Tag Archive | Roy Rogers

Memoir of a 70-Year-Old Super Hero

Do you ever fantasize about being a super hero like Superman, Wonder Woman, or even an old fashioned hero like Roy Rogers or Robin Hood and Maid Marian?

I just finished reading a book about a woman that I can somewhat identify with. She’s about my age. She quit her job as a counselor and social worker to begin a new adventure. She plays the piano to relax. Several years ago she moved to Honduras and began an amazing adventure. She became a super hero in my mind, although she would never make that claim herself. Here’s a blurb from the back cover of the book, EMOTIONAL WITNESS: My Seven-Year Journey as an Aid Worker into the Heart of Honduras.

51smFhUIbL._SX322_BO1204203200_In her 60s, and living in Seattle, Ellen Lippman Finn on a whim signed up for a homestay visit to learn Spanish in Honduras. What began as a two-week vacation became a journey that would transform her life.

It would be love at first sight for the former social worker and jazz musician. She fell hard  for the people living in Copan Ruinas and the surrounding mountains of western Honduras. She divested herself of her possessions in the U.S., and moved permanently to the area, where she felt at home for the first time in 50 years.

When Ellen first moved to Honduras, she focused her energy on raising funds to provide school supplies for children living in the rural villages nearby. One school she visited had no blackboard, no desks, not even any books. The teacher taught arithmetic by drawing numbers with a stick in the sand.

But the lack of school supplies was just one problem. The extreme poverty of the area meant little food and serious malnutrition. Ellen turned to her North American friends to raise funds for food and clothing as well as school supplies.

I first heard about Ellen several years ago from the daughter of one of our assisted living residents. At that time Ellen was raising money to give Christmas baskets to rural families. For $25 you could provide a family a gift basket that included toys, clothes, and food for the whole family. We still donate money for four baskets every Christmas to Buenos Vecinos (Good Neighbors), the organization Ellen created.

Each short chapter in Ellen’s book is the story of some kind of adventure she experienced while living as an aid worker in Honduras. Some of the stories are funny, like her description of learning to ride a horse – the only way to get to a particular rural mountain village. Others are sad, like the story of a father carrying his small son wrapped in a blanket to get some medical care, but by the time he arrived, the son had died. Some are scary, and many are heart-warming. All together these stories provide a complex picture of what life is like in that area of the world.

As word spread about how Ellen was able to raise funds and work with the local people on projects that would improve the living situations in many of the poor mountain villages, more and more people came to her for help. Unfortunately, the drug traffickers learned of her reputation, too, and put her name on their hit list. They didn’t want her working in their territory. Ellen escaped Honduras just in time, recuperated with a friend in the States for a few months, and then moved to Guatemala, where she is continuing her work as Buenos Vecinos in that country. Meanwhile, the particular drug traffickers who were out to kill her have been arrested and are currently in prison. That means she can make occasional trips back to Copan Ruinas to visit her friends there.

This is my 70-year-old super hero. Some of her success stories are listed as an appendix at the end of the book – with thanks to her donors.

  • Communities served: 80 in Honduras, 10 in Guatemala
  • Ongoing nutrition and health programs for many schools
  • School supplies for students in 80 communities
  • Teaching materials for more than 100 classrooms
  • Christmas baskets for more than 250 families yearly
  • Shoes for more than 2,000 kids
  • Construction projects completed: 
    • 20 schools and classrooms
    • 2 school playgrounds
    • 2 bridges so children could access the schools from their homes
    • 1 community medical clinic
    • 1 cooperative bakery
    • 11 water projects
    • 1 library serving 7 villages
    • 16 school bathrooms and wash sinks
    • 30 villages received school repairs and renovations
    • 60 schools received shelves, desks, and blackboards
    • 11 clinics received furniture

That’s just some of the items listed in the book. See why she’s my super hero!

