For technical reasons, this blog did not get posted last week. Sorry!
We are a little past 9/11 but I still hope you enjoy.
I received some wonderful responses to my last blog on forgiveness. A couple of them brought tears to my eyes. I will sort through them and report in the future. In the meantime, before we get too far from 9/11, I want to report on some joy amidst the tragedy.
Teddy bears bring comfort: Amidst the pain and suffering of 9/11, I believe several miracles occurred. We do not talk much about miracles in today’s world. Those of you who do not believe in miracles, in the very least you will have to admit the situations I will describe were fraught with many unlikely coincidences.
Our pastor experienced these amazing events and provided me a first-hand account. Our pastor worked for the Reformed church in downtown New York at the time of 9/11. Her husband was a minister in Long Island. She happened to be in a plane when the tragedy occurred. Like Jeny it took her some time to get back home.
The 9/11 tragedy proved to be particularly hard for children to endure. A teacher in their congregation suggested giving teddy bears to the children. She had three teddy bears in her classroom, and her students took turns holding them when they needed comfort. She thought it would be better if each student had their own bear.
After a Friday prayer meeting they reached out to everyone they could think of, and purchased every available bear they could find. On Wednesday they had enough bears they made their first delivery to Grace Christian church in downtown Manhattan.
A grateful principal called to report the entire school calmed down after the bears were delivered. This school was in the middle of the tragedy. Many students could not get home and were staying with friends or family. The bears were a great comfort to the children.
Soon bears started to pour in. Box after box was delivered by UPS, Fed Ex and the US Postal Service. Volunteers opened, bagged and counted the bears one by one. Eventually 58,000 bears were delivered to 58,000 school children.
God did not create 58,000 bears out of a few bears like the miracle of the loaves and fishes. But churches of all denominations from all across America contributed; schools responded; scout troops responded; even birthday parties with bears to be shipped as gifts were held. The response felt like a miracle. The coordination of volunteers for handling, the coordination of volunteers for delivery and the coordination the requests from the various schools, certainly felt like a miracle. The comfort brought to thousands felt like a miracle.
And there was more to come.
Doctors and nurses show up. Early on the decision was made to only accept plain bears for school children. No costumes, no decorations—plain bears.
A shipment of bears came and they were dressed in doctor and nurse outfits. They were not plain bears. The decision was made not to deliver them to the school children.
The problem was what to do with them? They would take up too much room for storage. Were they just going to have to throw them away?
Shortly after praying they got a call. A local hospital was inquiring. Would it be possible for their sick children to get a bear? The doctor and nurse bears were perfect for hospitalized children. No bear wasted. Prayer answered. The timing sure felt like a miracle.
Eventually another 60,000 bears went to agencies, hospitals and other organizations
And there was more to come.
One Final Batch. After sorting and delivering bears all Fall the volunteers were hoping to call an end before Christmas. They got a call suggesting that they take another 6,000 bears. They turned it down, because the bears had a clock in their belly. Remember the rule: no toy bears, no clothing, no batteries, no clocks; just a soft, huggable bear for a child to keep in their desk or school locker until the school said it was OK to take a bear home.
The clock bears had been created because of the fear of the computer changes in the year 2000. Those of you who are not aware, before 2000 most computer programs only had two places to identify the year in their programs. The years after 2000 would require having four places in a program. The switch to four places meant many programming changes and those that were not caught could lead to major disruptions. Many people had fears and concerns for the changeover. Ironically, Jeny spent much of 1999 in New York City working on the problem in major hospitals.
Two days before school would be out for Christmas vacation the church secretary came into the fellowship hall and announced there was an 18 wheeler truck in the driveway, ready to unload 6,000 bears…all with a clock in their belly. There wasn’t anything to do but accept them and try to figure out, what to do with them. After praying, our pastor remembered the superintendent of the schools in the Bronx.
The superintendent had called a number of times, asking for a bear for each of their elementary school children, but there was never enough…so they always said no. Within a few minutes a call went out to the superintendent. She accepted the bears (even with a clock in their belly) and now the problem was how to get the bears to the three schools by the end of the next day….the last day before Christmas. Our pastor remembered a fireman from another town had made the offer to help out…anyway…anytime…so he was called.
At first he said no, the only transportation he could offer was their bus and the power steering was out. But he promised to talk to his men and see what they could do. That night they showed up with the bus, stopped traffic while he maneuvered into the driveway and loaded all 6,000 bears.
The next morning he called. He was choked up with emotion. He told our pastor to listen while he put his phone out of the window of the bus. She could hear the kids yelling and thanking the firemen for their Christmas present; they had made signs and were lined up around the block of their school. A lot of firemen that died in the Trade Towers lived in the Bronx. This was good for the children in many ways.
At all three schools the firemen went into the school and handed out the bears, not just leaving the boxes. They later said it was life changing to realize how such a small gift could be so important for so many children.
After Christmas our pastor was sitting at her desk, trying to finish up all the details and thank you notes, when a woman called from California The woman was responsible for sending the bears. She did not know to whom the bears were given. She just wanted them off her books and she was thankful they were accepted.
After saying thanks for accepting the bears she asked; by the way, what had been done with the bears? The story of needing exactly 6,000 bears for the Bronx elementary schools and never having that many at one time to give them was shared. It got very quiet on the other end of the line. Then she related that she was from the Bronx and attended school there. She tearfully said thanks for giving, not only a bear to hug when times get scary, but also –as she well knew — for some of those kids it would be their only Christmas present.
For three months God provided everything needed to provide comfort to children in and around New York City. Bears would arrive with no destination. Then a call would come and they’d have a home. A call would come in but no bears were available; then bears would arrive and have a home. Medical bears, clock bears and simple bears, brought comfort to thousands.
Sure feels like miracles.