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“I Will Go with You Into the Grave”
Frugal and Generous
In Taiwan, Chen Shu-Chu works hard selling vegetables, getting up at 3 a.m. and staying in her stall until 7 or 8 at night. She is the first to arrive at and the last to leave the market. She is frugal and over the years has donated to charities NT$10 million (New Taiwan dollars), which is $321,550 in American money. A Buddhist, Chen says, “Money is only worthy if given to those in need.” Chen, who is unmarried, is humble, saying, “I have done nothing extraordinary and everyone who wants to can do it. There are many other charitable people; we just don’t know about them.” Chen adds, “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.” One of Chen’s largest donations was for a school library at her alma mater, Ren-ai Primary School. Making plans for the school library, which Li Guorong, a teacher, estimated would cost between NT$4 million and NT$5 million, Li asked Chen if she would be willing to donate NT$50,000. Instead, she donated all the money that was needed for the library: NT$4.5 million. The library is named “Chen Shu-Chu Library” in her honor. She has also donated NT$1 million to Ren-ai Primary School to help poor children financially. How can Chen afford to donate such sums of money? She says, “Spend only what you need, and you’ll be able to save up a lot of money!” Since 1996 she has sponsored three children in the Kids-alive International organization, donating NT$36,000 ($1,150), which is the money that she got from putting her loose change into three cardboard boxes each night. She says, “This is a simple act that can be done by anyone, isn’t it?” She adds, “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.”[i]
Blisters and Missing Toenails
In 2009, British comedian Eddie Izzard ran approximately 1,100 miles across Great Britain to raise £200,000 for the charity Sport Relief, which brings together people from the sport and the entertainment worlds to raise money to help vulnerable people. Despite blisters and missing toenails, Mr. Izzard ran the equivalent of 43 marathons in 51 days at a pace of more than 27 miles a day, six days a week. After finishing the fundraiser at the National Gallery in London, an exhausted Mr. Izzard said, “I feel dead. Being here [with everyone] is very nice. When I left here seven-and-a-half weeks ago, there was nobody here and it was just another cold morning. And now there is a lot of people here—even in the rain. I think the worst part of the experience was the last three minutes sprinting down The Mall, which was really tough. I don’t think what I did was amazing. Anyone can do it.” Mr. Izzard trained for only five weeks before beginning his epic run. At first, he completed his daily distance in around ten hours, but as he got in shape, he completed it in a little over five hours. Mr. Izzard said about the running, “It’s changed my body.” One change that Mr. Izzard needed to stop after ending his intensive running was his food intake. He said, “I’ve been stuffing food [5,000 to 6,000 calories per day] in my mouth morning, noon, and night, and now I have to stop doing that. I’m completely exhausted, and I can’t sleep properly. The first three weeks were the toughest, when it started raining, but I’m a relentless idiot. I’m supposed to have an ice bath now. Then I am going to have a party somewhere dry, and then I am going to sleep for a week.” Mr. Izzard had help during his run: the services of a tour manager, a sports therapist, and an ice-cream van, which also gave away free ice cream to Mr. Izzard’s supporters. Mr. Izzard said that his feet did take a beating: “I had about five or six blisters at the top, and it’s now down to two on the outer toes. They look like aliens. And I lost my toenails on my outer toes as well. I don’t think I’ve lost weight because it turns into muscle, so you probably put on weight. I’ve probably leaned up.” Mr. Izzard may actually have temporarily lost a bit of height from the massive amount of running. John Brewer, a professor in sport at Bedfordshire University, said about Mr. Izzard, “He might actually be a little bit shorter. Studies have shown that marathon runners tend to lose between one and two centimeters in height because the spine constricts slightly. That is a short-term effect, and the height will come back up again.” A few people temporarily joined Mr. Izzard on his run. He once stopped at a fast-food place for a burger, and a group of girls ran with him for a while. Another time, a group of boys ran five miles with him.[ii]
A Kind Father
Don Rickles’ father taught him everything he ever needed to know about making car repairs: Pay someone else to make them. His father was a very kind man. He sold life insurance, and when his customers could not afford to pay the premiums, often he would pay the premiums for them. When his father died, his customers showed their respect for him by paying back what they owed him.[iii]
When Daddy Thomas was just getting started as an entertainer, he hitchhiked back and forth from Toledo and Detroit. He told a trucker he hitchhiked with about his desire to be an entertainer, and the trucker gave him free transportation. Each morning, the trucker picked him up at the Toledo truck terminal and gave him a ride to Detroit. Each evening, Danny waited for him at the Detroit truck terminal, and the trucker gave him a ride to Toledo. Danny repaid the trucker by telling him his funniest stories. Danny says, “The trucker was a good audience.” By the way, for decades, Janet Roth was Mr. Thomas’ secretary. As such, she did many duties, including taking care of the Thomas children whenever Mrs. Thomas visited Danny when he was on the road performing in nightclubs. Mr. Thomas and Ms. Roth had an agreement that was mutually satisfying to both of them: Mr. Thomas was not allowed to fire her, and Ms. Roth was not allowed to quit.[iv]
Healing Those Who Fight, and Helping a Healer
Marlo Thomas once asked her father, the comedian Danny Thomas, if he had ever been in the army. He replied that for a year he had served as an entertainer in North Africa, Europe, and the Pacific with Marlene Dietrich. Marlo said, “Oh, so you weren’t a real soldier.” Her father replied, “No, we didn’t carry the guns, but we helped heal the boys who did. You know, Mugs [Marlo’s nickname], right after the Red Cross comes the U.S.O.” Danny was a kind person. When Marlo was in college, she dated a man named Jimmy Pugh, who was studying to be a dentist. Even after Marlo stopped dating him in order to go to New York to become an actress, Danny stayed close to Jimmy, who often came to Danny’s house for conversation. One day, Danny walked with Jimmy to Jimmy’s car after their visit was over. Jimmy had parked his car in the back because it was a “heap.” When Danny saw the wreck of a car, he said, “You’re going to be a dentist! You can’t let anything happen to your hands. You’ll beak every bone in your body in this wreck!” Danny happened to have a new pickup truck—the result of doing a favor for a company. He gave the truck to Jimmy, saying, “Here, take this. I’ll never drive it.” Danny kept the gift quiet—Marlo learned about it in a letter that Jimmy sent her after Danny died.[v]
Al Shean was a popular comedian during the very early part of the 20th century. He endeared himself to children whenever he visited his young nephews who later became the famous Marx Brothers. Not only did he give his young nephews money, but also he would toss 100 pennies (back when a penny was actually valuable) into the street and let the neighborhood children scramble for the money.[vi]
“Not Afraid of Anyone”
Chico Marx of the famous Marx Brothers married a woman named Betty, who traveled with the comedy troupe to be with her husband during their vaudeville days. One day, the usually mild-tempered Gummo Marx (who left entertainment to go into business before the Marx Brothers started making movies) got into an argument with a train brakeman, and the brakeman got so angry that he lifted a wrench and was going to hit Gummo with it. Although Betty was seven months pregnant, she grabbed the brakeman’s hand and held on long enough for Gummo’s brothers to come to the rescue. Chico proudly claimed afterward that Betty was not afraid of anyone.[vii]
“Our New Olympic Hero is Bjornar Haakensmoen”
During the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, the Canadian women’s cross-skiing team ran into trouble when one of Sara Renner’s ski poles broke during the sprint relay final. Bjørnar Håkensmoen, head coach for Norway’s cross-country skiers, was on the scene. He exhibited incredibly good sportsmanship by giving Ms. Renner one of his own ski poles. The Canadian team of Ms. Renner and Beckie Scott won the silver medal while the Norwegian team finished fourth. Mr. Håkensmoen insisted that he was merely following the Norwegian tradition of fair play. He pointed out, “We talked about it at our team meeting the night before. We are a country which believes in fair play.” Of course, the media gave his good sportsmanship immense coverage, and he became a hero in Canada. In its story about his good deed, Québec’s Le Journal de Montréal published on its first page a huge “TAKK” (which is Norwegian for “thank you”). Many Canadians wrote grateful letters to the English Web Desk of the large Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. George Araujo of Port Dover, Ontario, wrote, “Our new Olympic Hero is Bjornar Haakensmoen.” He called Mr. Håkensmoen “a living testament to the true meaning of sport.” Bruce Norgren of Waterloo, Ontario, wrote, “There can be no better example of the Olympic ideal of sportsmanship than was demonstrated by Norwegian coach Bjornar Haakensmoen.” Mark Rice of Toronto wrote, “In a world gone mad … with even the simplest of misunderstandings leading to violence the world over, it’s heartening to see that we can still be human. The selfless act of Bjornar Hakensmoen, the Norwegian cross-country ski boss, in handing a new ski pole to Canadian Sara Renner, during the heat of competition, without thought as to how the outcome might have affected his own team, stands alone in my mind as one of the brightest moments I can recall in this, or any other Olympics.” And Geoff Snow of Waterford, Ontario, wrote, “In the eyes