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Pieces in the puzzle

A good deal of my coronavirus pandemic “confinement time” was spent reading. It included a large, coffee-table like book, titled: “Lincoln: An Intimate Portrait.” It was a Time-Life publication. The list price for the book was $40. The price at Ollie’s was $7.99. I do like to buy “Good Stuff Cheap.”

Early in the book was a picture of Knob Creek, near where Lincoln grew up in Kentucky. It included a brief description of an incident of which I had never heard. It read: “While playing in the creek after a heavy rain, 7-year-old Abe lost his footing and might have drowned if not for his good friend Austin Gallaher who extended a tree branch to rescue the flailing boy.”

Abraham Lincoln almost drowned as a young boy. Imagine a world without Lincoln. He changed the world. I had never heard of Austin Gallaher, but he changed the world by saving young Abraham Lincoln.

I have not been able to get that story out of my mind. A little boy pulling another boy out of a swimming hole wouldn’t make the national news. It was just the right thing to do.

Years ago I remember someone saying to me: “I wish I had done something important with my life like you do. You write books and articles. You give talks. You do counseling.”

I replied: “But you’ve done things I’ve never done. You’ve given life to children. You raised a family. You had a job. You dealt with rush-hour traffic and on and on.”

There are no unimportant people in the world. We are all important to God and to life. It’s not unlike a completed puzzle. All the pieces are important for the picture to be complete. All that we do matters, whether a kind word, or a smile, or a helping hand.

I’m reminded of a famous quotation that Steve Krasowski introduced me to way back in minor seminary at St. Charles in Catonsville (now Charlestown retirement community). “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to my fellow creatures, let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Most of us are glad that Abraham Lincoln passed our way.

Lincoln was glad that Austin Gallaher passed his way.

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