The Gift of Helping Others is Priceless

There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up John Holmes

Intermission at a recent concert of mine in California. I was touching up my makeup and hair when someone delivered a note to me in my dressing room. “I’m out here watching you tonight, and I couldn’t be prouder.” Signed, Mrs. Nehrens.

​In an instant I was whisked back more than 40 years to the Professional Children’s School in New York. There was my math teacher, Mrs. Nehrens, her smile brighter than a spotlight and her voice like a trumpet in a jazz band. You had to listen. Still, my mind wandered sometimes—especially during geometry, which I couldn’t make heads nor tails of—and I’d cut up. I loved to do my imitation of Johnny Ray crooning “Cry.” It brought down the house at the Apollo. Mrs. Nehrens was not amused.

“Leslie,” she said, “this is not a stage. This is a place of serious study.”

Professional Children’s was a private school for young performers. In the hallway before homeroom you’d catch a ballerina sewing ribbons on her toe shoes or a violinist studying a score. It was understood that sometimes we had to dart out for auditions and rehearsals. I’d already been excused to sing on Milton Berle’s show and Arthur Godfrey’s. But there was no skipping out on academics. We had to keep up with our schoolwork.

Algebra had been a breeze. But geometry? I couldn’t figure out the difference between an equilateral triangle and an isosceles triangle—or were they the same thing? Many times Mrs. Nehrens stayed late with me after school. She guided me through the theorems and proofs and equations. One summer she even tutored me. She didn’t want me to flunk out.

We never would have been able to afford the school if it weren’t for Aunt Eloise. She was a performer too. She’d been one of the Blackbirds of 1928 on Broadway and sang in Porgy and Bess. “You’ll go to Professional Children’s,” she announced.

“We don’t have the money for that,” my mom replied. She’d quit her job to accompany me on auditions and rehearsals, and Dad had already taken on two other jobs in addition to his regular work as an elevator operator to make up the difference.

“I’ll help out,” Aunt Eloise said.

We lived in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan, and I sang at St. James Presbyterian Church on 141st Street. Our choir director was always urging me to blend in better. “Don’t be so loud, Leslie,” she said. Well, I didn’t want to hold back. There was no hiding my talent under a bushel. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” I sang out. The Lord himself seemed to be doing a good job of letting that happen.

Until I turned 12. I wasn’t a cute kid anymore, but a gangly adolescent. Work dried up. I still took singing lessons and dance classes, but that was all the performing I did besides my doo-wopping in the hallway at school.

The biggest blow came that fall. One day Mom sat me down and said, “Leslie, I have some bad news. We can’t afford tuition at Professional Children’s anymore.”

“What about Aunt Eloise?” I asked.

“Work has been slow for her too,” Mom said. “It won’t be so bad. You can go to George Washington right here in the neighborhood. A lot of your friends are there.”

“But how will I be able to go on auditions? How will I get my career going again?”

Mom shook her head. In that instant I saw that light of mine go out. I would never step onstage again. All I could imagine ahead were years of drudgery. Had all the performing I’d done as a youngster been just a fluke?

Both of my grandfathers were ministers, and I was used to hearing their graces before dinner, prayers that went on and on until our food was cold. That night I got down on my knees and started praying like they prayed.

“Dear Father God, I am so grateful for all you’ve given me: Mom and Dad and Aunt Eloise. And my singing voice and my acting. You’re going to have to help me, God, because I want to keep going to this school that helps me do all that…”

But the first day of school I was trudging up the hill to George Washington, not shooting downtown on the subway to Professional Children’s.

That afternoon I sat at the kitchen table, staring at my homework. The phone rang, and I didn’t bother to answer it. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. “Yes, yes,” I heard my mother say. “Thank you so much. We can never repay you for this.”

Mom came into the kitchen, tears in her eyes.

“That was Mrs. Nehrens,” she said. Why was my old teacher calling us? “She called this morning and wanted to know why you weren’t in school,” Mom continued. “I told her we couldn’t afford Professional Children’s anymore. Well, she just found a scholarship for you from the Presbyterian Church. It will cover your tuition for the rest of the school year.”

I jumped up and gave Mom a huge hug. And back at Professional Children’s, I gave Mrs. Nehrens a hug too.

That year turned out to be an important one for me. I landed a spot on the TV show Name That Tune and won twenty-five thousand dollars. Record producer and songster Mitch Miller heard me do “The Lord’s Prayer” on the show and signed me to Columbia Records. Later, I was a regular on Mitch’s popular sing-along TV show. And that eventually led to Broadway.

So when I read Mrs. Nehrens’s note in my dressing room, I knew I had a huge debt of gratitude to repay. I stepped back onstage and announced, “Folks, I want you to meet the lady who made it possible for me to get where I am today.” I had the crew shine the spotlight on Mrs. Nehrens, because as I discovered more than 40 years ago, nobody’s light can shine all on its own. It takes help from people like my old math teacher. “Thank you, Mrs. Nehrens,” I said. “Take a bow.”

She deserved it. She taught me a lot more than just geometry.

Today’s inspiring story was shared from the following website: https://www.guideposts.org/better-living/entertainment/movies-and-tv/guideposts-classics-leslie-uggams-on-lending-a-helping

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Trusting in the Lord

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God Corrie Ten BoomPeople going through tough times often wonder, Why is God letting me go through this? Is there a point?That was me in seventh grade. At the time, I thought it was the worst year of my life. Anybody who knows me has heard me say that. But now I know better.

Without that year, I would not be who I am today.

I am a missionary kid (or MK). I have lived in the Czech Republic, the second most atheistic nation in the world, since I was 4-years-old. I’m naturally shy so it’s tough for me to make friends. But to make matters worse, I was growing up in a foreign country, where I didn’t fully know the language and where every kid I met thought Christianity was the dumbest thing on the planet. Let’s just say I felt like there was no hope for a close friend.

And then it all got worse. We moved to California for a year before returning to the Czech Republic. I had no idea what living in America was like, and now I had to attend seventh grade there. Sure, I’d been to America once during our missionary service. But it was for four months. Now, I was going to go to school there. I had no idea what Abercrombie was, who Rihanna was, or even how to relate to American kids.

I knew from the very first day at school that things were very different from the Czech schools. People talked differently, dressed differently, acted differently, and even thought differently. I did not fit in, and I didn’t know how to fix that. I was doomed to be the class outcast, the weirdo of seventh grade. And I was. The many insults that I received hurt deeply.

I had been taught all my life about God and Christianity. But before my seventh grade year, God was kinda just there—not really doing anything. He was like wallpaper. But now, I was broken. I was spiritually hungry and thirsty. I thought that if God couldn’t help me, no one could. One day, I opened my Bible and Psalm 31 stared back at me: “For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord. … In the shelter of your presence you hide [those who fear you]; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues. … You heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help” (NIV).

I knew it was no coincidence my Bible fell open to this psalm. I devoured the passage and literally felt a hunger for more. Through his Word, God showed me that I was not alone, and that I just had to trust in him to make the best of it. When I gave him my whole heart, my life opened up. He gave me joy for each new day. He helped me find a few friends around the school and taught me how to let him be my Best Friend. He gave me many opportunities to live out the instruction to turn the other cheek. Life was still very hard. I still cried myself to sleep a lot. Some of what the kids at school said still wounded me badly. But, still, things were different.

I knew that God had a plan, that he had a reason for all the pain and strife I was going through. I didn’t know what he was planning, but who am I to argue with the God of the Universe? I couldn’t see it then, but as I look back now, God has revealed how he used me that year. For instance, there were several students in my class who came from a different country or whom nobody liked. I realize that, with my experience with living in a different culture and being the social outcast, I was the ideal person to reach out and relate to them.

I noticed lessons of that year when we moved back to Czech. I began eighth grade in yet another new school and I had to make new friends all over again. In America, I’d learned how to stand up for myself, how to make a good yet truthful impression, how to laugh at my mistakes, and how to overcome most of my shyness.

Needless to say, I had a very enjoyable eighth grade year. Since then, too, my life has been much more rewarding. With less shyness, I have been able to act in my school’s plays and participate in more group activities. God has blessed me with close friends who encourage and strengthen me. He has shown me how to be a better friend.

Most importantly, he used that year to draw me closer to him. I could have never imagined this relationship with him two years ago. God surely used the bad for good. James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3, NIV).

Today’s post was written by Jessica Dagen. Jessica is currently attending high school in the Czech Republic. Today’s article was shared from the following website: https://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/truelifestories/ithappenedtome/bestandworstyear.html?start=2

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Finding Refuge in the Lord…His Wings of Protection

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint Isaiah 40:30

Just as Isaiah taught, those that wait upon the Lord shall find incredible assistance and protection. What does it mean to wait upon the Lord? Everyone can determine their own meaning but I believe that it is making the Lord a daily part of your life – through prayer, through meditation, through service to others…  I have found that there is a faith that comes and refuge – an inner peace that is abundantly given as I wait upon the Lord. It is a prize that comes with a price but it is a small price which is rewarded with great abundance!

God’s Wings
An article in National Geographic several years ago provided a penetrating picture of God’s wings. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree.

Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise.

She could have flown to safety but refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast.

Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” – Psalm 91:4

Story shared from the following website: http://varietyreading.carlsguides.com/christian-stories/wings.php

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We All Need Help…

Never assume that you can make it alone You need the help of the Lord Never hesitate to get on your knees in some private place and speak with him Gordon B. HinckleyA Pastor’s Act of Kindness Saves Three

The following story is told in more detail by Ilene Wright. Here is my abbreviated version:

Years ago, Ilene’s preacher noticed the family standing in front of him at a New Orleans convenience store did not have enough money to pay for their few items. He tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “You don’t need to turn around, but please accept this money.” The man took the money without ever seeing the preacher.

Nine years later, the pastor was invited to speak at a church in New Orleans. After the service, a man walked up to the preacher and shared this story about how he had come to faith in Christ: “Several years ago, my wife and our child were destitute. We had lost everything, had no jobs, no money and were living in our car. We also lost all hope, and agreed to a suicide pact, including our child. However, we decided to first give our son some food, so we drove to a convenience store to buy him some food and milk.”

