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The Old Grocery Store

An elderly man shuffled up to an obviously very poor young girl with blond hair and blue eyes. She was dressed in an old hand-me-down, but she was clean and happy, humming a little song to herself.

He said, “Would you like to read a story?”

She nodded her head shyly as she answered, “Yes, thank you, I love to read.”

He handed her a simple book. She took it into her hands gently.

Out loud, she read, “The Old Grocery Store.”

She shook her head and asked, “What Old Grocery Store, Sir? There isn’t one around here.”

The old man smiled at her sadly, his eyes lowered, and responded, “There used to be.”

He raised his eyes to look at a very well-dressed older man as he swaggered by with a cigar and a pompous smile.

He said, “There used to be a grocery store right where the Dollar Tree is now.”

She said excitedly, “I like the Dollar Tree! I can get so many things! When I get a dollar and some change, I can spend a long time in there, just thinking about what I want to spend it on.”

He looked at her with a tear running down his cheek and said, “I know, little one, I know. What is your name?”

“Angel, cause Momma went to church to pray and asked God to give her a baby girl. So He sent me!” she responded. “I love to read. Can I keep it?”

“Yes, Angel, you may keep it. It is just an old man’s dream,” he answered as he turned and shuffled away.

She sat down on a bench in front of the Dollar Tree and began to read it. She did not stop till she had finished.

She smiled and thought, “That’s the way a book should end – happy.”

She got up and strolled home, thinking about the book.

When she got in her front door, she asked, “Momma, was there ever an Old Grocery Store where the Dollar Tree is now and a bathroom next to it, with no sign for ladies or gents? Why is it all gone?”

Her mother laughed and asked, “My goodness! Where did all those questions come from?”

Angel held the little book out to her, and she took it.

She looked at it and queried, “Where did you get this?”

Angel smiled as she thought of the old man and answered, “A very old man who shuffles. He doesn’t walk, ever, Momma.”

Her mother smiled back at her because she knew who it was, “That would be old Sam. He used to manage the grocery store for Mr. Bilks, who owned it. Then somebody advised Mr. Bilks that he could make more money on a Dollar Tree store. That ended it.”

“Is Mr. Bilks the older man with fancy clothes, struts like a peacock in the pictures I see, and smokes a big stinky cigar?” she asked.

“Yes, that would certainly be Mr. Bilks,” she answered.

“What about the bathroom without any signs? Who would know which one to use?” Angel asked.

“Well, everybody knew that the left one was for gentlemen and the right one was for ladies,” she responded.

“That sure seems strange to me,” Angel said as she turned to go into her room. “Signs are important.”

“May I read this book?” her mother inquired.

“Yes, of course. Old Sam said he wanted us to remember what it used to be like,” she answered.

Her mother sat down and read the little book as it took only a few minutes. She was crying when she finished it.

As luck would have it, her husband, Foster, came in just then.

Concerned when he saw her tears, he stopped in his tracks and asked, “Mary, why are you crying?”

She smiled at him and handed him the book, saying, “Read this. It will only take a few minutes.”

So he sat down and read it.

When he finished it, he smiled at Mary and said, “You old softy. You remember that Old Grocery Store as well as I do. We had our very first kiss in the back by the green beans!”

She laughed as he picked her up and whirled her around the room, stopping only to give her a big kiss before he set her down.

She asked, “Do you think we can do anything to bring that Old Grocery Store back? It was the center of this town, filled with camaraderie and laughter. The older men would play checkers out front before Mr. Bilks told them to stop loitering – that is was bad for business – and then he took away the table, chairs, and checkerboard. That is when he put the bench outside the window.”

He responded, “I do not know, Sweetheart. Mr. Bilks has the Town Council in his back pocket, and we both know that the dollar sign is the only thing that man is concerned about. After all, the whole town works for him in some way, as you know.”

“Yes, I agree, but it was so nice to be able to have the Old Grocery Store so close instead of driving several miles to the Wal-Mart in Kingsbury,” she stated.

Unbeknownst to either of them, Angel was standing at her doorway, listening to their conversation. She quietly closed her door and sat down, talking to Walter, her stuffed dog, that she held tightly.

