Child Abuse Drops for Fifth Straight Year
2012-12-12, ABC News/Associated Press
Posted: 2012-12-18 10:25:09
Reports of child abuse and neglect have dropped nationwide for the fifth consecutive year, and abuse-related child fatalities also are at a five-year low. The latest annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services, released [on December 12], estimates that there were 681,000 cases of child abuse or neglect across the nation in the 2011 fiscal year. That's down from 695,000 in 2010 and from 723,000 in 2007. The number of abuse-related fatalities was estimated at 1,570 — down from 1,580 in 2010 and from 1,720 in 2007. About four fifths of those killed were younger than 4, and parents were deemed responsible for nearly four fifths of the deaths. Regarding types of maltreatment, 78.5 percent of the victims suffered neglect, nearly 18 percent were physically abused and 9.1 percent were sexually abused. The report tallied 61,472 children who were sexually abused in 2011 — down dramatically from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992. The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state. Sociologist David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, says he finds the annual reports frustrating because of the lack of analysis of the trends. "But at the same time, it does appear remarkable that overall child maltreatment has declined given that unemployment has been so high, the housing and mortgage crisis has continued, and state and local budgets for family and child services have been cut," he wrote.
Note: For more details on this inspiring news, see a government article at this link. Just 50 years ago, child sexual abuse was virtually a taboo topic. There was nowhere to report such things. Now that there is a protective net and awareness has skyrocketed, far fewer children are being abused. This has powerful, positive implications as more children grow up healthy and knowing that they are protected. For many other great reasons for hope and optimism in these uncertain times, click here.
From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model
2011-12-12, New York Times
Posted: 2012-12-11 08:39:00
Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish educator and author, [said that in] his country, ... teachers typically spend about four hours a day in the classroom, and are paid to spend two hours a week on professional development. At the University of Helsinki, where he teaches, 2,400 people competed last year for 120 slots in the (fully subsidized) master’s program for schoolteachers. “It’s more difficult getting into teacher education than law or medicine,” he said. Dr. Sahlberg puts high-quality teachers at the heart of Finland’s education success story. Ever since Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million that does not start formal education until age 7 and scorns homework and testing until well into the teenage years, scored at the top of a well-respected international test in 2001 in math, science and reading, it has been an object of fascination among American educators and policy makers. Finlandophilia only picked up when the nation placed close to the top again in 2009, while the United States ranked 15th in reading, 19th in math and 27th in science. In Helsinki, the Education Ministry has had 100 official delegations from 40 to 45 countries visit each year since 2005. Dr. Sahlberg said a turning point was a government decision in the 1970s to require all teachers to have master’s degrees — and to pay for their acquisition. Finland scorns almost all standardized testing before age 16 and discourages homework, and it is seen as a violation of children’s right to be children for them to start school any sooner than 7, Dr. Sahlberg said.
Note: The US continues to push for more testing, while Finland shows that less testing and homework gives better results. For an excellent article on this in the Washington Post, click here. For more astounding facts on Finland's education success, click here.
NYPD Officer's Kindness Sparks Online Sensation
2012-11-29, ABC News/Associated Press
Posted: 2012-12-11 08:35:40
A tourist's snapshot of a New York City police officer giving new boots to a barefoot homeless man in Times Square has created an online sensation. Jennifer Foster, of Florence, Ariz., was visiting New York with her boyfriend on Nov. 14, when she came across the shoeless man asking for change in Times Square. As she was about to approach him, she said the officer — identified as Larry DePrimo — came up to the man with a pair of all-weather boots and thermal socks on the frigid night. She recorded his generosity on her cellphone. DePrimo ... remembered the night clearly, that even with two pairs of socks on, his feet were freezing. The homeless man "didn't even have a pair of socks on and I could only imagine how cold that pavement was," the 25-year-old said. The photo shows the officer kneeling beside the man with the boots at his feet. "I have these size 12 boots for you, they are all-weather. Let's put them on and take care of you," Foster quoted DePrimo as saying to the man. She wrote: "The officer squatted down on the ground and proceeded to put socks and the new boots on this man. The officer expected NOTHING in return and did not know I was watching." DePrimo said buying the boots "was something I had to do." He tried to persuade the man to get something to eat, but he declined and left. "When I brought out the shoes, it was just a smile from ear to ear," he said. "It was a great moment for both of us."
