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Indiana, The Crumpled Blue Ribbon

Mrs. Green, a fourth-grade teacher, was grief-stricken as she watched the news on TV. She had been teaching for more than twenty-two years, but she had never been faced with such disaster. She was overwhelmed with despair, until suddenly she recalled the 'Who You Are Makes A Difference' story she had read in the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book, in which a fourteen-year-old boy's life was saved when his father honored him with a blue ribbon.

"That's the answer," she shouted. "We don't have to focus all our energies on the terrorists. I can teach my students how to love one another and make the world a healthier and more peaceful place right now." She immediately ordered the 'Who I Am Makes A Difference'® blue ribbons.

As she held the blue ribbons in her hands, her eyes twinkled as she announced to her students that today they would not be learning reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, they were going to have a hands-on experience of love, life and what it means to be truly a great human being. One by one, she approached each of them, telling them how very special and unique they were to her. Then she placed a 'Who I Am Makes A Difference'® blue ribbon just above their heart. The sadness and pain of the recent days faded.

Her students' faces glowed, chests swelled, and spirits soared. If only for those thirty minutes, the usual gloom and doom of the recent days had lifted, and she was convinced that something very special had occurred on this day.

As her students left her classroom, she handed out extra blue ribbons saying, "Go home and tell your parents, brothers, sisters - everybody - how much you love them. Tell them today! Place a blue ribbon above their heart." The bell rang, her students raced out with a new vigor. She sat at her desk, crying with happiness. She felt such a relief. Love was definitely what needed to be taught in this world right now. At least she had done her part.

Now she hoped that her students would be able to pass on this love to others. But she could not have imagined the difference this exercise would have made to one father.

Less than a week later, a parent stormed into her classroom unannounced.

"I'm Timmy's father," he declared. "Was this your idea to do this blue ribbon project?"

"Yes," Mrs. Green answered.

"Well," the father mumbled, pulling out a crumpled blue ribbon from his pocket, "my son came home the other day and told me how much he loved me and what a good father I am. I've come here to tell you that I'm not a good father. I'm an alcoholic. But something happened to me when my son told me how much he loved me. At that moment, I decided to go to AA for the first time. I even attended church this past Sunday. You see," he said as he turned toward the door, "the world might be hurting, but I don't need to add to the pain. In fact, from now on, I'm going to become the father my son thinks I am."

Mrs. Green gasped as she watched the father go out her classroom door, knowing that the healing had begun and the world was going to get better... because she taught at least one child to love.


Last Words of Love

Feeling unloved is the worst poverty in the world. ~ Mother Teresa

As a professional speaker, I often bring Blue Ribbons to use at my talks, even though I don't always get to use them. At one particular meeting, I demonstrated the Blue Ribbon Ceremony with the group, and then invited each person in the group to acknowledge the person they were with.

Afterwards, a woman tearfully shared that her husband had looked right into her eyes and told her, for the first time in their 25 years of marriage, that she was beautiful, and that he was so glad she had chosen him as her husband. She went on to say that he even told her that she was a wonderful cook and had taken such good care of him and their home. Lastly, he told her how very much he had loved her all these years.

Everyone in the room listened on when she explained that her husband was a man of very few words. Harry is the type who, if asked, "Do you love me?" could only reply, "Would I be here if I didn't love you?"

It was truly a moving evening, once again reminding me of the power and magic of the Blue Ribbon.

Six months later, I stopped by to visit a friend whom I hadn't seen in a long time. We chatted for a bit in her shop and just as I was about to leave, another woman came through the door. My friend looked at me and said, "Oh, Rita, I'd like to introduce you to my friend Betty. She works for me part time. Betty, this is Rita Kahn, a long-time friend of mine."

Betty looked at me and turned white. "Oh, my God!" she exclaimed. "I don't believe it. I've been looking for you for months!

"I don't know if you remember my husband and me. We were first time guests at an organization where you spoke six months ago. You taught us the Who I Am Makes A Difference® Blue Ribbon Ceremony.

"After my husband and I acknowledged each other, I shared in front of the group that my husband, who hardly ever communicated affectionately, told me how much he loved me and was so glad and grateful that I had chosen him as my husband."

"Well, of course," I smiled and shook my head yes. "Of course. How could I forget that evening or his sharing? He was so genuine and sweet when he stood next to you and thanked me for giving him the opportunity to declare his love for you in front of everyone. I speak to groups and organizations all over the country and don't always get to do the Blue Ribbon Ceremony. For some reason that night, I was inspired to bring the ribbons along and use them. Your husband's sincerity left an impact on me that I haven't forgotten."

