Monday, June 27, 2011

Easy Eddie

Many years ago, Al Capone, the notorious criminal, was involved in everything from booze to prostitution to murder.  Al had a personal lawyer nicknamed "Easy Eddie" and Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering was the primary reason Big Al was kept out of jail for so many years.

Capone paid Eddie well and Eddie lived the high life.  He and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion that filled an entire Chicago city block.  Though involved deeply with the mob, Eddie had one soft spot, his son whom he loved dearly.  Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education and despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie tried his best to teach his son right from wrong.  Eddie wanted his son to grow up to be a good man.

One day, Eddie decided to rectify wrongs he had done and went to the authorities to tell the truth about Al Capone so he could clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity.  Eddie knew the cost for testifying against the mob would be great ... and he was right.  Within a year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago side street.  But in his eyes, Eddie gave his son a great gift.  When the police emptied his pockets, they found a rosary and a poem Eddie had clipped from a magazine.

The poem read:

"The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop.  Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will.  Place no faith in time, for the clock may soon be still."

Now an unrelated --- but necessary parallel to the above story ---- please read you won't be disappointed.   

World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Navy Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare, a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.  One day his squadron was sent on a mission.  After he was airborne, Butch looked at his fuel gauge and realized the ground crew did not top off his fuel tank.  He knew he would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and return to his ship.  Butch’s flight leader ordered Butch to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, Butch dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

On returning to the fleet, Butch saw in the distance a squadron of Japanese aircraft heading toward the fleet.  Since the fleet’s fighters were all out on their missions, the fleet was now virtually defenseless.  Butch was unable to raise his squadron leader on the radio to bring them back in time to save the fleet.  There was only one thing for Butch do … he had to stop the Japanese planes from attacking the fleet.

Without hesitation or regard to his personal safety, Butch dove into the formation of enemy aircraft; with his wing-mounted 50 caliber's guns he blazed in, attacking one surprised aircraft after another.  Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent.

Even though his ammo was gone, Butch continued his assault by diving at planes, trying to clip a wing or hit a tail in hopes of damaging them and rendering them unfit to fly. Totally exasperated, the remaining Japanese aircraft headed home and Butch perished in the ocean.

Butch’s home town vowed not to allow the memory of this WWII hero to fade from their memory.  They named their city airport after him.  The City of Chicago decided to pay tribute to its courageous native son.

So for all you travelers who fly in or out of Chicago's O'hare airport here is my recommendation:  The next time you find yourself waiting for a flight at O'Hare Airport, give some serious thought to visiting Butch’s memorial.  Take a look at his statue and his Medal of Honor he earned.  It is located between Terminals 1 and 2.


Butch “Edward” O'Hare - the World War II Hero was "Easy Eddie's" son.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why Mrs. Thompson Quit Teaching

Mrs. Thompson stood in front of her fifth grade class on the first day of school and told a lie, a big lie.  As she welcomed the students, she said that she would treat them all the same.  But that was not true because there was one student she would not treat the same – his name was Teddy Stoddard.

The school district hired Ms. Thompson the year before and she couldn't help but notice Teddy last year.  He was a known problem child with a lousy academic record. He didn’t play well with others; his clothes were a mess; he always looked like he needed a bath, and he had a bad attitude.  Consequently, Mrs. Thompson delighted in marking Teddy’s papers with a broad red pen and placing big bold 'X's on all his wrong answers.  She loved putting a large 'F' at the top of his papers so other students could see his grade when she handed them out.

School policy required that each teacher review the records of their students during the first week of December.  Mrs. Thompson held Teddy's file off until last.  When she finally sat down to review his file, she was taken aback.  Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child who does neat work and has excellent classroom manners. He is a joy to have in my class - I will miss him next year."

His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an above average student who is well liked by his classmates.  He has been having trouble lately because of his mother’s illness, and life at home has really been a struggle for him." 
His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's recent death has been very hard on Teddy.  He tries hard to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life is negatively affecting him."
Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a withdrawn child who doesn’t show much interest in school.  He has few friends, often comes to class unprepared, and is frequently disruptive."

Mrs. Thompson was now ashamed of her behavior. She felt even worse a few weeks later when her students brought in their Christmas presents for her.  All were wrapped in holiday paper and tied with ribbons except for one.  Teddy's was clumsily wrapped in brown paper from an old grocery bag with no ribbon.  Mrs. Thompson opened Teddy’s present first.   Some children laughed when they saw a rhinestone bracelet with several stones missing and an old bottle of perfume only 1/4 full; but Mrs. Thompson quickly stifled their laughter by commenting on how beautiful the bracelet was as she put in on.  She then dabbed some perfume on each wrist, inhaled deeply and said it smells wonderful.

Before he left class that afternoon, Teddy walked up to Mrs. Thompson's desk, slowly leaned in and said, "I just want you to know you smell just like my Mom use to."  Then he ran out of the room.  When all the other students left, Mrs. Thompson cried at her desk. That was the day she vowed to quit teaching.  Never again would she teach reading, writing or arithmetic, instead she would start teaching children.

She began to pay attention to Teddy.  As she worked with him, his mind came alive.  The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded.  By the end of the school year, Teddy was one of the brightest students in her class.   Despite "her lie to treat all students the same," it was obvious Teddy was her pet.  The following year, Teddy transferred to middle school and Mrs. Thompson never saw him again.

