Twenty years after Columbine: Remembering Bonhoeffer and Bernall’s Legacy of Faith

The threat of school violence is all too real for me. As a school administrator’s wife, at two different public school systems, I’ve lived through a bomb threat and lock down with my husband, Larry, inside the endangered buildings. Yet as a journalist, there is no violent episode more personally memorable than the one that occurred in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. Twenty years ago, employed as a west central Ohio television reporter at WTLW TV 44, I was horrified by the live footage of bloodied bodies being transported on gurneys from Columbine High School. That historic afternoon, we witnessed a massive display of school violence. Sadly, I fear many folks have become hardened to horrific scenes of mayhem at learning institutions, because they are all too commonplace.

For some of us, our analytical minds have tried to go to the dark place where we question why a loving God would allow such evil? Yet it’s not God’s fault that  people choose destruction. Rather it is up to us as believers to be the light, fragrance, and hope in the midst of human cruelty.

The Bible tells us that Christians should have “lives [that] are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at [us.]” In other words, there really should be something unique about believers, because “Christ himself wrote not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit: not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it” by the way that we live each day. (II Cor. 3:2-3 The Message)

The April anniversary of the Columbine tragedy is a reminder of  two 20th century martyrs who lived with such Christ passion that their legacies continue to preach us lessons. This month we not only commemorate the tragic murder of Columbine victim Cassie Bernall, but also the selfless sacrifice of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They both gave their lives in defense of the faith they embraced.

Bonhoeffer was a brilliant young professor, writer, and ordained Lutheran pastor who could have easily ignored the tragic plight of the Jewish race as many of his countrymen did. Instead he passionately fought Hitler’s Nazism within his native Germany. Bonhoeffer himself once wrote, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” Ultimately, his militant opposition resulted in his being imprisoned by the Gestapo in April of 1943. Two years later, 39-year-old Bonhoeffer was hanged on April 9, 1945 at the Flossenburg concentration camp. It would be naïve to think that Hitler’s reign of terror ended at the close of World War II. There has even been speculation that it was Hitler’s April 20th birthday that might have motivated the Columbine tragedy on the same date 110 years later. Yet we will never know for sure.

Two decades later, one thing we do know is many of us will forever remember the horror of April 20th, 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. As television commentators shared the biographies of the 13 victims, a beautiful blue-eyed blonde teenager named Cassie Bernall was among them. As 17-year-old Cassie was studying Shakespeare in the school library, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris conducted their bloody rampage leaving 15 dead including the two gunmen. Nationwide, it was reported that one of the killers pointed a gun at Cassie and asked her if she believed in God. Supposedly, she answered, “Yes,” knowing it would probably cost her life. In that instant the young man fired and sent Cassie into eternity.cassie-bernall-book

Perhaps, the reason I identify with Cassie is because she was like many of us, she had not always believed. Just a few years earlier she dabbled in witchcraft and was obsessed with suicide. Then she had a radical conversion and became a spokesperson for the God she once shunned. According to a statement issued by Cassie’s parents at her funeral, she made her decision despite the consequence. “Her life was rightly centered around our Lord Jesus. It was for her strong faith in God and His promise of eternal life that she made her stand,” said the Bernalls. In a generation where there seem to be no absolutes or firmness of conviction, it continues to inspire me that a teenager was courageous enough to give her life for what she believed.

Cassie Bernall and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have both become legends. For example, shortly after the Columbine tragedy, Cassie was memorialized in t-shirts, books, and songs. “Yes, I believe,” was a slogan that seemed to crop up everywhere. Similarly, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s legacy lives on within the pages of the books which he authored, and those written about him. Probably, his best known work is The Cost of Discipleship. Others include: Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Letters and Papers from Prison, and Ethics.

As believers, we all need to be reminded of courageous stories like these, which are God’s living letters of faith. After all, being part of a society that has grown increasingly intolerant of people of faith often makes it socially and politically advantageous for us to hide our convictions. However, this April remembering the sacrifices of these 20th century martyrs, there seems little eternal advantage to political popularity. Following both Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s and Cassie Bernall’s example may God grant every believer the courage to say, “Yes, I believe, too.”

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and Inspirational speaker who has been featured on CBN’s 700 Club and Joyce Meyer Ministries Enjoying Everyday Life TV show. Her most recent book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is available on all major online outlets. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com

Please follow and like us:

Remembering a Brave Prom King

Corsage and CrownMost people attend a prom or two, but I’ve attended lots of proms. Like most teenage girls, as a high school junior, I was excited about the prospect of my first prom. Truthfully, it wasn’t much fun, since the boy I had a crush on didn’t ask me.

