A Christmas Fable The old gray horse sidled up to the pasture fence with little dancing steps. The place seemed familiar, yet somehow strange. The grass was greener than any grass he'd ever seen, and when he looked closely at the white paddock gate it had a kind of pearly sheen. and there was another funny thing. A big, black cloud hovered just inside the gate. The cloud wasn't up in the sky where it properly belonged. It was like a great puff of black smoke rising from the grass. Suddenly the cloud dissolved and revealed a horse. He was a small chestnut with a blunt head and one white stocking and brownish hairs in his tail and mane. The gray horse thought he had a kind of old timely look to him. "Hello, old gray horse," the chestnut from the black cloud said. "Hey, that's a real good trick!" the gray horse exclaimed. "Where'd you learn it?" The chestnut disappeared into the cloud again, but emerged immediately. "Learned it the day I was born," he replied, with a whinny that sounded like a chuckle. "You see, I was born on April Fool's Day and there was a total eclipse of the sun. So they named me Eclipse. I was always playing tricks on people too. Used to kick my grooms and try to throw my riders and I bit the auctioneer that sold me." "My name is..." the old gray horse started to say politely, but the tricky chestnut ducked in and out of his cloud and interrupted rudely. "Native Dancer," he said. "I ought to know you. I'm your great-great-great-great-great - I always lose count of the 'greats' - but anyway, you're a descendant of mine. almost everybody is, in fact. The Thoroughbreds, that is." "Are you the gatekeeper?" Native Dancer asked. "Mostly," Eclipse replied. "I'm on duty whenever one of my descendants is coming up. That's mostly so far as the Thouroughbreds go. Old Matchem has a few left and he takes over when one's due. And poor old Herod, he's posted here occasionally, but there's not many of his male line that aren't here already." "What is this place" Native Dancer asked. "I guess I'm kind of lost." "the Green Place," Eclipse replied. "Taht's what it's called. The Green Place. Most of the horses that get lost, come here. We have to send some back of course." "Why?" the Dancer asked. "Because they don't belong here, that's why. Long before I came up there was this fellow Bayard, for instance. He was a devil-horse. Belonged to an old necromancer named Malagigi and he did the devil's work. Helped that villain Aymon of Dordogne to truiumph over charlemagne, they say. And a wizard named Michael Scott had a big black beast who used to stomp his feet and set al the bells of Paris ringing. He even caued the towers of the palace to fall down one day.The Big Guy doesn't want that kind here. but we have Jesse James's horse, and Dick Turpin's too. The Big Guy says they did nothing wrong themselves. The were just faithful to their masters, and The Big Guy thinks that's a virtue." "Who's the Big Guy?" Native Dancer asked. "You'll find out!" Eclipse answered airily. He lowered his muzzle and pushed the gate open. "You might as well come in. You understand you're on probation though. The Big Guy makes his decisions about new arrivals every Christmas. Let's see, it's November 16, the way you figure things down there. So you won't have long to wait anyway." "I'll bet The Big Guy is Man O' War" Native Dancer said as he moved inside and gazed over the emerald green expanses that seemed to stretch into infinity. Eclipse snorted. "Don't get smart, boy" he said. Then he added maliciously, "You'd lose your bet too. the way a lot of people lost their bets on you at Churchill Downs one day." Native Dancer felt hurt, for his ancestor had touched a raw nerve. His lip tremble a bit as he replied defensively, "That Derby was the only race I ever lost." "I never lost even one race," Eclipse said unsympathetically. "So don't get smart up here. The Big Guy doesn't want any smart-alecks in the Green Place. Remember that." Native Dancer was a sensitive sort. He felt as if his eyes were teary and he hoped Eclipse didn't notice. "I won 21 out of 22, and Man O' War only won 20 out of 21" he declared. "And my son Kauai King won the Kentucky Derby." "My sons won three Derbys at Epsom" Eclipse said. "Young Eclipse took the second running and Saltram won the fourth and Sergeant won the fifth, and I'd have won the bloomin' race myself, only they didn't run it in my time. So quit bragging. Somebody's coming and they might overhear you and tell The Big Guy, and that would be a mark against you." A bay horse who seemed even more old-timey than Eclipse ambled up. "Is it my time now?" he asked eagerly. "Not yet, Herod," Eclipse answered in a kindly fashion. "Old Fig's on duty now. One of his is on the way." "Who's Old Fig?" Native Dancer asked. "I never heard of that one." "There's a lot of things you never heard of, boy," Eclipse replied. "His real name is Figure, but down there they called him Justin Morgan, after his owner. Here he is now." A very small, dark bay horse with a round barrel, tine feet, and furry fetlocks came bustling up to the gate. "OK, OK, I'll take over," he said busily. "Where is that boy? Can't stand tardiness. I've got things to do. A load to pull, a field to plough, a race to run, a trot to trot. No time to waste. Where is that boy?" In the weeks that followed, The Dancer met hundreds, maybe thousands, of horses. Some of them were famous, and some of them were his ancestors and a few of them were his own sons and daughters. He met a snorting white stallion named Bucephalus who had been approved for the Green Place by The Big Guy even though he was rumored by some that he was cursed by the deadly sin of pride because he had carried a conqueror named Alexander. He met another gray horse who limped because he had stepped on a rusty nail back home just before he became lost forever. His name was Traveller, and he was a war-horse too, in the days when a man named General Lee had owned him. There were other soldier steeds, two of them descendants of the bustling little stallion they called Old Fig up here. One was Phil Sheridan's black Rienzi and the other horse called both Fancy and Little Sorrel who had been the mount of Stonewall Jackson. Native Dancer found Man O' War an amiable sort despite his proud aristocratic bearning, and he grew especially fond of a bony old fellow named Exterminator, who patiently answered all but one of his questions. He asked the question of everyone: "Who is The Big Guy?" And the answer was always the same: "Wait til Christmas." He met Messenger and Hambletonian and Hindoo. He met horses that had dared the dreadful fences of the Grand National. He met a horse who stared blindly into the emerald darkness. His name was Lexington. He met horses who had pulled circus wagons and horses who had pulled brewers' trucks and horses who had drawn man's ploughs over the fields of earth, and he met others who