RAW ENERGY HOTLINE
When I hear stories like those below, I know the meaning of Thanksgiving is in the everyday kindnesses we show each other. Thanksgiving is not a single day, but an attitude we carry with us... daily.
by Brandy Gerhardt
Editor: Joyce Schowalter
It was my day off and I was browsing a thrift store when I came across a beautiful dress. A dress to make one linger and mutter hopeful promises: "Well, I'll get it and then lose twenty pounds!" Reluctantly, I dragged myself away, but the cascade of pansies in purple and sunshine drew me back. Five minutes later I headed back to my car, the shocked and foolish owner of a dress two sizes too small!
Before going home, I decided to visit a new client on my way. The pansy dress lay in its bag on the seat beside me. I glanced down at it, baffled by my foolishness. Whatever had possessed me?
I could hear the slow shuffling thump of a walker on the other side of the door as I waited for Ms. Smith to answer my knock. Finally, the door opened and she awkwardly hopped her walker back to let me in and offered a small, worn smile. I followed her into a tiny, tidy living room where she sat down with a weary sigh. Her right leg was in a cast from the knee down.
I settled in on the couch across from her and glanced around. A wall hanging caught my eye. "My goodness! That looks exactly like a dress I have," I said in amazement.
Ms. Smith followed my gaze and brightened, "Oh, yes! Those are my favorite colors and pansies are my favorite flowers."
On impulse I ran out to my car and got the dress to show her the perfect match. Then I busied myself with her assessment, the dress lying forgotten beside me. Pen poised, I glanced up at Ms. Smith who seemed quiet and a bit unresponsive. She was gazing at the pansy dress. Slightly embarrassed, she looked my way. "Would you...do you mind...if I try it on?" she asked in a timid voice. It took a split second of silence for me to recover, "Oh. Yes! No! Please do!"
She positioned her walker and, with difficulty, rose from her chair. I handed her the dress and she slowly thumped part way into her kitchen. Getting out of one dress and into another when you have six legs and a cast is no easy feat, but we managed. I zipped her up and stood back. She maneuvered her walker around and slowly shuffled toward the bedroom mirror.
Watching her, I swallowed over the lump in my throat. What on earth had made me think that because my clients are so often stuck at home with bodies that betray them, they have lost their longing to look pretty in pansies?
Maybe I wasn't shopping for myself that day, after all. Because Ms. Smith looked marvelous in her new pansy dress!
by Janet Williams
Editor: Joyce Schowalter
I was in Texas in December of 1982, 29, newly divorced and far from my California family. I wanted to go home. I hooked our car to a huge rented van, loaded up my 9-year-old daughter, two cats, a guinea pig, and four hermit crabs, and started across the country.
They provided a stick-shift truck, not my request, as I'd never driven a truck. Intense rain poured as we left Austin. I was in a 20-foot truck, car in tow, with a 9-year-old asking if we were there yet. It was extremely nerve-wracking driving over mountains, through cities and down long highways.
The rain turned to light snow, yet at dark I saw no headlights. I pulled over and turned the truck off -- all the lights came on. I started the engine and the lights went off. I wanted to cry, but didn't want to scare my daughter.
With just an occasional 18-wheeler on the road, I started driving five miles an hour in the dark, letting the right tire ride the road's edge like Braille. Soon a big truck came up behind, went by fast, hit his brakes, then sped off. I said my thanks and edged back onto the shoulder.
Soon another truck came up fast, nearly stopped right beside me, laid on his horn, then moved into the left lane, so I moved into the right lane.
He drove alongside letting me use his headlights to see, then suddenly honked three times and sped off. As I crept back to the shoulder, another truck came up behind me. When near he honked three times and moved over.
Incredible! Truck after truck, one stayed beside me until another was close enough to take over. They took me all the way to Fort Stockton, hours and hours of truckers slowing down enough to pull me along.
At Fort Stockton the last truck honked goodbye and I drove into the outskirts of town. Then a Highway patrol flashed his lights at me. I didn't know how to get the truck fixed, it was 3:00 a.m., I was cold and tired, and now I had a ticket for no lights.
The officer said, "I've been waiting for you." Why, I asked. His beautiful Texas accent replied, "Aren't you the truck with no lights? We've heard about you for hours." I burst into tears. He told me, "Don't worry, we called the guy who repairs these trucks and told him to arrive early for you," and he escorted me to a nearby motel.
We broke down in every state. Austin to Los Angeles took three and a half days, and we only stayed in a motel that night. But I never got scared again like I had been that first part of the trip, because each of those truckers gave me courage and strength for the rest of the trip.
Don't Bother Him!
by Jim Emmons
Editor: Joyce Schowalter
In 1979, I had been in the U.S Air Force about six years, and stationed five months at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. I was a ground radio operator, normally a very boring job.
That changed 11 February, when we received a call from the U.S. European Command Operations Center (ECOC). Problems in Iran necessitated that we change one radio to a common frequency and "help". Thus began a month of 16-hour shifts, six days on, one-half day off. Remember, this was before the "Iran Hostage Crisis", before Americans were targets, and before cell phones and satellite communication.
Early one afternoon, a ham radio operator in Teheran broke into our radio traffic, difficult to do with so much information flowing over this single frequency. "Bill" was a State Department employee with radio equipment in his apartment. He had already sent his wife and children back to the States for safety.
Bill said calmly that the new Iranian Revolutionary Guard were coming to his apartment building for Americans, arriving "soon". Their intent, as relayed to him by his Muslim neighbors, was to take Americans to the Secret Police headquarters and shoot them.
He asked us to call his wife and let her know that his last thoughts were of her and their children. He gave his name, his wife's name, phone number, and address. Then Bill said that he thought he heard the Guard coming up the stairs, so he must sign off. As he did, several people came on the air and wished him good luck.
I relayed the message to the ECOC and the National Military Command Center in Washington, D.C. Each said they'd take care of it.
For about five minutes, there was dead silence on the air. Then back to business as usual, handling radio traffic from many officials in Iran needing to transmit messages. We didn't forget Bill, but we had business to conduct that would, we hoped, save other people's lives.
An hour after he signed off, Bill called again to tell us what had happened. Dead silence from all the other stations.
While the Revolutionary Guard came up to Bill's floor, he signed off and hid the radio under his bed, still plugged in, still hot. When the two Guards came into his apartment, they beat him with their fists and rifle butts. They searched the apartment, but just as they neared the bedroom, his Muslim next-door neighbors came in and started haranguing the Guards.
They shouted in Farsi that this was a good man. Why were they bothering him? The Guards threatened to take the neighbors out and shoot them for helping an American. The neighbors kept insisting that Bill was good, to leave him alone. After a few minutes, the Guards gave up, gave Bill a few extra whacks with their rifles, and left.
Two languages. Two religions. Two countries. And one group of brave people who were willing to risk their lives to save one man.
of Those Days
By C. Bakke
Editor: Joyce Schowalter
We've all had them. An "It's been one of those days" days. It starts out bad, moves to worse and then gets horrible. Everything that can go wrong, does. The sort of day where the car breaks down, the toilet overflows, the kids fight, the freezer starts making chunk-chunk-chunk noises and the cat tangles with a skunk.
That's what I was having. As the day wore on, I started preparing dinner. Midway through the recipe, I realized I was out of salt. I grabbed my driver's license, a single check, jumped into my car and drove to a neighborhood grocery store. Along with the salt I picked up a few extra things, and headed for the check out stand. At the register I wrote the check for the required $12.51 and the clerk bagged my items. Then I noticed the salt -- the one thing I'd actually come for -- still in the shopping cart. I handed it to the cashier, "I'll have to come back for this. I forgot to take it out of the cart."
She picked it up and said, "It's only 35 cents. Why not just pay for it with cash?"
I explained I'd run out of the house with only a single check and my drivers' license. "I don't have cash to make a phone call if my car dies on the way home -- and believe me, it's been one of those days." Then the cashier, whom I'd never seen before, said, "Oh, one of those days, huh?" She pulled a dollar bill from her smock pocket and rang up the salt. Then she insisted I take the change! She explained she always kept a few singles in her pocket for such emergencies. "It's what I do to make the world a nicer place," she told me.
I am the editor of two national magazines. I live in a big house and drive a fancy convertible. But here was a work-hard-for-a-living cashier handing me a dollar bill and paying for my canister of salt with her own money. That kind gesture turned my entire day from frowns to smiles. A week later I returned to the store and found the same cashier. I handed her 20 single dollar bills. She immediately protested, saying she'd given me only one dollar. I explained that my own life was often too hectic and crazy to allow time for many of the nicer things, like she had done. "Please make the world a little bit brighter for another 20 people like you did for me, as a personal favor to me."
After a bit more arguing she agreed to put the 20 singles into her pocket and let me -- in a very small way -- help her rescue people in a predicament. It's little things like what she did for me that day that truly make this a brighter world, and I'll always remember her for her example.
Just a Little Thing
by Carolyn Fansler
Editor: Joyce Schowalter
It was the winter of 1978. I went to work that morning in a really bad mood. I can't remember why, but it felt like a dark cloud hung over my head. The weather was miserable, cold and damp, which probably greatly influenced how I felt. The forecast called for snow through early afternoon. I had a feeling it would be a very bad day.
I parked my car in the outdoor lot, entered the building and made my way to my desk. I needed time to get a cup of tea and adjust my mood, but it was not to be. My boss was already there, needing my help immediately. My in-box held a huge stack of papers and a meeting was starting that I had to attend. I forced myself to be as cheerful as possible and hide my grumpiness.
Lunchtime came and went with no time for a break -- or even a vending machine snack. My office mates talked and laughed as they returned from lunch breaks. Usually, that didn't bother me, but this day, it caused my mood to darken further.
There were no windows near my desk, but other people commented that it was snowing hard. Several inches were on the ground and people were planning to leave early. Obviously, I couldn't -- with a 5 o'clock deadline every second was needed.
That evening I was the last one to leave. By then I was pretty mad and feeling awfully sorry for myself. I wasn't looking forward to cleaning snow off my car in the dark. The snow had stopped, but there were at least five inches on the ground.
Turning the corner of the building into the parking lot, I saw my car. It was completely free of snow. Someone had cleaned every inch of it away. It looked like it had been parked inside a garage all day.
I just stood there with my mouth open. Immediately my mood lightened. I started to smile and then laugh. More than 25 years have passed and I still remember that feeling as if it happened yesterday.
The next day, I asked around to find out who had done it. Mike told me that he knew I was working furiously to get my projects done and having a hard day. He didn't want me to spend time alone in a dark parking lot cleaning off my car. He said, "It was just a little thing". I thanked him and told him that his "little" thing was a big deal to me.
Even now, every time it snows and I'm cleaning off my car, I smile and remember what Mike did for me. Whenever I have the time and opportunity, I brush off at least one other car besides mine. Every time it makes me feel as good as I did the night Mike cleaned my car for me.
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