Achilles Heel

    In one memorable episode of Wheel of Fortune, a player spun the million dollar card and called the correct letters to finish the puzzle “Mythological Hero Achilles.” He only had to read it to keep the card. He pronounced the name as “A-Chill – es.” and lost the million dollars. The next player correctly pronounced, “A-kill-eze” to solve the puzzle and collect $1,000.  

    For the player who never studied Greek mythology, that pronunciation was his “Achilles heel.” The phrase ‘Achilles Heel’ originates from a Greek myth about Achilles and his mother Thetis. To protect her son and make him invulnerable, she dipped Achilles into the River Styx. Achilles grew to be a handsome, brave, fearless warrior. He was as invulnerable as Super Man away from Krypton, until an arrow pierced his heel, killing him. The very heel that Thetis held while dipping her baby Achilles into the river to protect him caused his downfall.  

    The unsinkable Titanic sailed across the Atlantic full steam ahead, confident in its engineered invulnerability. An iceberg pierced its hull, teaching future ship builders and captains valuable lessons. Even to this day, cruises begin with a drill instructing passengers on what to do if the Achilles Heel is discovered in these massive symbols of modern technology.

    “The Achilles Heel” phrase came to mind recently as the electrical power grids in Texas failed. The storm of the century found the system’s Achilles Heel. Not that the Texas electrical companies ever declared infallibility. A few years ago a less extensive storm warned those in charge that a potential power challenge existed. This past week, every power source failed: renewable and non-renewable. Even the most eco-friendly forms of harnessing energy failed, as illustrated by a picture of a windmill being de-iced by a helicopter. Several sources, including the El Dorado News-Times, reported that picture originated in Europe several years ago. 

    Some want to emphasize that the green earth philosophy will not work when clouds block the solar panels and ice freezes windmills. The same folks tend to ignore that 75 percent of the energy source in Texas originated from fossil fuels. Those fossil fuel plants also failed during the storm and shut down.

    In Arkansas, Facebook lit up with warnings, complaints and explanations when rolling blackouts abruptly began and ended one evening. The black outs stopped within a couple hours as folks adjusted thermostats, turned off appliances and went to bed.

    With Texas off the grid, hundreds of workers began working on the problem. Long term solutions will follow as engineers and electricians seek to protect the system’s Achilles Heels.    

    It is easy to say that the power company should have handled things differently. With the eternal 20-20 vision of hindsight, an abundance of solutions always exist. However, 2020 has passed. Take time to stop, assess, correct and continue to look for the obvious, inconsequential and hidden flaws

    Thetis could not go back and dip Achilles to include the heel. The Titanic can not be pulled up and set back on course. We can’t go back and make the results from the power failure go away. We can expect the powers that be to spend the time and money to avoid a future repetition. Customers can quit complaining about the outages, the bills and the inconvenience. Customers can also decide to do their part and turn down and turn off sooner when the next storm comes. 

    Checking for flaws, weaknesses and possible points of failure must follow the storm of 2021 because nature will again challenge any arrogant declarations of “unsinkable” or “invulnerable.” With time, the problems of this storm will be addressed, and let’s hope next time nature will not find a new Achilles heel.

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Thanks, doc

A couple of DIY (do-it-yourself) folks live at our house. Hubby made our bed with lumber, a power saw, nails, glue and varnish. Then I stitched together a quilt, and we sleep comfortably.

Our new house needed landscaping. The DIY man of the house raked the dirt yard flat and free of stones, scattered it evenly with seeds and dug holes for the shrubs and trees.

On birthdays, my mixer appears with flour, sugar, eggs and chocolate powder. In no time a baked cake awaits a simple frosting of four ingredients.

Lately we have learned to do simple sewing machine repairs.  I trust my husband with a lot of do-it-yourself projects: roofing, car repairs and more. Despite our determination to fix things ourselves, even we know when to draw the line and call experts.

A few years ago I refused to even consider obliging his requests for me to “just ease into the car yourself” so that he could take me to the hospital after a fall that resulted in compound fractures in my tibia, femur and arm bones. One look at my face, and he knew he had to call 911 then step aside. He could only stare with his mouth open as he saw the finesse of the EMTs quickly picking me up and moving me to the ambulance. He tried to tell them what to do. They ignored him and used their training and experience to do it their way.

