Tomorrow will be Mother’s Day 2012. And most of us go through the motions of celebrating without having any idea about the day’s original intent.

Mother’s Day can be traced back to Julia Ward Howe.

Julia Ward Howe

Read the rest of this entry…

none

Nine-year-old Rachel Beckwith did not want presents for her June 12 birthday. All she wanted were donations to the non-profit Charity Water. Her wish was to raise $300 for the charity that funds projects in 19 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

On a website set up by Rachel and her mother before her birthday, she explained the inspiration for her project.

“I found out that millions of people don’t live to see their 5th birthday,” Rachel wrote. “And why? Because they didn’t have access to clean, safe water so I’m celebrating my birthday like never before. I’m asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday. Every penny of the money raised will go directly to fund freshwater projects in developing nations.”

Rachel had only raised $220 by her June 12 birthday, so she closed the page.

On July 20, Rachel sustained serious spinal and head injuries in a massive 13-car pileup on Interstate 90 in Bellevue, Washington. She was traveling in a Lexus Sedan with her 2-year-old sister Sienna while with her mother Samantha Paul on the steering wheel. Rachel was on life support after the accident but sadly, on July 23, she was taken off life support. Her mother and 2-year-old sister were also in the car, but survived.

RIP, little angel Rachel Beckwith

Rachel’s pastor at Eastlake Community Church, Ryan Meeks, asked the charity to re-activate her fundraising page for anyone who wished to donate in her honor.

As news of Rachel’s cause spread, more and more people donated to Rachel’s page, touched by her selflessness.

Donations to her cause have swelled since her death to more than $520,000as I am writing this post, with gifts pouring in from almost 15,000 people, many in gifts of $9 each.

Donors wrote on Rachel’s page that they were touched and humbled by her generosity, calling her an angel.

“What great things can be accomplished by the wish of a little girl,” wrote a donor who identified herself as Leann Groby.

On Monday, Rachel’s mom, Samantha Paul, who was also injured in the accident, thanked donors on Rachel’s online charity page for their generosity.

“I am in awe of the overwhelming love to take my daughter’s dream and make it a reality. In the face of unexplainable pain you have provided undeniable hope,” Paul wrote. “I know Rachel is smiling!”

Rachel’s fundraising campaign has quickly become the largest in the history of “charity: water,” which raises the bulk of its money through pages like the one Rachel created, where a person asks their friends and family to donate for a special event or in their honor, said spokeswoman Sarah Cohen. A number of donors were inspired to start their own “charity: water” pages.

The charity says each $20 donation is enough to give one person access to safe, clean water for 20 years. In the past five years, the New York-based charity has raised $48 million and supported 3,962 water projects.

“We’ve all been so deeply moved by Rachel’s unselfishness,” said “charity:water” founder Scott Harrison, who used his own 34th and 35th birthdays to raise money to bring clean drinking water to Africa. Rachel had been inspired to support the charity after Harrison spoke at her church.

If you wish to do your part in Rachel’s honor, go to her donation site here.

What a gift from God Rachel’s charity will be for so many people who will never know her.

You are an angel and an inspiration to the whole world. You have shown the world what a single person can do. RIP, little angel!

none

Courageous teenager Alice Pyne of Ulverston, England, has written a “bucket list” of things she wants to do before she dies of cancer.

The 15-year-old pupil at Barrow’s Chet-wynde School has been fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma – cancer of the white blood cells – for four years. She has undergone extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments and has also received a stem cell transplant where her own treated cells were used, but treatment was not effective. Last year more than 1,000 people signed up to see if they could donate bone marrow to Alice, along with help from the Anthony Nolan Trust, but in October a scan showed there were no more curative treatment options and her condition was diagnosed as terminal.

Alice Pyne

Alice, who describes her occupation as “full-time cancer fighter”, refused to be downhearted and started her blog Alice’s Bucket List to share her list of things she is trying to get done before she goes.

Even though she’s dying with maybe only weeks to live, she hasn’t given up. She says she wants to make the best of what she has.

Her bucket list includes swimming with sharks, meeting Take That, whale watching, entering her dog Mabel in a show and visiting Cadbury World to eat “loads of chocolate”.

Her inspiration to create her bucket list came from the 2008 movie The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman who play terminally-ill patients who go on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket”.

Her blog continued: “I’ve not quite finished the list yet. I keep remembering other bits, so I might add things to it as I go along.

“I’m not expecting to do everything on it. Some of the things are just not going to happen because I can’t even leave the country now. But they’re there because they were on my ‘to do’ list at some point.”

One of those things on her bucket list is to become a trending topic on Twitter. Well, she has achieved that way beyond her wildest dream.

With the simple hashtag #alicebucketlist, she’s rising to the top of Twitter, trending Worldwide. It all started with a few Tweets from prominent Twitter users like Terry Moran from ABC News and actor Channing Tatum, urging people to make Pyne’s day. And with that, Twitter exploded, sending a torrent of well-wishes and love to Pyne who writes on her blog, “I’ve been fighting cancer for almost 4 years now and I know the cancer is gaining on me and it doesn’t look like I’m going to win this one. The cancer is spreading through my body. It’s hard because I gave it my all. And it’s a pain because there’s so much stuff I still want to do. Anyway, Mum always tells me that life is what we make of it.”

