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What and Who Fuels Your Passion?

Two weeks after I turned 16, I went on a mission trip to Haiti.  When I returned and started my junior year of high school, my journalism class teacher asked me to write about my experience in Haiti for the school magazine.  This is when I first found I had a passion for writing and an ongoing, life-long love of words.  Thank you Mrs. Dean.

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Haiti, 1976

We all have something we love to do and when we are doing it, we completely lose track of time and space…and all of our problems fade into the distance.  Some of us find this passion early in life, and others must do some living first before they know.

Now don’t confuse passion for something you do, with the people you feel passionately about.  I’m talking about that something you love to do that replenishes your soul and gives you joy so you have the energy and drive to do the things you have to do in this life.  However, the people we feel passionately about are often the ones who provide the support and inspiration as we discover the things we love to do.

We went to the Denton Air Show on Saturday.  As I sat there in my folding chair that came out of a bag (which someone who loved coming up with new ideas, invented) I was thinking about the airplanes and how relatively new they are in our world.

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Observing the planes up close and then watching them fly, made me curious about early aviation and about who had such a passion for it that they were inspired to revolutionize travel and transportation on our Planet Earth.

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Wilbur was the older of the Wright Brothers.  He was born in 1867, just after the Civil War ended, and his brother, Orville was born four years later.  They came from a family of seven kids in Dayton, Ohio, and their father was a Bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.

Their passion for flying began when their father, who traveled for his job, brought his youngest sons a toy helicopter.  It was about a foot long and made of paper, cork and bamboo with a rubber band to twirl its rotor.  They played with it until it broke, and then they built a new one.

Later as adults, they had a printing business and a bicycle sales and repair shop together.  During this time, people around the world were using gliders to experiment with air flight.  With their knowledge of machinery and mechanical work, the Wright Brothers became interested in aeronautical experimentation and the possibility of engine-powered flying.

The Wright Brothers

In 1899, Wilbur wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institution asking for information about aeronautics.  Between 1899 and 1903 the two brothers studied birds in flight, and studied and experimented with kites and gliders.  They studied the works of Sir George Cayley, Octave Chanute, Otto Lilienthal, Leonardo da Vinci, and Samuel Langley.  A wind tunnel was constructed in their bicycle shop for experiments with different kinds of wings and propellers.

In 1903, the brothers built a plane out of spruce, which is a lightweight and strong wood, and covered the surface areas with muslin fabric.  Orville and Wilbur designed and carved the wooden propellers and built a gasoline engine for their plane in their bicycle shop.  They called their plane the Wright Flyer 1.

They chose Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for their flight experiments because of the constant wind there (that added lift to their aircraft) and the soft sands of the beach that would help in the event of a crash. By 1902, they had made more than 700 successful flights with gliders on the beach at Kitty Hawk.

Orville Wright piloted the first powered airplane flight in the Wright Flyer 1 in December of 1903.  The flight lasted 12 seconds and traveled 120 feet going 6.8 miles per hour.

First powered airplane flight, 1903

Although they were not the first to build and fly an experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent a three axis control that enabled a pilot to steer an airplane effectively while also maintaining its equilibrium.

Neither brother ever married.  Perhaps they were too busy trying to fly, to find wives and build families.  Maybe their love of flying was enough for them.  Their steadfast pursuit of their passion for flying changed the world for all of us and paved the way for the many pilots who came later.

For most of us, we can find a way to balance our work and family life with our interests and the things we love to do.  Not all of the things we passionately love to do are going to change the world like the Wright Brothers did, but who knows, maybe they will.

Our time on Earth is not an infinite resource.  In the calendar of your life, how much time do you spend on your passion?

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It’s A Grand Old Flag

 

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In 1958, when he was only 17 years old, a young man named Robert Heft from Saginaw, Michigan, designed our current 50 star American Flag for a high school class project.  At the time, our flag had only 48 stars and Alaska and Hawaii were being considered for statehood. Americans submitted more than 1500 designs for a new flag to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Heft used his family’s flag and took the blue rectangle off and added 50 new stars using white, iron-on fabric.  He received a B- on the project and went to discuss his grade with his teacher.  They agreed that if his design was chosen, his grade would be reconsidered.  Alaska and Hawaii were admitted into the union in 1959 and Heft’s design was chosen and adopted by presidential proclamation.

