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StarShine Stories

A Trilogy</ br> Part One

By: Betty K. Onyett

A Note From The Author

The collection of StarShine Stories is suitable for readers ages 10 to 110. StarShine Stories are true episodes that offer fresh insights into everyday encounters. Our restless society hungers for worthy heroes yet such heroes are everywhere within and about us - shining stars in the Universe - if only we are open to their existence.


There are 30 stories in this collection, we have begun with five. More will come in February. The StarShine Stories are musings that go beyond the mundane, touching upon timely topics: chaos theory and quantum physics, energy and energy healing, accelerated learning, handicaps and special needs, dynamics of human consciousness and personality, the power of giving and receiving, appreciation for the democratic process and politics, and the possibility of a larger picture of existence than we have dared to believe.

The stars of these stories are each of us, ordinary human beings living out the daily nitty-gritty of our life dramas, searching for wonder and order in what appears to be a random stream of ordinary, unordered, and even disordered events.

Starshine suddenly hovers, showering us with a fresh way of seeing, stirring us to perceive the ordinary from a new perspective. And, in a twinkling, we comprehend that the wonder and order were there all along, patiently waiting for us to awaken to them, smilingly inviting us to discover that the mere ordinary always contains, within it, the most extraordinary.


During the course of compiling StarShine Stories, this meaningful coincidence occurred: taking with me a folder of story tidbits, I traveled to a favorite vacation retreat. The first day of my stay there, a bookmark bearing a small metal medallion with a star in the center and message entitled A Star in the Universe appeared on my table in the communal kitchen.

I have no idea who placed it there, but continue to marvel at its mysterious and meaningful serendipity, including the fact that the star bookmark is precisely #150 in my personal collection of bookmarks.

Choas In The Cornfield

Living fifteen minutes from the nearest town, I travel through rural settings each time that I am out and about. Shady woods here, dairy cattle grazing there, are customary sights. Crops of wheat, hay, soybeans, and corn grace the countryside, tranquil scenes common to northeastern Ohio.

Passing beside a familiar cornfield one sunny afternoon, I barely gave it notice.I was aware of only a pale green lush forest flourishing by my side as though seeds had been tossed randomly the length and breadth of the sizeable field. The mass of stately stalks, leaves, and tops was set against a roadside border of soil below and azure skies above. A charming but customary sight, and nothing in particular to divert my attention.

But turning the corner, I suddenly discerned a totally different view. Row after row of soldier straight cornstalks marched as far as my eye could see, each precise series of stalks separated by distinct lines of bare rich earth. Unexpectedly, complete order now prevailed where complete disorder had reigned only seconds ago. Reason told me that the only thing that had changed was my angle of observation, yet the scene became totally transformed by the abrupt appearance of patterns where none seemed to exist.

What Do I Know?

Order is all about us. When all appears to be random chaos and we despair that anything could ever arise out of such formlessness or have any meaning, with only a slight shift in perception, the order leaps sharply into focus, having waited there all along for our discovery.

Golden Day Poem

Each day is a golden day, never lived before.
If I live it full of kindness, I will enjoy it more.
And when this day comes to an end, it'll feel good to say
That I was kind and loving in what I did today.

Recited mechanically at the beginning of each school day, the Golden Day poem was a fixture in my classroom for more than a decade. My desire was that its upbeat message could foster a cooperative attitude and overcome the inevitable frictions of enforced group learning and living we might encounter together.

One afternoon just as my students had left for the day, a distraught young woman presented herself at my classroom door. I struggled to recognize her. As she told me her name, the memory of my feeling for her as a former fourth grade student engulfed me, and the fact of her losing her mother to cancer that year.

Patricia's story unfolded. Now twenty-three, in a racially mixed marriage to a man she both loved and feared, she was the mother of three small children, and an alcoholic. She said her stepfather refused to give her the money from a Social Security check that belonged to her and represented for her a way out of her sad situation.

"Every day since fourth grade I have said the Golden Day poem to myself, knowing that tomorrow will be a new day, a golden day. Today, I can't take it anymore. It is the first time I feel like my golden days have run out." She continued to vent for an hour and a half, leaving with hugs and a promise to stop by again in two days.

Had that little poem, rattled off each morning amid slouches, feet shuffles, and ornery eye contacts between friends done any good? The Golden Day poem had served as Patricia's lifeline for twelve years!