Alice Pyne (left), with parents Simon and Vicky and her sister Milly.

Parents Vicky and Simon, 48, a project manager, have embarked on a string of fundraising events with daughter Milly to raise money for charity since Alice was diagnosed.

Vicky, 42, said: “Sometimes I see kids walking down the street, and I think, ‘It isn’t fair, she should be out there with them’ – but she never complains.”

Among Alice’s hopes is for everyone to sign up to be a bone marrow donor.

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock took up her cause during Prime Minister’s Question Time in Parliament.

Mr Woodcock told David Cameron: “After four years, 15-year-old Alice Pyne in my constituency is losing her battle against cancer.

“At the top of the list is a call to make everyone sign up to be a bone marrow donor, so will he work with the leader of the opposition and I to address why too few people are currently on this life-saving register?”

Mr Cameron responded by saying: “I will certainly do that and I am sorry to hear about the situation facing Alice and what she’s going through, and our thoughts go out to her and her family.

“We do want to get as many people as possible on to the register.”

Take That’s manager is in discussion with Alice’s parents Vicky and Simon Pyne after being inundated with requests on behalf of the teenager.

Alice, believed to be at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, said that the torrent of comments to her blog this week has kept her up at night, staying up to read every single comment that flooded in from all over the planet, and they have made her smile. She also replied to hundreds of fans on her blog site.

Alice looking through cards from well-wishers on her bed

“I’m excited about the things I am going to be doing, but the biggest thing has to be all the people who are joining bone marrow donation schemes because of me.

“I will take a camera with me wherever I go and post photos of everything I do.”

Well-wishers from the USA, Canada and the UK sent her story in a relay which generated more than 2,000 pledges of help. Beauty salons from Barrow and fashion designers from London have offered massages and hotel trips while an international community from New York to Berlin rallied round to organise sending iPads and music vouchers to be sent from abroad.

Thousands praised Alice for her optimistic outlook.

Alice celebrating her 15th birthday

Celebrities have lined up to support her cause on Twitter, including pop star Katy Perry, comedian Dara O’Briain, comedian Bill Bailey, former footballer Robbie Savage and TV presenters Phillip Schofield, Stephen Fry, Richard Madeley and Fearne Cotton.

The remarkable thing about her blog is that she is not asking for donations or money; she wants ALL people to register to become bone marrow donors. What an amazing goal for a young girl, and one the Prime Minister endorses.

ALICE’S TO DO LIST SO FAR

To swim with sharks

To make everyone sign up to be a bone marrow donor

To go to Kenya (I can’t travel there now but I wanted to)

To enter Mabel in a regional Labrador show

To have a photo shoot with Milly, Clarissa, Sammie and Megs

To have a private cinema party for me and my BFFs

To design an Emma Bridgewater Mug to sell for charity

To stay in a caravan

To have a purple Apple iPad but I’m not really allowed to put that on here and mum is trying to borrow one

To be a dolphin trainer (I can’t do this one either now)

To meet Take That

To go to Cadbury World and eat loads of chocolate

To have a nice picture taken with Mabel

Alice Pyne with her pet Labrador Mabel

To stay in the chocolate room at Alton Towers

To have my hair done if they can do anything with it

To have a back massage

To go whale watching

Alice lives with younger sister Milly and parents Vicky and Simon. She and her family have campaigned tirelessly to increase the number of people registered as bone marrow donors and Alice derives a great deal of comfort from the fact that she has, in all likelihood, been instrumental in helping to find donors for other people with life threatening conditions.

Alice (1st on the right) with her younger sister Milly and mother Vicky.

Alice says she’s excited about crossing items off her bucket list, and hopes to take pictures and blog about her experiences. But most of all, she’s glad people are joining bone marrow donation schemes because of her.

Alice’s courage and compassion is a benchmark for us all.

On her blog, Pyne asks, “If today was your last day on earth, how would you spend it?” Seriously think about it.

8 com

Adrianne Palicki, the Friday Night Lights hottie who play the role of the small town temptress Tyra Collette, will play the iconic comic book character Woman Wonder in the new NBC version of the show.

2011′s Wonder Woman is being remade by David E. Kelley, who promises a serious, non-campy take on the DC Comics great. The series pilot is a reinvention of the iconic DC Comics title in which Wonder Woman — a.k.a. Diana Prince — is a vigilante crime fighter in Los Angeles but also a successful corporate executive, crimefighter and a modern woman trying to balance all of the elements of her extraordinary life.

Wonder Woman is a DC Comics superheroine created by William Moulton Marston. She first appeared in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941). The Wonder Woman title has been published by DC Comics almost continuously except for a brief hiatus in 1986.

DC comic original Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is an Amazon (based on the Amazons of Greek mythology) and was created by Marston, an American, as a “distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men.”

