Beliefnet
Inspiration Report

J. Reed/Flickr.com

J. Reed/Flickr.com

The shutdown of the federal government continues, but Americans are making sure that the furloughed government employees do not suffer in the meantime. Companies and individuals have all contributed to make sure that no one is left without the ability to meet their needs due to fighting politicians. Here are some of the top ways that Americans are reaching out to help one another.

 Kraft Now Pay Later

On January 15, 2019, the government entered day 25 of the shutdown. That same day, Kraft Heinz Co. announced that it would be opening a pop-up grocery store in Washington, D.C. for the next few days. The offered federal workers unlimited free Kraft food products such as its famous mac and cheese mix.

 No Late Fees

Verizon and AT&T have both stated that they will be waiving late fees for federal employees. Instead, both companies will be offering flexible payment options or extensions for customers affected by the shutdown. Verizon is also waiving agent assist fees, and AT&T has promised to provide revised payment schedules for those who are currently furloughed.

The YMCA of South Hampton Roads in Virginia has made a vow similar to the two phone companies. Instead of waiving late fees, however, the YMCA has waived fees for the entire month of January for those who are impacted by the shutdown.

Restaurant Assistance

Going out to eat is the last thing that anyone expects to be doing when they are, effectively, out of a job. Many local establishments and restaurants, however, have stated that they are willing to open their doors to federal employees looking for a hot meal. Plaza del Sol in Virginia has volunteered to give federal workers free tacos, and Kahiau’s Bakery and Café, also located in Virginia, has promised to give furloughed employees a free bagel or breakfast sandwich as long as they show their government ID. Stefano’s Pizza Express in Texas has made a similar promise involving free pizza and Ruby Slipper Café, a chain with locations in Louisiana, Florida and Alabama, has offered to give furloughed workers a free entrée and beverage.

Taking Their Mind Off Matters

Government employees are not technically out of a job with the shutdown, but the knowledge that they will eventually get back pay does not make it less stressful to try and make ends meet now. In order to help furloughed employees take their minds off current events, several venues have stepped up to provide some free entertainment. In Virginia, a Destruction Room has been created to allow furloughed employees to take their frustrations out by smashing inanimate objects, and Push Comedy Theater is performing free shows. Filmmaker Michael Moore has allowed government employees to receive free entry and refreshments at his Michigan movie theaters as is For Greene’s Brooklyn Academy of Musca’s Rose Cinema and the Museum of Moving Image. The Adler Planetarium in Chicago has also joined in and promised each government employee two free general passes in order to escape their stresses for a day.

Furry Furlough

Much of the coverage of the government shutdown has focused on the humans who are struggling, but when humans cannot pay the bills, their furry companions suffer, too. The local SPCA in New York’s Suffolk County, however, has not forgotten employees pets. The shelter has promised to give federal employees free pet food for as long as their surplus supply lasts.

In a country whose federal government has shut down because of the inability of politicians to agree or compromise, it is good to see that the same divisions do not run as deeply as the elites in Washington would have people believe. At the end of the day, we are all Americans, and it is nice to see people finally remembering that in a time characterized more by division than unity.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Andy Murray became a professional tennis player in 2005 when he became the youngest Briton to play in the Davis Cup. A month later, he was given a wild card entry to a clay-court tournament in Barcelona, the Open SEAT. Shortly thereafter, Murray reached the semi-finals of the boys’ French Open but lost in straight sets to Marin Cilic. That same year, Murray competed in his first Wimbledon and became the first Scot in the Open Era to reach the third round of the men’s singles tournament.

The following year Murray became the British No. 1 and became one of only two players to ever defeat Roger Federer. It was not until 2009, however, that Murray won his first Master’s title. That said, he made his titles worth the wait when he closed out 2009 with two Master’s titles.

