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 screamed.
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 they annihilated.
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 Nick.
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 counting.
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?!