Stories by twocents (21 matches)

The Girl Who Gave Me Apples

August 1942. Piotrkow, Poland. The sky was gloomy that morning as we waited anxiously. All the men, women and children of Piotrkow's Jewish ghetto had been herded into a square. Word had gotten around that we were being moved. My father had only recently died from typhus, which had run rampant through the crowded ghetto. My greatest fear was that our family would be separated. 'Whatever you do,' Isidore, my eldest brother, whispered to me, 'don't tell them your age. Say you're sixteen.' I was tall for a boy of 11, so I could pull it off. That way I might be deemed valuable as a worker. An SS man approached me, boots clicking against the cobblestones. He looked me up and down, then asked my age. 'Sixteen,' I said. He directed me to the left, where my three brothers and other healthy young men already stood. My mother was motioned to ... Read Full Story >>

8455 Reads

Acting On The Voice Of Kindness

I was riding my bike around lunch time today and passed a man sitting just off the sidewalk with his face in his hands.   My first thought was: "Stop! See if he needs help." But I was riding fast.  I slowed down and looked back.  It  looked as though he was either praying or crying, maybe both.  I decided that meant that I had to turn around.  I rode up and asked if he was ok.  No response.  For a second, I thought he might be a drunk or a bum.  But I asked again. He looked up with clear eyes and bright teeth, and gave me a big shiny smile.  He was about 55-60, wearing denim overalls and a farmer's hat, and had the hands of a manual laborer.  I quickly discovered that he spoke no English but I was able to make out that he was hungry and he had no ... Read Full Story >>

6509 Reads

A Lost Wallet Returned, Across 3 Continents

It was May in Bangkok, and even though I had arrived from India after 6 months of volunteer work, the heat and humidity was exhausting.  After a long day of temple visiting, I fell asleep on the sky train for about 5 minutes, only to wake up seconds before the door was about to slam shut at my stop.  As I rush out onto the platform, I realize that my wallet is gone! First thought: I'd been pickpocketed while I slept on the train. Second thought: Bravo to the pickpocket! My wallet had been in my front pocket and I was sitting down with my backpack on my lap.  Given the heat and stickiness, even I had trouble getting my wallet out of my pocket, but the alleged thief managed to do so despite the awkwardness and obstacles, without waking me up.  She certainly deserved something for that, and I had no ill ... Read Full Story >>

5839 Reads

A Lesson in Gratefulness From A Child on the Street

A story from a little while ago... On the way to dinner last week, we spotted a kid on the sidewalk doing his homework by the dim light of the street lamp across the road. He probably had no electricity at home, and this was the only way he could study after dark. Moreover, he was rather emaciated -- he probably eats less in a day than I eat in a meal. It was so touching to see his dedication that I felt a knot in my throat. I immediately thought of the Aurolab engineer who was the first person in his village to attend college -- who studied every night until midnight on the road under the one streetlight and only point of electricity in his village -- whose family took on high-interest loans to fund his education -- and whose monthly salary was less than his loan payments. When we rounded ... Read Full Story >>

4709 Reads

Virtue Is The Only Shelter We Have In This World

The first thing I noticed about him was his intensity.  When other people got up to take a break, he sat with such a sincere, unassumingly deep focus that I was immediately impressed. The next time I noticed him was few days later.  He happened to be in front of me as we walked down to the dining hall, and I caught a glimpse of his sweatshirt.  The cuff of his sleeve was tattered and dirty, with a small hole in it.  I instantly knew that he had no money, and that his intense search for truth had rendered a simplicity and faith that made the lack of funds not as worrisome as it would be for the rest of us.  Still, I thought that if there was ever anyone to help, it would be someone of this type of intensity, where the his answers might reap dividends to help many ... Read Full Story >>

