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

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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.

 

 

 

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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. 

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A letter to younger women

  • If I could give young women some advice from the lessons I’ve learn along the way, here are a few of my most significant takeaways on this crazy journey we call “LIFE.”

Dear young woman,

I know you think you will never get old, none of us do, but you will some day. That day will come quicker than you can imagine.

First of all, whatever you do, avoid being competitive and territorial. This will cause you great loneliness, and it is something most of us females struggle with due to insecurity. Make friends, and encourage other women on the journey. In turn, you will discover many blessings. Don’t just be someone’s friend, because of what you hope they can do for you.

Secondly, be the best you can be, and strive for excellence. Still, don’t allow giving life your best, to cause you to embrace perfectionism. It’s guaranteed you will fail, but when you fail, you will learn, so get back up and fight the good fight of faith.

Education will be a game changer for you. Read, read, read, anything enabling you to grow, to learn, to embrace new horizons. Be disciplined in your studies, delay immediate gratification to achieve your educational goal whatever that is. The life you change will be your own.

Women my age fought in a societal sense, so that you could have the opportunity to be anything you dreamed of, if you work hard enough. Yet don’t use others to get there. Doors will open, but manipulating them open, will only cause frustration. I promise you, material things and prestige won’t provide lasting happiness.

About your family: They need to be your top priority. Success in a worldly sense will fade away soon enough, but you will find out your family is all you really have.

When your grown children make poor choices or break your heart, don’t wallow in what you did wrong. Their lives are their own. Remind yourself you did the very best you could with the knowledge you had at the time. Give them wings and let them find their way.

As for being a victim, don’t allow others to abuse you or use you for a doormat, even family members. You can pray for them from afar, but forgiveness does not mean permitting someone to wrongly hurt or violate you. Get counseling, seek a support group, but keep yourself and your children safe.

Most of all, about God, put Him first. Let Him lead and guide you. Then when you look back, you will have peace, knowing you did your very best with the time you were given!

    Mike Ullery photo

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist & speaker. Her novel, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife” will be released in fall 2018. Her website is: www.christinaryanclaypool.com 

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Scoop the Poop Campaign

“No, I don’t walk that way – you have to turn right on the next street – because Steve might be out and I’ll get a chance to see him,” I explained this directional route to my husband on a recent walk through the neighborhood. “Whenever I see Steve, he’s so adorable, I just want to hug his neck.”

Larry rarely has an opportunity to walk with me, so for a minute he looked a little confused, until I clarified that Steve is my favorite neighborhood dog. He barks like a ferocious canine protecting his property, but he is really a lovable pooch with responsible owners who never let him run free or do his business indiscriminately.

Sadly, not all pet owners are as conscientious, when it comes to making sure their dogs don’t infringe on the rights of others. In the most extreme cases, we have seen the horrifying accounts about a loose dog viciously attacking an innocent victim resulting in death or serious injury.

But what about that pesky poop, irresponsible dog walkers leave on sidewalks, at the park, or even at a strip mall? First, please know I am a consummate dog lover, even though I do not have the pleasure of owning one. Yet dogs are a lot like toddlers. When they are well-behaved, they are delightful. When they’re screaming and throwing a temper tantrum, in dog talk – incessantly barking or rummaging through the trash, you probably prefer not to be around them.

The big difference though is that most toddlers wear diapers, while dogs are dependent on the sensitivity of their keepers to handle the disposal of their doo-doo. If you Google the word “doo-doo,” which by the way I’ve never used in any other column in the past two decades, the result is “excrement.” Google dictionary’s sentence usage example is, “They should fine people if they are not carrying a bag for their dog’s doo-doo.” I have to agree with Google on this one. Some organizers have even advertised events titled, “Scoop the Poop,” campaign.

For instance, in my own subdivision I watched helplessly as a little one on a trike, was pedaling full-speed into the path of a large pile of you-know-what left on the sidewalk by a careless owner. Another time in a strip mall parking lot just off I-75, an older lady with a large breed of dog, negligently allowed him to leave his own oversized memento in a tiny dirt filled island with a sole tree in an asphalt parking lot.

