It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

The Pencil Man (Dr. James Sutton)

I recently read something that emphasized the value and importance of dignity in a person’s life, something we should share with our young people often. It caused me to recall something I experienced many years ago.

On Houston Street

As a student going to junior college in San Antonio, I had a part-time job working downtown. Weather permitting, I always saw a familiar figure setting up his tiny spot on Houston Street as I walked to my work from the parking lot.

Jim415smThis man had no legs. He was upbeat and engaging as he set out a cup on a folded blanket and filled it with new pencils. He then put out another cup to receive the kindnesses of those passing by.

I don’t remember him ever asking for anything. I suppose folks just knew the drill: Help the man; take a pencil. If someone put something in his cup and didn’t take a pencil, he generally made it a point to offer them one. Sometimes he would grab eye contact with a passerby, hold out a pencil, and ask, “Can you use a pencil today?”

And that was the extend of his sales pitch. As it appeared, it was the only sales pitch he needed.

He had his “regulars,” of course; most of them knew him by name. Sometimes one of them would bring him a cup of coffee or a donut. For this gesture they received his thanks and … you guessed it, a new pencil.

Giving Something Back

One day a man gave his young daughter some money for the pencil man. She put it in his cup and accepted the pencil he offered.

“Daddy, why is he selling pencils?” she asked, as they continued on their way.

“Well, he’s not really selling them, Becky,” Dad explained. “What you put in his cup back there was worth much more than that pencil. But when you helped him, he wanted to give something back to you. In this case it was that pencil. He wanted to show his appreciation to you because he’s a nice person, but also because it’s important for his dignity. It’s important for us all to keep our dignity. Do you understand?”

As she nodded in response, Becky held up the yellow pencil and watched it catch the glint of the morning’s sun.

“Daddy, I think I know another reason why he gives out pencils.”

“And what would that be?”

“Well, it’s because he knows that no one ever throws away a perfectly good pencil.”###

February 18, 2018 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shoes

BTLifesMoments1-300x76Sometimes a small, a very small, gesture on our part can be perceived as a gift of great proportion to the one receiving it. As this short and simple story shows, a moment in time and a gesture of concern and kindness can offer encouragement and hope, often when it is most needed.

 

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The Scene:

Early 1900s

It’s a cold and blustery December day in New York City

 

coldA young boy was standing in front of a shoe store, barefooted, peering into the window. He was shivering with cold as a lady approached him from the street.

“Young man, what are looking at so intently in that store window?”

“I was just asking God for a pair of shoes,” the lad replied.

She smiled and reached for his hand. As she led him into the store, she asked the clerk for several pairs of socks for the boy. Then she requested a basin of water and a towel.

shoesThe lady took the boy to the back of the store, and, removing her gloves, knelt down and washed his feet, then dried them with the towel. She then put some new woolen socks on the boy’s feet and purchased for him a new pair of shoes.

As a finishing gesture, the lady tied up the remaining pairs of socks and handed the bundle to the youngster.

Gently touching him on the head, she exclaimed, “No doubt, my little fellow, you are more comfortable now.”

As she turned to leave the boy reached for her hand. As tears filled his eyes, he gazed into her face and asked a question that tugged on her heart:

“ARE YOU GOD’S WIFE?”

 

January 11, 2018 Posted by | adversity, courage, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Resilience, Special Occasions, Stress | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteers: Something to Be Thankful For (Judge Tom Jacobs)

Volunteers: Something to Be Thankful For, Judge To JacobsIn celebration of the past Thanksgiving season, the Changing Behavior Network posted this special piece sent by Tom Jacobs, a retired judge and author from Arizona. Times of great need don’t follow a schedule; we must remain prepared for them at all times. Judge Jacobs speaks of his experiences while serving as a volunteer for the American Red Cross, and suggests how we might help, also. (This article first appeared in the November, 2017 issue of Arizona Attorney.)

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Shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit landfall in south Texas on August 25, 2017, state bar president Alex Vakula sent an email asking bar members to consider assisting those in need through donations and pro bono legal services. There is another way you can help in a national disaster. My story illustrates how you can step up and work directly with disaster victims, almost immediately.

Katrina

In August, 2005, I heard on the news an urgent call for 40,000 new volunteers for the American Red Cross to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I had always regretted not responding to 9/11 and felt this was my chance to pitch in. Two days later, I was on my way to Montgomery, Alabama for a three-week deployment as an “event based volunteer” (EBV). I received a half-day orientation and was given a choice of assignments to choose from. I selected client-services since it would put me in direct contact with the evacuees from New Orleans and neighboring parishes.

After a short van ride with my team of twelve, we arrived in Jackson, Mississippi where our assignment was to interview 1,000 families a day. One hundred thousand people had been evacuated to the Jackson area. We worked in 12-hour shifts, ate when we could, and slept on cots in a staff shelter. In less than a week from the broadcast, I was meeting the evacuees and qualifying them for financial assistance. The need, as it is now with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and possibly Jose is great. EBVs will be needed at least for the next year.

The Joy of Helping Others

When I returned from Katrina, I was hooked on disaster relief. I completed the required courses through the Red Cross and became a certified driver of an emergency response vehicle (the red and white ambulance-looking trucks). My partner, Anne, and I have completed a dozen national deployments serving our clients in floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. From California to the east coast, we have used the truck to deliver bulk supplies (cleaning and personal hygiene kits, cots, blankets, etc.) to shelters, and conduct fixed and mobile feeding.

In our Harvey deployment, we worked in three small towns in Texas (Edna, Inez and Telferner), delivering lunch and dinner to residents that were without power and water. Direct contact with people in dire straits is a hands-on experience and, admittedly, not for everyone. Even after a few short weeks, seeing them and their families twice a day, establishes a bond. There is nothing to compare with the thanks, hugs, handshakes, blessings and smiles bestowed upon us by our clients. That is our reward.

From the hindsight of a few weeks, in spite of the heat, humidity and mosquitoes (the size of a nickel), would we do it again? Absolutely. It’s the people in need and our ability to answer the call that will help us continue this work. It’s the little four year-old girl who looked at me and said “I’m hungry.” After giving her and her family dinner, she handed me a strip of bark from her front yard and said “This is for you. You can take it home.” Or Evan, a ten year-old boy who came to our truck just to say thanks. It’s the elderly man who hobbled to the truck to hand us a twenty-dollar bill (a fortune to him, we’re sure). We declined his offer since Red Cross assistance is free to everyone, and we don’t take donations out in the field.

Volunteers Needed

Some of the assignments available to the EBVs include shelter work, feeding, nursing and mental health services, damage assessment, warehouse, logistics, etc. You can apply your profession or occupation to specific needs of the disaster, or learn a new skill through Red Cross classes. During one disaster, when I had a half-day off (which is rare), I became a certified fork-lift operator. Again, not for everyone.

Consider becoming a Red Cross volunteer or, at least, an event based volunteer. Assisting others is addictive. Contact the American Red Cross at 602-336-6660; www.redcross.org

I brought that piece of bark home as a reminder of why we do this. ###

 

Judge Tom JacobsTom Jacobs was an assistant attorney general in Arizona for 13 years before being appointed to the Maricopa County Supreme Court. He presided over juvenile and family court matters for 23 years, retiring in 2008. Judge Jacobs is the founder of the teen-law website, AskTheJudge.info. His books on teen law include What Are My Rights? and Teen Cyberbullying Investigated. He and his daughter, Natalie, co-authored the most recent book, Every Vote Matters: The Power of Your Voice.

 

November 26, 2017 Posted by | Communication, Compassion, courage, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Special Occasions, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shoes (Christmas, 2010)

I’m not sure where I came across this story, but it touched my heart. I’ll bet it will touch your heart also. It would be interesting, indeed, to play this story out over the years in order to see the potential long-term impact of a random act of kindness.

Have a blessed Christmas, 2010. –JDS

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THE SHOES: (The Scene: A very cold and blustery December day in New York City.)

A young boy was standing in front of a shoe store, barefooted, peering into the window. He was shivering with cold as a lady approached him.

“Young man, what are you looking at so intently in that window?”

“I was asking God for a pair of shoes,” the lad answered her.

She smiled and reached for his hand. As she led him into the store, she asked the clerk for several pairs of socks for the boy. Then she requested a basin of water and a towel.

The lady took the boy to the back of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down and washed his feet and dried them with the towel. She then put some new woolen socks on his feet and purchased for him a new pair of shoes.

As a finishing gesture, the lady tied up the remaining pairs of socks and handed the bundle to the youngster.

Gently touching him on the head she exclaimed, “No doubt, my little fellow, you are more comfortable now.”

As she turned to leave, the boy reached for her hand. As tears filled his eyes he gazed into her face and asked a question that tugged on her heart:

“ARE YOU GOD’S WIFE?”

December 24, 2010 Posted by | adversity, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Self-esteem, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A BIG Lift!

We try to teach our children that kindness never goes out of style. I was reminded of it just this morning. 

 When the 9th printing of my book, 101 Ways to Make Your Classroom Special, came in from the printer, I stood in for the publisher and met the freight truck. (Hey, that book has done a lot for me; why not return the favor, right?) Since 18-wheelers need a LOT of room to turn, they generally drop the freight off out front, and someone (ME!) has to break open the pallet and haul the cases to the unit. And it would have taken ALL morning.

As I was signing for the freight, a man appeared from nowhere. He was dressed in workclothes: roughout boots, jeans, work jacket and ball cap. He asked me if I was taking this load inside.

I told him I was.

“Listen, if I can get my forklift to start, I’ll haul it in there for you.”

Somewhat stunned, I believe I said something like, “Uh, okay.”

And that’s exactly what he did. He sat the whole pallet down inside the unit; I didn’t even have to remove the shrink wrapping. It saved me a morning’s work.

I thought of tipping him, but something told me NOT to do it. Good decision; he turned out to be the OWNER of this whole complex and a construction company that builds them! He had seen the freight truck pull in, and thought he might be able to help.

In times when a lot of folks TALK about customer service, this man DROVE the point home … with a lift truck.

He’s got ALL of my business.

 James D. Sutton, Psychologist    www.docspeak.com

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I wrote a couple of FREE e-books you might find helpful. Just click on the titles below to download them.

 Resolving Conflicts with Your Children (for parents and teachers)

Help Johnny WANT to Write (for teachers, helpful to parents)

February 6, 2008 Posted by | Educators, family, Inspirational | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

There’s No Repairing Some Folks’ Misery

The greatest joy of being a person is the unselfish capacity to interact with others. Still, there are some who seem to want no part of it.

A friend’s newsletter got me to thinking. He told a brief story of a man who complained to his doctor that he was so unhappy. (Interesting, huh, how doctors are supposed to have a pill that will fix ANYTHING.)

“Go out and make three new friends, then come back and tell me about it” the doctor advised. The man left the doctor’s office not too pleased with the “prescription.”

He was back in a couple of weeks.

“Did you go out and make three new friends,” the doctor asked?

“I did,” the man replied. “But it didn’t help. Now I’m STUCK with these three new friends!”

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how folks who are depressed and down often get that way when they shut themselves off from others. They “sour” and soak in self-pity until they are all but paralyzed. At that point, any action at all is a major effort.  

You can see it in children as well as adults. They might not be content in their misery, but they are COMFORTABLE with it. 

It’s not the making of friends that brings the most joy in one’s life. It’s the BEING a friend, the magical capacity to make another person (or even an animal), not myself, the object of my kindness and effort. It’s the stepping down from center stage and putting someone else up there for awhile. And it’s getting BEHIND the spotlight instead of in front of it.

Kids today are no better or worse than they were a century ago. They are simply the results of the cultures that rear them. The day they truly learn the world doesn’t revolve around them is the day the best of life gets going.

James Sutton, Psychologist   www.docspeak.com 

October 27, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment