The Most Beautiful Flower
The park bench was deserted as I sat down to read
Beneath the long, straggly branches of an old willow tree.
Disillusioned by life with good reason to frown,
For the world was intent on dragging me down.
And if that weren't enough to ruin my day,
A young boy out of breath approached me, all tired from play.
He stood right before me with his head tilted down
And said with great excitement, "Look what I found!"
In his hand was a flower, and what a pitiful sight,
With its petals all worn - not enough rain, or too little light.
Wanting him to take his dead flower and go off to play,
I faked a small smile and then shifted away.
But instead of retreating he sat next to my side
And placed the flower to his nose
And declared with overacted surprise,
"It sure smells pretty and it's beautiful, too.
That's why I picked it; here, it's for you."
The weed before me was dying or dead.
Not vibrant of colors: orange, yellow or red.
But I knew I must take it, or he might never leave.
So I reached for the flower, and replied, "Just what I need."
But instead of him placing the flower in my hand,
He held it mid-air without reason or plan.
It was then that I noticed for the very first time
That weed-toting boy could not see: he was blind.
I heard my voice quiver; tears shone in the sun
As I thanked him for picking the very best one.
You're welcome," he smiled, and then ran off to play,
Unaware of the impact he'd had on my day.
I sat there and wondered how he managed to see
A self-pitying woman beneath an old willow tree.
How did he know of my self-indulged plight?
Perhaps from his heart, he'd been blessed with true sight.
Through the eyes of a blind child, at last I could see
The problem was not with the world; the problem was me.
And for all of those times I myself had been blind,
I vowed to see the beauty in life,
And appreciate every second that's mine.
And then I held that wilted flower up to my nose
And breathed in the fragrance of a beautiful rose
And smiled as I watched that young boy,
Another weed in his hand,
About to change the life of an unsuspecting old man.
"May the Lord open the eyes of our hearts."
Lessons from Life
There once was a little boy who had a bad temper
His father gave him a bag of nails
And told him that every time he lost his temper
He must hammer a nail into the back of the fence
The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence
Over the next few weeks
As he learned to control his anger
The number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down
He discovered it was easier to hold his temper
Than to drive those nails into the fence
Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all
He told his father about it
And the father suggested that the boy
Now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper
The days passed and the young boy was finally
Able to tell his father that all the nails were gone
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence
He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence
The fence will never be the same
When you say things in anger
They leave a scar just like this one
You can put a knife in a man and draw it out
It won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry
The wound is still there
A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one
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.
"It's not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled-or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives, who spends himself in a worthy cause."
Freedom Isn't Free
I watched the flag pass by one day,
it fluttered in the breeze.
A young Trooper saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With his hair cut short and eyes alert,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought, how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mother's tears?
How many foxholes were soldiers´ graves?
No, Freedom is not free.
I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant AMEN
When our flag had draped a coffin
of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of all the fathers, sons and husbands
with interrupted lives.
I thought about a cemetery
Of white crosses across the sea,
And of unmarked graves in Arlington.
NO, FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!!!!
The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires.
-- William Arthur Ward
Sunday, June 13, 1999
N. Korean POW kept alive the meaning of the flag
By Eric Ernst
Monday is Flag Day, and this column is a little different in recognition of it. The idea came from Bob O'Donnell of Englewood, who six years ago clipped and preserved an article from the June 14 Cape Cod Times Newspaper.
The piece was written by Jim Murphy, 66, of Falmouth, Mass., a father of six who teaches literature and writing at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Boston College.
Murphy has written two novels about serial killers and two historical romances about Irish immigrants, but O'Donnell respects him foremost for what he had to say about a real-life experience when he was 20.
It was a gray, clammy August day in 1953. The Korean War had ended a week earlier, and the opposing forces were exchanging prisoners of war at a location that came to be known as "Freedom Village."
Murphy was there, representing his infantry regiment, standing at attention as the ambulances and buses arrived from the north. What happened next, Murphy says, changed forever the way he views the American flag.
In his words: "When the remaining Chinese and North Koreans had been herded off to their own vehicles, the UN prisoners were ushered from the trucks and bushes and sent across the bridge to our side. The UN Honor Guard, combat veterans and observers gasped when they saw the condition of their returning comrades who struggled, hobbled and staggered, gaunt and emaciated, toward friendly faces. They were Immediately embraced and helped to the awaiting medics and aid stations.
"One after another they came. The next one was in worse condition than the one before. Long lines of dull-eyed soldiers of the 'Forgotten War' inched their way to freedom, and out of their number, a gray-faced, stick figure of a boy-turned-old man dragged himself along the bridge. His bony arms were held out like a sleepwalker. He staggered and swayed and one time fell into the wooden railing. Every eye in that village was suddenly trained on that one figure. Even those on the northern side watched the gallant physical effort of the wasted soldier.
"Each tried, inwardly, to help, to urge him on, until, finally, when he lurched forward, an M. P. major, a giant of a man, came up to help. The soldier waved him off with his skeleton hands and arms.
"Looking around at the grim faces, he caught sight of the three color-bearers and shuffled toward them. When he reached the American flag-bearer, he knelt on trembling knees before the flag as though it were an altar. He reached up and tugged at the flag. The color-bearer, either by instinct or by some infinite wisdom, lowered the flag and the soldier covered his face with it, sobbing and shaking uncontrollably.
"Other than the clicks of cameras, the village was cemetery-quiet. Tears streamed from all of us. Cotton replaced saliva in our throats. After several moments frozen for eternity, the stillness was broken by the sound of the heavy boots of the M. P. major, who came crunching across the gravel, his cheeks moist and glistening. He bent down and tenderly scooped the soldier up in his muscular arms and carried him off to a waiting ambulance, much as a father would carry a baby.
"There wasn't a dry eye in this silent village, thousands of miles away from Elm Street, USA"
It's something to ponder. Murphy has for 47 years.
A Soldier Died Today
He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast;
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies, they were heroes every one.
And tho' sometimes to his neighbors, his tales became a joke.
All his legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we'll hear his tales no longer, for old Bill has passed away;
And the world's a little poorer, for a Soldier died today.
He'll not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quiet, uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won't note his passing, though a Soldier died today.
When politicians leave this Earth, their bodies lie in state,
And thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great
Newspapers tell their life stories, from the time that they were young.
But, the passing of a simple Soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land,
A person who breaks promises and cons his fellow man;
Or the ordinary fellow, who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country and offers up his life?
It's so easy to forget them, for it was so long ago,
That the "Old Bills" of our country went to battle, but we know,
It was not the politicians, with their compromises and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our country now enjoys.
He was just a 'common soldier' and his ranks are growing thin.
But his presence should remind us, we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the Soldier's part,
Is to clean up the troubles, that others often start.
If we cannot give him homage, while he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least, lets give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps a simple notice, in a paper that would say,
"Our Country is in mourning, cause a Soldier passed away."