============================================== Today's Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul...
                                      Willing To Pay The Price

              When my wife Maryanne and I were building our Greenspoint Mall hair salon 13 years ago, a Vietnamese fellow would stop by each day to sell us doughnuts. He spoke hardly any English, but he was always friendly and through smiles and sign language we got to know each other. His name was Le Van Vu.

              During the day Le worked in a bakery and at night he and his wife listened to audio tapes to learn English. I later learned that they slept on sacks full of sawdust on the floor of the back room of the bakery.

              In Vietnam the Van Vu family was one of the wealthiest in Southeast Asia. They owned almost one-third of North Vietnam, including huge holdings in industry and real estate. However, after his father was brutally murdered, Le moved to South Vietnam with his mother, where he went to school and eventually became a lawyer.

              Like his father before him, Le prospered. He saw an opportunity to construct buildings to accommodate the ever- expanding American presence in South Vietnam and soon became one of the most successful builders in the country.

              On a trip to the North, however, Le was captured by the North Vietnamese and thrown into prison for three years. He escaped by killing five soldiers and made his way back to South Vietnam where he was arrested again. The South Vietnamese government had assumed he was a "plant" from the North.

              After serving time in prison, Le got out and started a fishing company, eventually becoming the largest canner in South Vietnam.

              When Le learned that the U.S. troops and embassy personnel were about to pull out of his country, he made a life-changing decision.

              He took all of the gold he had hoarded, loaded it aboard one of his fishing vessels and sailed with his wife out to the American ships in the harbor. He then exchanged all his riches for safe passage out of Vietnam to the Philippines, where he and his wife were taken into a refugee camp.

              After gaining access to the president of the Philippines, Le convinced him to make one of his boats available for fishing and Le was back in business again. Before he left the Philippines two years later en route for America (his ultimate dream), Le had successfully developed the entire fishing industry in the Philippines.

              But en route to America, Le became distraught and depressed about having to start over again with nothing. His wife tells of how she found him near the railing of the ship, about to jump overboard.

              "Le," she told him, "If you do jump, whatever will become of me? We've been together for so long and through so much. We can do this together." It was all the encouragement that Le Van Vu needed.

              When he and his wife arrived in Houston in 1972, they were flat broke and spoke no English. In Vietnam, family takes care of family, and Le and his wife found themselves ensconced in the back room of his cousin's bakery in the Greenspoint Mall. We were building our salon just a couple of hundred feet away.

              Now, as they say, here comes the "message" part of this story:

              Le's cousin offered both Le and his wife jobs in the bakery. After taxes, Le would take home $175 per week, his wife $125. Their total annual income, in other words, was $15,600. Further, his cousin offered to sell them the bakery whenever they could come up with a $30,000 down payment. The cousin would finance the remainder with a note for $90,000.

              Here's what Le and his wife did:
              Even with a weekly income of $300, they decided to continue to live in the back room. They kept clean by taking sponge baths for two years in the mall's restrooms. For two years their diet consisted almost entirely of bakery goods. Each year, for two years, they lived on a total, that's right, a total of $600, saving $30,000 for the down payment.

              Le later explained his reasoning, "If we got ourselves an apartment, which we could afford on $300 per week, we'd have to pay the rent. Then, of course, we'd have to buy furniture. Then we'd have to have transportation to and from work, so that meant we'd have to buy a car. Then we'd have to buy gasoline for the car as well as insurance. Then we'd probably want to go places in the car, so that meant we'd need to buy clothes and toiletries. So I knew that if we got that apartment, we'd never get our $30,000 together."

              Now, if you think you've heard everything about Le, let me tell you, there's more: After he and his wife had saved the $30,000 and bought the bakery, Le once again sat down with his wife for a serious chat. They still owed $90,000 to his cousin, he said, and as difficult as the past two years had been, they had to remain living in that back room for one more year.

              I'm proud to tell you that in one year, my friend and mentor Le Van Vu and his wife, saving virtually every nickel of profit from the business, paid off the $90,000 note, and in just three years, owned an extremely profitable business free and clear.

              Then, and only then, the Van Vus went out and got their first apartment. To this day, they continue to save on a regular basis, live on an extremely small percentage of their income, and, of course, always pay cash for any of their purchases.

              Do you think that Le Van Vu is a millionaire today? I am happy to tell you, many times over.

                                            By John McCormack                 from Chicken Soup for the Soul                   Copyright 1993 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen                     __________________________

Today's Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul...
                              Gold-Medal Winner

              I spoke at a middle school in the spring of 1995. When the program was over, the principal asked me if I would pay a visit to a special student. An illness had kept the boy home, but he had expressed an interest in meeting me, and the principal knew it would mean a great deal to him. I agreed.

              During the nine-mile drive to his home, I found out some things about Matthew. He had muscular dystrophy. When he was born, the doctors told his parents that he would not live to see 5, then they were told he would make it to 10. He was 13 and from what I was told, a real fighter. He wanted to meet me because I was a gold-medal power lifter, and I knew about overcoming obstacles and going for your dreams.

              I spent over an hour talking to Matthew. Never once did he complain or ask, "Why me?" He spoke about winning and succeeding and going for his dreams. Obviously, he knew what he was talking about. He didn't mention that his classmates had made fun of him because he was different; he just talked about his hopes for the future, and how one day he wanted to lift weights with me.

              When we finished talking, I went into my briefcase and pulled out the first gold medal I won for power lifting and put it around his neck. I told him he was more of a winner and knew more about success and overcoming obstacles than I ever would. He looked at it for a moment, then took it off and handed it back to me. He said, "Rick, you are a champion. You earned that medal. Someday, when I get to the Olympics and win my gold medal, I will show it to you."

              Last summer I received a letter from Matthew's parents telling me that Matthew had passed away. They wanted me to have a letter he had written to me a few days before.

                  Dear Rick,

                        My mom said I should send you a thank-you letter for the neat picture you sent me. I also wanted to let you know that the doctors tell me I don't have long to live anymore. It is getting very hard for me to breathe and I get tired very easy, but I still smile as much as I can. I know that I will never be as strong as you and I know we will never get to lift weights together.

                        I told you someday I was going to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal. I know now I will never get to do that. But I know I am a champion, and God knows that too. He knows I am not a quitter, and when I get to heaven, God will give me my gold medal, and when you get there, I will show it to you.         Thanks for loving me.

                      Your friend,
                                      By Rick Metzger            from Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul
    Copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kirberger                     __________________________

Bill Gates
Bill Gates died in a car accident.
He found himself in Purgatory being sized up by God...
"Well, Bill, I'm really confused on this call. I'm not sure whether to send you to Heaven or Hell. After all, you enormously helped society by putting a computer in almost every home in the world and yet you created that ghastly Windows 95. I'm going to do something I've never done before. In your case, I'm going to let you decide where you want to go!"
Bill replied, "Well, thanks, God. What's the difference between the two?"
God said, "I'm willing to let you visit both places briefly if it will help you make a decision."
"Fine, but where should I go first?"
God said, "I'm going to leave that up to you."
Bill said, "OK, then, let's try Hell first." So Bill went to Hell. It was a beautiful, clean, sandy beach with clear waters. There were thousands of beautiful women running around, playing in the water, laughing and frolicking about. The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect.
Bill was very pleased. "This is great!" he told God. "If this is Hell, I REALLY want to see Heaven!"
"Fine," said God and off they went.
Heaven was a high place in the clouds, with angels drifting about playing harps and singing. It was nice but not as enticing as Hell. Bill thought for a quick minute and rendered his decision. "Hmm, I think I prefer Hell" he told God.
"Fine," retorted God, "as you desire."
So Bill Gates went to Hell.
Two weeks later, God decided to check up on the late billionaire to see how he was doing in Hell. When God arrived in Hell, he found Bill shackled to a wall, screaming amongst the hot flames in a dark cave. He was being burned and tortured by demons.
"How's everything going, Bill?" God asked.
Bill responded - his voice full of anguish and disappointment, "This is awful, this is not what I expected. I can't believe this happened. What happened to that other place with the beaches and the beautiful women playing in the water?"
God smiled & said "That was the screen saver".

