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WIT & WISDOM - December 17, 1998
You train people how to treat you by how you treat yourself. - Martin Rutte 
~~~~~~~ SPECIAL THOUGHTS:
YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio (Dec 12, 1996) - For years, Yellow Springs has been keeping a list and checking it twice. But it's the widows, not the kids, who get the Christmas gift.
Every year this season, every widow in town gets a free 10 pounds of flour and 10 pounds of sugar, part of a century-old bequest former slave. "The first time I got it I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," said Pat Hubbard, whose husband died nine years ago. "So I did both."
The widows' benefactor, Wheeling Gaunt, bought his freedom from a Kentucky slaveholder for $900, moved to Yellow Springs - a stop on the Underground Railroad - in the 1860s, and made his fortune as a teamster, carpenter and farmer.
At his death in 1894, he donated nine acres of farmland to the community on the condition it distribute 25 pounds of flour to its "poor worthy widows" every Christmas. The village, population 4,000, hasn't missed a Christmas since, though it's made some changes. From the first, the flour was given to all widows, apparently in the belief that that's what Gaunt would have wanted.
In the early 1950s, the village cut the amount of flour and added sugar because, it reasoned, women were not baking as much bread anymore and might have use for sugar. There are now 110 widows on the distribution list, updated by a village administrative assistant who pores over the obituaries in the newspaper.
Occasionally, a widow will decline the offer, usually because she doesn't bake or is allergic to flour or sugar. But that's rare. "A lot of times the widows will have the doors open and are looking out the window waiting for me to show up," said Kelley Fox, one of the city workers who deliver the goods.
Some of the widows even invite the workers to come back and pick up some of the goodies they've baked. "One lady will make zucchini bread and give to us," Fox said. "And around Christmastime a batch of cookies are likely to show up at random. It makes you feel good."
Lottie Phillips, 73, said she uses the flour and sugar to make cornbread, cakes, sugar cookies and fudge: "My family loves it."
Maxine Grubb, 76, said she is especially glad to get the flour and sugar in the winter, because it saves her from having to go the grocery store. She said she uses the sugar to attract hummingbirds to her yard in the summer.
Gaunt intended that the rent from the land pay for his gift, which cost about $900 this year. The land is now a park, with a swimming pool, baseball diamonds and soccer fields, and the pool admission fees pay for the flour and sugar, which the village buys from a grocery store.
No one knows why Gaunt chose this particular legacy, but local historian Phyllis Jackson noted that most women did not hold jobs then and were often left penniless when their husbands died. "Bread is the staff of life. If you had bread, you could survive for a while," she said.
There is hardly a widow in Yellow Springs - a village that is two-thirds white - who doesn't know Gaunt's name. "This Wheeling Gaunt was a man who had been a slave. I don't know how well he was treated or how poorly he was treated, but he didn't have any freedom," Ms. Hubbard said. "But he still found it in his heart to give to others." Ms. Hubbard hopes the tradition never dies. "I guess it's one of the sweetest things in life," she said . . . 
~~~~~~~ THIS & THAT:
If the FBI really wants to find someone, why don't they hire Ed McMahon? He'll find you every year, no matter how many times you move. - Carrie Voorhees
I saw this crowd of people the other day and about half of them were women. I mean, what are the odds of that? They gotta be like one in two. - Mark Niebuhr
I think probably the best place to be during an earthquake would be bungie-jumping. - Andrea Judson
I think those chips with Olean would sell a lot better if they put a prize in the bottom of the bag. Like maybe a diaper. - Richard Marek
Women: Ya can't live with 'em, ya. . . well, I guess I probably could live with 'em. I think I've only got half a problem here. - Eryk Nielsen
If the walls have ears, why aren't they clearly marked? The last thing I want to do is puncture an eardrum when I'm hanging up a picture. - Paul Paternoster
They said I was crazy because my ideas and actions were a little different, but I showed 'em. I was declared competent to stand trial, so there! - Michael McCuiston
I once mistyped an e-mail and sent someone an e-mall instead, and it took forever to transfer all that brick and mortar through my 28.8 modem. - Rob Sharp
Sometimes while I'm sitting in the dark just a-rockin' with the headphones on, I think, "Man, I should get a stereo so I can plug these things in." - Bill Ervin 
~~~~~~~ KEEP SMILING:
A kindergarten teacher was giving a lesson on the shapes of things. She asked for examples of cubes. Each child in turn named something shaped like a cube - a box, a block, an ice cube, and so on. Eventually the class ran out of ideas, the last one mentioned being a half pound of butter.
"That's fine," said the teacher, "now let's have one more." The class was silent, apparently having exhausted its originality, until finally one little boy, who hadn't thought of anything up to then, raised his hand. "The other half of that pound of butter," he offered. - Bits & Pieces, June 27, 1991 
Scientists were studying the impact of a high-cholesterol diet on heart disease. To measure this effect, they fed a group of genetically similar rabbits the same high-cholesterol diet. To their amazement, half the rabbits developed heart troubles, while the others were normal, with no noticeable heart disease.
This outcome was not explainable, so they bought new rabbits and repeated the study. At the end of two weeks, they obtained the same results. Something was wrong with the research design, but they could not determine the unaccountable variable.
Eventually, they discovered that during the evening the assistant who fed and cared for the rabbits took the rabbits out of their cages and cuddled them and petted them while she changed their bedding and food. However, because she was short, she could not reach the rabbits on the top shelf, so they were simply fed and changed without being picked up.
Sure enough, after two weeks, the rabbits on the top row all had heart disease, while the rabbits on the bottom row were healthy. The environment and diet were exactly the same. The only variable was expressed love through touching.
By Marvin Wray, DIVINE APPOINTMENTS
 (Barry Ritholtz)
 (Keith's Mostly Clean Humor