Berger’s Burg: Lending a helping hand can lead to good returns

Berger’s Burg: Lending a helping hand can lead to good returns
By Alex Berger

January is a month not too many people are fond of. Why? Because they suddenly realize that they have become a year older; they have not attained the lofty goals they set down for themselves in 2010; they do not want Ol’ Man Winter’s icy fingers down their necks; the world remains in turmoil; and there is no cheerful holiday between Christmas and Valentine’s Day. This is the perfect time for me to perk up everyone’s spirits. Read the following tales and see if they do not lift your vim up a wee bit.


The new year was fast approaching and John was driving home on a small country road. Work in his small Midwestern community was limited, but he never quit looking. He had been unemployed and most of John’s friends had already left for greener pastures. But John stayed on, taking any small job that came along. After all, this was where he buried his mother and father, where he was born and where he had found his true love.

One dark evening, John began driving on a lonely road and light snow flurries were coming down. He knew he had better not stop or his old, rickety car might not make it home. In the dim light, he saw an old lady stranded on the side of the road. He pulled up in front of her. She had been there for more than an hour and desperately needed help. The lady was nervous.

He said, “Hi, my name’s John and I want to help you. Why don’t you wait in the car where it’s warmer?”

Her car had a flat tire and John, despite chilled and numbed hands, changed the tire. The old lady thanked him and asked how much she owed him. He replied, “Nothing. But the next time you see someone in need, stop and help that person just as I did for you.”

The old lady drove on and spotted a small cafe. A waitress helped her clean up. During the meal, she overheard the waitress tell the cook that she had serious financial difficulties at home and the lady remembered John’s words. She left a $100 bill on the table and was gone before the waitress returned with her change. On the table, the lady had written, “Please keep the change. Someone just helped me and I want to repay him by helping you.”

That night, when the waitress got home, she thought of the old lady. How did she know, with her husband not working and a baby due within a month, how desperately she needed the money? Wearily, she climbed into bed alongside her sleeping husband, gave him a gentle kiss and whispered softly, “Everything’s going to be all right. I love you, John.”


His name was Fleming and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day while trying to earn a living for his family, he heard a cry for help from a nearby bog. Dropping his tools, he ran to help and found a terrified boy, mired to his waist in black muck, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and horrible death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman’s humble abode and an elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out, introducing himself as the father of the boy.

“You saved my son’s life and I want to repay you,” said the nobleman.

“No, I can’t accept payment,” the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer.

The farmer’s own son then entered the room.

“Is that your son?” the nobleman asked.

“Yes,” the farmer replied proudly.

“I’ll make you a deal. You let me provide him with the level of education that my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he’ll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.”

And that he did. Farmer Fleming’s son attended the best schools and went on to become known throughout the world as the discoverer of penicillin: Sir Alexander Fleming.

Years later, an aristocrat’s son was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life? Penicillin. What was the name of the aristocrat? Lord Randolph Churchill.

What was his son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill.


We never know whose future will change when we help somebody.

For the new year, may you have enough happiness to keep you sweet,

Enough trials to keep you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human,

Enough hope to keep you happy, enough failure to keep you humble,

Enough success to keep you eager, enough wealth to meet your needs,

Enough enthusiasm to look forward, enough faith to banish depression,

Enough determination to make each day better than yesterday.

So cheer up and have a happy, prosperous and healthy new year.

Contact Alex Berger at [email protected].

More from Around New York