I've always collected newspaper clippings of inspirational stories and hard-to-believe-but-true experiences. I put them in folders and I'm always happily surprised to revisit them when I'm searching for something else, and just happen upon them. Here's what I came across last week while looking for a recipe.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who also happens to be married to Senator Sherrod Brown. Three years ago, in a column called, "Stories to make us stop and wonder", she sent shivers down my spine and brought tears to my eyes.
She tells of her friend Diana from Maine who is also a collector of people's stories, and for Christmas 2004 she decided to share her bounty by writing down some her stories and giving them to her friends and relatives. Here's one of them.
Diana met Greg, a tailor, in a fabric store in Maine. He told her he worked for a tailor and his wife, both Polish immigrants, in Brooklyn in the 1970s.
Even in the hottest weather, Greg said, the couple wore long sleeves. One day the wife, Rose, reached for a shelf and her sleeve fell, revealing the numbers tattooed on her arm. She lost 29 family members in the Holocaust, she told him. She was imprisoned in the same camp Greg's father helped to liberate in 1945.
Years later, Rose visited Greg in California. While she was there, Greg introduced her to another woman from Poland, who told her a woman from Rose's village lived only a mile away. Greg took Rose to meet her. He knocked on the door as Rose stood behind him. When the door opened, Rose fainted. It was her sister.
In her column Connie shared her own I-can't-believe-this-is-really-true story. She was driving one day, soon after her mom had died, listening as usual to the only radio station she ever listens to, NPR. For some unknown reason, while thinking about her mom, she just switched the station to a Country channel & was immediately taken aback to hear the singer croon, "I know you're watching over me from heaven".
Still raw with grief, Connie sighed and said out loud, "I miss you Ma."
Then she looked at the license plate on the car straight ahead:
My niece Jane has her own tale to tell of the mysterious comfort that came to her in a dream. Last year on her way home from an out-of-town Thanksgiving visit, she and her boyfriend were hit in a head-on collision with a truck that skidded on black ice. Her car was totaled, she injured her leg, and her boyfriend had what at first looked like a serious concussion.
The other driver was clearly at fault, but because Jane's car insurance was written in a no-fault state, her insurance company said she wouldn't be able to collect any expenses from the other driver. To make matters worse, Jane did not have medical insurance, she had a high deductible on her car insurance, and she was walking with crutches and in pain.
The Graduate Record Exams were scheduled in two weeks. She was on track to apply for graduate school with a January 31 application deadline looming. She had finals coming up for the pre-requisite courses she needed to take to get into a very competitive program.
She would have been under enough pressure to do well in her courses, take the GREs & finish her graduate application, without the accident. But now she had doctor bills, a lawyer, medical, and physical therapy appointments. By mid-January she was really feeling the stress, because now she had 3 essays to complete to meet that application deadline.
Sometime in the middle of this January madness, Jane had a dream that amazed and comforted her. She dreamt of her grandmother, who had died 3 years before. Her grandmother told her not worry, that she was here with her now, and she would be by her side every step of the way. She told her that even though things look bleak right now, everything was going to work out just perfectly. Not to worry.
Understand that Jane is as down-to-earth as they come. There's not a speck of the woo-woo, or sentimentality about her. But this dream really did bring her a needed dose of comfort and ease.
On April 2, precisely on Jane's birthday, she got her letter of acceptance to graduate school. She was in!! She had pinned all her hopes on this one school because she wanted to remain in the same city where her boyfriend was completing his grad school. She had no wiggle room here. No other options.
A week later, against all odds, she heard that her car insurance case had been settled. Her car would be replaced, her medical expenses paid for, and there was just enough money left over to pay for her first semester of graduate school.
(Connie Schultz' friend) Diana calls these moments blessings, reminders of a force much greater than our own and willfully trying to comfort us if we'd just stop thinking so hard.
In the middle of all our worries, grief, or scurrying around when these special moments come to us it's truly a special gift. And being able to share these stories with others makes it all the better. Thanks Connie, Diana, and Jane.