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Lesson Eight The Kindness of Strangers

Mike Mclntyre

1. One summer I was driving from my home town of Tahoe City, Calif, to New Orleans. In the middle of the desert, I came

upon a young man standing by the roadside. He had his thumb out and held a gas can in his other hand. I drove right by him.

There was a time in the country when you' d be considered a jerk if you passed by somebody in need. Now you are a fool for helping. With gangs, drug addicts, murderers, rapists, thieves lurking everywhere, "I don't want to get involved" has become a national motto.

2. Several states later I was still thinking about the hitchhiker. Leaving him stranded in the desert did not bother me so much.

What bothered me was how easily I had reached the decision. I never even lifted my foot off the accelerator.

3. Does anyone stop any more? I wondered. I recalled Blanche DuBois's famous line: "I have always depended on the

kindness of strangers." Could anyone rely on the kindness of strangers these days? One way to test this would be for a person to journey from coast to coast without any money, relying solely on the good will of his fellow Americans. What kind of Americans would he find? Who would feed him, shelter him, carry him down the road?

4. The idea intrigued me.

5. The week I turned 37, I realized that I had never taken a gamble in my life. So I decided to travel from the Pacific to the

Atlantic without a penny. It would be a cashless journey through the land of the almighty dollar. I would only accept offers of rides, food and a place to rest my head. My final destination would be Cape Fear in North Carolina, a symbol of all the fears I'd have to conquer during the trip.

6. I rose early on September 6, 1994, and headed for the Golden Gate Bridge with a 50-pound pack on my back and a sign

displaying my destination to passing vehicles: "America."

7. For six weeks I hitched 82 rides and covered 4223 miles across 14 states. As I traveled, folks were always warning me

about someplace else. In Montana they told me to watch out for the cowboys in Wyoming, In Nebraska they said people would not be as nice in Iowa. Yet I was treated with kindness everywhere I went. I was amazed by people's readiness to help a stranger, even when it seemed to run contrary to their own best interests.

8. One day in Nebraska a car pulled to the road shoulder. When I reached the window, I saw two little old ladies dressed in

their Sunday finest." I know you're not supposed to pick up hitchhikers, but it's so far between towns out here, you feel bad passing a person," said the driver, who introduced herself as Vi. I didn't know whether to kiss them or scold them for

stopping. This woman was telling me she'd rather risk her life than feel bad about passing a stranger on the side of the road.

9. Once when I was hitchhiking unsuccessfully in the rain, a trucker pulled over, locking his brakes so hard he skidded on the

grass shoulder. The driver told me he was once robbed at knifepoint by a hitchhiker. "But I hate to see a man stand out in the rain," he added. "People don't have no heart anymore."

10. I found, however, that people were generally compassionate. Hearing I had no money and would take none, people bought

me food or shared whatever they happened to have with them. Those who had the least to give often gave the most. In Oregon a house painter named Mike noted the chilly weather and asked if I had a coat. When he learned that I had "a light one," he drove me to his house, and handed me a big green army-style jacket. A lumber-mill worker named Tim invited me to a simple dinner with his family in their shabby house. Then he offered me his tent. I refused, knowing it was probably one of the family's most valuable possessions. But Tim was determined that I have it, and finally I agreed to take it.

11. I was grateful to all the people I met for their rides, their food, their shelter, and their gifts. But what I found most touching

was the fact that they all did it as a matter of course.

12. One day I walked into the chamber of commerce in Jamestown, Tenn. to find out about camping in the area. The executive

director, Baxter Wilson, 59, handed me a brochure for a local campground. Seeing that it cost $12, I replied, "No, that's all right. I'll try something else." Then he saw my backpack. "Most people around here will let you pitch a tent on their land, if that's what you want," he said. Now we're talking, I thought. "Any particular direction?" I asked. "Tell you what. I've got a big farm about ten miles south of here. If you're here at 5:30, you can ride with me."

13. I accepted, and we drove out to a magnificent country house. Suddenly I realized he'd invited me to spend the night in his

home. His wife, Carol, a seventh-grade science teacher, was cooking a pot roast when we walked into the kitchen. Baxter explained that local folks were "mountain stay-at-home people" who rarely entertained in their house. "When we do," he said, "it's usually kin." This revelation made my night there all the more special.

14. The next morning when I came downstairs, Carol asked if I'd come to their school and talk to her class about my trip. I

agreed, and before long had been scheduled to talk to every class in the school. The kids were attentive and kept asking all kinds of questions: Where were people the kindest? How many pairs of shoes did you have? Did anybody try to run you over? Did you fall in love with someone? What were you most afraid of?

15. Although I hadn't planned it this way, I discovered that a patriotic tone ran through the talks I gave that afternoon. I told the

students how my faith in America had been renewed. I told them how proud I was to live in a country where people were still willing to help. I told them that the question I had had in mind when I planned this journey was now clearly answered.

In spite of everything, you can still depend on the kindness of strangers.


















Lesson Nine After Twenty Years

O. Henry

1. The policeman on the beat moved up the avenue impressively. The impressiveness was normal and not for show, for

spectators were few. The time was barely ten o'clock at night, but chilly gusts of wind with a taste of rain in them had

almost emptied the streets.

2. Trying doors as he went, swinging his club with many clever movements, turning now and then to cast his watchful eye

down the peaceful street, the officer, with his strongly built form and slight air of superiority, made a fine picture of a

guardian of the peace. The area was one that kept early hours. Now and then you might see the lights of a cigar store or of an all-night lunch counter; but the majority of the doors belonged to business places that had long since been closed.

3. When about midway of a certain block, the policeman suddenly slowed his walk. In the doorway of a darkened hardware

store a man leaned, with an unlighted cigar in his mouth. As the policeman walked up to him, the man spoke up quickly.

4. "It's all right, officer," he said, confidently. "I'm just waiting for a friend. It's an appointment made twenty years ago.

Sounds a little funny to you, doesn't it? Well, I'll explain if you'd like to make certain it's all straight. About that long ago there used to be a restaurant where this store stands — 'Big Joe' Brady's restaurant."

5. "Until five years ago," said the policeman. "It was torn down then."

6. The man in the doorway struck a match and lit his cigar. The light showed a pale, square-jawed face with keen eyes, and a

little white scar near his right eyebrow. His tiepin was a large diamond, oddly set.

7. "Twenty years ago tonight," said the man, "I dined here at 'Big Joe' Brady's with Jimmy Wells, my best friend, and the

finest man in the world. He and I were brought up here in New York, just like two brothers, together. I was eighteen and Jimmy was twenty. The next morning I was to start for the West to make my fortune. You couldn't have dragged Jimmy out of New York; he thought it was the only place on earth. Well, we agreed that night that we would meet here again exactly twenty years from that date and time, no matter what our conditions might be or from what distance we might have to come.

We figured that in twenty years each of us ought to have our fate worked out and our fortunes made, whatever they were going to be."

8. "It sounds pretty interesting," said the policeman. "Rather a long time between meetings, though, it seems to me. Haven't

you heard from your friend since you left?"

9. "Well, yes, for a time we wrote," said the other. " But after a year or two we lost track of each other. You see, the West is a

pretty big place, and I kept running around over it pretty lively. But I know Jimmy will meet me here if he's alive, for he always was the truest, best old friend in the world. He'll never forget. I came a thousand miles to stand in this door tonight, and it's worth it if my old partner turns up."

10. The waiting man pulled out a handsome watch, the lids of it set with small diamonds.

11. "Three minutes to ten," he announced. "It was exactly ten o'clock when we parted here at the restaurant door."

12. "Did pretty well out West, didn't you?" asked the policeman.

13. "You're right! I hope Jimmy has done half as well. He was a kind of slow man, though, good fellow as he was. I've had to

compete with some of the sharpest brains going to get my money. A man gets stuck in New York. It takes the West to make

a man really keen."

14. The policeman swung his club and took a step or two.

15. "I'll be on my way. Hope your friend comes around all right. Are you going to leave immediately?"

16. "I should say not!" said the other. "I'll give him half an hour at least. If Jimmy is alive on earth he'll be here by that time. So

long, officer."

17. "Good night, sir," said the policeman, passing on along his beat.

18. There was now a fine, cold rain falling, and the wind had risen to a steady blow. The few foot passengers in that quarter

hurried dismally and silently along with coat collars turned high and pocketed hands. And in the door of the hardware store the man who had come a thousand miles to fill an appointment, with the friend of his youth, smoked his cigar and waited.

19. About twenty minutes he waited, and then a tall man in a long overcoat, with collar turned up to his ears, hurried across

from the opposite side of the street. He went directly to the waiting man.

20. "Is that you, Bob?" he asked, doubtfully.

21. "Is that you, Jimmy Wells?" cried the man in the door. iwaiyu

22. "Bless my heart! "exclaimed the new arrival, grasping both the other's hands with his own. "It's Bob, sure as fate. I was

certain I'd find you here if you were still in existence. Well, well, well! — twenty years is a long time. The old restaurant's gone, Bob; I wish it had lasted, so we could have had another dinner there. How has the West treated you, old man?"

23. "It has given me everything I asked it for. You've changed lot, Jimmy. I never thought you would get so tall."

24. "Oh, I grew a bit after I was twenty."

25. "Doing well in New York, Jimmy?"

26. "Moderately. I have a position in one of the city departments. Come on, Bob; we'll go around to a place I know of, and

have a good long talk about old times."

27. The two men started up the street, arm in arm. The man from the West, full of pride at his success, was beginning to outline

the history of his career. The other, hidden in his overcoat, listened with interest.

28. At the corner stood a chemist's, brilliant with electric lights. When they came into this brightness each of them turned

simultaneously to gaze upon the other's face.

29. The man from the West stopped suddenly and released his arm.

30. "You're not Jimmy Wells," he said sharply. "Twenty years is a long time, but not long enough to change the size of a man's


31. "It sometimes changes a good man into a bad one," said the tall man. "You've been under arrest for ten minutes, 'Silky' Bob.

Chicago thinks you may have come over our way and telegraphs us she wants to have a chat with you. Going quietly, are you? That's sensible. Now, before we go on to the station here's a note I was asked to hand to you. You may read it here at the window. It's from Policeman Wells."

32. The man from the West unfolded the little piece of paper handed to him. His hand was steady when he began to read, but it

trembled a little by the time he had finished. The note was short.

33.Bob: I was at the appointed place on time. When you struck the match to light your cigar, I saw it was the face of the man

wanted in Chicago. Somehow I couldn't do it myself, so I went around and got a plain clothes man to do the job.



































10 Mandela's Garden

Nelson Mandela

1. In early 1977, the authorities announced the end of manual labor and arranged some type of work for us to do in the

courtyard, so we could spend our days in our section. The end of manual labor was liberating. I could now spend the day reading, writing letters, discussing issues with my comrades, or preparing legal documents. The free time also allowed me to pursue what became two of my favorite hobbies on Robben Island: gardening and tennis.

2. To survive in prison, one must develop ways to take satisfaction in one's daily life. One can feel fulfilled by washing one's

clothes so that they are particularly clean, by sweeping a hallway so that it is empty of dust, by organizing one's cell to save as much space as possible. Just as one takes pride in important tasks outside of prison, one can find the same pride in doing small things inside prison.

3. "Almost from the beginning of my sentence on Robben Island, I asked the authorities for permission to start a garden in

the courtyard. For years, they refused without offering a reason. But eventually they gave in, and we were able to cut out a small garden on a narrow patch of earth against the far wall.

4. The soil in the courtyard was dry and rocky. The courtyard had been constructed over a garbage dump, and in order to start

my garden, I had to remove a great many rocks to allow the plants room to grow. At the time, some of my comrades joked that I was a miner at heart, for I spent my days in a wasteland and my free time digging in the courtyard.

5. The authorities supplied me with seeds. I at first planted tomatoes, chilies, and onions—hardy plants that did not require

rich earth or constant care. The early harvests were poor, but they soon improved. The authorities did not regret giving permission, for once the garden began to flourish, I often provided the warders with some of my best tomatoes and onions.

6. While I have always enjoyed gardening, it was not until I was behind bars that I was able to tend my own garden. My first

experience in the garden was at Fort Hare where, as part of the university's manual labor requirement, I worked in one of my professors' gardens and enjoyed the contact with the soil as an alternative to my intellectual labors. Once I was in Johannesburg studying and then working, I had neither the time nor the space to start a garden.

7. I began to order books on gardening. I studied different gardening techniques and types of fertilizers. I did not have many

of the materials that the books discussed, but I learned through trial and error. For a time, I attempted to grow peanuts, and used different soils and fertilizers, but finally I gave up. It was one of my few failures.

8. A garden was one of the few things in prison that one could control. To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then

harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the owner of the small patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom.

9. In some ways, I saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. Leaders must also look after their gardens;

they, too, plant seeds, and then watch, cultivate, and harvest the results. Like gardeners, leaders must take responsibility for what they cultivate; they must mind their work, try to drive back enemies, save what can be saved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.

10. I wrote Winnie two letters about a particularly beautiful tomato plant, how I made it grow from a tender seedling to a

strong plant that produced deep red fruit. But then, either through some mistake or lack of care, the plant began to wither and decline, and nothing I did would bring it back to health. When it finally died, I removed the roots from the soil, washed them, and buried them in a corner of the garden.

11. I told her this small story at great length. I do not know what she read into that letter, but when I wrote it I had a mixture of

feelings: I did not want our relationship to go the way of that plant, and yet I felt that I had been unable to nourish many of the most important relationships in my life. Sometimes there is nothing one can do to save something that must die.












Lesson Twenlve Christmas Day in the Morning

Pearl S. Buck

1. He woke suddenly and completely. It was four o'clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up and

help with the milking. Strange how the habits of his youth clung to him still! His father had been dead for thirty years, and yet he still woke at four o'clock in the morning. But this morning, because it was Christmas, he did not try to sleep again.

2. Yet what was the magic of Christmas now? His childhood and youth were long past, and his own children had grown up

and gone.

3. Yesterday his wife had said, "It isn't worthwhile, perhaps— "

4. And he had said, "Yes, Alice, even if there are only the two of us, let's have a Christmas of our own."

5. Then she had said, "Let's not trim the tree until tomorrow, Robert. I'm tired."

6. He had agreed, and the tree was still out by the back door.

7. He lay in his bed in his room.

8. Why did he feel so awake tonight? For it was still night, a clear and starry night. No moon, of course, but the stars were

extraordinary! Now that he thought of it, the stars seemed always large and clear before the dawn of Christmas Day.

9. He slipped back in time, as he did so easily nowadays. He was fifteen years old and still on his father's farm. He loved his

father. He had not known it until one day a few days before Christmas, when he had overheard what his father was saying to his mother.

10. "Mary, I hate to call Rob in the mornings. He's growing so fast, and he needs his sleep. I wish I could manage alone."

11. "Well, you can't, Adam." His mother's voice was brisk, "Besides, he isn't a child any more. It's time he took his turn."

12. "Yes," his father said slowly, "But I sure do hate to wake him."

13. When he heard these words, something in him woke: his father loved him! He had never thought of it before, taking for

granted the tie of their blood. Now that he knew his father loved him, there would be no more loitering in the mornings and having to be called again. He got up, stumbling blind with sleep, and pulled on his clothes.

14. And then on the night before Christmas, he lay thinking about the next day. They were poor, and most of the excitement

was in the turkey they had raised themselves and in the mince pies his mother made. His sisters sewed presents, and his mother and father always bought something he needed, a warm jacket, maybe, or a book. And he always saved and bought them each something, too.

15. He wished, that Christmas he was fifteen, he had a better present for his father instead of the usual tie from the ten-cent

store. He lay on his side and looked out of his attic window.

16. "Dad," he had once asked when he was a little boy, "What is a stable?"

17. "It's just a barn," his father had replied, "like ours."

18. Then Jesus had been born in a barn, and to a barn the shepherds and the Wise Men had come, bringing their Christmas


19. A thought struck him like a silver dagger. Why should he not give his father a special gift, out there in the barn? He could

get up earlier, creep into the barn and get all the milking done. And then when his father went in to start the milking, he'd see it all done.

20. He laughed to himself as he gazed at the stars. It was what he would do, and he mustn't sleep too soundly.

21. He must have waked twenty times, striking a match each time to look at his old watch.

22. At a quarter to three, he got up and crept downstairs, careful of the creaky boards, and let himself out. A big star hung low

over the roof, a reddish gold. The cows looked at him, sleepy and surprised. It was early for them, too.

23. But they accepted him calmly and he brought some hay for each cow and then got the milking pail and the big milk cans.

24. He had never milked all alone before, but it seemed almost easy. He smiled and milked steadily, two strong streams rushing

into the pail, frothing and fragrant. The cows were behaving well, as though they knew it was Christmas.

25. The task went more easily than he had ever known it to before. Milking for once was not a chore. It was a gift to his father.

He finished, the two milk cans were full, and he covered them and closed the milk-house door carefully, making sure of the latch. He put the stool in its place by the door and hung up the clean milk pail. Then he went out of the barn and barred the door behind him.

26. Back in his room he had only a minute to pull off his clothes and jump into bed, before he heard his father get up. He put

the covers over his head to silence his quick breathing. The door opened.

27. "Rob! " his father called. "We have to get up, son, even if it is Christmas."

28. "Aw-right," he said sleepily.

29. "I'll go on out," his father said. "I'll get things started."

30. The door closed and he lay still, laughing to himself. In just a few minutes his father would know. His dancing heart was

ready to jump from his body.

31. The minutes were endless—ten, fifteen, he did not know how many—and he heard his father's footsteps again. The door


32. "Rob!"

33. "Yes, Dad—"

34. "You son of a—" His father was laughing, a queer sobbing sort of a laugh. "Thought you'd fool me, did you?" His father

was standing beside his bed, feeling for him, pulling away the cover.

35. He found his father and clutched him in a great hug. He felt his father's arms go around him. It was dark, and they could not

see each other's faces.

36. "Son, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing—"

37. "It's for Christmas, Dad!"

38. He did not know what to say. His heart was bursting with love.

39. "Well. I guess I can go back to sleep," his father said after a moment. "No, come to think of it, son, I've never seen you

children when you first saw the Christmas tree. I was always in the barn. Come on!"

40. He pulled on his clothes again, and they went down to the Christmas tree, and soon the sun was creeping up to where the

star had been. Oh, what a Christmas morning, and how his heart had nearly burst again with shyness and pride as his father told his mother about how he, Rob, had got up all by himself.

41. "The best Christmas gift I ever had, and I'll remember it, son, every year on Christmas morning, as long as I live."

42. They had both remembered it, and now that his father was dead he remembered it alone: that blessed Christmas dawn when,

along with the cows in the barn, he had made his first gift of true love. Outside the window now the stars slowly faded. He got out of bed and put on his slippers and bathrobe and went softly downstairs. He brought in the tree, and carefully began to trim it. It was done very soon. He then went to his library and brought the little box that contained his special gift to his wife, a diamond brooch, not large, but beautiful in design. But he was not satisfied. He wanted to tell her—to tell her how much he loved her.

43. How fortunate that he had been able to love! Ah, that was the true joy of life, the ability to love! For he was quite sure that

some people were genuinely unable to love anyone. But love was alive in him; it still was.

44. It occurred to him suddenly that it was alive because long ago it had been born in him when he knew his father loved him.

That was it: love alone could waken love.

45. And this morning, this blessed Christmas morning, he would give it to his beloved wife. He could write it down in a letter

for her to read and keep forever. He went to his desk and began: My dearest love.

46. When it was finished, he sealed it and tied it on the tree. He put out the light and went tiptoing up the stairs. The stars in the

sky were gone, and the first rays of the sun were gleaming in the east, such a happy, happy Christmas!














































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