Spirit of Perseverence

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My favorite magazine is This Week. It prints news from around the world in 72 pages, 8 inches by 10 1//2 inches. It is chuck full of interesting, different news items.

Every week when it arrives, I read it from cover to cover. The editorials always give news with an objective flavor.

Every week, on page 17, there are several quotations of famous people that trigger my mind-and any reader to think. I cut them out and put them in an album. A few samples. John Muir. “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

Dolly Parton. “The bigger and longer the hair, the closer to God.” Carl Sagan. “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” James Baldwin. “What you say about somebody else, and body else, reveals you.” Albert Einstein. “I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.”

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On page 10, there is a short paragraph about Michael J. Fox entitled, “Why Fox laughs at Parkinson’s.” Fox has lived with the malady for 26 years and has found humor in it.

He said recently, “There comes a point when I literally can’t stop laughing at my own symptoms.” Like what happens to a cup of coffee he’s carrying to his wife. Humor he says, is a path to acceptance. “My happiness goes in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in proportion to my expectations.”

Have you heard about Sean McCarthy? He’s a 46 year old Park Ranger with cerebral palsy. It affects body and muscle coordination. When he was 36 years old he took up-believe it or not-boxing. He got a trainer and worked religiously every day of the week and turned pro. Currently his record is 11-0, all by knockouts. McCarthy says, “I can be normal in the ring. I got a left, right hook, that’ll take you down.” It’s only a short article on page 4.

On the same page, Katie Bloomquist. She’s a first grade teacher but remembers fondly riding her bike as a child. So, she was heartbroken when she realized that most of her fourth graders in South Carolina would never know the experience of riding a bike. They all lived in a low-income area. Their families could not afford bicycles.

Miss Bloomquist (34) went   on line to raise $65,000 to remedy the situation. To buy bikes and helmets for all 650 students. She ended up raising $82,000. Recently the bikes arrived at the school for the kids.         Katie was quoted recently, “It’s all about bringing happiness. All children deserve that.”

Brady Duke is 7 years old and lives in Wausau, Wisconsin. He heard about a local police officer being killed in the line of duty. He took his prized Nintendo Wii and favorite video games to the police station with a note thanking them for keeping him and his family safe.

In appreciation, the department invited Brady to play Wii with the officers. When he showed up, he was given a new Xbox 360 console. His Mom, Jessica said of Brady, “He just has a really big heart.”

All the above items are in This Week.

The year 1985 was a year that Tommy Hollenstein will never forget. He was 23 years old and for most of those years he had been an avid sportsman. He had been an all-around athlete. His favorite sport was riding a bike. Unfortunately, he crashed his bike in a cycling accident. He became wheelchair bound for the rest of his life.

He almost died with a broken neck. He became a quadriplegic, then and forever. He had lived a wild life. He was interested in fast things from cars to skateboards including drugs and the highlife.

Throughout his months of borderline death, he became close to his family and above all becoming a born again Christian. A former art student, he had forgotten all about it for 12 years.

Then, his passion for art was reignited in a most unique way-his service dog. Unable to ride, write, paint with a brush, he had his dog walk across a canvas with paint covered paws. Tommy then had his wheels covered with paint and rolled alongside the dog’s tracks. This created a unique picture of dog and what he thought would be a once effort has become a genuine career. Many of these paintings have been purchased by famous people.

In retrospect he says, “I thought that art had been stolen from me. I thought creativity was only in my hands. I didn’t realize it was hidden within me.”

Have you heard the name of Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu? Have you heard of El Sistema? Both of them stem from the Country of Venezuela and it began in 1975. With the furor surrounding this South American Country, it is a wonder that any good could originate in it. The country is better known as a dictatorship and Angel Falls, the highest “Falls” in the world.

His history includes being an economist, a social reformer and a trained musician. Since 1975 he espoused long, loud and often, his theory that what the poor children of Venezuela needed was classical music.

The dictatorial government has grudgingly assumed an annual budget of 800,000 to 1.5 million dollars for lessons and instruments.

Such training has changed the dreams of millions of students. Hundreds have become professional musicians and scores have become music teachers and symphony conductors.

A select few have conducted concerts in the U.S. and scores of countries in other parts of the World. At age 78, Dr. Abreu continues to be the guiding light of El Sistema.

Amen. Selah. So be it.

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