With the release of Ron Howard's movie "Apollo 13," our memories have been jogged back 20 years, and we recall a more idealistic and "can do" spirit of recent American history.
A few days ago, I walked down a personal memory lane with Wilbur and Sandy Wright of Jasontown Road. The Wrights have a long history of pursuing their ideals with a "can do" spirit, starting with a stint in the Peace Corps in 1966.
The Wrights were recent college graduates when a Peace Corps poster in a school cafeteria advertising "The Hardest Job You'll Ever Love" captured Mrs. Wright's imagination, and a Peace Corps recruiter persuaded Mr. Wright that the corps was the place for him.
The couple wanted to do something positive with their lives; they married, and became the second and third Peace Corps volunteers from Carroll County.
Assigned to duty in Costa Rica -- "We had to get the atlas out to see where it was," Mrs. Wright recalled -- they spent three years in that country teaching nutrition, gardening and community development.
"We were goodwill ambassadors for the United States," Mr. Wright said. "We always tried to be good friends and neighbors."
In Costa Rica, they lived in an unpainted house with a dirt kitchen floor that rented for $8.50 a month. Bananas and pineapples grew in the back yard. "It was a small garden of Eden," Mr. Wright remembered.
His wife remembered the hundreds of poisonous snakes that haunted the countryside. "We learned to make a lot of noise and they'd go away," she said.
After three years there as Peace Corps volunteers, the Wrights felt it was time to return home. Yet, less than 10 years later, they returned to Costa Rica on business and wound up staying two more years, adopting three Costa Rican children -- who just graduated from Francis Scott Key High School -- and rediscovering the joys of living overseas and doing something positive.
The Wrights have been home for 16 years, but a quick tour of their home reveals that Costa Rica is never far away. Spanish-style furniture and souvenirs from their days in Central America fill every corner.
Many Spanish-speaking guests attended a party to honor the children's recent graduation. Then Mr. Wright was off on another business mission to Costa Rica. This time, he took his sons to keep them in touch with their native culture and to visit friends.
The Wrights spent the Fourth of July like most of us -- with family and friends, watching fireworks. Yet, because their American lives have been intertwined with another culture, Mrs. Wright admits that, "You see the good and the bad of your culture and someone else's. You really don't know your own culture until you learn someone else's."
Ruth Aukerman, a Union Bridge artist and Elmer Wolfe Elementary School art teacher, is teaching art classes to adults and children this summer at "Common Ground on the Hill," a program for the arts at Western Maryland College.
In "Move Over, Picasso -- Art from the Masters," Mrs. Aukerman will help children examine several great works of art, and show her students how artists respond to and deal with conflict in their art. Then the students will have the opportunity to work on their own paintings and experience artistic conflict resolution first hand.
A class by the same title is offered for adults, who will focus on master works from the Blue Rider, a group of artists involved in conflict within their community. Students in Mrs. Aukerman's class will work on their responses to conflict through their art, as well as develop or improve painting skills and techniques.
Mrs. Aukerman has a gift for both teaching and art, and her enthusiasm is contagious. For information about her classes, which start Monday and last for a week, contact Common Ground on the Hill at Western Maryland College, 857-2771.