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"The hero is the one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light." -- Felix Adler
This month I would like to share stories of gratitude on 2TheHeart, so if you have a story illustrating gratitude, please email it to me at editor@2theheart. Be sure all story submissions have STORY SUBMISSION in the subject line. I am excited to share today's story by a new author, who was blessed by the stunning generosity of a mysterious kind stranger. Be sure to email Annie if her story touched your heart! (Please be sure to read the Letter Box for an important prayer request!)
by Ann Lombardi
On winter break from my teaching position at a Swiss international school, I was headed from Korea back to Switzerland after the joyful wedding of two former students. It was the morning of my return flight, and for some unknown reason, I felt jittery. It didn't matter that I had rehearsed the grueling 20-hour journey many times in my mind. I was still the queen of white-knuckle fliers. Even worse, with impeccably bad timing, I seemed to be coming down with a monster sore throat. "Don't worry, Teacher. Just trust the angels," said Mrs. Choi, the sister of the bride.
I gazed silently through the foggy taxi windows as the driver deftly zigzagged through swirling traffic en route to Incheon Airport . A shiver shot up my spine as I shuffled on to the Korean Air Seoul to Zurich flight. As the frosty jet roared down the bumpy runway, I closed my eyes and swallowed hard. "Relax" I whispered to myself, struggling to stay calm. My thoughts flashed back to the wedding scene: the shy newlyweds in rainbow-colored traditional dress, pink and green rice cakes with sesame seeds, and crisp golden Korean pears stacked high on porcelain plates.
My first hour airborne, I convinced myself all was well. Then came a knockout punch. In minutes I was reeling with fever, a fiery throat, and aching, swollen glands. Minutes dragged on like hours. I tossed and turned, my long cramped legs twitching fitfully under the seat in front of me. Concerned flight attendants took my pulse in hushed shifts and propped me up for forced sips of ginger tea. I felt absolutely miserable, preparing myself for the longest flight ever.
Suddenly the aircraft descended through the clouds and touched down. Relieved that we had reached Europe , I feebly fished for my carry on bag. "Ladies and gentleman, please remain seated. We are in Bangkok for a short stop," the captain announced. An instant later an emergency medical team rushed on board in a vain attempt to coax me off the plane. "God, please protect me all the way to Switzerland ," I prayed while white jackets hovered over me. Short on funds and determined to make it to Zurich , I was afraid of being alone and sick in an unfamiliar land.
"Let us take you to the hospital," pleaded a nurse. "You are very ill. The airline can't be responsible for your condition." "If you won't get off the plane, you must sign this waiver," the captain exclaimed. In a feverish daze, I penned a wobbly signature and drifted off to a hard sleep.
Hours later, I sensed something cool on my burning forehead. Someone in my row was humming a Korean lullaby in a rich baritone voice. I squinted with bloodshot eyes. Seated next to me was a small muscular man, cheerfully arranging cold compresses on my face. "Feeling better, young lady?" the gentle stranger asked. He spoke German with a lilting Korean accent.
"Something to eat?" he smiled. My throat was raw. I imagined tasting those juicy Asian pears we savored at the wedding. "A Korean pear would be wonderful, sir" I mumbled groggily, unaware of my impossible request. "Mr. Kim will do his best for you," he replied. His dark eyes twinkled and his grin revealed boyish dimples. "Now let's pray you get well quickly."
My ears popped painfully as the plane looped its way through choppy gray clouds. We landed with a thud at Zurich Kloten Airport . I strained to sit up. Cottonball-sized snowflakes bounced silently off the aircraft's frozen wings. "Let's go, young lady. God blessed you with a restful sleep," chirped Mr. Kim. Then without a word, he effortlessly hoisted my 5'10" body off the plane. Legs dangling, I threw my arms around Mr. Kim and held on tight.
"Where are we going?" I asked, worried and confused. His chiseled face lit up. "Young lady, don't fret. I'm here to help you," Mr. Kim reassured. In a flash, he checked me into a spotless airport hotel. Magically, my suitcase appeared at the foot of my bed. I snuggled under the fluffy down quilt and tried to doze off. There was a soft rap at my door. In walked a bearded Swiss doctor, a spitting image of old St. Nick.
