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Things are not always as they seem

By Dave Sweetman, contributing columnist

As we roll past Thanksgiving and into December, we still have much to be thankful for and even more to look forward to. The elections are over, thank goodness. And whether your candidate won or lost, we must now focus on uniting our country and moving forward.

The upcoming holidays mean getting to spend time with family and loved ones, the exchanging of gifts, making the most of major meals, and all the other great things about this time of year. For those who get to be off the road, it is truly a wonderful time to reflect, relax and enjoy. For the rest of us who choose to be on the road, please remember to take time for yourselves. In my case, I will be trucking through the holidays to allow some of our other guys with families to be home. It’s my choice, but I never forget the "reason for the season."

But what about those around us who are not so fortunate? The economy has been hard on many, and many of us have been there and know what it means to do without. One of my little projects is to contact my local police department and offer up gifts that can be given to those in need. Around town there are several shops that repair bicycles that can be bought for cheap, then donated to the police, who in turn can find some deserving child to give the bike to. It’s a good cause.

I recall a few years ago a visit to a nice restaurant in hoity-toity Beverly Hills, Calif. On one of the side streets just off Wilshire Boulevard sits a restaurant right out of the Old West: sawdust and peanut shells on the floor, with a 30-foot long mahogany bar and salad bar that proved to be the perfect place for a Sunday brunch. The place was not crowded and I was shown a table quickly and made fast work of the salad bar. The door opened and in walked a celebrity and her entourage. They were seated at a table in the corner.

From the corner of my eye, I spotted a man off by himself, dressed in old, tattered clothes and a greasy Army coat. I guessed the gent had been on better times, and I couldn’t help but notice he was counting out piles of nickels, dimes and quarters to pay his bill. My guess is he had saved for a while for this fine meal of salad.

Here is a guy who savored every morsel his hard-earned pennies could gain him. On the other side of the room was one of Hollywood’s wealthiest women. In a fair world, one would think she was the one who anonymously paid for the guy’s meal. But it wasn’t as it seemed. He left still owning his pocketful of change, meal (and tip paid for). He never knew I existed. As I strolled out to my car, the California sun seemed to shine a bit brighter.

I am reminded of the tale of the two angels, traveling in the disguise of poor wayfarers. Stopping to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family, the angels were not allowed to stay in the fine mansion. Given a space in the cold basement they made their bed on the cold, hard floor. The older angel noticed a hole in the wall and repaired it. The younger angel was puzzled at this and asked why. The older angel replied, "Things are not what they seem."

The next night, they came to rest at the house of a poor but hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they had, the couple let the angels sleep in their bed for a good night’s rest. The next morning the angels found the farmer in tears. Their only cow, whose milk was their only source of income, had suddenly died. The younger angel was perplexed and complained to the older angel that this did not seem like a fair or just thing to happen to such generous people.

The older angel replied, "When we stayed at the mansion, I noticed there was gold hidden in the wall and as the owner was obsessed with greed, I sealed the wall so he could not find it. Last night we slept in the kind farmer’s bed and the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead. Things are not always as they seem."

As the holidays approach, take stock of your blessings and perhaps share some of your good fortune with those in need, if possible. It could well be the best chance to bring a smile to a child’s face or feed a needy soul. Life isn’t always a hand fairly dealt, and every once in a while you get to step in and even that hand.

Happy holidays, all.