My senior prom was monumentally worse. By then, I was a patient at Toledo State Mental Hospital following an almost fatal suicide attempt. After spending a couple months in a private psychiatric ward, my insurance ran out. I was committed to the decaying institution that then housed thousands of mentally ill individuals. Before Mental Health reform, that horrible place was reminiscent of the one depicted in the classic film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Battling depression and an eating disorder, I looked more like a 17-year-old Holocaust victim than a carefree teenager. The psychiatrist granted me a weekend pass hoping that attending prom would lift my spirits. My date was a classmate who suffered from epilepsy. He must have empathized with my situation, and proudly escorted me to the prom ignoring the stares from a few overly-curious students.

Fast forward three decades to May 2002, when my life looked nothing like that struggling teen. Faith, education, and the support of a few encouraging mentors had positively changed my circumstances. I was also engaged to a wonderful man who was a school administrator, whose job necessitated that we chaperone prom. Never having had an opportunity to go to prom together, Larry and I decided to don a tuxedo and gown and make it our night, too. Larry and me

Since then, my husband and I have attended quite a few proms. The impressive decorations, twinkling lights, and colorful dresses, still take my breath away. But the prom I remember most vividly is the one when a precious senior who was dying of bone cancer was elected prom king. It was the last year that my spouse served as a middle/high school principal at a rural school in northwestern Ohio.

We had all come to love this quiet dark-haired youth whose given name was Anthony-Dillon. Better known as A.J., he had waged a long and valiant battle against Osteosarcoma. For nine months, he was spot-free, but then the disease turned deadly. Despite his illness, A.J. was compassionate and wise beyond his years.

Somehow in a tight-knit community where folks have known each other forever, tragedy is worse, because everyone is affected. Prom wouldn’t have been prom without A.J. being there, and he knew it. Even though, it had been months since the senior had been able to attend school, he mustered all his strength and accompanied by his dedicated fiancée`, he showed up looking handsome in a white tuxedo.

As the disc jockey played pulsating music, the students danced energetically, while silently grieving the inevitable loss of the fun-loving youth who had always been part of them. When his classmates voted for their prom king, I shouldn’t have been surprised  when A.J.’s name was announced.

There was a moment when the reality of the high school student’s dismal prognosis hit me full force. It happened when a pretty senior asked if she could take a picture with him, and they  posed humorously cheek to cheek with toothy grins. What A.J. didn’t see, was that when the blonde turned away, her expression crumbled into a painful grimace. She had taken the photo as a memory of the boy she had probably known since kindergarten, realizing he would soon be gone. Like a trained actress, before she turned to face A.J. again, the golden-haired girl mustered her courage and smiled brightly. Her affection for her terminally-ill classmate wasn’t romantic love driven by adolescent hormones. Rather it was the kind of caring that country kids take for granted growing up in a close circle of friendship.

When my husband and I visited him for the last time, A.J. sensed that my heart was breaking. He smiled his dazzling smile, and said, “I’ll be okay.” Then the 18-year-old lifted his T-shirt sleeve and displayed a large tattoo of a compassionate Jesus. A visual reminder of the Bible’s promise, “I am the Resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”

That July, the bravest prom king I’ve ever known took his last earthly breath. Still, he lives on in the hearts of those he inspired, forever wearing a white tuxedo and a jeweled crown.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an AP & Amy award-winning journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

Please follow and like us:

A Library Lover all year long

“Love you guys!” These three words came out of my mouth spontaneously, when I only meant to think them, not say them out loud. I wasn’t saying goodbye to a family member or close friend. Instead I was simply walking out of a public library on a cold winter’s day last month.

The statement was directed towards a young library clerk behind the checkout desk who had just handed me two movies and a big thick novel to get me through the blustery storm headed our way. This particular librarian had never seen me before, even though I’m a frequent visitor to quite a few area libraries. She appeared mildly startled by my outburst of affection, so I tried to clarify it by adding, “I love all libraries.” Decades ago, my library love affair began with the classic Nancy Drew mystery series. As an elementary-aged school girl, I devoured these intriguing novels checking them out one-by-one. Like the Hardy Boys, these classics continue to pique the interest of some aspiring pint-sized detectives.

