Email Inbox Filled With Smiles

1StrawberriesCoverWooden&Me_cover_PRFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

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Mailbag is Filled With Reasons to Smile

As a rule, a columnist needs the hide of an alligator but happily over the past few weeks all the reader emails I have received have given me a toothy grin.

I hope a sampling will likewise brighten your day . . .


Rick Throckmorton agreed with my column about firefighters being true heroes:

“They are the unsung who go about their work without much notice or, unfortunately, admiration. Unnoticed, that is, until the flames are licking at the back door!

“I’ve been in the helicopter business for many, many years and have fought my share of fires. But time has caught up with me and I now watch from a distance and marvel at these guys – the next generation to replace us old ’Nam Vets.

“Fire is very similar to combat, except hopefully no one is shooting at you. The dangers exist on every flight from high winds and turbulence, low visibility in the smoke and flames, and even the possibility of running into the unseen drone – yet, these guys still go out and do battle with the Enemy: Fire and Flames.”1MailbagTypewriter


Bob Nieto also praised firefighters:

“As a 45.5-year law enforcement officer (retired), I can mirror your thoughts and words regarding these true heroes. On many occasions, I have been alongside and worked with these courageous men and women.

“Firefighters and police are made like all others, who feel, hurt, cry, love and morn losses of life and work for the people of their community and state. They do it with honor and integrity.”


Linda Calderon shared an original brief poem: “Sunrise: God peeling back night – revealing day’s bloom, petal by petal.”


My friend John Watts, meanwhile, shared a story that his own friend, Peter, shared with him.

Stealing baby Jesus from the life-sized crèche had become an unwelcomed holiday tradition at the church Peter served as minister.

One year, however, instead of a theft there was a small gift left beside the infant with a hand-written label that read: “Happy Brithday, Jesus.”  Birthday was misspelled.

Curiosity got the best of Peter and he opened the red wrapping paper. Inside an old Shake ‘n Bake pork seasoning box was 33 cents – and a note on lined school paper reading:

“Dear Jesus, Happy Brithday. Here’s some small change for you to feed someone who is hungry. I give myself to be kind to others as you were kind to other people on earth. Love, Maria.”

Peter knew right away who Maria was for she lived on the church campus in the house it operated for people with chronic mental illness. She was, Peter recalls, “a tender soul” with a “big heart” who was “plagued by schizophrenia.”

“For 25 years now, I’ve kept that box and note and the change inside,” Peter says. “It sits in my desk drawer as a sacred relic of sorts, something I’m unwilling to part with. It may have been intended for Jesus, but it keeps on giving a beautiful reminder to me: Love is the best thing I have to give away.”


Speaking of love and giving, the final tally announced here previously for this year’s Woody’s Holiday Ball Drive needs updating after a number of last-minute donations rolled in, including: Stacy DeLeon, and Sheila and Tom McCollum, with ten basketballs between them; and Jim Cowan with 10 more “in honor of the firefighters and policemen that saved so many homes from being lost!”

A reader, who wished to remain anonymous, also donated 10 basketballs after finally returning to his home following a long evacuation due to the Thomas Fire. He noted:

“I’m just trying to contribute to something that is so worthwhile. I think, in the back of my mind somewhere, is the hope that if he had known about even the truly small effort I’ve made to your Ball Drive, Coach John Wooden would have said something like, ‘Good job!’”

I’m confident Coach would have indeed praised everyone who contributed to this year’s drive that totaled 358 balls for kids in need.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …