Information Please

A man tells the story about a special friend he made while just a boy. When quite young, Paul’s father had one of the first telephones in their neighbourhood. Paul was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when his mother talked to it.

Then Paul discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person – her name was “Information, Please” and there was nothing she did not know.

“Information, Please” could supply anybody’s number and the correct time. Paul’s first personal experience with this genie-in the-bottle came one day while his mother was visiting a neighbour. Amusing himself at the tool bench in the basement, Paul hacked his finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible, but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. He walked around the house sucking his throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway.

The telephone!

Quickly, Paul ran for the foot stool in the parlour and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, he unhooked the receiver in the parlour and held it to his ear. “Information, Please,” he said into the mouthpiece just above his head.

A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into Paul’s ear.

“Information.”

“I hurt my finger,” Paul wailed into the phone.

“Isn’t your mother home?” came the question.

“Nobody’s home but me” Paul blubbered.

“Are you bleeding?” the voice asked.

“No,” he replied. “I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.”

“Can you open your icebox?” she asked. He said he could. “Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger,” said the voice.

After that, Paul called “Information, Please” for everything. He asked her for help with his geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped him with his maths. She told Paul that his pet chipmunk, which he had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts. Then, there was the time Petey, the pet canary died. Paul called and told her the sad story.

She listened, then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child, but Paul was inconsolable. He asked her, “Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?”

She must have sensed his deep concern, for she said quietly, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow he felt better. .

When Paul was nine years old, his family moved across the country to Boston. Paul missed his friend very much. “Information, Please” belonged in that old wooden box back home, and he somehow never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall.

As he grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left him. Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity Paul would recall the serene sense of security he had then. He appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on his way west to college, Paul’s plane put down in Seattle. He had about half an hour or so between planes. He spent 15 minutes on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what he was doing, Paul dialled his hometown operator and said, “Information, Please.”

Miraculously, he heard the small, clear voice he knew so well, “Information.”

He hadn’t planned this but he heard myself saying, “Could you please tell me how to spell fix?”

There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, “I guess your finger must have healed by now.” Paul laughed. “So it’s really still you,” he said. “I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time.”

“I wonder,” she said, “if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls.” Paul told her how often he had thought of her over the years and asked if he could call her again when he came back to visit his sister.

“Please do,” she said. “Just ask for Sally.”

Three months later Paul was back in Seattle. A different voice answered, “Information.” He asked for Sally. “Are you a friend?” She asked.

“Yes, a very old friend,” Paul answered.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” she said. “Sally has been working part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.”

Before he could hang up she said, “Wait a minute. Is this Paul?”

“Yes,” Paul replied.

“Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you.” The note said, “Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.”

 

Application: Listening – Information Please gave Paul one of the most precious yet simple gifts a person can give, the gift of listening.

Application: Hope, Death, Heaven. “There are other world’s to sing in”. Beyond death lies the hope of a new life.

Application: Community, Friendship. This story reminds us that we need each other. Information Please and Paul both had their lives enriched in powerful yet simple ways by the gift of their friendship with one another.

Application: Children. We adults often make the mistake of dismissing the concerns of small children. Yet coping with the death of a budgie or telling someone that you’ve hurt your finger are the things that are important to a small child. Sally reminds us of the importance of being attentive to the needs of children, not expecting them to function as mini adults but nurturing their journey as children.

 

Source: Unknown.

Dr Livingstone I Presume?

David Livingstone is renowned as one of the greatest missionaries of all time. He was among the first to explore Africa, driven by a passionate desire to end the slave trade. Livingstone was convinced that by opening up the continent he could expose slavery for the evil it was. When he died he was beloved in both Africa and England. His heart was buried in Africa and his body returned to England, where he was given a hero’s funeral. The gravestone read “brought by faithful hand over land and sea, David Livingstone: missionary, traveller, philanthropist. For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelise the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets and abolish the slave trade.”

Yet it is easy to focus on Livingstone the “saint” without recognising that he was an ordinary human being facing normal human struggles. Before he found his life’s work Livingstone met with a lot of “dead ends”. He initially entered medical college in response to a call for medical missionaries to China, but by the time his training was complete the Opium Wars had begun and the door to China was closed. He then settled on South Africa, having met a missionary already at work there, Robert Moffat. Moffat had a mission station 600 miles north of Capetown, and had told Livingstone that it glowed in the morning sun with “the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary had been before.” Unfortunately, when Livingstone arrived he discovered Moffat had been exaggerating. Rather than the smoke of a thousand villages Moffat had less than 40 converts, of whom half had returned to their pre-Christian ways, and the surrounding countryside was destitute of people.

Disillusioned with Moffat’s mission station Livingstone then set out to establish his own missionary work. Over the course of ten years he established a strong of mission stations, but had only one convert, who eventually returned to paganism.

This caused Livingstone to rethink his vocation, and it was only after all these setbacks that he finally embarked on his great journeys of exploration.

Not only did Livingstone face many setbacks before finding his vocation, he also suffered many character defects. While he loved the native Africans and got along well with them, he found it almost impossible to get along with his fellow Europeans. He fought with fellow missionaries, fellow explorers, assistants, and even his brother Charles. He held grudges for years, could explode with rage and later in life had a serious falling out and parting of the ways with his original mission organisation, the London Missionary Society.

Application: Livingstone reminds us that God’s work is carried out by ordinary people, not “supersaints.”

Application: . Livingstone’s story reminds us that we move into the future one step at a time, that where we will end up is often unclear, that there may be many detours along the way, but that if we are faithful God will take us and use us.

A Son to a Dying Man

A nurse escorted a tired, anxious young man to the bed side of an elderly man. “Your son is here,” she whispered to the patient. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened. He was heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack and he dimly saw the young man standing outside the oxygen tent.

He reached out his hand and the young man tightly wrapped his fingers around it, squeezing a message of encouragement. The nurse brought a chair next to the bedside. All through the night the young man sat holding the old mans hand, and offering gentle words of hope. The dying man said nothing as he held tightly to his son.

As dawn approached, the patient died. The young man placed on the bed the lifeless hand he had been holding, and then he went to notify the nurse.

While the nurse did what was necessary, the young man waited. When she had finished her task, the nurse began to say words of sympathy to the young man.

But he interrupted her. “Who was that man?” He asked.

The startled nurse replied, “I thought he was your father.”

“No, he was not my father,” he answered. “I never saw him before in my life.”

“Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?” asked the nurse.

He replied, “I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here. When I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, I knew how much he needed me.”

 

Source unknown.