|I have a confession. Although you've been involved with Make-A-Wish for decades and told me countless wish stories, I've never been moved to tears. Until this weekend.|
|Why? It is not like you were at Tommy Austin's 80th birthday celebration on Saturday. Almost none of the speakers could get through their comments without crying. As you know, there would be no Make-A-Wish without Tommy, as it all started back in 1980 with him wanting to do something special for Chris Greicius, a 7-year-old boy who was battling leukemia and wanted to be a police officer.|
|Those are the facts, yes. But when you invited Sawyer to join you, and emailed us the link to the story that inspired Make-A-Wish video, it sat in my inbox until Saturday afternoon. I was clearing emails and found it, and thought it was a good time to watch it, especially since I knew you were at the party. And that's when the facts of Make-A-Wish became something so much more.|
|You may have been watching it at the same time we were, as they used it to open the tribute to Tommy. I have known him for decades, so am very familiar with the story, but it is a powerful reminder of how people came together to grant a young boy his wish, and how that single wish touched so many lives.|
|Yes, the ripple effect it created was truly amazing, as it led to the creation of The Make-A-Wish Foundation. But what brought me to tears, and made me go through more tissues than I'd care to admit, were the words of Chris's mother, "This was something I was totally helpless to do" but that Tom was able to pull it off with help from others.|
|I cannot imagine the helplessness a parent must feel when their child has a serious illness.|
|Trust me, hearing those words made my heart hurt. But I smiled when one of the other founders explained that after Chris had passed, with his wish having been fulfilled beyond his wildest dreams, that everyone involved looked at each other and said, "There are more children out there; let's go find them" and how it snowballed from there. It made me want to cheer and shout, "Yes!"|
|"Snowballed" is an understatement. Now, 41 years later, Make-A-Wish has made such a huge difference … granting more than 500,000 wishes, with chapters around the world … and bringing hope and joy to the wish kids and their families.|
|I can't begin to imagine how proud Tommy Austin must be to know that his simple desire to make one boy a little happier would lead to so much more.|
|The word I would use is "humble," as Tommy believes he is merely the messenger and refuses to take any credit, explaining he was only trying to make Chris' life better. But, there was a room full of people who saw it differently, and told heartwarming stories about Tommy.|
|It sounds like it was the best 80th birthday party ever, and he certainly deserved it.|
|It was so much more. And, we surprised him by announcing that in honor of his 80th birthday, The Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast & Louisiana had created a "Circle of 80" to kick-off the Tommy Austin Wish Fund.|
|That's so perfect. Although I've never met him, from watching the video I think that the best gift one could give Tommy would be to help grant the wish of a Make-A-Wish child. For that matter, it may be one of the greatest gifts any one of us could give …|
So, when Black mentions Redhead Appreciation Day, I know it’s related to Red & Black and not her being “nice” and giving me a day off (or telling me that she appreciates me). And when she asks, “What is it like to be a redhead, Red?” part of me wants to reply, “What’s it like not to be a redhead?” because, for my entire life, I’ve been “Red.” (There’s a story there, but I’ll get to it later.) The honest answer is, well, I never thought about it, until now …
I know that redheads often have a reputation for being fiery and hot-tempered, but I managed to escape that characteristic. (Although it amuses me that many people make that assumption about me before they even get to know me.) Ironically, I’ve always preferred to blend in and not make any waves (good or bad). But being a redhead does tend to make you stand out in the crowd (unless, of course, you’re in Scotland or Ireland, in which case, being a redhead helps you blend in), and growing up, I just accepted the attention in my stride.
It never seemed to bother me. Not even when I lived in China, which was definitely an experience on so many fronts. But while many things were to be expected (and, to some degree, endured, but that’s another post for another day), being a redhead wasn’t something I thought about. Until the first time I went for a bike ride through the streets of Shanghai on a hot summer’s day,
Everyone was pointing at me. Was it because I was a Westerner on a bike? (This was in the 1990s, and I was part of the first wave of ex-pats in Shanghai.) Or maybe a woman alone? I know my pale skin and whiter than white legs weren’t anything special. Then I noticed that everyone was pointing at my hair. Being a redhead (especially with very long hair and before the days of bike helmets to hide it) in China meant I’d never escape being noticed.
Unfortunately, the other thing I’d never escape, like most fair skin people, especially redheads, is that my skin burns easily. Growing up, it was extremely frustrating as all my friends tanned (ok, this was in the days before we knew of the dangers of the sun), and I had only two color options – white and red (as in bright red!).
Then I started wondering whether being a redhead explains why I blush so easily (I can only imagine the research Black will send me, so I won’t mention it to her). Or whether it’s just a function of having such pale skin that makes it more noticeable. But just the thought of how easily I blush is embarrassing, which in turn causes me to blush. Which I guess makes me Red with a red face.
Interestingly, although I go by the nickname Red, I never knew of any other redheads called Red. Even my daughters, both redheads, have never been called Red. (Although they’d tell me that occasionally someone would call them “Ginger,” but each of them shut that down pretty quickly.) But being called Red has never bothered me, although it might be because of how my nickname originated.
Which is the story I alluded to earlier, and, of course, it’s all Black’s fault, so I’ll let her tell the story,
On the day my parents brought my sister home from the hospital, I quickly glanced at my new (and not entirely welcome) baby sister with her bright red hair, and immediately called her “Red.” To which my mother told me, and not in a kind motherly way, but instead rather emphatically, to NEVER call her that again. So, from that day forward, I never called her anything else.
Are you familiar with Hispanic Heritage Month? If not, maybe it’s time.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It seems like every month has a “national celebration”, and although we both agree there’s so much to celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month, Red initially focused on the strange timing (starting mid-month) while Black focused on the lesser known (yet significant) achievements of the Hispanic community, as well as a name-calling incident that she can’t forget.
Red will admit that she only first heard of Hispanic Heritage Month in 2021, which is pretty surprising given that she loves history (ok, Tudor England is her area of interest) and has lived in Texas (which has a large Hispanic population) for over twenty years! With her first question being,
Like any good straight-A student, I can memorize that it’s celebrated from September 15 through October 15, but that doesn’t make much sense to me. So, I’ve got to ask Black’s favorite question, why?
Well, after a bit of research (by Black, of course, who believes homework never ends, you just call it research when you grow up), Red learned that the unusual starting date of the month-long celebration is in honor of the anniversaries of independence for many Latin American countries. Which led to her next questions,
It’s called Hispanic Heritage Month, but it also seems to cover Latino achievements and contributions. Or is it Latinx? What’s the difference? Is there a difference?
Black wanted to avoid these questions as the answers aren’t black and white (no pun intended, especially as she didn’t want to get into the topic of why AP News decided to capitalize “Black” but not “brown” or “white” when referencing people by the color of their skin). And although “Hispanic vs. Latino” is easier to explain, there’s controversy over the “Latinx” term. Plus, the “labeling of people” reminded Black of an ugly – and infuriating – incident where a friend was questioned about not being “brown enough”. So, she decided to focus on what is far more important,
Are you aware of the contributions Hispanics have made to American history? Or, the breadth of their accomplishments, including patents). Not only are they impressive, but they have had a far-reaching and lasting impact on the country.
Everyone should celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, whether by attending a festival, a concert, a parade, reading about notable Hispanic Americans, or even watching a movie or documentary. Or, if you’re like Red, comparing “In The Heights” to “West Side Story.”