I don’t recommend gambling—it’s a fast way to become poor. Gamblers don’t always win, even when they do. In 2016, a woman was playing a slot machine when it rang up a US $43 million jackpot. When she went to collect her winnings, the casino said the machine had malfunctioned. Local law prohibited giving her the money, so the casino offered her a steak dinner instead. From US $43 million to a hearty meal! Now that’s disappointing.
I have a friend, a nurse, who recently went to Thessaloniki, Greece, to work in three refugee camps, primarily serving mothers and young babies who were far from home in the bitter cold. The overwhelming majority of the refugees are from Syria, where their villages and cities, once places of laughter and life, are now mostly rubble. In an email, my friend attached an image of one of the refugee tents where someone had scribbled on the outside: “We are not refugees, we are prisoners here. We want a better life.”
For nearly a century, two towering ash trees have shaded our house and stood like sentinels watching over it. Within the last decade, however, one of the ashes suffered a mortal wound, and in the intervening years the rot and carpenter ants did their business. The arborist told us there was no saving the tree and we took it down. Since we wanted to plant another seedling (a weeping willow) in its place, we had to grind the stump completely out of the ground. “You’ll have to get rid of that stump,” the arborist said, “or nothing else will grow there.”
There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true,” said philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The story of the Israelites illustrates how easy it is to be fooled into believing what’s false and to disbelieve the truth.
After feeling a stinging sensation on my left leg, I discovered three tiny bite marks. I thought the culprit was some harmless insect and didn’t pay much attention to it. After a few days, however, the site of the bite turned deep red and was surrounded by a larger pink area. Within a week a blister formed, the skin hardened, and pain set in. I became concerned and decided to see a doctor. It turned out that the insect had been a poisonous spider—a brown recluse! To combat the effects, I was immediately given some strong antibiotics.
The council in Cassandra Boyson’s Seeker’s Trilogy was responsible for maintaining law and order in the name of the “Great One.” Instead, they were corrupt, singling out people they deemed different for cruel treatment. Slowly the surrounding society began to decay—reflecting the council’s immoral ways. Yet in a surprising twist, the Great One righted the wrongs of that world by providing a river that transformed all who came into contact with it.
I remember where I was sitting in the cramped living room of our apartment when Miska told me she was pregnant with our first son, Wyatt. I must have sat mute for several moments because Miska asked, “Are you okay? What are you thinking?” In theory, I wanted to be a dad someday, but it had seemed like a distant possibility. But here it was . . . I was going to be a dad, and I was dumbstruck.
Digital footprint. A phrase that describes an ever- present reality didn’t even exist until recently. At the school where I teach, one of our technology leaders challenged us to consider whether our students grasped the permanency of where they go and what they do online. As she spoke, my mind pondered this question: If my digital footprint were a trail to follow, where would it lead others?
I’m not a farmer, but I once attempted to be one as the guest of a self-sustaining community. The group lived together in dormitories, eating their meals together as a family. They grew most of the food they consumed and raised cattle for milk and meat. During my stay, I performed a number of barnyard chores, from shoveling dung to taking the old cow on her morning walk around the property—leash and all!
In the 1850s, cholera was a global scourge capable of devastating entire cities. When a particularly terrible outbreak hit the Soho neighborhood of London, Dr. John Snow realized that the outbreak centered around a certain water pump. Snow then noticed that rather than this being an isolated case, the fiercest outbreaks always seemed to focus around these water sources. By connecting the outbreaks to infected pumps, Dr. Snow was able to establish that cholera was spread by contaminated water—a landmark step towards eradicating its terrible effects.
My sister promised to meet up with a friend later in the month. But when that day came, it landed with a “thud” at the end of an unusually hectic workweek. Her body protested: Head home! Rest! Meet your friend another day. Her conscience, however, called out: Honor your promise!
The movie Stranger than Fiction depicts a man who begins hearing a voice inside his head. Harold becomes unglued as he notices the voice describing the everyday details of his life with extraordinary accuracy, “and with a better vocabulary.”
Salvador Dalí’s Madonna painting allows you to see different images based on your proximity to the canvas. Viewed up close, the grey and pink dots are abstract, but from a distance of six feet, an image of Mary and Jesus emerge. Viewed from an even greater distance—fifty feet—the painting looks like a giant ear; Dalí called it, “the ear of an angel.”
With just a few lines of text, the relationship was over. Because I failed to open their messages, they notified me that my “email relationship” with their company and all its brands was “ending.” A humorous marketing ploy, the company’s response reminded me how much of our world today rests on superficial communication and tenuous commitment.
When our children were young, my wife and I gave them money to buy Christmas presents for us. Why not simply buy the socks or slippers ourselves? Because it meant a great deal to our kids. They wanted to give as well as receive presents, even if it meant using our money.