"I am Dr. Steiner," he said as he touched my forehead. Tapping my chest, he plopped a thermometer in my parched mouth. "Ach, still some fever. Now let's have a look at your throat." I wondered out loud where Mr. Kim had gone. "Your friend went outside to run an errand," explained the doctor.
He tossed his stethoscope into a sturdy black bag and with a quick "get well again soon," Dr. Steiner left my room as fast as he had bounced in. Mr. Kim reappeared moments later, his cheeks flushed and his navy blue overcoat dusted with glistening snowflakes. "I bought this herbal medicine for you. You'll feel better, young lady" he beamed. I smiled weakly, gulped down a tiny, pearly-white pill, and drifted back to sleep.
The ringing phone jolted me awake. It was my Swiss friend Ruth. "Fritz and I are so glad to hear your voice, Ann. We were worried about you after that nice man phoned us. Stay in bed. We're driving to your hotel now." The rest of her words were a blur. My mind was racing. How did Mr. Kim track down my friends in a town three hours away from the airport? How did..?
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a white plastic bag on the night table next to my bed. Neatly taped on top was a bright blue piece of paper. "Farewell and God bless you, young lady" the note said. "Be safe. Until we meet again." I reached into the sack. Inside I found a receipt for my prepaid hotel room....and three beautiful, golden Korean pears. They were gifts from my guardian angel.
Ann Lombardi copyright 2006
Ann Lombardi, a former English as a Foreign Language teacher, is a long-time travel consultant who hangs her backpack in Atlanta, Georgia. After traveling to 55+ countries with her fair share of misadventures, Ann still believes that travel is the best education, laughter the best medicine, and kindness the key to peace on our planet. You can reach her at: www.AskTheTripChicks.com.
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The Letter Box:
Here is an update about my nephew Steve who is suffering from the disease known as Adrenoleukodystrophy or ALD for short. My sister went to an appointment yesterday with a geneticist/metabologist who said that there is no cure for the disease. He basically didn't give her any hope in the fight against this thing. The doctor did say that he would look into Steve's candidacy for ALD studies. If Steve is considered for a bone marrow transplant, my sister is reluctant to doing this because basically it could render Steve a vegetable with no quality of life. In the meantime, the disease seems to be progressing rapidly. I use the term "seems" because although I am looking at it from a physical view, I know that as a Christian I should be looking at it from a spiritual view. It is what it is but I am still hoping and praying for mercy and a miracle. In the end, I know that whatever God's will is for Steve we will accept it and move forward but prayer changes things so please continue praying for Steve.
The facts: Steve's energy levels are sufficiently decreased. He has limited use of the left side of his body and the right is still holding out but even that is hit and miss- he walks with difficulty and is ungainly and he falls frequently. His speech is affected and slurred. His mind is still active and he still manages to joke and communicates wants and needs. Steve's appetite is okay (not great) and we think his sight is also affected now.
Steve has been asking to see people that he hasn't seen in a while like old teachers and others. I think that somehow he knows something is very wrong and is trying to make every minute count. His mother has chosen not to tell him what is wrong. He doesn't ask either. He is still a beautiful little boy and when he laughs it is the best sound I have heard. Please keep praying for a miracle. Thank you very much.
Maria Carey email@example.com
I am wheelchair bound and rarely get out of the house. I have never written to you before, but I have been a subscriber to 2theheart for six years. I have been with you through many wonderful stories that have affected my life and I mourned with you when your sister passed away. All the stories on 2theheart have been like little mini lessons straight from God. Because I can not go to church to worship, this is my best way to learn and stay close to the Lord. I have missed you at times when you have needed to take time off and have been excited to see 2theheart in my email box again. I know this is a gift to the world and I for one thank you. You often bring joy and learning into my little world. May God continue to guide you in this work. Sincerely, Babs in Canada
I loved your story "God's Perfect Plan". It was a good reminder to have absolute trust in God's guidance in our lives and listen to the promptings He gives us. Beautiful story! Love, Geena
Making a difference, one story at a time!