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Five Lessons

By Rutagengwa Claude Shema

Regional Coordinator

Great Lakes Peace Initiative (GLPI)


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Five lessons about the way we treat people.

First Lesson - Cleaning Lady

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop
quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the
questions until I read the last one:

"What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely
this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several
times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I
know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before
class ended, one student asked if the last question would count
toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely, " said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet
many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and
care, even if all you do is smile and say "hello."

I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was

Second Lesson - Pickup in the Rain

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was
standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a
lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately
needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.
A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in
those conflict-filled 1960's. The man took her to safety, helped
her get assistance and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and
thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door.
To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his
home. A special note was attached.

It read: "Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the
other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my
spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it
to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed away... God
bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others."

Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.

Third Lesson - Always remember those who serve

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old
boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put
a glass of water in front of him.

"How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked.

"Fifty cents," replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled is hand out of his pocket and studied the
coins in it.

"Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired.

By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was
growing impatient.

"Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins.

"I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and
walked away The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and
left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped
down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were
two nickels and five pennies..

You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough
left to leave her a tip.

Fourth Lesson - The obstacle in Our Path

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he
hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge
rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by
and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not
keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the
stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon
approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried
to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and
straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his
load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the
boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note
from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who
removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many
of us never understand!

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

Fifth Important Lesson - Giving When it Counts...

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got
to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and
serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood
transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously
survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed
to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her
little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to
give his blood to his sister.

I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath
and saying, "Yes I'll do it if it will save her." As the
transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and
smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek.
Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will
I start to die right away".

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he
thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in
order to save her.

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