Murray continued to rack up titles both in singles and in doubles with his brother, Jamie. In 2012, Andy Murray competed in the London Summer Olympics in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. He took home the silver in mixed doubles with Laura Robson and won the gold medal in singles. This made Murray the first British man to win the Olympic singles gold medal in tennis since Josiah Ritchie in 1908. For his service to tennis, Murray was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2013 New Year Honours. That same year, Murray became the Wimbledon champion despite having only 11 days to recover from a hip injury sustained during the Rome Masters. In 2016, Murray took home another singles gold medal at the Rio Summer Olympics.

The tennis star, however, has stated that his career will end after this season. The former world champion and three-time slam champion stated that hip pain has brought his serious playing days to a conclusion. Murray has made it clear that he does not want his career to come to a close, but the chronic weakness in his hip had made it almost unbearable to play against Stan Wawrinka in the 2017 French Open. Murray stated that he was “not sure [he] would be able to play through the pain” any longer. The champion had to leave the press conference to compose himself after he teared up while making the announcement.

Murray will certainly be a loss to the tennis world. He is the reigning Olympic champion, two time Wimbledon champion and has a total of 45 singles titles including three Grand Slam titles, 14 Masters 1000 Series titles and an ATP Finals title. While Murray himself would like to keep playing if he were healthy, the odds of him returning to the game are slim. One can only hope that Murray has a successful recovery and a happy retirement. He has certainly earned it.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to what appears in most media, the bad news dominates. Scandals and disasters sell, so most news media focuses on the unhappy and depressing. The worse the catastrophe, the better. This can give people the impression that nothing good ever happens in the world, but that is not true. Despite the impression that the news may have given, 2018 was actually filled with stories of courage and heroism. Here are some of the most inspirational events that took place in 2018.

 

Miracle in a Thailand Cave

The entire world watched as a miracle unfolded in Thailand. Twelve boys and their coach were trapped in a cave for more than two weeks when the monsoon rains unexpectedly flooded the cave system. The boys were trapped for nine days without food, water, light or any hope of rescue. Despite that, their coach kept them calm through meditation and alive by showing them how to collect the clean water dripping from the stalactites. Meanwhile, Thailand Navy SEALs made a series of blind dives into the flooded tunnels despite visibility so poor that they could only see a few inches in front of them. Over a thousand people from at least seven countries joined in the search, but finding the boys turned out to be the easy part. Rescuers had three options when it came to rescuing the trapped team. They could drill a hole in through the top of the mountain, wait for the waters to recede after the monsoon or use divers to swim them through the frigid and filthy floodwaters. The first was all but impossible, and the second would leave the team trapped for months in the dark with falling oxygen levels. The last option was the best chance of saving the team, but it would be extremely dangerous even for expert divers, much less boys that could not even swim. Despite that, all thirteen members of the team were successfully rescued, though Lieutenant Commander Samarn Kunan, one of the SEAL divers, lost his life during the rescue. In response, the boys were ordained as novice monks in order to pay their respects and accumulate merit for Kunan’s soul. Such an action is considered the greatest honor one person can give another in Theravada Buddhism. Lieutenant Commander Kunan, and all the divers, certainly earned it with their heroism.

 

Hope Amongst the Ashes

California saw its most lethal wildfires in history in 2018, but there were dozens of heroes to be found among the flames. From firefighters and first responders to the everyday men and women who went above and beyond for their friends, neighbors and complete strangers, there seemed to be almost as many tales of heroics as there were destruction. Brad Brown, a hospital chaplain, assisted in the evacuation of his hospital, and when they ran out of ambulances, loaded three patients into his minivan. As they were surrounded by fire, he told the story of Daniel who survived being shoved into the furnaces. They dodged the flames for some time but were eventually cut off by a wall of fire. The patients desperately needed care, two of them were from the intensive care unit, so Brown pushed the gas pedal to the floor and drove straight through the fire to safety. Similarly, Tamara Ferguson, a labor and delivery nurse, and her colleagues evacuated their patients and kept them calm. When their evacuation spot was surrounded by fire, the hospital staff fought the flames themselves until help arrived.

