Lecturers Notes...

Knights of Columbus General Meeting

November 14, 2023



Even the biggest can lend a helping hand


We all like our heroes to be bigger than life. Muhammad Ali looms large not only because of his incredible boxing skills but also because of how outspoken he was. Who can forget:


“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see.

Now you see me, now you don't.

Forman thinks he will, but I know he won't.”


Most people loved it: the stealthy puncher, the quick feet, the facial expressions that animated the ring, and the mouth that never seemed to stop moving. Most enjoyable was the way he played off the pompous blowhard Howard Cosell, with whom he shared a friendship that lasted decades. Their clowning and television antics became great entertainment.


Most of us don’t know that behind the bravado and made-for-TV quotes, Ali was a man who cared deeply about others. On January 19, 1981, Ali got a call from his longtime friend and biographer, Howard Bingham. Just a few blocks from Ali’s residence, Bingham was at the scene of a man perched dangerously on a ledge, threatening to jump. A crowd had gathered beneath the man, waiting to see what would happen. Within minutes, Ali was racing toward the building. He ran up the stairs The man had locked the door to his room, so Ali stuck his head out the window of the room next to the man and called to him: “You’re my brother! I love you, and I wouldn’t lie to you.”


Joe, the man on the ledge, was shocked by the celebrity boxer talking to him. “Why do you care about me? I’m a nobody,” he said.


Ali talked to him for 20 minutes, gaining his trust where others had failed. Finally, Joe opened the door he had locked and let Ali in. Ali wrapped his arms around the man and embraced him like a child.


Ali personally drove the man to a psychiatric hospital and promised Joe that when he was discharged, Ali would go home with him and show the man’s neighbors that he was a friend of the greatest boxer of all time.


It’s interesting to note that just a short time earlier, Ali had suffered the worst defeat of his career, losing to Larry Holmes. Yet he didn’t wallow in self-pity. He saw another human in need, a stranger, and he went to his aid.


Here are some takeaways for us, my Brothers:

Sometimes in our lives, we might feel that our problems are more than we can bear. But there is always somebody who has worse problems and who needs a little help from us. We must be ready to make a difference.


“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”


Knights of Columbus General Meeting

September 12, 2023



The Turkey Who Forgot He Had Wings!

By Rebekah Ann Stephenson, May 1, 2016


Early one afternoon I heard my dog barking at something outside. I went to the kitchen window and couldn’t believe what I saw. A large wild turkey was frantically running around my garden. This was pretty unusual because I live in a town, not in the country.


I watched the turkey getting exhausted as he quickly ran all around, trying to escape. I’ve never seen a turkey run so fast. But then again, I can’t say as I’ve ever seen a turkey run period.


Let me pause here. When I read about the turkey running fast, I was curious. So I did a search and found that turkeys can run up to 25 mph and they can fly in short bursts of up to 55 mph. Keep that in mind if you ever want to impress your friends with some useless information!


The turkey was in a panic. My yard and garden are completely enclosed by high fences to keep the animals away. The turkey couldn’t remember how he got into the garden, and he couldn’t find his way out. 


I watched him run all around in a frenzy. He started at one side of the garden, ran full speed across to the other side, and bounced off the fence. Then he turned and ran full speed into another side of the fence, only to be stopped again. This went on for several minutes. It was an odd, funny sight!


As I watched, I slowly began to relate to that turkey.


You see, my husband had a bad case of the flu. I was feeling overwhelmed taking care of him and everything that needed to be done in the house. I had to do it all by myself. I felt completely stressed out and I was losing sleep.


I was feeling like a chicken running around with its head cut off… and then God sent me this turkey.


Here… right in front of me… in the form of a large flailing bird… was all the chaos and stress I was feeling in the pit of my stomach. I began to relate to it.


As I watched, the turkey wasted his time and energy running around the garden in a panic, ramming into the fence, trying to squeeze through it, and having no success. He continued this senseless repetitive behavior for almost half an hour.


Finally, the turkey rammed into the garden fence one last time. Then he stopped and slowly waddled around for a minute or two. Suddenly he began flapping his wings! He took off flying over our garden fence. He was finally free.


It was in that moment that I realized the real inspiration in what I was watching. It was as if the turkey was blinded by panic and fear, and he forgot that he had wings that would lift him up and over the hurdles that had been placed in his way. But once he remembered that he already had what it took to deal with the situation, he was free.

How many times do we face difficult situations that cause us to run around in a non-productive way like that turkey.  When we’re dealing with really difficult problems, how often do we react with panic when we run into roadblocks? Roadblocks like… Worry. Fear. Exhaustion. Self-doubt. Now some of these roadblocks are real, but some are imagined.


Here are some takeaways for us, my Brothers:

Like that trapped turkey, we too have what it takes to face life’s challenges. Our life’s experiences have given us coping skills, resources, people we can turn to for help, and the comforting knowledge that we have a loving God on our side. All these things are there to support us. These are our wings. Yet sometimes we forget to use them, and we run around like that trapped turkey, until we’re exhausted from trying to do it all by ourselves.


So, when we feel we’re in a situation over our heads, let’s remember that turkey in the yard. Let’s find a way to take control and focus on the important things, confident in the knowledge that we’ll work it out and get through it… if we just remember to use the wings that we already have.


Knights of Columbus General Meeting

August 8, 2023



Landing An Airplane Without A Wheel


Last month I told you about Norman Vaughn, a man who, at the age of 89, went to Antarctica and climbed a 10,000-foot-high icy mountain that Admiral Byrd named after him. Tonight is quite different. I’m going to talk about a girl in her teens.


