Last week, I dragged my kids to an outing that sounded fun. I saw a notice in our church bulletin about a special ham radio event honoring Saint Maximilian Kolbe, patron saint of ham radio operators. Who knew?
I was intrigued. Ham radios have been around for more than a century and are an effective emergency communications back-up in our digital age. The eternal optimist, I thought this might be a cool opportunity to learn about something you don’t see every day.
When I told my kids about it, my daughter’s first question was whether or not we could use it to talk to aliens. RIGHT??! That’s exactly the sort of thing I wanted to find out, and I was glad that we were on the same page.
My son was less enthused. Despite the lure of having additional fodder for future “Lives of the Saints” projects, he wasn’t moved.
We arrived at our parish center to find a few older gentleman and one sole supportive wife giving “shout outs” about the special feast day over the air. They had a wipe-board of places they had reached, and at one point linked up with a man from Italy!
My son wasn’t impressed.
The operators assured us that there weren’t any aliens, and if there were, we couldn’t talk to them with ham radio.
While my daughter remained skeptical about that, she was game for getting on air to say “hello” to someone from Ontario. However, she was a little perturbed that while some ham radios COULD bounce signals off the moon, we weren’t able to or going to do that this afternoon. And, if you can’t bounce signals off the moon, then really, where’s the fun?
I pointed out that ham radio operators were the first ones to report on the earthquake in Haiti, an event that touched their lives. Their response: Blink.
Perhaps I oversold this one a bit.
Before we left, we chatted with a super-nice radio operator. We heard some static over the air and he told us that it could be sound coming in from the galaxy, from millions and millions of years ago, finally reaching planet Earth.
Finally, something I could work with.
On our way out, we talked about how cool it was that we could hear noises from outer space from so many years ago. My daughter gave me a knowing look. “Aliens.”