had been the mounts of kings and captains. Always the answer to his question was the same: "Wait til Christmas." Eclipse fussed over him and kept a watchful eye on his behavior and said he neighed too much and asked too many questions. Eclipse could not stand the thought of The Big Guy banishing one of his descendants from the Green Place. And Native Dancer did not wish to leave. He doubted he could ever find his way to Maryland again if The Big Guy disapproved of him. And the Green Place was very pleasant in all respects. The grass was lush and he met so many interesting horses. Back home he had sometimes been troubled by nightmares, for a Dark Star haunted his dreams, but now he slept peacefully and rarely remembered the Derby he had lost. He became nervous though, as the weeks went by and the stars grew brighter. And finally it was time. On a night when the skies burned with starlight all the horses gathered as near as possible to a little hillock of the vast paddock. There were hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of them, a murmuring and expectant throng that seemed to stretch over the emerald grass beneath the diamonds in the heavens. Eclipse was very tense. He hovered over Native Dancer, whispering, "Look your best now. Be quiet and humble. The Big Guy will be here any minute." Suddenly the vast throng was silent as the stars themselves. The Big Guy stood on the hillock in a blinding blaze of starlight, and Native Dancer could barely contain himself. He choked back a whinny of derision and whispered to Eclipse, "Is he The Big Guy? He's so little! And he's not even a horse! What did he ever do?" Eclipse whispered, "He's a donkey. He carried a woman heavy with child to a small town on another night when the stars were bright. "It was a long, long time ago." To handle yourself, use your head; To handle others, use your heart. Anger is only one letter short of danger. If someone betrays you once, it's his fault; If he betrays you twice, it's your fault. *-.,.-**-.,.-* Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people. God gives every bird it's food, But he does not throw it into it's nest. *-.,.-**-.,.-* He who loses money, loses much; He who loses a friend, loses more; He who loses faith, loses all. Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, But beautiful old people are works of art Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself. *-.,.-**-.,.-* The tongue weighs practically nothing, But so few people can hold it. A FRIEND IS A TREASURE :*``*::*``*::*``*: A friend is someone we turn to, When our spirits need a lift. A friend is someone we treasure, For our friendship is a gift. A friend is someone who fills our lives, With beauty, joy, and grace. And makes the world we live in, A better and happier place. <><><><>FRIENDSHIP<> <><><> Friendship is a strange thing....we find ourselves telling each other the deepest details of our lives...things we don't even share with our families who raised us... but what is a friend? a confidant? a lover? A fellow email junkie? A shoulder to cry on? an ear to listen? a heart to feel?...A friend is all these things...and more. No matter where we met,....I call you friend. A word so small...yet so large in feeling...a word filled with emotion. It is true great things come in small packages. <> Once the package of friendship has been opened, it can never be closed...it is a constant book always written...waiting to be read...and enjoyed `~,Ը,`~`~,Ը,`~ We may have our disagreements...we may argue...we may concern one another... friendship is a unique bond that lasts through it all.... A part of me is put into my friends...some it is my humor...some it is my listening ear...some it is real life experiences...some it is my romanticism...but with all, it is friendship. Friendships forged are a construct stronger than steel built as a foundation.... necessary for life...and necessary for love. :-) `~,Ը,`~`~,Ը,`~~`` Friends, you and me.... you brought another friend... and then there were 3... we started our group... and like that circle... there is no beginning or end.. Keep this going.... Email all your friends this message.... Email all those friends you never met.... those you have, and those you have lost along the way... This is to all wonderful people I have met personally or online! @}----}---- SIX GREAT LESSONS The Important Things Life Teaches You..... 1~ Most Important Question During my second month of nursing school, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed thru the questions, until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning lady several times. She was tall, dark haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper leaving the last question blank. Before class ended one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. "Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say 'Hello'." I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name is Dorothy. 2~ Pickup in the Rain One night at 11:30pm, and older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her - generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960's. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to big in a big hurry! She wrote down his address, thanked him and drove away. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise a giant console color television was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read: "Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain had drenched not only my clothes but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.* Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole 3~ Always remember those who serve In the days when and ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10 year old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae," the boy asked. "Fifty cents," replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it. "How much is a dish of plain ice cream," he inquired. Some people were waiting for a table and the waitress was a bit impatient. "Thirty Five cents," she said brusquely. The little boy again counted the coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said. the waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and departed. When the waitress came back she began wiping downt the table and then swallowed hard at what she saw. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies - her tip. 4~ The Obstacle In Our Path In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegatables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to mover the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. As the peasant pick up his load of vegatables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person that removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many others never understand. Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve one's condition. 