 The books taught me the benefits reading could provide. For instance, one can escape daily problems or exchange a boring existence for an exciting adventure within the pages of a good book. Travel, romance, inspiration, education, spiritual growth, and professional success can all be achieved by reading, too. 

Like today, in my youth there were wonderful programs for children. I was hooked after entering my first book contest at the library. Later, as a painfully shy-11-year-old, I had the great fortune of portraying a character from the classic book, Little Women, at my local library. These programs have enabled countless youngsters to acquire: a love of learning, increased imagination, socialization skills, and the list goes on. 

Once, the public library was the resource for books of all genres and valuable information of all kinds. This was before Amazon cornered the market on book selling and Google answered lots of our endless questions with rapid search engine capabilities. But don’t for one moment think the library is in danger of extinction. Its place of prominence in a community’s list of amenities remains a high priority. After all, the ground is level at the library. 

Whether it’s a book club meeting, group coloring for relaxation, information needs/resources, or children enjoying a movie, the free and often educational events bring folks of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds together. There are books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and music, in many forms and genres to check out, computers to use, and an endless variety of programs. 

The operative word is FREE, and despite being a word most of us like, having access to resources without charge is a necessity for many community members. Whether it’s a single mom or dad, a young family struggling to get established, a senior citizen on a fixed income, or anyone else with a tight budget, the library offers entertainment, education, and social interaction without cost to everyone.

“Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” and
“The Forgiving Jar” on display at a bookstore

Of course, most library lovers are bookstore lovers. Still, many folks couldn’t afford to buy or read a book by a favorite author, unless it was available at the library. Then there are the children. The children who are our responsibility as a community of concerned citizens. Sometimes, when browsing the shelves at the library, I see a young mother wrangling a couple kids, while clutching books and movies that will be making their way into their home.

Witnessing the sheer delight and anticipation in the children’s faces, I remember back to my own days of being a single mom with a little one in tow. I can recall the feeling of fulfillment I had when checking out books and videos for my then young son. The library allowed me to be a better parent by providing these precious commodities when there wouldn’t have been any funds to cover their cost.     

February was Library Lovers’ Month, and you might be thinking that the month is already over. But this year, why not do something special for those wonderful library ladies and men who make our lives so much richer? Maybe though, instead of saying, “Love you guys,” like I did, why not say, “Thanks for all you do to make our community a better place all year long!”

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and Inspirational speaker who has been featured on Joyce Meyer Ministries Enjoying Everyday Life TV show and on CBN’s 700 Club. Her recent release, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel,” is now available on all major online outlets. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

.     

Please follow and like us:

Black History Month: Remembering Coach Herman Boone’s 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 interview 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 high school 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 okay 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.”

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’s Titans 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 whose inspirational book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is now available on Amazon.com. Contact her at through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  

 

Please follow and like us:

A Novel about True Friendship

It was our last lunch together. My friend Kimberly had an aggressive form of cancer and knew her time was short. I hadn’t accepted the fact yet, because she was only in her early forties and had a loving husband and three children to finish raising. But she couldn’t fight anymore. Preparing for my friend of almost two decades to visit that fated day six years ago, you would have thought royalty was coming. I brewed a teapot of piping hot flavored tea, and set the dining room table with the good china, candles, and prepared a lunch feast, even though there would only be the two of us. Usually, lunch together meant going to a restaurant, but Kim had wanted to come to my home. It was our custom to bless food wherever we ate. Truthfully, I can’t remember who said grace, but I vividly recall her tell-tale prayer at the end, “And God, please give Christina a friend.”

Now, wait just one minute, Kimberly. I don’t need a friend, I have you. This thought raced through my mind denying the reality, she had already accepted. A few weeks later, she was gone.

Those of you who have also lost a close friend, empathize with how painful this loss can be. It’s a rare gift to find a faithful friend, although many folks have an ardent desire to experience intimate friendship.

But is friendship becoming extinct? One of the reason’s I wrote my new Inspirational genre book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is because I’m worried about friendship. I’m concerned it might soon be as outdated as last year’s technology, and I’m pretty sure technology is the culprit deserving most of the blame.

To explain, recently a school bus filled with adolescents passed me when I was driving, and I noticed a lot of their young heads were in a downward position. Many were probably listening to music, texting, or checking their social media accounts on their smartphones. This, instead of taking the opportunity to be social with the kid in the seat next to them.