Wonder Woman’s powers include superhuman strength, flight, super-speed, super-stamina, and super-agility. She is highly proficient in hand-to-hand combat and in the art of tactical warfare. She also possesses an animal-like cunning and a natural rapport with animals, which has in the past been presented as an actual ability to communicate with the animal kingdom. She uses her Lasso of Truth, which forces those bound by it to tell the truth, a pair of indestructible bracelets, a tiara which serves as a projectile, and an invisible airplane.

Arguably the most popular and iconic female superhero in comics, Wonder Woman is also considered a feminist icon, and she is regarded as extremely physically attractive even by the standards of the superheroine. She was named the twentieth greatest comic book character by Empire magazine.

In addition to the comics, the character has appeared in other media; most notably, the 1975–1979 Wonder Woman TV series starring Lynda Carter.

Original Wonder Woman Lynda Carter

Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman,  knows what a hard time any actress will have trying to step into that character’s boots and Carter gives her seal of approval to Adrianne Palicki and the new costuming. “I think she looks fabulous,” said Carter. “It’s a new look and, jeez, her body looks fantastic.”

Carter could say things like she can never fill those shoes, or the costume is wrong – a ton of non-supportive things to sink Palicki right out of the gate but instead she wants people to give her the opportunity to shine.

“You know, I’m very sensitive to the fact that she will be compared,” Carter said. “There’s no getting around it. It is what it is. I would hope that people would cut her some slack.”

She goes on to say she is really looking forward to seeing it herself and thinks it’s such a good story, it’s time has come and it should be out there again for a new generation.

What an adorable and unselfish Carter!

Adrianne Palicki’s nude photos have been such an absurdly hot item online so you can expect the new Wonder Woman to be SUPERHOT, like those nude photos!

Adrianne Palicki topless

none

“What I have learned from all of the difficulties in my own life is that human beings have very thick skin. I call that skin, spirit, our Highest Most Powerful self. Spirit is the key to everything we desire. It is our weather-proofing, our Teflon, our line of credit that assures if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day; there will be a miraculous payoff.” — Iyanla Vanzant

Iyanla Vanzant

Iyanla Vanzant was born in Brooklyn New York as Ronda Eva Harris. She is an inspirational speaker, New Thought spiritual life counsellor, award-winning author of five New York Times best-sellers, lawyer, ordained minister and television personality (used to be a frequent guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show) currently residing in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, United States.

In the year 2000, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans by Ebony magazine which said that “Her books, lectures and television appearances have made her a multimedia high priestess of healthy relationships.” Her books include Acts of Faith, One Day My Soul Just Opened Up, Value in the Valley,  Faith in the Valley, and In the Meantime.

She is an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and facilitates workshops nationally with a mission to assist in the empowerment of men and women.

Iyanla Vanzant - A great inspirational speaker

Praised by Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley as “an inspiration to all women,” her stories of personal struggle and victory as a battered wife and teenage welfare mother have touched millions. In building a life of transformation on the foundation of her troubled past, she has become a standard bearer for the power of forgiveness and love to heal. She has been awarded an “Oni” by the International Congress of Black Women as one of the nation’s unsung heroes.

Mother on Reinvention

In 1998, she served as the national spokesperson of Literacy Volunteers of America. In 1999, she was listed among the 100 Most Influential African Americans by Ebony magazine, and her debut spoken word album hit the Billboard Gospel Chart at Number 1. She has been awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree from the City University of New York and an honorary doctor of divinity degree from the Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia.

Iyanla Vanzant once stood in the bedroom of her then recently deceased daughter with a pink, pearl-handled pistol in one hand and prescription pills in the other; mulling over the decision as to the “best” way to finally end the pain.

Nevertheless, Iyanla Vanzant is still alive and has a testimony to share.

From leaving The Oprah Winfrey Show to the cancellation of her own television program; the downward spiral didn’t crater with the death of her daughter at the age of 31 to a rare form of colon cancer — on Christmas Day, no less.

Iyanla remarked, “watching them put my daughter in a box and throw dirt on her let me know I could deal with anything.” The reality though was that things were to get far worse for far longer before they would get better. There was still an unexpected divorce (by way of email), loss of her house and tremendous trouble with the IRS still on the way. The fact that neither the pink, pearl-handled pistol nor the prescription pills won out is nothing short of amazing.

Iyanla Vanzant

It’s one thing to read the book of Job; it’s another to live it.

In her new book, Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through, Vanzant displays the scars of her life with an authoritative honesty, in the hopes of helping someone who might travel a path similar to hers, hurting unceasingly and hoping for help seemingly never on its way.

Broken Pieces

Iyanla Vanzant is alive and well; today her testimony might bring tears to your eyes while also forcing you to question the depth and resolve of your own faith and relationship with the Lord. At the same time, she offers neither an excuse nor appeal for pity on her behalf.

Iyanla in her book, tells the truth about the moments of her life leading up until now, from the death of her mother, being raped by her uncle and the pathologies set in motion by both.

