Sunday, July 31, 2016

Unsung Heroes Project

Another site that shares great stories of personal integrity and courage is the Unsung Heroes Project. Not only does the site give story overviews, it provides resources for educators and collaborates in project-based learning opportunities for students, teachers, and parents. The project even offer cash-prize awards to students whose art communicates these untold tales to a greater audience.

Many of their featured projects, that is, stories which have been brought to the public through the arts, involve people who chose to do One Right Thing. One which struck me in its simplicity deals with the difficulties faced by the Little Rock Nine during the 1960s Civil Rights era. Those black students were the first to break the race barrier and be integrated into the all-white Little Rock School District. They had to walk through lines of jeering students and adults just to enter the school, endure untold threats and horrors in an attempt to receive an education. I'm sure they all remember those horrible days well.

And yet, even decades later, Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Nine, still remembers the names of two white students who showed her kindness during her ordeal, Ken Reinhard and Ann Williams. These two unlikely heroes didn't stand by when Elizabeth and the new students came to class. Ken repeatedly offered to walk with Elizabeth despite the verbal and phoned threats he received. Ann saw Elizabeth sitting alone in class and sat beside her, chatty and welcoming. The story of these small acts of standing up for what's right has been immortalized in this short film.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Focus on right

I've been to the beautiful, friendly city of Munich twice, once for pleasure and once for research. Because Munich is my novel's setting, I have spent many hours there in my head as well. That makes the recent horror there all the more painful. The news coverage gives us terrible details about the event, and in a short time everyone knows the shooter's name, age, and background. Perpetuating the perpetrator. Perpetuating the prejudice. 

And yet I'm sure someone in that mall acted valiantly. No doubt someone sheltered a frightened child, protected a potential victim at risk to his or her own self. Soon, I hope, we'll hear about a 'hero' we can all admire.  

Which reminds me of this seldom-told tale which got little (or no) publicity at the time about terror in another city I love, my hometown of NYC. The video below narrated by Tom Hanks was not made until years later. But stories like this are the ones that deserve the most publicity, the ones I hope we remember. 

On 9/11, the greatest boat rescue in world history plucked half-a-million terrified people off the south end of Manhattan in just 9 hours. Some of the boats were privately owned, others were Coast Guard vessels, ferries, tugs, and tour lines. In the uncertain and frightening events of that day in NYC, these courageous boat owners and captains risked their own lives, driving the flotilla right into the smoke and debris of lower Manhattan. 

I choose to focus on these heroes. I choose to tell stories about those who chose right. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nicholas Winton, Or how an unmarried stockbroker rescued hundreds of foreign children

Last night, Michael and I watched Nicky's Family on DVD (thank you, Netflix.) It was the story of Nicholas Winton and the lasting effect of his pre-WWII efforts.

Back in December 1938, British-born Nicholas was packing for a ski trip to Switzerland when a friend named Martin Blake called and asked to meet him in Prague instead. Martin was involved in with the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia and needed Nicholas' help in figuring out how best to aid Czech people fleeing the German annexation of the Sudetenland. So, the ski trip was off.

Nicholas was moved by the plight of these displaced Czech people, their desperation. They expected that war would soon be upon them, and young parents were understandably anxious about the safety of their children. Using Martin's contacts and then establishing his own official network (including a spy and some fake documents and rubber stamping), Nicholas created the pipeline called the Czech Kindertransport which functioned until the Nazis shut it down at the start of war on Sept. 1, 1939. His work resulted in 669 Czech children, mostly Jewish, being transported safely by rail and boat to England and placed with British families for the duration of the war.

Many of the parents who sent their children off to the homes of foreign strangers themselves perished in the war and the Holocaust. It is therefore believed that Nicholas' program saved the lives of those 669 children.

A humble man, Nicholas never spoke of his efforts afterward. It wasn't until 1988 that his wife discovered a scrapbook he kept with photos and names of each of the children. She led the effort to contact these now-grown children and organized the first of many 'family' reunions. When he died at age 106, Nicholas' 'family' had grown to a world-wide, multi-generation family well over 5000 strong.

All because one man decided to do One Right Thing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Meanwhile, at the RNC...

As this New York Times article relates, the conflicts which underscore our country are in plain view at the Republican National Convention. If we give in to our differences, it would be easy for us to become a divided people, us vs them, those with authority vs those who feel powerless. 
Thankfully, some people don't focus on differences. They focus on peace.