 

Bravery at Breakfast

A Waffle House near Nashville was almost the site of a horrible mass shooting when a man entered the building with an AR-15 and opened fire. James Shaw, Jr. was one of the patrons at the restaurant that morning. When the gunman briefly paused in his assault, Shaw charged the shooter bare handed. Shaw managed to wrestle the rifle away from the gunman despite suffering a bullet-graze and burns.

 

Fearless Flying

On April 17, an engine on a Southwest Airlines plane exploded in midair. The lives of the crew and all 143 passengers abruptly stranded at 32,000 feet were left in the hands of Tammie Jo Shults. Fragments from the damaged engine shattered a passenger window, killing Jennifer Riordan and depressurizing the cabin. Shults, however, remained calm and guided the Boeing 737 safely to the ground. Shults was hailed as a hero, but she humbly declared that it was the passengers and crew who were the true heroes.

 

Korea United

There are likely no two nations quite as simultaneously similar and different as North and South Korea. They share the same language, history and some elements of culture. South Korea, however, is a free and prosperous nation while the totalitarian North Korea is hell on Earth for those living there, complete with frightening and creative tortures. Despite that, the Korean peninsula came together for the first time in decades during the 2018 Winter Olympics. North and South Korean athletes marched together during the opening ceremonies and shared a single flag.

 

Box Office Underdogs

Hollywood has long insisted that Christian movies do not do well at the box office. As such, Hollywood cheerfully continues to refuse to make them. “I Can Only Imagine,” however, shattered that misconception. The Christian movie was a smash hit at the box office and blew every expectation Hollywood had out of the water.

“I Can Only Imagine” was not the only unexpected success to appear in 2018, either. “Sgt. Stubby” told the tale of the first modern War Dog and his role in World War I, a period of time that rarely gets its due on the silver screen. Meanwhile, “Black Panther” was expected to be the latest blockbuster to come out of Marvel Studios and did not disappoint.

 

Even though the media may have focused largely on the disasters and disappointments of 2018, the year was filled with people who stood up for what was right and went above and beyond the call of duty. There were tales of courage, stories of justice and a number of people who truly earned the title of hero.

Sean Gillies/Flickr

Sean Gillies/Flickr

A British skier who “died” for twenty minutes after being trapped in an avalanche revealed today how she “saw a peaceful forest” while experiencing the “afterlife”.

The 29-year-old, Rhianna Shaw, had been skiing with friends at the St Anton ski resort in Austria when she collided into another skier in February 2012.

As both of her ski’s flew off her feet and she tumbled down the slope, she felt what she thought was a “wash of snow” shower her. It turned out to be a massive avalanche.

“Our crash was so powerful, it created a massive fracture in the mountain and forcing a ledge to break off, setting off an avalanche which pushed me 200 meters down.”

She had realized that no one could hear her screaming for help.

“Suddenly I stopped moving and all I could feel was this weight. Heavy snow just stopping me from moving, seeing and thinking. I could feel everything, but within seconds I couldn’t breathe. I was just focusing on breathing.”

Shaw said “everything became so peaceful” after she made the hard decision to stop breathing due to being encased in snow.

Initially the skier thought she was having a vivid dream. She had died, but her brain was still working.

“I started walking along a pathway in this peaceful, pale forest. It had big tall evergreens on either side. Everything was as bright as day. Weirdly it was so calming, and it looked like there was some kind of snow on the ground but not like snow as we know it.”

Rhianna believes she was conscious for at least five minutes before she decided to “let herself die”.

Her friends had tried to call her phone for nine minutes after she collided with the other boarder.

“It’s actually only by chance that I was found. My friends told me they had just been sticking their hands in random parts of the snow. At first they found one of my ski poles. But then they found my leg.”

She says her doctor told her there was a six per cent chance I would have survived from the suffocation she endured.