Another year begins, with words of wisdom before the banana drop

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The commentary below represents the ideas, observations and opinions of the author.


With minutes to go before the Big Banana Drop, the mayor of Munchkin Land scanned the net bag high above an enormous bowl of ice cream.

He knew the giant banana split was central to the Munchkin New Year celebration and he was slightly worried. What if the bag didn’t open? What if the bananas missed the bowl and instead landed on excited young Munchkins? What if there was a malfunction in the chocolate syrup delivery system?
 
  Tom Houlihan
Still, he kept smiling. That’s what you do when you’re mayor of a small town filled with extremely small people known for singing, dancing and being happy all the time.
 
Smartly dressed in one of his most distinctive outfits — phosphorescent purple jacket, bright green pants and smiley face cravat — he had just finished judging the funny face contest. The marching ocarina band would play after the banana split was distributed to the crowd. And then, the pogo stick contest.
 
Sometimes it wasn’t easy to keep smiling. Truth to tell, it had been a hard year. There was, of course, the usual grumbling by his constituents about taxes and water bills. But he was used to that and considered it part of his civic responsibilities.
 
No, it had to do more with the news outside Munchkin Land and in other parts of Oz. Everyone had seen pictures of terrible floods and fires. Church and concert shootings, and marches by people espousing hate. There were reports of rockets that could threaten the entire planet.
 
The mayor sighed and thought of the orange-haired Supreme Wizard and his first year in office. Nearly every day the top wizard took to his Stupendous Scary Screen – the one with the flames shooting up the sides – and ranted about how unfairly he was being treated, often telling outright falsehoods. He appeared to thrive on chaos as he attacked important institutions that were obviously in place to make life better.
 
Locally, there had been one disturbing development, an epidemic of Munchkin boys pinching girls in the school yard. When cornered, the boys were heard to say, “Can’t you take a joke?” But it had gone far beyond being a joke. Secretly, the mayor hoped that the girls would wallop the boys with their overstuffed backpacks. But when you’re mayor you can’t always say what you think.
 
The mayor looked at the bag of bananas one more time, then cleared his throat. Before the bananas dropped, it was time for him to speak.
 
“Friends,” he said. “We all know how fortunate we are to live in a community where everyone has learned the secret to living together harmoniously. Much has been made of the Munchkin brand of being nice. It’s more than that though. We listen to each other. We value each other’s company. We work out our problems with a minimum of rancor.
 
“There are some people — and they don’t live here — who think it’s silly that we teach our children to be polite and to smile through adversity. That we care about our neighbors. We know better. When we teach our children to get along with people who are different from them, it will have important consequences for the rest of their lives. And it will make the world a better place.
 
“It is true that we are small people. However, we know we’re big inside. And that it makes a difference when we join hands to get the job done. Together, there is not a problem that we can’t solve. That’s always been our strength.”
 
Then he wished his neighbors a Happy New Year and signaled for the bananas to drop.
 * * * * * 
On behalf of the H-F Chronicle, I’d like to wish all of you a healthy and productive 2018. We just finished our third year as the hometown newspaper for Homewood and Flossmoor. Once again, we did our best to bring you a factual account of important goings-on in our two towns. We covered the municipal elections and the budgets for the schools, villages and parks. We wrote stories about new businesses in town and men and women, boys and girls — our H-F neighbors — and their noteworthy accomplishments.
I got to interview Dr. Bernard Heilicser, who has trained two generations of paramedics in our South Suburbs. I was honored to write the story about Dr. Bernie, who is still a member of the Flossmoor Fire Department and has responded to emergencies around the world. I consider him to be a genuine hero.
 
Recently, I spoke with Russ Bensley, who was a producer at CBS News during the golden age of TV journalism in the latter half of the 20th century. He’s lived in the H-F area for years. It was an honor to write about him, too.
 
I ended the year, though, by talking to three H-F High School automotive students – Angelina Lopez, Michael Pennick and Eric Ray. I was, quite honestly, bowled over by their confidence, smarts and ability to explain what they want to do with their lives. They told me how learning about automobiles is all about problem solving and critical thinking. I greatly enjoyed the lesson.
 
Like the Munchkins, we know that we can accomplish great things by working together.
 
Based on my conversation with those three young people, I think we’re headed in the right direction.
 

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A great community deserves a great newspaper. The HF Chronicle was created in June 2014 as an online publication. In December 2015 we began monthly print publication, too. Our mission is to chronicle the life of our community — news by, for, and about the people of Homewood and Flossmoor, Illinois.

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