Of course, at the hospital, neither of us could access an x-ray machine for a DIY exam, let alone read the x-rays.  So, we put aside our DIY inclinations and waited on more knowledgeable, skilled folks. We welcomed the benefit of the surgeon’s years of training to put this Humpty Dumpty woman back together.

Before the tibia break, neither of us would have ever thought of installing a temporary external rod to my leg.  I had such a shock waking up and seeing that as we waited for the initial swelling to decrease in order to have surgery to fix the bone internally with plates attached to the bones. I compared it to fixing a split wall stud by nailing it to another piece of wood.

Last year after slipping in mud, I encountered the more common surgery of a hip replacement. In the centuries before modern medicine, similar injuries would have left an individual crippled, in a wheelchair, an amputee or declining health.

Thanks to the doctor who performed the first successful hip replacement surgery using a metal prosthetic in 1940, I can walk and move around. Years of research and development have refined the procedure, reduced the recovery time and increased the longevity of the prosthetic. So many have these prosthetics now that it is almost routine for an orthopedic surgeon. In fact, I had to wait on another person to finish hip replacement surgery before I had mine.

Hip replacement may be “routine” and have clear instructions, but it still is not a DIY project. It takes four years of medical school to grasp the body’s complexities. Surgeons then spend years after that studying, practicing and perfecting their skills under close supervision. Thanks to the years that Dr. Daniels spent developing his skills in orthopedic surgery, I stood up using a walker a mere day or two after I slipped in mud and broke my hip. Sure I shuffled down the hall and had to force myself to pick up the foot and move forward. Still, I walked. I did not remain in the bed.

A shuffling gait is ever so much better than the fate of the folks who endured the same injury before WWII. Kudos to the doctors who learned the skills and persist in doing their best to help patients recover. We can’t be DIY-ers in everything, but we can benefit from our doctor’s skills.

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Just like mom and dad

    The big 4-0 creeps ever closer for my darling daughter. The calendar does not measure the big event so much as the change in her mindset. She called me this morning to say, “I am becoming my parents.” and proceeded to tell me a couple stories.

    Yesterday afternoon she was headed to the church where Katie attends Mother’s Day Out. She stopped at a red traffic light and reached over to spit her gum into a paper. “It didn’t take more than a couple seconds,” she said. During that brief glance away, the light changed to green.

    “The person behind me honked her horn at me to get going. No one else had left the intersection; she did not have to wait long. Still she honked her horn. I drove on and went to the church. The person in the car behind me zoomed ahead, went around me, and wove in and out of traffic. We were going the same direction. In fact that impatient lady went to the same place to get her child from the very same Mother’s Day Out.

    “She whipped around looking for a choice parking space. I parked and was inside, picking up my daughter a bit ahead of her. I just had to laugh. So much impatience. I am becoming my parents. I’m like an old lady getting her laughs from watching ‘young whippersnappers’ get their ‘just desserts.’ It was just so much fuss for such a short distance.”

           My daughter is probably thinking about all the times my husband has refused to pass the car going a mile or two slower than he wanted to go. “I am about to turn off the four-lane. It is ridiculous to hurry up and pass someone just to turn off the highway a few seconds later,” he has always insisted while my impatient soul urges him, “Pass ’em!”

   In the same conversation she admitted to copying her parents’ gas saving secret. “I went to fill up my tank at the grocery store station that gives a discount with purchases of groceries. When I got to the gas tank and punched in my numbers, I realized I had 90 cents off per gallon of gas this time!”

    Her gas light was on, so she needed to fill up without delay. She was ready to start filling her tank, but 90 cents! This was too good not to share! She called her husband, “Hey, do you need gas!? We can get 90 cents off a gallon if you do!”

    “I am not too sure. I will have to drive there,”

    “I will pump the gas slowly to give you time to get here.”

    He left for work and met her saying, “My gas light just came on.” They had two vehicles in need of filling. 

    “And if you had had the gas can for your lawn mower, you could have topped it off as well!” I said.

    “Well, you can only get like 35 gallons of gas at the discount rate, and we got almost 34 gallons. This was so much like what you guys do that all the time: Drive up to the gas tank and fill both cars at the discount. I am becoming my parents.”

