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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

The Last Runner

The annual marathon usually occurs during a heat wave. Lisa’s job was to follow behind the runners in an ambulance in case any of them needed medical attention. The driver and her were in an air-conditioned ambulance behind thousands of athletes waiting to hear the sharp crack of the starting gun.

“We’re supposed to stay behind the last runner, so take it slowly,” Lisa said to the driver, Doug, as they began to creep forward.

“Let’s just hope the last runner is fast!” Doug laughed.

As the runners began to pace themselves, the front runners started to disappear. It was then that Lisa noticed the woman in blue silk running shorts and a baggy with T-shirt.

“Doug, look!”

They knew they were already watching their “last runner”. Her feet were turned in, yet her left knee was turned out. Her legs were so crippled and bent that it seemed impossible for her to be able to walk, let alone run a marathon.

Lisa and Doug watched in silence as she slowly moved forward. They didn’t say a word. They would move forward a little bit, then stop and wait for her to gain some distance. Then they’d slowly move forward a little bit more.

As Lisa watched the woman struggle to put one foot in front of the other, she found herself breathing for her and urging her forward. She wanted the woman to stop, and at the same time, she prayed that she wouldn’t.

Finally, the woman was the only runner left in sight. Tears streamed down Lisa’s face as she sat on the edge of her seat and watched with awe, amazement and even reverence as the woman pushed forward with sheer determination through the last miles.

When the finish line came into sight, trash lay everywhere and the cheering crowds had long gone home. Yet, standing straight and ever so proud waited a lone man. He was holding one end of a ribbon of crepe paper tied to a post. The woman slowly crossed through, leaving both ends of the paper fluttering behind her.

Lisa does not know this woman’s name, but this woman became a part of her life since that day – a part she often depends on. For the woman, it wasn’t about beating the other runners or winning a trophy, it was about finishing what she had set out to do, no matter what. When Lisa thinks things are too difficult or too time consuming, or she gets the thought of “I just can’t do it”, she thinks of the last runner. Then she realizes how easy the task before her really is.

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Two Patients

Two patients, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours each day. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, places they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those moments where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activities and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn’t hear the band – he could see it in his mind as the man by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days and weeks passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly and painfully, the man propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to turn slowly to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall!

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate, who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy.

Small Act of Kindness

kindness

A man left a sign on his car saying that he was out all day and people could block him in. When he got back, he found a different note attached to his car. The note reads:

Hi, I didn’t need to use the space you left available but plenty of people did. I wanted to acknowledge your small act of kindness and awareness of others that seems to be nonexistent here. Please have this $5 to treat yourself to a frivolous cake or a drink later. Or donate it to a charity you like. Keep being better than most! Love from another human.

The owner of the car decided to use the money to pay it forward. He wrote this comment in response:

Put this up in the vain hope that the person who wrote the letter might see it and know that I really appreciate the words and that they absolutely made my day. The fiver bought a homeless bloke a hot lunch today.

Dancing with Isabel

Jim was working as an assistant cruise director. The male staff had to dance with the elderly ladies who were traveling by themselves. Whenever they saw these passengers in one of the lounges, they were required to strike up a conversation and offer to dance with them.

On one particular Saturday night, the ship’s program called for fifteen minutes of music and dancing in the main lounge. Jim looked around and spotted a lady sitting off to the side, her foot stomping away to the beat of a lively Glenn Miller tune. She looked like she was in her seventies, on the petite side, and was wearing a wig that was unevenly pulled to the side.

Jim walked to her, introduced himself and asked her if she wanted to dance. She smiled at him and said, “No, thank you.”

Jim mentioned that he had seen her tapping to the music and knew she was enjoying the Big Band sound. Reaching out his hand and gently placing it in hers, Jim said, “Come on, let’s go have some fun.”

She got up and they made their way to the dance floor. To Jim’s surprise, she was a very good dancer. Her eyes were all lit up, and she was smiling. She showed Jim all kinds of great swing-step moves, and Jim desperately tried to keep up with her. They were the kind of dance steps a professional swing dancer use. She was really phenomenal!

The music ended, Jim walked her back to her seat and knew her name was Isabel. As they sat down, Jim noticed the tears in her eyes. She reached down into her purse, pulled out a tissue and began to cry.

“Have I done something to upset you?” Jim asked. “Was it my poor dancing abilities? I’m sorry.”

She looked up and assured Jim that he had done nothing wrong. “I love to dance,” she said. “My husband and I would go dancing every Saturday night. We never missed an opportunity.”

Isabel tried to compose herself, but her face was overcome with emotion. “My husband and I always dreamed of dancing at sea together. We talked about going on a cruise, and we saved up our money.” Isabel drew a deep breath and continued, “Then on Saturday evening, just as we were getting dressed to go out, he sat down on our bed and said he needed to rest for a few minutes. Well,” she said gently, “he never woke up.”

