LIBBY’S GIFT OF LOVE — A Little Girl’s Search for the Perfect Gift

Handkerchief with L



  It was Christmas Eve and six-year-old Libby was at the mall doing some last minute shopping with her mother.  She had been saving her coins and had a total of six dollars to purchase gifts for her mother and father. 

   She knew exactly what she was going to purchase, monogrammed handkerchiefs at Murphy’s Department Store. The price was perfect, three dollars each.

   At the mall, she asked her mother to stand a short distance from the counter where the handkerchiefs were displayed and turn her back so she couldn’t see what Libby was purchasing.  Her mother agreed to do so and Libby approached the clerk behind the counter.

   “May I help you, young lady?” the clerk asked.

   “Yes, you can,” Libby whispered.  “I want to buy two monogrammed handkerchiefs, one for a lady and one for a man. And I don’t want my mama to know what I’m buying.  She’s standing right over there.”

   The sales lady nodded and whispered, “I understand.  The handkerchiefs make excellent gifts.  What monogrammed letter do you want for the lady?”

   Libby looked at the ladies’ handkerchiefs in the display case.  She was pleased with how beautiful they were.  “Her name is Marie, so I would like the letter M.”

   The clerk smiled and said, “You’re in luck, young lady. We have just one M left.” 

   Libby breathed a sigh of relief.  “Thank you.  And do you have a box for it?”

   “Yes, we do,” the clerk said.  “Now, what letter do you want for the man?”

   “His name is Daniel,” Libby said.  “So I would like a D.”

   The clerk sorted through the handkerchiefs. She paused, then sorted through them again.  “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.  We don’t have any D’s left.”

   Looking disappointed, Libby said,  “Are you sure?”

   “Let me look one more time,” the clerk said.  Again she sorted through the handkerchiefs. “No, I’m afraid not.  No Ds at all.”

   “Would you please look again, ma’am?”  Libby asked.  “There must be a D in there somewhere.”

   “I don’t know what to say, honey,” the clerk said.  “There just aren’t any.” 

   Libby’s eyes welled up with tears. “But what am I going to do? The stores are about to close and I don’t have a gift for my daddy.”

   The clerk wished she could talk with the mother and maybe together they could come up with a solution, but she didn’t want to ruin Libby’s surprise for her mother. She felt helpless.

   After staring at the handkerchiefs for a few moments, Libby whispered.  “My daddy’s last name is Marsh.  Do you have a handkerchief with an M on it?”

   The clerk smiled.  “Oh, I do hope so.”  She again went through the handkerchiefs, paused, went through them again. “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry,” she said.  “There are no Ms either.”

   Christmas music was interrupted by an announcement.  “The store will be closing in ten minutes.  Please take your purchases to the nearest check-out.  Have a Merry Christmas and thank you for shopping at Murphy’s.”

   Determined not to give up, Libby said, “Just what letters do you have, ma’am?”

   The surprised clerk said, “Well, let me see.  Here’s a C and here’s an L……”

   Libby interrupted, “Wait, I’ll take the L.  It’s perfect.  It can stand for Love.”  She smiled and handed the clerk her money.

   The clerk placed the handkerchiefs in their boxes and handed them to Libby along with the six dollars.  “Keep your money, honey.  That’s my gift to you.  Merry Christmas.”

   The next morning Libby could hardly wait for her parents to open their gifts.

   “Oh, look at this beautiful handkerchief,” Libby’s mother said.  “And, look, it’s got an M on it for my name, Marie.  How special.”

   Libby watched her dad open his gift and, before she could explain about the L, he winked at his wife and said, “Well, look at this.  I got a handkerchief, too, and it’s got an L on it for….. my middle name, Lewis. Thank you, Libby.  What a thoughtful gift.  I love it.”

   Years later, when Libby’s parents had passed away and she was sorting through their belongings, she found her father’s handkerchief box . The handkerchief was still in it with a note attached. 

   The note said, “This has always been my favorite gift.  There’s no gift greater than the one given with LOVE.”



WHAT IS THE STORY OF RUDOLPH TEACHING OUR CHILDREN? A Message of Rejection, Exclusion, and Conditional Love



 I hate to say it, but “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” teaches a strong message of REJECTION, EXCLUSION, and CONDITIONAL LOVE simply because one is DIFFERENT.  Therefore, in my opinion, it should be eliminated from the list of songs we encourage children to sing at Christmas time.  In this age of protests, we need to protest this song.

Think about it.  Poor Rudolph was born with a shiny, red nose instead of a black one  This made him different from the other reindeer.  Because he was different they rejected him.  They laughed at him and called him names. They even excluded him from their games.  “All of the other reindeer used to LAUGH and CALL HIM NAMES.  They NEVER let poor Rudolph JOIN IN ANY REINDEER GAMES.”

Think how poor Rudolph must have felt.  He was different and there was nothing he could do about it.  And because he was different, the other reindeer refused to love him.  Their love was CONDITIONAL.  By their actions, the other reindeer sent a powerful message to Rudolph that said, “We refuse to love you because you aren’t like us.”  This is CONDITIONAL LOVE.

Just think about the subtle message this sends to the children throughout the world who sing these lyrics over and over during the Christmas season. It tells them that it’s okay to reject and ostracize those who are different.  It’s okay to call them names.  It’s okay to keep them on the “outside” and refuse to let them “join.”

“Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say, Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleight tonight. THEN how all the reindeer LOVED him, as they shouted out with glee, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you’ll go down in history.”

Only when Santa chose Rudolph did things change. That’s when he became acceptable to the other reindeer.  THEN HOW ALL THE REINDEER LOVED HIM.  Only THEN.  Prior to this he was not accepted for who he was.  Think about it.  Simply because he was DIFFERENT he was NOT ACCEPTED and LOVED.  Poor Rudolph. He had a red nose. That’s what kept him from being loved. THAT’S CONDITIONAL LOVE.  You have to have a black nose to be loved.  You have to be like US to be accepted.

Is this the message we want to send to our children?  Are these the words we want them to be singing over and over, singing words of rejection and conditional love with enthusiastic joy and laughter?  Are these the values we want to impress upon our children?

I think not.  I think we can do better.


HALLOWEEN STORY: The Messages on Emily’s New Phone

Message on Emily's Phone


   Emily Bradley wanted a smart phone for her tenth birthday.  Her mother and step-father had been reluctant to give her one because they felt it was a luxury for a child to have, but finally agreed to surprise her with one for her birthday. 

At bedtime, as Emily laid the phone on the stand beside her bed, she noticed a text message on the phone.  She was surprised because no one knew she had a phone.

She picked up the phone and read the message. Good news.  Now we can talk.”

For some strange reason, Emily couldn’t tell who sent the message.  And she couldn’t respond because her parents told her to not be on the phone after nine o’clock and it was now ten o’clock. But she was dying to know who sent the message.

She was about to turn out the light when she noticed another message.  “Please respond.  Important.”

Emily decided to take the risk violating her parents’ rule and respond.

“Who are you?” she texted.

“Your brother.”

“I don’t have a brother.”

“Yes you do.”

“You’re wrong.  Who are you?”

“Your brother.  I’m dead.”

Emily almost dropped the phone.  Someone’s playing a mean prank, she thought.

Another message appeared.  “Sorry to shock u.”

Emily sat in disbelief.

“My name is Brogan,” the next message said.

Emily got upset.  This has gone far enough, she thought.

“Stop,” she texted.  “This isn’t funny.”

“He killed me.”

Emily became frightened.  A lunatic had somehow gotten her number.

Another message appeared. “U MUST believe me.  Your life’s in danger.”

Emily began to tremble but felt herself being drawn into this strange mystery on her phone.  She decided to respond.

“If u r dead how can u text?”

“My body’s dead….my spirit isn’t.”

“That’s impossible.”

Trust me.  My spirit can create text messages on your phone.”

Another text appeared. “Come to Bexley Cemetery after school. Bring your phone.”

“Why?” Emily texted.

“To prove I’m your brother.”

“If you’re trying to frighten me…u r.”

“Sorry.  Just trying to save your life.”

The next day after school, Emily dreaded the idea of going to the cemetery alone but was too curious not to go.  As she got to the cemetery, a text appeared on her phone.

  “Come to large oak tree in center.”

Emily walked to the large oak tree.

“Read the headstone,” the text said.

Emily looked at the inscription.  It said: Brogan J. Bradley.

   The year of the death was the year Emily was born.

“See.  I’m your brother.  He killed me. Made it look like an accident.”

“Who?” Emily texted.

“It’s too late.  He followed you.”


“Our step-father.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“He did it for insurance money.  Sorry, I tried to warn you.”

   Emily heard a voice behind her.  “It’s too bad you got the phone, Emily.”

Emily turned and saw her step-father.  He had a cell phone in one hand and a rope in the other.






HALLOWEEN STORY The Deceased’s Wife

deceased's wife

As Betsy Green drove home from her husband’s viewing at Bentley’s Funeral Home, she sang an upbeat song.  She had never been so happy.  Her husband’s death was ruled an accident and it happened just two days after he signed his new life insurance papers.  It was so perfect.

She was going to be rich. Of course, she would have to use some of the insurance money to have the defective valve in her heart replaced, but there would be plenty of money left over to go to Europe, go on cruises, and live a life of luxury — things she had secretly dreamed about for a long time.

Once home she pampered herself with a relaxing bubble bath and a glass of wine before crawling into bed.  She looked forward to a good night’s sleep, maybe the best sleep in a long time.

About 1:00 a.m. she was awakened by what she thought was someone humming.  She recognized it as a Hank Williams song — “You’re Cheatin’ Heart.”   Her husband was always singing Hank Williams songs.  But he was dead and soon to be buried.  So who could it be?  After nervous fretting, she told herself it was a bad dream and tried to go back to sleep.

But the humming didn’t stop.  It got louder.  “Your cheatin’ heart will make you weep, you’ll cry and cry and try to sleep.”  It sounded exactly like her husband, but… simply couldn’t be.  The humming continue.  “But sleep won’t come the whole night through, your cheatin’ heart will tell on you.”

She was convinced that someone was standing at the end of her bed humming that song. Someone was trying to play a trick on her.  She peered into the darkness and was certain the figure was a man. If it wasn’t her husband, who was it?  Who could it be? She started to panic.  She wanted to jump out of bed and run but she was too frightened to do so.  She could feel herself trembling as she sat up in bed.  Her throat tightened, but she managed to say , “Who’s there? What do you want?”

As the humming got even louder, her trembling got worse.  She could feel the whole bed shaking.   She started gasping for breath.  What…..what if he wasn’t dead?  But he had to be.  He was in the casket.  But what if his death was a prank?  It was Halloween.  He always played pranks on Halloween, practically scaring her to death,  and then laughing.  But this wasn’t funny.  She could feel her heart pounding and pain shooting down her arm.

What….what if his death was a hoax and he wanted to scare her to death?  He knew she had a bad heart.  And, after all, she signed life insurance papers the same day he did.  Gasping for breath, she reached for the light by the bed.  But her heart gave out before she could turn it on.









Jesus slipped into the church and sat in the last pew.  The pastor’s sermon described how Jesus simply said to his disciples, “Come,” and they gave up their jobs and daily routines to follow him and experience a life of serving others.

After the worship service, Jesus went to the pastor and expressed interest in becoming a member of the congregation.

“Have you been baptized?” the pastor asked.

“Yes,” Jesus said.

“Good,” the pastor said. “Do you have proof of your baptism?”

“Not actually,” Jesus said.  “Can you trust me and accept my word?”

“Sorry,” said the pastor.  “Our church bylaws say we have to have proof.  Do you by chance have a letter of transfer from another church?”

“I have no letter of transfer,” Jesus said.  “I don’t even know what it is.  Can’t I just declare that I want to enjoy fellowship with this group and be accepted?”

“No, not according to our bylaws,” the pastor said.  “Sorry.”

“Do you ever make exceptions?” Jesus asked.”

“Not even if you were the good Lord himself,” the pastor said.  “If we did it for one, we’d have to do it for everyone.”

“So, where do I start?”  Jesus asked.

“Well, first you’ll need to fill out a form requesting membership,” the pastor said.  “Then you’ll be assigned to a class on membership.”

“What is involved in a membership class?” Jesus asked.

“Well, lots of things,” the pastor said.  “You’ll learn all about who we are as a church, what our vision is, what our particular beliefs are.  Basically you need to know in order to become a member with us.”

“I’ve studied the Scriptures,” Jesus said.  “I believe I have a good understanding of what the church is all about and what the basic beliefs are. Isn’t that good enough?”

“That’s just what’s in the Scriptures,” the pastor said. “I’m talking about what our church believes.  What’s in our covenants and bylaws, important stuff like that.”

“So if you and I were traveling in a car together discussing the Scriptures and I said I wanted to obey the Scriptures and be baptized, and there was a river nearby, what would you do?” Jesus asked.

“You don’t seem to be grasping what I’m saying,” the pastor said.  “I would probably take you to the river and baptize you.  But don’t you see, you still would have to go through our membership class.  We can’t just blindly accept anyone who comes in the door.  What kind of church would we be if we did that?  You have to be confirmed.”

“When do these membership classes take place?”  Jesus asked.

“It depends,” the pastor said. “We try to have regular classes scheduled at least several times a year.  Sometimes we wait until Lent.”

“What’s Lent?” Jesus asked.  “I’m familiar with the Scriptures, but I never heard of Lent.”

“Well then, my friend, you don’t know your church history,” the pastor said.  “Lent is when our church members fast and pray for forty days before Easter as a way of remembering our Lord and his suffering.  It’s a serious time of sacrifice, like giving up candy bars or coffee for forty whole days.  Stuff like that.”

“Isn’t that something your members do throughout the year?”  Jesus asked.

“Of course they do,” the pastor said.  “Lent is just something church leaders came up with to make it an extra special time.  Listen, you’re asking a lot of questions.  Do you want to become a member or not?”

“I think you’ve convinced me,” Jesus said.

“Good,” the pastor said.  “Now, if you just fill out the request for membership card, we can get you started.

“No,” Jesus said.  “I think you convinced me that I might not fit in here. I’ve spent my life opposing man-made rules and laws and steps I’m required to follow in order to be viewed as acceptable and spiritual, requirements that go above and beyond what the Scriptures say.  I prefer to not return to that kind of worship.  Thank you for your time, though.  Oh, and by the way, I didn’t introduce myself.  My name is Jesus.  Have a good day.”

















If we would learn to encourage more and praise less in our relationships, we would help others improve their self-confidence, experience greater self-worth, and empower them to feel more capable and courageous.


Of course this is difficult to do because we have been taught and conditioned to consistently use praise to let others know how we feel about their accomplishments.  We have been taught to focus on outcomes and results rather than effort.  Historically, our education system has been notorious for praising perfection: stressing right answers, turning in outstanding work, achieving A’s, completing all requirements.  Likewise, the business world has learned to praise achievement and reward productivity, awarding promotions based on accomplishments.


