Good, Better, Best

PuzzlePieceby Anniel1/31/15
Many sermons have been given on the subject of doing what is good, what is better, and what is best in any given situation. For instance, many preachers will tell you that you should give to a charity as a good option, support the poor through their church as a better option, or as the best option, let the Government be involved through your taxes. That’s only one scenario. Another might be to read a Harlequin Romance as good, a classic novel as better, or the Bible as best.

I would like to suggest that the idea of Good/Better/Best may be much more fluid than we think. The following is a true story, which took place at a Ronald McDonald House (RMC) in Chicago not that many years ago.

Aneel, the husband, and his wife, Diptee, are Hindus from India, although they now are residents of the US, living and working in Chicago. Aneel’s mother and aunt had come to Chicago for the birth of Aneel and Diptee’s first child, a boy.

The child was born with a heart defect, and we, along with the other guests in the home, assumed he was another child who needed some sort of heart surgery and would be fine. Neither parent nor the older mother and aunt were ever anything but sweet, smiling and kind, bowing slightly when greeting and interacting with the rest of us. They spent every day at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and returned to the RMC at night.

Mardelle, the Manager of the RMC kept many picture puzzles for people to use, and set up a Puzzle corner with table and chairs for parents, and sometimes recuperating children to use. What a blessing to get our minds off our problems as we sat around the table and thought about the simple act of finding puzzle pieces while we put our souls at rest. To talk to others in the same boat and laugh and cry together.

Late one evening after our daughter had undergone several surgeries, I had returned to the RMC, tired but too strung out to sleep and was sitting alone at the Puzzle Table. One of the more aggressive Arab women came to the table and told me I was being stupid wasting my time in such an idiotic pastime, and in Kuwait they had better things to do with their time. Then she stomped in a huff out of the room. All I could do was laugh and cry at the same time.

I continued half-heartedly separating puzzle pieces when I felt someone else standing near me. I looked up to see Aneel bowing and smiling at me, while Diptee and the grandmother and aunt were bowing from the doorway. “Excuse me,” Aneel said pointing at the puzzle, “why you do this?”

Startled, and feeling like I needed to justify myself, I began to tell him that it was a way to relax and take my mind off my problems.

“Oh, no,” he said, “maybe I say this wrong way. I should say, HOW you do this?”

“Do you mean how do you put a puzzle together? Don’t you do this in India?”

“No,” he said, “None of us ever see this before.”

All of them were watching me closely while they smiled and gave me their little half bows. “I’ll tell you what, it’s late now,” I said, “but tomorrow when you return to the House, I’ll be happy to show you how.”

After many bows, smiles and “Thank yous” we all headed off to bed.

The next morning I met Aneel in the hall, and as we smiled and greeted each other, for the first time I thought to ask him how his son was. “Oh,” he said, “is very sad. He will die.” He looked at my stunned face and put his arms around me, and said not to be sad and he would see me that night.

When I got to my daughter’s hospital room, her doctor released her from care and we hurried to catch a flight home that afternoon.

I called my sweet friend, Karen, told her about Aneel and Diptee’s baby, and she was as shocked as I was. I asked her to apologize for me and take over the puzzle teaching. Of course she did so.

Karen was the one who sat with this wonderful family night after night to care for their needs and teach them how to do picture puzzles. They grew very close and then asked her to stand with them when the time came to remove their little boy’s life support, and she was the one to make funeral arrangements for him. When the time came for them to return to India for the traditional 6 week Hindu mourning period, Karen took them to the airport and presented them with a brand new puzzle for their comfort during that mourning time.

I personally cannot think of anything Better than what Karen was privileged to do for these lovely people. The Best was beautiful.

None of us ever can know what someone else’s needs are unless our hearts and minds are open. Their need may be as simple as a picture puzzle. • (984 views)

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11 Responses to Good, Better, Best

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Lovely. I can’t think of anything else to say than that. I don’t think anything else needs to be said.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


    A touching and important story.

    People, too often, rush around not realizing the effects they have others and others have on them. A small kindness may help a wounded heart heal, a sad heart joyous or a quavering heart brave. I know small acts of kindness have stayed with me for decades.

  3. Anniel says:

    Timothy and Master Kung Fu: Thank you for your kind words. Often it is the small things that do make the biggest differences.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    A very sad thing that children suffer as they do. I don’t hate atheists for pointing out this terrible fact as evidence of a non-god. But puzzles are certainly evidence of something fun and creative. Imagine how impoverished a culture is that doesn’t have the time-wasting apparatus of the puzzle. I did at least a half dozen of them in December and January.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Some science-fiction conventions put out jigsaw puzzles for people to work on; I’ve seen them at both ConCave (Bowling Green) and InConJunction (Indianapolis). I haven’t worked on any, though I might consider it when enough pieces have been placed if I have some spare time. At home I work on a number of different types of puzzle each day (keeping the brain exercised, and not in the sense that listening to Democrats would do).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I’ve yet to put together any kind of sci-fi puzzle. Most of the ones I find at second-hand stores are kittens and such.

    • Anniel says:

      I have wondered whether there are parts of India where they have enough leisure to do puzzles. Diptee and Aneel seemed to be from a more wealthy group though, so if they had never seen picture puzzles maybe they don’t bother in most areas. This puzzles (!) me since India produces a lot of great mathematicians so I would expect them to like puzzles. And I’m sure somewhere along the line I’ve done one of the Taj Mahal. All you puzzle salesmen can open new territory.

    • Anniel says:

      Brad: I have seen people who lose any faith in God when a child suffers, and I certainly wonder why those things happen, but I have also seen people’s hearts open to the possibility of God and then to a firm assurance that their child’s life was not in vain. You simply cannot believe sometimes how much peace and joy can come into a family, even though they lose a member.

      Kung Fu mentions kindness helping “a wounded heart heal, a sad heart joyous, or a quavering heart brave.” it’s the sometimes (often) quavering heart that I struggle with the most.

  5. Rosalys says:

    A beautiful story, Annie. Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. GHG says:

    I think often times it’s the little acts of kindness that are most remembered. We just lost a good friend last week who was one of those people who made everyone feel like she was interested in whatever it was you did or had to say. A lovely lady. I recall the first time I met her about 15 years ago. My wife and other mutual friends had known her and her husband much longer so I was kind of a Johnny-come-lately to that circle of friends. She was so unassuming and yet so inviting and warm that she made me feel like one of her long time friends. And she was that way with everyone and every time. We attended her memorial service this past Saturday and the place was packed. Carolyn had touched a lot of people with her little acts of kindness and we are all better people for having known her.

    • Anniel says:

      One of the things I have learned from many of the foreign parents I have come to know is that each culture expresses grief, hope and faith in very different ways. At the core of action though is the desire to make other people comfortable if at all possible. I would love to visit India just because the people I have known from there are so kind.

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