A wise man won an expensive car in a lottery.

His family and friends were very happy for him and came to celebrate. ‘Isn’t it great!’ they said. ‘You are so lucky.’ The man smiled and said Maybe.’

For a few weeks he enjoyed driving the car. Then one day a drunken driver crashed into his new car at an intersection and he ended up in the hospital, with multiple injuries. His family and friends came to see him and said, ‘That was really unfortunate.’ Again the man smiled and said, Maybe.’

While he was still in the hospital, one night there was a landslide and his house fell into the sea. Again his friends came the next day and said, ‘Weren’t you lucky to have been here in the hospital.’ Again he said, Maybe.’

Eckhart Tolle,  A New Earth, 197


Don’t be so quick to judge. Better yet, try not to judge at all. Don’t be so quick to place a label of “good” or “bad” on the things that happen in your life. After all, you don’t know what will happen next. The wise person knows this, and the response of “maybe” reflects the refusal to judge.


Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave instructions for the battle.

The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?”

Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.”

Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?”

Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.”

In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear.

Source:  Pema Chödrön
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
(Shambhala; Anniversary Edition, 2000) page 46


“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”  —Joseph Campbell

“Any dog will keep chasing you if he knows you are afraid. The only remedy is to turn around and face the dog.”  —Lucile Clifton 


There was once a company whose CEO was very strict and often disciplined the workers for their mistakes or perceived lack of progress. One day, as the employees came into work, they saw a sign on the door that read, “Yesterday, the person who has been holding you back from succeeding in this company passed away. Please gather for a funeral service in the assembly room.”

While the employees were saddened for the family of their CEO, they were also intrigued at the prospect of being able to now move up within the company and become more successful.

Upon entering the assembly room, many employees were surprised to see the CEO was, in fact, present. They wondered among themselves, “If it wasn’t him who was holding us back from being successful, who was it? Who has died?”

One by one, the employees approached the coffin, and upon looking inside, each was quite surprised. They didn’t understand what they saw.

In the coffin, there was simply a mirror. So when each employee looked in to find out who had been “holding them back from being successful” everyone saw themselves. Next to the mirror, there was a sign that read:

The only person who is able to limit your growth is you. You are the only person who can influence your success. Your life changes when you break through your limiting beliefs and realize that you’re in control of your life. The most influential relationship you can have is the relationship you have with yourself. Now you know who has been holding you back from living up to your true potential. Are you going to keep allowing that person to hold you back?

Source: Unknown


You can’t blame anyone else if you’re not living up to your potential. You can’t let other people get you down about mistakes you make or their negative perception of your efforts. You have to take personal responsibility for your work–both the good and the bad–and be proactive about making any necessary adjustments.


Since breaking his hip, Tom Moore has had to use a walking frame with wheels to move around. And during his time in the hospital, Tom remembers being well cared for by NHS staff so now he wanted to see what he could do to give back in this time of need.

But what could a 99-year-old possibly do?

Tom decided he would do what he does every day… take a walk around his garden! Except, this time he was going to set himself a goal.

Tom was going to do 100 laps around his garden, by his 100th birthday that was coming up, and in the process, raise money for the NHS (National Health Services).

Small steps day by day he made his laps with the help of his walking frame … and thanks to his daughter’s help in getting the word out about his fundraising efforts, Tom went ‘viral’ and became an overnight sensation all over the world!

Everywhere, individuals started donating, sending in well wishes and encouragement. Tom became a source of inspiration and positivity.

Tom did complete 100 laps well before his 100th birthday! But more astonishing, is that the now 100-year-old man ended up raising over 32 million pounds! (That’s 40,241,954.75 United Staes dollars or 54,514,720.00 Canadian Dollars!)

This story was reported on BBC on 18 April 2020 during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Never let limitation be a barrier to what you desire to do.  Start with a simple goal.  Believe in it.  Have the right mindset, determination and laser-sharp focus and go for it, one small step at a time.


A carpenter and his apprentice were walking together through a large forest. And when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old, beautiful oak tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice: “Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled, so old and beautiful?” The apprentice looked at his master and said: “No…why?”

“Well,” the carpenter said, “because it is useless. If it had been useful it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so beautiful that you can sit in its shade and relax.”

Source: Henri NouwenOut of Solitude
(Ave Maria Press, 1974, 2004), pages 26-27


The world says, “If you are not making good use of your time, you are useless.” Jesus says: “Come spend some useless time with me.” If we think about prayer in terms of its usefulness to us—what prayer will do for us, what spiritual benefits we will gain, what insights we will gain, what divine presence we may feel—God cannot easily speak to us. But if we can detach ourselves from the idea of the usefulness of prayer and the results of prayer, we become free to “waste” a precious hour with God in prayer. Gradually, we may find, our “useless” time will transform us, and everything around us will be different.

Prayer is being unbusy with God instead of being busy with other things. Prayer is primarily to do nothing useful or productive in the presence of God.

From Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit (pages 17, 18).




Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, wanted to know who was the wisest person in Athens.  The Delphic Oracle said, “You are!” 

“That is impossible,” replied Socrates, “because I am aware that I know nothing.” 

“That,” said the Oracle, “is why you are the wisest person in Athens.”


  • Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing. —Eckhart Tolle
  • The door to God is the insecurity of not knowing anything. Bear the grace of that uncertainty and all wisdom will be yours. —Adyashanti




A 10-year-old boy decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move.

“Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”

“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied.

Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.

Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.

This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened.

“No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.”

Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.

“Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”

“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defence for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”

Source: Unknown


Oftentimes what might appear to be an incredible weakness can in fact be the greatest strength.

Look beyond your limitations and focus on what you have and can control.  Always enter the arena of life with a positive, life-giving mindset.


A rabbi was concerned for a young friend who was becoming worldly and materialistic.

The rabbi invited him into his study and led him to the window.

“What do you see?” he asked.

There was a playground next to the house. “I see children playing,” the young friend answered.

Then the rabbi took a little hand mirror out of his pocket and held it before the visitor’s face. “Tell me what you see now?”

“I see myself,” he said wondering what was going on.

“Isn’t it strange,” the rabbi asked, “that when a little silver gets between yourself and others, you see only yourself.”

Source: “Materialism” #20,  in
Frank Mihalic, SVD
1000 Stories You Can Use, Vol 1
(Divine Word Publications, Manila, 1989)
pages 10-11


  • What is it in your life that tends to get in the way of seeing what is offered for you to see?
  • What blinds you, or if not so sever, what is it that blocks your vision?
  • And here’s one quotation to chew on: Cataracts are the third biggest cause of blindness. Religion and politics are the first two.”


It is not much fun being a rat. Everyone hates rats. You lot burble on about universal love, but you are allowed to hate rats.

There is only one lovable rat in all of your literature – adorable Ratty in Wind in the Willows. And shall I tell you something? He is not a rat. He is a water vole – with a squat face, a stubby furry tail and ridiculous little ears. Pah!

You have made the very word “rat” into a sort of universal insult. A loose woman, a dishonest man, a liar, a snitch, any devious sneaking individual. And I bet you think you know that it was mean, filthy, malevolent rats who infected you all with the bubonic plague – even though some decent and fair-minded human scientists are beginning to believe that this is not necessarily true.

It is hard having everyone hate you, and especially hard when it so unfair: it’s unfair because we run round your stupid mazes to help you with your stupid research.

It’s unfair because we make excellent, responsive and loving pets.

It’s unfair because we self-groom at least three times a day, while you all seem to think that one shower is more than enough.

It’s unfair because we are famously intelligent, while also gentle and affectionate.

It’s unfair because we are good parents.

What’s your problem?

So yes it is hard. And, let me tell you, it is hardest of all at Christmas. The crucial role we played that night in Bethlehem is entirely ignored. And if you don’t believe me, go to Google Images and search for “Nativity paintings”. Believe me there are lots and lots, there are indeed millions, of them. And in a very large number of these paintings there are animals. In fact there are an extraordinary number and variety of animals. You start of course with the sheep but move on fast: cows and goats and donkeys and mules and horses; both Bactrians and dromedaries (two- and one-humped camels to you) and dogs and pigs and a rather strange selection of deer. There are lions and cats and a diverse array of birds. There are foxes and bears and wolves and elephants. There are kangaroos for heaven’s sake – I suppose they just hopped across from the Antipodes.

But no rats. None. We have been excluded, discriminated against, written out, diminished, despised and dismissed. And it is not fair.

Think about it for a moment. Here you have a stable – a fairly basic building with a manger in it – pretty near to the pub in a small rural town in the Middle East, 2,000 years ago. There is probably a caravanserai nearby, because there nearly always is, which inevitably means food waste and human waste. There are no public washing facilities, or even closed toilets. The streets are pretty full and pretty restless at the time because of this census thing that is going on, but the shed is tucked away quietly in a back corner. Now, take a deep breath – what wild animal are you most likely to find there? Go on – try to think honestly and face the facts.

Frankly the correct answer is rather more likely to be rats than peacocks or gazelles. It’s a no-brainer.

And, no surprise, we were indeed there. Which is more than can be said for the penguins and leopards and giraffes and company ltd. who have snuck into the pictures since.

It was pretty disruptive at first, as you can imagine. We had just got our five tucked up for the night, all snuggled in straw in the manger. They were just coming up to a month old so they were all grumpy adolescence – no we do not have acne, but we do have hormones, believe you me – and full of overexcitement and cheek and know-it-all swagger. The pubescent rat has quite a lot to swagger about, to be honest, but the weary rat parents can do without it when you are trying to get them to bed and all of a sudden your space is invaded by a whole lot of silliness. You may have noticed how much drama humans are capable of making about getting babies; it is not that difficult, you know. They could take some lessons from us on this as well as other things if they so chose – but oh no.

Well, if they really cared so much you would have thought some of those fat rich blokes could have made some space in the inn for that poor woman: they did not need to send a whole lot of grumbling servants to hang around grouching about moving the horses and mules out into the yard and winding up our little ones. We certainly did not need those two naggy old ladies complaining that no one understood what women had to go through and men were so selfish … and … and … and …

Then after all that palaver he carried her in.

And then … but it is too hard to explain. She was … well she was lovely, but that was not really the point. And she was so tired, you could see she was exhausted before she even began on her weary night’s work, but that was not really the point either. I don’t know how to say it. I want to say that she was like a rat, but you all hate rats so that will not help you understand. But she was like a rat – she was sharply attentive to her task; she was alert, intelligent about the business, concentrated – as calm as she could be, able to bide her time, still and focused, hard-working.

It is not a pretty thing, birthing a baby, but like a rat she brought her whole self to it and made it beautiful. She was graceful somehow; full of grace in her body and in her mind. It is harder for humans to do the birthing work than it is for us rats – our babies have smaller heads and more pointy noses, and actually despite the various other unfair advantages bipedalism makes birthing harder. It is probably a good thing that you usually only have one at a time. But don’t let anyone tell you that it is easy. She did not make it easy, but she did make it graceful.

We kept quiet; we lurked behind a sort of log-pile in a corner and we watched. I doubt they even knew we were there. And eventually, perhaps soon after midnight, the baby was born. I do not really have a thing about small human babies, they seem sort of floppy and naked and moderately useless, but as neonatal humans go this one was rather sweet – all scrunched up with an absurd tuft of black fur on its head and little wrinkled hands and very silly feet. The young man wrapped it up, I have to say rather clumsily, in some long strips of cloth one of the old women produced for them; and then she fed it like you do and handed it back to her man. They were both smiling, but it was fairly clear that he hadn’t the least idea what to do with a baby in a shed in the middle of the night. He just stood there looking a bit awkward and uncertain.

And then I heard a funny scratchy noise and I looked round and there were our five climbing solemnly out of the manger and scuttling silently across the floor towards some loose straw. But I think he must have heard something, because he glanced up and when he saw the manger he looked relieved, went over and put the wee baby in it. I will not deny that I was proud – for all their carry on and talkback, they could see what needed doing and then do it. Just what any decent parent hopes for.

So then there was a little peace and she curled up and went to sleep and he covered her with a cloak – and it was dark and sweet. But it did not last long. All of a sudden the barn was full of people – someone said they were shepherds though my personal view remains that they were all drunks. What a carry on. And no, for your information, they did not bring any lambs with them: it was December, midwinter for heaven’s sake – there aren’t any lambs in December: everyone knows that. They did not even bring any sheep. Who wants to be bringing sheep off the hill in the middle of the night? Do have some sense.

Eventually they push off and it is all quiet again. The young couple sleep wrapped in each other’s arms; there is a huge star overhead, so there’s some light, but gentle as it were. And then it began to get cold. I don’t know if you have ever been in the desert, but at night it can get really surprisingly cold; apparently clouds keep the heat in and there do not tend to be many of those in a desert. It began to get cold – and we started to feel anxious about the baby.

I thought about waking the parents, but they were so tired and sleeping so deeply and sweetly … however it is not good for newborns to be cold, so in the end my partner just climbed into the manger and snuggled up to the child. He was too young to respond in any way – human babies are pretty slow as you may know, but you could see him totally relaxed, his head against her ribcage and her lovely fluffy fur warm against him. Rather sweet really.

Later the young couple woke and he got up and came to get the baby for her to feed. I was anxious for a moment, because on the whole humans tend to freak out when they see rats at all, let alone rats cuddled up with their child. But not him. He smiled, with a deep sort of amusement, scratched the back of her neck with one finger and said, “Thank you.” And he meant it.

That’s it really. But you can see why we resent the fact that we are never in the paintings, never acknowledged or praised or thanked. I know rats are not always sweetness and light, but – let me tell you – nor are sheep, mules, camels or dogs. Nor are humans; especially not humans.

This is a deep ancient story for us rats. We teach it to our children and carry it with us when we travel. We want to remember it, but also we want humans, and others, to remember it – we are like you really, we don’t always behave well but we always want to be loved. Is that such a big ask?

A while back we thought we might go for canonisation – if all those popes and neurasthenic virgins can be saints surely that mother rat could be too? Apart from being owed, frankly, we also sort of thought it might be a way of boosting our public image. And after all, worldwide, there are considerably more rats than Catholics.

But then we discovered the cost. The boss guy in Rome says he wants to limit what you can pay to get someone canonised to €100,000. Unbelievable. It is not that we cannot afford it – believe me. Two billion rats could raise that much overnight. Easily. That is not the issue. It is just too much money.

The World United Rat Committee is making a voluntary donation of €100,000 to maternity services in the Third World. We think that is a better way to celebrate Christmas.

Source:  “Rattus Beatus” by Sara Maitland in The Tablet
21/28 December 2019, pages 31-32



“Imagine that the world is a circle, that God is the centre, and that the radii are the different ways human beings live. When those who wish to come closer to God walk towards the centre of the circle, they come closer to one another at the same time as to God. The closer they come to God, the closer they come to one another. And the closer they come to one another, the closer they come to God.”

Dorotheus of Gaza, a sixth-century monk


Johnny was at a wedding.  He saw Mr. Clark, one of his high school teachers.  Johnny said to him, “Do you remember me?”

Mr. Clark answered, “Not really. Who are you?”  Johnny introduced himself.

“Ah, you were my student…  third grade… you were my student. Wow! I haven’t seen you for so many years.  How’s your life? What are you involved in?”

Johnny said, “I’m a teacher.”

“That’s wonderful!” said Mr. Clark. “What inspired you to become a teacher?”

“What inspired me to become a teacher was you”,  Johnny continued.

Mr. Clark said, “Tell me, how did I inspire you to become a teacher?”

Johnny said, “I saw what an impact you had on me and I realized what an impact I could have on children and teenagers.  I decided to go into education.”

Mr. Clark said, “So what type of impact did I have on you?”

Johnny went on to say, “One day, in between classes I stole a beautiful, expensive pocket watch from Fred, one of my classmates.  It was his mother’s birthday present to him. Fred showed up after lunch break, telling you and the whole class that somebody had stolen his watch.”

Johnny continued, “I remember vividly how you addressed the class that afternoon asking that the watch be returned. I was too embarrassed to fess up and return the stolen watch.”

John went on to say, “You, Mr. Clark,  you locked the classroom door and asked the class to line up and close our eyes. And you went from pocket to pocket. You came to my pocket and you found the watch and you gently pulled it out.  You did not stop there. You continued, moving from pocket to pocket all the way to the end of the line. And you told us that it was OK for us to open our eyes.

You returned the pocket watch to Fred!  On that day you saved my soul. You saved my dignity. You never said anything about the incident to anyone, not to Fred who was happy to get back the pocket watch, not to anyone, and most surprisingly, not even to me.”

John, with a hint of tears in his eyes, went on to say, “Wow this is what a teacher is.  This is what a real educator is.  This is what I want to do with my life.”

Mr. Clark, listening attentively, says,  “That’s amazing, but truth be told, I don’t remember much of the story you just shared with me.”

John, curious, and wanting to learn, said, “But tell me Mr. Clark,  you really don’t remember the story? When you see me and you hear my name?  I’m sure you remember the story…  that I stole the pocket watch! I’m sure you remember that unique and unusual ritual of lining us up and how not wanting to embarrass the ‘thief’, you asked everybody to close their eyes!  You really don’t remember that I’m the person who stole the watch.”

And Mr. Clark said, “Actually I don’t. I don’t remember!”

“Why not? It’s a pretty dramatic story” Johnny said.

And Mr. Clark  concluded, “As I moved from pocket to pocket my eyes were closed too.”

Source: Unknown. Retold as remembered when I first heard it.


What do you think?  If you were the teacher in that classroom, how would you have acted? What would you have done differently?