Note: You can see the inspiring photo at the link above. For lots of deeply inspiring stories from major media sources, click here.
A worldwide mission of kids helping kids
2012-11-25, CBS News 60 Minutes
Posted: 2012-12-04 09:18:25
Craig Kielburger ... was in seventh grade when the death of a boy changed his life. It was a change so profound that, through Kielburger, it has now saved and transformed lives around the globe. He read about the murder of a boy his age in Pakistan. Iqbal Masih was a slave in a carpet factory. Masih escaped to lead a campaign against servitude. But within two years he was silenced. Kielburger ... made Iqbal Masih's fight his own. He talked to classmates, to Congress, to Parliament. Kielburger wanted to free children from slavery. So he went to Asia recruiting activists and government authorities to bust child sweatshops and sex traffickers. There were early successes, [but] kids he freed were being pulled back into servitude, years later, by centuries old culture and traditions shaped by poverty and illiteracy. Today, Free The Children is in 45 countries. A $30 million a year charity building schools, providing clean water, and connecting local craftsmen to world markets where their traditions bring in good money. There are two million volunteers nearly all of them under the age of 18. Free the Children today is the world's largest network of children helping children. "What that means in practice is we inspire kids. Then we give them all the tools they need to learn about these issues: speaking tours, summer leadership camps, curriculum every week. Our bet that we're making is if you give kids the inspiration and the tools to change the world, it'll change their own lives also in the process," [Kielburger said].
Note: This is a powerful example of how the younger generation is making a big difference in our world. Kielburger's charity is now in 45 countries and takes in $30 million per year. It's the largest organization of children helping children in the world. For the highly inspiring, 12-minute video of this segment, click here.
The Science of Heaven
2012-11-18, The Daily Beast/Newsweek
Posted: 2012-11-27 09:38:13
On the morning of Nov. 10, 2008, I awoke with the early symptoms of what proved to be an extremely severe case of bacterial meningitis. As I wrote here three weeks ago, and as I narrate in my book Proof of Heaven, over the next several hours my entire cerebral cortex shut down. Yet in spite of the complete absence of neural activity in all but the deepest, most primitive portions of my brain, my identity—my sense of self—did not go dark. Instead, I underwent the most staggering experience of my life, my consciousness traveling to another level, or dimension, or world. Brain activity and consciousness are indeed profoundly tied up with one another. But that does not mean that those bonds can’t be loosened, or even cut completely. Modern physics is pushing us [to believe] that it is consciousness that is primary and matter secondary. Totally objective observation remains a simple impossibility. And while in our ordinary earthly life we miss this fact completely, it becomes much more apparent in near-death experiences, when the body and brain cease to mediate our encounter with the larger reality and we encounter it directly. Make no mistake: consciousness is a total mystery. We simply do not know what it is. My seven-day odyssey beyond my physical body and brain convinced me that when the filter of the brain is removed, we see the universe clearly for the first time. And the multidimensional universe revealed by this trans-physical vision is not a cold, dead one, but alive with the force that, as the poet Dante wrote some 600 years ago, “moves the sun and other stars.”
Note: The author of this article, Dr. Eben Alexander, has been a neurosurgeon for the past 25 years. His engaging, best-selling book on this life-changing experience is Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife. For video interviews and other information on Dr. Alexander, click here. For other highly inspiring resources and stories related to near-death experiences, click here.