I did not see Patricia again, and did not know how to reach her. I sensed that my trying to do so might even endanger her. I knew that only she could solve her problems, but I had hoped she would stay in contact with me, and also get the professional help I suggested.

I sat alone at my desk at five o'clock that day and cried my heart out, not only because of the impact of Patricia's visit, but because I had had so little faith in the power of that simple daily ritual.

What Do I Know?

I know I will never again wonder whether sowing seeds of hope and love is worth the effort. I now trust that where the soil is ready, the seeds will germinate and grow, nourishing needs beyond the farthest reaches of my imagination.

The Chirping Carpenter

The first major change I chose to make after buying my big century home, formerly a general store and early post office, was to add a bathroom downstairs.

Friends of mine recommended a carpenter who had helped them build a country vacation home. The workman and I designed a floor plan and remodeling began. All I really knew about Walter other than his being a carpenter was that he was also a Mennonite minister. Walter's modest manner gave no clue to prepare me for the impact of what was to come.

I noticed immediately that Walter never used the personal pronoun "I." "We think the tub would fit best here." "We have to go somewhere tomorrow, but will be back on Thursday to work."

Walter was soft-spoken, always gently smiling. His presence and those of his workers, other family members, was a pleasure. There was never any crude language, loud laughter, or smoking. They were quiet, neat and clean, honest and polite. They worked diligently, without small talk. Lunch was a simple sandwich or even just bread and butter, with water, then back to work. Fruit or lemonade or cookies, when offered, however, were eagerly accepted. I kept a big pitcher of ice water and glasses available, for which I was thanked appreciatively each day.

At work in the kitchen one day, I heard what sounded like birds chirping. Curious, I listened closely. It was not birds, but whistling. Not the usual whistling of tunes but whistled chirps. I ventured as unobtrusively as possible near the bathroom area where Walter and his nephew were working, listening from the adjacent living room. The chirps ceased. I went back to the kitchen. The chirps resumed.

What a joyful sound, I thought, and strangely uplifting. Was Walter expressing his joy of working? Was he stilling worldly mind talk? I pondered how we all might prosper were we to approach our tasks in such a joyful, peaceful way.

Early in the project Walter approached me, saying, "We were taking out this wooden counter top and it was so heavy that we turned it over to see what kind of wood it was. It is black walnut and this piece is too good to throw away."

I brought him a picture I had saved of a leaded glass mirror in an elongated cathedral window frame with a small shelf at the bottom. "Do you know anyone who could make this frame out of the wood?" I asked. "I have a friend who works with stained glass and could make the mirror."

Walter's eyes sparkled as he answered softly, "We could do it!"

Walter presented to me, in a few weeks, the lovely walnut frame fashioned from the wood originally present in the 150 year-old structure. I varnished it in as natural a manner as possible. My friend added the leaded glass mirror. Walter and I hung it in the spot specially sized for it, gazing a long moment at its perfection.

Then Walter asked, "Would it be all right if we brought the wife to see it, sometime?"

"Of course," I replied. He smiled and confided, "The whole family enjoyed it. Our daughter said she would miss it!"

A month later, Walter called to ask if he and his wife might stop by that day.

His marriage mate was a short, demure warmly pleasant farmwoman. The three of us stood in silence before the lovely mirror for a moment, then I left them to enjoy it together.

Leaving, they thanked me as though allowing them to come to my home to see his work in its completed form was very special to them. And I sensed that it truly was.

I later sent a photograph of the mirror to Walter for his other family members to see. Perhaps their religious beliefs did not accept the self-indulgence of photos or personal pride. But I did know that the picture would be accepted as a gift and avidly enjoyed, whatever they might later decide to do with it. I also sensed that his handiwork was less about pride than it was about using his abilities to praise the Source of them.

At the completion of the project, Walter presented me with a bill showing the remainder of what I owed. I began to pay him. I stopped.

"I don't see the cost of the mirror frame, here."

"Oh, there is no charge for that," he replied.

"But it is beautiful work and must have taken a lot of time to make."

He simply looked at me and said, "But we do not often get to make something like that."

"You mean, you do not usually get to do the creative work?"

"Yes. Most of our work is inside or outside construction."

I fought the lump in my throat. Not only was his attitude so based on total appreciation of life but also, financially, this unexpected gift was indeed welcome. It was my turn to utter a heartfelt, "Thank you."

Walter did not aim to teach me, yet he was my teacher. He did not aim to be a leader, yet he most definitely was a leader. He was not at all power motivated, yet he was very powerful.

This was a most revealing message to this educator-mother who had spent a lifetime "teaching," "guiding," and trying to "promote" positive behavior.

All Walter did was be himself, in the fullness of his faith. His whole demeanor radiated gratitude, love, and peace. His unconditional acceptance of life "silently" taught and led.

What Do I Know?

Not all the Holy Ones live on mountains or in ashrams. Some of them are Master Carpenters who hammer and saw…and chirp…promoting purity of heart by their powerfully humble presence.

Kitten With Three Feet

In June, Sara's cat had kittens. An LPN, she assisted with the birth. She noted that one of the kittens was born with the cord tangled tightly around a lower front leg. Sara was concerned that the circulation was cut off so severely that the kitten might eventually lose that foot. Otherwise, it seemed healthy.

The kitten's paw did shrivel and drop off within a few days, leaving a leg stump. The kittens frolicked in the grass, their eyes barely open, clumsily wobbling into each other. Mother cat alternately offered them warm attention and availability, then sought respite from their demands. No matter where she tried to go, they tried to follow her, colliding with each other, jockeying for a prime position. Observing this comical sight, Sara and I laughingly said it was a whole lot like some human mothers with tiny tyrants!

Sara kept three of the kittens, including the one with three feet.

The following October Sara and I again watched, chuckling at the kittens now half grown, as they chased one another up the small trees that dotted her yard.

Sara wondered aloud if the three-footed kitten sensed that it was different, as it seemed more affectionate than the other two. I asked if perhaps she had given it more loving attention because of its special need. She admitted that maybe it was so.

Anyway, the kitten with three feet certainly could do everything the others did except climb trees, and it unconcernedly attempted that. It simply started up a tree, then jumped down when it lacked a firm foothold. It ran swiftly, three-legged, and appeared not to be in the least aware of being crippled or different, nor did the others take the slightest notice of what we labeled its "handicap."

The kitten did what it could do, with enormous enthusiasm, and did not waste energy on what it could not do. The other kittens did not appear to see or care that one of them had three feet rather than four. What if we humans could be so matter-of-fact and unconditionally accepting? What if we each felt so complete, as is, that we were totally free to Think Big?

Was the kitten with three feet more affectionate because Sara gave it more loving attention? What if we humans were to treat all others as "extra special"? Would it draw out our belief that we are loved and lovable? Would it increase our "love-ability"?

What Do I Know?

We called the kitten with three feet "handicapped," but it and the other kittens obviously had no such notion. Yes, the kitten had a special need but, no, it was not handicapped, and even its so-called "special need" seemed of no concern to it or to its companions.

I know that the kittens were wiser in their innocence than we "thinking" humans, handicapped by our limiting labels and unnecessary notions.

Going Up And Going Down

I hung up the receiver and proudly announced to the cat: "I have a new nephew!"

If Kitty was impressed, she didn't let on.

So far, I had put off what seemed to me to be an obvious oxymoron: flying the friendly skies. Maybe wanting to see my baby nephew might provide the motivation to get me onto an airplane for the first time.

Easy to say. Not easy to do.

I pretended to be brave. I wrote my sister that I accepted her invitation to come see baby Alexander in six weeks. I pretended to be brave. I ordered tickets for the flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. I pretended to be brave. I informed my sister and brother-in-law of the date I was arriving. I pretended to be brave. I said, "I can do this."

Self answered promptly, "Oh, yeah?"

So I called a friend who co-owned a small plane, a four-seater Cessna. I said, "Help! I want to go up in your plane for a short ride before I go up in the big one. Would this be possible?"

"Sure," he said.

"But," I added, "I don't want to know in advance. I just want to get a call saying, 'Be at the airport in half an hour.' Otherwise, I'll be a nervous wreck for days."

"Okay," he said.

A week later THE CALL came. "Be at the airport at 10 A.M."

I pretended to be brave. "I'll be there!"

Then I put my mind out of gear and proceeded to move ahead whether or not Self approved.

