Christina M. Currie: The price of a good life

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Christina M. Currie

Christina M. Currie's Touch of Spice column appears Fridays in the Craig Daily Press. E-mail her at director@craig-chamber.com

I, as happens occasionally, bribed 7-year-old Katie and 6-year-old Nikki with a Happy Meal to sit quietly through yet another meeting. The rest of us were eating margarita pizza, so the girls were really missing out. They didn't see it that way.

Just outside the meeting room in a lobby filled with stairs and echoes and the ever-entertaining water fountain was the area they dubbed theirs. I was OK with that.

That is, until they discovered two machines that dispensed either a handful of chocolate or a handful of gum for the mere cost of 25 cents.

They know how to work those machines.

Hearing I didn't have a single quarter didn't detract them. They just went from person to person (stranger to stranger, I might add) at the meeting asking for change.

One person asked if I'd trained them to be panhandlers.

And frankly, I have.

Spending holidays at a place of business that boasts video games, candy machines, a juke box and pool tables means that, on top of the food of Thanksgiving and the presents of Christmas, you must also bring a pocket full of quarters.

And, whatever you lug never is enough.

So, it's second nature to say, "Go ask Grandpa for some quarters," or "Aunt Candice has money."

My children, their cousins and friends are approaching an age where they're really learning to play this system. In fact, the discerning ATM usually notices the 12-year-old peaking around the corner to see if their 4-year-old toadie is cute enough to successfully wrangle a couple of bucks "for the good of all."

It generally works.

I complain occasionally about what my children are and are not learning at school. My girls' skill at panhandling got me to thinking about something much more important. What are they learning at home?

I'm not sure I want to answer that, but ironically, I read something today that made me think, "I don't know what they are learning, but this is what they should be."

I don't know who wrote it, but it's a lesson that I both want to learn and to pass to my children. It is the following:

Five lessons about how to treat people

The Cleaning Lady

"During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through 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 woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name?

"I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just 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 was Dorothy."

Pickup in the Rain

One night 11:30, an 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 '60s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by, and a knock came on the man's door.

To his surprise, a giant console color TV 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 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."

Always remember those who serve

In the days when an 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?" he asked.

"Fifty cents," replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled is hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

"Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired.

By now, more people were waiting for a table, and the waitress was growing impatient.

"Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his 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 left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies.

You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

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 stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, 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 who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand: Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

Giving When it Counts...

"Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a 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-year-old brother, who had 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 little 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 will save her.' As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek.

Then his face grew pale, and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked, "Will I start to die right away."

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

I don't care if these stories are true or the product of a giving person's imagination. I'd happily give a quarter for everyone of these lessons my children take to heart and another for every day they put them into action. Those are lessons worth paying for.

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