David Bruce: The Funniest People in Neighborhoods — Problem-Solving

Problem-Solving

• May Pierstorff’s parents were poor, but they were inventive. In 1914, when May was four years old, they decided to send her 100 miles away to visit her grandmother. Unfortunately, they could not afford the train fare. Therefore, they decided to mail her to her grandmother. They took May to the post office, and the postmaster looked at the regulations. Mail over 50 pounds could not be accepted; May weighed 48 pounds. No live animals could be sent through the mail — with the exception of baby chicks. The postmaster decided that May was a baby chick. He tagged the little girl’s coat, and 53 cents in postage was affixed to the tag. She rode in the baggage car of the train under the watchful eye of the baggageman. When May reached her destination, a postal clerk delivered her to her grandmother.

• Rabbi Meir was set upon by thieves in broad daylight, and when he returned home he decided to pray, using a passage from Psalms: “May sinners disappear from the earth and the wicked be no more.” He prayed, but his wife, Beruriah, said that he was not praying properly. The words he was using were ambiguous: His words could be understood as asking for the deaths of the sinners. Instead, she said, he ought explicitly to pray for the other meaning of the words: Pray that the sinners reform and stop doing evil deeds, so that sinners and evil-doers would disappear from the earth by being transformed into godly people. Rabbi Meir agreed, saying, “As always, your wisdom astounds me. You are right. It is better to pray for a person to change than for a person to die.” And he did as his wife advised.

• Jonathan Eybeschuetz displayed remarkable intelligence even as a young child. One morning, a much bigger, anti-Semitic bully beat him up. While the beating was going on, he cried for the beating to stop so he could give the bully all the money he had. Of course, the bully stopped beating him, and young Jonathan emptied his pockets and handed over all his money to the bully. As he did so, he explained that today was a special Jewish holiday, and Jews were required to hand over all their money to anyone who beat them that day. Hearing this, the bully decided to beat up the richest Jew in town. Of course, the rich Jew cried out for help, and a police officer arrested the bully and took him to jail — exactly as young Jonathan had planned.

• As a young child, young adult author Chris Crutcher had a terrible temper. It was so bad that he would jump into the air and then land on his back — hard. His mother was worried about this behavior, so she asked her family physician for advice. Dr. Patterson advised her to keep one of Chris’ wooden blocks handy, and the next time he pulled that stunt, to roll the wooden block on the floor exactly where young Chris would land. The ploy worked. Landing on the wooden block was so painful that Chris did it exactly once.

• After diving into shallow water, 16-year-old Joni Eareckson broke her neck and was paralyzed. Eventually, after months of being suspended in a Stryker frame, she recovered enough to be able to sit in a wheelchair. Dick, her boyfriend, sometimes visited her, but unfortunately, they ran into a problem: little privacy exists in a hospital. To solve the problem, they would go to an elevator and Dick would push the STOP button when they were in between floors. This gave them enough privacy to kiss.

• A three-year-old boy fumbled while trying to button his coat, so his teacher, a Sister of Notre Dame, asked another, older boy, “Would you please help that little boy?” This was the wrong thing to say, and the little boy was deeply offended. He said, “I am a big boy.” Thinking quickly, the Sister came up with exactly the right thing to say: “Will the bigger boy please help the big boy with his coat?” The little — uh, big — boy smiled.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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