Kim Peek, Inspiration for ‘Rain Man,’ Dies at 58
2009-12-27, New York Times
Posted: 2012-11-27 09:23:22
In 1988, the film “Rain Man,” about an autistic savant played by Dustin Hoffman, shed a humane light on the travails of autism while revealing the extraordinary powers of memory that a small number of otherwise mentally disabled people possess, ostensibly as a side effect of their disability. It never would have been made if [Barry] Morrow had not had a chance meeting with Kim Peek, who inspired him to write the film. Mr. Peek, who was dismissed as mentally retarded as a child and later misdiagnosed as autistic, led a sheltered life, with few people outside his family aware of his remarkable gifts. Mr. Peek was not autistic — not all savants are autistic and not all autistics are savants — but he was born with severe brain abnormalities that impaired his physical coordination and made ordinary reasoning difficult. He could not dress himself or brush his teeth without help. He found metaphoric language incomprehensible and conceptualization baffling. But with an astonishing skill that allowed him to read facing pages of a book at once — one with each eye — he read as many as 12,000 volumes. Even more remarkable, he could remember what he had read. Almost all documented savants — people with an extraordinary depth of knowledge and the ability to recall it — have been restricted in their expertise to specific fields like mathematics, chess, art or music. But Mr. Peek had a wide range of interests and could instantly answer the most arcane questions on subjects as diverse as history, sports, music, geography and movies.
Note: For a fascinating 10-minute film on Kim Peek, click here. For a wealth of others with mind-boggling capabilities, click here.
Like a Skyline Is Etched in His Head
2009-10-28, New York Times
Posted: 2012-11-27 09:21:37
In a helicopter above [New York City], Stephen Wiltshire of London looked down at the streets and sprawl. He flew for 20 minutes. Since then, working only from the memory of that sight, he has been sketching and drawing a mighty panorama of the city, rendering the city’s 305 square miles along an arc of paper that is 19 feet long. He is working publicly in a gallery at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. “I always memorize by helicopter,” he said, pausing from detailing the corners of a street on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge. Mr. Wiltshire sees and draws. It is how he connects. Until age 5, he had never uttered a word. One day, his kindergarten class at a school for autistic children in London went on a field trip. When they came back, he spoke. “He said, ‘Paper,’ ” his sister, Annette Wiltshire, said. “The teacher asked him to say it again. He said it. Then they asked him to say something else, and he said, ‘Pen.’ ” With pen and paper in hand, he drew what he had seen that day. In time, a clever teacher taught him the alphabet by associating each letter with a place he had drawn — “a” for Albert Hall, “b” for Buckingham Palace, and so on. Now 35, he has already drawn eight major cities after flyovers. He has his own Web site and gallery. By unpacking in exquisite detail the riches that he absorbs in a glimpse, Mr. Wiltshire has built a bridge to the world that had once been cut off to him.
Note: For an intriguing five-minute film on Stephen Wiltshire, click here. For a wealth of information about other people with mind-boggling capabilities, click here.
Uruguay's President Mujica Shuns Wealth for Small Farm and VW Beetle
2012-11-15, Fox News
Posted: 2012-11-19 14:18:29
Uruguay’s [president] José Mujica ... has shunned the country’s Residencia de Suárez for the cozy but modest quarters of his small home on the outskirts of the capital, Montevideo. Dubbed by many media organizations as the world’s “poorest” president, Mujica and his wife keep house on a small farm surrounded by other tiny homes and guarded by only two police officers and his three-legged dog, Manuela. "I've lived like this most of my life," Mujica told the BBC. "I can live well with what I have." Unlike his forebears and counterparts around the world who live in comfort and are chauffeured around in limousines, Mujica donates 90 percent of his $12,000 monthly salary to charity organizations benefiting the poor and small businesses, and his means of transport is a beat-up 1987 Volkswagon Beetle worth about $1,800 – or the equivalent of his annual personal wealth declaration. This year he bumped his wealth declaration up to $215,000 – only after declaring his wife’s assets of land, tractors and a house – which still pales in comparison to Vice-President Danilo Astori's declared wealth and former President Tabare Vasquez’s bank account. “I'm called 'the poorest president,' but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more," Mujica said. "This is a matter of freedom. If you don't have many possessions then you don't need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself."
