One of my mother's favorite activities used to be sending me e-mail forwards from "Chicken Soup For the Soul", which is a series of books whose heartwarming, life-affirming anecdotes and quotations are intended to inspire joy in the hearts of its readers. She finally stopped doing this when I had her e-mail address permanently blocked (I wonder how she's doing today?)
Anyway, many of these stories uplifted and inspired me so much that I was moved to send in some Chicken Soup of my own, hoping that my experiences might touch or comfort some other hungry soul out there. My submissions were all rejected, so I decided to make them available here.
"Puppies For Sale"
A merchant was tacking a sign above his door that read, "Puppies For Sale." Signs like that have a way of attracting small children and, sure enough, a little boy appeared under the store owner's sign. "How much're you gonna sell those puppies for?" he asked.
The owner replied, "Anywhere from $30 to $50." The little boy reached into his pocket and pulled out some change. "I have $2.37," he said. "Can I please look at them?"
The man smiled and whistled, and out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle of his store followed by five teeny-tiny fur balls. One puppy was lagging considerably behind. Immediately the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and asked, "What's wrong with that little dog?"
The store owner explained that the veterinarian examined the little puppy and had discovered it didn't have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame. The little boy became excited. "That is the puppy that I want to buy." The store owner said, "No, you don't want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I'll just give him to you."
The little boy got quite upset. He looked straight into the store owner's eyes, pointing his finger, and said, "I don't want you to give him to me. That little dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I'll pay full price. In fact, I'll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid for."
The store owner countered, "You really don't want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and jump and play with you like the other puppies." To the owner's surprise, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace.
He looked up at the store owner and softly replied, "Well, I don't run so well myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!"
Then the store owner picked up a nearby broom and shooed all the puppies back into the kennel, even the lame one. "So you think that, just because you're a cripple, you get to be a little smart-ass to your elders, huh? Well lemme tell you something, Special Olympics, I was trying to do you a favor and just GIVE you that worthless little mutt, but then you had to get all "Hallmark" on me and try to send me on a guilt trip about whatever you did to your stupid leg. Well guess what, Tiny Tim? I think I'm gonna do that pooch a favor and shoot it, Old Yeller-style. Then it will really need 'someone who understands'. Now get outta here before I call the cops and tell them I caught you shoplifting. Best get to steppin', you little brat. Oh that's right, you can't get to steppin'-because you're a stupid cripple!"
"Burned Out Hope"
The school system in a large city had a program to help children keep up with their schoolwork during stays in the city's hospitals. One day, a teacher who was assigned to the program received a routine call asking her to visit a particular child. She took the child's name and room number and talked briefly with the child's regular class teacher. "We're studying nouns and adverbs in his class now," the teacher said. "And I'd be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn't fall too far behind."
The hospital program teacher went to see the boy that afternoon. No one had mentioned to her that the boy had been badly burned and was in great pain. Upset at the sight of the boy, she stammered as she told him, "I've been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs." When she left she felt she hadn't accomplished much.
But the next day, a nurse asked her, "What did you do to that boy?" The teacher felt she must have done something wrong and began to apologize. "No, no," said the nurse. "You don't know what I mean. We've been worried about that little boy, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He's fighting back, responding to treatment. It's as though he's decided to live."
Two weeks later, the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization. He expressed it this way: "They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?"
A few weeks after that, the boy was finally able to return to his class, where his peers and classmates taunted him mercilessly, calling him "Freddy Krueger" and "Leatherface". Girls would shriek and run away whenever the boy turned a corner in the hallways. He began wearing a mask that only served to amplify his status as a hideously disfigured outcast.
A few weeks after that, the boy shot himself. But his suicide note had remarkably accurate usage of nouns and adverbs.
"Blessed Are the Pure In Heart"
Blessed are the pure in heart.
So often we are told
Of saints whose names and daily deeds
Inscribed in books of gold
Are certain to be seeing God
In well-rewarding joy -
But when I see the pure in heart
I see a little boy.
He shins up trees and barks his knees,
Has lizards in a box;
He loves to read of dinosaurs,
Collects bright-colored rocks.
His grubby hands are gentle
On the coats of dogs and birds,
And he has a quiet wisdom in naiveté of words.
I listen to his little prayers
At night with quiet joy -
And when I hear the pure in heart
I hear a little boy.
He hasn't reached the age as yet
To question and to doubt;
He gravely takes his mother's words,
And that's what life's about.
Each day is gold, a shining thing
Without a wrong alloy -
And when I hold the pure in heart
I hold a little boy.
His body is so soft and small,
the perfect carnal form;
He looks so very innocent,
lying naked on my floor
I take some grainy photographs
and offer him new toys
I like to molest the pure in heart
I like to molest little boys.