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Saturday, July 25, 2020

Anonymous? - The Red Boat

How often do we stop and express our gratitude?  However often, it's surely never enough.  At the start of this year I was grateful to look at a calendar filling up my schedule with programs.  I also was cast in a local community theater production of Godspell, while finishing up another group's production of Grease.  About that time Chinese New Year arrived and I mentioned the reason for the practice of giving pretend money then was because the belief was that whatever you were doing at the start of the Lunar New Year, you would keep doing it all year.  

There's a comparable European folk tradition.  I've posted one well done version of it in Howard Pyle's "How the good gifts were used by two" in his book, The Wonder Clock or four and twenty marvelous Tales, being one for each hour of the day.  That link takes you to the entire book at and it is worthwhile reading, whether over 24 hours or days.  Even my own posting of the story skips to the actual part about giving and in turn being given the gift of doing all day however you start it. 

Little did we know the folk belief literally would come true.  The Lunar New Year brought us the Coronavirus and we've been coping with it ever since!

So what does that have to do with today's story?  Go looking at 8 Proverbs About Gratitude and you will see yet another story you may recognize: It Could Always Be Worse.  The proverb declares "Count your blessings, things could always be worse."  Experienced story lovers should recognize the Eastern European, usually Russian or Jewish, tale which even has a 1972 picture book version by Eleanor Chroman.

Just this past week I did a program streamed locally in Lakeview, Michigan about the Hello Girls.  Because the library had a grant, they were eager to bring it even if it only drew a few audience members spaced safely apart.  It originally was scheduled earlier this year except an Executive Order closed Michigan libraries.  Last month I did my Prohibition program for a local library, who streamed it for a few weeks to open their virtual programming.  In return I now have a Prohibition program other venues may contract with me to use if unable to offer it outdoors or safely spaced in a large area.  Next month I'll do my One-Room Schoolteacher program for a Michigan museum.  It, too, will be live streamed.  I'm grateful to be working.  I'm also grateful freelance workers were in the recent Pandemic Unemployment Assistance coverage under the federal CARES Act because my subbing in libraries and storytelling has indeed been severely cut back or eliminated in these uncertain times.  I expect, if I'm storytelling when the weather turns cold, it will be online or not at all.  As for subbing in libraries or residencies in schools -- "Forgeddaboutit!" 

I know eventually it will be possible for festival and theaters to reopen, but they're hurting.  So are your local businesses.  As for schools, libraries, and museums, it sometimes seems like the line "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get" as plans and openings change when a case crops up among staff or students.

We all will muddle through this one way or another eventually.  I had a friend ask if anybody knew somebody who died from Covid.  I'm not certain.  One dear friend, Jackie Baldwin, (who is listed below for her wonderful Story-Lovers website found now only through the Wayback Machine) was in senior assisted living in Belleview, Washington, a suburb of Seattle where so many elderly victims started.  She and another storytelling friend are simply said to have died.  In her case, her health was already in poor condition.  As for the other colleague and online friend, I don't know about any existing health concerns for Thomas Doty, an active storyteller in nearby Oregon.  His website is more specialized with many stories about the trickster, Coyote, and other Native American resources.

The fact is we do indeed need to take this seriously.  I posted on Facebook the article by Franklin Veaux on about why Coronavirus has shut down the U.S. even if actual mortality is quite small.  You are welcome to read the responses there and also an analysis at Bored Panda by Jonas Grinevicius and Denis Tymulis.  The point they made was "However, even if the fatality percentage is low, as Veaux points out, the actual number of people that the virus kills, damages, and affects is still huge."

I will indeed be grateful when a vaccine is available and, yes, I will get it.  I am grateful neither I nor anybody in my extended family has been physically affected other than having the "Shelter in Place" Executive Orders shut down businesses, churches, schools, libraries, museums, theaters and other groups where I am a member and otherwise change life and work.  Yet it brings concern for the present and foreseeable future.  I hope the same is true for you and all you love and you, too, take the time to be grateful for your present safety even if it's not free of the current covid chaos.

That brings us to today's story which was listed as being by that prolific author, Anonymous.  In literature and music we are sometimes cynically informed that "Anonymous was a woman."  I believe in honoring the copyright of creators, but was only partly successful attempting to trace the authorship, and any permission that might be necessary.  I found a site called and the story is listed there by BlissForgive, who it seems wrote it August 10, 2017 for that site only.  I hope Creative Commons applies here, but, if either the site or the author request it, I will remove the story.  In the meantime I think it is a perfect story for this uncertain time and a reminder of the need for gratitude.

(Carol McCormick posted this on the Facebook group, Storytellers.)
The Red Boat

A man was asked to paint a boat. He brought his paint and brushes and began to paint the boat a bright red, as the owner asked him.
While painting, he noticed a small hole in the hull, and quietly repaired it.
When he finished painting, he received his money and left.
The next day, the owner of the boat came to the painter and presented him with a nice check, much higher than the payment for painting.
The painter was surprised and said “You've already paid me for painting the boat Sir!”
“But this is not for the paint job. It's for repairing the hole in the boat.”
“Ah! But it was such a small service... certainly it's not worth paying me such a high amount for something so insignificant.”
“My dear friend, you do not understand. Let me tell you what happened:
“When I asked you to paint the boat, I forgot to mention the hole.
“When the boat dried, my kids took the boat and went on a fishing trip.
“They did not know that there was a hole. I was not at home at that time.
“When I returned and noticed they had taken the boat, I was desperate because I remembered that the boat had a hole.
“Imagine my relief and joy when I saw them returning from fishing.
“Then, I examined the boat and found that you had repaired the hole!
“You see, now, what you did? You saved the life of my children! I do not have enough money to pay your 'small' good deed.”
So no matter who, when or how, continue to help, sustain, wipe tears, listen attentively, and carefully repair all the 'leaks' you find. You never know when one is in need of us, or when God holds a pleasant surprise for us to be helpful and important to someone.
Along the way, you may have repaired numerous 'boat holes' for several people without realizing how many lives you've saved.
~Author Unknown

It all sounds rather reminiscent of George Bailey in the old classic movie, "It's a Wonderful Life."  If you are looking to make a difference, the KindSpring site has a page loaded with Ideas for acts of kindness. Currently there are 434 ideas for such areas as Friends and Family, Environment, Elderly, Animals, At Home, At Work, At School and University, Just for Teens, Resources for Teachers, Resources for Groups, for Parents and Grandparents, and others, but the largest category is Public Places.  Think about how Public Places of late have become a site for anything BUT kindness.  KindSpring's About Us statement says:

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