One of the themes of the book is Ellen’s evolving perception of her role as an aid worker and her relationship with the people she is working with. There’s one long chapter near the end of the book that explores that theme in depth. Good intentions don’t necessarily result in good outcomes. Establishing boundaries can be extremely hard, especially in life and death situations. Trying to be helpful can get very complicated. Even for super heroes.

I highly recommend reading the book. Here’s a link to it on amazon.com.  I guarantee the book will make you laugh, cry, and think.


The 3 Heroes in my Life

Roy Rogers record coverThe earliest hero in my life was Roy Rogers. I wanted to be just like him – ride a horse like Trigger, have a dog like Bullet, and wear a white cowboy hat on my head and two six-guns in a holster at my waist. I wanted to always stand up for what was right, and always win.

The best day of my childhood was the day Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Trigger, and Bullet came to the Wisconsin State Fair. It was a rare day that my dad got someone else to do the evening milking so the whole family could go to Milwaukee (60 miles away) and spend all day at the fair – including the evening show featuring Roy Rogers and his cohorts in person.

Nancy, Danny, and me dressed up to go to church.

Nancy, Danny, and me dressed up to go to church.

My big sister Nancy was my second hero. She was 11 years older than me and was just about perfect. She was smart (salutatorian of her high school class); she played the piano, organ, and trombone well; and she liked having a little sister. (She probably liked having a little brother, too, although I don’t know for sure. I didn’t notice.)

I missed Nancy so much when she went away to college, I could hardly wait for her to come home during school holidays. I wrote her lots of letters, and sometimes I even enclosed a dollar bill that I’d saved up from my allowance so she could buy herself a special treat.

I loved Nancy so much, I wanted to grow up to be just like her.

As I got older and older and older I gradually realized that my real hero was my mom. She was the kindest and most generous person I’ve ever known. Mom was always doing something thoughtful for someone – like driving an elderly person to Madison for a doctor appointment, or planning a party for her Sunday School class of first graders, or freezing vegetables from her garden for Mim and me.

Mom sending flowers from her garden home with me to Chicago

Mom sending flowers from her garden home with me to Chicago

Mom knew what she believed to be right and she wasn’t afraid to express herself. She told me about several conversations she’d had with her boss, the senior pastor at the Presbyterian Student Center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. (Mom was financial secretary of Pres House.) Dr. Jondrow just didn’t understand and believe enough of the Bible, and she wasn’t afraid to tell him so.

Mom was my lifetime hero. I still strive to be just like her in many ways.

So, why am I talking about my heroes today?

I must give credit to Edward Hays and his book, A BOOK OF WONDERS, again. In talking about heroes, Hays quoted a Yiddish proverb, “If I try to be like him [my hero], who will be like me?” Hays continues,

Read that proverb again slowly. Let it be a bugle sounding the call for you to be as fully as possible who you are, a one-and-only person, unique in all of human history… A learned and holy rabbi once told his disciples, “When I get to heaven God isn’t going to ask me, ‘Rabbi Yosef, why weren’t you more like Moses?’ No, God will ask me, ‘Rabbi Yosef, why weren’t you more like the Yosef whom I created?’”

Well, I guess I really don’t want to be exactly like my mom, or my sister, or Roy Rogers. I still want to develop some of the qualities I’ve admired so much in all three of my heroes. And then I want to combine those qualities with the unique characteristics and opportunities God has given me. Maybe I really can grow into the person God intends for me to be.

Thank goodness God is patient and has provided me with good coaches – both in the form of good people in my life and of good books to read.

Marian w curls and cowboy hat

As a child, I was always happiest with a cowboy hat on my head – even during those few years when my mom tried to curl my hair.


My Favorite Guns

RR Gun and Holster SetMy First Gun.
When I was a child, my hero was Roy Rogers. I watched him on TV whenever I could. He was the good guy in the white hat. He used his six-guns to bring the bad guys to justice. I wanted to be like him when I grew up. That’s why my Roy Rogers gun and holster set, like the one pictured here, was one of my favorite toys. My brother, Danny, and I usually played cowboys and Indians when my cousins rode their bikes over to the farm to play with us. These cap guns were the only props we needed to transform us into our cowboy heroes.

