Thursday, July 4, 2019

Remembering Sir Nicholas Winton and Hot Dogs on Independence Day

Image pirated from
[ETA:  I learned the day after I published this that Sir Winton passed away in 2015, not 2019.  Though I'm glad for the error because of the common themes between what he did for innocent children and what many children currently suffer at the US/Mexico border.]

Today, we Americans celebrate the Declaration of our Independence from crazy King George III and the British Parliament's entitlement to our then colonial livelihood. Informed and misinformed by a host of influences, my understanding of it all and my cause to celebrate continues to change, but I don't hesitate to do so. I celebrate for sundry reasons and causes of heritage, lineage, religious freedom, and the precious gift of liberty. For those who are denied such blessings, I pray, grieve, and mourn.

I descended from a family of three French militia mercenaries who claimed Pennsylvania as their home and marched under a flag bearing a rattlesnake.  Dr Forrest Moyer who is known as the “Father of Pediatrics” in Allentown, PA spent three days and nights in a cot beside me after my birth, years before the advent of neonatal intensive care units there. He told my parents to expect my death, and I am proud that I was baptized as a Moravian that morning.

The Moravians did good service in our American Revolution by caring for our wounded troops in Pennsylvania, in cities that they established in the grand missionary effort of Count Zinzendorf, a Reformed but pre-reformation follower of Jan Hus. I am proud to be a daughter of the Quaker State who trained as a nurse in Quaker City and married a man born in Quaker Town. My own history weaves meaningfully around the rich history of America's own birthplace.

In Remembrance of Great Men

This past week, I learned that Allentown native Lee Iacocca died, just a day after the passing of Sir Nicholas Winton from our once-mother England. Both names have largely passed out of common knowledge today, and coinciding with the significance of July 4th, it set me thinking.

The world remembers Iacocca for his role as an automobile magnate, heading up both Ford and Chrysler automotive companies during his lifetime. Silly me! I remember him for countless, precious memories cultivated at the hot dog and cheesesteak diner (the Liberty Grille) that his Italian immigrant parents founded in Allentown. Everyone loves Yocco's Hot Dogs, and their signature foods are something sacred in the Allentown of my childhood. Thinking of them instantly connects me with love, comfort, and joy and the people who I shared them with, all without the cares of daily life.

When I think of Sir Winton, I think of home as well, as he reminds me of what Allentown Hospital's Dr. Moyer did for me. Winton was thought of as Britain's Schindlerfor his role in saving hundreds of children who fled the Holocaust by arranging their passage on a trains between Prague and England. He then fought the bureaucracy to find safe foster homes for them and the means to return to their homes when it was safe for them again. He saved children from the Nazi regime, but he kept his actions quiet for the next fifty years. He didn't like the comparison to Schindler because he felt that his own life was never in peril.

Winton's daughter was said to have the hope that her father would also be remembered for his quick and clever wit, and for his many works of charity. Six hundred and sixty-nine people have their Sir Winton. I have my Dr. Forrest Moyer. And I have so many others who have poured goodness into my life, too – often without any hope of return on their investment. (I'm sure that a number of them suffered for it, too.)

Joyful Cause to Celebrate

For these reasons, today, I celebrate all those who have made efforts great and small that benefitted my life as I celebrate the anniversary of my Country's Independence.  They range from the sublime to the ridiculous; great and small. A doctor, a lot of prayer, love, and a miracle saved my life at the start of it. (Dr. Moyer himself attributed my recovery to nothing short of miraculous, using it more than once as I fully recovered.) The memory of Yocco's hot dogs can connect me to an amazing number of memories of so much goodness and the people with whom I shared them. I also celebrate the kindness shared with others that is done in private where no one sees that no one else knows.

I wonder what people remember of me, apart from fables and things I'd love to forget? By my own doing, one or two will now associate me with hot dogs. Let us all celebrate forgiving spirits and short memories! May we all be moved by those who lack those good things that we take for granted.