Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thank you Mrs. McAuliffe (Re-posting for the 30th anniversary today)

Where were you January 28, 1986 at 11:39 am EST?
I was standing on the grass with the rest of my class staring at a streak in the sky and, not aware just yet, of the impact that image would have on me. That 'streak' was the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding before my eyes. This disaster claimed the lives of: Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe, a teacher participating in the Teacher In Space Project. I admit I had to look up some of their names, but, it was important to have each and everyone of them here with me as I try to explain how that moment was my first sobering lesson in life.
Minutes earlier, my little catholic school in that sleepy little circus town off the Gulf of Mexico was alive. A perk of living in Florida is being able to, sometimes,view glimpses of the space shuttles launching from the Kennedy Space Center. We also followed this particular one closely since it involved a teacher whose purpose on this voyage was to literally teach us all about "The ultimate field trip" and to relay to us "Where we've been, Where we are going."
I was one of a bunch of giddy students lined up and ready to rush out the door when we got the signal from the principal over the intercom. We were finally allowed to pile out onto the front lawn and watch the space mission make it's mark in history. Our teachers fluttered around us to make sure we were paying attention and looking in the right direction so we didn't miss the moment. Then, it happened...The very visible streak shot up in the clear sky. We were elated that we were able to see it from that little patch of grass so many miles away. Our heads rattled around and the chatter started as the explosion occurred and the trail of smoke split off in different directions across the sky. Our principal,who had been monitoring the launch and the explosion from a TV in her office, awkwardly stepped out and approached the other faculty. Their moods changed and their expressions gave way to our imaginations. We were herded back into our classroom without an immediate explanation while the flaming debris was crashing into the Atlantic Ocean.
The silence broke and the news was released to us and we all sat slumped back in our chairs and I wondered.... Oh, how I wondered! How and why do things like that happen? Can you even imagine what it felt like to be from Christa McAuliffe's class and watching this happen on live T.V.? Did the crew even know something was wrong before it exploded? Unanswered questions just kept pouring into my brain as my thoughts ran deeper than they had ever done before.
Christa McAuliffe perished in the explosion along with everyone else on board. However, she, somehow, in spirit, still managed to teach me this final lesson:
I learned to dream big; I learned there were ordinary people who believed so much in our world that they often put themselves in extraordinary positions for the rest of us; I learned that there weren't always happy endings; I learned that sacrifice was a part of life; I learned recovery was necessary and we must fix things to still keep moving forward; I learned to never forget those moments and that they are to be used as stepping stones to mark who you are and help build the path to where you are going in life. Thank you Mrs. McAuliffe. You taught me more than you will ever know!
So, where were you January 28, 1986 at 11:39 am EST?


Note: Challenger image copied from the following website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Kudos To Ben and His Faith versus Reason: Feathers Part 2

Ask me "If you could meet anyone famous, past or present, who would it be?," and my answer would always be the same: Benjamin Franklin.
Yes, he was one of the Founding Fathers who drafted the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of The United States. We all know his other bragging rights included his inventions and advancements in Science. Yep, he was also a diplomat, postmaster, politician, and an accomplished author....blah, blah, blah, and so on...All undeniable and incredible marks left behind by a life definitely not wasted.
However, my deep rooted curiosity and fascination with him goes way beyond the obvious or predictable. When I stuck my head out of the history books and dug a little deeper, I saw another captivating version of this man unfolding that I would have liked to have met:
The little boy with very little formal education who became an avid reader and writer.
An imaginative and witty sixteen year old that took on the pseudonym, Mrs. Silence Dogood, after his brother refused to publish his work. Then, he cleverly submitted his letters to his brother's newspaper which were published and delighted readers with his brother not realizing it was Ben behind the pen.
The self taught swimmer who built his own wooden flippers and swam often for many miles on the Thames River.
The innovative man who proposed a new alphabet to eliminate the letters C, J, Q, W, X and Y as redundant.
Then, I began to soak up his collection of proverbs and witty maxims such as “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” and “He that lies down with dogs, shall rise up with fleas" he published in Poor Richard's Almanac. I appreciate his attention to thrift and courtesy, with a delightful dash of cynicism.
Each quirky find or odd story here and there just added to the way I have always been drawn to the manner in which he perfected his unique balance of facing life with such refreshing wit and extraordinary wisdom that only Benjamin Franklin could do so well.
Okay, get ready for the segue! Out of all his quotes, the one that has connected with me the most is "the way to see faith is to shut the eye of reason;" We live in a world based on fact or fiction, wrong or right, yes or no, black or white. What about the grey areas!?! I loved that such a successful scientist that based his discoveries on fact still gave as much emphasis and importance to his faith. So much so that he allowed them to live harmoniously together without question or judgement. Bravo Mr. Franklin! You and your willingness to see and promote both is something still many of us battle to do these days.
Nobody argues with fact or reason. If it can be proven, it must be true! We can and do easily accept and choose reason over faith. So, what about faith? Why is it so much harder to trust what we feel over what we can see. Faith has been referred to as a leap that one takes as if it is a more daring and almost impossible path to choose. It does not provide the same safety net that reason does but the end result is usually more special because it is felt so much more in the heart than in the mind. So, why do we hesitate to accept faith if it does bring us such a beautiful sense of comfort and joy?
Referring to my last entry about receiving the feather I asked for, I sadly admit I asked for it with my eye still slightly open. Reason crept in and compelled me to daringly ask for one more. This time more specific (and more difficult) than the first. A blue feather. Hence, my leap of faith. If this is true and real, send me only a blue feather. Why did I doubt the faith I asked for when it was given to me? Why did I allow reason to have a say in this at all? Forgive me Ben, but, I do not know.
As the hustle and bustle of the holidays crept in, I became so busy that I stopped pondering my choice to ask for more or if faith would shadow reason in this personal battle I created. Then, it surfaced and I found myself back to where I started when I had to, once again, choose between the two.
My son had to build a shoe box diorama and give an oral report about it in class. I was eager to hear about how his presentation went and he told me in the middle of talking, the weirdest thing happened..."A blue feather landed on me and I had to stop and knock it off." A BLUE FEATHER!?!
At first, I thought why would he get to see the feather and not me? Maybe the sender was afraid I had not totally shut the eye of reason again !?! Maybe it was intentionally given for him to see because I have thanked my loved ones for watching over him and they were validating their presence around him to me.
I asked my son how he thinks it got there and he said he thought another student might have had some blue feathers on her project and one must have blown away. Enter reason. Which path would I choose this time? Out of all feathers though, it was a blue one! Enter faith again.
I have chosen, this time, to put complete trust in something I can't explain and I will not be asking for anymore feathers. However, I will be open to seeing them or hearing about them, without question, if they choose to return. Thank you Ben, thank you feathers, thank you dearly departed for renewing my faith.