Thursday, February 17, 2011

You helped me once


There were once two young men working their way through Leland Stanford University. Their funds got desperately low, and the idea came to one of them to engage Paderewski for a piano recital and devote the profits to their board and tuition.

The great pianist’s manager asked for a guarantee of two thousand dollars. The students, undaunted, proceeded to stage the concert. They worked hard, only to find that the concert had raised only sixteen hundred dollars.

After the concert, the students sought the great artist and told him of their efforts and results. They gave him the entire sixteen hundred dollars, and accompanied it with a promissory note for four hundred dollars, explaining that they would earn the amount at the earliest possible moment and send the money to him. "No," replied Paderewski, "that won’t do."

Then tearing the note to shreds, he returned the money and said to them: "Now, take out of this sixteen hundred dollars all of your expenses, and keep for each of you 10 percent of the balance for your work, and let me have the rest."

The years rolled by--years of fortune and destiny. Paderewski had become premier of Poland. The devastating war came, and Paderewski was striving with might and main to feed the starving thousands of his beloved Poland.

There was only one man in the world who could help Paderewski and his people. Thousands of tons of food began to come into Poland for distribution by the Polish premier.

After the starving people were fed, Paderewski journeyed to Paris to thank Herbert Hoover for the relief sent him.

"That’s all right, Mr. Paderewski," was Mr. Hoover’s reply. "Besides, you don’t remember it, but you helped me once when I was a student at college and I was in a hole."

Compassion is an investment that brings great returns!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A subversive force for love


There are many examples of people, both ancient and contemporary, who have hungered for righteousness and proven themselves to be filled with the fire of God's love.

I think for example of Maria Skobstova, an aristocrat who became an intellectual, an intellectual who became a nun, a nun who became a subversive force for love.

She sought to make straight that which had been made crooked among the poor, in prisons, in insane asylums because she saw every human being as intrinsically valuable, as an "icon of God."

In 1942, when Jews were being rounded up in German-occupied Paris, Maria managed to organize the rescue of children who she smuggled out of the sports stadium in garbage bins with the help of garbage collectors.

She did not relent in her work on behalf of the oppressed even though she was aware she was under Nazi surveillance.

Finally, she was sent to the concentration camp at Ravensbruck, where, still burning with the holy passion and hunger for righteousness, a desire that had become a flame of love, she continued to assist and care for those who were suffering with her.

She nearly made it to the end, and even as Russian troops were advancing on the camp, she put herself in the place of another woman condemned to die, and died in her place.

Her hunger and thirst for righteousness was satisfied as she herself became righteous, and, like Christ, she become one who helped others in the cause for justice.