    “Hey! You saved enough to pay for your whole family to go out to eat,” I reminded her.

    Eventually that child of mine will tap into even more of my favorite ways to stretch a dollar. Meanwhile, her mindset  realizes that sometimes we cannot save money or time. So we may as well sit back and enjoy the ride.

Joan Hershberger, former News-Times Staff member, writing with her daughter Sharon Schulte.




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Katie’s Playmate

At family gatherings little kids’ eyes search for “someone just like me.” At three, Katie found Abby, two. The two inspected each other before returning to their mothers. At four, my grandson went up to a bit taller boy at a yard sale and said, “hi!” The oldest grandson immediately gravitated to his much younger boy cousin when they first met, only to realize the years made a difference in what they could play.

So when all her siblings left, Katie, 5, wanted a playmate. She found me, the only person not rushing about working.

“Come on Grandma, let’s sew,” Katie said.

I found a comfortable spot to sit and opened my sewing bag. I pulled out a scrap of Aida cloth, a large needle and cards of leftover DMC threads.

“I want light pink.”

I unwound a couple feet chanting. “Pink, pink. You stink.”

She grinned, “pink, pink, you think.”

I started to thread the needle.

“No, let me!” she insisted. She quickly poked the thread through the needle’s eye. “Here, tie it.”

Katie stitched random lines across the fabric using all the thread.

“Now I want orange.”

“Nothing rhymes with orange,” I said as I separated the thread.

She tried, “borange, korange” and other silly words, threaded the needle and stitched.

My attempt to show Katie a simple stitch design ended when her sisters arrived home. “I’m gonna go play,” she said dropping the fabric.

At bedtime she brought me her doll Allie in a pink carrier. “You watch her. She needs her paci,” She placed the magnetized pacifier over the doll’s mouth.

“Now hold her and pat.” She laid the doll on my shoulder. I patted a few times then left the doll laying on my shoulder. Katie picked up her backpack. “Here are her toys, some food and a Bible to read.” Katie pulled each item to give me. She ran over to the pile of toys in the corner and returned with a wooden block painted to look like a container of milk. “And here is milk for her breakfast. Allie will sleep down here tonight. You take care of her.”

“Okay. Allie isn’t going up to bed with you?”

She adjusted the doll carrier and tucked my blanket around the doll before going upstairs to bed.

“I see you are watching the baby,” my daughter observed in passing.

“I have a carton of milk to give her in the morning,” I indicated the wooden block.

The next morning, Katie ignored the doll. “Let’s sew.” With her sisters gone again, she needed a playmate.

I pulled out the sewing basket. She sewed light green, light blue, light purple and light yellow and quit. “Let’s sew on the sewing machine,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll get it,” I said.

Katie’s mom overheard us, “I’ll get it.” Quickly she returned with the old fashioned sewing machine and a bundle of fabric. “Here is an apron we started a long time ago and never finished.”

I pinned. Katie pushed the button on the foot pedal. While I prepared the apron to sew, Katie picked up the scissors, “I want to cut.”

I looked around for something, “Do you want to cut the cloth you sewed?”

She cut off all the knotted tails and loose ends, arranged them in a wad on the Aida cloth and pushed the pedal as I directed the fabric to stitch them in place.

She said, “These are the eyes and the nose.” She never finished the mouth. Her sisters returned. Katie dropped the cloth, scissors and thread and announced, “I’m going to go play with them.”

With no one to play with me, I finished the apron efficiently, but it was not as much fun without a playmate.

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nap time

Around three in the afternoon, I woke up, yawned, opened the van door and wandered into the house. “Did you have a good nap?” my husband asked. “Why did you sleep out there?”

“Sometimes I just need a quiet place to nap. I used to clock out at work, drive the car to a shady spot and take a nap.”

The Energizer Bunny did not comprehend. Some 20 years into retirement, and he still rarely takes a nap. During his bout with Covid he slept a lot. I knew he had recovered when he stayed awake all day.

