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My Semi Annual Serious Post Random Thoughts Stories that Renew My Faith in People Uncategorized

Be the Best Example You Can Be

June 10, 2016

It’s great to have a friend who’s an investigative reporter. He can do things like find out where old flames live and what their marital status is. But that’s not the only reason I’m friends with Don Ray.
Don’s a genuinely good person with a passion for both, a great story, and history. Plus, years ago, he traveled 2, 000 miles to be at my wedding for one day and I barely had time to even talk to him! I still feel guilty about it.

A while ago, Don invited me to participate in a reading with him, as part of the Endangered History Project.   The story he wanted me to help him tell was particularly appropriate in today’s political climate. (Please click on the link and check it out, it’s a non-profit organization well worth supporting!)

Don started the Endangered History project to preserve the memories of people long gone — maybe because,”Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it,” as George Santayana wisely said, or maybe because Don’s a big, old softie who loves a good story.

We did the reading at a local high school, presenting documents Don pulled from old FBI files and police reports. The documents were about a man named August Furst, who owned a popular German restaurant in Sun Valley, California in the 1930s and ’40s.

Neighbors believed Furst was a Nazi.

Rumors spread, and eventually, everyone from the local police, to the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover got involved. In truth, Mr. Furst was simply a German immigrant, but back then, mistrust of Germans was rampant. Since Italians were German allies for a while during World War II, Italians were also suspect, and some were even placed in internment camps during the war. And we all know about the thousands of innocent Japanese Americans who were interned and lost everything.

I was glad to be part of this reading because, although I never experienced bigotry personally, I know my grandparents and parents did. Nine years after the war ended, my parents bought land in New Brighton, Pennyslvania, and my dad started building our home on it. There were no other immigrant Italians among our neighbors; the Pfeiffers, Shaffers, Herrs, Pfleghars, Andersons and Golbertsons. We kids were not taught Italian, we were taught to speak English, because our parents wanted to make sure we fit in.

Bernie and Bob near the fence.jpg

Bob, Bernie and one of the fences

All our neighbors were nice, but when we moved in, our neighbors on both sides built fences. Back then, very few people had fences in our neighborhood, unless they had animals. Maybe they were worried that we kids would be running all over their yards, as kids do, or maybe they didn’t know what to expect, but I know it hurt my dad’s feelings.

Compared to other forms of bigotry, a fence is a very small thing. And some believe the line in Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” poem, that “Good fences make good neighbors.” But I think my dad wondered, as did the man in the poem, why we were being walled out and what offense we had given? As I’ve said before, sometimes, if you look for bigotry you find it. Dad never said anything about the fences when I was young, and never complained about being treated unfairly. He believed that if you worked hard and were a good person, that was all that was necessary to win people’s respect and get ahead.

Fran and Dad

The other fence behind me and my dad.

It was pretty clear, pretty quickly that the fences were unnecessary. There was no trespassing. And the only excitement we offered was when my mom called us home with Italian swear words when we weren’t fast enough.  Otherwise, the worst thing she did was force-feed anyone who stopped by, or send cookies to the neighbors at Christmas. Dad often shared the spoils of his garden, kept the house neat and tidy and helped whoever needed help.

After Don and I did our reading of documents regarding long-gone August Furst, we talked a bit about the state of our country.  Of course, the kids saw the parallels to today immediately.

I talked a little about my parents and how they may have been misjudged when we first moved in, but came to be accepted and loved. In fact, years later, Mr. Pfeiffer confessed to my dad that he should never have built that fence. I told the kids my parents taught me a valuable lesson that I wanted to share with them.

We were at Independence High School, a school for students who didn’t do well at other schools for one reason or another. Yet these were some of the most polite young people I’d ever met. Most of them were Latino, some were black, and there were a few white kids. I left them with a message I’ve kept in my heart for years.

I told them there are pockets in this country, where folks haven’t encountered other nationalities, so you might be the first “different” person some people ever meet.  Like my parents did, I’ve always tried to be the best representative of my Italian heritage I could be, and I asked these kids to do the same.

I said, “If you’re the only Latino, Chinese, Black, Italian, Muslim, Hindu, or whatever, then be the best example you can be, because you may be the one others base their opinions on.”