Note: For more on this unusual and inspiring president, click here.
Bodybuilder, 93, with winning muscles
2012-10-28, BBC News
Posted: 2012-11-13 10:56:01
At 93, Dr Charles Eugster cuts a dapper figure in his navy suit and matching silk handkerchief and tie. But he looks just as good in the Lycra gym suit he has on underneath, ready to spring into action like a nonagenarian superhero. This former dentist took up bodybuilding just six years ago, aged 87, yet looks very at home surrounded by the whirring fitness machines. His reasons for picking up weights in his 80s are simple. "The idea is to turn the heads of the sexy young 70-year-old girls on the beach," he says. He now works out three to four times a week, often for two hours at a time, with his regime varying depending on his goals. Sometimes this involves a "heavy session of muscle building or rowing on the lake". And his vigorous training has clearly paid off. At a recent championship he achieved 57 dips, 61 chin-ups, 50 push-ups and 48 abdominal crunches, each in 45 seconds. Dr Eugster is no stranger to competitions. Since starting his bodybuilding training he has won several world titles for fitness and picked up many rowing medals. For 30 years while working long hours as a dentist he didn't manage to exercise regularly and began to realise his body wasn't what he wished it to be. "I'm extremely vain and I noticed I was getting fat," he said. "In my opinion anybody can do it. But obviously it is like trading in your old car for a new one. Ageing has become something for me, an enormous pleasure, a delight, a joy."
Note: For two amazing one-minute videos of a highly inspiring 86-year-old gymnast, click here.
Geriatric gymnast impresses crowd at German competition
2012-03-30, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-11-13 10:48:14
Johanna Quaas performed an impressive parallel bar and floor demonstration after finals concluded at Germany's Cottbus Challenger Cup. Displaying balance, strength and flexibility that would be the envy of someone a quarter her age, Quaas's floor routine included a handstand forward roll, cartwheel, backward roll and headstand while on the bars she performed a full planche, holding her body taught and parallel to the ground. A multiple time senior champion of artistic gymnastics in Germany, Quaas, from Halle in Saxony only took up gymnastics when she was 30, putting paid to the belief that the sport is the preserve of the young.
Note: Don't miss the amazing video of this highly inspiring woman at the link above.
Child Prodigy Writes Opera at Age 7
2012-10-23, ABC News
Posted: 2012-11-13 10:46:33
Alma Deutscher is already an accomplished musician; she’s mastered the piano and the violin. Now she can add composing her own opera to the list — and she’s only seven years old. Like so many other child prodigies, she plays beautifully. But what sets her apart is her ability to write, and improvise, classical music. Deutscher can sit at the piano and create music that sounds as if it had been written for her. Robert Gjerdingen, professor of music theory and cognition at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music, ... has been helping the Deutscher family teach Alma in a classic style that encourages her ability to improvise. “Usually prodigies excel in reproducing music, not in creating it.” The young musician hails from the country town of Surrey, England, and has always showed a passion for the arts. “It was striking that when she was about three, she heard a lullaby by Richard Straus,” says her mother, Janie Deutscher. “And she came to us and said, ‘How can music be so beautiful?’ She was so struck by the beauty of it.” For her most recent project, Alma composed a seven-minute opera called ‘The Sweeper of Dreams.” She woke up one morning with a musical theme in her head and with the help of her father, who is also an amateur musician, she recorded the theme on the piano. She later fashioned the theme she recorded into a seven-minute “mini-opera” for a competition held by the English National Opera, which praised her work. “Normally when I try to think of ideas, it doesn’t come,” she said. But “when I’m improvising, then I have lots of ideas.”