Jim could see her love for her husband in every wrinkle of her precious face.

“I haven’t danced in twenty-eight years,” she paused and looked at Jim with a smile, “until now.”

Then she gave Jim a hug and whispered, “Thank you for being my partner tonight.”

Nathan’s Upgrade

“Mr. Degner,” the man began, “I’m Tom Fury. You probably don’t remember meeting me and my family back in November. We were going to Miami and the flight was overbooked.”

Jeff confessed that he couldn’t recall the occasion.

“You made an announcement asking for volunteers willing to give up their seats for free tickets and a later flight. My wife, Ann, went up to your desk and told you that the four of us – myself, my wife, our daughter Mariah, and our son Nathan – would be willing to go later.”

The story still didn’t ring a bell to Jeff.

“Well,” Tom went on, “we gave you our tickets but about fifteen minutes later, you came back and said that you wouldn’t need our seats after all.”

At this point, Jeff was still unsure where this former customer was going with his phone call.

Tom continued, “So you gave our tickets back and then you told us that you had upgraded our seats to first class as a way of showing gratitude for our willingness to be bumped. Now, I know that this was something you didn’t have to do – you could have just as easily left us with our original seats. Now do you remember us?”

“Yes, I think I do recall meeting you,” Jeff lied, “I’m glad you enjoyed those seats.”

“Oh, we did! That flight to Miami was wonderful,” Tom replied. “We were so excited. Ann and Mariah sat next to each other and Nathan and I were right across from them. We laughed and talked all the way to Florida. It was just fantastic.”

“I’m really glad that you and your family were happy with the seats, and thank you for taking the time to call …”

“There’s something more,” Tom said. Jeff noticed a sudden shift in the tone of his voice.

“Just after we got home from our vacation …” Jeff could hear the strain of tears and pain in Tom’s voice as he continued, “Nathan was out riding his bike and … the driver of the car didn’t even see …”

Tom couldn’t finish his sentence but Jeff knew what had happened. His eyes welled up as he waited in silence.

A moment later, the boy’s father went on, “That trip was the last trip the four of us were together. We’ll always remember that flight to Miami, all of us sitting in those first class seats. We were so happy and Nathan had so much fun. It meant so much to him. You helped make that time special, Mr. Degner. Ann and I just wanted to say how much we appreciate the gift you gave us.”

Jeff was speechless. He breathed in deeply and, somehow, he found words to express his sympathy for the tragedy and thanked Tom for sharing his story.

After they said goodbye, Jeff sat down and cried for this little boy and his grieving family. He hadn’t realized how much their upgrade had meant to them on their final trip with their son.

A Lesson

father

A son took his elderly father to a restaurant for dinner. During the meal, his father would continuously drop food onto his shirt and trousers.

And while other customers turned around and gave the pair unpleasant looks, the son was calm and helped his father clean up his mess.

After their meal, the son led his father to the restroom and helped him wipe the stains off of his clothes.

Then, he helped his father comb his hair, put on his jacket, and straighten his glasses.

After they came out, the son went to pay the bill, and stood up to leave. Everyone watched them in dead silence.

No one could understand how someone could embarrass himself in public like that.

Then, all of a sudden, one of the customers, an old man, called out to the son.

“Don’t you think you have left something behind?” he asked.

“No, sir, I haven’t,” the son replied.

“Yes, you have!” replied the old man. “You have left a lesson for every son, and hope for every father.”

And with that reply, the entire restaurant fell silent.

Take care of those who once cared for us.

One Hour from You

After his wife passed away a year ago, Rick worked as a part time supervisor in a retailed store in addition to his full time consulting job. He wanted to earn more money and provide a better life to his daughter.

One night during dinner, his daughter asked, “Dad, how much do you earn for an hour of your part time job?”

The question surprised Rick and he answered softly, “50 dollars per hour.”

“Can you give me 30 dollars?” his daughter asked.

Rick was curious, he asked, “What for?”

“I just need 30 dollars from you,” his daughter replied.

“I won’t give you the money unless you tell me what the money is for.” Rick was a bit impatient and worried about why his daughter needed the money.

His daughter was upset and kept herself in her room that night.

Regretted and feeling guilty, Rick slid 3 10-dollar notes through the gap underneath his daughter’s bedroom door.

When Rick woke up the next morning, he saw a note placed on the table. On top was his daughter’s hand writing: “Can I buy one hour from you today after school? I want you to come to school and see our choir performance.”

Beside the note, other than Rick’s 3 10-dollar notes, there were another 20 dollars made up of smaller notes and coins which Rick recognized as his daughter’s pocket money.