Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bite-Size Pieces


Thought for the day:  We cannot all do great things in life, but we can all do small things in great Love.  [Mother Teresa]

[source]

Do you ever feel a sense of impending doom? Like you're trapped and helpless, with a  pounding heart, and quivering legs, just waiting for the weight of the world to squish you like a pancake?

(Me neither.)

Even so, with a few minor changes, I'm gonna re-run a post that addresses that very issue. It first ran in August of 2011 as One Plus One Adds Up, and I think it's just as relevant now as it was then.











Thought for the day:  To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.   Ralph Waldo Emerson

Snoopy isn't the only one.

Life seems to be dishing out plenty of things to worry about these days, doesn't it? A number of the blogs I follow have reflected that worry, and it's generally lined with a layer of depression, and topped with a heaping dose of frustration. Even a Pollyanna like me has to admit that it can be downright discouraging to see that humanity's still struggling with some of the same old scourges it's dealt with time and time again: hunger, poverty, racism, injustice, ignorance, war, famine, terrorism,  etc, etc, etc.

                                                  But it doesn't have to be discouraging.


Life's problems can be overwhelming.
                                                            But they don't have to be.

If we allow ourselves to dwell on the overwhelming magnitude of global problems, it's gonna get us down. I mean, what can we DO about those monumental problems but fret and worry about them?

                                                  Actually, there is something we can do.

                                                                 It's time for a story:



A woman was walking along the beach on a beautiful sunny day. All was right in her world, until she came to a stretch of sand covered with starfish — thousands and thousands of starfish. All colors, all sizes, as far as the eye could see. As she looked down at them, she was overwhelmed with sadness, because she knew the poor things were all doomed to die there on that beach. 

But she bent over, and very gently picked up one of the starfish, and threw it splat! into the water.

Another woman came along, and stood watching with a sneer on her face, as the first woman continued to pick up the starfish, one at a time, and toss them splat! into the water.

"You're a fool!" the second woman. "You can't save all those starfish!"

                                            "No," said the first woman. "But I can save...


THIS one ...



and THIS one ...


And THIS one!"
When the big picture is too enormous to deal with in one unwieldy chunk, the best way to cope may be to break it into smaller pieces. No, that woman couldn't save every starfish, and it's true that even if she worked day and night until she collapsed in exhaustion, her rescue efforts wouldn't make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, especially to the thousands of starfish that died in the sand.

But her efforts made a tremendous difference to the starfish she did save.

The same concept applies to each of us. Maybe we can't solve the world's problems, but we can make a positive difference in the lives of the people we encounter every day. Something as simple as a smile and a kind word can have an enormous impact on someone's day and outlook. A smile may be over in a flash, but the memory of it may last a lifetime. 

And we can do MORE.

Part of the frustration so many people feel at the scope of world problems these days comes from of a sense of helplessness. But we aren't helpless. We can brighten the corner where we are. We can volunteer and make a positive difference in our communities. There are programs in every town in this country, for sure, and possibly in most towns in the world, where volunteers can help the hungry, the sick, the poverty-stricken. An ant can't fit an entire cow into its mouth, but it can eat it... the trick is to break it down into bite-sized pieces.



Let's save as many starfish as we can.


                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.











87 comments:

  1. There are areas where starfish are over-populated and ruining the reef ecology. They can be a big problem...

    I do get your point however and it is a good one.

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    1. I get YOUR point, as well. Sometimes nature's winnowing process serves a greater porpoise.

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    2. I like your point, Sus.

      xx

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  2. Sadly there are far too many starfish who refuse to help themselves, and rely on that woman to come along to help them. But, again, I do take the point!

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    1. The starfish lying on the beach out of reach of the water can't help themselves, but I see YOUR point, also. Some of them are only in shallow water.

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  3. Susan ~

    The way I see it, this blog bit is...

    ...half empty.

    I know, I know! ...I'm incorrigible.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Nah, you're not incorrigible. But you KNOW I'm gonna see the glass as half full... every time. That's because I tend to agree with Deepak Chopra, who said, "The healthiest response to life is joy."

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  4. The weight of my own personal problems sometimes seem to surpass the weight of the world's problems. Your tale of the stranded starfish is well-written and definitely food for thought. No matter what negative issues we are faced with, tackling them a little at a time - breaking them "into smaller pieces" - will yield the best results.

    Focusing less on ourselves and more on people who TRULY can't help themselves is good advice (unfortunately, far too many people are unwilling to help themselves).

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    1. Exactly! Taking baby steps may not get us to our desired destination as quickly as we'd like, but they'll get us there more quickly than standing still, complaining about how long and difficult the trip is gonna be.