Towards the end of the next school year, Mrs. Thompson found a note under her door.  It was a note from Teddy telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.  
Seven years passed before she received another note.  This time Teddy wrote he had just finished high school - third in his class - and that he would be going to college and that, by the way Mrs. Thompson, you are still the best teacher I ever had in my whole life.  
Four more years went by when a letter from Teddy arrived explaining he had graduated from college and was planning on going to medical school in the fall and, by the way Mrs. Thompson, you are still the best teacher I ever had.

Several years passed before another letter arrived.  In this letter, Teddy stated he met a woman and they would be getting married in June.  He explained that his father died a few years earlier and he was wondering if she, Mrs. Thompson, would agree to sit in the place of honor reserved for the groom's parents at the head table. This letter was signed Theodore J. Stoddard M.D.

Of course Mrs. Thomson agreed. She arrived at the plush wedding ceremony wearing an old rhinestone bracelet with several rhinestones missing and carried a scent of a perfume that Teddy once said reminded him of his mother.  Dr. Stoddard came forward and hugged her.  As he inhaled the fragrance of her perfume, he whispered in her ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for making me feel important and thank you for making a difference in my life." Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back, "No Teddy you have it wrong.  I need to thank you. You taught me. You taught me I could make a difference."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Christmas We Should All Remember

A pastor and his wife were transferred to a new ministry in Brooklyn New York. Their assignment was to reopen an old church.  When they arrived at their new assignment in early October, they were excited. 

However, upon seeing their assigned church and how run down it actually was and all the work it needed, they decided to set a goal to have it ready to open on Christmas Eve.

The pastor and his wife worked hard everyday repairing the pews, scrubbing the floors, plastering and painting the walls, etc.; however on December 18, they were ahead of schedule and so happy that they were just about finished.

On December 19 a terrible driving rainstorm hit the area. The storm conditions lasted for two days and, when the pastor arrived at the church on the morning of December 21, his heart sank. The old roof had leaked, causing water to enter the building and the water damaged a large area of a wall they had re-plastered - an area of about 20 feet by 8 feet – near the front of the sanctuary.  

The pastor did his best to clean up the mess on the floor, but not knowing what else he could do, he decided to tell his wife they would have to postpone the Christmas Eve service.  However on his drive home, he noticed a local flea market type sale for charity, so he stopped in to look around.   One of the items he noticed was a beautiful, handmade, ivory-colored, hand-crocheted tablecloth. It was really an exquisite piece of work, with fine colors and a large cross embroidered in the center.  The pastor thought this tablecloth might be just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall of the church so he bought it and headed back to the church.

By now it had started to snow now and when he arrived back at the church, he saw an elderly woman running, trying to catch a bus. Unfortunately, she missed the bus.   Knowing the next bus wouldn’t come for about 30 minutes, the pastor invited her in the church to get out of the cold and keep warm as she waited for her bus.   

As she sat in a pew, she watched the pastor get a ladder and hangers to mount the tablecloth up on the wall as a tapestry.  The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked, as it was the perfect size to cover up the entire problem area.

The woman, upon seeing the tablecloth hanging on the wall, stood up and walked toward the pastor.  Her face was white as a sheet. "Pastor," she asked, "Where did you get this tablecloth?"  The pastor explained the story.  The woman asked him to check the lower right hand corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it. He checked and yes they were.   These were her initials - initials which she sewed in this tablecloth when she made it 45 years ago in Austria. The woman explained that, before the war, she and her husband were Austrians. 

Then the Nazis came and her husband asked her to leave for America.  He promised he would follow in two weeks; however she later learned he was captured by the Nazis and sent to concentration camp.   She never saw her husband or her homeland again.

The pastor got back on the ladder and offered to give her the tablecloth; but she insisted he keep it for his church. The pastor then insisted on driving her home as that was the least he could do for her.  She lived way over on Staten Island and had come to Brooklyn just for the day.

Well when Christmas Eve arrived, the old church was almost full.  The music and the holiday spirit of the people filled the air.  At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife stood at the door and greeted everyone goodbye and wished them a Merry Christmas.

When they returned to lock up the church, they noticed an old man sitting in a pew crying.  The pastor had recognized from the neighborhood but did not know him.   The old man just sat silently in the pew, weeping and staring at the tapestry. The pastor wondered why he didn't leave and walked over to talk to him.

The man asked him where he had gotten the tablecloth on the wall because it was identical to one his wife made for him many years ago when they lived in Austria before the war, and how could it be possible that two tablecloths could be so much alike?

He told the pastor how the Nazis came and how he forced his wife to flee to America for her safety and that he promised he would follow her, but he was arrested and put in a concentration camp for four years until the Allied soldiers can and freed the prisoners. With the war over he had come to America to look for his wife but could not find her.  He never again saw his wife or his home land.

The Pastor asked the gentlemen if he would allow him to take him for a ride; the man agreed.  The Pastor drove over to Staten Island to an old brown stone apartment building - the same building the pastor had taken an old woman too just a few days earlier. 

The pastor helped the old man walk the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment.   Once at the door, the Pastor knocked and then right before him he witnessed the greatest Christmas present ever imaginable - a reunion never to be forgotten.

This is a 'True Story" -  which happened to Pastor Rob Reid