Unfortunately, because we are so accustomed to using praise, we have ignored what research says on this topic (i.e., Dweck (2015); Butcher (2017); Ginott (1965); Grille (2005); Aldort (2000).  Studies show that children who receive encouragement as they are growing up are more successful later in life than those who receive consistent praise.  According to the studies, praise can hamper risk taking. Children who were praised for being smart when they accomplished a task chose easier tasks in the future because they didn’t want to risk making mistakes.  On the other hand, children who were encouraged for their efforts were willing to choose more challenging tasks when given a choice.


So, what are the basic differences between encouragement and praise?

  1. Encouragement focuses on effort, praise focuses on results.
  2. Encouragement helps others feel good about themselves and believe in themselves; praise makes others feel good at the moment but the effects are temporary.
  3. Encouragement fosters self-sufficiency and independence; praise fosters dependence on the need for on-going praise.
  4. Encouragement creates an attitude of trying and not giving up; praise creates the need to perform to receive praise and an attitude of giving up if failure occurs.
  5. Encouragement comes before results. Results come before praise.


Examples of Praise Statements:

  1. You did a good job.
  2. Your work is outstanding.
  3. I am proud of what you did.
  4. You deserve a medal for what you did.


Examples of Encouragement Statements:

  1. You really put a lot of effort in that.
  2. You tried really hard.
  3. You have really improved.
  4. I admire you for your persistence and for not giving up.


Psychologists often use a term called locus of control to describe motivation.  There are two types of locus of control, internal and external.  Individuals who have an internal locus of control are not greatly influenced by the comments and values of the people around them.  Their decisions are made based on their own values and convictions and they tend to exhibit a sense of control over their lives.  Individuals who have an external locus of control tend to be highly dependent on the views and comments of others and tend to believe that most events are outside of their control.  Consistent praise often leads to an external locus of control, whereas encouragement promotes an internal locus of control.


In promoting personal growth in others (as well as ourselves), it isn’t necessary to remove praise from our vocabulary, but it would be a distinct advantage if we would encourage more than we praise.  It’s definitely a skill we can learn.



Pig in clothes

Dear Dr. Wise-One,

My girlfriend has a pet pig named Wilma.  Each time I go to my girlfriend’s apartment I get better and better acquainted with Wilma.  Now I have a problem.  I hate to admit it, but I’ve grown to like Wilma more than I like my girlfriend, Leona.  In fact, I love Wilma.

It sounds crazy but Wilma is absolutely charming and her eyes are so expressive.  And I absolutely love her little “oink, oink.”  Whereas Leona is often too busy to spend much time with me, Wilma follows me wherever I go.  She makes me feel so needed.   I miss her so much when I’m not with her.  Fortunately, Leona lets me take Wilma to the park and we sit on a park bench and I hold her on my lap and it’s like being in heaven. 

Dr. Wise-One, what should I do?  Should I tell my girlfriend that I love Wilma instead of her?

Signed, Pig Lover


Dear Pig Lover,

Yes, by all means tell Leona that you’re in love with her pig, Wilma.  Honesty is always the best policy in a relationship, but be prepared because this could end your relationship with Leona.  Not many women like playing second fiddle to another female, especially to a female pig (no offense to Wilma).

Also, be prepared that you and Wilma may run into obstacles as a couple.  It’s likely you won’t be invited to many parties unless Wilma can learn a few more words than “Oink-oink.”  People usually like a higher level of conversation than an “oink-oink” here and an “oink-oink” there. Also, you’ll likely have to avoid going to restaurants that serve pork, ham, or bacon as Wilma might get offended.  And keep in mind that a lot of restaurants will refuse to serve Wilma.

If you decide to get married, you should know that few pastors will marry a man to a pig.  Although there’s no Scripture that says, “Thou shalt not marry a pig,” current social norms oppose it. So you have a lot to think about, Pig Lover.  I must admit, though, you sound like you’re in pig heaven.  Remember, “love conquers all,” so perhaps you can make it work.  Best wishes and good luck.

Signed, Dr. Wise-One