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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Thoughts of the Kids

kids

A tourist arrived late at the golf course and had to take a young boy of 10 year old as caddie. The boy was tiny and knew next to nothing about the course or the game. And he spoke only 3 words of English.

But because of these 3 words, the tourist made the young boy his caddie for the rest of his stay. After each shot, regardless of the result, the young boy would stamp his foot and shout with feeling, “Damn good shot!”

A woman was deeply hurt by the behavior of her 15 year old son. Each time they went out together he would walk on ahead of her. Was he ashamed of her? One day she asked him.

“Oh Mom, no,” was his embarrassed reply. “It’s just that you look so young that I’m worried my friends will suspect I have a new girlfriend.”

A little girl went to her teacher one day and said, ”M’am, look at my paper!”

She showed her paper and every word in it was misspelled. The teacher looked at her and said, “Kid, I really like your paper – the margins are nice and neat, and your handwriting is clean and readable.”

The girl said, “Thank you M’am. I have really been working hard on it. Next time I’m going to work on my spelling.”

The Horai Box

Kathleen met Albert and his wife Sally at a Christmas party which was held at Kathleen’s home. Sally caught the attention of Kathleen. She never spoke. It was hard to tell whether she was ill, tired or bored. When the tea was served, she hesitantly took a sip, then tried to put the cup and saucer aside. But to do so she had to move the writing box, which Kathleen had inadvertently left on the coffee table. Kathleen noticed as Sally pushed back her chestnut hair and focused on the intriguing box, her dour mask had dropped. She was much younger than she looked – perhaps not yet 30.

The writing box looked like a miniature Japanese tansu, a chest of drawers, but it measured only 20 inches long, 12 inches high, and 8 inches deep. All the corners were covered with thin right-angled black iron, the top compartment had a hinged cover and was only deep enough for a thin charcoal ink block and brushes, and the front was inset with seven drawers of different sizes. Each drawer had its own tiny lock and was painstakingly cut, mitered and assembled with bamboo pegs in place of nails.

“Most Japanese were illiterate in the early 1800s,” Kathleen explained, “These boxes were used by itinerant scribes who carried their writing equipment in them as they went from village to village.”

The attempt to start a conversation proved useless; Sally’s mind was elsewhere again for the rest of the party.

Kathleen received a call from Albert the next day. “I want to apologize for last night,” he said. “Sally suffers from depression. When we were informed that there is a party, I hope new people or the party might cheer her up. I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

Albert continued, “We had a baby three months ago. The baby was strong and healthy when he was born. After being home four days we found him dead in his crib. Doctors called it SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. No warning. No cause. No cure. That’s when Sally went into depression. Doctors gave her tranquilizers and mood elevators, but they only mask the symptoms; they really don’t help.”

After hearing Sally’s story, remembered how Sally’s face lit up when she first saw and touched the writing box, Kathleen emptied all the drawers and cubicles in her Japanese writing box. She found out the address of Albert and Sally from her friends, wrapped the box, enclosed a card, and sent it to them.

However, Kathleen received no thank-you or other acknowledge from Albert and Sally after that.

One year later, Kathleen found her precious little writing box in a package delivered to her. Inside was a letter:

Dear Kathleen,

I know I’ve been remiss in not writing sooner, but perhaps after reading this letter, you will understand my reasons for not doing so – and hopefully forgive me.

I vaguely remember receiving your gift, unwrapping it, then ignoring it as I retreated into my solitude. The next morning, the first thing I saw after waking was the box. An errant beam of sunlight highlighted it, like a spotlight on a single performer in a darkened theater. Its simple lines and exquisite craftsmanship penetrated my muddled mind. I began to perceive elegance and beauty. I played with the drawer, the locks, hinges and drawer pulls, captivated by its detail and precision.

I quickly dressed for the first time since I became ill and went shopping. I bought wax and buffing cloths for my new box. The next day and daily after, I went out looking for pens and inks and papers, exploring new places, meeting new people and thinking of poetry. I started going to the library to read up on Japanese arts and crafts. I learned a lot about the box and the special techniques of Japanese wood crafting. I also learned about Horai, a place where there is no winter and flowers never fade – and by reason of being young at heart, the people always smile. I named my box Horai.

I also went to museum where I could learn even more about the arts and culture of Japan. I am now a docent there. Between my new avocation, museum work and household chores, I was too busy and too excited to be depressed.

At this point, when I was so happy, I suppose I should have written to you, but then I found out I was pregnant. Old fears and doubts resurfaced. In any event, we had a lovely little girl in November – now two months old – at last I find myself free of the past. I can write to you honestly, appreciatively and candidly.

I’ve often wondered why you gave me the box. One day I learned that Horai is also called Shinkiro, which means mirage – the vision of intangible. Now I understood that through intuition you perceived the intangible. You sensed what the gift would do.

I am returning the Horai box, not that I love it less, but so that you may have it in your hand if you ever need it to sustain another hapless soul. Should this never be the case, then I hope it will forever serve as a happy reminder between you and me.

Sincerely and gratefully,
Sally
P.S. Our little girl is named Kathleen.

Cut the Branch

falcon

Once there was a king who received a gift of two magnificent falcons from Arabia. They were peregrine falcons, the most beautiful birds he had ever seen. He gave the precious birds to his head falconer to be trained.

Months passed and one day the head falconer informed the king that though one of the falcons was flying majestically, soaring high in the sky, the other bird had not moved from its branch since the day it had arrived.

The king summoned healers and sorcerers to tend to the falcon, but no one could make the bird fly. He presented the task to the member of his court, but the next day, the king saw through the palace window that the bird had still not moved from its perch.

Having tried everything else, the king thought to himself, “May be I need someone more familiar with the countryside to understand the nature of this problem.”

So he cried out to his court, “Go and get a farmer.”

In the morning, the king was thrilled to see the falcon soaring high above the palace gardens. He said to his court, “Bring me the doer of this miracle.”

The court quickly located the farmer, who came and stood before the king. The king asked him, “How did you make the falcon fly?”

With head bowed, the farmer said, “It was very easy, your highness. I simply cut the branch where the bird was sitting.”

We are all made to fly – to realize our incredible potential as human beings. But instead of doing that, we sit on our branches, clinging to the things that are familiar to us. The possibilities are endless, but for most of us, they remain hidden. We conform to the familiar, the comfortable, the mundane. So for the most part, our lives are mediocre instead of exciting, thrilling and fulfilling.

So let us learn to cut the branch of fear we cling to and free ourselves to the glory of flight.

The Spilt Milk

milk

This is a story about a famous research scientist who had made several very important medical breakthroughs. He was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter who asked him why he thought he was able to be so much more creative than the average person. What set him so far apart from others?

He responded that, in his opinion, it all came from an experience with his mother that occurred when he was about two years old. He had been trying to get a bottle of milk out from the refrigerator when he lost his grip on the slippery bottle and it fell, spilling its contents all over the kitchen floor.

When his mother came into the kitchen, instead of yelling at him, giving him a lecture, or punishing him, she said, “Robert, what a great and wonderful mess you have made! I have rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage has already been done. Would you like to get down and play in the milk for a few minutes before we clean it up?”

Indeed, he did. After a few minutes, his mother said, “You know, Robert, whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you have to clean it up and restore everything to its proper order. So, how would you like to do that? We could use a sponge, a towel, or a mop. Which do you prefer?” He chose the sponge and together they cleaned up the spilled milk.

His mother then said, “You know, what we have here is a failed experiment in how to effectively carry a big milk bottle with two tiny hands. Let’s go out in the back yard and fill the bottle with water and see if you can discover a way to carry it without dropping it.” The little boy learned that if he grasped the bottle at the top near the lip with both hands, he could carry it without dropping it. What a wonderful lesson!

This renowned scientist then remarked that it was at that moment that he knew he didn’t need to be afraid to make mistakes. Instead, he learned that mistakes were just opportunities for learning something new, which is, after all, what scientific experiments are all about. Even though the experiment doesn’t work, we usually learn something valuable from it.

Compassion in the Eyes

It was a bitter cold evening. The old man’s beard was glazed by winter’s frost while he waited for a ride across the river. The wait seemed endless. His body became numb and stiff from the frigid north wind.

He heard the faint, steady rhythm of approaching hooves galloping along the frozen path. Anxiously, he watched as several horsemen rounded the bend. He let the first one pass by without an effort to get his attention. Then another passed by, and another. Finally, the last rider neared the spot where the old man sat. As this one drew near, the old man caught the rider’s eye and said, “Sir, would you mind giving me a ride to the other side? There doesn’t appear to be a passageway by foot.”

Reining his horse, the rider replied, “Sure. Hop aboard.” Seeing the old man was unable to lift his half-frozen body from the ground, the horseman dismounted and helped the old man onto the horse. The horseman took the old man not just across the river, but to his destination, which was just a few miles away.

As they neared the tiny cottage, the horseman’s curiosity caused him to inquire, “Sir, I notice that you let several other riders pass by without making an effort to secure a ride. Then I came up and you immediately asked me for a ride. I’m curious why, on such a cold winter night, you would wait and ask the last rider. What if I had refused and left you there?”

The old man lowered himself slowly down from the horse, looked the rider straight in the eyes, and replied, “I’ve been around here for some time. I reckon I know people pretty good.” He continued, “I looked into the eyes of the other riders and immediately saw there was no concern for my situation. It would have been useless even to ask them for a ride. But when I looked into your eyes, kindness and compassion were evident. I knew, then and there, that your gentle spirit would welcome the opportunity to give me assistance in my time of need.”

Those heart-warming comments touched the horseman deeply. “I’m most grateful for what you have said,” he told the old man. “May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.”

With that, Thomas Jefferson, the President, turned his horse around and made his way back to the White House.

Fifteen Cents

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?”

“Fifty cents,” replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it. “How much is a dish of plain ice cream?” he inquired.

Some people were now waiting for a table and the waitress was a bit impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she said brusquely.

The little boy again counted the coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table, and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and departed. When the waitress came back, she began wiping down the table and then swallowed hard at what she saw. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were fifteen cents – her tip.

Self Appraisal

A little boy went into a drug store, asked the store-owner for a change to use the phone in the store.

The store-owner observed and listened to the conversation.

Boy:  “Lady, Can you give me the job of cutting your lawn?”

Woman (at the other end of the phone): “I already have someone to cut my lawn.”

Boy: “Lady, I will cut your lawn for half the price of the person who cuts your lawn now.”

Woman: “I’m very satisfied with the person who is presently cutting my lawn.”

Boy (with more perseverance): “Lady, I’ll even sweep your house and your sidewalk, so on Sunday you will have the prettiest lawn in town.”

Woman: “No, thank you.”

With a smile on his face, the little boy replaced the receiver. The store-owner, who was listening to all this, walked over to the boy.

Store-owner: “Son … I like your attitude; I like that positive spirit and would like to offer you a job.”

Boy: “No thanks.”

Store Owner: “But you were just pleading for one.”

Boy: “No Sir, I was just checking my performance at the job I already have. I am the one who is working for that lady I was talking to.”