Heaven's grocery store......
Date:    I was walking down life's highway a long time ago. One day I saw a sign that read, "HEAVEN'S GROCERY STORE".
As I got a little closer, the door opened wide, and then I found myself standing inside.
I saw a host of ANGELS. They were standing everywhere. One handed me a basket and said, "My Child, shop with care".
Everything a human needed was in that grocery store. And if you couldn't carry all, you could come back the next day for more.
First, I got some PATIENCE. LOVE was in the same row. Further down was UNDERSTANDING; you need that everywhere you go.
I got a box or two of WISDOM, a bag or two of FAITH. I just couldn't miss the HOLY GHOST, for it was all over the place.
I stopped to get some STRENGTH and COURAGE TO HELP ME RUN THIS RACE. By then my basket was getting full, but I remembered I needed some GRACE.
I didn't forget SALVATION, for SALVATION was free. So I tried to get enough of that to save both you and me.
Then I started up to the counter to pay my grocery bill. For I thought I had everything to do the MASTER'S will.
As I went up the aisle, I saw PRAYER; and I just had to put that in, for I knew when I stepped outside, I would run into sin.
PEACE and JOY were plentiful; they were last on the shelf. SONG and PRAISE were hanging near, so I just helped myself.
Then I said to the angel, "Now, how much do I owe?" He smiled again and said, "MY CHILD, GOD PAID YOUR BILL A LONG, LONG TIME AGO."

This notice has been sent to you for a blessing. The original is from the Netherlands. It has been around the world 9 times. This blessing has now been brought to you. You will receive a blessing within six days of receiving this letter providing you, in turn, send it back out. This is not a joke. You will receive it in the mail. Send copes of this letter to people you think need good luck. DO NOT SEND MONEY for it has no price on it. Do not keep this letter. It must leave your hands 90 hours after you receive it. Please send twenty copies of this letter and see what happens on the 6th day. This chain came from Venezuela and was written by Saul Anthony Lavoid, a missionary from South America.

Coffee in Bed
      A sweet little boy surprised his grandmother one morning and brought her a cup of coffee. He made it himself and was so proud. He anxiously waited to hear the verdict on the quality of the coffee. The grandmother had never in her life had such a bad cup of coffee, and as she forced down the last sip she noticed three of those little green army guys in the bottom of the cup.
    She asked, "Honey, why would three little green army guys be in the bottom of my cup?"
    Her grandson replied, "You know grandma, it's like on TV... 'The best part of waking up is soldiers in your cup.' "

When we say yes
Abraham said yes to God, and the Lord provided a way for him to receive his greatest desire: a son. Moses said yes, and he became the deliverer and leader of the nation of Israel. Joshua said yes, and the Lord used him to establish Israel in the Promised Land. Caleb said yes and was given the hill country of Hebron. it was the very land he had dreamed of owning for 40 long years. David said yes and became the kind of Israel. There are countless people in the Bible who have said yes to the Lord and received a wondrous blessing.

God uses our obedience to accomplish great and mighty deeds. He could work independently of mankind, but He doesn't. He uses each one of us.
One reason He does this is so we can have a part in His work here on earth. In heaven, our days will be filled with worship and praise to our King, but we will also have work to do. There will be no idleness in heaven!

Our obedience on earth is preparing us to live with God for all eternity. When you face temptation and your obedience is challenged, ask the Lord to give you the strength to obey Him, especially when you feel hard-pressed on every side. He answers the prayers of His children, and He will rescue you.

Who You Are Makes a Difference

              One night a man came home to his 14-year-old son and sat him down. He said, "The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office and one of the junior executives came in and he told me that he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine. He thinks I am a creative genius. Then he put this blue ribbon that says `Who I am makes a differenceŽ on my jacket above my heart. Then he gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honor. As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honor with this ribbon and I thought about you. I want to honor you.

              "My days are really hectic, and when I come home, I don't pay a lot of attention to you. Sometimes I scream at you for not getting enough good grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You're a great kid and I love you!"

              The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn't stop crying. His whole body shook, and he looked up at his father and said, through his broken tears, "I was planning on committing suicide tomorrow, Dad, because I didn't think you loved me. Now I don't need to do that."

                                  By Helice Bridges
                    from Condensed Chicken Soup for the Soul Copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Patty Hansen