Not me. My body always demands its sleep time. For instance, before we married, Energizer Bunny talked on the phone with me before going to bed. Some nights he chatted way past my college years’ bedtime. I paid for it. In the middle of the next day’s lecture, my notes drooped into unintelligible scribbles until I jerked awake, blinked and resumed listening to the professor only to fall asleep again.

When I had preschoolers, nap time began with my reading story books to the little ones. More times than I care to admit, I nodded off before I finished reading the fairy tale of the day. A time or two, my “I’m not sleepy” little boy sat staring at me while I slept l, and he did not.

I accept the fact that when I need sleep, I must simply take a nap and not apologize. For sure, don’t fight it. When driving long distances alone, nothing helps: not loud music, an audio book, cold soda nor open windows suffice to ward off sleep. When that happens, for safety’s sake, even in the middle of the day, I pull into a parking lot, park away from others, lock the doors, tip the seat back and fall into a coma. Later, refreshed, I awake and finish the drive safely.

No apologies from me. I accept the necessity of sleep. I shrug when my husband comments about my falling asleep during Sunday’s sermon or while driving through a scenic countryside. His mom understood. “I’m resting my eyes,” she would say.

Comatose best describes some eye resting. At least that is my explanation of the afternoon some guy knocked at the door and woke me. He said something. I stood there looking through the screen door at him with bleary eyes, shaking my head to clear the cobwebs of sleep. I could not comprehend, let alone remember, what he said. I guess I must have addressed his concern before he left.

If he had been a child crying, I would have snapped to attention, changed the diaper, found the lost toy, handed the child a snack and fallen back to sleep. But he wasn’t a child in need. To this day, I only remember how sleepy I felt.

Sometimes, I fool my brain into alertness for a while. It took seeing my son’s disappointed face the night I could not stay awake to greet him at the end of his late work day to learn that. I apologized and said, “Well, if we are going to talk when you come home, I need to leave the lights on and walk around. If the lights go low, if I sit back or lay down, my brain thinks it is time to sleep, and I cannot remember what we talked about later.” Standing up and walking around has worked thus far.

When I feel so numb from tiredness that I can’t think, let alone talk anymore, I will nap. It may not make sense to the Energizer Bunny and his cohorts, but it works for me, and that’s a good enough reason for a nap any day.

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Do you have kids

A post on Facebook said, “Tell us you have kids without saying ‘I have kids.’”

My granddaughter, Lindsay, wrote, “My coffee is cold, and so is my food, I have little bruises from being jumped on. I have more stretch marks everywhere. I enjoy nap time, laundry never ends. Brushing my hair is as far as it gets. I am a poop sniffer and a lie detector. I can reach around corners and rescue stuffed animals from danger. I am a fixer of boo-boos and a wiper of tears. I am a mother, I have no fears.”

Mothers plow through their fears. One of my earliest “Moms have no fear” incidents involved our eight-year-old. He stared appalled at a creepy crawdad that his dad invited him to see. He backed away. I thought he needed to address his fear, so I addressed mine. For the first time I touched a creepy crawdad. I did not volunteer to touch another. The boy did and grew to be a man who insists on kids trying new, scary, but safe, experiences.

Then there are snakes. I avoid them assiduously. I never touched one until I went on a school trip. The girl with me shrank back from the snake the forest ranger held for the students to touch.

“Look, it’s okay,” I reached out and stroked the snake.

“It won’t hurt you. Be brave.” I faced my own fear, touched it and realized, “Oh, it feels like ribbon!” A few years later, traveling with a grandchild, I astonished my husband when I stroked a long, fat python at the zoo. I only did that to encourage my granddaughter to do the same. Once sufficed for me.

One time, the “no fear Mom” facade came as we stood outside the bedroom where my husband’s mother spent her last few weeks. My daughter, hesitated at the door to the room where her terminal grandmother lay. She felt timid and unsure of what to do in this new experience. I empathized with her, took a deep breath and walked to say a few words. My daughter followed, greeted her grandmother quietly and they spoke for a few minutes.

Moms always have the next generation depending on them to calm their fears or ease them into sleep. Some mothers described their “I have a kid” by simply saying, “I haven’t slept through the night in eight years.” “I have one inch of space on our queen sized bed.” Or “I sleep on the floor although my bed is 20 feet away.”