I pretended to be brave. I drove to the small country airport where my friend's plane was housed. He and his partner were there, preparing for a brief flight over the surrounding territory, to keep up their aviation skills.

My friend introduced us, but I was too nervous to catch his buddy's name.

I pretended to be brave. I squeezed into the back seat, with the two of them up front with jillions of dreadful dials and scary switches and instruments.

My friend revved up the engine. I could not pretend to be brave.

Without an ounce of bravery or of pride, I said to the partner, a man and total stranger, "Could I hold your hand?"

"Sure," he said, and reached his closest hand back to me.

I grasped my lifeline like a drowning victim. I could not pretend to be brave. I shut my eyes and braced myself for the coming ordeal.

And it was an ordeal.

The whole plane shuddered and strained as it struggled to break free of earth's gravity clutches. After what felt like a terminal war of wills, the plane was up at last and soaring, but jumping about from time to time, not at all to my liking. Fast elevators have always left my stomach three floors behind my body, and at amusement parks I am not amused by anything but the bumper cars.

"How do you like that view?" called my friend over the hum of the engine.

What view? My eyes were still squeezed tightly shut, my hand still clasping my savior's.

"There's your house down there," my friend called back to me.

I ventured a peek. There it was, indeed, beside the whole lake in its bird's eye fullness.

Soon we flew above the familiar town where I worked and he lived.

"Hey," I exclaimed, "there's the water tower at the mall!"

"Yep," he answered, "and the college lakes."

I tried to be brave, but the only thing my mind had room for was the repeat ordeal of going down, of that awful sensation, and I dreaded it with every bit of my being.

Finally, after a terrible eternity, that moment arrived.

All I wanted was to get my feet on the ground again, on terra firma, and the firma the betta, the going down to be over and done.

I braced myself and shut my eyes for the awful descent, my hand still attached to what's-his-name's.

I waited, holding my breath. Why weren't we going down? I took a peek. We were halfway down, already!

What? How could that be? There was absolutely no shivering or straining.

Of course! Going down, we didn't have to buck the pull of gravity. Aided by gravity this time, we were floating down as gently as a feather, and even now coasting to a smooth stop.

Unbelievable. All that worrying for nothing. My ungrounded (!) fear was totally unfounded! Where had I heard that 95% of what we fear never happens? All my worrying was truly a useless waste of energy, and I had (whoopie! and other choice expletives) just proved that truism.

I liberated the man's hand and thanked him for being a good sport. He smiled and said kindly, "No problem." My friend told me later that the co-owner remarked to him privately that he had to resuscitate his hand after I gave it back, to get the blood flow going again. Sorry about that, whatever your name is…

Did I fly to see my new nephew? Yes. Beginning that first flight, I pretended to be brave, and it wasn't easy. But I did it. And baby Alexander was wonderful, with delightful red hair. (He's in his twenties now, and he's still wonderful and delightful.)

The strangest part of that experience was the moment I sat at the Gate that first time waiting to board, not at all brave, and suddenly Self said half-heartedly, "Oh, well, you're really going to do it," and all my anxiety dissipated! Not only that, but I found that the ascent in a large plane is not at all the same as in the small one, being buffered by sheer size and several powerful engines.

When aloft, realizing that I had out-eyeballed my fear, I wanted to shout, "I'm flying, I'm flying! I'm free, I'm free!" I restrained myself from leaping and dancing in the aisle. Instead, I celebrated by weaving my way to the postage-stamp lavatory and, in privacy, raising my clasped hands over my head in three silent cheers.

On the return trip I chose a window seat and was rewarded by a cloudless view of the Allegheny Mountains, the flight being a low one.

What an energy leak fear is! But by phasing out my fruitless imagination and anxious anticipation I made that space available for the fun of flying free. Yes, fun.

To Betty: Facing fears big time takes a lot of energy, so be extra kind to Self.

To Self: Listen up. I'm the boss and effective bosses are firm, but also kind. Love ya.

What Do I Know?

Going up. Going down.

Hey…maybe birth and learning a few lessons the hard knocks way are the quivering and shuddering part. If so, been there, done that.

So when I leave this earth, I'm going to float away like a feather, coasting home. But if I need to, I'll ask to hold What's-His-Name's hand.

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