I'm so grateful for people like these. Sometimes, all we can do in the face of tension and anxiety is join hands and pray for peace. 
Don't get me wrong. I'm not naive enough to believe that our nation's problems will be solved by holding hands and singing Kumbaya. But I'm realistic enough to know that if we face a potentially difficult situation with an attitude of peace, we can move forward and hopefully be that peace. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Bookworm for kids blog

This morning, I'll share a different kind of positive story. The blog Bookworm for Kids has posted a review of my historical fiction novel Risking Exposure. To say I'm thrilled with the review is an understatement! The blog's author has even included my book as one of her favorites for 2016.

Encouragement like this keeps me slogging through my two main challenges in writing: the way I get lost in research and my difficulty in taming endless ideas into a single coherent story shape. Thanks for the motivation, Tonja Drecker!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The courage to try

Sometimes I wonder how I'd react in a threatening situation. I like to think I'd act for the good, that I would instantly know what to do and how to do it. But seriously, when faced with a fight-or-flight moment, would I try to change the outcome? Would I even recognize the opportunity to try?

A day or so after the latest terror attack, this time in Nice France during the Bastille Day celebration, an amazing story has emerged. It seems that two quick-thinking bystanders attempted to stop the terrorist and his rampaging truck. One rode his motorcycle alongside the truck and tried to break into the truck's cab. The second actually did get in the truck's cab and wrestled with the armed driver. We may never know the extent these acts changed the outcome as neither was successful in stopping the madness alone. Perhaps their efforts slowed its attack. God knows.

These courageous individuals are as yet unnamed by the press, but they are true heroes in every definition of the word. I hope the media shares their names and their stories. We need reminders of how to behave well in the face of evil if we're ever going to learn how to subdue it.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Free hugs!

At the close of the candlelight vigil for the fallen Dallas police officers, Ken Nwadike did what he does so well. He spread good will and encouragement through his Free Hugs Project. He chose to do One Right Thing in the face of horror and sadness. As you watch the video, note the appreciation for this simple gesture expressed by members of the Dallas police.

If you're as unfamiliar with Ken's movement as I was, I encourage you to explore the Free Hugs Project website and YouTube channel. Maybe you'll want to share a free hug too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Choosing to serve, despite the negativity

People react in different ways when shunned by members of the community. These gentlemen chose a classy response to public anger. Click the link to see the video - it only takes a few minutes.

Way to go, Homestead PA police force. Well done.

Monday, July 11, 2016

My blog, reinvented

Like many people, I’m horrified by recent events in America. I’m sickened by the headlines and can barely watch the national news. And I wonder about the media’s continued emphasis on these terrible events. I’ve been asking myself:

-          What’s the impact on us as individuals and as a society when we’re inundated by tragic news?
-          Is our collective moral compass skewed by this horror overload?
-          How long can we reach into our well of decency when craziness, greed, and people behaving badly are given the spotlight?

I can’t sit by idly. I need to be part of the solution.

It begins right here, right now. This blog is now called One Right Thing. I plan to showcase examples of positive behavior, people who choose to do one right thing in difficult or threatening situations. These are individuals who obey the Old Testament edict “…to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God,” regardless of their religion, race, age, or walk of life.

I'll start by sharing this story. When shooting broke out last week in Dallas, a group of people did One Right Thing and surrounded a baby stroller to protect the little one inside.  

Work with me to spread positive, encouraging stories that emphasize the best of humanity. If you have a story for One Right Thing, please let me know at

Friday, July 8, 2016

New connections and a new book

One perk of our move to a new area is the chance to make new connections with people and organizations that matter to us. For me, that includes a finding a church home and a community of writers. We seem to have found a church home, which is awesome, and the library system led me to a terrific, established writers group. Unfortunately for me and my ongoing need for writer-ish infusions, they only meet once a month. Through my membership in SCBWI, I connected with two other fledgling writers' groups which have great potential. I located a member who I'll meet for coffee next weekend, and already met with fellow author Corinne Smith. Corinne and I chatted over breakfast about our books and the trials and tribulations of publishing. That single meeting lifted a veil from my eyes - uncovering the marketing angle.

What Corinne has done is create a uniform approach to her online persona. Her website clearly shows the coordination between her presentations, her publications, and her activities among Henry David Thoreau scholars and fans. Quite impressive.

Corinne is a generous guru who, by her example and her willingness to share links and info, has started me on the road to understanding how best to present my work and myself in the marketplace. I'm so grateful!

All that marketing info got my wheels turning. With the upcoming release of my first picture book Mikey and the Swamp Monster created with illustrator/graphic designer extraordinaire Michael Rausch, we're developing ideas about how best to handle the marketing. We have to 1) engage kids in the idea behind the story with activities and manipulatives, 2) allow parents to see that the book encourages imagination and imaginative play, and finally 3) get the book into kids' hands. The ideas are flying fast and furious - and fun!

Hopefully, all will be in place for an early August book launch. I'll keep you posted!