Some nights a tired mom will do just about anything if their child will just go to sleep. I have laid on the bed to calm a restless child, stretched out on the floor beside them or allowed them to crawl into bed with me. Even with grandchildren I have grabbed a pillow and a book to lay in the hallway and say. “Now be quiet so we all can sleep.”

Our youngest liked to crawl in bed with us. As she grew bigger, I eventually kept an extra blanket and pillow on the floor beside me. If she came into our bedroom, I would pat her back as she laid on the floor. I wanted my bed space. For a long time, she often left her bed to sleep on the floor.

Mostly though, these days my proof that “we have kids,” comes with walls filled with pictures of the same six at different stages of their lives. If they have not called in a while, I wonder if they are okay. And, when I know they are coming, I make a special shopping trip to buy their favorites. That’s how you can know I have kids without my saying it.

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an anniversary with covid

Advice columnists, speakers and movies emphasize romantic anniversaries, birthdays or other special days for couples. They depict flowers, candy, a candlelight dinner in a fine restaurant, sweet nothings whispered or written. Every year my husband aims to have some activities on our anniversary.

He fell flat on everything this year. In fact, he was laid out flat on his back. Well, not exactly flat on his back. Since he has Covid-19 he sat up a lot. This year hubby’s health quarantined us behind closed doors for our anniversary.

Instead of sweet nothings whispered to each other, he sat in his lounge chair on one side of the living room hacking, coughing and moaning his misery. I sat on my side of the room in my lounge chair, blowing my nose. We made quite the duet.

The romantic music of the day faded sporadically into snores when one or the other of us fell asleep. No fine bib and tucker this year. No, this year, I sported a Snuggie with a St. Louis Cardinals’ theme. When I stood up he said I looked like a Cardinal’s player in full baseball uniform without a cap to cover my bed head.

No delectable chocolate cake on the counter this year. This year, our treats came in little bottles of pills: vitamins, antibiotics, decongestants and effervescent Vitamin C tablets, plus all his heart medications, filled hubby’s stomach. I tried to give him a feast. I really did. I offered him chicken noodle soup, dry toast and rice. He took one look and shook his head, “I can’t eat that,” he groaned and slumped into the lounge chair.

So he drank broth, orange juice and water. He nibbled on a few crackers and lost weight. Whether he planned to start the year off with a purge, or not, he did and has lost about 10 pounds. That’s one way to fulfill a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight!

Some years we dress up and go out to a movie for our anniversary. This year, jammies, warm socks and extra t-shirts replaced our finery as we dozed and watched one banal movie or show after another on YouTube. Too tired to reach for the remote, we languidly let it roll from one show to the next as we lay on the couch or chairs. The first day of that, my husband looked at me about 6 or 7 o’clock and said, “We certainly have been lazy today.”

“No, just getting better.”

We don’t usually exchange gifts. Our anniversary is too soon after Christmas. Still, I did go to the store and pick up his prescriptions for Covid. Before our holiday rush, I anticipated one or the other of us having a cold or the flu (as it usually happens), so I bought chicken noodle soup, cough medicine, decongestants and cough drops. He didn’t unwrap presents, he unwrapped cough drops and ripped open envelopes of Vitamin C.

No fancy cake this year. We made do with an instant chocolate pudding pie.

The day of our anniversary in quarantine, a friend called, “are you about ready to kill each other?”

I honestly could say, “No. Not really. He sleeps a lot while I work on writing, sewing or clearing corners of clutter. I needed to be home for a while.”

Two or three days of living in pajamas in front of the TV sufficed for me. I woke up one day and dressed. It took hubby a couple more days to shed his fuzzy pajama bottoms. I understand the lethargy of this sickness lifts slowly. Still, I expect to be healthy enough to celebrate our anniversary by Valentine’s Day.


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Prior to my birthday, my son sent me the following comments:

When I moved to Michigan, I thought I would only be involved with the redemptive work of preaching the good news of Jesus. I soon learned about other opportunities for redemptive work. In Michigan,  most soda and alcoholic beverage containers have a redemption value of ten cents which is more than plastic or aluminum. Many collect bottles and cans to make ends meet. It is against the law to throw away redeemable containers in Michigan.