As Americans, we celebrate Flag Day on June 14th.  This day commemorates the adoption of our United States flag by resolution of the Second Continental Congress back in 1777.  Although we’ve had a national flag for over 200 years, we’ve only had an official Flag Day since 1949 when President Harry Truman signed the legislation for it.

The design of our American flag has been changed 26 times since 1777.  According to history books, our first American flag was sewn by Betsy Ross from a drawing given to her by George Washington.

Our first flag called the Continental Colors

While Flag Day is not a public holiday, it IS a nationwide observance to celebrate and honor our nation’s flag.  During this time, Americans remember what our flag symbolizes…freedom, national unity, our belief in liberty and justice, and loyalty to our nation.

The thirteen horizontal stripes on our flag (seven red and six white) represent the original 13 colonies.  The stars represent the 50 states in the Union.  The colors of our flag are symbolic as well.  Blue represents vigilance, justice and perseverance, red stands for valor and hardiness, and white symbolizes purity and innocence.

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Photo by Jeff Hull

Our flag goes by several nicknames…Old Glory, The Stars and Stripes, The Red White and Blue, and The Star Spangled Banner.  No matter what you call it, our flag is an enduring symbol of our country’s beliefs and ideals.

Next week is National Flag Week and Americans are encouraged to fly their flags all week long.  In my neighborhood, the flags are already going up.  Will you be flying yours?

Author’s note:  Robert Heft died from a heart attack in 2009.  Before he died, he had copyrighted designs for American flags with 51 to 60 stars, should they ever be needed.  And, his teacher kept his word back in 1959 and changed Heft’s flag project grade to an A.

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Road Trip…I-70 Exit 129

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It took 17 hours to drive with a fully loaded trailer from Corinth, Texas to Indianapolis, Indiana on Friday, and 15 more hours to get back to Texas with the empty trailer on Sunday.  We spent Saturday helping my son and soon to be daughter-in-law move into their new house.

I hadn’t been to the state of my birth in four years so the signs pointing to Indiana were a welcome sight as were all the familiar landmarks…the Oklahoma City National Memorial…the Gateway Arch in St. Louis…the beautiful and world’s largest cross in Effingham.

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Photo of the Gateway Arch taken by Jeff Hull

We were pretty tired on Sunday morning when we started out for home.  About an hour into our trip, we decided to stop for more coffee and a bathroom break.  We chose Casey, Illinois because the highway billboard said they had the largest wind chime in the world there.  And who doesn’t want to see that!

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Casey, Illinois is a town with a population of about 2800.  Besides housing the largest wind chime in the world, it is the hometown of David Hanners, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, folk singer and songwriter.  There is a McDonald’s right off the exit for Casey and that’s where we stopped for our coffee.

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An older couple who looked as if they were dressed for church were coming out the door at McDonald’s as we started inside.  We were stopped a few seconds later by the woman’s cries for help.  Her husband had fallen and was lying on the sidewalk on his back.  I knelt beside the man and saw that he was bleeding from the back of his head.  He was awake and I asked him if he knew his name.  He told me it was Richard.

I held his hand and talked with him quietly.  Richard told me he was 81 and I found out he had the same birthday as my dad…February 23rd.  He told me he was Methodist and they had just come from church.  Someone from McDonald’s brought him a cup of water and I held the straw while he drank.  Another patron called 911.

We stayed with Richard and his wife, Lois, until the ambulance arrived and their daughter came.  There was a circle of support around them…me, my husband, my daughter, another man, and two McDonald’s employees.  That old song, Will The Circle Be Unbroken, kept running through my head.  God puts us where we need to be.

The Effingham Cross, Effingham, Illinois

After we knew Richard and Lois were in good hands, we left the McDonald’s in search of the world’s largest wind chime.  We found it on Main Street.  It is 55 feet tall and weighs 16,932 pounds.  It has two Jewish Stars of David and two Christian Fish at the top.  It is surrounded by beautiful gardens and there is a long rope for visitors who want to ring the chimes.

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The world’s largest wind chime, Casey, Ilinois

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We will remember Casey, Illinois and Richard and Lois…more to add to “the things we keep.”

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Author’s note:  I called the Casey United Methodist Church and spoke with the church’s administrative assistant, Shelby.  She told me that Richard had gone to the hospital to be checked out and was home and fine now.  I was so relieved and pleased to hear it.