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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!

Christmas Is Coming!

Christmas is both a time for giving and receiving. How are you at giving? How about receiving? Most of us are predominantly either one or the other. Rarely are we able to do both.

A child’s rhyme/song runs through my mind during this time of year:

“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat
Please do put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!”

You hear repeatedly that “It’s not the amount you spend on a gift that counts, but the thought you put into it.” Do we really hear that at the heart level?

I truly love this time of year. I love playing Santa to my friends and family. I know others do as well.

The naysayers emphasize the commercialization of the Christmas Holiday, stating that it is just a time for the stores to make money.  Yes, that is true, but it does not take away from the idea that you can give of the love in your heart, no matter the item.

It is a time for expressing that love in whatever way you deem appropriate. What attitude do you have when you are selecting your gifts? Are you stressed out? Do you feel unhappy because you do not have enough money? If this is true for you, you need to take a look at your priorities. If you cannot give even the smallest gift with a happy heart, filled with the peace of the Season, what blessing are you adding to the gift? That is what matters the most, after all is said and done.

What do you feel when you receive your gifts? Are you looking at the amount someone must have spent, or do you think about what a loving thought and blessing is wrapped inside the package? Are you open to receive that thought and blessing?

My first gift to my friend, who later became my husband, was a small Christmas stocking from a mall kiosk, with his name in glitter and some candy inside. He went into shock when I gave it to him because it was so unusual for him to receive a gift. He still has that little stocking in his desk drawer all these years later. So you never know what a small kindness can do.

In the flurry of the season, take a few moments to stop and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. The Christmas decorations, the music, and the Holiday Spirit (which does not come in a bottle, unfortunately) are all a part of it. I love to exchange Christmas cards because it is a time to touch base with friends and family to see how they all are, for they are now spread far and wide across the globe. What a special time of year!

The center of this Holiday is, of course, the Christ in Christmas. It is a time for celebrating his birth. Is He in your heart, mind, and spirit as you go about your activities? His Gentleness, His Love for all mankind, and His Caring Nature are all expressed through you on a personal level to every single person you contact. Be mindful of that as you go through your days. Do not be so busy with anything that you forget that.

Just know that you choose whether to be that blessing or not as you give your gifts. Put a little of your thoughts inside each one, K? Be a Blessing, K? Be aware of your attitudes when you open your own gifts — look for the thoughtfulness and be open to the gratitude for the expression of love that is inside each one, K?

God’s blessings upon your journey. Merry Christmas to you and yours!


Hibiscus & Christmas

Hibiscus & Christmas

Christmas Poinsetta

Christmas Poinsettia



What Does Enough Look Like?

The only question you need to ask yourself in your daily grind of life is: What does enough look like? Are you trying to buy a new house and need money for a down payment? Is your car falling apart, and it is necessary in order for you to work, go to college, or fetch the kids from school? Did you just see a necklace that just put a yearning in your soul to own something that gorgeous?

I could go on with many examples of the materialism that pervades our society today, world-wide.

There was a man in China, sitting on the curb with his family, with each one eating a Colonel Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken meal. He was asked how long he had to work to earn the money to purchase the meal. His answer? One week. He was very happy to do it.

So, how much of the money that you spend daily actually brings you a feeling of joy and happiness?

Most of us know that, in this economy, the money is spent before it ever arrives. There is also a lot of month left and not enough money to go around.

Could you step back a moment from your daily tasks to look at the long term of it all?

Have you ever asked yourself the key question: What does enough look like?

It is a key to prioritizing not only your money, how you spend it, and your long term goals, but also your time. How much of that precious commodity do you exchange for working to earn the money?

How long will you have to work? Must you work forever in order to maintain your current life style? Are you willing to change it so you can retire sooner and live on less income?

It is a fact of life that the more money you earn, the more you spend. Your expectations and choices change as you move up the ladder of success. It is almost imperceptible if you are not carefully monitoring your choices.

Many people are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is in the shape of a pyramid. The base is Physiological needs: Air, water, food, clothing, shelter, and human sexual instinct. Next comes Safety needs: Security of body, employment, financial resources, of morality, family, health and property. Then comes Love/Belonging: Friendship, Intimacy and Family connections. The next level is Esteem, which is about your personal self-esteem and self-respect, confidence, achievement, respect of others and from others. At the top is Self-actualization: morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts. Maslow believed that, in order to understand this level, all of the previous levels must be mastered. Of course, there are no strict lines between these areas as they are interrelated instead of sharply separated . Many levels can be experienced at any time as they are closely related.

My point is that, beyond the need of a roof over your head and food in your stomach, a coat to wear if it is cold and shoes for your feet, a safe and warm place to sleep, water, and perhaps a little loving, what more do you need? Must the apparel have a great name like Prada or Gucci? Do you need a Penthouse? Must you have an  “arm candy” woman at your side as you stroll through a fancy restaurant, reveling in the looks you get? What kind of car are you driving? Is it good transportation or a fabulous vehicle? The answers to all of these questions are determined by your choices, one day at a time.

You can go up the ladder of needs, and think about what they mean to you. How much of your energy does it require to live at the level you have attained?

Life is so very precious, and no one knows how long one has. Are you willing to ask yourself sincerely: WHAT DOES ENOUGH LOOK LIKE?

Your answers could affect the rest of your life here on Planet Earth. You alone must determine your priorities and choices.

God’s blessings on your journey!


Living in the Now

This is a phrase that is used by many people for numerous reasons. We would all agree that, whatever form it is in, it is a good idea.

But what does it really mean? It may seem self-explanatory and rather simple. However, as with all things that sound simple, in reality it can get very complicated in a hurry when one tries to use it in everyday life.

Circumstances may appear rather easy in the beginning of each day. You know you have certain things that will occur that day. So you begin your day. Your boss changes his mind on a due date for a project and gives you half the time to do your portion. This will require a lot of your personal time — perhaps even working at home — to do what is asked of you. That will bump your work out session, a date with your important other, and forget the time to cook that healthy meal you were planning in lieu of grabbing something on the run. This happens in many ways to every one of us. We start out one way, only to have to reverse directions and go another way. Our priorities change constantly during any given day. So, the question arises: How can I Live in the Now?

Life takes planning, both short and long term, in order to feel like we are in control of our time and destinies. It takes money, goals and cooperation from others, which they may or may not provide.

We must maintain our awareness of the above paragraph when we are busy with our daily lives and priorities. Otherwise, we arrive at a point where a long-dreamed-of goal is supposed to be achieved, only to find that it got lost in the cacophony which has occurred in the meantime.

So, how do we stay on track, Live in the Now, without sacrificing our planning? It is like deciding to take a journey by car. You get out the maps in order to decide the best routes to your destination (ignoring GPS in this example), you check out your vehicle to be sure it is safe for a trip, you pack your bags, and you get underway, following your template. You know there will be road construction (obstacles), traffic, accidents, etc., along the way. Yet you choose to keep going, mile by mile, until you reach your destination.

Living in the Now is just like that road trip. Moment by moment, you begin it. You know how you want to get there, when, and with whom. You take in the information that is coming to you through all of your senses, analyze it, and then see how it fits into your “road trip.” This all happens with lightning speed at both your subconscious and conscious levels. If you have an established template, you have more stability, enabling you to adapt to conditions on the fly. At the end of your day, you will be able to look back on your accomplishments despite the obstacles and happenstance occurrences. You will have positive feelings about yourself and others. You will have energy to proceed into your evening and enjoy life more. The daily wear and tear will have occurred to you as well, but you will have been proactive, resolving each instance as it appears to the best of your ability. You will feel like you are LIVING your life.

However, many of us do not make a template. Whichever way the winds blow (and sometimes the winds can be pretty horrendous!), it blows that person hither and yon. (The demands of daily living are the winds.) At the end of that day, that person will be exhausted, will feel like the day “just got away” from them, and will be embroiled in the negative emotions generated by being out of control of the time and the day. He/she will just drop on the couch when finally arriving home, with no thought given to anything other than the daily essentials. This person will be EXISTING. Procrastination would be the way of operating, creating more ill feelings to wreck havoc on the spirit.

The daily vicissitudes (wear and tear) take their toll on all of us. The only question is: Do you want to LIVE or EXIST?

I, for one, choose to LIVE in the NOW. There is always more to be done in a day than I can possibly accomplish. Yet I am enthusiastic about seeing a beautiful butterfly or flowers, watching a Sand Sculpture Contest to see how creative adults can still be, or looking at children playing — always a joy. When the daily vicissitudes come, as they always do, it is my attitude which makes a difference. It has been said that, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Yet, how many of us can do that? Not many. We REACT in lieu of ACT, we look at the negative side of the situation first, and then we “blow our cork!” Is this beneficial? Does it solve anything? Not likely. By changing my choices, electing to form a template for my day, deciding my destination, and be positive and SMILE — the rest of the day eventually takes care of itself. Things happen or don’t happen. I run into my obstacles, examine them assiduously, see what can be done or not, and move on. It is like a waltz, where your center of balance is over your feet. If someone or something is always pulling you off balance, how can you dance? It is your job to maintain your balance. No one can do it for you. Your attitudes, decisions, and priorities will run your day for good or ill.

If you are the Captain of your ship, with your hand on the helm, you alone can decide where the winds will take you. Take your hands off the helm, and watch where the winds carry you. You are a powerful person, able to decide this: Do you want to LIVE or EXIST? Do you want to REACT or ACT? Do you want to be positive or negative? Where is your center of balance? It is your CHOICE. If, through inaction and procrastination, you do not make a choice, it will be made for you. The winds will take over, I can assure you. What do you want?

Beautiful Butterfly

Beautiful Butterfly

Cactus Blossoms

Cactus Blossoms

Sand Sculptures

Sand Sculptures

Sand Sculptures

Sand Sculptures

Playing in the Sand

Playing in the Sand

Children Playing

Children Playing

Having Fun with her Daddy

Having Fun with her Daddy

Expand Your Comfort Zones

Stick your Necks Out!

Stick your Necks Out!

We all get caught up in our daily routines. It is familiar and most comfortable, like a pair of good slippers.

I would like to suggest that daily routines and comfort zones can also become a fence or a wall. Perhaps we might long for an adventure, but we never begin to plan one.

When was the last time you checked the cost of airfare to Hawaii? What deals are out there? Or perhaps it is to take a cruise or a trip to Disney World or Universal Studios. So many plan to do these as a dream, but it is always somewhere in the distant future…and certainly not now. Rationale then kicks in with: “That is too expensive. I don’t have the money.” You talk yourself out of it before you ever begin.

Do you work so hard at your life that there is no room for possibilities? Every day, year in and year out, is full to the brim with all of your lists of things to be done and must do.

It is said that the way to begin saving is to pay yourself first, even if it is only $5 – put it in a special account so that you can stop feeling like you do not have enough money to do anything.After enough time and consistent saving of even small amounts, you might be surprised at how much it could amount to. Dreams become possible one payday at a time.

Do you have a place in your wallet or purse for a “Hold Card“…be it $5, $10, or whatever? The thought behind abundance is this: You  look at something you would like to have, but you automatically think that you do not have the money for it, no matter how small a thing it is. (Like a nice Starbucks for a change of pace.) Yet, if you have a hold card, you could  decide to use it for that object. Or not. (How bad do I want that Starbucks? Do I want to use my Hold Card? I know I can replace my Hold Card on Payday.) But it then becomes a choice instead of an automatic reaction. You are breaking the chain that has held you in place for so long.

My point is that we get so set into our comfort zones that we never “stick our necks out!” Like the turtles above, we can look at our routines and decide if they are a fence or a wall. Analyzing our daily lives can bring to light other possibilities that we have not examined before.

Are you willing to “stick your neck out?”

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