Having a social media connection isn’t like having a faithful friend. A recent article on www.healthline.com, “Social Media is Killing your Relationships” reports, “What if every like, heart, and reply we give to someone on the internet is actually taking away from our energy for offline friendships?” The article’s writer Jennifer Chesak appears to believe we might be, “…unknowingly draining our social energy for in-person interactions.”

“Research shows that good friendships are vital to your health,” according to the Heathline article. “More specifically, having close friendships correlates to functioning better, especially as we get older.”

That’s why my recently released novel is about the friendship between an early 40s pastor’s wife and a sixty-something widowed coffee shop owner. I chose to make the main character a fictional minister’s mate, because there’s often an unrealistic social stereotype for this supporting ministry role, even within Christian circles. I empathize with the difficulty these precious women can have when trying to find a confidential friend to share their current issues or even past heartbreak. We often place ministerial families under a microscopic lens of scrutiny, and have the unrealistic expectation their lives should be perfect. Quite frequently, the needs and even existence of a pastor’s wife can also be overlooked, especially if her husband is an in-demand dynamic leader.

Plus, during my years working in broadcasting, I was asked to host a TV special, where pastors’ wives shared about their lives. One ministerial spouse was concerned about me interviewing her, apprehensive over my understanding of her situation, so only minutes before the show was to be broadcast, she anxiously asked what my husband did.

“He’s a public school administrator,” I answered nervously, unsure of how she would view this revelation.

My best friend hubby and me – photo courtesy Sharon E. Lange
www.sharonelainephotography.com

But instantly, she visibly relaxed, smiled a wide smile, and teasingly joked, “Oh, that’s the same thing.” This wise lady understood whenever you are married to a man in any kind of leadership role, it can be isolating and most challenging to find a trustworthy confidant, fearing you could jeopardize your mate’s position simply by being a flawed human being.

If we’re truthful, all of us are flawed, and burying our pain and problems forces us to wear a societal mask. And masks can become a type of prison that morph into a lifestyle of pretending everything’s perfect when everything’s a hot mess. The bottom line: “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is about the desire most women carry deep within to experience intimate friendship. The kind of friendship allowing us to take our mask off, sit down with a steaming cup of coffee or hot tea, and pour our worries out to someone who won’t judge us, and to be a listening ear in return.

Of course, if we’re married, our spouse should be our best friend, but as women we need other females who will walk this crazy journey of daily living with us. We don’t require hundreds of friends, not like on Facebook where friendship is created by clicking “confirm.” Instead we need someone with skin on to put their arm around us when we are hurting, to love us enough to tell us when we’re wrong, and to be present in our time of crisis or heartbreak, and we should be there in return.

 

A friend like Kimberly was to me or like Katie in my novel. The widowed coffee shop owner is a trustworthy confidant for Cassie, the pastor’s wife. I hope the book is an entertaining read. Yet at the end of the day, my desire is for this novel to provide comfort and encouragement for everyone who needs emotional or spiritual healing or support, the kind of support true friendship provides. 

 

Mike Ullery photo

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is a national Amy and Ohio APME award-wining freelance journalist, Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor, and Inspirational speaker. Her latest book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” was released fall 2018. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  The novel is available at all major online outlets including Amazon.com, or visit her website for more details. 

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

An Abandoned Puppy’s Forever Home

During October, we observe “Adopt a Shelter Dog Month” sponsored by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Like many folks, I have my own tale of a canine creature longing to be loved.

My story begins more than a decade ago. The alarm clock read exactly 11:52 p.m. when the automobile’s headlights shone through my bedroom window, instantly waking me from sleep. Before dozing off, I had prayed a childlike prayer simply asking for “help.” My need for divine assistance that fall was created by the homesickness relocating can produce. My school administrator husband and I had just rented an old, rural farmhouse in a new school district. Moving can be an exciting adventure; but meeting new people, and packing and unpacking countless boxes can leave one anxious and tired. Missing family and friends left behind is even more heartrending.

I soon discovered the lonely nights in the country can be eerily silent. That’s why, after being awakened, my mind became suddenly alert at the sound of stones grinding beneath unfamiliar tires. Creeping from my bed, I crouched under the windowsill to look out at the stranger’s car. Mysteriously, the driver turned the aging sedan’s headlights off, and then quickly backed out onto the road again. My husband slept through it all.

“Woof, woof, woof!” It was not until about 7 a.m., when we both heard barking. The car’s owner had dropped off an adorable, but mangy poodle, who was hiding on our front porch. I tried to comfort the neglected-looking pup, but his body shook spasmodically as he cowered beneath our outdoor white wicker sofa.