She has literally touched the lives of countless people. Below are some of the feedbacks that people have left on her YouTube videos:

My God… so enlightening. It is so important to be clear in life on “who? you are”. If not, people will tell YOU who YOU are and you? will find yourself going down a path of someone’s else’s vision and not your own….I needed this…

So very powerful as always! Thank you for continuing to offer transparency and what seems like unfiltered insight? into life. Much? appreciated!

I cried from 0:11!!! OMGOODNESS!! Let me testify!!! I AM? ETERNALLY GRATEFUL? FOR THE LIFE LINE Iyanla carries!!!

Powerful… and?? I still heal! Thank you.

An amazing woman! Thank? you for being you!?

You have been my Spiritual God Mother every since I read, “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up”. Your spirit? has followed me since then. Thank you Great Mother. Eye love you.

Real? talk!!! Thank you for simply being real, human, honest.

Thank? you for your strength,it out shines so much pain in the world and within all.

Watch and listen to Iyanla’s messages in the five-part YouTube videos and be touched, be inspired, and hopefully be changed!

none

Filming of the movie “The Lady”, the Anglo-French big screen version of the remarkable life of Myanmar freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi, was wrapped up on January 18. Michčle Abitbol-Lasry, the publicist for EuropaCorp-Left Bank Pictures-France 2 Cinema, the maker of The Lady, confirms that the eagerly awaited film is already in its post-production and is scheduled for worldwide release later this year.

The movie is directed by Luc Besson, the filmmaker who brought us The Fifth Element and The Professional. Aung San Suu Kyi is played by international superstar Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) while David Thewlis (of Harry Potter fame) plays her university academic husband Michael Aris. The movie, originally titled as “Into The Light”,  has been renamed “The Lady” which is the name that Suu Kyi goes by because saying her real name is forbidden in Burma.

Michelle Yeoh and Aung Sang Suu Kyi

Michelle Yeoh as Aung Sang Suu Kyi in a scene from The Lady

Besson said Aung San Suu Kyi was “more of a heroine than Joan of Arc” and he hopes the film would further disseminate her ongoing struggles. It is the fight of a woman without any weapons, just her kindness and her mentality. She is very Gandhi-like.”

On her first private meeting with Suu Kyi at the Yangon International Airport, Michelle said, “The first thing we did is hug and I thought you are really skinny, man. One of the first things she said was ‘Why doesn’t the BBC world service have more music?”

“You feel a real sense of calm when you’re with her. She’s a very striking figure. She is so proud of her culture and the best way to show it is with dignity and elegance. She has a glow and an aura about her.”

The film will chart her remarkable journey from housewife bringing up her children in Oxford to taking on the power of Burma’s generals by becoming opposition leader. Filming of the movie, which began on Oct 18, was done in various parts of Thailand, Myanmar, UK and France.

Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis in a scene from the movie

It will build up to that awful choice she had to make between country and family when her husband, Michael Aris, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Yeoh, who made her name in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was instrumental in getting Besson on board to direct, helping to set up a meeting with the producer Andy Harries – who made The Queen – and the French director at Cannes.

The film is a co-production between Besson’s Europacorp and Harries’s Left Bank Pictures and has been written by the novelist and screenwriter Rebecca Frayn – Harries’s wife and the daughter of Michael Frayn.

Rebecca Frayn wrote the script over a period of three year, speaking to the key figures in Suu Kyi’s entourage to enable her to have a personal account of the national heroine of Myanmar who was put under house arrest most of her life.

Michelle Yeoh in another scene from the movie

Harries said the genesis of the project goes back to the early 1990s when he and his wife visited Burma. “At the time Suu Kyi had just won the election but was under house arrest. It was an extraordinary experience for us. On the one hand, it is a stunningly beautiful country but on the other it is frightening – the austerity, the poverty, the sadness of the people. We weren’t really allowed to go anywhere and people were scared of talking to us. It left a long impression on both of us.”

Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi

The film is not a biopic, said Harries. It will be set between 1988 – when Aung San Suu Kyi left Oxford to visit her sick mother and ended up staying – and 1999, the year Aris died after being diagnosed with cancer. Aris had been forbidden from entering Burma, a decision that left Aung San Suu Kyi with the almost impossible decision of whether to stay or go.

“The film builds to that incredible and depressing crossroads,” said Harries. “That is the human tragedy of it all.”

Harries knew that the key to the whole project would be the actress playing Aung San Suu Kyi. “There was never any doubt in my mind about who should play her, Michelle Yeoh was perfect.”

Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi...Micheele does look a bit like Suu Kyi in this photo

The script was sent to Michelle’s agent. “Michelle rang me 24 hours later saying she’d read the script and she was coming to London to meet me. We met, she looked at me and said ‘this is a fantastic script, how are we going to do it?’ ”

Although they are making the film without Aung San Suu Kyi’s permission, Harries said they felt a heavy obligation to get it right. “This is a very interesting story, a powerful story and, I think, an important story. She has not had the publicity that, say, Mandela had.

