The Feather

The FeatherSoftly, gently, slowly, the feather fell through the air and hit the ground without a sound.

No one in the world heard it. No one saw it. But it was there. Glowing brightly in the dim light of that day.

You could hear a pin drop in the forest at that moment, but not a feather. 

In  a flash the feather had transformed into something else. Something she could hardly bear to look at. She stared at the Angel before her and dropped her backpack and could not move.

Had the Angel seen her? Did it know she was there? Could she hide?

The Angel did not move either. It stayed in the same place, shining.

It was too much for Elspeth. She started to cry. And as her tears fell down her cheeks she noticed they turned to tiny drops of warm, liquid gold and they pooled into her hands which she formed into a cup to catch them.

‘Do not be afraid’, said the Angel.

‘That’s easier said than done’,  Elspeth said in her mind.

And the Angel replied, ‘Do not be afraid. I am not here to harm you but to help you. I am the Angel of Faith’.

‘What do you want from me?’ she said out loud.

‘Nothing Dear One. Only that you have some faith around things you don’t know, can’t know about. Heaven has it all sorted you know. Now go on your way and don’t forget to have a little faith’.

And the Angel disappeared and all that was left was the feather on the ground again.

‘How can I bring faith into my life?’ she thought.

She had no idea. But she had faith enough to try. And courage. She had a lot of courage.

And carrying the gold that she had found within her, she walked out of the deep, dark forest into the light.

The Potato Cake Rider

UntitledThe Potato Cake RiderIt was a dusty day when the big truck with potatoes rolled into the small outback town. The little boys had just finished playing their tenth game of marbles. Jack always won and no matter how many games they played neither Bill nor Greg nor Andy could beat him. Jack was like that. Some called him lucky. Some called him a cheat.

One thing about Jack though, he was a brave boy. When he was five he rescued his little sister from a rather angry stream down the back.

But today was not about Jack. It was about Mr Prideau. Mr Prideau owned the potato farm. Acres and acres of potatoes and they were all now ready to eat so they had to be dug, by hand, from the ground. By hand? Well, if you were a boy of ten and came from a poor family – yes, by hand. That was the deal. Mr and Mrs Prideau  had let it be known that anyone around who were ‘poor’ could help themselves to potatoes – but they had to dig them up themselves.

“Not a problem”. Jack’s Dad said, “Let’s go. Ready son?” “Ready Dad!” And off they went.

Usually Mrs Prideau had some of her potato cakes on the porch for them too. Sometimes she added thyme, sometimes onions. Simply delicious.

Now it happened the Prideaux were not quite who everyone thought they were. Kind – yes. Honest – yes. Hiding a secret – yes, that too.

What was it? It was simple. With every potato cake Mrs Prideau made came a rider – something that was a pre-requisite you had to do to get it – and it was to help Mr Prideau in the yard for ten minutes each time they came to dig.

That’s what Jack was doing when he heard the old man’s screams. Agonising, below the belt bellows of screams. He ran to the old man and found him leaning over his wife who lay motionless on the ground. She wasn’t dead, but close. She had slipped, fallen and knocked her head and it was bleeding, badly.

Quick as a flash Jack ran to the phone on the wall in the kitchen and rang the operator.

Help came quickly. But in the meantime Jack’s job seemed to be to calm the situation down. He did so by telling Mrs Prideau how he loved her potato cakes, how they melted in his mouth, how he had never tasted anything so beautiful in his life.

She smiled a faint smile and knew she would be okay.

A week after she was home from hospital, the Prideaux removed the potato cake rider and doubled the potato cakes for every family who came to dig.

Jack never cheated at marbles again. Folks had called him brave and folks had called him good and he liked it. It felt right.

And so it was that he set an example to all the others who came to dig potatoes. Rider or no rider, he continued to help Mr Prideau in his yard every time he went there.

And so did everyone else.

China and the cha-cha

cha cha redNever let it be said China didn’t know how to walk properly. He did. Straight back, straight faced. Tight. All muscle. Lean as a greyhound. Highly sprung. Not great for a dancer at all. Had no flow in the hips. But that did not stop him.

Every day he practised the cha-cha. With himself. In his head and in his bedroom. Tiny finger movements that got every to and fro step right.

Once he even contemplated getting out of bed and actually moving his legs. Putting one foot after another. But that thought didn’t last long for some reason.

Day after day he rehearsed his little dance. Why was he doing this? He was confined to his bed for who knew how long.

The doctors said the accident was “Bad. Severe. Worst case”, they muttered.

That damn cha-cha. Couldn’t get it out of his head.

He’d been the cha-cha champion of course in his day. And his favourite partner was Esme. Boy. What a dancer she was. 

He’d seen Mum and Dad do the cha-cha. They used to love doing it in the huge kitchen they had in their rambling homestead in the country. All around they would go. Back, forth, sideways. He was fascinated.

Watched from his cradle.
Watched from his stroller.
Watched from his high chair.
Watched as he sat at the table.

Then they were gone.
“Bad accident that.Tragic”, they said. Now, as he remembered, all he could do was see that cha-cha in his head. He knew the steps off by heart. Mum and Dad told him “One-day China you can do this –  it’s fun!”.

So he lay there and practised and practised in his head. His legs like lead –  would he or wouldn’t he? He didn’t know. But there was a lot of life left in China and one day, maybe one day, he could really dance the cha-cha like Mum and Dad again.

But he couldn’t as he was nearly dead.

“Don’t stop Lionel!”, he used to hear Mum say. “Keep going. It’s fun”.

And the last thing he remembered before he passed away was his Dad whispering to his Mum, “I love you and I love China and the cha-cha. Let’s dance our lives away”.

And he joined them in Paradise.

Quentin and Lydia

IMG_5471.JPGQuentin and Lydia

Quentin and Lydia bumped into each other in the old candle shop down on Station Street one Saturday morning.

She was there with her heart. He was there with his mind full of woebegone fears. Both were looking for love.

When she smiled at him, oh the lights that bedazzled him, touched him. He spun around ashamed as Mr Fear pronounced him voiceless, mute, silent.

His mind was racing. “Am I handsome enough? Will she like me?” He trembled at these thoughts.  She was so lovely.

Lydia was used to this. She only wanted to meet someone else’s heart. And she knew how hard it was for them to be the same. So full of fears in the mind.

‘Have a heart?’, she said merrily and broke the ice as she handed him a lovely heart shaped candle.

‘Oh, thank you.’

Mr Fear just wouldn’t go back into his box no matter how hard Quentin tried to put him there.

He moved to another counter, his heart pounding. He sucked in his breath, and his gut, and made a choice.

Would he follow the questions from his mind or listen to his beating heart?

He chose to be in his heart and was completely himself.

He turned to Lydia and said,  “I’m free’    ‘Would you like to have a coffee with me?”

‘Yes,I would’ she replied.

His mind left him and all he knew in that moment was his heart, himself, and he met her in that place, where she already was.

And they stood there together in the candle shop and glowed.

What do you think is the moral of the story?

Do you play to strengths or weaknesses?

IMG_5689Written by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story.

Are there fundamental, life changing differences between playing to your strengths or to your weaknesses? Should you just do what you love or focus on your flaws to correct them? When do you choose one way over the other?

Perhaps this story may shed some light on the matter.

One evening on parent teacher night a father was chatting with the Maths teacher about his boy and after a while  he said to the teacher: – “So, do you think I should get him some coaching?”
The teacher replied:- “What is he good at?’
The father said, “No, I said, do you think I should get him some coaching?”
And again the teacher said:- “What is he good at?”
The father then said, “No, no, I meant do you think I should get him some Maths coaching?
The teacher asked again:- “I know, I heard you, but what I am asking is what is he good at?
And this time the father replied:- “He is good at basketball. He loves it”.
“Then have him coached in that.”
“Why? He is already good at that. He is no good at Maths”.
And the teacher said;- “How do you think he will feel if you focus on something he is not good at, and is unlikely to be? Focus on something he is good at, develop that, encourage that”.
The father went away, thoughtful. He had his son coached in basketball.
Six months later the father rang the Maths teacher and thanked her for her wisdom. His son was Captain of the basketball team and his grades had improved in every subject, not just Maths. He was a happy boy.

When you make a choice to play to your strengths, you tap  into what you are naturally good at. It uplifts you. You do it because you want to – you love it! Your rewards include joy, happiness, enrichment and expansion. That’s life changing in a good way.

When you make a choice to focus on your weaknesses in order to correct them, you do it because you have to, you need to get out of a pickle! Your rewards may be a sense of achievement, accomplishment and improvement. Yet does it ever taste as sweet as the rewards from excelling at something that is really joyous for you?

The parent-teacher story is a true story told to me by the Maths teacher. I would love to hear from you if you have any stories like this. Have you been inspired or encouraged to take one particular course of action over another? What was the outcome? Did you play to your strengths or to your weaknesses?

Credit: ‘Sunrise over Sydney Harbour Bridge 22/7/15’ Copyright Ruth Howard

I was witness to love

ScanWritten by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

A few years ago years ago my friend Susanne was three hundred miles away in another city when one of her two daughters had an accident at home and was rushed to hospital. Being so far away Susanne rang me and asked me to go to the hospital to be with her daughter, and her other daughter who was on her way to the hospital to be at her sister’s bedside.

I arrived at the hospital the same time as the other daughter. When we were allowed into the ward I was to witness one of the most beautiful moments of my life. The first words the two sisters said to each other were:- “I love you”.

In the moment of ‘No! – I might lose this person I love!’, our hearts automatically open. We don’t go to our minds. We go straight to our hearts.  We go to love. We connect to the most fundamental thing in existence, that which connects everything to everything, which is everywhere, and that is the love which is in the heart, in every heart.

And we probably say, “I love you”.

 

 

 

 

An Event That Changed The World

Written by Ruth Howard – founder of The Joy Story

Iimages wrote this speech almost thirty years ago, about an event that changed the world . I was a fledgling member of a Sydney Rostrum public speaking group and this was my maiden speech.

I found it this morning as I was looking through some papers. I share it here, unedited, with a little comment by me at the end. It is timely.

An Event That Changed The World

Come with me on a journey back in time and space. Everyone of you here in this room today will be a traveller in my time machine, which will be fuelled with your imagination.

The assignment I have been given is to show you an event that changed the world – that set the course of history off in a new direction.

Are you ready? Are you prepared? Because I warn you, you may not like what you see. Are you afraid of what you will see because what you will see will be in your mind and there’s no turning back? I have already set our time clock to transport us to each event where we will be silent, invisible observers, unable to change what we see in any way. We won’t even know the time or place, but it will be left to us to discover why we are where we are.

OK? Fasten your seat belts. Our journey has begun!

As the cosmic clouds of our consciousness propell us further and further into the abyss of our past, we find we have arrived at our first destination. We are in a damp, dark dwelling. Our ears are punctured by a woman’s screams obviously in great pain and as our vision clears we see in the corner the miracle birth which is indeed a most significant event and we fully understand why time has stopped for us here, for this is Bethlehem.

As we leave this stable behind, we find ourselves in a laboratory. Who’s that strange man over there and what are all these wires and chemicals for? Lookout! He’s spilt acid on his trousers and he’s calling out in panic into a strange contraption nearby. “Mr Watson, come here, I want you”. To our surprise we hear someone bounding up the stairs from the basement, three floors below. How did he know – how did he hear the call for help? This must be the laboratory of Alexander Graham Bell.

Our time is short, so quickly, let’s depart.

Are your seat belts still fastened, because we have just splashed down in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean? The sea is calm. We can’t quite make out the name of the large ship that has just sailed past us. On board, the passengers have just finished lunch and are strolling around the decks. Suddenly the water is broken by another object streaking toward the ship. Oh my God – it’s been hit! We watch in utter helplessness as over 1,000 men, women and children perish in the icy waters of the Atlantic. And we catch a glimpse of the name on the bow as the ship slides to her watery grave. It is the ‘Lusitiania’.

We have nearly completed our journey with just one last place to visit. Where are we now? We are in a beautiful park in a very picturesque city. It’s a lovely summer’s day and the children are playing happily like children do the world over. The mothers and grandmothers are chatting whilst keeping one eye on the children. They look different to us – maybe we are in Asia or somewhere in China perhaps. Where are we? Why would I have brought you here? What could have possibly happened here in this beautiful, serene community that was an important enough event to change the world?

I have brought you here for a particular purpose – for the the event that will happen here tomorrow, 6th August, 1945 will be recorded in this planet’s history as its most cataclysmic event – for the place we about about to leave is Hiroshima, Japan.

I want you now to come back, back to today and reflect on your journey. The birth of Jesus, the invention of the telephone, the sinking of the Lusitania, the death at Hiroshima are all events that changed the world.

It doesn’t hurt to take a pilgrimage back into the past to remind us that not one but many events have dramatically altered the course of mankind.

I think I’d rather do that than look into the future because I am afraid I may not like what I see.

It was here I ended my speech.

We all know what has happened since. Have we learned anything? Have we made it stop? Can we as little individuals do that – make it stop? Maybe not, but we can look inside for our own inner peace. I think that is a big help and a good a place as any to start.