“It’s okay, little buddy. Nobody’s going to hurt you,” my husband said soothingly. Hearing Larry’s male voice, the approximately six-month-old canine shook harder and growled threateningly. We instinctively realized he had probably been abused.

Adorable Sammy – a friend’s pet

A few hours later, I sat on the farmhouse porch sympathizing with the abandoned animal who refused to eat the dog food I had purchased for him. Finally, after a lot of coaxing, the poodle came out from beneath the couch and greedily devoured his food. By the next morning, he wouldn’t leave my side. Soon, he warmed up to my hubby, too.

Unfortunately, a few days later, our elderly landlords came to our door and said the puppy couldn’t stay. In fairness to this wonderful couple, we had promised we were a family without pets, but that was before the pintsized poodle showed up.I was heartbroken, but I have to admit I was overwhelmed by the constant care and attention the pooch required. Larry and I both worked lots of hours and while we were away, the puppy would chew things up and bark incessantly.

Later, our landlord’s forty-something son offered his advice, “Whatever you do, don’t name him.”

My husband and I looked at each other guiltily.

“You already have, haven’t you? What’s his name?”

“Blessing,” we chimed in unison.

The wise middle-aged farmer didn’t speak, but his concerned look did. He knew that a blessing is a God-given present. He also knew his elderly mother was serious, we couldn’t keep our “Blessing.”

I was devastated, but determined to find my canine charge the best possible home. Thankfully, I quickly located some caring folks at a nearby county’s Humane Society. They promised to find Blessing a wonderful home, and allowed me to monitor his progress. That night, I tearfully surrendered Blessing into the arms of a compassionate female employee, understanding it was the right thing to do. A week later, I called the shelter and found out Blessing was immensely enjoying the company of the other dogs there. The following week, I phoned again. This time, a rescue worker excitedly informed me, at that very moment “my” puppy was being adopted by an older couple with a good reputation. The husband was disabled and needed companionship. My heart leapt for joy, because Blessing had found his forever home.

My husband believes Blessing wouldn’t have been adoptable, if we hadn’t fostered him and helped him to trust again. As for me, Blessing reminded me our prayers for “help” are always answered, as the puppy’s temporary presence gave me renewed purpose.

Remember the ASPCA estimates that 3.3 million dogs enter a shelter every year. Although, October’s awareness month is coming to a close, like Blessing, each one of this precious animals needs a forever home. Please don’t forget them!

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is a national Amy award-winning freelance journalist and Inspirational speaker. She has been featured on Joyce Meyer Ministries Enjoying Everyday Life and CBN’s 700 Club. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com. Her book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” was released fall 2018 and is available at all major online outlets. 

Please follow and like us:

Move Over and Save Lives

Sometimes, I feel like driving on the interstate has become like driving in a war zone with hidden landmines. For instance, there are distracted drivers everywhere, occasional reports of people behind the wheel overdosing on heroin and driverless trucks becoming a part of our future. Some think driverless trucks are a good thing, eliminating the human fatigue factor that is a dilemma for drivers making a long haul. Of course, other folks are terrified this unproven technology might be even more dangerous than current conditions.

But back to distracted driving, which has increased dramatically due to cellphone activities such as talking, texting, sending emails, checking social media accounts, etc. Distracted drivers might be one significant reason why our state’s “Move Over Law,” pertaining to interstates and state highways, was expanded in 2013.

“Ohio’s Move Over Law… requires all drivers to move over one lane passing by any vehicle with flashing or rotating lights parked on the roadside,” according to the Ohio Department of Transportation website.

“The original law took effect in 1999 to reduce risk to law-enforcement officers and emergency responders. It was expanded in December 2013 to apply to every stationary vehicle with flashing lights, including road construction, maintenance and utility crews.”

Of course, sometimes it’s not safe to move over on a two-lane highway, and the Move Over law has that covered. Also, in instances where traffic or weather prohibit safely moving to the other lane, “In those situations, slow down and proceed with caution,” advises the ODOT website.

Sadly, nationwide, one law enforcement officer and 23 highway workers are killed each month, and a tow truck driver loses his life every six days in a roadside accident, reports the same website. Yet there continues to be some confusion about the law, as many well-meaning citizens believe that moving over is simply a common courtesy and not an actual state law. Other individuals are negligent distracted drivers who are not paying attention and recklessly endangering the lives of others. 

