Friday, August 9, 2019

We Could Be Heroes

I’ve been to Phipps Conservatory numerous times, but something that happened there this past Christmas has stuck in my mind. Visitors to the Holiday Magic winter flower show had the option of purchasing special hologram glasses to view snowflakes in their LED light displays. Always one to want to get the most from an experience, I bought a pair. 

As my husband and I stood in front of the Sunken Garden, I donned my glasses, which looked like the kind you get when you take in a 3-D movie. When I did, the little boy in his dad’s arms next to me, pointed at me and said with great awe, “Look, Daddy. She’s a superhero!” His dad and I both laughed, but his pure faith in me touched my heart and, of course, got me to thinking.

Too often today, we look to unmask and tear down heroes. It seems everyday we hear disturbing things about people who were once revered—from Martin Luther King to the Founding Fathers--no one is safe from the iconoclasts of our day who delight in diminishing people. While I am not na├»ve and condone bad behavior, I know that no one is all pure and holy. We are all a mixed bag, to one degree or another, of vice and virtue, but I think today too much emphasis is placed on bringing people down and not on building them up.  

For instance, I recently finished the amazing book Beneath a Scarlet Sky, which is the true story of Pino Lella, an Italian teen in World War II Italy, who aids in leading Jews to safety over the Alps and then goes on to become a spy for the Allies after being forced to serve as a driver for the Nazi General Hans Leyer. Why are we just learning his story now?

 Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

I haven’t read it yet, but Dutch Girl is on my to-be-read list. Twenty-five years after her death, this book details how beautiful actress Audrey Hepburn, while also a teen, participated in the Dutch Resistance during World War II. The recent 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion unearthed numerous untold stories of heroism during that battle. 

Why did it take so long to learn them? One reason is that true heroes don’t boast; they let their deeds speak for themselves. Another reason is that most heroes don’t think they did anything extraordinary. Yet, these gems of heroic deeds elevate all of us.

Perhaps we may all be better for it if we, like that little boy at Phipps, concentrated on seeing in people their heroic qualities. After all, we usually rise to the expectations others have of us. I know after that little boy called me a superhero, I felt like I could leap a tall building in a single bound.

Image result for free image of george reeves superman

This originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Northern Connection magazine.  

Friday, July 19, 2019

Where Was I . . . Over the Moon

By Janice Lane Palko

When Paula Green, our Trivia writer, handed in this month’s trivia on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. putting the first men on the moon, I couldn’t help thinking about where I was that night. I was nine when astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, so my memories of that big event are a bit foggy and self-centered; all my recollections focus on what was important to me at that time.

I am a child of the space age; the first generation to grow up with space exploration. President Kennedy launched the space program the year after I was born, and all throughout my childhood outer space played a part. I watched The Jetsons, My Favorite Martian and Lost in Space and listened to Dark Side of the Moon, Rocket Man and Space Oddity

When I was in elementary school at St. Athanasius in West View during a space launch or splashdown, for lack of an auditorium, the teachers would move all the students out into the center hall where we would sit on the floor in front of a black and white TV mounted high on a tall stand. On a fuzzy black and white screen, we’d watch rockets blast off or see returning space capsules plunge into the ocean—all in the name of science education. Most of the time, the kids just goofed off, pulling hair, girls whispering to one another or the boys wrestling. I don’t remember much about the other space voyages.

However, the moon landing was different. Like many families on July 20, 1969, my family was gathered in our living room in front of our black and white TV. I remember being sleepy and bored waiting for what seemed like forever, for the hatch to open on the lunar module. I remember my dad pointing at the screen and telling us to pay attention, that this was historic, that someday we’d all be glad that he’d made us stay up to watch this. I also remember my little sister, Joanne, who was four, crying and wanting to go to bed, but my dad insisted that she remain awake. I remember everyone holding their breath as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon and thinking, “So, it’s not made out of green cheese after all.” My dad’s admonition worked; I still remember the moon landing, and yes, I’m glad he made us watch it.

As I grew older and space exploration became more commonplace, most of us only paid attention to it if something tragic happened like Apollo 13 or the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. I can’t remember who said it or where I read it, but someone once commented that humans quickly get bored with things of their own creation but never tire of God’s, how once we landed on the moon, most people lost interest in space, yet after all these millennia, people still gaze in wonder and awe at the moon, God’s creation.

I think that is a fair assessment. I was never a space enthusiast, and I think the importance of the moon landing was lost on my nine-year old mind, but I still marvel at the moon on a cold winter night or love to gaze up at it on a warm summer’s evening from my deck. However, fifty years later, I have a greater appreciation for the moon landing than I did back in 1969, and I wish I remembered more. What were the adults were thinking back then? Did people pop champagne in celebration or set off fireworks? What was conversation around the water coolers in America afterward?

This month when I look up at the moon on July 20, 2019, the adult thoughts that I didn’t have back then will be streaking through my brain: What a dream! What a challenge! What a risk! What an accomplishment! 

Our astronauts, our nation—we were on top of the world when we were on the moon.  

This originally appeared in the July 2019 issue of Northern Connection magazine. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Mr. Rogers' Legacy

Below is the article I wrote for the July issue of St. Anthony Messenger magazine.