a little child, food to feed the poor.
Blankets for a shelter, and we ask a little bit more–
Perform good deeds and let us know, or volunteer your time.
These last are worth a fortune, and they needn’t cost a dime.
We have to many things now, vases, candles, tapes and clocks.
We have our fill of garments, ties, underwear and socks.
Candy is too fattening, crossword books we’ve more than 20.
We don’t need trays or plates or cups, and knickknacks we have plenty.
We’ve no walls to hang more pictures; we have books we’ve not yet read;
So please take what you’d spend on us and help the poor instead!
Just send a Christmas card to us and tell us what you’ve done;
We’ll open them on Christmas Eve, and read them one by one.
It won’t cost as much for postage as a package sent would do,
You’ll need no wrapping paper, ribbons, ink or glue.
And we’ll thank God you listened to what we had to say,
So we could be the instruments to help someone this way.
— Author Unknown

Sweet Music Man

Sunny Marie Hackman of Lakewood, Colo., tries to stay organized, since she’s a popular speaker, writer, traveler, volunteer and hostess. But each year as Christmas approaches, even she feels overwhelmed by all the extra activities. That’s why, a few Novembers ago, Sunny Marie concluded that she could indeed “handle it all” if her family agreed to one condition. “No extra people here on Christmas Eve,” she warned her husband and three kids. “I want just our family, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Bill and Aunt Mickey—something low-key and relaxing.”

The family shrugged. Sure, if that’s what Mom wanted.

Sunny Marie planned every detail of their Christmas Eve feast. That evening the table sparkled, and wonderful aromas drifted through the house. All the cameras were loaded and musical instruments tuned, in case anyone wanted to pick out a song. It was going to be perfect as soon as Victor, their college-age son, arrived. Then the phone rang.

“Mom.” It was Victor. “Is it okay if I bring home a guy I met on the bus?”

Sunny Marie wanted to scream. Hadn’t everyone promised to let her have one evening just the way she wanted it? The stranger was probably down and out, someone who would cast a grim shadow on her happy plans. 

But it was Christmas Eve. “Bring him home,” she told Victor, sighing.

John was in his mid-forties, nondescript and shy. Conversation was a little stiff, at first, Sunny Marie admits. Hardly the warm and intimate evening she’d planned. But when dinner ended, John went over to the guitar and played a few Christmas carols. Then he switched to the piano and began a medley of “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Amazing Grace,” done with a sweetness she had never heard. Slowly the realization dawned. She had done the right thing tonight, making room for John. But there had been no love in her heart.  And wasn’t love the meaning of Christmas? 

She looked up and John’s eyes met her’s. In his gaze was everything—awareness, tenderness, yes and forgiveness, too. He knew, she realized. But how? 

The song ended, and John stood. “That was my gift to you,” he told her quietly, and picked up his jacket.

Sudden tears flooded her eyes. “Wait!” She grabbed her camera as did the other guests.  “Can we take some pictures of you?”

John smiled. “You can, if you want to,” he said, “but they won’t turn out.”

Sunny Marie understood. She had been given a glimpse of Christmas in another place, and it could never be the same again. “I think I’ve seen an angel, “she told her husband later that evening, still in awe.

He wasn’t sure she was right. But later, when everyone’s photos were developed —and John’s image did not appear in any of them—he had to agree.