The Coal of Liberty

Recently I read Thomas Paine’s American Crisis #1.

This line stood out to me:

Though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire.

I pondered, I studied, I mused.

What is this coal? Why will it never expire?  What can we do to fan the flame of liberty?

Then I wrote this poem to remind me of the answers and the challenge:


By God our hearts were given to us

A small coal inside to care for and trust.

It warms when life is cold and dreary.

It inspires when we become weary.

The heart is the fuel of the human soul.

The center of passion, desires, and goals.

The Lord lights this coal, that can never die.

And at times the flame burns bright and high.

When it does, it rekindles coals nearby,

When it does, it inspires men to fly.

Fly to heights beyond our vision.

Soar to mountains full of wisdom.

But even when the coal is buried

By ashes of dreams and loads to carry.

It does not die, it cannot expire,

For God Himself lit that fire.

Eternal as He is the coal He placed

In the heart of each of the human race.

With the clearing of ashes,

The shouldering of the load

With the wind of stories long untold

The flame is fanned and the coal will burn bright

Giving warmth, comfort, joy and light.

We who teach must care for the coal,

By telling the stories that need to be told

The stories of heroes long unsung

Of deeds of valor, of battles won.

We will clear the ashes of dreams that died

When we ponder the deeds of those who tried.

We will inspire others to shoulder their load

As we press forward towards our goals.

Yes, the flame burns bright in the morning light

And sometimes struggles to survive the night.

But the flame in our hearts is sustained by the coal

A gift from God, a part of our soul.

It will never expire though our load be great

But we must choose to work and wait.

Henry & Stefa – True Courage & Honor

In 1907 Stefania-WilczynskaStefa was a university graduate who was volunteering at the local orphanage.

She was indispensable, organized and loving. Warmth and strength were her defining characteristics.

Janusz-KorczakHenry was a beloved pediatrician, he was prosperous and secure. He wrote children’s fiction on the side.

However, the children on the street had his heart. His pockets were full of candy and coins which he gave out liberally with love. His heart told him he should start an orphanage.

“The road I have chosen toward my goal is neither the shortest, nor the most convenient. But it is the best for me—because it is my own. I found it not without effort or pain,” said Henry of his choice for change.

When Henry met Stefa, he saw her competence and caring, the children rushing to her for hugs and kisses. Here was the woman to help him do this great work.

“They made an effective team. Stefa with her ability to bring order, and he with his natural way with children.”

Together, for over 30 years, Henry and Stefa cared for hundreds of children.

Janusz-Korczak-with-the-childrenVisitors abounded and students begged to intern at the world renowned orphanage.

Then Germany invaded Poland. Stefa was awarded one of the last visas to leave. She turned it down saying, “I cannot leave without the children.”

Then the Germans forced all Jews to move: 400,000 people to a 3.5 square mile area surrounded by barbed wire and patrols, the “Warsaw Ghetto.”

For two years Henry and Stefa brought order to a corner of chaos. They kept their routines: work, study and even put on a play.

Then, without warning on August 7, 1942 the call “All Jews out!” came ringing through the doors. “You have fifteen minutes!”

Stefa helped the children pack. They were being “resettled” in the east.

Henry, carrying one child and holding another’s hand, calmly took the lead and Stefa brought up the rear. One hundred and ninety-two orphans and ten adults.

They sang as they marched, “Though the storm howls around us, let us keep our heads high.”

The stories of Anne Frank, Victor Frankl, and Corrie Ten Boom move us.

 Like Anne Frank, Henry left behind a diary.

Like Viktor Frankl, Henry was a respected doctor and Jew.

Like Corrie Ten Boom, Henry had dedicated his life to serving others.

Unlike them all, Henry had a choice to walk away.

At the train station a German guard handed the famous Jewish author and doctor a note offering him his freedom, he waved it away. Henry said,

“You do not leave a sick child in the night, and you do not leave children at a time like this.”

No one knew their true destination was Treblinka, an extermination camp.

Henry and Stefa, had they known, would they have made different decisions?

A teacher who worked with them said:

“You know, everyone makes so much of his last decision to go with the children to the train. But his whole life was made up of moral decisions. The decision to become a children’s doctor. The decision to give up medicine and his writing career to take care of poor orphans. The decision to go with the Jewish orphans into the ghetto. As for that last decision to go with the children to Treblinka, it was part of his nature. It was who he was. He wouldn’t understand why we are making so much of it today.”

Warsaw-Monument-Janusz-KorczakHenry is better known by his Polish pen name: Janusz Korczak. Stefa, is only found on the pages of Henry’s biographies.

But they left behind them a legacy of love, determination, commitment and honor.  They are heroes to know, to love & to emulate.

(The King of Children-The Life and Death of Janusz Korczak by Betty Jean Lifton is a must read if you want the whole story)

Santa, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter and You

To my boys,

Last night we watched the movie, “The Santa Clause 2.”  In it Santa, Tim Allen, must convince a lady to marry him within 28 days or lose forever the power to be Santa Claus.  He uses up the last of his magic trying help her believe in him and win her heart.

Of course, the tale ends happily with her decision to believe in him. She says “I Will” to his proposal to spend the rest of time with him even though they have only known each other for a few weeks.

Why did she do that? Because she believed in him and the powers GIVEN to him.

What made him worth the risk was his CHOICES to use those gifts for good.

Lately, some of you have read the Percy Jackson series. Percy was given gifts.  He hadn’t done anything to earn or deserve them.  He was born with them.  He made the choice to submit to training and develop these gifts.  Then he CHOSE to use them, not for his own good and desires,  but for others.

Same story, just a little different twist.

Guess what! This is your story as well.  You were given gifts.  You did not earn them.  You were given powers.  Your choices to develop and use them will determine whether you become a force for good, to become a true hero. 

You have been chosen, just like Harry Potter.  Chosen before you were born.  You were marked to do a certain work.  There will be people whose LIVES will depend on you choosing to stand up and use your powers to bless and help them.

You are son of God.  You have been given special gifts and powers.  In fact, you have been given EXACTLY what you need to be the hero in the lives for whom you are responsible.   

Harry, Percy & Santa have some very important things in common.

  • They listened to and followed (though grudgingly on occasion) the advice of older wiser mentors [Santa —the elves, Percy —Chiron , Harry Potter —Dumbledore]
  • They were not afraid of and REQUESTED and ACCEPTED help from others…be it total strangers or good friends [Santa —the elves, his son, Percy —fellow demigods and helpful humans, Harry Potter —Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ghosts and more]
  • They chose to help others rather than seeking their own individual interests, comfort and security, and in this they found (often to their own surprise) great happiness and fulfillment.

There will be times when you will doubt and when you will fear.

Don’t exercise doubts (thinking about them over and over in your mind). Instead exercise faith: faith in the GIVER of your gifts and His belief in you.

There will be times when you want to give up. When you think you are not worthy. When you want to just go to bed and forget your gifts and the call to be a hero.

When this happens, look into the eyes of those who believe in you and depend upon you.

Look long and hard.

This is what life is all about.

You must make the choice to believe in their belief. Make the choice to put them first.

Something amazing happens once you choose to ACT on their belief, to ACT on the counsel of mentors, to ACT and invite others to help you.  Things start falling into place.  You will know what skill you need to develop next, you will get help from unforeseen places and people. 

You have been blessed by God with what you need to succeed…because HE WANTS YOU TO SUCCEED!  He isn’t like those greek gods of legend that have only their own selfish ends in mind and who occasionally decide to be nice to the mortals.

He has chosen to put each of us and our immortality and eternal life as His supreme goal and focus.

Yes, you need to be the hero. 

You already have been given the power.

You have already been given mentors to help you. 

You have already been surrounded by friends and family to support you. 

All that is left is for you to make the choice.

The choice to develop your power.

The choice to seek out and follow mentors.

The choice to accept and ask for the help of friends, family and others.

Will you?

Will you make the choice to serve,

               the choice to give,

                        the choice to be?

You DON’T reap what you sow!

You DON’T reap what you sow!


Take a moment and think.  Let the words sink into your brain.

You DO NOT reap what you sow!

PLANT an apple seed…with TIME and CARE, you get an APPLE TREE full of apples….year after year after year!

Think of the fruit you will reap…

Think of the seeds that fruit will produce….

What are you going to plant?

What will you reap?


Thank you, Jim Rohn, for planting this seed of an idea, which is already bearing fruit in my mind!

“In fact, you always reap more than you sow–you plant a seed and reap a bushel.” Jim Rohn

The Canyon

“There is no way Mom! Mowing lawns is the only way I can earn money. It will be next spring before I can earn enough money!”

 He wailed. He moaned. He cried. He was nine.

What could I say? I could see so many options. He needed to think bigger, longer term. He was so much closer than he realized. Mowing lawns is not the only way to earn money.

I swallowed the perfect lecture bubbling up in my throat.

“I am sorry bud,” I said with a hug. “Can I tell you a story?”

He nodded.

From a hilltop, a man looked out across the valley. Panting, his heart rejoiced. In the distance he could see his goal. At last!  It was in reach.

 He gazed at the path. He gasped.

 No! A canyon.

 So close and now, failure. For a while, he thought, he planned, he wondered, he despaired. There was no way to cross, no bridge in sight.

 He cried. He stormed. He raged. He blamed. He looked longingly at his goal and angrily at the canyon barring his path. A seesaw of emotions tormented him, rocking between anger and depression with nauseating speed.

 This is how it always is for me. Things never work out. What was I thinking going on this journey in the first place? Who do I think I am? Why should I try? I knew I’d never make it.

 He slumped into the shade of a nearby tree.

 I’ll go somewhere else tomorrow. There must be a better place to go anyway.

 He drifted off into a restless sleep.

 Sweating and exhausted another man came up the hillside. He caught site of the goal. He rejoiced. Momentarily, concern washed over him when he saw the canyon.

 Well, it’s like granddad always said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

 He laughed, knowing there was no bridge to cross. But he journeyed on.

 Down he marched into the valley. Onward through marsh and mud.  Snakes hissed, scorpions scuttled across his path. He reached the cliff’s edge weary from the day’s labors.

 He looked across the terrible gap. Then he looked down.

 What was this?

 Unseen from the hilltop, or even a few feet from the cliff’s edge was a narrow path. And just above the roaring river, deep in the canyon, a bridge!

 Who would have guessed there would be a bridge down there? I’m sure glad I kept walking.

 With a spring in his step, down the path he went, across the bridge, up the other side.

 The sun was setting when the first man woke. He stretched and took one last look at the goal he was giving up. Shocked he saw a man on the other side of the canyon, walking resolutely up to the city gates.

 How? How did he get there?

 He must have come from another direction. There is no earthly way to cross that canyon. Ah, some people have all the luck[1]. They just start from the right places. They know the tricks. 

 Someday. Someday, I’ll get a lucky break too. 

 I stopped my story. Looking into the eyes of my boy I asked. “What did the first man miss?”

“Mom, it wasn’t it luck! That other guy worked hard! And the other just slept! And….”

I let him talk and talk. As I listened, he discovered most of the truths that I had hoped to teach him.  And those truths will be his, forever.

Smiling, he ran out to mow the lawn.

[1] “The thoughtless, the ignorant, and the indolent, seeing only the apparent effects of things and not the things themselves, talk of luck, of fortune, and chance.  Seeing a man grow rich, they say, ‘How lucky he is!’  Observing another become intellectual, they exclaim, ‘How highly favored he is!’ And noting the saintly character and wide influence of another they remark, ‘How chance aids him at every turn!’  They do not see the trials and failures and struggles which these men have voluntarily encountered in order to gain their experience; have no knowledge of the sacrifices they have made, of the undaunted efforts they have put forth, of the faith they have exercised, that they might overcome the apparently insurmountable, and realize the Vision of their heart.  They do not know the darkness and the heartaches; they only see the light and joy, and call it ‘luck’; do not see the long and arduous journey, but only behold the pleasant goal, and call it ‘good fortune’; do not understand the process, but only perceive the result, and call it ‘chance.’”(James Allen, As a Man Thinketh, Visions and Ideals)

Look for the Helpers–My Poem

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” –Mr. Rogers–

To deal with the chaos of emotions I have felt, I wrote this poem based on Mr. Roger’s words:

Look for the Helpers

“Look for the helpers,” my mommy said
As she cradled me gently upon my bed.
“Look for the good amidst the strife.
Look my dear, and you’ll find life.

Look for the helpers,
They’re everywhere.
They love, they serve,
Oh, how they care!

Look for the helpers
Who shine in the dark.
Look for them dear
With all your heart.

Look for the helpers
and it will be clear
Those who love outnumber
those who cause fear.”

So many helpers all around.
Mother was right; they were easily found.
Years have gone by since that tearful night.
I’ve seen many helpers serve with their might.

They’re teachers and preachers,
Policeman and friends,
Neighbors and strangers,
Women and men.

Doctors and nurses,
Swat teams and dogs,
Crossing guards, fireman,
That lady who blogs.

Grandmas and Grandpas and
Of course moms and dads,
Brothers and sisters,
Uncles and Aunts.

That night I saw helpers, they weren’t hard to find
Yet questions still burned in my little mind:
“Why mommy, why? Those were good kids.
Will someone hurt me? Can I stay in my bed?”

She bowed her head, and I am sure she prayed
To know what to say to my heart that day.
She held me real close and her words were clear.
She taught me truth about living without fear.

“This life will have pain and trials it’s true.
Days unforgettable, miserable too.

Floods and tornados,
War and despair,
Accidents happen,
And tragedies unfair.

Some unavoidable,
Some of them planned,
Some carried out
by insane hands.

But we mustn’t live wondering
if we will be next,
Worrying our life through
and shaking our heads.

Let me tell you a secret I learned in my life.
How to deal with the heartbreak, the loss and the strife.
How to let go of worry and doubt and fear,
No matter what happens and despite our tears”

Then quietly, reverently, softly she spoke
“Be the helper.”

“Don’t just look for the helpers everywhere.
Be sure to care!

Be the helper
Who shines in the dark
Be one dear
With all your heart.”

Marie Arnold December 16, 2012

Finding the Lost Art

Something deep in my soul told me “You are missing something.”

Yet, I wasn’t searching for a needle in a haystack or a white glove in the snow.

No, it was worse: I didn’t know what I was looking for let alone where to find it!

The object, I was sure was:




But it was definitely lost.

I asked for help.

Blank stares or scowls were my answers from the “experts.”

I wondered.  I found pieces.  Like an archaeologist I asked, “What was I discovering?  A handle? A weapon? A tool? A Brush? A toy?”

Time passed.  It eluded me.  Here and there through the years, clues would raise their heads  and gradually disappear ocean of confusion.

And the I found the key.

The Rosetta stone.

A treasure.

Paul Lockhart’s book, “A Mathematican’s Lament”

My life will never be the same.

Beautiful, simple truth.

I laughed. I cried.  I cheered!

Have you ever feared math?

Read this!

Have you ever hated math?

Read this!

Have you ever thought there must be more to math?

Read this!

Do you love math?

Read this!

I promise…life will never be the same.

The Most Precious Gift

I just finished reading Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.

Tucked away on the last pages was a truth that jumped out at me:

“I learned that work can be meaningful from my father.  Everything he does–from his most complex academic mathematics to digging in the garden–he tackles with joy and resolve and enthusiasm.  My earliest memories of my father are of seeing him work at his desk and realizing that he was happy.  I did not know it then, but that was one of the most precious gifts a father can give his child. “

I am lucky, my dad also gave me this gift.

Am I giving that gift to my children?

Clarissa & Charlie

In 1824, Clarissa married Charlie, the local boy, who was making it big in hardware.

Times were good. Charlie invented many useful tools. Credit was given liberally to customers.

Then some big customers couldn’t make their payments.

Charlie sold patents for his inventions to make ends meet. It wasn’t enough. The business was lost.

Charlie was sent to debtor’s prison. Clarissa visited him cheerfully and faithfully.

One day, after being released from debtor’s prison, Charlie saw a piece of India rubber.

Back then rubber had problems. In the summer it would go limp and stink like a skunk. In the winter it would crack and break like peanut brittle.

Charlie rolled it around in his hands and thought, “What if…?” He wanted to figure it out. He felt called to do so.

Scientists, chemists, inventors before him and around him could not do it, but HE would — with no education, no scientific background…and no money. Charlie was determined.

His obsession with rubber buried them in poverty. There were seven mouths to feed. He dug up turnips in abandoned fields. Their furniture was sold to pay debts or buy more rubber for testing.

Time and again he thought he found the answer. The family would make toys, globes, clothing and shoes…and then the seasons would prove its failure.

He lost it all or sold it all many times.

Through it all stood Clarissa by his side, cooking the scanty meals in the kitchen which doubled as his laboratory.Charles Goodyear in kitchen lab-cropped

Back to the drawing board. In and out of prison for debt. Family and friends abandoned them. Everyone urged him to stop.

Except Clarissa.

Years went by.

One night he accidentally dropped some rubber on the hot kitchen stove.  He noticed it charred like leather, rather than melting.  He was thrilled, but would it withstand the cold? 

He grabbed a hammer and nailed it to the house outside in the frigid January night.  The next morning he anxiously opened the front door.

It didn’t crack!

It was still flexible!

Louis Pasteur would say ten years later,

“Did you ever observe to whom the accidents happen?  Chance favors only the prepared mind.”

Chance had finally favored Charlie.

It took four years of fine tuning and persuading skeptical investors, but the result was everything from slickers and boots to bottle nipples and life vests.

Things got a little better for the family.  Unfortunately, greedy men whisked most of the money away from the man who had given his life and the woman who had given her unwavering support to the discovery.

Before full financial security was realized, Clarissa died.

Daniel Webster (American Senator and Secretary of State under three Presidents) spoke of Clarissa’s support of Charlie:

“In all his distress, and in all his trials, she was willing to participate in his sufferings, and endure everything, and hope everything; she was willing to be poor; she was willing to go to prison or if necessary when he went to prison; she was willing to share with him everything, and that was his only solace.”

Seven years later Charlie died.  Before his death he said,

“Life should not be estimated exclusively by the standard of dollars and cents.  I am not disposed to complain that I have planted and others have gathered the fruits. 

A man has cause for regret only when he sows and no one reaps”.

Twenty more years would pass before a tire company would be named for Charles Goodyear.  Goodyear Tires–achievable because of the labor of an untiring man and an amazingly supportive woman.

What will you sow? Whose dream will you support?