LICENSE TO WED by Donna Kelsey, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
One summer day in 1957, we headed to the courthouse for a marriage license. My husband-to-be, Steve, asked the clerk for a fishing license. She advised him a fishing license cost $1.50 and a marriage license cost $2.50. With some thought and a smile, he chose the marriage license, and so our life together, later filled with two children, began. Whenever we had a disagreement, I would remind my husband that he could have saved money had he chosen a fishing license, and it would have expired in a year. The extra dollar cost him 53 years of wedded bliss.
MEET THE PARENTS by Karen Chipman, Lynn, Massachusetts
When I was 39, my longtime foster mom and her new husband were planning their retirement future and decided the time was right to officially add me to their newly blended family. They asked if they could adopt me. I was quite touched. Just before leaving for family court that morning, I was getting my kids ready for school. My son (age 11 at the time) looked at me quite seriously and said, “Mom, I think it’s nice that Nana and Papa want to adopt you, but … we sure are going to miss you around here.”
PARDON ME, NEIGHBOR by James Didlow, San Antonio, Texas
A friend told me that as a kid, his father—a poor farmer and binge drinker—became abusive when drunk, forcing the family to escape into their cornfield, with him frequently shooting after them with his .22 rifle. Their neighbor, an elderly Amish farmer, came by one day explaining that rats had been in his corncrib and asked if anyone could sell him a .22. After a bargain was struck, my friend followed the neighbor and observed him crossing the river bridge, stopping midstream, and dropping the rifle and ammunition.
ANGEL WITH A DONUT by Mary Beth Asenjo, Timberlake, Ohio
Several years ago, my tire went flat while I was driving with my young son asleep in the backseat. It was a heavily traveled road, so I pulled over. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw that a man had pulled up behind me. He offered to help. As he installed the donut, we talked. He explained that he was from a long distance away. His face was kind, his voice gentle. My son awoke, and I went to care for him. When I looked back, the man was gone. Do angels walk the earth? I believe they do.
ONE BRIGHT YEAR by Maria Cecilia Hular, Legazpi City, Philippines
Once, a filthy stray kitten just appeared in our kitchen. She looked so weak and thin that I knew she would die soon. I adopted her; surprisingly, she lived with our family for a whole year. One night, I knew she was dying. I listened to her weak breaths and watched her attempts to respond to my gentle touches. For the last time, I held her and felt proud to see how beautiful and healthy she had become. I was ready to let her go. She looked at me one last time, smiled, and died peacefully in my arms.
REEL TROUBLE by Bill Harris, Cincinnati, Ohio
I was fishing all week in Canada with Dad and my brother, with no luck catching anything. We decided to set our poles in rocks, our lines in the water off the front of a small island in the lake, and swim naked off the island’s back. Just as an unattended line bent with the weight of a fish, a boat full of guests from our lodge came by the front side of the island. Faced with a decision between catching the fish and enduring dinner-table gossip that night, Dad chose the fish. Sometimes, man’s primitive instincts must be served.
GOOD VIBRATIONS by Nancy Perkins, St. Johns, Michigan
My dad died unexpectedly at age 78, leaving our family heartbroken. During the funeral mass, my sister felt her phone vibrate in her purse. She was a little surprised that someone would be calling her, knowing she was at dad’s funeral mass. Afterward, she found there was a message: “Hi, this is your dad,” said the male voice. “I wanted to let you know I made it home.” The caller obviously had the wrong number, but the message was clear. My dad had completed his journey to heaven and wanted us to know. Thanks, Dad—until we meet again.
NOT MADE FOR TV by Susan Horn, Nanuet, New York
Thirty-two years ago, I had hoped to see my daughter’s second birthday. Well, I’ve seen 30 more than that! On September 13, I even danced at her wedding. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer and my prognosis was not good, but I had no intention of leaving my handsome young husband a widower with a beautiful baby daughter to raise. I’d rather leave that for a Lifetime or Hallmark movie, thank you very much. And I look forward to the day when once again I’ll hold a beautiful baby in my arms: my grandchild.
COVERT CASH by Tari Jacobson, Wasilla, Alaska
A woman in front of me rummaged through her purse looking for a gift card to complete the remaining $14 of her grocery purchase, which was just over $30. When she found her gift card and the cashier swiped it, the card was empty. I slid $14 to the cashier. She tried the gift card one more time, then acted as if the transaction had gone through successfully. The woman got the groceries that she needed without finding out that I’d paid the remainder of her bill.
RIPPLE EFFECT by Lorraine Fox, Caldwell, Idaho
It was September 14, 2001. I had gathered the class for a story to end our labors of the day. Suddenly, a crack of thunder came from above. A little boy across from me began whimpering. I whispered a few calming words, but more children joined in, some with tears in their eyes. Soon, all 28 first-graders were crying. I realized it was not a storm above, but the gamut of emotions from millions of people in the infinitely longest and saddest week in American history, funneling down to the hearts of tender little children.
MY SISTER’S FINGER by Cora McClure, Dallas, Texas
My sister was 16 and I was seven. On summer days, our mother would allow her to drive to the drugstore to buy a fashion magazine. Cissy would call to me, “Do you want to go with me?” What a thrill! Off we would go. When we arrived, she would hold out her forefinger for me to hold. The finger had a tiny wart on it. I am now 85, and she has been gone 22 years, but I can still feel that finger with its little wart, held out in loving kindness to a little sister.
LITTLE BROTHER, GROWN UP by LoyAnn Rossel, Lincoln, Nebraska
When we first married, my husband was in Big Brother program. His Little Brother, John, was 10 years old. They had two great years together until John’s mother had to move out of state. We wondered about him over the next 30 years—his name was so common that we had no way of finding him on the Internet.
One day, our garage door broke. As the repairman answered the phone and repeated my husband’s name, standing next to him at that moment was John. He was married with three wonderful children, and had been looking for us, too!
CONSIDERATE AUNT CAROLINE by David Charvat, Wheeling, West Virginia
My Aunt Caroline, whose strength was slipping, lived in my hometown. Occasionally she fell, and I would lift her back up. When I began dating Sarah, who’s now my wife, A-Caroline kept up with our relationship. She wasn’t shy. The first time I invited Sarah to my house for a meal and a movie, A-Caroline knew every detail. At the end of our date that evening, A-Caroline called and asked if I would come over after Sarah left. When I got there, I found her on the floor. She had fallen hours earlier, but didn’t want to bother our date.
FINDING SWEETNESS IN SORROW by Fred Hoffman, Tampa, Florida
I volunteer at a free café feeding homeless and hungry people. One day, a frail lady in her late 40s wearing many layers of clothing walked up and down the line of people waiting to be served, handing out little candy hearts. She sat at my table and told me her story: Once her children were grown, her husband had severely beaten her and cast her into the street. After she became homeless, she learned that he had given her AIDS. She knew she was dying, but gave out candy hearts to try and bring happiness into every person’s day.