Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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I still can't get over that LinkedIn post that you sent me about Louis Armstrong. I almost put it on my pile of things to "read later" as I'm not a huge fan of jazz, although I loved him in the movie "High Society" with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly.


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I figured the subject line, "Connect these dots … Louis Armstrong," would pique your interest.


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Well, it did. Although when I first started reading it, I couldn't figure out what a Jewish family who immigrated from Lithuania had to do with one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.


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Hence the subject line. It is one thing to hire a young black boy to do odd jobs for your business, but that is very different from treating him as if he was your own child, making sure he was well-fed, and treating him with kindness and respect.


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Just think about that. Today, a white family caring for a black child may be more common, but that was back in the early 1900s. It must have been almost unheard of and a brave thing to do.


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And that was on top of any discrimination the Karnofskys may have been experiencing for being Jewish. But they, of all people, would understand the importance of feeling "free" of the prejudice and stereotypes that prevent you from reaching your full potential.


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I think for anyone to feel truly loved, nurtured, and accepted is a gift, but in those days, it must have felt like a miracle.


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Is it a "gift" or should it be a "right"? Regardless, as if that was not enough, they also introduced Armstrong to music. Not only teaching him Russian and Jewish songs, but helping him buy his first musical instrument.


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It sounds like his life, when he was with them, was filled not only with love, but the power of music. I can't help but wonder if he'd have become one of the greatest musicians and composers with such a unique style and sound (both with his voice and his trumpet), if not for the Karnofskys.


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There is no way to know, but their impact on his life was significant enough that for years Armstrong would wear a Star of David around his neck to remind him of their kindness.


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But even if he hadn't "become" Louis Armstrong, I'd still like to believe he'd have had a better life because of them. I'm sure there are many other stories like his, we just don't know about them.


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I am surprised you did not mention Michael Oher and the movie "The Blind Side," especially since we are a storytelling society, and once you hear these stories, it is hard to forget them.


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No kidding. I've always known that sometimes very simple things can make a huge difference in another person's life, but I never really thought about the power of giving someone the "freedom" to be something more.


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Freedom is often taken for granted by those that have it, while prized and fought for by those who do not. But, I am not sure that you can just "give" someone true freedom, as I do not think you are talking about civil rights issues.


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I'm not talking literally. I'm talking in terms of confidence, of opportunities, of not feeling restrained by stereotypes or misconceptions. I think, and I never realized it before reading about Louis Armstrong, how by being appreciated and respected for who you are and given opportunities that others might take for granted – your life can become something truly wonderful. And very different from what it might have been.


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Yes, it can. Now, imagine if everyone had the right to pursue their potential. But, was that not what the Founding Fathers were thinking when they drafted the Declaration of Independence? When they wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."


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It's funny. I was going to ask you what you thought we should talk about for our July column, as we always try to tie it to Independence Day. But I guess this fascinating story about Louis Armstrong couldn't be more perfect.


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Not to mention, he celebrated July 4th as his birthday.


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Seriously?!


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Yes, although after his death, it was discovered that his actual birthday was August 4.


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Do you think it was intentional, or did he genuinely believe he was born on July 4th?


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Or, maybe it was his way of celebrating his independence.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Photo courtesy of Red


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I know that you’ve been involved with Make-A-Wish for decades, and it’s an amazing organization, but I’m not sure why you made such a big deal about the recent Texas Gulf Coast & Louisiana chapter ’s dedication of its building. I appreciate that you were part of the planning group, but with all due respect, it’s just a building.

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I don’t expect you to remember that it all started in 1980 when Tommy Austin wanted to do something special for a young boy, Chris Greicius, who was battling leukemia and wanted to be a policeman. That wish became a reality and the start of The Make-A-Wish Foundation.


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That story has always inspired me as it makes you realize the difference that just one person can make. But the building wasn’t named after Chris or Tommy, so I’m still confused.
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I may not celebrate Rosh Hashanah by going to temple, and now that the girls are no longer home for the holiday, I don’t prepare a seder with the traditional foods . But I know and appreciate that it’s one of the most important Jewish holidays, as it’s a time for reflection on the past and hope for the future. And this year, between world events, where I feel surrounded by so much negativity, and on the personal front, with Mom’s passing, it seems more important than ever before.


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Although Rosh Hashanah is filled with traditions, like apples dipped in honey because it is believed apples have healing properties (think of the rhyme, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”), and the honey signifies the hope for a new year that will be sweet … it is still incredibly relevant. In today’s hectic world, a contemplative holiday where you stop and think about the road you have traveled over the last year (including any wrong turns) and where you would like to go in the future may be exactly what we all need.

We wish everyone who celebrates Rosh Hashanah a happy and sweet New Year. And remember, you don’t have to be Jewish to look back and reflect … and then try to do better in the future.

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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So, I had to smile when Sawyer came to visit us at Mom’s estate sale. And even though I had seen her only a few hours before, I gave her a hug.


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Yes, you make it rather obvious that you are warm and fuzzy. And, a hugger.


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But what made me laugh was when she greeted you by acknowledging that you weren’t a hugger. Now there’s an understatement.


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No, it is merely a fact.


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I never realized, though, just how much both Natasha and Sawyer are like you. Although they begrudgingly let me hug them, they’d both be just as happy with a handshake. If that.


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Maybe a fist bump?
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