Many years ago my husband and I visited Bern, the charming capitol ofSwitzerland. One evening, we had a night free of planned activities. Feeling liberated from itineraries, we wandered through the medievalStreets into the heart of Bern. The warm evening breeze had lured swarmsOf people into the town’s square. Old men played checkers at cement tablesAmid musicians, jugglers and other assorted street performers. Frank and IPaused to drink in the carnival of sights and sounds. An American accent rang out above the bustle. I grabbed Frank’s handAnd pulled him toward the sound of home. “One’ Two’ Three!” A burst of laughter erupted from the crowd around a juggler. I movedIn closer, drawn in by his act and familiar accent. After a finale of quick-handed magic tricks, appreciative onlookersThrew coins and moved on. As the juggler bent down to collect the loose change, I felt compelledTo connect. “Excuse me. Uh, I liked your act.” The Juggler looked up with a surprised expression, as if he didn’tExpect anyone to stay around. “Hey, thanks! You sound like an American.” I laughed, admitting that I’d been drawn to speak with him, maybeBecause of his Yankee accent too. As travelers tend to do, I politelyAsked him what part of the States he was from. “California.” The Juggler replied. “And you guys?” I responded in the same general way. “Pennsylvania. OutsidePhiladelphia.” The juggler stopped picking up coins. “Oh! Where outside Philadelphia?” I was slightly taken aback. Why did the name of the town matter if heWas from California? Feeling silly, but strangely compelled to talk, IAnswered. “Havertown.” The Juggler’s jaw dropped and his bearded face softened. He spokeBarely above a whisper. “I went to Haverford High School.” Now Frank caught the compulsion to talk. “But I thought you said you were from California?” The Juggler got up off his knees and sat on the edge of a concreteFlower container. He drew in a breath and poured out a story he’d longLocked away. “I discovered I loved to perform while I was in high school. I wantedTo study the Arts in college but my stepfather felt I should study aSerious subject — like dentistry or something. I felt I had no choice, soI went to college in California, but I couldn’t study what I didn’t love.Rather than go home and face my stepfather, I left the States to travelAround Europe. I haven’t seen my mother in 7 years.” After further discussion, Frank and I learned that his mother livedThree minutes from our house. In fact, I drove past her home every day onThe way to work. We stood in awe of the “coincidence” of our meeting. The Juggler broke the silence. “If I give you my mother’s number,Would you call her for me when you get back home? Would you tell her I’mOkay?” As a mother of two, I ached for this woman who was separated from herSon. I nodded a tearful yes. I tucked the number away and the three of us parted, forever changedBy a chance meeting thousands of miles from home. On the plane ride back to the States, I worried out loud to Frank.”What if his mother is angry? What if she doesn’t want to hear from me?” Frank squeezed my hand and said, “You already know the right thing to do.” Once back in Havertown, I picked up the phone and put it back in theCradle countless times. But, I couldn’t ignore the strong inner voice thatUrged me to call. After taking a deep breath, I dialed the number on theCrumpled piece of paper. A woman answered the phone. I spoke quickly –Before I lost my nerve. “Hello. You don’t know me but…” The story of our trip to Bern spilled out, rapidly reaching the partWhere we met the Juggler in the town square. As I relayed her son’sGreeting, the woman cried. “Oh, Thank God!” In a voice thick with emotion, her questions tumbled out one afterAnother. “How did he look? Was he well? Is he okay?” I found myself in the peculiar position of describing a son to hisMother. I assured her that he was healthy, making a nice living and seemedTo be doing fine. I described the Juggler’s hair, his beard and hisRequest that I make contact with her. The Juggler’s mom spoke between sobs. “My son sent me a letter last year saying he was thinking of comingHome. He said the next time I heard from him would be a sign that he’d beHome soon. Thank you! Thank you so much for calling!” After I hung up the phone, I wondered about the odds of meeting theJuggler at just the right place, at just the right time and at just theRight moment in his life. I smiled through tears of my own and knew thatChance had nothing to do with it. Signs, coincidences, accidental meetings, inner voices — all the markOf angels at work.
One sunny autumn afternoon in March, 1976, a friend and I peddled hard up an incline towards his house. The sun shimmered brightly off Tom’s black, thick-framed bicycle. You would never see his bike with so much as a grain of dirt on it. I had a state-of-the-art ten-speed racing bike. I shifted gears, and as I bent over, I got a glimpse of Tom’s shining school shoes. My quiet friend was always neat and tidy, but his clothes were old and worn. Not for the first time, I wondered if he owned anything else.We turned into a street lined with small dilapidated railway houses. Tom opened a gate, and through we went. I got off my bike and leaned it against the garage wall. It was a small, whitewashed house. The tiny patch of lawn was neatly mowed. Tom’s mother was hanging up washing a few steps from a beautiful flower bed. The three shrubs I could see were perfectly trimmed.We went in by the back door. The kitchen had a sink cupboard with white and pink striped lace curtains; a small kitchen table with three chairs stood between a thin corner cupboard and an ancient stove. Everything was spotlessly clean.All in all, I counted only five rooms. Tom had a bed, a one-door closet, a table, and the fourth kitchen chair in his room. A couple of books leaned against the wall in one corner of the table, and on the other corner stood a model steam engine – Tom’s pride. The wheels were slightly elevated from the table-top. Tom opened a small bottle and poured the whole contents – a few teaspoons of special fuel – into the model steam engine. He pressed a button and stood back, sighing. His face was a mask of anticipation. We held our breaths. A minute or two passed. Then a wisp of thin smoke escaped the funnel. Tom leaned down and gently shifted a small lever. The machine started huffing and puffing. The wheels turned – first slowly, and then faster and faster. The smoke now bellowed out in small blue-grey misty clouds. Three minutes ticked by. All too soon, the engine stuttered and died. I looked up into Tom’s face. His face was cracked open wide with a great big smile. He was so happy!I grew up in a home where wealth was constantly gradually increasing. My wardrobe grew from only two sets of hand-me-down Safari suits and school clothes to a substantial number of expensive, new, fashionable clothes. I took it all for granted. We weren’t rich, but we were definitely not poor. But I was still a kid. I did not appreciate what I had ¦ until I visited Tom’s house.There I was, in this plain and simple house. These people had almost nothing, yet they were happy and content. The contrast between my wealth and my friend Tom’s poor existence were so great. I got perspective. I will never forget how happy and content they were, with so little.It is better to have less to live with, and more to live for. Thank you, Tom, for unknowingly teaching me the value of being content with what I’ve got.
~Charlie was a regular visitor at the race track. One afternoon heNoticed an unusual sight. Right before the first race, a Catholic Priest visited one of the horses in the stable area and gave it a Blessing. Charlie watched the horse race very carefully, and sure Enough the blessed horse came in first!Charlie followed the priest before the next race, and again the Priest went to the stables and performed a similar procedure. Charlie Played a hunch and put a couple of dollars on the blessed horse. Sure Enough, the blessed horse came in by two lengths and Charlie won Close To fifty bucks! The priest continued the same procedure through the Next few races and the horse won each time.So between races Charlie left the track and went to the bank toWithdraw his life’s savings, $20,000. The biggest race of the day wasThe last one. Charlie followed the priest and watched carefully whichHorse he blessed.He then went to the betting window and put his whole bundle of cash onThat horse, to win. Then Charlie went out to watch the horses race.Down the stretch they came and as they crossed the finish line, theHorse Charlie’s fortune was bet on was far behind … Dead last!Charlie was crushed.He located the priest and told him that he had been watching him blessThe horses which all became winners throughout the day. Charlie thenAsked, “What happened to the last horse which you blessed? Because ofYour failure on that last horse, I have lost my entire life’s Savings.””That’s the trouble with you Protestants,” sighed the priest, “youNever could tell the difference between a blessing and the Last Rites.”