4215 Reads

80 Rupees of Kindness Goes a Long Way

"I'm the eldest among us, so you have to let me pay for these tickets!  Besides, just one ticket in the States cost more than all three tonight!!" My cousin's wallet hand was faster than mine, pulling out Rs. 520 for three opening night seats to 'Angels and Demons' before I could make good on my intention. "Naaah!  Come on- don't worry about it," came the answer. "Ok, but then we have to use this 500 rupees to do something good," I say as I pull out a crisp note. We immediately start trying to figure it out while slowly walking away from the theater.  I spot an ice cream vendor selling 10 rupees soft serves not far from us. "Hey, what about ice cream!  We could give 50 strangers a cool surprise with this bill.  Just random people walking by." "NO!  Why?!  We should give to someone in need," protested one of my cousins, with ... Read Full Story >>

3866 Reads

A Five Rupee Formula for Joy

On my way out the building in the morning, I search my pockets for 5 rupee coins. If I have one, I go to the shop downstairs and buy 5 packets of Gems-- an Indian version of M&Ms. There are 3 Gems per packet, giving me 14 chances to make someone smile (there would be 15 but invariably the first Gem ends up in my own mouth!). On the first day, I gave one each to the two youngs sons of my dhobi (washerman), and to the boy who lives in the makeshift shack in front of my building. Their hands were really dirty so I put them straight into their mouths. I thought for a second about giving them an impromptu lesson in hand-washing, but they are too young to understand Hindi and I haven't learned enough Kannada to explain properly. Next time I'll pick up the basics, and use ... Read Full Story >>

3635 Reads

Listening Life Raft

She recognized my face, but didn't know my name.  It didn't seem to matter though.  For me, it had been more than two years since I saw her, but my guess was that this had nothing to do with  me.  She had gone through a lot, that much was clear.  In the past, it was tough to tell if her continual distress was a result of on-going chaos or the residual mental effects of prior suffering.  Not only was she not open about this, but found ways to inappropriately interject her own issues into any conversation and lead it down a negative path, which meant that most people would try and end their conversation with her in the first minute. The moment I was free, she rushed over to talk to me.  We moved quickly from the opening pleasantries to heavy issues-- abuse, immigration matters, law suits, discrimination, exploitation-- that had all been a part ... Read Full Story >>

3248 Reads

Kindness Is The Medicine

One of my co-workers was recently stressed because his wife is struggling through a period of severe depression triggered by a rebounding of bodily pain from fibromyalgia.  She's also been on furlough from work for a number of years, and doesn't get much opportunity to maintain social ties and a sense of purpose which are often so essential and deeply nourishing.  After listening to him unload his burdens, I decided to do something small to support him and his wife. I don't know his wife very well at all, but wanted to express some warmth and kindness to her, since it so often feels like the universal balm to soothe every ailment. I found out that, like most people, she loves receiving handwritten mail.  So I purchased a card and wrote the following message to her: Dear Nxxxx, I want you to know that you have something very unique and beautiful to offer the ... Read Full Story >>

2693 Reads

Unloading Bricks

I was interviewing a friend near a school, and a man came up and started unloading bricks near us. He was doing his best to be very quiet and not interrupt our shooting, but was having difficulty keeping the noise down and had a huge load to unload.  We decided to help him unload his truck and spent the next hour chatting as we did that. 

It turned out he was the father of a kid at the school and was volunteering his own time finding bricks from the neighbors to build a natural plant garden at the school.

The beauty and coincidence of the situation was that we had selected that shooting location because of the stunning murals on the wall of that school.  It turned out that this man had been instrumental in getting the PTA to agree to allow an artist to paint those murals.  So in a way, he had already done something for us by giving us an amazing shoot location-- and then happened to show up right as we were shooting to continue his good work such that we could repay his kindness by helping him.

1889 Reads

Kindness Chain-Gifting Experiment #1

"A" is a struggling, but brilliant, cookbook author in rural Washington.  "M" is his friend in Brooklyn, New York, who financed the cost of publishing the first edition "A's" cookbook. I secretly purchased 10 copies of "A's" book --  my gift to "A" as well as to "M". "L" is a former personal chef now working for a natural foods start-up in Austin, Texas.  The kind of gal who not only would enjoy "A's" cookbook, but whose active use of it at dinner parties and events would effectively sell many more cookbooks as the guests inquired about these innovative and refreshing recipes.  Both "A" and "L" benefit tremendously by "L" getting "A's" book, sooo... ...I drop one copy off (and some mail-money!) with "P", a retired software engineer and budding artist, in Seattle, WA.  "P"'s assignment is to send "A's" book to "L" along with a smile card and anonymous note encouraging her to pay-it-forward. As part of the chain, "P" gets ... Read Full Story >>

1828 Reads

"Spare Change" of Kindness

I had a meeting to go to and pulled up to a metered parking spot in a busy commercial area.  I grabbed a handful of change to feed the meter and discovered that I had an hour and eight minutes on my meter.  So with a smile on my face, I proceeded to walk down the street towards the building where I had my meeting.  Every other parking spot was occupied because of the holiday bustle, and the first meter I passed had expired, though a car was still sitting there. I instantly realized that it would be such a downer for a holiday shopper to get get a ticket in the midst of shopping for loved ones, so I paid forward my meter blessing by dropping a few coins into that meter.  Walking further, I found another car with an expired meter and drop some coins there as well.  ... Read Full Story >>

1750 Reads

Ginger Ale in Line

I was at a popular local grocery store at exactly the wrong time -- just after everyone was getting off work.  This is the kind of grocery store where it sometimes takes 15 minutes just to find parking.  When I got inside, the lines for the express lane were the entire length of a grocery store aisle.  The store was jam-packed and people were regularly having to adjust their gaits and paths to navigate the crowded aisles.  Luckily, I had a fairly small shopping list requiring only a handbasket and made my way through the store much more quickly and efficiently than all of the people with large carts.  Some 30 minutes later, I had another lucky break by quickly finding a checkout aisle with only four customers in it.  As I was waiting in line, a woman in the next checkout line called someone and asked if they wanted ginger ... Read Full Story >>

1680 Reads

Russian Smile Heroes

This is a story of other people's random kindness to me. I was driving on the freeway when I saw a sign warning drivers that chains would be required to cross the mountain pass up ahead.  I had never driven with chains before and didn't own any, so I pulled off the freeway and bought a set.  It took quite some time to get the chains on, and I had to drive very slowly for the next 15 miles as I was going through the mountains.  The moment I got to a spot where it was no longer snowing, but raining instead, I pulled over and took the chains off so I could resume driving at a more normal speed. After about 30 minutes of driving, I suddenly came upon another snowy, icy patch of road.  I reduced my speed, but then as I came over a hill, I lost control of ... Read Full Story >>

1646 Reads

12 Days of Kindness

For my third day of the Twelve Days of Valentines Kindness, in honor of my wife, I decided to share a story about how kindness boomerangs back to us, after a request by deepula. As perhaps another example of this, the kindness I'm doing for my wife may just be having an effect on her.  Her boomerang hit me hard and with lots of love!  She posted four post-its with song lyrics peppered with little hearts on the bathroom mirror yesterday.  One was a Hindi song called “Kabhi Kabhi” with lyrics that translate as follows: "Every so often my heart feels as though you were made for me.  You used to live somewhere in the heavens.  And you were called to earth for me..." The other song was “My Song” from Moulin Rouge: "It's a little bit funny...this feeling inside.  I'm not one of those...who can easily hide.  I don't have much money  :-(  ... Read Full Story >>

1628 Reads

TreeBeard Trifecta

Stanford had an unexpected effect on him.  Higher education at an Ivy League is supposed to turn out the best engineers, accountants, and consultants on schedule every semester in neat little batches.  Instead it sparked in him a deeper question of what it truly meant to be educated.  Instead of quickening his steps to match the relentless drumbeat of capitalism, he arrived at "the understanding that the slower you go, the more you learn: that every person you meet and every building you pass is, in fact, infinitely deep, and he who is really interested in knowledge would move not at all." So there he was, inviting me to not move at all for the next hour as a few friends for sat in lotus posture, seeking knowledge.  Meditators often crave quiet, pristine environments for their sitting: the shade of a tree in a rolling meadow, a small covey on the bank of a river, a ... Read Full Story >>

1522 Reads

Kindness Chain-Gifting Experiment #2

"J" is a brilliant musician who fell from his rising star as a world famous rockstar when he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.  Now a mute quadriplegic on a respirator with only the movement of his eyes and thumb left, he's far outlived the 3 years of life they gave him more than a dozen years ago.  Releasing 4 albums since being disabled, his musical genius has been amply revealed as he composes Mozart-like symphonies and other pieces (replayed in premiere venues by other famous musicians), painstakingly, one note at a time. "D" is long-time friend of "J" and has bought 200 copies of "J"'s last CD to support him and his work. "D" believes its "J"'s deep spirituality, and his love of music that keeps him alive.  I invite "D" over for a homemade lunch of gourmet tostadas, and purchase 2 copies of "J"'s CD from him, hoping to have done something small for both ... Read Full Story >>

1478 Reads

Melvin Off The Streets

[This post is dedicated to my mother, whose birthday it is today, Jan 15th. She has held a lifelong practice of feeding needy people on her parents & children’s birthdays. What’s more inspiring to me is that she did it with so much humility that I never even learned that she was doing this until I was in my early 30s. I love you Mummy, and honor you by practicing the values you have lived by-- which have become my values.] I heard fervent mumbling beneath the blankets when I approached. “Melvin, are you under there?” He pops his head out and let’s out a slightly hysterical laugh. “Yah- yeah… I was just praying. Praying that somebody would bring me dinner.” That alone was enough to bring a knot to my throat. “Well, I have your dinner,” I say quietly, “and its warm.” Melvin had reason to be praying. For most of the last 6 months, ... Read Full Story >>

1265 Reads

For The Beggar Who Wanted To Shoot Me

"Excuse me, do you have any work that you need done? I'm trying to earn some money," asked the man who approached my car window. He was gaunt, slightly disheveled, and had a weathered look that made him appear perhaps a decade older than his actual probable age. My usual practice when approached by beggars is to first smile within, then smile at them and say an inner prayer for their happiness as I decline to offer cash. There's no art or science to this policy, rather an underlying but untested assumption that someone actively begging is misusing money and caught in some cycle of substance addiction. I wish that my awareness and sensitivity ran deep enough to have an appropriate response to every beggar rather than a go-to policy. "Well, how about 50 cents? I'm just trying to get a taco over at Taco Bell." I catch a flash of irritation at ... Read Full Story >>

1008 Reads

Melvin Marches On

“Hey Melvin! How are you doing?!” It had been more than two months since I saw the homeless man who taught me so much from his life on the streets. Now he was standing before me inside the train station sporting a long leather jacket, a fancy felt hat with an elegant feather in it, and some new reading glasses perched on top of the hat. “I’m doing good!” he says as he lunges at me for a hug, but then stops short and offers a fist bump. I can tell he really is doing much better. “Where you sleeping these days? Did you get into that program?” I ask. “Well no, not quite. I’m at the church now,” he says. “You sleeping there?” “No, I’m working there! I’m the gardener,” he says with a big grin. “And I’m volunteering, just like you!”  “Oh man, that’s great Melvin!” I say with effusive joy. “You're my guru, man! Come ... Read Full Story >>

695 Reads

Melvin's Legacy

Its been quite a while since I've seen Melvin, but his story didn't end after my last post on him. In the months after I wrote, he lost his gig at the church due to some incident that lead to a falling out; he got into a housing program; subsequently, he was removed from that housing program; he was then arrested for disorderly conduct; ended up in the hospital for 4-days; discharged from the hospital and sent back to the streets, where was living, still with the hospital band on his wrist and with two bottles of pills that he had already confused. In all of that time, I continued to do food dropoffs with my daughter, my son, my wife, and even once all of us. My daughter in particular was curious about Melvin and she loved meeting him. For many months, whenever I would disappear after dinner, she ... Read Full Story >>

62 Reads



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