Tragically, in June, Matthew Mazany, a Mentor police officer, was hit and killed on Route 2 during a traffic stop. North Coast Emergency Services co-owner, John Leonello, knew Mazany through his company’s work providing roadside assistance in the area.

“Leonello believes more awareness of the (Move Over) law in the form of a public service campaign is needed, and (believes) it needs to be taught more consistently in drivers education classes,” reported Cleveland’s ABC News Channel 5’s Joe Pagonakis. Prompted by Officer Mazany’s death, Leonello and his business partner Chris Haire, told News 5’s Pagonakis, they believe the state needs to “launch a stronger public awareness campaign similar to the ‘Click It or Ticket’ public service announcements on television, radio and online” to prevent the deaths of law enforcement personnel and other roadside workers. Haire told News 5’s Pagonakis, “… more awareness is needed and (Haire) said distracted driving is another major cause of roadside fatalities.”

The Ohio State Highway Patrol did try to do something to enlighten motorists about the Move Over Law during the week of July 22-28 through an “Enforcement and Awareness campaign” by issuing 586 citations to drivers. Ignorance of the law is not a defense, and drivers might be surprised by the weighty consequences this law can possibly carry.

The ODOT website explains, “… the issue is so serious that fines are doubled. Violators are fined (up to) 2 x $150 for the first violation (a minor misdemeanor), 2 x $250 for the same violation within a year of the first, and 2 x $500 for more than two violations in a year.” Jail time can also be possible for drivers who have had prior traffic offenses.

The majority of states do have some type of Move Over Law, and many also have signage enabling drivers to realize that moving over is not a courtesy or a suggestion but a state law. For instance, Tennessee has signs that read, “State Law – Move Over For Stopped Emergency Vehicles.”

So, maybe in Ohio, we can do a little better by updating some of our current signs that say, “Move Over For Stopped Vehicles with Flashing Lights” by adding, “Move Over: It’s state law.”

Maybe, too, some of the revenue from all those Move Over tickets this past July could be used for billboards and a public service campaign letting folks know that moving over whenever possible is the law, a law that could save lots of precious lives!

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. Her fall 2018 book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is available through all major online booksellers. 

Please follow and like us:

Liesl’s Legacy: A Holocaust Survivor’s Lessons for Life

Liesl celebrated our wedding as if she was the mother of the bride.

    Liesl celebrated our wedding as if she was the mother of the bride.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” said Eleanor Roosevelt. The late Elisabeth “Liesl” Sondheimer was deeply inspired by this former first lady who was once her house guest. Yet many of us in northwestern Ohio can readily admit that Mrs. Sondheimer was the one who inspired us.

Liesl has been gone for almost a decade now, but her life lessons live on. Being a Jewish Holocaust survivor, she had every reason to believe that the world was an ugly place filled with horrific evil. As a young woman she was forced to flee her beloved Germany during Hitler’s regime.

Instead of becoming bitter, she embraced forgiveness. Not the cheap kind of forgiveness that pardons atrocity by denying its existence, but genuine forgiveness which is a gift to yourself. Once, during an interview, I asked her how she could forgive. She gazed at me intently, and simply said, “You must forgive, or Hitler has won.”

Liesl was silver-haired and wrinkled, but still ethereally beautiful, by the time I met her shortly after her 90th birthday in 1997. While interviewing her for a TV feature about the Holocaust, I was honored when the local celebrity asked me to join her for supper. One of my greatest life blessings was that this courageous woman took me under her mentoring wing.

Since Liesl loved adventures, especially ones that involved supporting the arts, music or books; I would occasionally pick her up and whisk her away to an event. It was on these outings that she freely shared her wisdom about life. Once while I was driving her to an art museum, my friend absentmindedly asked, “Did I ever tell you about the time Eleanor Roosevelt stayed at my house?”

“No, I think I would have remembered that,” I jokingly replied.

She then began to share how decades ago, she had invited Eleanor Roosevelt to visit northwestern Ohio simply by sending her a letter. Her cause was successful, due to some assistance from an influential friend. This Liesl dissertation was the, “You never know… anything can happen if you try” lesson. I needed this motivational message, because life circumstances had tattered my own faith.

My brokenness was probably one of the reasons that this dear lady reached out to me. Surviving a near fatal suicide attempt, and then being confined in a state mental institution as a teen had left scars on me that only another survivor could see. Sadly, others battling mental illness whom I had met along my recovery journey, did not survive. Therefore, Liesl, who had been educated in social work, gently guided me in understanding the lesson of “Survivor’s Guilt,” that I must go on, and be grateful for surviving.

