Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Auction

A very wealthy man and his only son shared a passion for collecting art.  Together they would travel the world, seeking out the finest treasurers of art: works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and many others to add to their collection.  The old man, a widower, was very proud that his only child had become an experienced art collector.
When fall approached, war engulfed their nation and the young man was conscripted to serve his country.  After only a few months, his father received a telegram from the Army that his son was wounded in action while trying to drag a fellow soldier to a medic.  The father anxiously waited an update on  news of his son.  Finally word came confirming his worst fears - his son had died from his injuries.  Distraught, the old man entered the holiday season with sadness.  He knew the joy of Christmas would never visit his home again.
On Christmas morning, he awoke to a knock on the door.  As he walked to the door, he passed the masterpieces he and his son collected and they only reminded him that his son would come home no more.  When he opened the door, he was greeted by a young soldier with a large package.  The soldier introduced himself by saying, "I was a friend of your son.  In fact, I was the one he was trying to rescue when he was shot.  May I come?"  

Once seated, the soldier shared how the old man's son always shared with everyone in the unit the love he and his father had for fine art.  "Since I'm an amateur artist," said the soldier, "I have something I would like to give you."
The old man unwrapped the package; it was a water color portrait of his son.  Though not a work of genius by any means, the painting featured his son's face in striking detail.  Overcome with emotion, the old man thanked the young soldier and assured him he would hang this picture above the fireplace.  True to his word, other paintings worth thousands of dollars were moved from above the fireplace just to make room for the painting of his son.  This painting was, without a doubt, the greatest gift the old man had ever received.
As summer arrived the old man passed away and the art world was excited!  With his demise, everyone knew his paintings would now be sold at an auction.  Sure enough, an auction of his estate was announced.  According to his will, all of his art would be auctioned on Christmas Day.
When Christmas Day arrived, art dealers and collectors from around the world gathered at his home.  They gathered to bid on some of the world's most spectacular treasures of art.  At noon, the auctioneer walked forward to begin the auction.  He picked up his gavel to begin the auction with a painting that was not on the auction list.  It was the water color painting of the old man's son.
The room was silent as the auctioneer asked the crowd for an opening bid.  "Who will start the bidding with $1,000?" he asked.  Moments passed and no one spoke.  "Will someone start the bidding at $500?" he asked. 
From the back of the room someone yelled, "Who cares about that painting?  Let's get to the good paintings."

"Who will start the bidding at a $100?" 
"Forget that picture," another yelled." 
"No”, said the auctioneer.  "My instructions are to sell this painting first", the auctioneer replied.  "Now, who will open the bidding with any bid?" he asked again. 
Finally, a  maid who had worked for the family for nearly 20 years spoke.  "Will you take $20 for the painting? That's all I have in my purse."
"We have a bid of $20.  Do I here $25?"  asked the auctioneer.  Silence filled the air!  "Will anyone go higher than $20?" called the auctioneer.

After more moments of silence the auctioneer said, "Going once, going twice ... Gone!"  and his gavel fell. 
Cheers filled the room and someone shouted, "Great.  Now we can get on with the real auction and bid on the true treasures!"

With his gavel laid down, the auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over.  Everyone in the room was stunned.  "What do you mean, it's over?" someone yelled.  "We didn't come here for a portrait of some kid!  We came here for real works of art.  What about all the other paintings?  There are millions of dollars worth of art work here that we want to buy."

Another yelled, "We demand an explanation!"  The auctioneer replied, "It's simple.  According to the old man's will, whoever took his son's portrait ... got it all." 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Airplane Flight

Special Note to all Readers:

This was one of the first stories I shared on this blog.  I was asked to re-share it this month because many thought it was appropriate for the upcoming holiday travel season.  I hope it is worth re-sharing. 

John Hollingsworth placed his carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment and sat down in his seat.  He knew it was going to be a long flight and was glad he brought along a book to read between his planned naps.  Just prior to take-off, a group of young soldiers walked down the aisle and sat in the seats surrounding him.  John leaned over and asked a young man across the aisle, "Where are you guys headed?"
"Petawawa.  We'll be training there for a few weeks; then we ship off to Afghanistan after the first of the year."

About an hour into the flight, a flight attendant came on the PA and announced that snack lunches were available for five dollars for anyone who wished to purchase one.  Since the flight would take several hours, John decided to purchase one just to help pass the time.  As he leaned forward to retrieve his wallet from his back pocket, he heard one of the young soldiers in front of him ask his buddy, "Are you going to get a snack lunch?"
"Naw, $5 is a lot of money just for snacks.  I'll wait till we get to the base tonight to eat."
"Yeah, that’s what I think,” said his friend.

John stood up and walked towards the rear of the plane.  When he got to the galley he handed one of the flight attendants a fifty dollar bill and said, "Please give all ten soldiers on board a snack lunch."
She grabbed his arm, squeezed it tight and said, "Thanks.  My son was in the Army; he served in Iraq."

John returned to his seat and began to read his book.  Soon the flight attendant, with ten snack lunches in her arms, began handing out the snack lunches to all the soldiers on board.  Rather than return to the galley, she headed up the aisle.  Several minutes later, the same flight attendant walked up to John, leaned forward and whispered quietly in his ear, "Which would you prefer - beef or chicken?"
What?  "Beef or Chicken?"  Chicken I guess he replied, as he wondered why the heck she wanted to know.  
A few minutes later she returned with a dinner plate from first class.  "This is for you … courtesy of the Captain."

After his meal, John walked to the back of the plane, heading for the restroom.  A man seated near the galley stopped him and said, "I heard what you told the attendant and, with your permission, I'd like to chip in," and he handed John a twenty dollar bill.

Not long after John returned to his seat, the Captain walked down the aisle.  When he arrived at John’s row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand and said, "I wanted to shake your hand, Mr. Hollingsworth."  Quickly John unfastened his seatbelt, stood up and shook the Captain's hand.  With a booming voice, the Captain said, "I was once a military pilot and when I was young, lonely and broke, someone bought me a lunch when I was traveling home for Christmas.  It was an act of kindness I've never forgotten."  Then the Captain placed a folded twenty dollar bill in John's shirt pocket and said, "Put this toward my share."  As the Captain walked away, John was embarrassed as the passengers nearby erupted into a loud applause.

An hour or so later, just to stretch his legs, John walked toward the front of the plane.  A man seated near the magazine rack reached out to shake John's hand.  When he finished shaking John's hand, a twenty dollar bill was neatly folded and left in John's palm.

When the plane finally touched down several hours later, John began to gather his belongings and head for the door.  Waiting just outside the plane's door was an elderly lady obviously well off, and when John stepped through the door, she put something in his shirt pocket, then turned and walked away.  She never said a word. When John looked in his pocket, there was crisp fifty dollar bill.

As he entered the terminal area, John saw all the young soldiers gathering over in one corner of the terminal for their trip to their new base.  John walked over, handed one of them the $110 and said, "It might take you guys some time to reach base tonight and you might get hungry - Merry Christmas!"

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!