The entire time he was doing his business, the woman glanced around surreptitiously, fully comprehending what she was doing was wrong, since she had no intention of cleaning up after her pet. Besides, canine waste can contain roundworms, transmit diseases, and the high protein content in dog food can also cause the waste to be acidic and harmful to plants or even grass according to various Internet sites.

Some municipalities do have ordinances and impose hefty fines for inconsiderate people who leave waste behind. For example, in New York City the problem has become monumental. In May 2017, an article in the New York Post, “De Blasio pledges crackdown on dog poop” reported, “Dog owners who leave pet poop on city sidewalks better cut the crap — or face hefty fines!”

Several months later, another New York Post article claimed that little momentum had been gained in the effort to keep the streets where millions of dogs reside, as a feces free zone. Let’s face it, it can be rather difficult to find out which canine culprit left what, and where. One answer is DNA testing which is being employed in certain areas. Although effective, feces forensics might not be cost-effective at about $100 a sample.

But ordinances shouldn’t have to be officially adopted or enforced. If we are concerned citizens and good neighbors, we should be courteous and responsible when it comes to pet excrement. “Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy,” according to 19th century philosopher and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

To heed Emerson’s charge, dog walkers simply need a plastic bag to collect their pet’s waste, and then dispose of it in the garbage or a toilet minus the bag. Will you join the “Scoop the Poop” campaign today? Just think of that tiny child on his little trike headed for disaster, and me, too slow to stop it.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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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 James. 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.

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Defending the local newspaper

Newspapers have changed significantly in my lifetime. If you’re a millennial or younger, you might not realize what an integral part of daily existence the newspaper once was, and why it continues to be important, especially in the local community. To clarify, I’m not on staff at any newspaper, nor do my meager wages as a freelance columnist cause me to write about this topic. Instead because of my training as a journalist, I feel compelled to stand up for the medium that has been such a vital part of American life, and is categorized by so many as obsolete. Or maybe it’s due to the fact that I recently watched the movie, “The Post” which is a profound reminder of the crucial role newspapers played in shaping history.

“The Post [is] a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents,” reports www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_post/. Based on a 1971 true story, most movie viewers will be impressed by the courage of these long-ago journalists and of their pioneering female publisher who risked both their reputations and monetary success to inform the public.

My own career in journalism began at the Wapakoneta Daily News as a reporter/associate editor before I had even finished college. Then as a senior at Bluffton University (then college) I was thrilled to land an internship at The Lima News during the 1981-82 academic year. Yet an intern’s position is pretty low down on the food chain in a news organization.

Mike Lackey

That’s why I was surprised to be invited to a summer 2017 reunion for Lima News staff from the early 1980s. Even though I had spent the academic year writing stories under the direction of then city editor Mike Lackey, I was a little overwhelmed by the invitation. Back then, I had little contact with the newsroom staffers, and some had gone on to achieve rather impressive things. In the end, I decided to attend more out of curiosity and respect than any sense of belonging.

That July afternoon in Lima’s Faurot Park, I have to admit I felt that same awe that I did over 35 years ago as a cub reporter. There were journalists who were or had been on staff at The (Toledo) Blade, Dayton Daily News, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, while others had migrated to a career providing more security becoming educators, a business owner, and even a lawyer. There was also a wheelchair, a leg brace, a walker, and lots of gray hair in attendance that summer day, because these men and women of the press had grown older.

Troy Daily News

Those who stayed in the rapidly changing industry, whether on staff at a metro or small-town newspaper, the reporters, photographers, sportswriters, and editors, etc., all had one thing in common. They had spent their entire professional careers disseminating breaking news and telling the stories of everyday people who are at the heart of every community, while striving to be accurate, unbiased tellers of truth.

But back to the folks who question the newspaper’s relevance in a world where national media outlets stream live reports on our electronic devices in real time. They are overlooking the key point that whether you follow liberal or conservative media outlets, the “local” newspaper remains a watchdog for “local” government and educational agencies. It is also the primary source of a community’s noteworthy information.

The newspaper’s in flux. With increased workloads and decreased staff, still each day the newspaper arrives in electronic and printed form, telling the stories of a “local” teen who gets a new heart, of a “local” business expansion or a school board meeting, and even the sad news of the passing of “local” citizens. The word “local” is the operative adjective here.

In the end, the newspaper has had to change, and will continue to, probably more rapidly than any other media form. Adjustments like: having a digital focus, social media presence, fewer printed pages, being video savvy, while endeavoring to remain profitable. Despite the challenges, starry-eyed young journalists continue to join the ranks with veteran staffers. So, to all my noble comrades in ink, I salute you for keeping your communities informed.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. She is a contributing columnist for Troy Daily News, Piqua Daily Call, and Sidney Daily News. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Remembering a forever young barista

A couple of decades ago, if anyone would have said that people would routinely cough up three or four dollars for a specialty cup of coffee, most folks wouldn’t have believed it. Yet today, it’s commonplace for countless individuals to hand over about that much for their favorite latte, steaming cappuccino, or creamy smoothie.

According to www.foxnews.com, a report from Acorns Money Matters records that “the average American spends approximately $1,100 a year– or $3 each day– on coffee.” But it’s not solely about the beverage, it’s about everything that goes along with it.

Best-selling author, Dr. Leonard Sweet, believes that atmosphere has a lot to do with profitability. In his book, The Gospel According to Starbucks, Sweet writes, “Starbucks built an assumption-shattering business by selling an irresistible experience along with every cup of coffee.” “In 2017, there were 13,930 Starbucks stores in the U.S.,” reports www.statista.com. “The total number of Starbucks stores worldwide has almost doubled in the decade between 2007 and 2017.”

According to www.amazon.com, “Leonard Sweet shows you how the passion that Starbucks® has for creating an irresistible experience can connect you with God’s stirring introduction to the experience of faith in The Gospel According to Starbucks.” As for the coffee shop itself, Sweet attributes the décor, “appealing music,” and a “melody of complex coffee smells” as contributing to the Starbucks “sensory feast.” If we think deeply, that’s part of the pleasure that we find in most coffee shops whether an independent or chain. We aren’t merely buying a $2.00 cup of java or a more expensive specialty drink, but there’s something else we’re also purchasing. Dr. Sweet explains, “…coffee is a hospitality drink, a sign of welcome and openness to sharing.” It can be invigorating to sit in a coffee shop with a friend and connect in meaningful conversation. Of course, often we’re in a real rush and want our coffee in a hurry.

On other occasions, we visit a coffeehouse, because we not only want something to drink, but the sensation that we are of some significance in this normally impersonal world. A great barista can make a customer feel noticed and appreciated, even though technically their job is simply to politely prepare a tasty beverage.

And that’s how I met Kaitlin. Some years back, I decided to grab a coffee after my husband and I transplanted to a new area. I had been grocery shopping, and was feeling a little lonely and displaced in the way moving has of doing. I was pleasantly taken off-guard by the brunette barista’s thoughtfulness when I initially visited the grocery’s Starbucks kiosk.

While still efficiently getting her work done, the young employee acted like she had all the time in the world for me. That I was the most important customer of her day, even though I was an older lady who had trouble deciding what I wanted. This trait can be annoying to most milennials, but Kaitlin didn’t seem to mind. Maybe because I never had a daughter, I felt privileged that she smiled and seemed genuinely happy to see me whenever I showed up at her counter.

Somehow, the dedicated barista made me feel connected to my then new community. Kaitlin and I would chat a few minutes, while she prepared my drink, if she wasn’t busy. I never knew her last name, or much about her personal life except about her schooling, but I was thankful for our friendly connection during my time of transition. It was a gift, and I’m sure she made countless other customers feel that they were special, too. Then I moved again, and lost track of her.