      Have you ever heard the soldiers' line about, "Shoot them all, and let God sort 'em out"? My attitude is similar, but in a different direction. I'd say,"HELP them all, and let God sort 'em out." If we catch someone at the Cooperative Ministries using fake IDs to try to skirt the rules and milk the system, we deny them additional assistance, but for everyone else, we figure it isn't our place to judge. Only to provide whatever assistance we can.

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  5. I love the photo of the tiny dog and impending doom. It's hard to overcome that feeling of overwhelming problems all around us. I think we should start with helping people we know and then move on to formal volunteering. I find it quite stressful to go out into the community and 'help'... or is it just me?

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    1. A lot of people may find it stressful to volunteer in the community, so I don't think you're alone. The easiest way to get started is through a religious group or some other organization that supports social ministry and various outreach programs. Then, you're working shoulder to shoulder with other people. Thanks to our church's Social Ministry, I've had the honor of doing many many things I would never have had the courage or know-how to tackle on my own.

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  6. I do love this post. Thank you.
    I do volunteer work as a crisis telephone counsellor. And have never yet done a shift when I haven't been awed at the people I have been talking to - in many cases I am quite certain that in their shoes I would be velcroed to the carpet under the bed refusing to come out.
    And I do love the star-fish analogy, but fear I would be grieving for the ones I couldn't save. Human nature? Perhaps but not productive. I will try and focus on the things I can change.

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    1. Thank YOU. Perhaps hearing your voice at the other end of the telephone line has provided just the incentive some of those people need to help them get out from under the bed. Without a doubt, your work has made a difference.

      (I must confess, in spite of all my bravado, my natural reaction would be to feel bad for the unsaved starfish, too. But I have to consciously discipline myself to focus on the positive.)

      Isn't that frog adorable? He's in a local park, and I couldn't resist taking his picture.

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  7. Hi Susan .. having been there it can be horrible beyond belief .. yet things change and life lives on. The star fish story is always lovely to read and think about again ... and those ripples spread out across our universe ...

    Cheers and that frog with your hands taking the photo is just great .. love it ... Hilary

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    1. Yes, it can, but I'm so glad you made it past that. We don't always appreciate how strong we can be until we're put to the test. And you passed, Hilary.

      Glad ya like the froggie. Dapper-looking fellow, isn't he?

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  8. I remember this post Susan and it is so true. How does the old saw go? Something like... God grant me the ability to see the things I can do something about and those I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference.

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    1. Yes! "God grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." When I graduated from high school, one of my aunts gave me a necklace with that prayer engraved on it. As it turned out, part of the research I did later when I worked at the hospital was in alcoholism, and that prayer is the official prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous.

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  9. This is a good thing for me to remember when dealing with parent conferences this week. Yes, there's a parent who is unhappy and has implied that I am the cause of her child not doing well -- the majority of the parents are happy. Some are VERY happy. So it's kind of the opposite of the starfish problem. If the majority of my little starfish are doing well (or, if they're not, their parents and I are working to help them do better), then I can't worry about that one starfish mother who thinks it's *my problem* and not her darling child's.

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  10. I like this story! I've been the starfish lady a few times. Other times I've met starfish people who have helped me. What goes around comes around. We just need to do our bit to keep it turning.

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you like it. Yes, indeed, what goes around DOES come around.

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  11. Love this post. I've been lying awake at night a lot lately. When I get overwhelmed by what's going on in my life I try to focus on others and how I can help them. Once I do, my problems all seem to be a little less significant and they all get taken care of eventually. If I can pull my head out of the selfish hole in the sand that is.

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    1. It's hard to concentrate on helping somebody else when the screaming concerns in our own heads keep demanding our attention. But you're right; if we can make ourselves help someone else, it really does do an effective job of whittling our own problems down to size.

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  12. The message bears repeating. It's still a great post. :)

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad ya like it enough to read it a second time.

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  13. Ha! When I first saw the photo of the woman's large derriere hovering over the tiny dog, I thought it was a butt on an exercise bicycle... and I thought, WHERE did Susan get that photo of me??????

    Off to save some starfish... thanks!

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    1. HA! Isn't that picture of that little dog adorable?

      You go, girl! I bet you can save a bunch.

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  14. Oh that poor Weeto Chihuahua. living on the edge. Makes me miss my chihuahua. My 16 yr old little guy died a couple of years ago. If the starfish really needs help and can't reach the ocean, I'll help. BUT there are always big butts, like the one in the photo.
    Love the frog lolly-gaggin around on the bench. My kinda guy. Ha

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    1. Yeah, the poor little chihuahua looks like he's shivering in his boots, doesn't he? I miss my little Dixie, too. She died a long time ago, but she sure was a little cutie.

      That frog is just a-chillin'

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  15. Susan, I have been blogging for over a year...and you know what? This is my favorite blog post of ALL TIME. Sincerely. Wow. I love the starfish story. It's all about perspective isn't it? It's all about how we view things. We have more control over that than we realize...

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    1. Wow, Keith, how kind of you to say! I think the reason you like it so much is because it reflects your view of the world, too. We optimists have to stick together, ya know.

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  16. Beautiful. Definitely worth a rerun. And wouldn't it be nice if the sneer-ers would just pick up a few starfish and toss them in the ocean too, instead of standing there griping about what can't be done?

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    1. Thanks. Glad ya liked it. Yeah, well the thing with most sneerers is they're the ones saying something "can't be done" while others are busy doing it.

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  17. Do you ever feel a sense of impending doom?

    Every time I mistakenly watch anything on Fox News.

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    1. HA! Maybe ya better block that channel, then.

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  18. One starfish at a time...


    BTW, I love the frog!! And the poor little chihuahua.

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    1. Yep. Sounds like fodder for a sermon, doesn't it?

      I'm glad you like the frog. I almost didn't use that pic, but I liked it, and figured I'd put it up for a little while, anyway.

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  19. Damn, even that runt dog doesn't deserve that
    Scary sight for the cat
    And yeah there are those suckers
    Whose cheeks pucker
    And want to suck all in
    To the doom and gloom at their bin

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    1. No need to squish that puny pup;
      And people need to lighten up!
      Things may be bad, but they could be worse,
      Yep, pessimism's a sorry curse.

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  20. Susan, I absolutely love this post and it is the answer to what I posted about on my blog today. Thank you!
    Karen

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you liked it. Now, just like Jeopardy! I'll go read your post to find out what the question is...

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  21. When you put that starfish back in the ocean, you are giving them a leg up and showing them the way back into life. From there, they must find their own way to swim. In this world that rewards greed and mocks empathy, I am constantly surprised by the enormous kindness that I witness every day. I think most people would put back the starfish and they need no thanks. They just think it is the human thing to do. When I put my hand out to another, I am rewarded in so many ways and my life is enriched.

    I was raised by a mother who always liked to tell us when we felt sorry for ourselves, "I cried when I had no shoes, then I met a man with no feet."

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    1. I think we are surrounded by little acts of kindness every day, but we have to be on the look-out for them to see them. Yes, you're right; helping others truly enriches our lives at least as much as it does the lives of the ones we're trying to help. Which reminds me of a discussion I've had with friends numerous times, dating back to when I was a teenager. It's about altruism. I like to think I can, and often do, put someone else's welfare ahead of my own, and when I help someone, I truly expect nothing in return. Yet I DO in fact get something in return. I get that "reward" you're talking about. I feel good about myself and about life in general. So... how can THAT be considered altruism, and furthermore, is it possible for altruism to even exist?

      I love your mother's saying. My mother used to say the same thing.

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    2. I guess you were not allowed to have any pity parties either.

      So, do you think our mothers were related?

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    3. Uh, no. No pity parties permitted. My mother had absolutely no patience for drama queens. Who knows? Maybe they were. We're enough alike to have been separated at birth.

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  22. Your post came at an appropriate time here --demonstrated its own message. Thanks, Susan!

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    1. I'm glad if it helped. Good luck with your upcoming "date" with the surgeon. I'll be thinking about you, dude.

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  23. There's always a 'butt' (snort). A timely piece. I needed reminding that there is always some liitle thing I can do.

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    1. Yep, "butt" who "nose"?

      You already have a way of doing the little... and the big... things. All you need to be reminded of it to take time out for a relaxing bubble bath (or whatever else floats your boat) every once in a while.

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  24. I had a boss once who was always telling me to just let the starfish die and let it go. Life is hard for most people and anytime we can lighten the load for someone else is a bright spot imo.

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    1. I'm glad I never had a boss like that. He sounds almost as bad as the guy you interviewed with recently.

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  25. Needed to hear this today...

    Pearl

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  26. My goal every day is to make at least one person laugh.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. A very good goal. I tend to make people laugh, whether I mean to or not...

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  27. Lovely post! Very inspiring. Thanks so much, Susan!

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    1. Thanks. Glad ya liked it. Thank YOU for stopping by.

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  28. this was a good one to re-run and worthy of a yearly renewal. Indeed, just one small good deed, one kind word, even one thank you can brighten a day. Great post.
    Also - I love the frog sculpture pic up top - that makes me smile

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    1. Thanks, Joanne. You're right: a kind word or smile can completely turn around and brighten somebody else's day.

      I'm glad the frog made ya smile.

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  29. That Snoopy picture reminds me of me. Right before I sleep I think of a heavy problem or two, or three.

    That's a great story about the starfish. We do need to work step by step. Why admit things are hopeless when they're not?

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    1. Ooh, not good. Thinking about heavy stuff when you're trying to fall asleep isn't very conducive to sweet dreams. Glad you like the starfish story. As for things being helpless, it reminds me of the picture of the frog hanging out of a big bird's mouth. He has his hand wrapped around the bird's neck, and the caption is, "Never give up!"

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  30. Replies
    1. Thanks. Kinda like you, huh? I mean, with that huge rebuilding job you have ahead of you, but you're conquering it one step at a time.

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  31. Perfect timing for this blog post...it's the most inspiring and uplifting thing I've read all week! Thanks, and I will take this to heart. I may not be able to do everything...but I can do one thing!

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    1. Great! I'm glad to hear it. Yes, we can always do SOMETHING.

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  32. Greetings human, Susan,

    Ah yes, we seek the pawsitive, sorry, positive and we can find the positive. Positivity breeds positivity. And you know my human, thanks to me, embraces such an ethos.

    An uplifting and thoughtful posting, my human friend.

    When you wish upon a starfish....

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny :)

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    1. Yes, indeed, Penny. You and Gary keep the pawsitive thoughts flowing, and keep wishing on those starfish.

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  33. Boy, I hate to follow up the starfish story (first read it in one of the Chicken Soup For The Soul collections) with wisdom from The Sopranos, but...

    There was an episode where Tony had an (ahem) encounter with a Russian woman, and spoke of his depression.

    She laughed and said something like "You Americans expect life to be perfect. In Russia, we expect the worst."

    Americans really do have it pretty good.

    Even most of our poorest have cell phones, big screen TV's and iPads in their households.

    Ever been to Nogales, Mexico?

    And as I type this, another thought has struck me...

    A lot of volunteers probably think that they were put here in order to help out those less fortunate.

    But what if the less fortunate were put here to give the volunteers someone to help?

    "When you're down and out, love one another"
    -Todd Rundgren (Love Is The Answer)

    Larry

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    1. Really? That story was in "Chicken Soup for the Soul"? I didn't know, because I never read it. (Maybe I should!) I heard a couple lines about picking up starfish on a radio show years ago, and ran with it. Cool. Nice to know where it originated.

      Yes, as a whole, Americans definitely have it better than anyone else in the world, but I've met some people who had next to nothing, too. Trust me, they didn't have cell phones, a TV, or an iPad in their homes, because they had no homes.

      Interesting chicken/egg query about volunteers and the less fortunate. Perhaps they each fulfill the others' needs in a way, but at any rate, as long as there are people who need help, I sincerely hope there are people willing to provide that help.

      Yep, love is definitely the answer.

      Thanks for your great comment!

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  34. Every little bit helps. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. It sure does. Just think of me as an annoying piece of string tied to your finger. We all need reminding from time to time.

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  35. Great post! Definitely a good thing to remember (especially as I stare down a giant classroom generally filled with students who don't care--the few that do always make it SO worth it!).

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    1. Thanks. Absolutely, every teacher should be blessed with at least one outstanding student every year to keep the enthusiasm going.

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  36. That first image is a scream!

    Popped in from the Blog Blitz.

    thriftshopcommando.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi, Tami. Nice to meetcha. I'll betcha the peewee pup in that picture felt like screaming, anyway. Thanks for stopping by; here I come to return the favor.

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  37. Great inspiring post. Thanks for sharing.

    All the best!

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    1. Thanks! And thanks so much for stopping by. I'll be by your place asap.

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  38. I so agree. Once there was a shy child with a tough home life. A woman, a total stranger told the little girl that her smile was so beautiful that it could light the sky. The little girl never forgot those words. Now she teaches poor children. She tells them that they are so beautiful that they can light the sky...or the world. Some believe her...:)

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    1. Beautiful. A single act of kindness can completely turn someone's life around, and then that person, that good-hearted teacher, passes that same life-changing kindness on to others. I'll bet your students adore you.

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  39. What a great post! Thanks for smiling at me today:)

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    1. Thanks. I'm a smilin' fool. (Doesn't cost a thing!)

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