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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Test

Photo Credit: Prawny from
With school in full swing now, the kiddos are taking tests of all kinds…spelling, reading, science, math, and more.  They prepare for each test and then, with a hug and a kiss, I send them off to do their very best.  Over the course of their schooling, there will be countless tests and all the tummy butterflies to go with them, I’m certain.  However, I was touched by a heartwarming story entitled, “The Test,” by S.I. Kishor, that I received from Mike Atkinson the other day.  I knew that I needed to share its uplifting message with you:

John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station.  He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn't - the girl with the rose.  His interest in her began thirteen months before in a Florida library.

Taking a book off the shelf, he found himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin.  The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind.  In the front of the book, he discovered the previous owner's name, Miss Hollis Maynell.  With time and effort, he located her address.  She lived in New York City.  He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond.  The next day, he was shipped overseas for service in World War II.

Over the next year, the two grew to know each other through the mail.  Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart.  A romance was budding.  Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused.  She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn't matter what she looked like.  When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting - 7 pm at the Grand Central Station in New York.

"You'll recognize me," she wrote, "by the red rose I'll be wearing on my lapel."

So at 7:00, he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he'd never seen.  I'll let Mr. Blanchard tell you what happened:

A young woman was coming toward me, her figure long and slim.  Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears; her eyes were as blue as flowers.  Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit; she was like springtime come alive.  I started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose.  As I moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips.

"Going my way, sailor?" she murmured.

Almost uncontrollably, I made one step closer to her, and then I saw Hollis Maynell.  She was standing almost directly behind the girl.  A woman well past 40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat.  She was more than plump, her thick-ankled feet thrust into low-heeled shoes.  The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away.  I felt as though I was split in two, so keen was my desire to follow her, and yet so deep was my longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned me and upheld my own.  And there she stood.  

Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle.  I did not hesitate.  My fingers gripped the small worn blue leather copy of the book that was to identify me to her.  This may not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which I had been and must ever be grateful for.

I squared my shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while I spoke I felt choked by the bitterness of my disappointment.  "I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell.  I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?"  The woman's face broadened into a tolerant smile.

"I don't know what this is about, son," she answered, "but the young lady in the green suit who just went by begged me to wear this rose on my coat.  And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street.  She said it was some kind of test!"

Oh, I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I did!  I just LOVED it!  So many thoughts flood my mind after reading it again (and again).  It made me ponder beauty a bit.  External beauty is so fleeting, isn’t it?  Here today and gone tomorrow.  We hold on super tight to it though.  We do our best to take care of ourselves.  We exercise (right?!).  We eat fairly nutritiously (right?!).  We take extra care of our skin and hair.  We do our best, but time waits for no one.  The beauty of our youth starts to fade little by little.  We can fight it all we want.

We check out ourselves in the mirror many times a day, but have we done an internal beauty check lately?  How are we taking care of that?  And, do we have someone in our life…a spouse, special friend, or family member…who loves our internal beauty as much as (or more than) what’s on the outside?  If we do, we better hold on tight and never let them go!

When I say, “hold on tight and never let them go,” I mean the following:  Weave them tightly into the tapestry of your life.  Let them put their handprint on your heart…like that of a handprint in wet cement.   Let it dry there and remain forever.  Like you’ve probably heard before - many people will walk in and out of our lives, but a few will leave their footprints on our heart.  Hold on to those beautiful few with an embrace that lasts longer than the hug itself.  They are the keepers…the ones who love you for you…imperfectly perfect you. 

I want to wrap up this Sips with a few memorable quotes about beauty:
  • Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart. (Kahlil Gibran)
  • Beauty is not flawless; it shines even through your flaws.
  • Next time you think of beautiful things, don’t forget to count yourself in.
  • Beauty is about a pretty mind, a pretty heart, and most importantly, a beautiful soul.
  • Beauty is being the best possible version of yourself on both the inside and the outside.
  • I can’t think of many things more attractive than a beautiful person whose beauty isn’t actually what attracts you.

After that last quote, I think I’ll stop.  That one wraps up “the test.”  May you find something beautiful in…each day…each person…and yourself, as well.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

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