“We have to do something about this, Walter. Now you know how I love to buy things in the Dollar Tree, but I don’t really need more stuff. I think that the Old Grocery Store is far more important, don’t you agree? I don’t know what I am going to do. After all, I am just a little girl. But I’m going to think about it!” she stated firmly.

Several days later, she smiled as she thought about an idea, “Why that just might work.”

She did not delay but asked her mother, “I have a dollar and some change. Can I go to the Dollar Tree, please?”

She answered, “Yes, you can. Just be home for supper, OK? You know your Dad likes us all to sit down together, pray before we eat, and talk about our day.”

Taking the little book with her, she marched out the door, intent on finding Mr. Bilks.  She got to the bench in front of the Dollar Tree, sat down, and waited. Sure enough, after a while, she spotted Mr. Bilks coming. She waited until he was almost upon her.

She got up for the bench, stood grimly in front of him, and said, “Pardon me, Mr. Bilks, but would you sit with me on this bench and read this little book, please?”

He grimaced at her and asked, “Why would I want to do that?”

With persistence only the young have, she answered, “Because it is important. You need to know there are some things money cannot buy!”

He looked askance at her boldness and thought, “Why not? What can it hurt? This little urchin is obviously not going to leave me alone anyway.”

With a sigh, he sat down, took the book, and read it. He actually felt chagrin as he read it.

When he finished, he turned to the little girl and asked, “So, OK, I read it. Now what do you want from me? What is your name, anyway?”

“Angel,” she answered, smiling up at him. “You know you should bring back the Grocery Store, the table, chairs, and the checkerboard, don’t you? After all, you must have enough money by now after all these years. Besides, you look pretty old to me. You know you can’t take it with you, don’t you?” she stated adamantly.

“Well, you’ve given me something to think about,” he said as he gave her back the book and turned away.

That is exactly what he did for several days. He looked back at the past and all the decisions he had made to get more money. He looked at his bank statements and the fancy house filled to the brim with beautiful furniture, original paintings, fine china and glassware. He also knew he had never found a woman to share his life or give him children. In fact, he was alone except for the servants.

Finally, he came to a decision. He knew that Angel was Foster and Mary’s child and all the trouble they had because it was just a small town, after all. He looked at his watch and determined that the family would be gathering together for supper. He picked up his hat and headed for the local flower shop to pick up some flowers before he knocked on their door.

Foster came to the door and looked surprised when he saw Mr. Bilks standing there.

He said, “Hello, sir, would you like to come in?”

“No,” he responded. “I am fine here. But may I talk to Angel for a minute?”

Foster turned questioningly to Mary, who nervously nodded her head in anxiety, thinking, “Oh, my, what trouble is happening for us now?”

“Angel, please go speak with Mr. Bilks,” she said.

Angel, knowing she was in big trouble now, rose hesitantly. With her head down in shame, she came over to Mr. Bilks.

He put a finger under her chin and pulled her eyes up to meet his as he bent over.

He stated, “You do know why I am here, don’t you?”

With tears in her eyes, she nodded her head, and said, “Yes, Sir,” so softly almost no one could hear her. “I am in big trouble, aren’t I?” As an afterthought, hoping to divert some anger, she added, “I am so sorry.”

To her amazement, he laughed heartily. He took the flowers from behind his back and presented them to her.

Her mouth dropped open in surprise.

Startled, Foster and Mary exchanged glances, wondering what was going on. After all, Mr. Bilks was a powerful man who aroused fear.

Still laughing happily, Mr. Bilks said to Angel, “You know, my dear, no one would dare talk to me the way you did. In fact, I would not have let them! I have been very satisfied with my life and everything in it. That is, I was until you came along. ‘Out of the mouth of babes’ is what they say. Well, today, I believe it. You are absolutely right! There are so many things all my money cannot buy me! So I wanted to tell you personally, thank you. I am, indeed, going to bring back the Old Grocery Store, the table and chairs, and the checkerboard. When I do that, will you play me a game of checkers? It’s been a long time since I did that.”

Angel smiled as she reached up to give him a kiss on the cheek, answering, “Yes, sir, I will.”

She turned and beamed a big smile at her parents, who were amazed at what had just happened.

Mr. Bilks wiped away a tear as he spoke to them all, “Thank you for reminding an old fool like me what life should be like.”

He turned and started to walk away, but turned back, glanced at the simple meal on the table, and stated, “Oh, and by the way, Foster, you shouldn’t be surprised tomorrow when you come into work because I need a good foreman like you, and I will give you a paycheck to match. Anyone who could raise Angel to be the way she is deserves so much more from life. If you can keep a secret,” he said with a wink, “Angel is right. I can’t take it with me so I am going to give a pay increase to every person once the Old Grocery Store is back!”

With that, he turned and walked away, whistling, leaving consternation behind him.

Foster and Mary looked at Angel and asked simultaneously, “What in the world did you say to Mr. Bilks?”

Angel just shrugged her shoulders and said, “I just told him the truth: There are so many things money cannot buy, he must have made enough money by now, and he can’t take it with him cause he looks so old!”

Her parents looked at each other in wonderment.

Laughing together, they group hugged at the good news: the Old Grocery Store would be coming back!

Flowing with the River of Life

Imagine that your life and all that happens to you are like a river, flowing from an unseen source stream, and flowing on beyond your physical sight. Now think about white water rafting categories:

Grade 1: Very small rough areas, might require slight maneuvering. (Skill level: very basic)
Grade 2: Some rough water, maybe some rocks, might require some maneuvering. (Skill level: basic paddling skill)
Grade 3: Whitewater, small waves, maybe a small drop, but no considerable danger. May require significant maneuvering.
Grade 4: Whitewater, medium waves, maybe rocks, maybe a considerable drop, sharp maneuvers may be needed.
Grade 5: Whitewater, large waves, large volume, possibility of large rocks and hazards, possibility of a large drop, requires precise maneuvering.
Grade 6: Class 6 rapids are considered to be so dangerous that they are effectively unnavigable on a reliably safe basis. Rafters can expect to encounter substantial whitewater, huge waves, huge rocks and hazards, and/or substantial drops that will impart severe impacts beyond the structural capacities and impact ratings of almost all rafting equipment. Traversing a Class 6 rapid has a dramatically increased likelihood of ending in serious injury or death compared to lesser classes.

If you contemplate these categories, you can see instances in your personal experience which contain incidents of these Grades — some much more turbulent than the others.

Sometimes, we just feel swamped, perhaps unable to function in our realities. Then there are those occasions when we encounter rocks that leave us physically or spiritually bruised/injured. Perhaps you are hanging onto a branch for dear life, knowing that if you let go, your life will change — fearing the worst, afraid of the unknown. But there can also be lazy river days, when one can just drift along with the current, not needing to care about when you will get there or how, just relaxing on your inner tube and enjoying the journey.

Awareness is the beginning of change. Choices occur second by second from the time you get up until you go to bed: From what clothes you will wear, foods you will eat, how you respond to negative stimuli, smile or frown, happy or sad, etc. All of these can combine with such force as to dictate what white water rafting category your day will be in. If you find yourself in a situation, can you take a deep breath, swim to an eddy in your mind, and relax, thus escaping the turbulent current? Instead of reacting to the external stimuli, consider your options carefully. Do you want to jump in with both feet and fight the current/waves/rocks? Or do you wish to take a slower, more contemplative route — perhaps portage around this particular issue and pick up the river  downstream?

My analogies are simply to draw your attention to what you have going on in your life right now. Do you like/love what is unfolding for you moment by moment? Or is it so traumatic that you want to run the other way? What maneuvers are you considering? Is it in response to the river or to the people in your life? Are you listening to yourself or not? Perhaps you may feel like you have no choices – which indeed becomes a choice in itself. Consequences follow as surely as the night, the day. Are you willing to keep perpetuating this myth? Or do you want to become more aware? Both have serious decisions/results. Only you can take action. Do you choose to paddle or not? Are you willing?

God’s blessing upon your journey!

Storms of Life

Storms of Life

Enjoy Life

Enjoy Life

Control Reactions

Control Reactions By Dr. Caroline Leaf

Change Your Orbit?

Your orbit/life path has been created by all the choices you have made to date. Your trajectory is thereby something that can be projected from today into the future. Is that a scary idea (if you are not happy with your orbit/life path)? Or is it something to look forward to and anticipate? Perhaps some of each, like the Pushmi-pullyu from Doctor Dolittle?

Sometimes, our orbits/life paths are greatly affected by other people in our lives. Sometimes it is a mate, a child, a boss, a supervisor, a job, or some other important person like a parent. Sometimes we give our power away to others…we let them dictate to us what our lives should be like and do what they want in lieu of what we know, innately, is best for us, whether they agree or not. Sometimes we want others to tell us what to do because we feel hopelessly lost in the wilderness. That can be anything from psychic readings, tarot card readings, or even a priest or minister.

The message here is that each person is a Divine Creation of God, Unique, Special, with lessons to be learned on this planet, which is the third rock from the sun. The Truth is that each person controls his/her destiny, which is revealed every day though the choices that are made.

Have you always wanted to take a class to improve your mind, expand your awareness, or just for fun? What is keeping you from achieving that? Have you a list of books to read…someday, when you have time? These books not only add energy and knowledge, but they can give you the momentum to escape your current orbit and create a new one.

The difference between an old orbit/life path/trajectory and a new one is that something has to change.

W. Foster Welborn has a saying: “You cannot keep doing what you have been doing and expect you will get different results!”

In order to get different results, something has to added to your life that becomes the new beginning you seek.

If you want to be more healthy, you have to put down that donut or Danish and select a protein and a fruit. In lieu of that bottomless cup of caffeine, you need to drink more water. Instead of catching the elevator or escalator, you need to walk some stairs. Instead of collapsing on the couch at night with  a remote in your hands, you need to set aside some time that fits your schedule and actually do something physical: Take a walk, ride a bike, take an exercise class, lift some weights, get on that exercise machine you bought (which is now a clothes hanger) and actually use it! Consistent effort here will pay off in so many ways, from a healthier you to a much happier you because, yes, exercise actually does lift the spirit!

Life’s daily demands of living, tasks to be done, obligations that we feel are required, etc., can use up every second of every day, with no room for anything else.

Your family, loved ones, and friends are important to you. Caring for them is vital. Do you take the time every single day to sit down and look into that person’s eyes and communicate with him/her, touching them like a hug or a kiss on the cheek? Your presence is a gift that no one can take away. Even a few minutes can make a difference over time. If you start when the child is young, for example, by the time they are a teenager with other priorities, they will still accept your presence. It is never too late to start.

I have read statistics that say that families are much more liable to text each other, even in the same room or in the same house, than they are to get up and go communicate face-to-face. One can laugh about this, but think of the opportunities you miss by doing it! Perhaps you might save some time, but at what cost? I have even heard that there are couples who can sit across from each other at a table and actually be texting each other!

Conversation is a lost art in our society, for the most part. Over a hundred years ago, they knew how to use words. They utilized a lot of words that have fallen out of use today because no one bothers with them anymore.

Are you willing to take a look at your orbit/life path to see if there is something that needs changing? Perhaps a choice that could be made differently if you took a class, like Assertiveness Training? Make a list – write it down. It takes it out of your head and gives you an objective to examine.

Only you have the power to change your trajectory. Are you willing to do that? It has power, Synergy, and life-fulfilling moments just waiting for you!

God bless your journey!

 

Unhappiness

A short definition of Unhappiness is something which you would wish to un-happen. In other words, you are not happy with the results/consequences of something.

Is this possible? Can history be changed? Are there regrets? Do you ever wish you had done something differently?

If it happened a second ago or years ago, history cannot be altered.

You can do things differently from now on, starting this minute. But you cannot undo what has been done. You can apologize perhaps. But you need to forgive yourself and others and move on.

The dictionary says the definition of Unhappiness is sad, wretched, sorrowful, ill-chosen.

I think we can all agree on that.

So what then? You must deal with the consequences, of course. But ruminating on the past can only get you the dictionary’s definitions of emotions that are not only unproductive, they are counterproductive. The more you think about something that has happened, the less you are in the present and unable to look forward to your future.

You need to ask yourself if you are Happy or Unhappy. If it is the former, congratulations! Keep up the good work! However, if it is the latter, regardless of the reason (no matter how justified you feel about it), you know you are STUCK.

It’s like Brer Rabbit and the tar baby. The more you fight with it, the more stuckered up you get!

Do you want to stay all stuckered up? It is your choice, after all.

It is like the vines that kept Harry Potter and his two friends all tied up — the more they struggled, the tighter they got. When Hermione realized what the vines were, she relaxed and fell through the tangle to the floor below, as did Harry. Hermione had to use light to get Ron freed.

We also need the light of understanding to free us from whatever we are stuck in. Seeking the light is the first step in the process. It will always come to anyone who is truly seeking it.

Bless you on your journey!

Happiness

The definition for Happy is:  “Favored by circumstances; lucky; fortunate; having, showing, or causing a feeling of great pleasure, contentment, joy, etc.; joyous; glad; pleased.” By the way, Happiness is a noun, while Happy is an adjective. That means the latter is active while the former is static…that means a lot.

Happiness is many things to many people. It is a state of mind. Some people equate it to ecstasy, or a state of euphoria. I would suggest to you that it is much more than that. It is more than a feeling, however fleeting that can be.  Some believe that circumstances outside of you can bring you Happiness, unknowing that Happiness is an inside job. Perhaps you may want a soul mate so you can live “happily ever after,” yet that particular one has not appeared because all of the candidates are flawed. Some have become disillusioned with the idea, believing it to be an impossibility. So they just stop looking or trying. Some keep looking even though they are not exactly sure what it is they are seeking. Some reach a sense of desperation because they want to begin a family, feeling like the clock is ticking against them. They actually have the option now of freezing their eggs or sperm, just in case they finally find that certain someone. That keeps their options open so they can have a healthy baby.

Some think that stuff can be the essence of their existence. Just go out and buy whatever you think will finally make you Happy. Yet that newness wears off, so you go buy something else. It is a wonderful thing to enjoy your possessions and all the good that God has brought to you…whether it is a beautiful necklace or a fancy car. Just remember that there is more to life. Besides, if material possessions brought Happiness, why are there not more of us deliriously Happy? Some people seek money and fame beyond all else, yet when they find it, they still must feel empty because of involvement with drugs, alcohol, and other addictions, some of which are fatal. It appears to be conundrum to me. (Definition of Conundrum is any puzzling question or problem.)

Some seek security and base all their decisions on that one idea. Yet security in itself is usually a moving target, especially in this economy and changing circumstances for so many people.  Some people even think that getting married will provide you with it. When they find out that it does not, they opt for divorce in lieu of being together and learning from each other. Tough decisions all.

There is a tale about a king who wanted to be happy, so he sent out a decree that he wanted to find the happiest man in his kingdom. He thought that, if he could find this person, he could wear this man’s shirt and be happy too. However, when he found the happiest man, it turned out that he did not even own a shirt. There is an idea to ponder.

Think for a minute: If Happiness is an inside job, how can anything outside of you actually truly create it? If you had a Happy plant growing inside of you, it would need nourishment in many forms: water, vitamins, sunshine, you name it. Yet we neglect to do any of that because we are waiting for some magic from outside of ourselves to help it to grow. While we wait, the plant withers and possibly dies.

I would suggest to you that Happiness has some basic qualities that help one to realize it:

H          Healthy

A           Admiration

          Politeness/Respect

P           Peace

I            Intimacy

N          Neatness/Orderliness

E          Ecstasy

S          Stillness

S          Serenity

All of these are interconnected with a sense of well-being. If one considers each word and then looks for something in their life that could be identified with it, perhaps just realizing it will raise your Happiness Quotient. If we remember that what we focus us on grows in our life, just changing how you approach the circumstances in your life could make it better.

Life was meant to be lived. Isn’t it about time that you felt you were, indeed, more alive?

If you are serious about being a happier person, suggest you sit down with a blank sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle. Now write the words, “Am I Happy” and add a punctuation mark. It can be a “?,” a “!” or even a period. The punctuation mark will tell it all. Once you do that, on one side of the column on the paper, write down what makes you feel happy. On the other column, write down what makes you feel sad, lonely, lost, or unhappy. You might be amazed at what these answers will show you. Just writing things down helps you to take a look at your perspective and perhaps change it if you want. We get stuck like a hamster in a cage, doing the same things every day for the same reasons. Sometimes, it helps to get out of that cage of humdrum existence. Writing things down can add clarification and help you formulate a new beginning for you, starting now.

Are you brave enough and willing  to try it?

 

 

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