In explanation, when one triumphs over negative circumstances, it is easy to get stuck in the guilt created by contemplating why others have not been so fortunate. After the Holocaust, the Jewish survivor admitted that this quandary haunted her, too. But she refused to allow this never to-be-answered question about the past destroy her future.

Yet to prevent these tragedies from reoccurring, she also believed that it was a survivor’s moral responsibility to speak up on behalf of those still struggling. Even though she forgave, she never forgot the millions of Holocaust victims. Instead she passionately shared her story to warn others about the dangers of prejudice.

On a lighter note, there was also the “Beauty is Ageless” teaching, which I learned vicariously while watching Liesl shop for clothes. She took time to look her best, and never stopped caring about fabric, color, or finding just the right accessory. In 2007, for her 100th birthday, I drove her to a mall in a neighboring state where she enthusiastically tried on countless outfits looking for just the right pieces for her wardrobe.

Although most important was the “Love” lesson that Liesl taught me. When I met school administrator Larry Claypool in 2001, past hurts had left me too afraid to love. When it came to romance, Liesl used to describe me, “As a burnt child, who was afraid of the fire.”

But at heart, Liesl was a hopeless romantic, who challenged my initial fears about dating Larry, by asserting that one must be willing to risk everything to have another opportunity for happiness. My own mother had given me this same advice. The following year, Liesl sat smugly in a church pew dressed smartly in a pale pink suit smiling with satisfaction as Larry and I recited our vows in a candlelight ceremony.

For me, Liesl’s legacy of living courageously includes: the challenge to embrace forgiveness, to speak up against injustice, to support the arts, to reach for your dreams, and to always look your best.

However, I will always be most grateful for Liesl’s “Love” lesson. After all, it was my precious husband’s protective arms that comforted me when we buried my remarkable 101-year-old friend in spring of 2009.

This humble humanitarian shared her messages with civic clubs, women’s groups, universities, and in school classrooms across our community. Her story of surviving seemingly impossible circumstances graced her listeners with the gift of hope everywhere she went. Upon her passing, people of different faiths honored her legacy.

Today, her lessons live on. You see, those we love never die. They are always in our hearts, shaping our tomorrows with their valuable influence.  

Christina Ryan Claypool is the author of the Inspirational novel, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife” which will be released in fall 2018. Her Website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com

Please follow and like us:

School Supplies: A Teacher’s Last Wish

      “I don’t have a pencil.” The over-sized middle school boy explained his plight to me, while staring into space and not doing his assigned work. “My mom’s dead,” he said matter-of-factly, offering this as the reason why he was without a pencil. I swallowed the lump in my throat, refusing to let the adolescent see my look of unchecked sympathy, because no teenager wants to be the object of anyone’s pity. I grabbed a pencil off of the teacher’s desk and handed it to him with an encouraging smile.

The other students in the class were quite vocal about the fact it had been a couple of years since the juvenile had lost his mother, and that he always offered up this excuse when it came time to do work. But two decades ago, I was a substitute teacher without knowledge of the teen’s history.

Yet as a former single mom, I did understand that school supplies can be a precious commodity for disadvantaged children. Specifically, as back-to-school season looms on the horizon, there is often enormous stress for a family with financial struggles. There are back-to-school clothes and shoes, pictures, school fees, electronics, and of course, back-to-school supplies.

Last year, USA Today ran CNBC’s David Gernon’s article, “The surprising expenses of back-to-school shopping” on August 15, 2017. “Parents of elementary school students can expect to pay an average $662, up 1% from last year,” Gernon reported “Middle-school students’ parents will fork over $1,001, a 4.6% increase.” High school students’ back-to-school expense will be even higher with clothes and shoes being their priority items.

On July 12, 2018, Good Housekeeping posted Carol Picard’s, “The Ultimate Back-to-School Shopping Lists From Kindergarten to College.” The Good Housekeeping associate editor compiled recommended lists for different age groups complete with Amazon prices for the products. For example, Picard suggests a kindergartner might need: a pencil box ($5), crayons ($5), colored pencils ($3), washable markers ($6), No. 2 pencils ($6), pencil sharpener ($5), erasers ($6), glue sticks ($5), blunt-tipped scissors ($3), plastic folders ($15 for six), assorted construction paper ($9), wide-ruled notebook or pad ($4), tissues ($4), backpack ($20 and up), and [possibly] a lunchbox ($17). Hopefully, most kindergarteners won’t require a list this extensive, but there are still quite a few supplies a child needs to begin the school year. And these items cost money, money an economically disadvantaged family doesn’t have.

