Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

An Old Dented Bucket

THIS IS NOT MY STORY. 🙂 This is from my long time friend Kit Kat who passed it along to me and I loved it so much I want to share it with you:


Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore . We lived downstairs and rented
the upstairs rooms to out-patients at the clinic.

One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the
door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. “Why, he’s hardly
taller than my 8-year-old,” I thought as I stared at the stooped,
shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face, lopsided from
swelling, red and raw.

Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, “Good evening. I’ve come to
see if you’ve a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this
morning from the eastern shore, and there’s no bus ’til morning.”

He told me he’d been hunting for a room since noon but with no
success, no one seemed to have a room. “I guess it’s my face …. I
know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments

For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: “I could
sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the

I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch.. I went
inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old
man if he would join us. “No, thank you. I have plenty.” And he held
up a brown paper bag.

When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with
him a few minutes. It didn’t take a long time to see that this old man
had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he
fished for a living to support his daughter, her 5 children, and her
husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury.

He didn’t tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence
was preface with a thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that
no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin
cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going…

At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children’s room for him. When I
got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little
man was out on the porch.

He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, haltingly,
as if asking a great favor, he said, “Could I please come back and stay
the next time I have a treatment? I won’t put you out a bit. I can
sleep fine in a chair.” He paused a moment and then added, “Your
children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but
children don’t seem to mind.”

I told him he was welcome to come again.

And, on his next trip, he arrived a little after 7 in the morning. As a
gift, he brought a big fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had
ever seen! He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so
that they’d be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4:00 a.m. And I
wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us.

In the years he came to stay overnight with us, there was never a time
that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden.

Other times we received packages in the mail, always by special
delivery; fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or
kale, every leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk 3 miles to
mail these, and knowing how little money he had made the gifts doubly

When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a
comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning.

“Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away!
You can lose roomers by putting up such people!”

Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But, oh!, if only they could
have known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear.
I know our family always will be grateful to have known him; from him
we learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good
with gratitude to God.

Recently I was visiting a friend, who has a greenhouse, as she showed
me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all, a golden
chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was
growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, “If this
were my plant, I’d put it in the loveliest container I had!”

My friend changed my mind. “I ran short of pots,” she explained, “and
knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind
starting out in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, till I can
put it out in the garden.”

She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was
imagining just such a scene in heaven.

“Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might have said when he came
to the soul of the sweet old fisherman. “He won’t mind starting in this
small body.”

All this happened long ago – and now, in God’s garden, how tall this
lovely soul must stand.

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the
outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b)

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Charity, Community, Health Issues, Interconnected, Relationships, Spiritual | 4 Comments

Closer to Finding a Cause for Autism

We subscribe to Kiplinger’s Bottom Line, and they send us a Daily Health News bulletin. This was in the bulletin today:


It wasn’t so long ago that psychologists theorized that autism was caused by mothers who were unable to show affection toward their children. It’s hard to believe, but these moms were actually referred to as “refrigerator mothers.” Talk about heaping on the guilt! Well, we’ve made huge strides in terms of understanding that autism is not a result of something a parent does to a child. The condition remains a heartbreaker, however.

These days the term “autism” is applied to a range of brain disorders characterized by poor communication and interaction with others. According to the most current statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism now affects one out of every 110 American children between ages three and eight. (That is when the condition is typically diagnosed.) And while we still don’t know for sure what the cause is, I’m happy to report that researchers are making some impressive strides toward solving the mystery.

I recently spoke with Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD, MPH, a professor at the School of Medicine at the University of California in Davis (UC Davis), to hear more about the work she’s doing. She is one of the authors of two new studies on autism, both reported in the July 2011 issue of Epidemiology. One study shows that children conceived during winter months (December through March) have an increased chance of being autistic. The other shows that women who take prenatal vitamin supplements in the three months prior to conception and the first month after conception are less likely to bear autistic children.

“The studies present us with more evidence that autism isn’t caused by a single factor,” Dr. Hertz-Picciotto said. In fact, she said there’s mounting evidence that autism is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors… which aren’t necessarily the same in each case.

In one of the studies, researchers at UC Davis looked at approximately 6.6 million birth records in California recorded from 1990 through 2002, correlating the rates of autism for children conceived in December through March with those conceived in July. The results were surprising: Children conceived in December had an 8% greater chance of being autistic than those conceived in July… and the percentage of increase over the July rate kept rising for subsequent winter months, reaching a high of 16% in March.

“We don’t believe the calendar month itself is a cause of autism, but it’s a marker for other potential causes that may vary with the season,” said Dr. Hertz-Picciotto, who is also affiliated with the UC Davis MIND Institute, a research center for the study of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. She said these other seasonal factors may include viruses that are more common in winter months or the change in the amount of daylight, which affects, among other things, the body’s production of vitamin D.


In the second study, researchers collected data from some 700 California families who had children with autism. Results of the study, Dr. Hertz-Picciotto said, showed a reduction of about 40% in autism rates in cases in which the mother had taken prenatal vitamin supplements during the three months before conception through the first month after conception. In other words, a buildup of vitamins before the crucial first month of embryonic development seems to be key to healthy neural growth. Prenatal supplements typically contain vitamin A, niacin (vitamin B-3), folic acid (vitamin B-9), vitamin B-12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, iron, pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamine and zinc.

Folic acid may be the critical component, said Dr. Hertz-Picciotto, because the vitamin is known to protect against defects in the embryo’s neural tube, which develops into the brain and spinal cord. With so many factors still unknown, Dr. Hertz-Picciotto said, more studies are expected to be conducted in the near future, especially research into B and D vitamins as well as fevers, infections and exposure to pesticides during pregnancy.

In the meantime, given the vitamin study’s finding of a 40% reduction in autism rates, it’s certainly wise to take prenatal vitamin supplements three months before potential conception through the first month after conception.


Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD, MPH, chief, division of environmental and occupational medicine, professor, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis. She is also affiliated with the UC Davis MIND (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute in Sacramento, an interdisciplinary research center for the study and treatment of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Rebecca J. Schmidt, PhD, assistant professor, department of public health sciences, School of Medicine, University of California Davis.

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Family Issues, Health Issues | Leave a comment