“Her situation is remarkably similar, she is one of those extraordinary people driven by principle who are determined to bring about change peacefully.”

Harries said writing the script involved talking to people involved in the story including monks, activists, diplomats and academics. “It is a bit like a jigsaw involving a very wide group of people who knew her, knew him, knew the family.

“A lot of the story, or the story we wanted to tell … of their relationship, is not known. It is a fantastic love story.”

I eagerly await this movie. And in the meantime, let’s pray for Aung Sang Suu Kyi!

none

A recent flash flood in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia caught most residents by surprise. As the waters rose and panic set in, one 13-year-old sacrificed himself  so that his beloved younger brother could live.

Jordan Rice, 13, at left, died after insisting his brother Blake, at right, be rescued first from their flooded car in Australia.

The heroic story of Jordan Rice began Monday afternoon. Jordan and his 10-year-old brother Blake were in the car driven by their mum Donna and they were heading home.

It was drizzling outside and there had been flood warnings about both a river in the region and out east, in the regional capital, 80 miles from Jordan’s current location. So though Jordan could not swim and had always been scared of the water, the flood warnings did not bother him as he thought he was so far away from the danger zones.

The engine inside the Rice family car gave out — leaving Jordan and Blake, along with mother Donna, stranded at an intersection, submerged in water up to the car wheels. Dialing 000, emergency officials reportedly told the family to stay put. As the flash flood rapidly rose, they climbed atop the car, hoping to escape its reach.

Warren McErlean, a local builder, grabbed a rope, tied one end to a post, the other around his waist and set out to rescue the woman and two boys but the fast-moving water swept him downstream.

Another rescuer, known only as Chris, pulled Mr McErlean to safety before tying the rope to himself and approaching the car to grab Jordan. As he first reached for Jordan, the 13-year-old boy said “Save my brother.” It was a heroic gesture, one that cost him his life.

So Chris took Blake, handing him to McErlean part way across before heading back to the car.

”I had the boy in one hand, the rope in the other. I wasn’t going to let go but then the torrent came through and was pulling us down,” McErlean said.

”Then this great big tall fellow just came out of nowhere, bear hugged us and ripped us out of the water.

”When I got back I turned to look at the guy [Chris]. He looked at me and we knew it was over. The rope snapped and the car just flipped.”

Returning moments later to get Jordan, it was then that the situation collapsed. Chris was reportedly still holding Jordan’s hand when the car was flipped by the waves. Chris himself “flew meters in the air,” losing contact with Jordan. When Donna saw Jordan slip away in the stream, Chris said, she let go in a bid to reach him. Both quickly disappeared in the surging currents.

On Wednesday mother and son were buried in the same grave in matching white coffins during a ceremony in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane.

Donna Rice with infant Jordan.

Paying tribute to Jordan at his funeral, Chris Rice, 22, said his brother was a “little hero” whose “heart, courage and love” had made the family fiercely proud.

Chris Rice noted that he had teased Jordan – nicknamed Weedsy – for being scared of water as a child.

“You were so shy, always hanging off Mum,” he said. “You were petrified of water, heights and even the dark. How wrong was I – here you go losing your life from one of your biggest fears to save your little brother.

“You made me so proud. What you did took heart, courage and love.

“You’re my little hero. I love you Weedsy. You will always be missed mate but I take comfort in the fact that you’ve got Mum there with you, taking care of you.”

John Tyson, Jordan’s father described Miss Rice, his partner of 28 years, as “the perfect mum”, while Jordan was “loving and very protective’.

John Tyson with son Blake Rice

“I don’t think I can put into words just how much I’ll miss them,” he said.

“The fire in my heart will continue to burn until my time comes to join them.

“God speed, my little angels.”

“I’ve accepted the fact that they’re not coming back but it doesn’t make it any easier.

“The pain and the grief are still there 100 per cent.

“The days seem to blur into each other. They say losing a child is the worst thing you could possibly experience but this is all that and more.”

Tyson said the support of family, friends and the close-knit Toowoomba community was the only thing holding him and his other three sons Kyle, 16, Chris, 22, and Blake together.

“If I didn’t have that, I’d still be curled up on the kitchen floor against a cupboard bawling,” he said.

“That’s not to say I’m not doing that but I’m trying to stay strong for my other boys.”

It was no surprise he has asked mourners to donate to the Queensland flood appeal instead of sending flowers.

Ten-year-old Blake, whose life was saved by Jordan, was one of the pall-bearers. Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral, including Warren McErlean, the rescuer who tried to save all three members of the family.

Tyson asked for his son’s coffin to be buried on top of Donna’s.

“It’s symbolic of him being in his mother’s arms,” he said.

“If there is one bit of comfort I can take out of the whole situation it is that neither of them will be alone.”

“Courage kicked in, and he would rather his little brother would live,” Jordan’s older brother Kyle, 16, said.

Jordan has emerged as a hero in Australia’s deadly floodwaters, his death captivating and rallying the nation. A Facebook group established to honor Jordan’s memory has now registered more than 177,000 fans. On Twitter, a wave of tweets have dubbed Jordan the “true hero” of the Queensland floods.

RIP, Jordan! You are in God’s kingdom now!

none

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary commemoration of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a national holiday. His “I Have a Dream Speech” text is one of the most famous speeches in our nation’s history.

This is the text of the “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington August 28, 1963.

Martin Luther King

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

none

64-year-old sanitary worker and garbage collector Li Yukun has long passed her retirement age of 50 in China but she begged the Wendeng environmental protection department to let her keep her job because she has more than 10 students to support. Since 1998, Li has helped 15 students from poor families.

Sanitary worker Li Yukun, 64, sweeps a street in Wendeng city, East China's Shandong province, Dec 22, 2010.

Kang Yujing, a senior at Qufu Normal University in East China’s Shandong Province, is one of the 15 students helped by Li. She had been receiving 1,000 yuan from the kind-hearted grandmother yearly over the past four years. But she never imagined her “Rich Uncle Li” would turn out to be a sanitary worker and garbage collector, or even a 64-year-old woman, before meeting her in April.

Sanitary worker Li Yukun, 64, sorts thank you letters from students who received her donations, at her house in Wendeng city, East China's Shandong province, Dec 23, 2010.

After finding out the identity of her “angel” the Year Four undergraduate of Qufu Normal University decided to visit her. When she saw Li sweeping the Wendeng street, Kang ran towards her and held her tightly.

Kang Yujing (L), a senior at Qufu Normal University in East China's Shandong province, burst into tears in Li Yukun's arms after learning it is this 64-year-old grandmother who has been giving her 1,000 yuan each year, at their meeting April 19, 2010.

She burst into tears, as she had never imagined that the money given to her was from such a humble old woman doing such hard work.

“I had always thought that the philanthropist was a rich man called ‘Uncle Li’.”

In her thank-you letters to Li, Kang addressed her as “Uncle Li” before their meeting on April 19.

A thank you letter Kang wrote to Li shows she addressed it to Uncle Li.

Li, whose colleagues call “Iron Feet Li”, has always spent all her money helping the poor and the underprivileged. She leads a very simple life and lives in a crude home with an old donated TV set as the only appliance.

Wendeng’s construction bureau has given Li 50,000 yuan for living expenses, but she has donated all of the money, against the advice of her colleagues.

Li Yukun, 64, sorts her collected garbage at her house in Wendeng city, East China's Shandong province, Dec 23, 2010.

She also decided, after discussing it with her two married daughters, to donate her organs after her death.

Li has  also donated 100,000 yuan to victims of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and to other charitable causes.

Li counting her money before donating to a victim of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake at a post office in Wendeng city

Li may be just a poor garbage collector but she has a heart of gold! It is people like her that makes our world a much better place.

none

A humble vegetable seller in Taiwan, Ms Chen Shu-chu, has won worldwide recognition for living a life devoid of luxuries so that others less fortunate than her can live a better life. In March this year, Forbes magazine named her one of 48 outstanding philanthropists from the Asia-Pacific region. A month later, Time magazine selected her as one of 2010’s top 100 influential and she emerged under the Heroes of Philanthropy category. And she has been selected as the winner of the Reader’s Digest’s Asian of the Year Award on November 25.

Ms. Chen Shu-chu at her vegetable stall in a market in eastern Taiwan's Taitung County.

Reader’s Digest magazine commended Chen for her dedicated work over a lifetime to helping those less fortunate than herself.

“Chen’s work has been more remarkable because she doesn’t fundraise or seek donations, but rather she goes without, in order to save the proceeds of her meager earnings to donate to worthwhile causes,” according to the magazine.

When asked about being honored by Reader’s Digest, a humble Chen brushed off the news, saying “Whether or not I win an award is not important, I’m still going to continue doing what I do.”

Dora Cheok, editor of the magazine’s English-language Asia edition, praised Chen as an example of “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” She said the award is presented to individuals who best embody and convey the values of Asia and who through their activism help shape Asia’s future.

In its December 2010 issue, Reader’s Digest Asia carries the story of this amazing lady in an article entitled ‘The Generous Vegetable Seller.’ This story is very inspiring and with Christmas round the corner, I hope the story will move people to do their part for the less fortunate of our society.

This blog post of mine will probably end up as my longest post so far. I hope you will really take the time to read the entire post. May you be inspired!

The Generous Vegetable Seller

by Esther Liang (published in the December 2010 issue of Reader’s Digest)

After the morning hustle and bustle, the atmosphere at Taitung county’s Central Market quietens as every stall shuts for the day and their owners return to the comfort of their homes.

A lone lamp shines on a vegetable stall. With head bowed, Ms Chen Shu-chu silently sorts out the vegetable leaves as she waits for the occasional afternoon customer.

Reader Digest's Asian of the Year - The Generous Vegetabls Seller Chen Shu-Chu

Decades of hard work have caused the fingers on her right hand to curl and joints to swell; her feet have deformed slightly.

