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A Tonic For The Soul From Dayton, Ohio

January 17, 2019

I am not one to get depressed.  I have too many interests and things to keep my mind active to allow for the blues to take hold.  But I admit to feeling overwhelmed due to the chaos and lack of reasonableness that makes for hourly headlines over these past many months.  There are times when I need to take a sharp turn away from the news and find something to not only change the narrative, but lift my sails.

Such was the case this past Sunday.

I read the papers concerning an investigation into whether a president was also a Russian agent.  I read and heard the news stories about how our government is now into its longest shutdown.  Congo had a stolen election and in our state deep divisions exist over how to draw boundaries for election districts.  When most people were heading to bed, or perhaps well asleep that night, I stood before the bookshelves in our home.   I knew what was needed was not sleep but something to allow me fresh knowledge of why we still must have hope.

Hundreds of books before my eyes, most having been read, but many not yet opened.  Since they are all placed in some logical fashion by topic means the read ones are mixed with ones yet to be started.  From that arrangement I scanned the bindings.  It was then my eyes hit on one given by James this past Christmas.   I reached up and pulled The Wright Brothers by David McCullough from the shelves.

In 2015, upon hearing there was another book being published about the Wright brothers, I wondered what more could be said about the famous pair.  But when learning the author was David McCullough, one of my favorite historians, I knew there was going to be a new approach to telling the story.

The way McCullough puts the story forward about their lives, makes for the reason it lifted my sails during this time in our nation when all seems so terribly upside down.  The foundations of the story are built concerning a tenacious spirit, resolve, patience, education, and a commitment to something larger than an individual.

There is no way not to feel the anguish on a whole number of layers when reading how 18-year-old Wilbur was hit with a hockey stick (by a 15-year-old future murderer, whose victims would include his parents and brother).  From that bizarre accident which knocked out a number of front teeth and resulted in debilitating facial injuries, the teenager gives up his goal of higher education and instead spent several years as a recluse and devoted reader at home.

When Orville comes down with typhoid fever, and spent time near death, it will be Wilbur who will read out-loud at the bedside about European adventuress trying to answer the mystery of man flying.  From those weeks that winds through the pages, and as the years pass, along with the ingenuity-filled hours in a work space at the back of their bicycle business, we are presented with hope.

American hope.

Those who now try to press upon us chaos and confusion, as a means to divide and destroy, need to be placed in comparison with our impressive past.  When placed in that context what has made the nation proud and successful can never be undone by the most base, which now make for headlines.  We need to be reminded of that fact.  This book achieves it in spadefuls.

I took the book from the shelves Sunday and read late into the night.  It was as restorative as sleep, as with so many other historical books, alerts me that what makes us good and great comes from places like Dayton.  Comes from the driving inspirations of people with passion and foresight.

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