Monday, January 2, 2012

Small Things Count Too



We’ve just heard the bells ringing, ever-present Salvation Army drives near business doors, folks in Santa hats collecting coins. December: the season of giving. Can you spare a dime… a turkey… used clothes and toys for the needy? 

Why is this goodwill not extended more widely year round, our charitable focus ongoing? 
Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love… If you can’t feed a hundred, then just feed one.” 

Everything we do for the least of these counts.  Giving extra food to a hungry bird or animal out in the cold counts.  A simple smile to a lonely heart counts. Every bit of compassion counts.

At St. Timothy’s they all flock like birds to a feeder by day.  The homeless seeking hot soup and sandwiches, at times a little money for meds.  We know the beggars by name. Kenny’s home is a grocery cart from Piggly Wiggly, all his worldly possessions stuffed inside.

Under the breezeway he sits alone, preparing his evening meal. He’s plugged a crock pot alongside a percolator inside an electrical outlet.  Rigged an open-air kitchen in secret. Thinks he’s alone under stars sneaking out slow and peaceful.

Kenny doesn’t know I’m spying on him through the Anderson Hall window, and is surprised when he sees me approaching to ask, “What’s for dinner?”  Gingerly, he removes the crock pot lid to show me tomato soup starting to simmer. “Where did you get your kitchen?”

“Goodwill had a surplus of crock pots and percolators and offered me these for free.” Then he leans back against the brick wall, luxuriating under the breezeway with coffee and soup to warm and feed him on a chilly night.

When I ask, “Would you like dessert to go with your coffee?” he nods with pleasure. 

Back in the kitchen I pull a brand new bag of butter cookies from the pantry shelf and deliver it to Kenny, who is so filled with gratitude you’d have thought I just handed him a Sultan’s Golden Cake.  A wholehearted “Much obliged” from a homeless man brings great reward.


When have you received or offered a small deed of kindness with great love?
Thank you for sharing your stories.

70 comments:

  1. Yes, Debra, "everything we do for the least of these counts" . . .
    And, I always wonder, too, why so many people don't keep Christmas, with its joy and spirit of giving, in their hearts all year round. As a Christian, this is something I strive to do daily. We never know when we are entertaining angels, or even Christ Himself, unaware.

    A touchingly perfect post, my friend!

    Wishing you every blessing in the new year!

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  2. I like to think there are many of us who share those random acts of kindness and goodwill throughout the year and this end-of-year season of giving frenzy is more a sobering nudge, or a wake-up call of sorts. One thing that never fails to humble me: one person's rags are another person's riches.

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  3. Debra,this post was so touching,such a simple act of kindness,straight from the heart,Beautiful,and thanks so much for posting it. Blessings Jane

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  4. Happy New Year, Angel heart. Always moved when I come to visit you here. Thank you for sharing the magic of Christmas, for inspiring us all to give of our hearts not just once a year but year round:)

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  5. @ Martha – The least of these are Jesus is disguise, said Mother Teresa. I have so many of these stories, and would love to hear others, as they are so inspiring. Many blessings for the New Year! I’ll be in touch.

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  6. @ Deborah – I know there are many who share random acts of kindness throughout the year. But as a culture in general, the focus on charity seems more prevalent at Christmas. The December spending frenzy, where did this come from? Sometimes I imagine myself in Kenny’s shoes, speaking of one person’s rags being another’s riches.

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  7. @ Jane – Happy New Year old friend! Haven’t heard from you in awhile. Wishing you all the best this upcoming year.

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  8. @ Brynne – And Happy New Year to you. Hope your holidays were filled with wonder and joy. And I wish this Christmas magic for you year round. ~ Blessings always

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  9. Debra this was a touching post ... after reading Martha's on the same subject I read yours.. and it ashamed me terribly that I have not done my part... I used carry fruit in the car so that I may offer the odd person but lately have not done it......
    I guess something or someone is telling me to begin....
    Thank you for your gentle reminder and I have missed your posts...

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  10. Hi, Debra! ~

    I prefer to think of interdependence as 'sharing', as in mutual give-and-take, rather than charity.

    Like, devoting my life to teaching, participating in genuine conversation & relationship (as you did with your homeless acquaintance), and even taking care of myself so others are not burdened by having to take care of me.

    It is a way of life, not just a holiday tradition.

    XOXO

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  11. Savira - I love your quote by Mother Teresa: “Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.” And this is what you do already :-) You have a heart of gold, and you spread love and peace all over the place.

    I haven’t been around much lately, so I’ve missed your posts too; trying to get back on track after the holidays.

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  12. Linda – Yes indeed; giving is a way of life and not just a holiday tradition. Ideally, it should be give-and-take, and yet that’s not always the case. Some are just takers, and you’ve met these I’m sure :-(
    On New Year’s Eve I found a collage I’d made at a spiritual retreat awhile back, and as I studied the pictures, I saw that most of the words and images I’d included showed relationships and some form of interaction. So that must be what makes me tick too. Also there were fireflies in a jar, just letting their lights shine. And that’s a form of giving, just BEING the light.

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  13. Beautiful thoughts to usher in the new year.

    Happy New Year.

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  14. Debra: When I was little I would catch fireflies in a jar and then let them loose when I got into the camper! My dad went beserk -- haha! 'I don't know how it happened!' hehe!

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  15. @ Being Me – Wishing you a blessed 2012!

    @ Linda – heee! May you never lose your mischievous and playful side!

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  16. Now that the temperatures have begun taking a nosedive (yes, there is a winter), offering the warm meal, hot cup of coffee, and shelter will become even more critical...

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  17. When my sister was alive she regularly practiced these kinds of random acts. She never talked about them, but sometimes I would see them. I'm convinced she paid my mortgage once without telling a soul--she denied it of course. Other times she picked up strays and raised them like children. She inspired her students and athletes to do more than they saw in themselves. I try to lead with her examples in my heart...she molded me, and the best way I can think of to honor her is to do a few "random acts of Ellie" once in a while. Thanks for the reminder...

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  18. Yea everything we do for the least of these counts. Thoughtful post. :)

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  19. @ Roy – Wish I could bring all the strays inside tonight, when the temperatures plummet. Ever wonder how they do survive, how the wanderers might feel in arctic weather…

    @ OC Mommy – Your sister sounds like a saint. Secret alms are the most noble. I wouldn’t have talked about Kenny either, except that the outdoor kitchen was so innovative ;-) Now you’ve inspired me to write about my brother, who was a lot like your sister, doing good deeds anonymously.

    @ Shreya – Yes indeed, it all counts.

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  20. I loved your experience with Kenny. Opportunities are everywhere to serve those around us, it just takes some mindfulness sometimes to begin to be aware of them. What a beautiful light you must have been for Kenny that chill night.

    ~blessings

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  21. Jessica – Exactly: mindfulness is key.
    By the way, I dropped off a dream in your bucket. I’d love your feedback, if you have any. They are mysterious and strange, but worth investigating, and I’m so thankful you’ve launched a site where we can discuss the significance of these night visits.

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  22. It Does! Its a selfish world though often where nobody does anything unless there is something to benefit.

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  23. Years ago, my husband and I we were visiting his family in southern Mexico for Christmas. After shopping for gifts (and spending freely with our ample American dollars) a taxi driver loaded our bounty into his run down cab. When we arrived at my in-laws home, my husband pulled out a $20 bill and tipped the stunned driver. To us, $20 was nothing--to him, it was a Christmas miracle. Tears slid down his cheeks as he told us that he had no money to buy his children gifts that year, and now they would have presents to open for Christmas. I've never forgotten the gratitude he showed to us for something so small. What a lesson.

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  24. @ Jerly – True. Sad but true. What we need to do is “Be the change we want to see in the world.”
    ~ Gandhi

    @ Jessica – Your poignant story brought tears. Thank you SO much for this most inspiring memory. With your permission, I’d like to use it as an illustration. Thank you!

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  25. Happy New Year Debra. That was just a beautiful gesture. I wish the world was more charitable.

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  26. What a wonderful story you have shared. I give daily in one way or another, sometimes just a smile sometimes more. Bless you for your desert for Kenny as well as the time you took aside to be there.

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  27. Happy New Year Debra...I wish more people thought like u do,the world would have been a better place.What we can do for starters is make it a rule…never to lie down at night without being able to say, "I have made one human being at least a little wiser, a little happier or a little better...God bless u Debra.

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  28. Hi Debra:
    Happy New Year. Your column Monday reminded me of a book I read lasr year called:
    The Same Kind of Different as Me:
    http://www.samekindofdifferentasme.com/about.aspx
    This line:
    Kenny doesn’t know I’m spying on him through the Anderson Hall window, and is surprised when he sees me approaching to ask, “What’s for dinner?” Gingerly, he removes the crock pot lid to show me tomato soup starting to simmer. “Where did you get your kitchen?” sparked my memory; ESPECIALLY:
    Kenny doesn’t know I’m spying on him.

    If you can track down the book I think you'd REALLY get something out of it.

    Enjoy the new year, Debra.
    Blessings.
    --
    Chris

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  29. Happy New Year Debra!
    What a moving post. I love the visual of you offering Kenny the cookies... it melts my heart.
    I agree that although we may not be able to do big things; we can do little things. I aim to do those things more this year. Thank you for the loving and gentle nudge.

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  30. Miss Debra - you never cease to stand me still. My breath catches until I read the final word of your posts. Me, I try to love unconditionally and without expectation, giving what I have to give. Sometimes I excel and other times, my heart wants more that it has a right to expect. I pause, inhale and with a might push I try to exhale the hurt. It is the small things that we remember the most because they are usually the moments (things) that trip us up or linger long after the fact..

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  31. @ Rimly – Happy New Year to you! We can’t change the world, only ourselves.

    @ Jan – A smile can make someone’s day. Peace (and love) begins with a smile.

    @ Alpana – That’s a good policy, never to lie down at night without being able to say, “I have made at least one human being a little wiser, a little happier, or a little better.” And if this were the case, we’d probably sleep better ;-)

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  32. @ Chris – Sometimes I think God sent you to be one of my professors in the School of Life. Seriously, you give these amazing assignments that always bring new insights and a wider vision. I just went and tracked down the video and watched it and I’m convinced that this is a Divine assignment. No doubt about it. It looks like a must-read for me. Thank you!

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  33. @ Leah – I hope you’ll share with us, your readers, what transpires. I’m looking for uplifting stories to include in a book I’m writing on how even the smallest deeds of kindness can make a difference in the world. Of course the book isn’t just about that, but this theme is a part of it. Thank you!

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  34. @ Brenda - Yes, the smallest things… sometimes they’re so small they escape us, like the Who’s in Dr. Seuss’s book, Horton Hears a Who. I’m trying do what they always told us to do in school: pay attention. Not just what I do for others, but what they do for me that might not seem like much, but to them it’s a big deal. On my birthday my daughter cleaned the house for me. I expected a gift, but now I realize that the housework WAS the gift! Wishing you a year of productivity like you’ve never seen!

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  35. You tell heart-warming stories, Debra.

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  36. JR – New Years Blessings to you! May your 2012 be full of creative flow… all year long and beyond.

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  37. Debra - This post had a simplicity and a beauty to it that I can't describe. I love the little interaction between you and Kenny..I think more than hand-outs, it's the little gestures of thoughtfulness that count more even with the most needy. ♥

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  38. Corinne – Thank you for adding your dimension of wisdom by saying that it isn’t about the handout, but the thoughtfulness. That old cliché, “It’s the thought that counts,” well, that just happens to be true, which is why it’s a cliché. Sometimes we remember all of our lives the little things given and done for us. I remember those Christmas Eve’s when my Uncle Robert gave me packs of Double Mint gum. Just the fact of him thinking of me still matters.

    Then there was this friend of mine who was too poor to buy any gifts because she was a single parent struggling to make ends meet; who, one Christmas gave me a package of Celestial Seasonings herbal tea. Doesn’t sound like much, but I’ll never her sacrificial spirit.

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  39. Debra, I like to go Christmas light seeing on Christmas Eve. This year as we were turning the corner to view an area we hadn't yet venture too, I noticed a "begger" there on the corner.

    I looked at my hubby and said, if he's there tomorrow on our ride back from picking up Noah, I'll bring him Christmas dinner after we've eaten.

    Christmas afternoon on our way out to get Noah, I noticed he was there. I smiled and was a bit excited and prayed he be there when we returned. (because I did say on our way back) We get Noah and as we turn the corner, the guy was there!! I yippied with excitement and told the boys (Noah and my Hubby)to be prepared to help me deliver the food later.

    After we had dinner, I made a plate for the guy on the corner and we took it to him. The smile and the warm thank you made my day.

    Small things to one person, might be something huge to another ....

    http://wwws.scatteredmusings.net

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  40. Debbie – Oh, what a wonderful story! As I was reading, I found myself hoping, hoping, hoping the man would still be there. I had my fingers crossed that he’d be there so you’d have the opportunity to bring joy both to yourself and to the homeless man. Because, as we all know, it IS more blessed to give than to receive. Of course we’re all excited about surprises and gifts, but serving and giving is the best joy of all!
    Thank you so much for sharing your uplifting story.

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  41. I find that moments like these remind us of something that we all long for, but that takes courage for us to see. Through our willingness to see others for who they are, we become to connected to our shared humanity.

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  42. Kristen - Exactly: seeing ourselves mirrored in the souls of others would change everything for the better. “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” ~ Albert Einstein

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  43. So much we take for granted Debra; so much we have to learn about what it truly means to give. While opening our hearts over the holidays is certainly a wonderful thing, the need doesn't end when the lights come off the tree.

    ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    May we all live with that in our hearts.

    Have a Blessed Day!

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  44. Happy New Year Phil!
    Yes, may we live with it (<3) in our hearts year round. ~ Peace, joy, and richest blessings

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  45. I have done this several times Debra! But I must admit there is a selfish motive behind it - I love the feeling after... I want to feel that way all the time. Its my ego playing and that's not good.

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  46. Kriti – oh no, it’s not your ego, that good feeling that follows. It’s the better angel of your nature. And that’s what makes us feel happy, knowing we’ve made someone else’s day ;-) Keep at it girl!

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  48. I've often wondered myself why Christmas is the one time of the year when we get all fired up about giving but it doesn't seem to be on the radar at other times. Maybe as people we can't maintain the focus... In any case over the past few years, I've challenged myself to be generous in both big and little ways all the time. In the beginning it was something very easily overlooked but it is becoming more natural with practice. It doesn't necessarily have to do with giving things... I try to always be thinking, "How can I benefit this person?"

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  49. One step at a time and small kindnesses become miracles. As Lao Tzu once said, 'a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first [brave, courageous, uncertain, tentative, nerve-racking, delirious, wobbly] step.'

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  50. @ Lynne – That’s the point: it doesn’t have to be about giving stuff. LITTLE acts of kindness make the BIGGEST difference. “Whoever gives a cup of cold water…” is blessed. Think about our sick children we’ve fed liquids to when they had fevers… it all counts!

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  51. @ Cathy – Lao Tzu’s quote is perfect here. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” What can I do TODAY to make a difference? For starters, I’d forgotten to write a thank you note, and so I did. And now, as I write this, I’m reminded that I need to write several… so I will begin. Someone had sent me the new memoir by Lucy Daniels: with a woman’s voice - and I need to write her too. Have you heard of the book? Thank you for the reminder!

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  52. Debra, the doctor who is treating me right now for this 15 year long sleep deprivation that I've had, he's done it very much on the cheap. He's a specialist – and loses money every time I walk into the office – he's been the most helpful doctor so far. Each visit is an act of kindness. With no money, and having had no money for a while, I agree with what you said in your very last comment, it's not always giving money -- time, effort, heart, prayers, they count too. I hearted your post as always, thank you, and God bless and keep you Debra.

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  53. Craig – This doctor isn’t just ANY old doctor, he’s a godsend. His reward might not be monetary, but nonetheless he will be compensated somehow with blessings – just a spiritual law, reaping and sowing. How is he helping you Craig? You said he’s so far helped you more than the others. What treatment is he using? What remedies are working? Will you promise to keep us posted on your progress?
    ~ Love, peace, and richest blessings

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  54. What a heart warming and sad story. Grocery cart home:( I've heard that particular quote from Mother Theresa. It used to be framed in my school. It's a nice one.

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  55. Gayatri, thank you for stopping by and letting me know where to find you. I did likewise. And I read your post on social media. I have much to learn.
    ~ Peace

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  56. You're a kind hearted person and these gestures mean so much to those on the receiving end. Not everyone is as fortunate as us thus it's our responsiblity to lend a hand when able. I try to help out the less fortunate by buying them coffee, muffins, etc at my local cafe and that seems to brings them joy for a few minutes. Never understood why Holiday giving doesn't last year round. Love the pic of birds and squirrels dining together. Take care!!

    http://erinsdomain.blogspot.com/2012/01/rewed-focus.html

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  57. David, there was once a place downtown in our city, the Luna Bean. The proprietors served up everything from free ice cream cones to the homeless in summer to steaming hot espressos in winter. Anybody can walk in and order a chai tea or a strawberry-kiwi smoothie, a milk shake or hot chocolate, an Americano or a frozen toffee coffee madness. They had something for every taste bud under the sun. And there was always a refreshing treat for those who couldn’t afford to buy. Why are there not more such places in this world?

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  58. loved your spirit of giving.Occasions and festivities are just those moments when we reflect back to rekindle the humane-thoughts in us...but that's only for those who have forgotten it!

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  59. Thank you Rohit. Memory always does that: rekindles our humane-thoughts, doesn't it? Sometimes we do forget how good-hearted we once were. Life, with its pressures and demands, too often gets in the way of our vision of kindness and love. Let us remember, like Simba, who we are.

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  60. Debra, your post serves to remind us of how easy it is to take things for granted. Also, how a small gesture goes a long way. I was blessed with a wonderful childhood where daddy was a high ranking military man and we had everything our hearts desired. Nevertheless, my parents always encouraged us to help those less fortunate. My nana would always say, "Nothing is forever. It may just happen that those that are on top today, may reach rock bottom tomorrow, Bella. That's why you need to be kind. So that is you need kindness to be extended to you, it will happen." And the good Lord knows I've gone from affluent to poor to poor again. Of course I mean poor financially because fortunately, I've never suffered from poor of spirit, but when times have been bad, I've always found God smiles down and me and extends a lifeline. Sometimes it's a kind person, or an uplifting word, or much needed reassurance. Yes, the little things; they make all the difference in the world, wouldn't you say, friend? :)

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  61. Bella, great comment; can I credit and quote you on this? In a book I’m currently writing, I’m weaving some of the thoughtful comments into the work. Some, not all of course. But your voice shines bright.

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    1. Credit and quote to your heart's delight, my friend. I would be honored for my comment to be included! And tickled pink! :)

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  62. Debra - thank you for you wish, much appreciated. I feel like everything I have been striving to learn has been leading me up to this point. I have yet to learn how to find an agent, etc., but the coming weeks should take care of this. I wish you the same btw, and I also wanted to thank you for being such a wonderful supporter of my blog. It's been a journey. I struggle (as does everybody I'm sure) with time. :-( Anyho, I hope your year is blessed with goodness. Hugs, Brenda

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  63. Brenda, I haven't found an agent or publisher yet either. But I'm believing that we'll find the right one. Meanwhile, I've found the following helpful:

    As much as I can, I try to ignore the building anxiety surrounding book production, and concentrate on the work of writing. Amidst all the noise, I continue to try and take the long view. I remind myself that libraries, at least, are eternal. Consoling thought.
    Obscurity… http://julijasukys.com/

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  64. oh debra i LOVE this... the perculator, the crock pot, the way you know his name... what a great story, friend.

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  65. Emily, we need to get together and share stories.
    Oh how I LOVE your necklace story about the homeless man!
    In fact, I love it so much that I wish I could borrow it (giving you full credit of course)to include in a book I'm writing currently. How perfect if would fit in with mine!

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  66. Reposting:

    Many many times Debra...but the recent ones resonated well. I remembered wishing to keep my peace but couldn't and a friend wrote me a powerful and touching message.He allowed me to draw and make music even when I felt like not doing so.

    Then there was this incident when I was younger ~ when I assisted street kids. An orphan came to our house with her little sister and I gave them biscuits. When the little girl came to live with us, she told me she was very hungry at that time but was too shy to beg for food and I gave her spontaneously without asking her. She said she'll never forget neither did I.

    I felt so much love in both instances. I knew it was God in those people.

    Thanks for this post :)It's truly inspiring.

    January 12, 2012 1:31 PM

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  67. You could read into her hungry soul, dear Melissa. Physical food,yes, and more. You offer the Bread of Life that never leaves us empty.

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  68. love your choice of photo for this post.

    I've been down memory lane reading old posts on my blog and picking commenters to visit at random.

    Many blessings to you
    thank you for following my blog and taking the time to leave a comment occasionally.

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    1. Thank you Angela!
      ~ Many blessings to you

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