But two years ago in December, I saw Kaitlin’s winning smile again. Tragically, this time it was in an obituary photo. I learned her last name, and that this vibrant young lady with so much potential, didn’t have all the time in the world. At only 24, she had lost a battle to cancer. I was deeply saddened by the monumental loss of such a gentle soul for all her loved ones. For me, there had been no chance to say, “Good-bye,” or to express my appreciation.

So, Kaitlin Osborne, this long overdue column is for you. It’s also for every barista who tries each day to do more than their job by genuinely caring about their customers, just like you did. Forever young barista, your life truly made a difference, and your kindness will always be remembered. Thanks for taking time to brighten the world, if only for a short while!

 

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

 

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The Japanese Ladies’ Lesson

When I look out of my kitchen window I can see the back of Miho’s house. For a long time after she was gone, when evening’s darkness would settle over the neighborhood and the timed lights would turn on in the empty home, I would imagine she was still inside clearing the supper dishes. I did the same thing for weeks when the school bus would come in the morning to pick up the children who live nearby. As was my daily habit, I would gaze out the same window absentmindedly searching for Tetsu and Haru’s faces among the little ones. Then with sadness, I would remember that they had returned to their native country.

The then 10-year-old twins had grown rapidly through the years as our neighbors. But their father’s U.S. work assignment was finished, and it was time for the family to go back to the country where the boys had been born, where their extended family would surely be anxiously awaiting their arrival, and where their years in America would become a memory of a season past.

Their home in Japan, a nation over 6,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean, greatly contrasted the lifestyle they had experienced in Ohio. I would learn much from Miho during the time we were able to spend together, despite our busy schedules. Language was a barrier in the beginning, but that barrier was bridged by the kindred spirit that we shared. Miho was not my first Japanese friend though. It was Kyoko, whom I originally met in an exercise class at the YMCA, who paved the way for me to understand how courageous the Japanese families who live among us, up and down I-75 are. The women are especially brave, because while their men find identity and professional camaraderie in their workplace, the ladies must find their own purpose in a country that is so foreign to their own.

Their children also have to learn to assimilate into a school setting with a language and customs dissimilar to what they’ve known. Yet it is often said that children are more adaptable than adults when it comes to change. Still, that’s not always the case, as I’ve heard stories about little ones crying themselves to sleep at night, overwhelmed by change.

As for the sense of loss and displacement that children and adults can both experience when they are thrust into a different environment, we commonly refer to this condition as homesickness. Dr. Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist, who is a University of Alabama associate professor sees this phenomenon in college freshmen. According to a post on www.hercampus.com, “Dr. Klapow stresses that it’s important to recognize that homesickness is a very normal reaction to periods of rapid change and adjustment…people misinterpret what exactly it means to be homesick. It’s not about missing home – [your] house, [your] bed. Very often it’s about missing what’s normal and comfortable, what we’re used to, and not quite being comfortable with our new way of life.”

Yet, Kyoko and Miho shared a common trait that enabled them to find friends, and rewarding outlets and activities, while in the United States. They both sought diligently to master the English language, even though this can be a daunting challenge. By personality, they were also extremely friendly, willing to try new challenges and social situations, and accepting of others. I miss both of these dear ladies, but they left me with an important lesson about being aware of the transplanted individuals in our communities, not only the Japanese, but others who might be struggling with feelings of isolation.

Unfortunately, in recent history, due to terrorism, senseless mass shootings in general, and the Opioid crisis, we have become suspicious of anyone we don’t know. Sadly, now this distrust is even within our churches. There is legitimate cause for this fear, and we need to use wisdom and keep ourselves and our children as safe as possible.

But at the end of the day, we can’t let fear dictate our daily interactions with those who live, work, or worship among us. We need to reach out with hospitality and acceptance, and fight fear with faith. After all, this is America, “the home of the free and the land of the brave.”

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

 

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