Note: For deeply inspiring reports from major media sources, click here.
Can babies teach school kids not to bully?
2011-12-21, Toronto Star (One of Toronto's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-11-13 10:39:57
Teacher Raya patrols a group of giggly kindergarten students, looking each so deeply in the eye that many squirm and bashfully reach for her toes. Her father carries her in his arms. Raya is not quite five months old. She’s teaching them about being kind and how to talk about their feelings so that later, they don’t terrorize each other. Teacher Raya, as they call her, is a “volunteer” with Roots of Empathy, [Canada's] oldest and largest anti-bullying program. Kids in 900 classrooms around the province [of Ontario] are taking similar lessons from similarly beautiful babies. So are kids in New Zealand, Seattle, the Isle of Man. . . It’s such a simple concept: if kids learn to empathize with babies — the most vulnerable humans — then their antennae for kindness will be turned on. Put another way, once they learn to worry about a baby’s feelings, they’ll start to worry about everyone’s. Since kindergarten teacher Mary Gordon launched it 16 years ago, the program’s effects have been analyzed by dozens of academics. Most of them conclude the program fosters “pro-social behaviour” and dampens aggression. A Manitoba study published earlier this year concluded the program cut student fights in half immediately and continued to “promote optimal social contact” three years later. It’s one thing to legislate against bullying, as Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has done with his Safe Schools Act. It’s quite another to stop kids from tormenting each other in the first place (the province has provided about $2 million annually [for] Roots of Empathy since 2009).
Note: For deeply inspiring reports from major media sources, click here.
Detroit’s Good Food Cure
2012-09-06, Yes! Magazine
Posted: 2012-11-08 09:15:57
Weekend mornings are the busiest days of the week at D-Town Farm. That’s when up to 30 volunteers from across Detroit come out to till the earth and tend the crops at the seven-acre mini-farm on the city’s west side. “One of our goals is to present healthy eating to people,” says Malik Yakini, Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), which runs D-Town. “We think that healthy eating optimizes a good life generally. A diet close to nature allows the human body to function the way it is supposed to function.” D-Town is set in one of the city’s greenest areas, a former tree nursery in the 1,184-acre River Rouge Park. It’s ... about a mile upriver from the Brightmoor, a formerly devastated neighborhood that boasts no fewer than 22 community gardens. The Detroit City Council granted use of the land to DBCFSN in 2008. Nowhere in the United States has urban agriculture taken root as prolifically as in Detroit. This gardening renaissance has been growing for over two decades since the Gardening Angels, a group of southern-born African-Americans, began growing food and passing their agricultural knowledge on to another generation. There are more than 1,200 community gardens in Detroit—more per square mile and more per capita than in any other American city. DBCFSN’s goals include empowering African-Americans within the food system and providing fresh, healthy foods in an area where access is not a given. Detroit was among the communities declared food deserts by researcher Mari Gallagher in 2007.
Note: For deeply inspiring reports from major media sources, click here.
A Simple Fix for Farming
2012-10-19, New York Times blog
Posted: 2012-10-30 11:34:05
It's becoming clear that we can grow all the food we need, and profitably, with far fewer chemicals. Conventional agriculture can shed much of its chemical use - if it wants to. What may be the most important agricultural study this year ... was done on land owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm. On 22 acres of it, beginning in 2003, researchers set up three plots: one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another, they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer. The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn't reduce profits by a single cent. In short, there was only upside - and no downside at all - associated with the longer rotations. There was an increase in labor costs, but remember that profits were stable. So this is a matter of paying people for their knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons. And it's a high-stakes game; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, about five billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States.
