Inspirational "Stuff" 001

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A Woman and a Fork

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and
had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in
order," she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss
certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures
she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the
young >woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

"There's one more thing," she said excitedly

"What's that?" came the Pastor's reply.

"This is very important," the young woman continued. "I want to be buried
with a fork in my right hand."

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

That surprises you, doesn't it?" the young woman asked.

"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the Pastor.

The young woman explained. "My grandmother once told me this story, and
from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I
love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of
attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of
the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and
say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that
something better was velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish
apple pie.  Something wonderful, and with substance!'

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my
hand and I want them to wonder "What's with the fork?" Then I want you to
tell them: "Keep your fork .the best is yet to come."

The Pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman
good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her
before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp
of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like
than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and
knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw
the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand.  Over and
over, the Pastor heard the question, "What's with the fork?" And over and
over he smiled.

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had
with the young woman shortly before she died He also told them about the
fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could
not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not
be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind
you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come. Friends are a very rare
jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend
an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their
hearts to us.

Show your friends how much you care. Remember to always be there for them,
even when you need them more. For you never know when it may be their time
to "Keep their fork."

Cherish the time you have, and the memories you share .. being friends
with someone is not an opportunity but a sweet responsibility.

Send this to everyone you consider a FRIEND even if it means sending back
to the person who sent it to you.

And keep your fork.

Dear Friends,
I thought you might enjoy Novelist Anna Quindlen's Commencement
Address at Villanova University
It's a great honor for me to be the third member of my family
to receive an honorary doctorate from this great university.
it's an honor to follow my great-Uncle Jim, who was a gifted
physician, and my Uncle Jack, who is a remarkable businessman.
Both of them could have told you something important about
their professions, about medicine or commerce.  I have no
specialized field of interest or expertise, which puts me at a
disadvantage, talking to you today.   I'm a novelist.  My work
is human nature.  Real life is all I know.

Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work.  The
second is only part of the first.

You walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that
no one else has.  There will be hundreds of people out there with
your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you
want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who
has sole custody of your life.  Your particular life.  Your entire

Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or
at the computer.  Not just the life of your mind, but the life of
your heart.  Not just your bank account, but your soul.

People don't talk about the soul very much anymore.  It's so much
easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit.  But a resume is a
cold comfort on a winter night, or when you're sad, or broke, or
lonely, or when you've gotten back the test results and they're not good.

Here is my resume.

I am a good mother to three children.  I have tried never to let my
profession stand in the way of being a good parent.  I no longer
consider myself the center of the universe.  I show up.  I listen.
I try to laugh.

I am a good friend to my husband.  I have tried to make marriage
vows mean what they say.  I show up.  I listen.  I try to laugh.
I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me.  Without
them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be
a cardboard cutout. But I call them on the phone, and I meet them
for lunch.  I show up.  I listen.  I try to laugh.

I would be rotten, or at best mediocre at my job, if those other
things were not true.  You cannot be really first rate at your work
if your work is all you are.

So here's what I wanted to tell you today: get a life.  A real life,
not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck,
the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those
things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in
your breast?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself
on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch
how a red-tailed hawk circles over the Water Gap or the way a baby
scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio
with her thumb and first finger.

Get a life in which you are not alone.  Find people you love, and
who love you.  And remember that love is not leisure; it is work.
Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a
student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others.
Pick up the phone.  Send an e-mail.  Write a letter.  Kiss your Mom.
Hug your Dad.

Get a life in which you are generous.  Look around at the azaleas
in the suburban neighborhood where you grew up; look at a full
moon hanging silver in a black, black sky on a cold night.  And
realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no
business taking it for granted.

Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it
around. Take money you would have spent on beers and give it to
charity.  Work in a soup kitchen.  Be a big brother or sister.  All
of you want to do well.  But if you do not do good, too, then doing
well will never be enough.

It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes.
It is so easy to take for granted the color of the azaleas, the
sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kids' eyes,
the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears
and rises again.  It is so easy to exist instead of live.

I learned to live many years ago.  Something really, really bad
happened to me, something that changed my life in ways that, if I
had my druthers, it would never have been changed at all.  And
what I learned from it is what, today, seems to be the hardest
lesson of all.