of Canadians, we took a silver medal, but Norway has won gold for sportsmanship.” The Canadians found a unique way to thank Mr. Håkensmoen for his good sportsmanship. Canada is renowned for its maple syrup, and the Canadians started Project Maple Syrup—a drive to collect maple syrup to give to Mr. Håkensmoen. The drive was very successful: The Canadians collected 7,400 cans of maple syrup (over five tons) and sent it to Mr. Håkensmoen in Oslo, Norway—many of the cans had messages of admiration attached to them. Both the Norwegian and Canadian governments waived import duties for the maple syrup. Mr. Håkensmoen said, “When you get this kind of response, it is, well, just enormous.” So does Mr. Håkensmoen like maple syrup? After trying it for the first time, he said, “It’s sweet, and a little unusual. We might have it from time to time, but not five times a day.” Of course, Mr. Håkensmoen did not keep all that maple syrup. He gave it to Chess Communications of Norway, which in turn donated 150,000 Norwegian Krone to the Norwegian Cancer Society. (In April 2011, 150,000 Norwegian Krone were worth $28,250 in American dollars.)[viii]
On April 30, 2011, Teresa McCoy, 37, saved a life. She was competing in the bike portion of the Meek and Mighty Triathlon in St. Petersburg, Florida, when she saw runner No. 100, a man with whom she had spoken before the triathlon began, lying on the ground with two police officers by him. Ms. McCoy, who is a nurse at Tampa General Hospital’s cardiac lab, checked his pulse. He had no pulse, so she began to perform CPR on him and yelled for a defibrillator. A police officer brought her one, and she used it. She said, “As soon as we shocked him, he came to.” He was expected to recover from his heart attack. Ms. McCoy said, “I’m so glad he’s alive. I know that God put me where I was supposed to be today. It’s like I was his angel today.” By the way, after paramedics and an ambulance took the man away, Ms. McCoy finished the triathlon.[ix]
“You Don’t Do Things Right Once in a While; You Do Them Right All the Time”
Lots of football players who played for the Green Bay Packers under Coach Vince Lombardi did not retire rich from football. However, many of them have gone on to become rich in part because of lessons that they learned from Coach Lombardi. Willie Davis earned an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago while he was playing for the Packers. At one point, he grew discouraged and wanted to quit. Many coaches today are likely to welcome such a decision, hoping that the player would then concentrate solely on football and not be distracted by academics; however, Coach Lombardi talked to Mr. Davis and said that he had never seen Mr. Davis quit and that he did not want him to quit now. After retiring from football, Mr. Davis made millions from radio. Max McGee founded Chi-Chi’s, the chain of Mexican restaurants, and grew rich. Many other Packers did not retire rich but are rich now. Jerry Kramer believes that all of Mr. Lombardi’s players learned from the coach. One thing that Mr. Kramer learned from Coach Lombardi was this: “You don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time.” Mr. Kramer says, “Some of today’s players would probably scoff at this as a cliché, but any time I think of taking a shortcut, of just going through the motions, I hear Lombardi’s raspy voice, I see his shiny eyes, and I just can’t do it.”[x]
[i] Source: Esther Liang, “The Generous Vegetable Seller.” Reader’s Digest. <www.rdasia.com/the-generous-vegetable-seller>. Accessed on 8 February 2011.
[ii] Source: Liz Thomas and Jo Clements, “Eddie Izzard triumphantly finishes 1,100 mile marathon around Britain in Trafalgar Square.” Daily Mail. 16 September 2009 <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1213682/Eddie-Izzard-completes-mega-seven-week-marathon-blisters-blisters.html>.
[iii] Source: Don Rickles, Rickles’ Book, pp. 7-9.
[iv] Source: Danny Thomas, Make Room for Danny, pp. 59, 293.
[v] Source: Marlo Thomas, Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny, pp. 19, 173-174.
[vi] Source: Darryl Lyman, The Jewish Comedy Catalog, p. 213.
[vii] Source: Maxine Marx, Growing Up with Chico, p. 24.
[viii] Source: Nina Berglund, “Canadians hail Norwegian coach’s sportsmanship.” Aftenposten. 20 February 2006 <http://www.aftenposten.no/english/sports/article1225796.ece>. Also: “Norwegian rewarded for Olympic sportsmanship.” CBC Sports. 6 April 2006 <http://www.cbc.ca/sports/story/2006/04/05/syrup-skicoach060405.html>. Also: “Project Maple Syrup lives on—7400 Cans of maple syrup distributed to Norway with the Coastal Express.” Canadian Norwegian Business Association. 31 May 2006 <ttp://www.cnba.no/page?id=6&key=18743>.
[ix] Source: Kameel Stanley, “Tampa woman saves man’s life, then finishes triathlon.” St. Petersburg Times. 1 May 2011 <http://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/tampa-woman-saves-mans-life-then-finishes-triathlon/1167114>.
[x] Source: Jerry Kramer, “Winning Wasn’t Everything.” New York Times. Op-Ed Classic 1997. Posted 5 February 2011 <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/opinion/06opclassic.html?_r=1&ref=opinion>.