On this Blog I will be posting things that people are doing to make this world a better place. In the comment section of each post I would like you to tell me about things you have done to make the lives of those around you better. It could be something as simple as buying someone in need a hot meal. Any of the things you put in the comments section will be posted on this Blog.

Request for (10) cards: Send a self addressed, stamped envelope to:

Promise Cards
4710 Farming Ridge Blvd.
Reading, Pa. 19606

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Christmas Gift

 This is a story I wrote last year about a real life experience that my Wife had a few years ago. It was posted on my "Simple Thoughts" site right before Cristmas. I decided to re-post it on this site because it is a wonderful story about giving to others and receiving much more than you expected in return. My Wife was gracious enough to allow me to share it with you. I think it helps us all realize the true meaning of Christmas, and what it means to reach out to others. I hope you enjoy it.

The Christmas Gift

     Christmas is always a special time for our family. It's a time to count our blessings, renew our faith in God and look to the new year. It also allows us to reflect on how we can be better people. We also hope to touch the lives of those around us and make them better. My Wife has always enjoyed the holiday season as she searches for that special gift, makes gift baskets, volunteers to help those less fortunate, and tries to brighten the lives of those around her. A few years ago we had talked about adopting a family for Christmas We agreed to keep our eyes open and possibly contact one of the local charities, who do their best to help those during the holidays. As often happens, fate took a hand in our search as my wife learned from a friend who works in the same hospital, of a family who needed some help. It turns out that this friend's husband was a Minister at a local church and one of its members was going through some tough times. She was faced with the prospect of a Christmas with few gifts under the tree.

     My wife had learned that this person was a single mother with two sons who worked a full-time job and was providing for her family. She was finding that once the bills were paid little was left over for anything else. As a parent, and knowing the joy in a child’s face as they rush to the tree on Christmas morning my wife could understand her feelings of not wanting to disappoint her two sons. A few days later, with a phone number in hand my wife found herself talking to a pleasant woman. As Mother's inevitably do, they struck up an easy conversation focusing on their families. As they continued to talk my Wife asked if there were any special items her sons would like for Christmas. I firmly believe that you learn a great deal about a family and especially the children by their Christmas wish lists. All of us have seen children in a mall who while sitting on Santa's lap spend five minutes reciting a huge list. The list often includes everything from the most expensive toys to a new pony. My Wife was surprised to see a short, simple and practical list. It included clothes in the boy's sizes, books and educational toys or games. It would appear that this woman had already given her two sons a very special gift; an understanding of the true meaning of Christmas.

     With wish list in hand, my Wife as she always does for us, did her best to make this families Christmas special. Along with all the items on the list, she added MP-3 players for each of the boys and a food basket. It contained a holiday dinner, including a ham and all the fixings. My Son who was twelve and in the Christmas spirit, helped her wrap all the presents, and asked if he could accompany her when she delivered the gifts.

     Within a week arrangements were made to meet the woman at her house. My Wife had learned that the woman's sons would be at her mother's at the time of the meeting, so as not to spoil their surprise on Christmas morning. With directions in hand, a car-load of meticulously wrapped gifts and a big basket, my wife and son headed to a neighborhood of small, well kept row homes. There they were greeted warmly by the woman, who led them into her home. First impressions are very important, and you can learn a great deal about people by their homes. The house was small and the furniture was sparse, but everything was organized and meticulously clean. There weren't any big screen TV's or stereos, but there were subtle touches that make a house a home, such as the pictures of her sons, proudly displayed on a living room table. As they talked the woman turned the conversation to herself and her sons who she was very proud of. She had recently moved in order to provide a safer environment for her sons as well as the opportunity for a better education.

     As my Wife told me her story of the meeting with the woman, I was curious. I asked her how she would characterize the woman's emotional state. When she said the word "humbled", it surprised me. I asked my wife a few more questions. What I came to realize from our conversation was that the woman was not humbled by the visit or the gifts, but rather by God and her faith in him. As I thought a little more, I began to realize how this woman's beliefs were much like my Wife and I. We have always believed that you should have faith in God, work hard, try to be a good person, and help others when you can. Do this and everything no matter how bad will somehow work itself out.. We've seen this in our own lives many times. I can't count the number of sleepless nights sitting in front of a stack of unpaid bills, wondering if we were going to make it or not. We've lost jobs, dealt with illness, and weathered the deaths of loved ones. Yet, it seems that just
when things reached there bleakest we would see a little light at the end of the tunnel, and everything would work out. As I continued to think, I thought to myself that maybe this woman's faith, and love for God, had somehow brought her family and mine together for one special Christmas. I've learned through the years that God often works in mysterious ways.

     As they continued their conversation, the time seemed to fly by. Realizing that it was getting late my Wife reached into her purse, and presented the woman with a final gift. Unless you're two women who truly understand the meaning of Christmas you may not understand the significance of what my Wife handed the woman. As she passed over a Wal-Mart gift card, the emotions of the day caught up with both women. Tears fell as they gently embraced each other. As my Wife handed the gift card to the woman, she explained, as a Mother, she knew the importance of buying your own special gifts for your children. This simple gesture of understanding meant more to the woman than all the gifts in the world. After another quick hug, my Wife and son headed home. The drive home was filled with talk of more shopping, a tree to decorate, a Christmas dinner to plan, and most importantly; thankfulness for all they had been blessed with.

     As I listened to my Wife recount the day’s events, I started to think about writing this story. My Wife, at first, was hesitant about having me put this story on my Blog. She is the type of person who helps others every day, not because she wants recognition, but because it’s the right thing do. She felt that if this story was published it would lesson the memory, as well as the meaning of that day. I could understand her feelings, but I felt it was a beautiful and inspiring story. It might bring some good into the world and possibly inspire others to reach out to someone during the holidays. As I began to write this story, I came to realize that on that day, when two women met in a small row home a few weeks before Christmas, perhaps the most important gifts given, were not by my Wife and Son, but by the woman and her family.

     Sometimes the greatest gifts aren't those that come neatly wrapped in beautiful paper, with brightly colored ribbons and bows. You won't find them at the mall, in big department stores, or even in the most expensive jewelry shops. The gifts that mean the most are those that we give from our hearts and minds and souls. This woman and her family gave us many special gifts. We certainly received a renewal of our faith in God, inspiration and a glimpse of the Christmas spirit. The most important gift we received that day though was the gift of understanding. They gave us the understanding and the realization that for all our differences, people everywhere are basically the same. There our almost seven billion people on this earth of different races, nationalities, religions, and cultures. We look different from each other, speak a multitude of varying languages, and have thousands of different beliefs and traditions. Some of us are rich, and some are poor. Yet, when it comes to who we are, and what we want for ourselves and our families, we are basically all the same. Like most of us, this woman wanted to work, provide for her family, insure a good education for her children, worship her God, live in peace, and find happiness for herself and those around her. I guess my family did receive a very special Christmas gift.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Making Promises

     All of us have made promises in our lives. Some we have kept, and some we have broken. Simply put a promise is a commitment to do or not do something. A promise can be made in the form of an oath, an affirmation or a vow. We are all familiar with the vows we make when we are married. We not only make promises to other people, but to ourselves as well. I think that every once in a while we should sit down and think about our lives. Think of where we've been, where we are right now and what we want for our future. We should also think about things we promise to ourselves. Commitments we wish to make. I had some time and I thought about promises, and I decided to write a few things down. I'll keep this list of promises, and over the years look at it to make sure I try to keep them.

I Promise to wake up each morning as if it's a brand new life. I will forget yesterday and move forward.

I Promise to try to see the beauty not only in the world around me, but in the people I meet.

I Promise to look for the good in people rather than anticipate the bad.

I Promise to move forward without the fear of being hurt by others.

I Promise to give of myself; and not hide inside my own safe world.

I Promise to learn and expand my mind by acquiring knowledge.

I Promise to love unconditionally.

I Promise to not dwell on my failures, but celebrate my successes.

I Promise to appreciate the small things in life.

I Promise to remember not only how short and fragile life is, but also how special and precious it is.

I Promise to see the uniqueness in myself as well as those around me.

I Promise to not take for granted the gifts and talents God has given me.

I Promise to use those gifts and talents to make the lives of others better.

I Promise to learn to listen to the sights and sounds of life.

I Promise to live life and love with an open heart.

I Promise to never take anyone or anything for granted.

I Promise to open up my heart and mind to new experiences.

I Promise to open my eyes and see where there is need.

I Promise to give to others not only material things, but a part of myself.

I Promise to walk the path of life softly, and be careful not to step on others.

I Promise to be honest and fair with those I meet.

I Promise to to live with humility.

I Promise to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

I Promise to strive to reach my potential.

I Promise to see the potential in others and help them realize it.

I Promise to be myself, and not pretend to be someone else.

I Promise to smile with a genuine smile and mean it.

I Promise to love as much as I possibly can. Not just others, but myself as well.

I Promise to pick myself up after I fail, learn a lesson, try to do better, and move on.

I Promise to walk tall, and proud, and never hang my head in defeat.

I Promise to learn from my mistakes, and improve myself.