I learned to love the journey, not the destination.  I learned that
it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you
get. I learned to look at all the good in the world and to try to
give some of it back because I believed in it completely and utterly.

And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had
learned.  By telling them this: Consider the lilies of the field.
Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear.

Read in the backyard with the sun on your face.  Learn to be happy.
And think of life as a terminal illness because if you do you will
live it with joy and passion as it ought to be lived.
Well, you can learn all those things, out there, if you get a real
life, a full life, a professional life, yes, but another life, too,
a life of love and laughs and a connection to other human beings.
Just keep you eyes and ears open.  Here you could learn in the
classroom. There the classroom is everywhere.  The exam comes
at the very end.

I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island
maybe 15 years ago.  It was December, and I was doing a story
about how the homeless survive in the winter months.  He and I
sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the
side, and he told me about his schedule, panhandling the boulevard
when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the
temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amidst the
Tilt-a-Whirl and the Cyclone and some of the other seasonal rides.
But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk,
facing the water, just the way we were sitting now, even when it got
cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them.

And I asked him why.  Why didn't he go to one of the shelters?
Why didn't he check himself into the hospital for detox?
And he just stared out at the ocean and said, "Look at the view,
young lady.  Look at the view."

And every day, in some little way, I try to  do what he said.
I try to look at the view.  And that's the last thing I have to tell
you today, words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his
pocket, no place to go, nowhere to be.

Look at the view.  You'll never be disappointed.

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my
class, walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was
carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home
all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd." I had quite a weekend
planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I
shrugged my shoulders and went on. 
As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran
at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he
landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about
ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his
eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled
around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his
glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives."
He looked at me and said, "Hey Thanks!" There was a big smile on his
face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him
pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived
near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before, He said He has gone to a
private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school
kid before. We talked all the way home and I carried his books. He turned
out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday
with me and my friends. He said yes. 
We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I
liked him. And my friends thought the same of him. Monday morning came and
there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, boy,
you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of
books everyday!" He just laughed and handed me half the books. 
Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were
seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown
and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the
miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor and I was going
for business on a football scholarship. 
Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about
being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it
wasn't me having to get up there and speak. 
Graduation Day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys
that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually
looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved
him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days.
I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on
the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!" He looked at me with
one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. "Thanks," he said.
As he started his speech, he cleared his throat and began. Graduation
is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years.
Your parents, your teacher, your siblings, maybe a coach.....but mostly
your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone
is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story."
I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the
first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked
of how he had cleaned out his locker so his mom wouldn't have to do it
later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little
"Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable."
I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy
told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and
smiling that same greatfull smile. Not until that moment did I realize
it's depth.

Never under-estimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture
you can change a person's life. For better or for worse. God puts us all
in each other's lives to impact one another in some way. 


Falling in love.
Laughing so hard your face hurts.
A hot shower.
No lines at the Super Walmart.
A special glance.
Getting mail.
Taking a drive on a scenic road.
Hearing your favorite song on the radio.
Lying in bed listening to the rain outside.
Hot towels out of the dryer.
Finding the sweater you want is on sale for half price.
Chocolate milkshake.
A long distance phone call.
A bubble bath.
A good conversation.
The beach.
Finding a $20 bill in your coat from last winter.
Laughing at yourself.
Midnight phone calls that last for hours.
Running through sprinklers.
Laughing for absolutely no reason at all.
Having someone tell you that you're beautiful.
Laughing at an inside joke.
Falling in love for the first time.
Accidentally overhearing someone say something nice about you.
Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours left to sleep.
Your first kiss.
Making new friends or spending time with old ones.
Playing with a puppy.
Late night talks with your roommate
Having someone play with your hair.
Sweet dreams.
Hot chocolate.
Road trips with friends.
Swinging on swings.
Watching a good movie cuddled up on a couch with someone you love.
Wrapping presents under the Christmas tree while eating cookies and drinking eggnog.
Song lyrics printed inside your new CD so you can sing along without feeling stupid.
Going to a really good concert.
Making eye contact with a cute stranger.
Making chocolate chip cookies!
Hugging the person you love.
Watching the expression someone's face as they open a much-desired present from you.
Watching the sunrise.
Getting out of bed every morning and thanking God for another beautiful day.

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