"Well," she said, "I've been wanting to find you to thank you for that evening and the Blue Ribbon experience. You see, my husband died of a heart attack the very next day. Now I keep that ribbon on my dresser where I can see it every day. I guess I always knew he loved me, but hearing him say it in front of everyone that night was so very special. My God, if you had never done that Blue Ribbon Ceremony, I might have wondered the rest of my life if I had really made a difference to Harry. Now, every time I look at that ribbon, it reminds me of Harry's face, his smile and his last words of love."

Rita Kahn


Business is Not Always Business!

I went to sleep last night embracing and recalling the various Blue Ribbon opportunities in my life.

This one comes to mind because business is not always business as we would perceive it to be. Intuitive business is always present and available, as long as we are open to synchronicity.

I sat in my seat on a cross country flight. As always, I was buried deep in my work in order to distract myself from the boring drone of the engines and to take me mentally away from the mundane nature of yet another air plane trip.

As I sat there I could not help but over hear the conversation taking place behind me between a father and his son. What a beautiful exchange. The father was explaining the wing of the air craft and the physics of lift. The conversation continued for almost the entire flight. What struck me was not the content of the conversation but the fact that this father was actively participating in the experience of life with his son. What a beautiful relationship and expression of a fathers love. Moreover, the distinction within me, that such a conversation was an exception and not the rule.

I was moved by the love in the fathers voice and the excitement in the voice of his son as they shared and exchanged the learning opportunity of this travel experience.

I buried myself in my work and continued to my destination.

The conference that weekend was wonderful and I found it necessary to cancel my return flight and spend an extra night providing mentoring for one of the conference participants.

Monday morning found me once again settling in, in preparing for yet anther cross country flight to my next conference.

As I placed my bag in the overhead compartment I glanced behind me and low and behold, a few rows back sat the same father and son duo. At that point I experienced that inner twinge, that prompt of the innate, that this was not just a coincidental happenstance.

Once air born and in a position to "move about the cabin" I took three Blue Ribbons from my brief case and moved from my seat and introduced myself to the father and his son. I explained how I had been sitting in front of them on the previous Thursday and how moved I was by the love and obvious connectivity between a father and a son.

I acknowledged the father for his attentive and loving leadership and dedication to his son. I then presented him with a Blue Ribbon and gave him two more and encouraged him to pass on this acknowledgement to two others who made a difference in his life.

A part of me wanted to acknowledge his son as well, yet that inner prompting within, told me no.

I returned to my seat and 'hunkered down" for the remainder of the flight.

A few minutes later I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I looked up from my laptop to see the brimming face of the young boy whose father I had acknowledged. He stood there before me wearing a Blue Ribbon placed proudly over his heart.

His eyes were moist yet the beam on his face told me that the moisture was representative of an expression of joy and happiness.

"Mr." he asked, "do you have any more of those Blue Ribbons? You see, my dad gave me a Blue Ribbon and told me how much he loved me and how proud he is of me. He told me how brave I am and how much I mean to him and how my being with him has made him strong. Then he gave me this Blue Ribbon." He pointed proudly to his heart and his Blue Ribbon.

"Then he gave me the other Ribbon," he said, "and told me to give it to someone who has made a difference in my life."

"Well Mr." he continued, "you see back there in the seats in front of my dad, the lady and the girl next to her? That's my mom and my sister. You see, a while back my dad and my mom decided to separate and were thinking about getting a divorce. My mom and sister went to live with my grandma and grandpa and me and my dad stayed back home. We came out here last week to ask my mom to come home and see if we can make our family 'work' again."

"They said yes, and now we are going back home together as a family."

"You see Mr., I only have one Blue Ribbon left to give away. I can't decide if I should give it to my mom or my sister. I have missed them so much, and I am so happy that they are coming back home with us. I sure would like to give them both a Blue Ribbon. Do you have one more?"

I could hardly contain my tears. I reached into my brief case and took out the remainder of the package of 100 Blue Ribbons I had with me. I handed them to the young man and asked him to make sure that he made sure to spread his love to all those who made a difference to him.

He graciously accepted these ribbons and returned to acknowledge his mother and sister.

A little while later as I glanced up from my work, I noticed the flight attendant moving past me, with a Blue Ribbon placed over her heart and saw protruding from the pocket of her uniform vest, two more Blue Ribbons. I knew then that the rest of the Ribbons were in good hands.

As I turned around to find the young boy, I discovered him sitting between his father and his mother and his little sister sitting on daddy's lap. All of them were wearing Blue Ribbons.

As our eyes met, there was a most loving and gracious nod of love and appreciation.

The enigmatic nature of this simple Blue Ribbon, once again promoting love and all that is pure and wonderful. At that point I realized that the success of the conference wasn't the only "business" orchestrated for this trip!