Real Help for the Homeless

Our friend Sheryl has a wonderful way of dealing with one of today’s pressing problems. When she passes someone on the street holding a “homeless” sign and hoping for a handout, she doesn’t look straight ahead, pretending she doesn’t see them. Instead, she acknowledges them with a smile and hands them a copy of the following poem. Usually it’s accompanied by a dollar coin, and perhaps a snack, like a granola bar.

 It’s impossible to help everyone who’s asking for money, but this is a way to give something to as many as possible. It takes only a minute. We all struggle with the question of who is truly deserving of help and who is just trying to con us. Sheryl’s solution gives hope to the needy and also to the con artists, who may not even realize how badly they need hope.

Here is the good news Sheryl shares:


      God, with You as my best friend, I have EVERYTHING I need.

      You show me beautiful green places to rest. You lead me along the shores of quiet waters.

      You let me catch my breath and feel whole again. You send me in the right direction, one that     pleases you.   

       Even when I’m dealing with all the garbage this world throws at me, I won’t break down, because You are walking right beside me. You are hugging me and showing me a better way.

      You shower me with good things, right in front of my enemies. You show everyone that I am special to You.

       Your goodness and never failing kindness chase after me every second. You tell me you love me just as I am! And so I love you back, and want you close beside me forever and ever.


God told us we would have hard times here on earth. After all, it’s a broken world. But someday when God feels it’s time, He’s going to set it right. Until then, He does promise to stay right beside us if that’s what we want. But He’s a gentleman; He only goes where He’s invited. Invite Him now to be part of your life.

Sheryl adds a handwritten note to the above: Find the closest Salvation Army. They are a great place that will help you.

An American Hero

Navajo Code Talker Jerry Begay holds Congressional Medal of Honor      

Four years ago this Memorial Day, his family and friends bid farewell to an American hero. Until many years after World War II had ended, they’d had no idea of the service Jerry ClasChee Begay, Sr. performed for his country. Jerry didn’t talk much about it. He said, “They call us heroes, but the real heroes are the ones who didn’t come back.”

Jerry Begay, a member of the Navajo Nation, was born December 8, 1924 in Sheep Springs, New Mexico. Like other Indian children of that time, he was sent to boarding schools to be educated. He was forbidden to speak his native language and punished if he did. His daughter, Priscilla Coutu, said her father was a sophomore at Fort Wingate High School when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. People feared that the mainland would be next. Japanese troops had already landed in the Aleutians. Jerry and his schoolmates were eager to do what they could to protect the United States.

When Jerry heard from Marine recruiters about an elite group of Navajo Marines called “code talkers,” he signed up and was chosen as one of 400 Navajos for training in their secret communications program. They used a simple code based on Navajo words for everyday objects, each corresponding to a letter from the alphabet, to pass top-secret wartime messages. Because Navajo at that time was not a written language and only a very few non-Navajos were able to speak the language, the enemy was never able to decipher the code. These 400 code talkers and their ability to hide U.S. plans from the Japanese changed the outcomes of many engagements and saved uncounted lives.

Jerry was only 17 when he shipped out to the South Pacific with the Marines’ 2nd Division. They headed via New Zealand and New Caledonia for the atoll of Tarawa, (present-day Kiribati), approximately 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. The Americans aimed to dislodge Japanese defenders from Tarawa and other far-flung outposts in the South Pacific before heading on to the Japanese mainland.

The atoll consists of a number of coral islets that stretch through the ocean like a hook, barely above the ocean’s surface. The largest, Betio, was less than three miles long and a half mile wide, but the Japanese had built an airstrip right down the center. Defending it were 4,700 troops. They were entrenched in pillboxes and bunkers connected by tunnels and surrounded by mines, barbed wire, and log barriers. Their commander, Admiral Shibasaki, boasted that even a million attackers fighting for one hundred years could not take Betio.

Shibasaki was almost right.

Jerry recalled how the battle for Tawara, one of WWII’s most brutal, began with a terrifying bombardment from the American ships, followed by wave after wave of planes loosing their bombs on the devastated island. The watching Marines cheered, thinking nothing could be left alive after such punishment. They found out how wrong they were when the landings began.

Their commanders’  first mistake was to send the assault boats in at low tide. When the boats ran aground on the coral reefs ringing the island, the assault teams were forced to scramble into small amphibious tractor boats, called amphtracks, for the remaining distance. Before they reached the shore, a murderous hail of machine-gun fire came from the Japanese defenders, who had hidden safely underground during the American bombardment. Some amphtracks reached the shore, then turned around to go back for more men. Some were knocked out right away. Floating bodies and wrecked vessels clogged the lagoon.

“I was with an amphtrack crew,” Jerry told his daughter. “Instead of landing on the beach, we hit the pier. Our amphtrack blew up and a lot of my friends were killed.” He swam out into the lagoon over and over, pulling men to shore.

Unable to land, some craft were forced to disgorge their men hundreds of yards from shore into water sometimes neck deep. While bullets rained about them, the Marines had to wade over razor-sharp coral while precious equipment, including radios like the one carried by Jerry Begay, were soaked and ruined. Some Japanese snipers swam out to wrecked craft and fired on the Americans from behind.

The merciless barrage of enemy fire pinned the men who made it to shore behind makeshift barricades.  Not until the next morning could reinforcements bring tanks and artillery. Then those on the beach were able to break out and attack the enemy entrenchments.

On the third day, Jerry and a pal were fighting from their foxhole when a Japanese sniper’s bullet missed the other man’s throat by a hair’s breadth and slammed into Jerry’s leg. It shattered his femur and he blacked out. When he woke up, he was on a ship headed for Hawaii and surgery. Doctors replaced the bits of bone with a metal rod. He had pain for the rest of his life, but after some months of healing, Jerry wanted to rejoin his division. The doctors wouldn’t release him. He received an honorable discharge and was sent home to convalesce.