Many caring teachers donate their own hard-earned cash to buy supplies, but they can’t possibly fill the vast demand. That’s why, local and national organizations, churches, companies, and individuals step up to the plate by donating back-to-school items to guarantee students will have what they require to start their year off right. When I see the advertisements for back-to-school products, I am grateful for these generous human beings who contribute their financial resources to equip the community’s less fortunate children.

So, recently when I read the Internet headline, “Teacher’s Unusual Final Request for Her Funeral Goes Viral,” I had to take a look at the inspirational story of Tammy Waddell. The late Mrs. Waddell was a dedicated teacher who lost her battle to colon cancer on June 9, 2018. According to the Faithit article, “Two weeks before her death, in lieu of flowers, the 58-year-old asked that funeral attendees bring backpacks of supplies for children in need.”

When Tammy’s cousin Dr. Brad Johnson @DrBradJohnson posted a photo of the backpacks filled with supplies lining the chapel where the late teacher’s Celebration of Life was held, thousands of folks reacted to the emotional twitter picture. Johnson’s touching tweet about his late cousin read, “…A teacher to the end.”

The obituary of the Georgia educator describes her, “Tammy served the children and community of Forsyth County for thirty years as a paraprofessional and elementary teacher in Forsyth County Schools. She had a passion for literacy and believed that every child deserved an opportunity to learn.”

But children can’t learn if they don’t have the necessary supplies to do classwork. In honor of Mrs. Waddell and of the countless compassionate teachers in our local school systems, may we band together once again to ensure no child is without a pencil like the teen I met as a substitute teacher. Instead let’s make sure every student has the tools they need to have a productive and successful school year.

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy/Ohio AP award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Her novel, Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife will be available in Fall 2018. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Erma Bombeck: Her legacy lives on

Erma Bombeck made an appearance of sorts near her hometown of Dayton this summer. The “of sorts” refers to the fact that the celebrated humor columnist has been deceased for more than two decades.

So, how did the famous writer who elevated the American housewife from invisible fixture to celebrity come back to life? Through the expertise of Chautauqua performer, Susan Marie Frontczak. Frontczak’s captivating June 2018, Chautauqua living history performance as Erma Bombeck at the Hance Pavilion in Piqua’s Fountain Park initially hooked me.

After all, if you are an “older” female journalist like me, you can’t help but be impressed by Bombeck’s successful and pioneering career. Born in Dayton in 1927, by 1942 Erma became a copygirl at the Dayton Herald during her high school years, and eventually graduated from the University of Dayton in 1949.

It wasn’t smooth sailing for the famous writer who went on to have her syndicated column, “At Wit’s End” appear in 900 newspapers nationwide and write more than a dozen books, many bestsellers. Ironically, during her first year of college at Ohio University, she was told she should give up her dream of being a writer. Thankfully, a University of Dayton professor later countered this when he encouraged her with three profound words, “You can write.”

Referring to her successful column writing formula, Bombeck instructed, “Hook ‘em with a lead. Hold ‘em with laughter, Exit with a quip they won’t forget.” Yes, Erma was a wordsmith extraordinaire who put a face on the then suburban wife’s devalued plight of running a household and mothering children, and who made people laugh while doing it.

Personally though, it wasn’t her humor that inspired me most, but a poignant poem she penned titled, “If I had my life to live over.” For many years, I carried a newspaper clipping of the poem in my billfold until the paper turned yellow, and became so brittle from handling that I finally had to throw it away.

 

Seeing Erma come to life again through Frontzcak’s Chautauqua performance reminded me of the poem, now memorialized in the book, Eat Less Cottage Cheese and More Ice Cream: Thoughts on Life from Erma Bombeck. I’m sharing it with permission of the Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency:

 

 

“If I had my life to live over”

“Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.

My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.   

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”

Erma Bombeck may have left us in 1996, but her wit and wisdom live on in many of our hearts. For more information about Ohio Chautauqua visit http://www.ohiohumanities.org/ohio-chautauqua/

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy/Ohio AP award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. Her novel, Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife will be released fall 2018. 

Please follow and like us: