MLK Jr. Day Celebrated by Remembering the Titans

Herman-Boone with football playerWhat may be to some a mere coincidence is to others a divine appointment. For me, meeting Coach Herman Boone at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, on the night of January 22, 2009 still seems more miraculous, than coincidental. I had gone alone to the ONU English Chapel simply as a spectator to hear the famous coach speak about, “…The Importance of observing the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday.” Boone made national headlines in 1971 when as head football coach at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, his team won the state championship by overcoming enormous racial tensions.

T.C. Williams was comprised of three newly integrated schools that year. Boone and his assistant coach, Bill Yoast, who had been a successful head coach at one of the former schools joined forces to lead the Titans to victory. The friendship that developed between Boone, a black coach with an impossible task, and Yoast, a winning white coach is truly inspiring. The Titan’s story was so inspirational that Coach Boone made headlines again in 2000 when Walt Disney Studios released the now classic movie, “Remember the Titans.” Starring Denzel Washington as Coach Boone, the film is a vivid reminder of the courageous pioneers in the Civil Rights movement.

It wasn’t only Boone’s incredible tenacity in the face of adversity that impressed me, but it was also his ability to make rival teams come together. Therefore, when I originally watched the movie, I found the interviews with the “real” Coach Boone fascinating. Although, Boone doesn’t resemble Denzel Washington, he jokes about his imaginary likeness to the Hollywood star.

Concerned that I might not get a seat at ONU that night, I arrived an hour early and found a place way off to the side in the front row. Some Lima Senior High students filled all the seats nearby, except for one empty chair next to me. Then shortly, before the program started an older black man of small stature asked if it would be ok if he sat next to me. I recognized him instantly from the movie’s special features. It was Coach Herman Boone. I invited him to take the seat, which seemed reserved just for him. While waiting for the program to start, Coach Boone began to converse with the boys from nearby Lima Senior High School. He let them know in no uncertain terms, that he didn’t care for sagging pants and that no respectable young man should wear them. The high schoolers were polite, which was good, because I could tell they had no idea who he was. Thankfully, the boys weren’t wearing sagging britches.

Coach Herman Boone

Coach Herman Boone

Then Herman Boone turned to me, and we chatted briefly. I told him how deeply the movie inspired me, and he smiled graciously. When Coach Boone addressed the crowd, he shared about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saying, “[We] gather not to remember Dr. King’s death, but to remember his life…not the sadness of losing him… [but] his message of peace and love [that] was universal.” Dr. King taught us all the importance of relationship, and Coach Boone shared about the way the Titans became a team by learning to “talk to each other….We had problems, but we found a way to respect each other,” he said.

The other night, “Remember the Titans” was showing again on the Family Channel. This time as I watched it, the film seemed like far more than just an inspirational story. After all, I met the real Coach Boone. More than 70-years-old at the time, he greeted countless ONU and community students patiently answering their questions following his message. When it was finally my turn, I asked the coach if he thought divine intervention helped him to win the 1971 state championship. Without hesitation, Boone answered, “I think so…I’m a believer in God…God does work in mysterious ways sometimes…”

Dr. Martin King, Jr. had a dream, “That one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Coach Boone had a dream, too, and he found a role model in Martin Luther King, Jr. “In the face of danger, he motivated me and my family,” he said. If we are honest, we all have dreams. May the legacy of Dr. King and Coach Boone remind us to fight for our visions with perseverance, faith, and the non-violent weapon of love. In the words of the inspiring coach, “..Let us continue to dream, because dreams have no expiration date.”

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her at christina@christinaryanclaypool.com

*Originally published in The Lima News.  

Distracted Parenting: Is Your Cell Phone Hurting your Child?

Mother with childS-C-R-E-E-C-H, that’s the sound I heard coming from the adjacent lane in heavy traffic in Columbus recently. A young mother with a car filled with several little ones barely got her vehicle stopped in time as the light changed to red. To protect her children, she extended her arm toward the back seat when I spied the real culprit, the cell phone in her hand.