“While we were standing in line at the store, we realized that we did not have enough money to pay for these items, but a man behind us asked us to please take the money from his hand and not look at him. This man told us that ‘Jesus loves you.’”

“We left the store, drove to our designated suicide site, and wept for hours. We couldn’t go through with it, so we drove away. As we drove, we noticed a church with a sign out front which said, ‘Jesus love you.’ We went to that church the very next Sunday, and both my wife and I were saved that day.”

He then told the pastor, “When you began speaking this morning, I knew immediately that you were the man who gave us that money.” How did he know? The pastor was from South Africa and had a very distinct accent. He continued, “Your act of kindness was much more than a simple good deed. Three people are alive today because of it.”

A gentle challenge: Maintain your spiritual antennae, remembering that God can multiply the smallest gift many times over.

Today’s inspiring story is shared from the following website:https://christianpf.com/extraordinary-stories-about-giving/

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For Unto You is Born This Day…

For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord Luke 2:11

A Dozen Christmas Roses

Author Unknown

Bobby was getting cold sitting out in his back yard in the snow. Bobby didn’t wear boots; he didn’t own any and he didn’t like them anyway. The thin sneakers he wore had a few holes in them and they did a poor job of keeping out the cold. Bobby had been in his backyard for about an hour already. And, try as he might, he could not come up with an idea for his mother’s Christmas gift.

He shook his head as he thought, “This is useless, even if I do come up with an idea, I don’t have any money to spend.”

Ever since his father had passed away three years ago, the family of five had struggled. It wasn’t because his mother didn’t care, or try, there just never seemed to be enough. She worked nights at the hospital, but the small wage that she was earning could only be stretched so far. What the family lacked in money and material things, they more than made up for in love and family unity. Bobby had two older sisters and one younger sister, who ran the house hold in their mother’s absence. All three of his sisters had already made beautiful gifts for their mother.

Somehow it just wasn’t fair. Here it was Christmas Eve already, and he had nothing. Wiping a tear from his eye, Bobby kicked the snow and started to walk down to the street where the shops and stores were. It wasn’t easy being six without a father, especially when he needed a man to talk to.

Bobby walked from shop to shop, looking into each decorated window. Everything seemed so beautiful and so out of reach. It was starting to get dark and Bobby reluctantly turned to walk home when suddenly his eyes caught the glimmer of the setting sun’s rays reflecting off of something along the curb. He reached down and discovered a shiny dime. Never before has anyone felt so wealthy as Bobby felt at that moment.

As he held his new found treasure, a warmth spread throughout his entire body and he walked into the first store he saw. His excitement quickly turned cold when the salesperson told him that he couldn’t buy anything with only a dime.

He saw a flower shop and went inside to wait in line. When the shop owner asked if he could help him, Bobby presented the dime and asked if he could buy one flower for his mother’s Christmas gift.

The shop owner looked at Bobby and his ten cent offering. Then he put his hand on Bobby’s shoulder and said to him, “You just wait here and I’ll see what I can do for you.”

As Bobby waited he looked at the beautiful flowers and even though he was a boy, he could see why mothers and girls liked flowers.

The sound of the door closing as the last customer left jolted Bobby back to reality. All alone in the shop, Bobby began to feel alone and afraid. Suddenly the shop owner came out and moved to the counter. There, before Bobby’s eyes, lay twelve long stem, red roses, with leaves of green and tiny white flowers all tied together with a big silver bow. Bobby’s heart sank as the owner picked them up and placed them gently into a long white box.

“That will be ten cents young man,” the shop owner said reaching out his hand for the dime.

Slowly, Bobby moved his hand to give the man his dime. Could this be true? No one else would give him a thing for his dime!

Sensing the boy’s reluctance, the shop owner added, “I just happened to have some roses on sale for ten cents a dozen. Would you like them?”

This time Bobby did not hesitate, and when the man placed the long box into his hands, he knew it was true. Walking out the door that the owner was holding for Bobby, he heard the shop keeper say, “Merry Christmas, son,”

As he returned inside, the shop keeper’s wife walked out. “Who were you talking to back there and where are the roses you were fixing?”

Staring out the window, and blinking the tears from his own eyes, he replied, “A strange thing happened to me this morning. While I was setting up things to open the shop, I thought I heard a voice telling me to set aside a dozen of my best roses for a special gift. I wasn’t sure at the time whether I had lost my mind or what, but I set them aside anyway. Then just a few minutes ago, a little boy came into the shop and wanted to buy a flower for his mother with one small dime.

“When I looked at him, I saw myself, many years ago. I too, was a poor boy with nothing to buy my mother a Christmas gift. A bearded man, whom I never knew, stopped me on the street and told me that he wanted to give me ten dollars.

“When I saw that little boy tonight, I knew who that voice was, and I put together a dozen of my very best roses.” The shop owner and his wife hugged each other tightly, and as they stepped out into the bitter cold air, they somehow didn’t feel cold at all.

Today’s inspirational Christmas Story is shared from the following website: http://www.inspire21.com/stories/holidaystories/dozenchristmasroses

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