Berger’s Burg: Computer teaches five valuable life lessons

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Everyone who reads my column knows that I am allergic to computers. I hate them all, especially my own little monster. Every one of my columns that you peacefully read in the comfort of your home was the product of a life and death struggle with the machine.

When I finally finish a column, Gloria heaves a sigh of relief. She finally gets her husband back. That is until I begin my next assignment. But recently, something strange happened between the computer and me.

After completing my column, amidst a customary mound of fallen hair, I inadvertently pressed several wrong keys and went into e-mail. Now, e-mail never interested me and I never read it, but lo and behold, there on the screen was a message the computer was sending me. It was entitled, “Five Important Lessons.” I don’t know who sent it, where it came from or how I got it, but allow me to share it with you just the way it was written:

Lesson l (Treating Everyone With Respect): During the second month of college, the professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions, until I read the last one. “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” the professor said. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned that her name was Dorothy.

Lesson 2 (Do A Favor For Others): One night during the 1960s, at 11:30 p.m., an older African-American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled times.

The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a there was a knock on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others. Sincerely, Mrs. Nat (King) Cole.”

Lesson 3 (Always Remember Those You Serve): In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked.

“Fifty cents,” the waitress replied. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.

“Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient.

“Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins.

“I’ll have the plain ice cream.” he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, placed the money on the table, and left.

When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish and the thirty-five cents, were two nickels and five pennies. The boy couldn’t have the sundae because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

Lesson 4 (The Obstacle in Our Path): In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and couriers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the obstacle, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the boulder to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.

As the peasant was picking up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder. The peasant learned what many of us never understand. Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

Lesson 5 (Giving When It Counts): Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a girl named Liz, who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her younger 5-year-old brother, who miraculously had survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

The doctor asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister to save her. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I will do it.” As the transfusion progressed, he lay in the bed next to his sister and smiled as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek.

Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice. “Will I start to die right away?” Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor. He thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood. This proves that understanding and attitude are everything.

The author ends the piece with the following words, “Work like you don’t need the money, love like you have never been hurt and dance like you do when nobody is watching.” Yes, I will. It also was requested that the message be forwarded to people I care about and so, I send it to my readers.

Furthermore, I must apologize to my dear computer and thank it for presenting me with those five important lessons we all should heed. So, dear computer, from this day forward, I promise never to curse, jostle or abuse you, ever again. Today, you made me a new man.

Hey, computer, why are you acting up again? Please be nice and let me finish this column. Computer, you *&%$#, take that and that and that! Lesson 6 - A computer never changes its plots.

Reach columnist Alex Berger by e-mail at or call 229-0300, ext. 140.

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