by Mariah Ashley
If you're anything like me, your summer vacation now
revolves around spending a ridiculous amount of your hard-earned money and catering
monsters children. These are some of the things I did over the
last two weeks for my ingrate precious children...
I threw a party for ten screaming twelve-year-old girls.
No really, they screamed for three hours straight of the four hour party. There
was no reason for the screaming. No mouse, spider, unexpected teenage
heartthrob sighting or worm in the fruit salad. Nothing like that. They just
Did you know twelve-year-old girls do this? I didn't. I
do now and so do my neighbors. (P.S. They
only stopped screaming because you
can't stuff pizza in your face and scream at the same time.)
I also took my son and his friend to a water park named
Water Wizz. Why on earth would anyone put the word wizz into a name that
describes a place where thousands of children share a communal
And why on earth would I voluntarily steep my body in the wizz water?
My son is sixteen. Since he was six he's refused
sunscreen. He hates the way it feels. Normally I wrestle him to the ground and
slather it on him while he writhes and twists like a slimy alligator. Well,
he's six-foot-one now so my gator wrestling days are over. Needless to say I
left the whizz with a big pink fried man-baby. Lesson never learned.
Fully committed to good-time summer fun family
experiences, I went to Martha's Vineyard to visit my sister and her boys, ages four
and two. Like all good aunts I brought along things for my nephews that their
responsible mother would never allow them to have in a gazillion years. It's
all part of my master plan to secure my foothold as their favorite aunt.
My secret weapon? Flavor Ice! (Suck on that other
aunties!) Remember Flavor Ice? Or in technical terms, "liquefied chemical sugar in a planet
destroying plastic sheath." Well they loved it. How many Flavor Ice
sleeves do you suppose a four-year-old can ingest over the course of 30
minutes? My sister stopped the reckless mayhem at four, at which point my sweet
nephew announced, "Fine, but if I can't get a lemonade right now I'm going
to attack you!" Oops. Auntie's bad. Guessing we might not be invited back.
Sound familiar? If you're lucky like me then this is the
way that you $pend your summer vacation. Something's got me thinking though...
I stumbled across a video clip from 60 Minutes on
Facebook the other day about a man who had a very different summer vacation
experience. It made me pause and consider that there might be an alternative
way to spend my two weeks. Step into the way back machine with me...
It was 1938 and Europe was on the brink of war. A
Londoner named Nicholas Winton was following the events of Germany's march on
Czechoslovakia and was deeply concerned about the 150,000 Jewish refugees
suffering there. His particular concern was for the children who were enduring
the harsh conditions and bitterly cold temperatures.
After hearing about how some Czech Jews were sending
their children abroad, Winton decided to take a two week from his job as a
stockbroker in London and travel to Prague to see if there was anything he
could do to help. Upon arrival, he established an office in a hotel in the city
to see how many children he could get out as quickly as possible. Over the
course of the two weeks, there was literally not enough time in the day to meet
with all the parents seeking his help. Not surprisingly he left Prague with a
list of hundreds of children in need of his assistance.
Returning to London, Winton established a small office of
volunteers and forged stationery to make his "organization" look
established, and created false travel documents for the children. The day
before Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia, the first train carrying 20 of the Czech
children left for Holland and eventually Britain. Over the next few months,
seven more trains carrying over 600 children made their way to London. Shortly
after, WWII was declared and the trains could no longer run. The remaining
90,000 Czech Jews, many of them children ended up on trains to Auschwitz where
For fifty years, Nicholas Winton barely spoke of saving
the lives of 669 Jewish children. He never even told his wife about what he had
done. She discovered the story after finding the list of the children's names
and questioned her husband about its meaning. Since then, the BBC created a
special about Winton where he was reunited with many of the children he saved.
He was also knighted by the Queen of England and is now referred to as Sir
Basically, Sir Nick took his two week vacation, went to
Prague and ended up saving the lives of 669 children. Actually, since those
children are now all grandparents it's more like 15,000 children, but who's
We are not worthy.
But we could be.
Two years ago we got involved with PPA charities and
Operation Smile. In a way, though not as heroic or as dramatic as Sir Nick, we
have been improving children's lives too. We aren't saving them from the
clutches of an evil dictator but we are saving their smiles and drastically
improving their quality of life through facial reconstructive surgery. The
children touched by PPA charities and Operation Smile now have a chance at a
future they never could have imagined.
We've given a little here... a little there... donating
what we can as we go. It's exciting and inspiring to count the number of
children we've helped, at last count about 65. We won't miss a penny that we've
donated because we've been paid back tenfold in the "feel-good-about-yourself-for-caring-about-more-than-yourself-department."
We're about half way through summer. Maybe you've already
spoiled taken your kids on a vacation. Maybe you're gearing up for a
family vacation. If so, Don't do it! Have fun! But have I planted a
seed? In the back of your mind are you wondering ... WWSND (What Would Sir Nick
Why, he'd join PPA Charities Family Portrait Month in
September and make the world a better place for children! Find out
how. But first, get inspired and watch Sir Nicholas' 60 Minutes story
(relax, it's only 15 minutes).
I can't promise you that 60 Minutes will make a
documentary about you, but I will refer to you as Sir (insert your name here)
if you get on board the charity train! How cool is that?!
About the author:
Mariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van, grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.