When I was a teenager, back in Sioux City, Iowa, I just wanted to hang out with my friends… and learn how to drive. But Maggie Taraska isn’t your average teenager. She wanted to learn something more. You could say that she set her sights higher. She wanted to fly a plane solo across the United States… at the young age of 17.


Both of Maggie’s parents were Air Force veterans, so wanting to fly was in her genes. She went to flight school to study and practice with an instructor. Finally, after 60 hours, she was prepared.


The big day was Sunday September 9, 2018. It was time for Maggie’s first solo flight from Beverly, Massachusetts, to Portland, Maine, a distance of about 95 miles by car. But as she was taking off, things didn’t exactly go according to plan.


“As soon as the plane lifted off the ground, I heard a noise,” Maggie said. “I knew something was wrong.” And she was right. One of the plane’s landing wheels had fallen off.


The Piper Cub had plenty of gas, so her instructor who was on the ground let Maggie circle to gather her thoughts and kind of pull herself together. After 45 minutes, it was time to talk her through the maneuvers for her first solo landing… without a landing wheel.


“I was petrified. I was thinking about all the things that could go wrong.”


Maggie was pretty shaken as she radioed to her instructor in the tower. But she knew that thinking about what could go wrong wasn’t going to solve her problem. Instead, she focused on her past training and on her instructor’s guidance. She executed a perfect belly landing and skidded to safety on the infield grass.


Maggie took a deep breath and climbed out of the plane. We have to give some credit to the instructor for guiding her through the landing procedure. But in the end, it was all on Maggie’s shoulders… a 17-year old… alone at the controls of a plane… making her very first solo landing… without a landing wheel.


By the way, if you search online, you can see a brief ABC television news interview with her talking about this incident.


Here are some takeaways for us, my Brothers:

At some point in our lives, every one of us will find ourself in a situation that causes stress and panic. No matter how much we plan and no matter how much we prepare, we’re going to be blindsided at one time or another.


That’s when we have to remember that it takes mental strength and focused concentration to handle the situation. We need to remember what we learned from past experiences and be guided by them. As Maggie said, “I panicked a bit, but I followed my training.”


Just as Maggie talked to her instructor on the ground, we can all benefit from talking to someone during difficult times. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. We might think that it’s a manly thing to go it alone. But none of us has all the answers. A strong, wise man knows when to seek guidance and council from others.


Up in the air, Maggie couldn’t walk away from her problem, and she couldn’t put it off until a later time. When facing major difficulties, it’s understandable that we might want to ignore them. But as we all know, problems don’t just go away. They stay with us and can wear us down. It’s best to face the issue and work hard to resolve it.


Maggie was determined not to let anything keep her from reaching her goal. As she put it: “Bad things happen all the time. But you can’t let them stop you from being what you want to be and doing what you love to do.”


There is no “one size fits all” solution for solving problems. But here are some things we can learn from Maggie and her situation. When faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem:

  • Take the time to collect your thoughts and pull yourself together
  • Keep focused
  • Boost your confidence by remembering what you learned from past experiences
  • Look forward, not backward, so you won’t be discouraged
  • Keep charging ahead
  • Don’t hesitate to call on others for advice and support. Look around you. This room is filled with trusted brothers who will always be there for you
  • Have faith… in yourself and in the Lord who is always available to us


This is what Maggie says after overcoming her problem: “It feels amazing to be up in the air again. It feels really freeing.”


In bad times, remember those words and think how amazing you will feel when you are free from a difficult problem.






Knights of Columbus General Meeting

July 11, 2023



Norman Vaughan, Dog Sledder


Norman Vaughan grew up on the East Coast. He attended Harvard and enjoyed reading books about dog sledding. He dropped out of college to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Newfoundland, where he became a dog sled leader.


In 1928, he happened to read an announcement about Admiral Byrd’s expedition to the South Pole. Byrd was looking for experienced sledders. Vaughan’s experience in Newfoundland got him the job. He was put in charge of training the animals. His mission, along with other team members, was to sled hundreds of tons of supplies from an icebreaker to the camp.


During his time with the people of Newfoundland, he developed essential skills. He understood terrain, weather patterns and dogs. These were key to the survival of the expedition and set him up as a natural leader.


During WW II, he was a Search and Rescue dog sled driver with the military in Greenland. He was given the job of rescuing 25 members of a squadron lost somewhere in the vast icy wilderness. With a team of dog sledders, Vaughan set off to find them before they froze or starved to death.


In 1942, Vaughn and his squadron got lost on the way to Reykjavik, Iceland, when a German submarine jammed their radio signals. All the squad members were rescued. But in Vaughn’s mind, the mission was not complete because the abandoned planes were left behind. So, 46 years later Vaughn decided to organize a team and go back for the planes. He got funding and was again on the ice, mushing into the uncertain, unchartered wilderness.


Vaughn was a man of adventure.

  • After his success in Greenland, Vaughan continued to compete in dog mushing competitions well into his 80s.
  • Thirteen times he completed the Iditarod, a dog sled race to Nome that lasts 10 – 13 days.
  • At the age of 89 he climbed the 10,000-foot icy Mount Vaughan in Antarctica, which Admiral Byrd named after him in appreciation for his outstanding services. He had plans to climb again on his 100th birthday, but he died just six months before the scheduled climb.


Here are some takeaways for us, my Brothers:

Like Vaughn,

  • As husbands, fathers, friends, neighbors, co-workers, we all have mountains to climb in our lives,
  • and we all have skills and experiences that prepare us for the challenges ahead.

Unlike Vaughn,

  • not all of us will have mountains named after us,
  • and not all of our adventures will end in celebrations.


 But if we keep moving forward, our stories will inspire those we meet along the way.

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