Finding Harmony in Ourselves…


Dear Reader:

I came across another Steve Hartman true story that hit home with me…not the plot of the story necessarily…but simply the essence of it. A wedding gift that made one couple re-think their priority in opening it.


Have you ever been given something and told not to use it until there is no other alternative? I remember getting some peppermint sticks from Grandmother Wilson one Christmas in a bag and I was told to save each piece for a time when I was really sad or going through a tough time…but to remember there were only 12 pieces to last until next Christmas.

Even with my limited arithmetic skills, I could figure out that meant one peppermint per month for the worst time in that month. I soon caught on to the underlying problem in this situation. If a troubled time came along early in the month and I ate a peppermint stick to soothe me…what was to say that a worst problem might not develop at the end of the month leaving me in another dilemma…using two sticks in one month making me short for another entire month.

By the next Christmas I showed Grandmother my bag and it had six pieces still left in it. She smiled, patted me on the head, and gave me six more pieces for the next year. “You’ve had a pretty good year, I figure, an equal balance of up’s and down’s,” she said softly. I nodded proudly and perhaps even a little more wisely.

In our story today…a great-aunt gives her niece an unusual wedding gift with a note  that said it is not to be opened until she and her husband are fighting and need some advice.

CBS Reporter: Steve Hartman:

Couple learns true value of mysterious wedding present

Brandon and Kathy Gunn of Northville, Michigan, have been married for nine years — and yet they just recently opened their last wedding gift.hartman-wedding-gift-x-transfer3.jpg

“It was by far the greatest gift because it taught us so many lessons about how to be married,” Kathy said.

The present was from Kathy’s great aunt Alison and it came with a card that read “Do not open until first disagreement.”


“Break in case of emergency, I hope this works,” Brandon said.

They say they needed it many times, but never opened it.

“You kind of wonder, is it time to turn to the box? Should we open the box? Do we need it right now? But, what if the next spat is worse and we didn’t have the box, then what?” Kathy said.

So it sat on the top shelf of the kitchen pantry, through all the arguments about dishes left undone, through stress and slamming doors, even when they thought it wasn’t worth it anymore, Brandon and Kathy refused to surrender to that last wedding present.

They finally opened the gift just recently. Not because they were fighting, but because they weren’t. And hadn’t for quite some time.

After nine years of successfully resolving their differences, Brandon and Kathy were confident they would never really need the contents.


What they found was remarkably unremarkable. Some money for flowers and wine, some bath salts, nothing that could really stop a fight at all.

And that’s when it hit them, that the real gift wasn’t anything in the box. That the real gift, the priceless gift, had been staring at them all along.

download“Everything we needed, we had between us. We just had to figure it out on our own,” Kathy said.

By not turning to the box, Brandon and Kathy say they were forced to learn tolerance, compromise and patience, something we could all use more of these days.

Because there is nothing magical about wedding gifts or ballot boxes; The keys to harmony are in us. All we have to do is dig deep and find them.


I loved President Obama’s farewell message and found this line one of the most poignant, besides exactly pointing out the same lesson learned by the young married couple:

My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you.  I won’t stop. In fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days. But for now, whether you are young or whether you’re young at heart, I do have one final request of you as your President — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago. I’m asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours.

Truer words were never spoken….like the peppermint sticks, the great-aunt’s wedding gift…the secret to harmony and peace lies within each of us….like Mother Theresa said:

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. 

We are all grown-ups and as such should by now recognize truth from falsehoods, common sense hope and faith towards our fellow man and a sense of unity in the responsibility given us by the Constitution: “We are the People…We are the government.” 

With that comes our greatest responsibility:

Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty

So until tomorrow…God give us the inner vision we need to see justice, equality, love and hope be given to each American fairly… based on the love of our fellow man as promised back to Christ in His last commandment.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*Get outside and enjoy this spring weather in the winter….it seems like everything these days are a roller coaster ride doesn’t it?

  • Jo Dufford had this comment to make about yesterday’s blog “One” and what one human being can do to promote another, who in turn, promotes another….she gave some great examples:
  • Debbie Macomber wrote a book about choosing one word each year as her word of the year. I decided to do that for a program I had to do, and as Debbie said, “I let God lead me to my word.” Suddenly everywhere I looked there was the word, ONE, so I chose that word for the program and the month (notice I didn’t try a year.)
  • I remember using the quote Helen Keller used so much, “I am but one, I can’t do everything, but I can do something. Because I can’t do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”(Maybe not exact, but close enough.) Obviously, your blog really inspired me today as it always does. I enjoyed every example you gave of the importance of ONE, and it also made me remember the many ways I saw that when ONE was my chosen word.
  • *The Turners have definitely found harmony within themselves when they arrived at Disney World and were told their room had been upgraded, at no extra expense.
  • This is a photo taken from their room on the 8th floor of the Contemporary Hotel…it looks out over Space Mountain and Cinderella Castle. Eva Cate has always wanted to live in a two-story house so she could pretend she is sleeping upstairs at the top “turret” in her “castle.” So I can only imagine how she feels looking out at this scene from her balcony.
  • img_20170113_203832


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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