Go right ahead and tell someone like that mom, that they are being a negligent parent and that their cell phone behavior is endangering their kids. I’ll bet your well-intentioned advice wouldn’t be very well received. You might be thinking that this column is about distracted driving and the dangers that it presents, but it’s not. After all, experts have proven that “using a Smartphone while driving or crossing a street increases the risk of accident.” This statement was in a September 2012 Wall Street Journal feature titled, “The Perils of Texting While Parenting.”

Instead this WSJ article written by Ben Worthen was about how cell phone behavior intertwined with everyday parenting can put children at risk for injury. For example, young children have drowned, broken arms, and walked into harm’s way while their parents or caretakers have been busy tweeting, reading texts, or taking photos. Worthen cites statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that report, “Nonfatal injuries to children under age five rose 12% between 2007 and 2010. Could this be a direct correlation to the increase in Smartphone owners which has grown from about nine million in 2007 to 114 million in 2012?

In conjunction, studies show that sometimes a parent will look at their cell phone for what they think is a matter of seconds, when in reality it turns out to be minutes, causing them to be preoccupied putting especially small children at risk for physical injuries.

There’s another negative side-effect that seems to be rapidly becoming part of our society. There are parents so busy talking or texting that they no longer have time to engage with or listen to their children. To confirm this, just head out to any busy grocery store and you will find a few parents gabbing on the phone oblivious to anything their little one is saying. Of course, the conversation of a three-year-old isn’t very stimulating, but how are they going to learn if we are too busy to interact?

A year ago, I first read about extreme distracted parenting in a “Dear Abby,” column on Dec. 5, 2011 titled, “Mom with texting addiction needs a slap in her Facebook.” A frantic grandmother had written to syndicated columnist, Abigail Van Buren, complaining that her divorced daughter was so addicted to her cell phone, Facebook and texting, that she ignored her baby.

Maybe we aren’t addicted, but technology can still drive our daily life. Yet youthful folks might be at greater risk, since additional evidence suggests that young people’s personal relationships are being eroded by their cell phones. “The claims come after research revealed that young adults – in addition to sending over 100 texts – check their mobile up to 60 times a day.”  This quote from the article, “Mobile Madness” by Leo Morris for the Fort Wayne Sentinel who also writes, “Experts behind a new study have now said compulsively checking a mobile phone is an addiction similar to compulsive spending or credit card misuse.” Although, Morris seems to think the young folks will probably grow out of it.

I wish I could agree with Morris’s optimistic outlook, but still I don’t believe that we should go back to the dark ages of pre-cellular communication. Cell phones help to keep our children safe by keeping us all connected, and instantly place vital information at our fingertips. Although we need to try to keep our hands off of them for awhile, at least long enough to engage with our kids in real time. After all, most parents love their children in the most self-sacrificing of ways, and would be in despair if anything happened to them as a result of their negligence.

As for the teen who can’t put their own phone down, designate hours that are cell-phone free. Help them get through that socially awkward time of adolescence by having some open-ended conversations about appropriate cell phone etiquette, and genuine connectedness. After all, cell phones are definitely here to stay, but I guarantee you before you know it; your children will be grown and gone. The days of parenting are precious and brief, so try to savor the moments.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker whose website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  This is an excerpt from a column which originally appeared in the Sidney Daily News, and in The Lima News.

My Bucket List: Paris, a House, and Saving Someone’s Life

OakTara author, Christina Ryan Claypool

OakTara author, Christina Ryan Claypool

If you want to talk about bucket lists, you could begin by viewing the film that started the conversation about this topic. In explanation, the 2007 movie, The Bucket List, was my catalyst for mentally composing my own list of must-do-things before I kick the proverbial bucket. The film stars acclaimed actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman who both have terminal cancer. Together they set out on a journey to complete their own “to-do” before dying list. One of The Bucket List’s most comedic moments happens when Freeman [Carter Chambers] argues with Nicholson [Edward Cole] about jumping from the open door of a plane. Although jumping from a plane sure wouldn’t be on my list, because I’ve always had a fear of heights. That’s the beauty of the bucket list. It’s different for everyone. For example, my long-ago career goal of becoming a network TV anchor now seems like just an elusive dream. I did get to work in small market Christian broadcasting for years, but never moved up the ranks. I’ve often thought how great it would be to sit in Diane Sawyer’s chair just for a night, but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. Still, you will find getting back into TV on my list, despite the fact that I’m fifty-something.

Also on my bucket list, there’s my lifelong desire to see Paris which could be easily accomplished with a little mad money. I readily admit that checking travel costs to Paris has been a way of life for a long time now. Despite budget constraints, one day I’m going to have to bite the financial bullet to make it to the Eiffel Tower.

Twenty Wishes 2In 2009, after reading a book by New York Times bestselling author, Debbie Macomber titled, Twenty Wishes, I penned my personal list of the 20 things that I would like to achieve before I die. Before that, my bucket list had only been stored in my overcrowded mind. After competing it, I put this important piece of paper in the back of my burgundy leather Bible. Sometimes, I study the now tattered from handling page of my before I check-out of this world desires. I’ve even been able to cross a few off. For example, a life goal had been teaching adults at college level. In 2010 that dream was accomplished when I became an adjunct instructor for Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

I had also wanted to win an award, because although some folks think I’m a successful writer, truthfully I haven’t made much money. Yet I have received enough rejection letters/emails these past two decades to paper the bathroom walls. That’s why, I began to wonder, if I was any good at my craft. It was an amazing surprise when last May I was awarded the national $10,000 first prize in the Amy Writing Awards for a newspaper feature for The Lima News about a family who grappled with forgiving the man who brutally murdered their loved one. To read the article click here: Finding Forgiveness and the Amy Writing Awards. If you are a writer, please read More about the Amy Writing Awards, because you could be a winner, too.

OakTara Publisher's Real-life love stories, the anthology, "My Love to You Always" compiled and edited by Ramona Tucker and Jennifer Wessner

OakTara Publisher’s Real-life love stories, the anthology, “My Love to You Always” compiled and edited by Ramona Tucker and Jennifer Wessner

Just a few months later, I was delighted to find out that I had won another contest. This one sponsored by OakTara Publishers. My short real-life love story about experiencing the heartbreak of divorce, then being given another chance at late in life love with my wonderful husband, Larry Claypool, titled, “Finding the Courage to Love Again,” had been accepted. The story made it into OakTara’s Christian Romance Anthology, My Love to You Always. I was just one of 42 authors to be included in the book, which was released in October 2012.

Then more exciting news, I was also named a winner in OakTara’s Romance Short Story Fiction Contest. My story, “Not just another casserole lady,” was included in the publisher’s Christian romance anthology, I Choose You which was released last month.  For me, this was doubly exciting, because it was the first time that I was blessed to have a fictional piece published. Of course, getting to Paris, having a grandchild, and buying a home instead of renting, are still dreams that haven’t been fulfilled. But that’s OK, because this simply means there’s more time for me to finish this wonderful journey called life.

OakTara Publisher's Romance Anthology, "I Choose You" compiled and Edited By Ramona Tucker and Jennifer Wessner
OakTara Publisher’s Romance Anthology, “I Choose You” compiled and edited by Ramona Tucker and Jennifer Wessner

Speaking of life, one of the most important entries on my list of twenty wishes is to, “Save someone’s life.” I’m not sure how to accomplish this. I’ve been telling my husband that if he would agree to let me rescue a cute little puppy, I could check this one off. But alas, he has severe allergies.

A bucket list is a wonderful tool to remind us of our dreams. Because for most of us, it is in fanning the embers of our God-given visions, no matter how old we are, that can help us get through the difficult days.  After all, having goals gives us something to look forward to; keeping us hopeful, youthful, and reaching for the stars.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker who has been featured on CBN’s 700 Club and on Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life TV show. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. She blogs at www.christinaryanclaypool.com/blog1