Girl earns $30K at lemonade stand to end slavery
2012-08-20, KGO-TV Channel 7 (SF Bay Area ABC affiliate)
Posted: 2012-10-30 11:05:52
In the city of Fairfax, a stand is being made against human trafficking, and its leader is an 8-year-old girl. Vivienne Harr has set up her 'Make a Stand' lemonade stand for 57 straight days. She's on a mission to raise at least $150,000 that will go towards ending world slavery. Harr uses only fair trade lemons for her drink. "And it's really hard to find fair-trade things. We're buying fair trade things because ... you can't be freeing slaves and having them to work harder for the cause that you're trying to do to help them be free," said Harr. In less than two months, Harr has already earned more than $30,000. Much of that is from donations. By the way, Harr has a Twitter account which has 15,000 followers, including pop star Katy Perry.
Note: For a great, inspiring five-minute video on this amazing eight-year-old girl, click here. And she's up to almost $50,000 as of late October 2012.
Scott Neeson left Hollywood to save children rooting in Cambodia's garbage dumps
2012-08-10, Christian Science Monitor
Posted: 2012-10-30 11:03:49
Scott Neeson's final epiphany came one day in June 2004. The high-powered Hollywood executive stood, ankle deep in trash, at the sprawling landfill of Stung Meanchey, a poor shantytown in Cambodia's capital. Neeson, a former head of 20th Century Fox International, [now] cares for more than 1,000 Cambodian children and their families. Doing the right thing meant turning his back on a successful career in the movie business, with his $1 million salary. Instead, he would dedicate himself full time to a new mission: to save hundreds of the poorest children in one of the world's poorest countries. Much to everyone's surprise, within months the Australian native, who as president of 20th Century Fox International had overseen the global success of block-busters like "Titanic," "Braveheart," and "Die Another Day," quit Hollywood. He sold his mansion in Los Angeles and held a garage sale for "all the useless stuff I owned." He sold off his Porsche and yacht, too. His sole focus would now be his charity, the Cambodian Children's Fund. "The perks in Hollywood were good – limos, private jets, gorgeous girlfriends, going to the Academy Awards," says Neeson. "You've got to take the ego out of it," he says. "One person's self-indulgence versus the needs of hundreds of children, that's the moral equation." On the walls of his office, next to movie posters signed by Hollywood stars, are before-and-after pictures of Cambodian children. Each pair tells a Cinderella story: A little ragamuffin, standing or squatting in rubbish, transforms in a later shot into a beaming, healthy child in a crisp school uniform.
Note: For deeply inspiring reports from major media sources, click here.
Philippines and Muslim rebels sign key peace plan
2012-10-15, BBC News
Posted: 2012-10-23 09:25:34
The Philippines has signed a framework peace plan with the country's largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The deal follows lengthy negotiations aimed at ending a 40-year conflict that has cost an estimated 120,000 lives. The agreement was reached in early October after talks in Malaysia. It provides for a new autonomous region in part of the south where Muslims are a majority in a mainly Catholic nation. The framework deal was signed by the chief negotiators of the government and the rebels, and witnessed by President Benigno Aquino and MILF leader Murad Ebrahim at the presidential palace in Manila. In the rebels' main headquarters, there is a real sense of optimism about this deal. Hundreds of fighters converged here from their jungle hideouts, to listen to the signing of the agreement being relayed on loudspeakers. They excitedly posed for photos with each other to mark the occasion. But these rebels - like both sides on the negotiating panel - know this is only the start of a long process. The new autonomous region would be named Bangsamoro, after the Moros - or Moors, which was how the Spanish used to refer to the followers of Islam - living there. The draft agreement would give the leaders of Bangsamoro more political and economic powers, and provides for the gradual transfer of law enforcement from the army to the Bangsamoro police in a "phased and gradual manner". The framework also promises the people a "just and equitable share" of the region's abundant natural resources, and pledges to address the needs of poverty-stricken communities.
Note: This is one of many hopeful signs in our world. The intense Aceh conflict in Indonesia which lasted may decades and took many thousands of lives has also now been resolved peacefully.