He was only one of nearly 3,000 casualties suffered by the Marines in that battle. Nine hundred ninety of those Americans died. It was far worse for the Japanese soldiers, who went into battle vowing to fight to the death. Of the 4,700 defenders, only seventeen survived.

His daughter Priscilla knew parts of this history. She knew that Jerry had proposed to her mother, Ella, when he came home. He found work at the Phelps Dodge Copper Mining Company in Morenci, Arizona, where he remained for 33 years until retiring in 1982. Seven children were born to him and Ella.

As she grew up, Priscilla often saw him looking at his Marine yearbook. She knew he loved John Philips Sousa marches. Whenever he heard the “Star-Spangled Banner,” he removed his hat and stood at attention. But he kept his promise never to speak about the code talkers until the secret was released in 1968. Then he became part of the Navajo Code Talker Association and joined them in marching in parades. Still, he didn’t talk much about his service.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed August 14 as the official day to honor the Navajo code talkers for their bravery and for helping to save many American lives. And in July, 2011, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelley proclaimed Aug. 14-19, 2011, as Navajo Nation Code Talkers Week.

Jerry C. Begay didn’t live to share in that celebration, but as one of the many children who were not allowed to speak their own language at school, he undoubtedly would have been pleased by something President Shelley said in the proclamation: “We are asking all our tribal members to give thanks to our warriors and to encourage families to teach our children to speak Navajo and carry on our language.” (Italics added)

Spring Wonders

    Tadpoles and kids have always gone together…at least they did before paved-over wetlands and acid rain combined to mute the great springtime chorus that accompanied evenings all across the Northwest. We siblings would take a bucket or a glass jar to the swamp to collect frog eggs, like tapioca clusters in chartreuse gelatin. We watched the black dots in each globule grow to become recognizable eyes while the little round bodies formed, tails tucked under. Then one day the tails straightened out, the bodies wriggled free of the egg mass, and the water shimmered with tiny, minnow-like forms.

  We had another, easier spot for tadpole watching and collecting. Up the hill from our house, where the road cut through sandy banks, water trickled through grass and marsh plants in the ditch all year round. Whether we found our eggs there or in the swamp, we usually kept them in a cool spot outside the house while the tadpoles grew. Eventually, two little hind legs pushed out at the base of each tadpole’s tail, then the smaller front legs. The tail itself grew shorter and shorter as the tadpole body took on the shape of a frog’s. By the time the tail was gone, the gills were too. When the little frogs climbed up on the sticks we’d floated in the pail, we released them into the swamp to grow and sing for us next year.

  We never knew where they started life, but for several years we observed a phenomenon I’ve never seen anywhere else: the great toad migration. On a late spring evening, we’d be driving home from Granite Falls, and Dad would hit the brakes. The road ahead pulsed with tiny leaping bodies: hundreds, thousands of baby toads tumbling down the embankment from the steep hillside on the left, hopping across the road and down through the woods to marshy Saunier’s pond. They bounced like popcorn in the headlights, as dry-skinned and bumpy as the parent toads. When we couldn’t wait any longer, we slowly drove on, knowing that, in spite of Dad’s care, some would die beneath our wheels.

  Once, the day after the migration, we walked the lane to old Mr. and Mrs. Saunier’s house. Laggards still scrambled through the moss and ferns.  I picked up one of the little toads. Intent on reaching its goal, its spread-out toes pushed against my fingers as it tried to launch the next hop.

  Back then, we never thought how humanity’s habit of changing its surroundings to suit its own purposes would crowd out so many of creation’s small wonders. We just enjoyed the ones who shared our valley, like the baby frogs and toads.

(From Small Wonders in my book, A Logger’s Daughter: Growing Up in Washington’s Woods.)

I will be signing copies of the book Saturday, May 26, 2-5 pm, at the Rexville country store,
19271 Best Road  Mount Vernon, WA 98273
(360) 466-5522

I’d love to see you there!

A Reminder for Moms

My husband Hank is a sentimental sort, but even so, I was touched to read this little poem he’d clipped and saved many years ago. He shares it to remind mothers everywhere that they have the most important job in the world.

Come In

Come in. But don’t expect to find all dishes done;
all floors ashine.
Observe the crumpled rug, the toys galore.
The smudgy fingerprinted door.
The little ones we shelter here
Don’t thrive on spotless atmosphere.
They’re more inclined to disarray
And carefree, even messy play.
Their needs are great, their patience small.
All day I’m at their beck and call
It’s “Mommie come! Mommie see!”
Wiggly worms and red-scraped knee.
Painted pictures, blocks piled high.
My floors unshined, the days go by.
Some future day they’ll flee this nest.
And I, at last, will have a rest.
And which really matters more?
A happy child or a polished floor?

A Story for Mother’s Day

What happened when Mr. Schuller, the most respected and wealthiest man in the community, owner of one of the first automobiles in the county, offered to take a little farm girl, my mother, to the eye doctor in the big city?

Read The Leading Citizen in Sun Breaks for May 1 if you’d like to find out.

(This story was somehow left out of the posts list for followers of “Sun Breaks.”)

It’s Amazing!

Sun의 휴식에 오신 것을 환영합니다!

         Välkommen till Sun Raster!
                    Fáilte go dtí Sosanna Sun! 

Welcome to Sun Breaks, in almost any language Google supports!

I found a new gadget for blog readers yesterday. Go ahead and try it. (It’s near the top of the screen, on the left.) Scroll down to the language of your choice, click, and seconds later an unseen genie translates the entire blog into the language you chose. Marvelous!

Hello from the USA, people of the world.