Shooting Real Guns. When Danny and I got a little older, Danny got a BB gun. A few years later he got a pellet gun – a more modern-looking black pistol. Then he got a 22 rifle. We used all these guns for target practice in the back yard. We lined up tin cans in a row to see how many we could hit. I was never much of a sharpshooter, but occasionally I’d knock a tin can over.  I could still fantasize about being a cowboy hero with my cap guns – I never missed my targets in my imagination.

deringerAlmost Buying a Derringer. When Mim and I lived in Chicago, we became good friends with Lenie, a very independent woman, about thirty years our senior, who owned an antique shop in our neighborhood. She was a wonderful story teller, and she became our source of a lot of Chicago history – the personal stories. Lenie obtained most of her merchandise for her antique shop from estate sales. She specialized in jewelry, cut glass, and small household items. One Saturday Lenie told us she had something she wanted to show us when the other customers left the store. We browsed until everyone else was gone. Then she took out her special prize – a lady’s derringer.  She hadn’t decided for sure yet if she wanted to sell it, or keep it in her purse. If we wanted it, she’d let us have it for $100. I was fascinated by the pretty little gun, but I knew it wasn’t a toy, and conventional wisdom was that it’s dangerous to have a gun in the house.  I didn’t buy it – and Lenie kept it in her purse.

My Dad’s Rifle. In 1991 after my dad died, Mim and I decided to have Danny remodel the farmhouse for us and we would move to Cambridge. The first step in the process was to clear everything out of the house. One of the items in the coat closet was my dad’s 22 rifle. He had kept the gun handy to shoot at wild animals, not to kill them but to scare them away, animals like raccoons, opossums, and foxes. I thought it might be kind of fun to shoot at tin cans again, but Mim really didn’t want to have a gun in the house, so I let one of my nephews have it.

Danny’s Guns. One spring morning shortly after Mim and I had moved to Cambridge, we were outside picking asparagus. I suddenly saw a huge snake coiled up like a hose right next to Mim. I told Mim to step directly toward me and to do it immediately. She did it but she was a little confused why I was ordering her to do that. We had a lot more asparagus to pick. Then she saw the huge snake, too. This wasn’t a little garter snake. It was the biggest snake I’d ever seen outside of a zoo. We left the asparagus patch and went to the barn, which had become my brother’s carpentry workshop. I asked Danny to get one of his guns and get rid of the snake for us. He was delighted to oblige. He had several guns in his collection to choose from. He used one of his pistols, one that looked a lot like the Roy Rogers cap gun I used to have, except his gun shot real bullets, not caps.

With Roy Rogers as my childhood hero, I can understand the attraction for owning a gun. Cap guns were the prop that transformed me into a hero in my imagination. I enjoyed target practice. I thought about buying Lenie’s pretty little derringer. And, I’m really glad Danny had a gun and could use it to get rid of that menacing snake in our asparagus patch. There’s a place for guns in the homes of American families that want them.

But, I simply cannot understand why our Congress seems incapable of passing a law to limit access to high capacity assault weapons. Perhaps, such guns serve as props that enable some people to be war heroes in their imaginations, just like cap guns enabled me to be a cowboy hero in my own mind. But there’s a pretty big difference. Cap guns can’t kill 26 people in five minutes.

Because I cannot understand why everyone doesn’t see the need for reasonable gun legislation, I tend to get angry and think the people who are resisting new legislation are just stupid.  But then, I came across these words in the Bible:

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with – even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. (Romans 14:1 The Message)

I guess I don’t need to agree with them, and they don’t need to agree with me. I can still stand up for what I believe to be best, but I need to treat with respect people who disagree with me, and I need to be kind to them. That’s another thing I need to pray about.