This column originally was published by ECM Publishers, Inc, at hometownsource.com, 10-22-2015
Courage and creativity
By Joe Nathan
Today we’ll talk about courage and creativity. There are plenty of problems, local, state, national and international. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. But a recent trip to Chicago reminded me that courage and creativity also are part of our world. Sharing those things with youngsters helps them retain hope and optimism.
Let’s start with creativity.
Thanks to a cab driver, I learned that Chicago recently has completed the Maggie Daley play area. It’s named for a youth advocate who was married to Chicago’s longest-serving mayor, Richard Daley.
The playground’s setting is dramatic. Lake Michigan is on one side, and huge buildings are on the other three. The contrast is stunning.
As a longtime fan and user of playgrounds, I’d say the Maggie Daley play area is the most incredible I’ve seen anywhere in the world. It’s completely free and much of it is handicapped accessible. The play area features tall towers, rope bridges, unusual swings, a maze, curving slides and a variety of other features. Some of its areas are designated for young children, ages 2-5. Others are for older youngsters – up through age 12. But I saw a number of teenagers and adults laughing, jumping, climbing, sliding and in general, having a wonderful time. It’s a tremendous example of creativity. More information is here: http://bit.ly/1LAlrkf.
Another incredible human quality is courage. Looking carefully, we can see it in every community. There were many examples in Chicago, but one of my favorites is the U-505 German submarine on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. This sub was captured during World War II on the Atlantic.
The U.S. Navy’s USS Chatelain tracked and captured the sub. Several sailors boarded it and overcame the Germans’ efforts to sink it. They also recovered German charts and codes that were enormously valuable. Keeping the U-505 afloat involved entering it as water was streaming in and going through the dark to identify and close hatches that had been opened. Americans also successfully searched for explosives that had been planted to destroy the sub. One captain ordered others off the boat while he dealt with the explosives. These actions display almost unbelievable courage.
As a youngster in the 1950s I enjoyed visiting the U-505 with my parents. But sharing the U-505 experience with one of our grandchildren was a new, powerful experience. She told me it was a “bit scary” because the sub is narrow and has a low ceiling. But when I asked her later in the day what she thought about the sub, she smiled and said “awesome.” More information about the sub, and the museum, is here: http://bit.ly/1FyAEgU.
We don’t need to go to Chicago to see courage and creativity. It’s available in every community. But I hope we take the time, and make the effort, to point them out to youngsters. It’s easy to become cynical, frustrated and disillusioned.
But there is so much good around and in us. For our own mental health, as well as our children’s, I hope we find ways to share and support creativity and courage.
Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.