Cross in the Closet: Straight Christian Lives a Year as Gay Man
2012-10-11, ABC News
Posted: 2012-10-16 10:37:45
In his Nashville Christian church, Timothy Kurek was taught the lesson of God's wrath in the Biblical story of "Sodom and Gomorrah," and he believed that homosexuality was a sin. But about four years ago, when a lesbian he knew from karaoke night confided to him that her parents had disowned her when she came out, Kurek felt that he failed her. He wondered what it felt like to be gay and so alone. So even though Kurek identifies as straight, he embarked on what one religious writer called "spiritual espionage." He would live like a gay man for a year. Now 26 and no longer homophobic, Kurek writes about his journey -- one that included hanging out in gay bars and facing the disappointment of his family and rejection of his friends -- in his memoir, The Cross in the Closet. Only three people knew the truth, and he needed them to carry out his audacious project: his closest friend, an aunt and Shawn, a gay friend whom Kurek also met at karaoke night. Kind-hearted Shawn, whom Kurek described as "a big black burly teddy bear," became his "pretend boyfriend." But most of all, Shawn was the "first gay person that I let into my heart," said Kurek. "He was totally there for me through emotional turmoil ... I trusted him." Rev. Connie Waters, a protestant minister and LGBT ally from Memphis ... said she was "proud" of him. "The transformation in him was life-changing," she said. "It's what you hope for -- the goal of the Christian walk of faith. It's enough for me that he transformed, but if others learn from him, what an extra blessing that is."
Note: For more on this amazing story, click here.
Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife
2012-10-08, Daily Beast/Newsweek
Posted: 2012-10-16 10:36:27
As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death. I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain. For seven days I lay in a deep coma, my body unresponsive, my higher-order brain functions totally offline. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: the same one described by countless subjects of near-death experiences and other mystical states—is there. It exists, and what I saw and learned there has placed me quite literally in a new world: a world where we are much more than our brains and bodies, and where death is not the end of consciousness but rather a chapter in a vast, and incalculably positive, journey. For most of my journey, someone else was with me. A woman. Without using any words, she spoke to me. The message went through me like a wind, and I instantly understood that it was true. I knew so in the same way that I knew that the world around us was real—was not some fantasy, passing and insubstantial. “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.” “You have nothing to fear.” “There is nothing you can do wrong.”
Note: The author of this stirring account, Dr. Eben Alexander, has been a neurosurgeon for the past 25 years. His engaging book on this life-changing experience is Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife. For video interviews and other information on Dr. Alexander, click here. For other highly inspiring resources and stories related to near-death experiences, click here.
Sir Nicholas Winton, the 'British Schindler', meets the Holocaust survivors he helped save
2009-09-04, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Posted: 2012-10-16 10:34:51
By virtue of the foresight, humanity and sheer bloody-mindedness of a young British stockbroking clerk called Nicholas Winton, 669 Jewish children were saved from the clutches of the Nazis. On Friday, 22 of them were reunited with their 100-year-old saviour – now Sir Nicholas – who has come to be known as the 'British Schindler'. Between March and August 1939 eight trains carried 669 children to Britain, who otherwise would probably have perished in the death camps. Fifteen thousand Czechoslovakian children died in the war. The ninth train, containing 250 children, was due to leave Prague on 3 September 1939, the day Britain declared war. The Germans never let it leave the station, and most of the children never lived to see 1945. Almost as remarkable as the scheme itself, and a mark of Sir Nicholas's modesty, was that he chose to conceal his achievements for decades.
It was only when he wife Greta unearthed a briefcase in the attic contained lists of the children he saved and letters to the parents did he admit his part.
He said in 1999: "My wife didn't know about it for 40 years after our marriage, but there are all kinds of things you don't talk about even with your family. "Everything that happened before the war actually didn't feel important in the light of the war itself." He also rejected the comparison with Oskar Schindler, who saved about 1,200 Jews in the war, saying unlike the German his actions never put him in danger.
Note: For a touching, short video on this amazing story, click here. To listen to the story on NPR, click here.