5~ Giving Blood Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at Standford Hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5 yr old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying "Yes, I'll do it if it'll save Liz." As the transfusion progressed, the little boy lay in bed next to his sister and he looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away?" Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood. 6~ I've Two Choices Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing he would reply "If I were any better, I would be twins." He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the bright side of the situation. Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him "I don't get it, you can be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?" Jerry replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Everytime someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life." "Yeah, right! It's not that easy," I protested. "Yes it is," Jerry replied. "Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. It your choice how you liver your life." I reflected on what Jerry had said. Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business. We lost touch but often I thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it. Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in the restaurant business. He left the back door open one morning and was held up at gun point by three armed robbers. While trying to open the safe his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quick and was rushed to the local trauma center. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still lodged in his body. I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was he said "If I were any better I would be twins! Wanna see my scars?" I declined to see his wounds but did ask him what had went through his mind as the robbery had taken place. "The first thing that went throught my mind was that I should have locked the back door," Jerry replied. "Then as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices - I could choose to live, or I could choose to die - I chose to live." I asked, "Weren't you scared? Did you loose consciousness?" Jerry continued, "The paramedics were great! The kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw all of the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses I got really scared. In their eyes I read, 'He's a dead man.' I knew I needed to take action." "What did you do," I inquired. Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me." said Jerry. "She asked if I was allergic to anything. 'Yes,' I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Bullets!' Over their laughter I told them 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.'" Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors but also of amazing attitude. I learned from him that everyday we have a choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything. Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching. Gold Box Filled With Love We often learn the most from our children. The story goes that some time ago, a man punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Never the less, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said "This is for you, Daddy." He was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found the box was empty. He yelled at her, "Don't you know that when you give someone a present, there's supposed to be something inside it?" The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, "Oh, Daddy it is notempty. I blew kisses into the box. All for you, Daddy." The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness. It is told that the man kept that gold box by his bed for years and whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there. In a very real sense, each of us as parents has been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold. You now have the choice, you can: 1) Pass this on to your friends 2) Delete it and act like it didn't touch your heart IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER by Erma Bombeck I would have talked less and listened more. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace. I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed. I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains. I would have cried and laughed less while watching television - and more while watching life. I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband. I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day. I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime. Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle. When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner." There would have been more "I love yous".. more "I'm sorrys"... but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it... live it...and never give it back. --In memory of Erma Bombeck who lost her fight with cancer. JUDGE ME BY THE FOOTPRINTS I LEAVE BEHIND A story is told about a soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in Vietnam. He called his parents from San Francisco. "Mom and Dad, I'm coming home, but I've got a favor to ask. I have a friend I'd like to bring with me.""Sure," they replied, "we'd love to meet him.""There's something you should know the son continued, "he was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us." "I'm sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live." "No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us.""Son," said the father, "you don't know what you're asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can't let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He'll find a way to live on his own." At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide. The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body oftheir son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn't know, their son had only one arm and one leg. The parents in this story are like many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don't like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. We would rather stay away from people who aren't as healthy, beautiful, or smart as we are. Thankfully, there's someone who won't treat us that way. Someone who loves us with an unconditional love that welcomes us into the forever family, regardless of how messed up we are. Tonight, before you tuck yourself in for the night, say a little prayer that God will give you the strength you need to accept people as they are, and to help us all be more understanding of those who are different from us!!! There's a miracle called -Friendship- that dwells in the heart. You don't know how it happens or when it gets started. But you know the special lift it always brings and you realize Friendship Is God's most precious gift! Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us. Show your friends how much you care....Send this to everyone you consider a FRIEND.