Ms Chen leads her life with a daily routine. Waking up at three in the morning, she makes her way to the vegetable wholesaler and sets up her stall, which she tends till seven or eight in the evening.

Being the first to arrive and last to leave, the other stall owners have fondly given her the title of “market manager”.

In the dark and damp market, Ms Chen, nearing her 60s, holds the stall her father left her dearly. Yuan-Jin Vegetables is her everything.

With her vegetables selling at “a bundle for NT$30, three bundles for NT$50″, she earns only marginal profits.

Yet, her frugality has allowed her to donate about NT$10 million (4321,550) towards various charitable causes, including helping schools, orphanages and poor children.

The selfless generosity of a woman with such humble income has placed her under the international spotlight.

In March, Forbes magazine named her one of 48 outstanding philanthropists from the Asia-Pacific region. A month later, Time magazine selected the year’s top 100 influential people and she emerged under the Heroes of Philanthropy category.

TIME magazine's The 100 Most Influential People In The World

Fellow Taiwanese and Oscar- winning director Lee Ang wrote her entry personally. “Money is worthy only if given to those in need,” he quoted Ms Chen. He also wrote: “Amazing, but of all she has given away, her greatest gift is leading by example.”

KINDNESS BEGETS KINDNESS

Despite the honour of receiving the Time award in New York, gaining global recognition, and a personal meeting with President Ma Ying-jeou, all Ms Chen really cares about is her vegetable stall.

President Ma visiting Chen Shu-Chu at her vegetable stall

If not for President Ma and the Foreign Minister personally convincing her to go, she would not have agreed to visit New York, as she felt that “this is not a competition and I did not win anything”.

Amid the frenzy of applying for a passport and preparing for the visit, her main concern was that her regular customers would not get their vegetables.

Chen Shu-Chu at the 2010 Time 100 dinner in New York

Ms Chen has become a celebrity in Taitung county. The local authorities decorated her stall with congratulatory posters and banners hailing her as the Pride of Taitung and the Model of Philanthropy.

There are fans who turn up at the stall with a vegetable basket and a camera, hoping for a picture with Ms Chen.

Despite all the attention, she remains humble. “I have done nothing extraordinary and anyone who wants to can do it. There are many other charitable people; we just don’t know about them,” she said. Ms Chen, who is unmarried, added: “I do not place great importance on money. When I donate to help others, I feel at peace and happy, and I can sleep well at night.”

She also feels for the poor, having experienced hardship in her younger days.

Born in 1950, Ms Chen lost her mother after completing her primary-school education. Her mother was admitted to hospital because of difficulties in labour and the family had to pay an insurance of NT$5,000 before medical attention could be granted.

Ms Chen saw her father asking their neighbours for money, but it was too late to save her mother. The eldest daughter in the family, Ms Chen had to grow up overnight. She gave up her studies and dedicated her life to helping at the vegetable stall.

When she was 18, her younger brother fell sick and the illness dragged on for over a year, gradually depleting the family’s savings.

Doctors suggested that the family send her brother to Taiwan National University Hospital, but they could not afford the fees.

Mr Huang Shun-zhong, a teacher at Ren-ai Primary School, started a donation drive. Unfortunately, her brother could not be saved.

After experiencing the kindness bestowed upon her family, Ms Chen made up her mind to help the poor once she was able.

When her father died 17 years ago, Ms Chen, a devoted Buddhist, generously donated NT$1 million to Fo Guang Shan Monastery.

In 2000, she donated NT$1 million to her alma mater, Ren-ai Primary School, to set up an Emergency Relief Fund to help poor children obtain financial help.

SIMPLE LIFE WITHOUT LUXURIES

Assisting in the setting up and maintenance of the fund is Mr Li Guo-rong, who teaches Ms Chen’s nephew.

In 2001, Mr Li had a plan to build a library for the school and estimated the cost to be between NT$4 million and NT$5 million.

When he approached Ms Chen, in the hope that she might contribute NT$50,000, Li was shocked when she said she would fund the entire project.

The school was sceptical, but Ms Chen was determined.

In May 2005, the two-storey library was completed and named Chen Shu-chu Library in honour of the “Vegetable Market heroine” alumnus. She had donated NT$4.5 million.

Ms Chen’s ability to donate such large sums of money has led many to ask: How can a mere vegetable seller earn so much?

“Spend only what you need, and you’ll be able to save up a lot of money!” said Ms Chen.

Since 1996, she has donated NT$36,000 to help three children in the Kids Alive International organisation.

To achieve this, she explained that she empties her loose change into three little cardboard boxes at home every night.

“This is a simple act that anyone can do, isn’t it?” she said.

Ms Chen leads a very simple life without any luxuries. She does not have any desire for material gain nor any form of enjoyment.

Work, she said, is her enjoyment. “I love my work. If I didn’t, would I be able to work 16 hours a day?”

All she needs is food and a place to sleep. Everything else is a luxury. She does not buy expensive clothes as “I do not socialise much, hence, there is no need for such beautiful clothes. The clothes from the roadside stalls are good enough for me, and, even then, I like to bargain”.

