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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Two Rock Stars

rock_stars

In 1983, a talented young guitarist, Dave Mustaine, was kicked out of his band. The band had just been signed to a record deal and they were about to record their first album. But a couple days before recording began, the band showed Dave the door. As Dave sat on the bus back to Los Angeles, he kept asking himself, “How did this happen?” By the time the bus hit L.A., Dave had gotten over his self-pity and had vowed to start a new band. He decided that this new band would be so successful that his old band would regret their decision. So he spent months recruiting the best musicians. He wrote songs and practiced religiously. His seething anger fueled his ambition; revenge became his muse.

Within a couple years, his new band had signed a record deal of their own, and a year after that, their first record went gold. The new band Dave formed was the legendary heavy-metal band Megadeth. Megadeth went on to sell over 25 million albums and tour the world many times. Today, Dave is considered one of the most brilliant and influential musicians in the history of heavy-metal music. But the band he was kicked out of was Metallica, which has sold over 180 million albums worldwide. Metallica is considered by many to be one of the greatest rock bands of all time. And because of this, in an interview in 2003, a tearful Dave admitted that he couldn’t help but still consider himself a failure. Despite all that he had accomplished, in his mind he would always be the guy who got kicked out of Metallica.

Another rock star, Pete Best, was fired from Beatles in 1962, after the band landing their first record contract. As a replacement, the band brought in some oddball named Ringo Starr. Ringo agreed to get the same ugly haircut as other members and insisted on writing songs about octopuses and submarines. The rest of the sixties were not kind to Pete. He had sued two of the Beatles for slander and all of his other musical projects had failed horribly. He attempted suicide, only to be talked out of it by his mother. His life was a wreck. Pete didn’t have the same redemptive story Dave did. He never became a global superstar or made millions of dollars. Yet, in many ways, Pete ended up better off than Dave. In an interview in 1994, Pete said, “I’m happier than I would have been with the Beatles.”

Pete explained that the circumstances of his getting kicked out of the Beatles ultimately led him to meet his wife. And then his marriage led him to having children. Fame and glory would have been nice, but he decided that what he already had was more important: a big and loving family, a stable marriage, a simple life. He even still got to play drums, touring Europe and recording albums well into the 2000s. So what he really lost was just a lot of attention and adulation, whereas what was gained meant so much more to him.

We always measure ourselves against others. The question is not whether we evaluate ourselves against others; rather, the question is by what standard do we measure ourselves? Dave chose to measure himself by whether he was more successful than Metallica – despite the success of his own band. We may look at Dave’s situation and laugh. Here’s this guy with money and adoring fans, a career doing the thing he loves best, and still he’s getting all weepy-eyed that his former band from 20 years ago are more famous than he is. On the other hand, Pete is grateful of what he owns today. Our values determine the standards by which we measure ourselves and everyone else. If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and how you measure success.

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Laugh at Ourselves

Redsy was not only the class clown; he was also the class terror because he was fearless. He was always in trouble with his teacher, Miss Farley. Miss Farley couldn’t punish him enough to change his behavior. He did whatever he wanted to do, no matter what. Redsy was also a smart kid; he could already count all the way up to one hundred at the beginning of his first year of school.

But Redsy had a problem. He couldn’t say the “th” sound. The word “three” came out as “free” from him. It drove Miss Farley crazy because she thought that he could do it right if he only tried harder. Every time Redsy would get caught doing something wrong, Miss Farley would keep him after school and make him practice his th’s.

One day, Miss Farley announced that everyone in the class was going to count up to one hundred and Redsy was the first one to be called on by her to come to the front of the class and count.

Redsy started counting fast the instant he reached the front. “One, two, FREE, four …” The class snickered and Miss Farley started to get red in the face. Redsy got a little flustered too, because he realized what he had just done. But he went on: “Ten, eleven, twelve, FIRTEEN …” The whole class began to giggle and stifled laughter broke out here and there. Miss Farley stood up and glared at the class. Everyone stopped and became quiet as Redsy flew on into the twenties.

Then the magic moment arrived. Redsy met Miss Farley’s stare with utter disregard and cried out, “Twenty-nine … FIRDY!” Then Redsy flew on in a continuous, nonstop torrent, “Firdy-one, firdy-two, firdy-free …” with a huge smile on his face. The entire class exploded in laughter. They were seeing Redsy at his best – he knew exactly what he was doing! Their laughter was much more important to Redsy than was Miss Farley’s wrath. Miss Farley lunged at Redsy to get him to stop, but he dodged her as easily as a rabbit and continued, “Firdy-four, firdy-five …” to a rising din of uncontrolled laughter.

The laughter continued through the forties. When he reached the fifties, the laughter began to subside, and Redsy slowed his pace as he continued to dodge Miss Farley’s attempts to grab him as he ran back and forth in front of the class. She finally gave up and sat down at her desk, and Redsy picked up the pace. As he flew past “Ninety-free …” no one uttered a sound because they all were afraid of what would happen when he got to the end.

“Ninety-nine … one hundred!” Redsy bellowed. Then silence.

Miss Farley remained at her desk with her head lowered, her face in her hands. She was shaking uncontrollably and the class became alarmed. After a long moment, she lifted her head and laughter burst out of her like the breaking of a dam. Then the entire class joined in, including Redsy. For the first time, Miss Farley felt that she had the best moment in her long teaching career.

When we begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves.

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.

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

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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.