I Promise as the Promise Card says; That I will try to help someone in need. Whether in a big or small way, I will try to make their lives better. I will then pass on this card to that person in the hope that they will pass it on, and form a chain which will touch as many lives as possible.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Weekly Good News

After Mom's Cancer, Baby Born Healthy

  It seems that every time we pick up a newspaper, or turn on the news we're hit with something bad happening in the world. To counter the flood of bad news, I've decided to add a weekly feature to my blog. Each week I will feature something good that is happening in the world. It could be almost anything. it could be people helping others, stories of survival or inspiration, or even the ends of wars and people regaining freedom. I hope you enjoy. JoNel Allecia Msnbc News April 7, 2011 as seen at http://www.happynews.com/

     For the first time in the three weeks since her daughter was born, Lisa Peterson Bender might actually get more than two hours of sleep. Propped on her back in a hospital bed, with an IV line pumping a cocktail of anti-cancer drugs into her veins, the 32-year-old Minneapolis mother may as well rest, says Amy Graham, a registered nurse at the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota. Who would have thought coming to chemo would be a break for you?” Graham teases after sliding the needle into Lisa’s left hand. It’s a joke, of course, a way to lighten the seriousness of the moment. There’s nothing restful about breast cancer treatment, especially for Lisa, who already has endured surgery and chemotherapy and eight months of anxiety wondering whether fighting the disease would endanger her unborn child. She was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer 11 weeks into her first pregnancy. Msnbc.com first reported on her in March, before her baby was born. She had four chemotherapy infusions during her second trimester, but stopped the drug treatment in December in order to allow the baby to thrive and grow. I didn’t even realize how stressed out I was during my pregnancy until now,” says Lisa, who last week launched a new, more aggressive course of cancer treatment aimed at eradicating the disease entirely. For now, however, the worst of the worry is over. Her daughter, Alice Virginia — named after a favorite aunt and a grandmother — arrived on March 13, four days before her due date. She weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces and was 19 ¾ inches long, with dark hair, her grandfather’s nose — and a clear bill of health, doctors confirmed. "She’s perfect,” says Lisa, adding: “I just feel confident that she’s fine.”

     That relief is real, not just for Lisa, but also for the growing numbers of women diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy. Doctors say that as many as 1 in every 1,000 pregnant women gets cancer, with about 3,500 cases identified in the United States each year. As more women delay childbirth until they’re older, the number of those diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy, especially breast cancer, is going up. A Swedish study found that incidence of cancer more than doubled over 40 years, partly because of births to older moms. In the past, many doctors advised women to end their pregnancies because of the disease.

     The good news, however, for Lisa and women like her, is that recent research shows that pregnant women with cancer have a good prognosis — and so do their babies.Women treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer while pregnant appear to do no worse —and perhaps better — than non-pregnant patients, says Dr. Jennifer K. Litton, an assistant professor of breast medical oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.In her recent study of 75 pregnant and 150 non-pregnant breast cancer patients, nearly 74 percent of the pregnant women survived cancer-free for five years, compared with about 56 percent of non-pregnant patients, Litton found.

     To date, there’s been nothing from what we’ve found that shows that there needs to be any different follow-up,” says Litton, one of the nation’s top researchers on cancer during pregnancy. The same goes for the children exposed to cancer drugs in the womb, especially those whose mothers undergo treatment in the second trimester, Litton adds. Research shows that certain chemotherapy drugs, such as Cytoxan and Adriamycin, which Lisa was treated with, are safe during pregnancy because the drug molecules are too large to pass through the placenta. Unlike other toxins, they're prevented from reaching the baby.

     In Lisa’s case, her HER2-positive breast cancer should respond well to the new one-two punch of anti-cancer drugs, says her oncologist, Dr. Douglas Yee, director of the Masonic Cancer Center. We’re trying to push all the buttons we can push to kill the cancer cells,” Yee says.For the next three months, Lisa will receive weekly doses of the drugs Herceptin, or trastuzumab, and Taxol, or paclitaxel, regarded by doctors as the best bet against recurrence. After that, she’ll undergo six weeks of daily radiation therapy, followed by more Herceptin and hormone therapy. It'll likely be five years before she can be declared cancer-free, Yee says.In the baby’s case, Dr. Mike Pleasants, a Minneapolis family practitioner, will follow Alice’s progress closely, but not any differently than he would a normal newborn. Our pediatrician says she’s perfectly healthy. We talked about her diaper rash. We talked about the normal newborn things,” Lisa says.Cancer drug halts breast-feeding early At the same time, Lisa and her husband, Ryan Bender, a  32-year-old software engineer, recognize that everything is not normal — and won’t be for a long while. Today's an emotional day. I had to stop breastfeeding today,” Lisa says before heading to the hospital. “It feels like the cancer is taking it away from me.”Women who take Herceptin can't nurse their babies because it’s not known whether the drug may wind up in breast milk. Instead, Lisa has breast milk from friends and trusted donors waiting in her freezer.

      For the next several months and, perhaps, years, cancer will determine the couple’s life: their social schedule, when Lisa can return to work as a city planner, how much energy she has for her husband and daughter. In two years, when they plan to halt treatment and try to get pregnant again, cancer may decide whether they’re able to have another baby. Fertility problems are one of the most difficult things young cancer patients face,” she says. For now, however, Lisa and Ryan are focusing on how far they’ve come. Like all new parents, they’re both delighted and exhausted by their daughter’s care.“Before, I worried about my mortality,” says Lisa, settling back for more drug treatment. “I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about cancer now. I’m too busy being a mom.