Monday, February 22, 2010

The Death of a Hero

I just received the news. A hero has passed on…quietly and modestly, as he lived, a believer in God. A hero for us all.

Early on the morning of June 6, 1944 Roberto Martinez, a paratrooper from the 101st Airborne Division, with painted black marks under his eyes, climbed aboard a plane in England. In the dark morning as the airplane took him over the English Channel and into Normandy the Germans opened fire. “It was like Christmas with lights all over the place,” he said. The airplane kept flying until the men jumped out, one after another after another after another. Finally, it was Roberto’s turn.

“I tried to hide my parachute after I jumped. Everything was dark because they dropped us in the early hours and before the landings were to begin. I couldn’t find my cricket, that funny sounding thing that was to be used by the paratroopers to signal one another, but someone approached me and I heard his cricket.”

The invasion of France had just begun. Roberto Martinez along with all the other thousands of Americans began their heroic effort. And now his life’s journey has ended. May he and all the other heroes who kept this country safe from dictators not be forgotten.

A Buried Memory Rises to the Surface

A few years back I attended a school reunion. Since we attended a small school, students from various years of graduating classes comprised the attendees at the reunion. Among the attendants was a successful businessman. He pulled me aside to tell me a story.

“When I was in the first or second grade I went to school one day and some bullies jumped me. They were older and bigger, and they began to beat me up. After I was on the ground at their mercy, an older boy came by and seeing what was happening, told the mean boys to leave me alone. They walked off. I was so relieved and happy and still a bit scared. Well, we all grew up, including the bullies, and boy who made the mean guys get off me. I don’t think I said anything to the boy who saved me, but I never forgot the moment. One day I found him on the internet and I emailed him and finally, after about fifty years, I thanked him for saving me from that ordeal.”

I wondered why he was telling me the story. It was an incident I saw happen often as we waited for the school to let us in. I was a girl and was never bothered, but boys did fight and scuffle.

Then the businessman said, “The boy who saved me was your brother William. I finally thanked him properly.”

It was a wonderful reunion, a memorable one. A flower bloomed and thanks were given

The Inside Person

I know how my fifty year old friend acted when she was five or ten. I know what my eighty-five year old friend was like when she was a young girl, too. I wasn’t there to observe either one, but I know how they behaved.

How do I know that? I’ve lived long enough now to know that people do not change. I’ve seen my children, my neighbor’s children, children of friends, and relatives’ offspring grow from infanthood to adulthood and I’ve looked for changes, and they weren’t there.

Oh yes, you can see folks who didn’t have material things and now possess them. I’ve seen people who have acquired degrees they didn’t have. And I’ve seen people move from one part of town to another. And they didn’t change.

If their environments and possessions have changed what is it that remained the same? The inside of them, the characteristics, their feelings and approaches to life. If they were gentle as children, they are gentle now. If they were sensitive to other’s feelings, they don’t want to hear of someone cheating others. The little boy who shared his toys when he was five gives to charities now that he is a man.

The child who was concerned with herself, her needs, wants and desires, is an adult consumed with herself. The small girl who loved to be socializing with her friends is now grown and still socializing. The boy who fantasized about winning in games grew up and participated in sports. He is still dreaming of his team winning big.

Whatever it is that makes us what we are is there for the rest of our lives. We can modify our behavior, alter our lifestyles, acquire new practices, change our diets, etc., but the real inside person remains.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Something I Learned

This may be hard for young people to believe but…in the long run…looks don’t matter. Oh yes, when young, the boys are attracted to the cutest girls and the girls like the best-looking boys. Surprise: when you are mature, those attractions that pulled you like a magnet don’t have the same strength anymore, nor the same value.

So what are the attractions to one another or to friends when one becomes older? I am not referring to romantic relationships but rather relationships in general. People seem to be attracted to genuine folks, those who are honest in their actions, i.e., “I am going to call you.” And the person calls. “I’ll send you the article.” And you receive the article in the mail. Those earnest responses win votes and are remembered.

Also, a caring attitude always attracts attention. A friend tells me, “I know the child acts the way he does because of his home life.” I listen carefully and note my friend is not judgmental and really cares for her student. (I imagine deep in my heart I know that friend cares for me, too.)

Rational thinking and reasonable behavior results in admiration. “I need to think about that before making a decision. I want to do what is right.” The action that follows indicates good judgment. The listener or observer makes a mental note and it is positive.

As our teachers and parents told us: "Beauty is skin deep." They were right after all.

How do you pick your friends? And why did your friends pick you?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Confidence and Faith

They were about to announce the names of the winners. I sat passively with my team among hundreds of students. Of course I hoped they would win, but competition was so strong, I didn’t know if we stood a chance.

Our Odyssey of the Mind team worked hard all year with their two coaches. I brought them into the cafeteria for a thirty or forty minute work on a portion of their challenge. The part I worked with and their seven minute play would compete with schools from all over the region. It would be tough.

In the vast auditorium which was filled to capacity, we waited. One of our team members, a small, bright, boy asked me if he could sit in the aisle. “Well,” I answered hesitantly, “You can, but be careful you don’t get run over.” The child nodded.

“Why do you want to sit there?” I asked him.

“So I can be closer to run up to the stage when they call our school’s name,” he answered.

I sighed thinking…I hope he won’t be disappointed.

They called out the winners at the high school level, then the winners at the middle school level and finally the winners at the elementary level. “Schanen Elementary, Number One!”

The student sitting in the aisle ran fast and reached the stage before any of the rest of us. We screamed and jumped up and down and accepted the award. Our students yelled and clapped and the student who had been sitting in the aisle smiling confidently said to me, “I knew we would win.”

I should have known, also. Cheers for confidence and faith.