During the severest part of the Michigan COVID shutdowns, the stores did not allow bottle returns. I found many extra cans and bottles in people’s recycling bins and started to collect them. When stores began accepting the bottles, I redeemed them for over $100. That money bought additional groceries and toilet paper for the folks to whom I was assigned to help by delivering groceries to them on an as-needed basis.

Once at a bus stop, as I pulled cans and bottles out of the trash, a fellow who hangs out there soliciting small donations said, “You should get a real job. Stop begging for money! You are dirty!”

I turned around to him, “I’m not asking anyone for money. I’m on a redemptive mission. These bottles have value. I plan to redeem them. It’s a crime to throw away what can be redeemed. You can be redeemed too, and you wouldn’t want anyone to throw you away. Right?”

He lightened his tone and was more friendly.

Thanksgiving Day while my wife fixed the meal, I wandered over to the nearby university campus. When I collect bottles and cans, I often talk on the phone with my mom. That day I scoured half of the campus and collected bottles and cans worth about $2.50. It’s not often I get paid to talk on the phone!

On New Year’s Day, I went to the campus, again made a call, and while I talked, I picked up two to three dollars worth of redeemables from the other half of campus. No one had gathered trash since Thanksgiving because the University closed after another rise in COVID cases. I decided it was high time somebody rescued what could be redeemed.

A neighbor regularly drinks and discards beer and Coke bottles. I pick up the cans and empty any remaining beer onto the ground. From him I redeem a couple dollars worth of bottles and cans every couple weeks. Sometimes he gives me whole bags of redeemables. One time, he compassionately gave me four dollars in cash as well. All this for simply walking off my regular route, rescuing what otherwise went to the dump.

Locally, cans are such a hot commodity that people in economic trouble post requests on Facebook for permission to pick up cans from others. Usually, several people post that they have cans available. The recipient puts gas in their car, buys groceries, and that is the end of it.

However, recently, a co-worker from the public service agency where I work viciously berated a can-collector for asking for the help. Her comments came to me via the agency’s Facebook page. I suggested she use more discretion with her online interactions. The next day during a webinar on sensitivity towards those who have suffered unjustly, she was visibly shaken.

My mother taught me to redeem the time, to stretch my money and that there are no throw-away people. On this week of her birthday and anniversary, I celebrate by redeeming a large bag of cans and bottles, then I will use the cash to buy toilet paper for the people I serve.

Thanks, Mom, for not letting me waste my life.

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Gladys Aylward, the small woman

A flash from my past came as I sorted through a stack of books which included one inscribed, “Property of the Jr. Missionary Band.” As a child I belonged to a Missionary Band. Our neighbor opened her home to weekly meetings of the Missionary Band. Bit by bit she read us “Gladys Aylward, the Small Woman.”

As a young teenager Aylward worked as a chamber maid in pre-WWI England. That was her life until she attended a mission conference and felt God calling her to China. China Inland Mission placed her in a three month training. Her academic agility in theology or Chinese did not impress the China Inland Mission leaders.

Aylward became a maid again, but this time she had a goal. For the next four years, she saved every penny she could to buy a train ticket to China. If the mission board would not send her, she would go on her own. Finally in 1930, at 28, she boarded a train and traveled for weeks across Asia to help Jeannie Lawson, a 70 year old woman, serving in China.

Lawson taught Aylward her first Chinese – a chant, “We have no bugs, we have no fleas. Good, good, good—come, come, come.” Chanting, Aylward snagged the lead donkey of any passing mule train and pulled it in the barn at their Inn. In the evening, Lawson and Aylward told Bible stories. Memorizing those stories in Chinese furthered Aylward’s language skills. Initially regarded with suspicion, the two gradually earned the respect of the community and leaders.

When Lawson died a year after her arrival, Aylward had learned enough language to manage on her own. She did wonder, “How can I afford to keep the inn? What can I do?”

The local official had a solution. He commanded her, “Go out in the district and check that the families no longer bind their daughters’ feet.” As a woman with “large” unbound feet, Aylward provided an example to the families. She received a fee for the task and daily opportunities to tell Bible stories. Individuals’ belief in Jesus Christ and local churches began to develop.

On one of her trips, Aylward saw a mother with a sickly child. She gave the mother nine pence and took the girl home with her. Nursed to health, she became the first of 100 children who came to live at the Inn of 8 Happinesses.

At one point a murderous prison riot broke out. The local official commanded Aylward, “Go in and get them to calm down.”

“They will kill me,” she protested.

“Your God is inside you. He will protect you,” the official said.

Aylward went. Inside the gate a man rushed her with a sharp knife ready to kill her. She insisted he hand her the knife.

He did.

“Now tell me why you are rioting,” she demanded.

“We don’t have food. We don’t have clothes or a way to keep warm.”

Aylward returned with food, clothes and work projects. She began a prison reform. The community began calling her “The Virtuous One.”

In 1938 the Japanese attacked China. Aylward and the orphans fled to hide in nearby caves to avoid a Japanese massacre. Seeking safety for the 100 children at an orphanage, Aylward trekked with them over the mountains. She and the older children carried the little ones. Random encounters with soldiers and strangers provided food, protection and a ride across the river to safety where they found the orphanage.

She faithfully continued to minister to the Chinese until her death in Taiwan. The little lady who could not pass the entrance class of China Inland Mission obeyed God, earned her own way, rescued children, began prison reform, helped erase foot binding and introduced many to Christ.

Those whom God calls, He enables.


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Covid sent us back to the past

    On the cusp of a new year, we look back on 2020 as the year we went Back to the Past.

    It began with the grocery store ads, “Send us your grocery list and we will walk the aisles filling your order. All you have to do is park at the curb and we will load your groceries.” Or, “for a fee, we will deliver the groceries to your home.”

    Exactly like folks used to do when mom would call the corner grocery store and ask, “Would you please send over a couple quarts of milk, five pounds of sugar and a dozen eggs?” With groceries left on the doorstep this last year, we have almost returned to the era of dairy products left in the aluminum box on the front porch,

    Back in the good ole days, the mailman delivered a fat catalog every fall. I poured over the Wish Book every year choosing Christmas presents. Slowly, Black Friday shopping wiped out mail orders. That came to a screeching halt this year as quarantined folks ordered more of everything online, expecting it to be delivered to their door.

    In the Ralph Moody biographies set before World War I, his widowed mother made a living for the family by cooking up hot meals for other folks. Moody’s teenage sister and younger brother helped him deliver the hot pots of bean soup and brown bread to ladies who did not want to cook in the heat of summer. This year, fast food places joined with delivery services to save us that trip into town so we would not have to fix that food ourselves.

    Folks used to stay at home most nights. Then organized sports expanded to include everyone from toddlers to old geezers. Covid-19 came along and sent us scurrying back home. The sports arenas closed. Suddenly, back yard play sufficed once again. Card games came out of the closets and national sports went silent for weeks.

    In the past, weddings involved the bridal couple, the immediate family and a couple of witnesses. Then wedding planners, bridal magazines, elaborate engagement and shower parties grew exponentially in popularity until Covid-19 brought it all to a screeching halt. I realized how much the wedding extravaganza had stopped when my Facebook friend who loves any party showed pictures of her daughter’s wedding. Only the parents attended.

    Back in the day, home cooked meals dominated the menu. Then after school, work and extra-curricular activities shoved Mom out of the kitchen and into the fast food line. Before last year many moms admitted, “I hardly ever cook. We always go out to eat.”

    Then the quarantine closed restaurants. Folks stuck at home called in grocery orders, gathered in the kitchens and helped clean carrots, peel spuds and make the day’s home-cooked meals. “I thought I had forgotten how to cook,” one said.

    With the stay at home orders, pollution began to dissipate. The air cleared like it used to be. Italy noticed it first as the waterways in Venice cleared and many life forms returned. With greatly decreased demand for gas, the price at the tanks plummeted to long forgotten prices. Families discovered the wonder of walking in fresh air and enjoying the outdoors after a day spent inside doing homework, office work, virtual schooling and zoom meetings. The future begins to look a lot like “back in the day.” Thinking of that, I wonder if today’s kids might remember the good ole’ days of the quarantine when they and their parents stayed home. Covid-19 caused its damage, but it also slowed us down, cleared out our over crammed closets, schedules and lifestyles. It provided time to go back and re-discover activities worth carrying into the future.

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