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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

On The Other End

Photo Credit:  gracey from
Happy New Year, Sunshines!  It’s great to be back in the writing groove.  I’ve missed it!  I want to start this writing year by sharing a precious story that my Uncle Erol sent to me last November:

When I was a young boy, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood.  I remember the polished, old case fastened to the wall.  The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box.  I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother talked to it.

Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person.  Her name was "Information Please" and there was nothing she did not know.  “Information Please” could supply anyone's number and the correct time.

My personal experience with the genie-in-a-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor.  Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer.  The pain was terrible, but there seemed no point in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy.

I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway.  The telephone!  Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing.  Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver in the parlor and held it to my ear.

"Information, please," I said into the mouthpiece just above my head.  A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear.  "Information." “I hurt my finger..." I wailed into the phone.  The tears came readily enough now that I had an audience.  "Isn't your mother home?" came the question.  "Nobody's home but me," I blubbered.  "Are you bleeding?" the voice asked.  "No," I replied.  "I hit my finger with a hammer and it hurts."  "Can you open the icebox?" she asked.  I said I could.  "Then chip off a little bit of ice and hold it to your finger," said the voice.

After that, I called "Information Please" for everything.  I asked her for help with my geography, and she told me where Philadelphia was.  She also helped me with my math.  She told me that my pet chipmunk that I had caught in the park would eat fruit and nuts.

Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary, died.  I called "Information Please” and told her the sad story.  She listened, and then said things that grown-ups say to soothe a child.  But I was not consoled.  I asked her, "Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?"

She must have sensed my deep concern, for she quietly said, "Wayne, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in."  Somehow I felt better.  Another day I was on the telephone with "Information Please” and asked her, "How do I spell fix?”

All of this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest.  However, when I was nine years old, we moved across the country to Boston.  I missed my friend very much.

"Information Please" belonged in that old wooden box back home and I somehow never thought of trying the shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall.  As I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me.  Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity, I would recall the serene sense of security I had back then.  I appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way to college, my plane put down in Seattle.  I had about a half-hour or so between planes.  I spent 15 minutes on the phone with my sister, who lived there now.  Then, without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, "Information Please."

Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well.  "Information."  I hadn't planned this, but I heard myself saying, "Could you please tell me how to spell fix?"  There was a long pause.  Then came the soft-spoken answer, "I guess your finger must have healed by now."  I laughed, "So it's really you," I said.  "I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time in my life."

"I wonder," she said, "if you know how much your calls meant to me.  I never had any children and I used to look forward to your calls."  I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.  "Please do," she said. "Just ask for Sally."

Three months later, I was back in Seattle.  A different voice answered, "Information."  I asked for Sally.  "Are you a friend?" she said.  "Yes, a very old friend," I answered.  "I'm sorry to have to tell you this," she said.  "Sally had been working part-time the last few years because she was sick.  She died five weeks ago."

Before I could hang up, she said, "Wait a minute, did you say your name was Wayne?"  "Yes,” I answered.  “Well, Sally left a message for you.  She wrote it down in case you called.  Let me read it to you."  The note said, "Tell him there are other worlds to sing in.  He'll know what I mean."  I thanked her and hung up.  I knew what Sally meant. 

This sweet story reaffirms the fact that we should never underestimate the impression we may make on someone else.  We all have the opportunity to touch someone’s life in a meaningful, memorable way.

I had a similar experience before Christmas.  I had spent time at my children’s elementary school with some other mommas preparing for the school Christmas play.  We helped make costumes, ironed, decorated trees, wrapped presents, etc.  After much anticipation, the day finally came for the big show.

Much to my surprise, I was on schedule to arrive early to get a good seat and enjoy the children’s performance.  Since I am always running a bit late, I was extra stoked about my early arrival that day.  Well, it just so happens that there is a train track not too far from the school.  An untimely train was poking along the tracks and came to a complete stop...blocking the road.  Of course, I was on the wrong side of the tracks.  I waited and waited and waited.  Then, I felt the urge to move, you know, DO something.  I got out of line to travel down a gravel road…to no avail.  So, I got back in line…much farther back this time.  I was now not early or on time.  I was going to be late, and quite possibly even miss the show completely if I didn’t get across those tracks!

I needed to call someone.  Who could help me?  Of course, I said a little prayer first and asked God to just move that train.  God didn’t move the train, but I think He probably led me to call the school’s secretary.  Cassie calmly answered the phone.  I hurriedly explained my dire situation.  After I entertained the notion of just parking my car and climbing through the opening between the train cars (NOT advisable, by the way), she lovingly encouraged me with simple, clear directions on how to get to the auditorium another way.  She was my rock that calm in the frantic little storm I was in.  I was glad she was on the other end.  I just might have been in the local newspaper as the crazy lady who climbed over a train.  Thank you, Cassie, for keeping me, uhem, “on track.”  If anyone is dying to know…I did finally make it to the program…in one piece…thanks to Cassie.

Whose life have you touched today?  Have you been “Information Please” for someone?  Or, has someone been a calm voice for you on the other end of the line?

This year, let’s challenge ourselves to be available…for others…for God.  We just never know whose life we’ll touch.  Father Bentil recently shared with the congregation that the Three Kings offered the very best from their treasuries to Jesus – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  We may not have any of these gifts to offer, but we CAN offer the best we have and that is our very selves.

Let’s try in 2016 to offer our very selves to God and to others through the Christ-like qualities of service, forgiveness, love, kindness, patience, sacrifice, and friendliness.  We just might change the life on the receiving end.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

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