I was amazed and touched when this group of supposedly troubled kids seemed so genuinely moved by my words that they loudly clapped after I spoke.

It’s sad and unfair that people tend to base their opinions of a group, on the worst examples they see. But they can’t do that, if we don’t give them the chance.

 

 

 

  • Reply
    When the World Gets Ugly, Bake Cupcakes – At Fran's Table
    April 1, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    […] Hello Officer,” moment. I know neither side is easy to be on.  All I can do is go back to my “Be the Best Example You Can Be,” post, add the words, police officer, to the list, and hope for the best. Here’s the […]

  • Reply
    When the World Gets Ugly, Bake Cupcakes | At Fran's Table
    July 10, 2016 at 5:56 am

    […] Hello Officer,” moment. I know neither side is easy to be on.  All I can do is go back to my “Be the Best Example You Can Be,” post, add the words, police officer, to the list, and hope for the best. Here’s the […]

  • Reply
    Charles Burkett
    June 13, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Bravo, Fran. I wish I was at the school to witness the reception you received. You reached those kids with a meaningful message in a way that all of us teachers try to do every day. You’ll never forget that moment. Bravo!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 14, 2016 at 9:42 pm

      Thank you so much Chuck! You are so right. I was stunned and honestly thrilled at their response. I hope they do take it to heart. All it takes is for one of them to be the example, then pass it on. Thanks for always reading and taking the time to comment. You rock.

  • Reply
    Nicol
    June 12, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Well done, Fran. What a soulful message to leave them with, and thank you for being the example you are.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 12, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      Love you Nicol. Wish I was a better example, but I try. They were great kids.
      xoxo

  • Reply
    Mary J Tunno
    June 10, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    Another great one, Fran. And Chas, you kill me, . . LOL! Thanks, Irena!!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 11, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      Thanks Mare, for always reading! You’re a good sister.

  • Reply
    Pamela Ellis
    June 10, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Thank you. Perhaps proponents for building a wall along the Mexican border should read this blog post 🙂

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2016 at 1:11 pm

      I agree. Feel free to re-post!

  • Reply
    Donna Tunno
    June 10, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Loved this article! Good one! Chas, your comment made me laugh!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Thanks DT. I know, that Chas cracks me up. Love that guy!

  • Reply
    daedae51
    June 10, 2016 at 11:50 am

    That was wonderful Fran, I always feel happy after reading your blog.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      That is the nicest thing a blog writer can hear. Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    Bernie Tunno
    June 10, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Very funny chas!

  • Reply
    Bernie
    June 10, 2016 at 11:21 am

    I resemble that remark Cheese!

  • Reply
    btunno@bernietunnoins.com
    June 10, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Nice article!

    From: At Frans Table To: btunno@bernietunnoins.com Sent: Friday, June 10, 2016 9:52 AM Subject: [New post] Be the Best Example You Can Be #yiv0860065075 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv0860065075 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv0860065075 a.yiv0860065075primaryactionlink:link, #yiv0860065075 a.yiv0860065075primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv0860065075 a.yiv0860065075primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv0860065075 a.yiv0860065075primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv0860065075 WordPress.com | Fran Tunno posted: “It’s great to have a friend who’s an investigative reporter. He can do things like find out where old flames live and what their marital status is. But that’s not the only reason I’m friends with Don Ray.Don’s a genuinely good person with a passion for b” | |

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks Bern! Glad you liked it. Your photo with Bob is fabulous.

  • Reply
    Cathy Fishburn
    June 10, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Beautiful! I’m going to share it on FB! ((((Hugs))))

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Thank you so much Cathy!!!! And thanks for the share!

  • Reply
    Mandy Gustafsen
    June 10, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Stellar article Fran! xox

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      Thanks Mandy for always reading and being such a great friend.

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    June 10, 2016 at 8:27 am

    I am certainly not a bigot, but I must admit, if either of your brothers moved in next door to me, I’d put up a fence, too.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      Chas, you crack me up! Thanks for always reading and making me laugh!

  • Reply
    Irena Schulz
    June 10, 2016 at 7:09 am

    “Be the best example you can be, because YOU may be the one others base their opinions on.”

    Words to live by! Wonderful article!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      Irena, thank you so much. I really appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment!

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