Her daily meals cost less than NT$100: a bowl of vegetarian rice and a bowl of noodles for NT NT$55. Freeze whatever that cannot be finished, spend another NT$20 on a can of gluten and add that to the rice with some hot water.

“This becomes porridge and is very tasty,” she said.

HER HAPPINESS PRINCIPLE

She also sleeps on the hard floor, a habit from her younger days when she started working at the vegetable stall.

The comfort of her warm bed made getting up early to go to the wholesaler very difficult, especially during the cold winter months. Hence Ms Chen made up her mind to sleep on the cold floor, where she would not run the risk of being late.

Has business improved after winning the award? “Business is as usual,” she said. “I still need to sell my vegetables. Not much has changed.”

Chen at work after her US trip

Advertisers have approached her to film commercials; financial managers have offered to manage her finances and other well-wishers have offered to donate money. She rejects these advances politely.

“It is easy to return borrowed money, but difficult to return a favour,” she said.

“I have to be very careful in handling money matters,” she added. Even when customers tip her, she refuses to accept.

“Buying from my stall is already a form of support,” she explained.

The only commercial Ms Chen was willing to take on was for the Bureau of National Health Insurance, in memory of her beloved mother. She requested all shoots be done beside her stall so as not to affect her business.

The only payment she was willing to accept was a black T-shirt given by the Bureau.

Since her return from New York, Ms Chen has been working even longer hours. She has a new goal: To collect NT$10 million to set up a Chen Shu-chu Bursary aimed at helping poor children pay for school fees and medical bills, things she could not afford as a child.

“All I need is to sell a few more vegetables, save a little more money, in addition to a number of insurance policies that are near the end of their term. A lot of people are also willing to donate. I am sure there won’t be any problems,” she said.

Mr Li, who treats Ms Chen like a sister, said that setting up the bursary is actually a good way to let her retire from selling vegetables and start influencing society with her reputation, in the hope that there will be more generous “Chen Shu-chus”.

As for Ms Chen, she said: “My philosophy in life is simple: If doing something makes you worried, then it must be a wrong thing. If it makes you happy, then you must have done the right thing. What others say is not important.”

She is content with what she has and feels that as long as she “lives a life she wishes for and does the things she wants, that is good enough”.

Chen was born to impoverished parents with eight children. The family survived on the parents’ meager income as vegetable vendors.

After her mother died, she took over her parents’ business, and at the age of 13, she became the youngest vendor in Taitung City’s Central Market, selling vegetables ever since for nearly five decades.

She had never married, although the opportunity presented itself in her early 20s. Her brother told Taiwan’s Liberty Times that their father asked her to postpone her wedding to support the family until her younger siblings finished their schooling, and Chen’s sweetheart eventually married someone else. From then, working at her stall in the market to sell vegetables became the main priority of her life.

Her routine consists of getting up at 2:30 a.m. to purchase vegetables from a wholesale market, opening her business between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., and closing up shop at around 9 p.m.

She said because she had been helped by others in the past, she vowed to also help the poor. She says that’s how she has found happiness, and even when physically challenged, she perseveres to sell vegetables at the market.

“Money serves its purpose only when it is used for those who need it,” she said in a newspaper account.

When asked why she was so generous in donating her hard-earned money, she said, “I accumulate virtue instead of wealth. Life is short, and you don’t know when you will die. I don’t have a son, so what would I do with all the money I have saved? I might as well just do good deeds and accumulate virtue.”

Although Chen has become one of Taiwan’s hottest media stars since she was chosen as a Time magazine 2010 role model, success has not spoiled her. She has asked the media not to hang around, as she wants to get back to her usual routine of selling vegetables in the market right away.

Chen with an apron with the 2010 Time 100 Most Influential People wordings in Chinese

Chen’s generous giving has set off a nationwide trend, encouraging others of small means to donate to charity.

“The point of Chen’s story is that all of sudden many people found that even though they may not be rich, their tiny but persistent small donations may come as a great help to some people,” said Hu Yu-fang of United Way.

A former soldier Hu Shou-hung, inspired by Chen, has given away his life’s savings of $30,000 to a charity that supports orphan children of soldiers killed in action. Hu is 88 years old, explaining to reporters that he no longer needs the money.

“Chen is like a seed,” said Phyllis Weng, a senior social worker of the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families in the central Taiwan city of Taichung.

“It has taken deep root in the hearts of many people. Her influence will be far-reaching.”

Chen Shu-chu’s story has great lessons for all of us. It is possible to save a large sum of money even on a very modest income if you know how to manage your finances. It is possible for a single person to make a huge impact on the world. Money serves its purpose only when it is used for those who need it.

I am very inspired and humbled by this vegetable seller’s frugality, generosity and most of all her humanity. Her spirit and kindness is what we human beings should aspire to.

Thank you, Chen Shu-chu, for helping to show the way.

Carricature of Chen Shu Chu in TIME magazine

one

Categories

Blogroll

Archives

Adverising

sal