It's Time to Invest
It's that time of year again. Time to spring clean? Not yet. Time to declutter? Always. Time to take down the Thanksgiving decorations? Umm . . . definitely.
It’s time to invest in those around us by telling them how much they are loved. I’m actively preparing for my annual Galantine’s Day party. Each year I take the time to invest in women who I want to celebrate by thanking them for being in my life and telling them how much they are loved. This all started in February 2019 and was inspired by the Galentines Day on Parks and Recreation. It has become one of my favorite days of the year.
It’s time to invest in those around us by telling them how much they are loved.
I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. My mom made holidays special by doing fun things for us and my teachers always let us exchange Valentines in the most fun ways. I love pink. I love hearts. (My childhood bedroom was decorated with heart bedding from JC Penny.) I love chocolate. It’s a fun time to celebrate Love and the God who is Love. All this makes me look forward to Valentines Day every year.
But for some people it’s not a fun day. They don’t have good memories of their childhoods. They are lonely and in desperate need of encouragement. They don’t feel loved. There are so many women and girls who are longing for love - the love of a spouse, the love of children, the love of a lost family member. With so much hurting and longing it can be discouraging to see all the hearts and reminders of painful longing. Too many people face the depression of a cold winter on top of the ubiquitous reminders that they are alone. This is why we need to invest in the women around us.
I would love to see more Galentine’s Day parties this year. I’m already hosting mine and my guest list is the girls in the class I sponsor at my son’s school. This is a precious opportunity to pour love into them and empowering them. I want the girls I spend time with to know that I love being a wife and mother but that there is so much more to being a woman. I don’t want them buying into the idea that Valentine’s Day is just about romantic love and if they don’t have a man than they are somehow less of a person.
- Photos of Galentine's Days Past -
So here’s the challenge - who are you going to invest in? Are you lonely? Plan a get together. Are you a single mom? Invite your kid’s friends or their moms. Are you empowered and confident? Plan a get together. Here’s my stragety for hosting a great event:
How to host a Galentine’s Day Party:
So that’s it. Who is going to do this with me? Who is going to help share love and joy with others? If you are a believer in Christ you should have love to pour out and share and this is a great place to start.
Your Words Matter
Do you believe that your words matter? Sometimes, when viewing the massive number of available books, podcasts, blogs, TikToks, Reels, etc., I assume that my words are insignificant, that they only add to the cacophony around us without making an impact. When I start to feel like that though I find that I’m looking in the wrong direction. When I fall into thinking, “I don’t matter,” I realize that I’m forgetting whom I matter to. One of my favorite Bible verses is I Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.” (NIV) This is referring to those with the gift of speaking but I think also applies to those of us who have the freedom to share and speak or write to others as an ambassador of Christ. In some versions, the word oracles is used. An oracle is one through whom the gods speak. In writing to the believers of the early church, Peter is conjuring up imagery and wording that would have been familiar with this imagery. Peter is challenging believers to speak as though they are speaking God’s words. That’s quite the challenge! Too often we speak our own words acting like they are God’s words. We put our words in His mouth instead of putting His Word in our mouths.
Recently, I was discussing the web-like connectivity of the Bible. An example of this connectivity is the idea that we need God to be the foundation and sustainer of our lives. The Israelites were told to collect manna every day and that to only collect what they need for that day other than the Sabbath. Jesus alludes to this when he asks for daily bread (Matthew 6:11) as well as later when he tells his followers not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough troubles (Matthew 6:34). We can cast our cares on the Lord and He will sustain us (Psalm 55:22) like the wise man who built his house upon a rock (Matthew 7:24). The idea of only speaking God’s words is not isolated to I Peter 4:11. Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” We are to hide God’s Word in our hearts and meditate upon it because we can’t speak words we don’t know. Have you ever been in a conversation with a group of people who have all seen and loved a movie you have not yet seen? Their entire conversation becomes quotations from the movie as you realize you have no frame of reference for these quotations. If you tried to quote the movie it would quickly become apparent you don’t know what you’re talking about. You haven’t memorized the lines. You haven’t made the quotes from the movie part of your everyday language. (Lest you think I’m exaggerating about movie quotes being part of language, I dare you to think of the word inconceivable without coming around to thinking about the Princess Bride.)
So what about you? Do you know God’s words well enough to quote them? I struggle with memorization but have good comprehension. I love doing what I did above and finding connections between verses and peppering my writing and speaking with them. I like to read multiple passages over and over to help me understand and absorb more. Before speaking at an event or counseling with students, I pray that I would only speak God’s words. This isn’t some weird mystical thing, it’s just making sure what I’m saying aligns with God’s Word. Before a salesman goes out into the field he needs to make sure that he knows the product he is speaking about and trying to sell. If he is misinformed it will reflect poorly upon the company he is representing. Political leaders pick their own ambassadors because they want people who will represent them well.
Your words matter. You impact the world with your words. You will be held accountable for your words. Lest you think you are off the hook because you are not a speaker or writer, I will remind you that your words on social media matter - and not just what you write but also what you share from someone else. Your words to the sales person at the store or your server at a restaurant matter. Most of the world is short staffed and it’s easy to become impatient, but Christians are called to be the light of the world. We can demonstrate our love for others and our willingness to be different simply by being kind.
In my life, there have been many dreary days when the sun did not shine and it was too wet to go out and too cold to play ball. On those days I could read and travel around the globe with books. Sometimes I went to places that were real and sometimes I traveled into Narnia or Wonderland. In my travels, I discovered that from there to here, from there to there, funny things are everywhere.
When I grew up I became a teacher and had students who would rather eat green eggs and ham than read. They wouldn’t read in a box or with a fox, in a house or with a mouse, but with some work most discovered that they liked reading everywhere.
March is celebrated as Reading Month by schools and families across the country. Special days and contests are designed to help students discover the joys of reading. We celebrate reading in March because March 2, is the birthday of Ted Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Geisel did much to expand the library of children’s literature by creating high-interest stories as an author-illustrator as well as the editor of Beginner Books. He worked with P.D. Eastman and Stan and Jan Berenstain to create a library of titles that would motivate children to read including Go, Dog, Go and Old Hat New Hat. One of his requirements was that the illustration on the page had to match the words to help struggling readers self-correct.
This year, the day is being swallowed up by controversy about the work of Dr. Seuss. I’ve seen more posts about the controversy than I have about reading month! So here’s my plan of action - I’m going to move forward without heeding any of the articles because they don’t affect me and I doubt they affect you. One story states that a school district in Virginia is dropping Dr. Seuss and another states that six books will no longer be published. Although I have opinions about these issues, neither announcement has any immediate effect on my life. I don’t live in Virginia and I already own a copy of And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.
Andy Warhol predicted a world where everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. I’ve seen people achieve those minutes in a variety of ways but it seems like a current popular method is to cancel something. People start sharing their approval or disapproval and soon it’s all anyone can talk about. But what happens then? We aren’t talking about the benefits of reading, rather we are arguing and fighting for something that really has no impact on us. I’ve seen many shares of the anti-Seuss campaign with great consternation and while this is understandable it has to stop. Social media gives you a positive feedback loop so the majority of what you see affirms your own viewpoints. This gets us nowhere. I strongly encourage you to read “The Zax.” It’s only a few pages long and can be found in The Sneetches and Other Stories. (That whole book is incredibly relatable right now. In “The Sneetches,” Sylvester McMonkey McBean takes advantage of the Sneetches by exploiting their desires and encouraging divisiveness.) In “The Zax,” a North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax run into each other while walking across an open plain. Neither would deviate from their course and so they stayed butting heads for a couple of years until the growing world grew around them. Arguing with people on social media feels like that. I can argue and refuse to deviate course but what will that accomplish?
So today, I’m asking you to join me. Don’t be a Zax. Don’t let Sylvester McMonkey McBean manipulate you. Pick up a book and read. If you can, read a Dr. Seuss book aloud today. Luke (age 2) was delighted by Green Eggs and Ham this afternoon and I plan on reading and discussing some of The Sneetches and Other Stories with Logan this evening. Read The Lorax and discuss conservation or read The Butter Battle Book and discuss nuclear proliferation. For a taste of what it feels like to age read You’re Only Old Once, but follow it up with something positive and inspiring like Horton Hatches an Egg.
I know it’s upsetting to read about things “getting canceled” but you don’t have to participate. No one is coming for my books (yet) so I’m going to fight back against cancel culture by going around the “other Zax” and sharing my love for reading and learning with others. At night, don’t spend time fretting over what others are doing or refusing to do, rather inspire those whom you have the ability to influence then lay your head down saying, “Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. Every day, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”
It was few days into the New Year and I found myself sobbing while sitting on the floor amid a mess of Christmas decorations, storage boxes, and semi-decorated trees. Every year I like to take the ornaments off the trees while watching the Rose Parade. Jason and Logan wish the decorations would stay up a little longer but I like starting January 1 off by putting Christmas away. Our little debate has become a tradition and one that I didn’t know how much I loved until it was gone. No Rose Parade, no decorations taken down and, suddenly, everything was just “off” about this new year.
I knew there wouldn’t be drastic differences between December 31 and January 1, yet there’s always that hope ushered in by a new year and it was already dashed. Everyone had so loudly protested that 2020 was the worst year ever and the idea that its end would bring a promise of change. Now 2021 was only a few days old and the virus was still here, political tension reigned in the land, and 2021 was proving that hope in this new year would provide disappointment.
Eventually, all the Christmas decorations did come down and the house is now back in order, or at least our version of it, but I’ve been thinking a lot about hope. Not the hope that hopes I find my lost keys or the hopes that I have for Logan’s future, but rather the hope that my heart looks to when it is in trouble, the thing that anchors my soul. The song lyrics, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,” have been stuck in my mind and I’ve been thinking a lot about Hebrews 6:19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Today’s Word: Hope
One syllable. Pronounced [hohp]. Verb. Defined on Dictionary.com as “to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to believe, desire, or trust”
As Biden was sworn in as President of the United States people around our area began shooting off fireworks. Of course this sent Samoa scrambling upstairs convinced that we were under attack and that it was every man, or dog, for themselves. Today my social media feeds are full of celebration and hope for the future. People are happy that their daughters have hope in Kamala Harris becoming VP. People are looking forward to so much and it makes me sad. I’m not sad because I hate the elected officials or because I disagre with their idology. I’m sad because I see people building on the wrong foundation.
In Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus tells the story of two builders. One builder built his house on the sand. I’m sure it was a great house with a great view, but when the storm came the house fell flat. Its foundation was unstable and provided no protection. The other builder built his house on the rock. Maybe this house had a great view as well or maybe it didn’t, but what matters is that when the storm came, the house stood firm. It didn’t fall down or suffer damage. My favorite image to illustrate Psalm 46 is that of a lighthouse pelted by giant waves. God is our refuge and strength and so because of that we can be still and know that he is God. The quality of the building materials isn’t the point here. This isn’t the story of the three little pigs. This is about foundations. What is your house built on?
My literal house is built on a solid foundation that includes a basement. My spiritual house is also built on a solid foundation, the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that I have a created purpose so I seek to fufill that purpose with confidence in a future hope. Please understand I am not being critical of those who are hoping in VP Harris. I don’t know if she will meet their expectations for her or if she will fail to meet them, but I know she is human and that in this era of cancel culture we have seen so many people fall from the favor of those who once supported them. Today, people who once cheered for and supported VP Pence are calling him all sorts of names including traitor. The point is that people dissapoint.
In this era of the mind-bending convergence of cancel culture and “don’t judge me” attitudes, it is radical to say that one thing is sure and trust worthy. We are in an era when nothing and no one seem trust worthy and yet I choose to trust God. I have seen Him working in my life over and over and I will follow him. I don’t do this because I’m a wonderful person. I am a person who really wants that beach front house built on my own fabulous ideas, but I’ve seen the damage done by storms that have destroyed my attempts to build anything off a solid foundation.
So where is your hope? Is it in someone or something that might disappoint or is it in the unmovable and unchanging God? I’m currently reading through the Bible using the R. M. M’Cheyne reading plan which will take me through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. I’m not doing this because I want to check a box everyday but because I want to know the God that I serve. I want to live in the knowledge of him so that I can honestly say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I’m not certian of anthing this 2021 except for knowing that God is the unchanging and unmovable rock I upon which I will build my life.
The Summer of Radiance
We just finished school last Friday. Normally, I’d be posting our summer bucket list and sharing a list of places we planned to visit as well as lists of activities we planned to accomplish. I would have done this in early May but this year is going to look very different. Our governor extended the stay at home order for our area until June 12. Whether or not we agree with that choice, it has a major impact on our plans. Museums, zoos, etc., may not be open so this year there is no point in adding them to a bucket list. Many of these places offer virtual tours, but we haven’t been able to embrace those in the same way we can get excited about visiting in person.
In past years we’ve had the Summer of Go and Grow, the Summer of Adventure, the Summer of Exploring, and so on. How do I create a summer bucket list when there is no chance of adventure, exploring, or going? Well, after listening to our pastor’s sermon about Psalm 34 I decided to plan the Summer of Radiance. Psalm 34:5 says that those who look to the Lord are radiant. Radiant is defined as “(1) emitting rays of light; shining; bright: (2) bright with joy, hope, etc.: Jesus said he is the light of the world. When I try to be the light of the world I fail miserably. My lights power source quickly grows dim and I burn out quickly. But Jesus IS the light of the world. When I radiate His light I don’t grow weary because I’m no longer responsible to be the source of the light.
This summer our goal will be to radiate God’s love to the world. It feels like now more than ever we need to be a light in the darkness. Murder, violence, hatred are all too common. Although we all need a break now and then, the culture of entertainment is not healthy. Our days are not just about entertaining ourselves but we were created to fulfill a beautiful purpose. That purpose, what we call God’s will for our lives, cannot be accomplished if we focus on making ourselves happy. This summer we want Logan to see that there is satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy to be found in serving God by learning to care for the things God has provided for us and by learning to care for others.
So here’s our list:
Study logical fallacies critical thinking skills
Write letters to family and friends
Learn to plan and cook a dinner
Watch the Cosby Show
Build a river in the yard
Read the 100 Cupboards series
Learn how to wash the car by hand
Go for a hike
Build a bat house
Ride bikes to Rochester
Build a squirrel picnic table
Perform 5 random acts of kindness
Build a stand for Mikhail Gorbachev (the betta fish)
Finish Big Life Journal
Go (alone) to Ace Hardware
Learn to tie a tie
Plant a forest garden
"Let me go down the slide!"
The baby that I nanny for has reached an important stage of development that is both challenging and fun - he’s acting independently. As babies leave the newborn stage and grow they are carried around and interact with the environments they are provided with. Slowly they realize they can do things even if they know they are being told no. I will NEVER forget the moment Logan realized he could act independently of me. He was crawling across my in-laws’ family room floor and he reached for their DVD player. I said, “No. No touch.” He looked at me, looked back at the DVD, touched it, then looked back at me. I could see him reasoning out, “Mom says not to but I really want to touch it. Ha! That was so satisfying. Uh-oh, look cute! She’s looking upset.”
Today, Luke climbed to the top of our pool slide. I was right beside him the whole time. I know it’s good exercise and the view from the top is beautiful so I let him climb and protected him from any harm. Then came the trouble. He knows slides. He has a little slide in his playroom at home. Slides are exhilarating and there is ground at the bottom. He KNEW that slide would be so fun. He’s a slide expert. But here’s the problem. He was wrong. At the end of this slide was a pool with 52° water. It was only 45° outside. He was wearing a coat, hat, shoes, along with all his clothes. I knew that him going down that slide would end in misery and could keep him from enjoying the pool when it was warmer and much more enjoyable. So back down the ladder we went. He screamed at me. He was mad. I hugged him and told him, “No slide.” Logan came out and he ran to Logan babbling and pointing at me and the slide. I imagine he told Logan that I was crazy. I was ruining all the fun he could have had.
I was immediately struck with the thought that just a few minutes before I had been contemplating our current circumstances. I was thinking about fall school plans and friends who were saying that their schools are already preparing for online learning to continue. I was saying, “No, no, no! I can’t do this. This won’t work! Things are just not going to work like this.” I wasn’t trying to problem solve as much as fight the circumstances around me. I was like Luke sitting at the top of that slide. I know what needs to be done. I KNOW what is best. I have experience as a teacher. I have experience as a parent. God was trying to lead me in the way that is best for me and yet I was kicking and screaming, “I know better!!!”
So now I’m back on the ground, but what do I do now? Bury my head in the sand or say, “No worries! Noting to fret about here,” with a maniacal smile while I slowly lose my mind? Hardly. I should bring my concerns to God. Pray for ideas that will help me help my son and the others who need help through the storms ahead. This could be a wonderful opportunity for the church to share the gospel with lonely, hurting people.
I don’t know what the future holds, but right now, I’m going to rest in the knowledge that God knows what’s at the bottom of the slide even better than I do.
Rangers, Runs, and Reading
I'm currently reading a book called Oh, Ranger! It is a collection of stories and essays written by National Park Rangers. I was moved by an essay written by Shelton Johnson, an African-American National Park Service ranger. While looking through photographs at Yosemite's research library he found a photograph of 25 African-Amerian soldiers who had protected the land from ranchers who were grazing their animals on park land. Their names are not recorded but these soldiers protected Yosemite until they were relieved by another regiment who noted their excellent service. Often African-American men would choose to serve in the military because it was one of the few jobs that provided a pension available to them. That said, they still failed to receive proper respect. Ranger Johanson wrote them a letter thanking them for their service and for allowing himself to be caught up in their story. I found the ending particularly poignant:
"Thank you for clearing the trail that I followed 100 years later. You cannot imagine how your passage has made my journey infinitely easier, as I hope mine will be for those who follow."
My heart hurts when I read stories about violence against others because of how they look. These stories go back for hundreds of years and involve all sorts of people. They are sad, dark, and full of hate. Do you hate these stories too? Perhaps, like those soldiers who protected Yosemite, we can do some things to make the journey of those who follow us a bit easier.
If you ran yesterday and posted about in on social media, good for you. Now keep running. Keep moving. Call someone in an elected office. Create a petition. Volunteer to help others. Look each person you meet in the eyes and see them as a life created for a purpose.
One of my favorite preschool memories is Jay asking Maddie what color her new baby was going to be, brown or white. Maddie, whose mom was very pregnant, was the only fair-skinned child out of my 10 students. She looked around the room and said, “I don’t know, probably brown.” They honestly didn’t know why our skin looks the way it does. It appeared to be about statistics to them and asking about it was as casual as asking a friend to pass the playdough.
Aging robs us of the innocence of youth but it doesn’t have to rob us of our curiosity. Below I’ve provided a list of books that have helped me get into the lives and experiences of those whose heritage I do not share. True these are fiction, but the experiences of the characters are very real. I, like Ranger Johnson, thank those who have come before me. I come from a line of curious and compassionate people. My wish is that my life will pave the way for future generations to share God’s love with the world as I try, yet often fail, to do.
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1968 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick
Chains by Laurie Hase Anderson
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacquline Woodson
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Underground by Jean Ferris
Who gets your glory?
Several years ago while scrolling through Pinterest, I saw the quote “Stop the glorification of busy,” and I liked it, but I never let it sink into my life. Growing up in a Christian home I heard the word glorify often in my church and Christian school. I knew what it meant when it applied to God, but recently I’ve unpacked it more thoroughly.
Today's Word: Glorification
Five syllables. Pronounced [glawr-uh-fi-key-shuh n]. noun. Defined on Dictionary.com as the act of glorifying or the state of being glorified. The Bible talks extensively about giving glory to God. We are told that whether we are eating, drinking, or whatever we are doing it should all be to God’s glory. Glory is defined by Dictionary.com as to give adoring praise to something. Glorification is the act of giving glory.
So how do you feel about busy? Try this experiment. Tell someone you have a busy weekend and see what they say back. People love comparing busy. Tell them you’re going to sporting events for each of your three children, attending an event at the library, and going to your grandma’s birthday and they’ll tell you about the six sporting events, two birthday parties, and the cooking class they have squeezed into the weekend. I’ve decided to stop playing this game. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot going on. There are seasons and days where there are many things to do. During Christmas, I want to do ALL THE THINGS! See the lights, visit family, catch up with friends, decorate, the list goes on and on! There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being busy, but when we glorify it we are putting our focus on the wrong thing.
When we give our praise and adoration - How do you do it all? - to "busy" we are focusing on the person. Rather than “God has given me the energy, health, and resources to accomplish this,” we focus on, “I have to do these things to fit in or to be a good parent or to make my kid succeed.” (I really struggle with this last one. God is slowly and painfully teaching me that I can’t in any way MAKE Logan succeed. Only he can do that.) Busy also makes me look at others and how they manage their lives instead of looking to Christ. So often I’ve asked other moms, “How do you do it all?” but what I’m really doing is comparing my failures to do “all the things” and seeking to find success in a way that God hasn’t planned for me. This self-focus drives me inward instead of driving my thoughts upward.
For the last several months I’ve been working as a nanny for very dear friends of ours. The baby is absolutely adorable and so incredibly good. Despite the relative ease of this situation, I’ve been unhappy at times. I see other people doing things I love such as teaching and I want to be there so badly. They are running around going, going, going and I’m not in that place. Staying home can very challenging because I feel like I don’t accomplish anything. I do laundry, wash dishes, clean up spilled toys, then the next day I have to do it all over again. I realized that I was longing for busy. Our culture values the production of something which leaves stay-at-home moms (and nannies) feeling like we aren’t contributing to the world.
In the past few months, as I’ve been unpacking this concept of savoring life and avoiding busy, I’ve learned that life isn’t about accomplishing things on a to-do list. God has brought this little guy into my life and he is a precious soul that I get to spend time with on a regular basis. So what if “play hide and seek” isn’t a product that I can showcase or sell? He is learning object permanence and having a marvelous time doing it. I accomplish nothing for myself when I sit with Logan and his homework, but I am teaching him perseverance and demonstrating my love for him. Yesterday he even identified adverbs and adjectives with ease which felt like something worthy of great celebration. When I stop glorifying busy and start glorifying God with my life I find great joy and peace.
This doesn’t mean I can sit back and hit the snooze button on life though. I no longer feel the need to justify my schedule to others, but instead, I try to see it as God sees it. When my calendar is run through that filter, things line up differently; to be honest it is quite daunting. Who am I helping? Why am I going there? Which of the calendar activities is best? But I rest in knowing that I am prayerfully doing my best and that is the best I can do.
How is your schedule? Do you feel worn down? A friend passed on a quote to me the other day and I absolutely loved it. “If you get tired, learn to rest, not quit.” Isn’t that great? Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." These verses always bring me peace because Jesus didn’t say, “Pull yourself together and grab a cup of coffee. Go do the things.” Instead, he said that He will give us rest. As you finish this likely hectic week, I’ll be praying that you find rest in Christ and that you don’t let "busy" steal your joy.
Be Kind. Rewind.
I remember checking out videos from the library and after finishing them removing the video from the VCR and putting them in the rewinder. To this day, I can't hear, "Be kind" without thinking rewind. Today is World Kindness Day according to the Facebook posts and my morning greeting from Alexa. I am tempted to research how long World Kindness Day has been a thing, who started it, and who is celebrating it, but instead, I’m going to refrain from that extraneous research and go with it.
On my recent trip to Seneca Falls, New York, I learned a great deal about kindness and the great impact ordinary individuals can have on the world around them. We arrived in Seneca Falls after sunset. The small downtown area was decorated for Christmas, a gentle snow was falling, and the church bells were ringing out “How Firm a Foundation.” I told my sister that I was reminded of Bedford Falls, the town from It’s a Wonderful Life and she immediately agreed. As we were checking in, the hotel clerk gave us a list of area attractions including the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum. He explained that Seneca Falls is the town that Bedford Falls is based on.
Our days there included a visit to the Women’s Rights Historical Park, Elizabeth Caddy Stanton’s home, William Seward’s home, and Harriet Tubman National Historic Park. In each of these places, we noted the influence of major figures like Anthony, Stanton, Seward, and Tubman, but we also noticed the courage, conviction, and compassion of those whose names will most likely never be included in a national park or museum.
There were countless women who stood up for the rights of others. As I previously wrote, the subject of women’s rights can be controversial, but here we are talking about rights such as property ownership and the right to remove themselves and their children from a dangerous and abusive husband. Women who were not destitute or in danger took upon them the fight that the others in those situations didn’t have the ability to fight.
William Seward was a remarkable man who served with Lincoln as Secretary of State but was responsible for doing so much more. One act stood out as particularly significant during our visit. He sold land to Harriet Tubman including a home that she and her parents lived in after their escape from enslavement. This was after the Fugitive Slave Act and before the Emancipation Proclamation so his action was in direct defiance of federal law, but he believed that it was the right thing to do.
Harriet Tubman’s life was full of her kindness to others despite being enslaved and mistreated. Often the word kindness invokes a soft-spoken, gentle manner, but Harriet was kind in a powerful way. She went back into the South thirteen times to rescue her people, ignoring her own safety. She also led troops into combat and freed 750 men, women, and children during a US military action. Retirement was anything but restful. She opened a home for the elderly on her land because the other home for the elderly in Auburn was for whites only. Her home was for everyone. Harriet Tubman exemplified kindness in action.
Our last stop during the trip was at the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum. There we learned the beautiful story behind the movie. Frank Capra stopped in the town after reading the short story which would become the movie. There, while receiving a hair cut from an Italian immigrant, he heard the story of Antonio Varacalli. In 1917, Antonio was a young man working to save up money to bring his family over from war-torn Italy. He watched a woman jump off the bridge in an attempt to commit suicide and jumped in to save her. He succeeded in saving her but lost his life in the process. The town rallied together and collected enough to bring his family to the area. Capra changed the ending of the movie to include the town rallying around George and set the movie in a place that looked like Antonio’s town.
Acts of kindness can be small or large. They can be quiet or they can be bold. This “World Kindness Day” rewind your thoughts to some of the people who have influenced your life. How has their influence changed you? As Clarence observed, “Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?” Today, don’t leave a hole. Get in there and influence someone. Maybe a child, maybe the person behind you in line at Starbucks, maybe a future generation.
Capra modeled the bridge in the movie after this bridge in Seneca Falls.
I came. I saw. I made it awkward.
I’m a huge fan of Far Side by Gary Larson. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a syndicated comic that was usually one pannel. The figures are distorted and the humor is quirky. One that has stuck with me was titled “Classic Conversation Stoppers.” The panel is divided into four squares and depicts four men talking to guests. Each of the men is saying something that is guaranteed to end a conversation. My favorite is the guy saying, “‘Contagious? Contagious?’ I asked my doctor. ‘Realy contagious,’ he tells me.” Insert awkward pause. Have you ever experienced something like this? You say something and people respond with awkward silence.
Last year I created a presentation about World War I to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the war. After completing that I decided to work on a presentation commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, which grants women the right to vote. I thought World War I had been tricky to investigate, but nothing could have prepared me for the mess that I’ve found during my study of the women’s suffrage movement.
In my research, I’ve studied Biblical anthropology - the study of humans as they relate to God, the history of women in the United States and Western Culture, and the philosophical foundations of the feminist movement. Phew! I’ve read about Upity Women of Medieval Times, Wild Women of Michigan, 12 Extraordinary Women of the Bible. I’ve read The Women’s Hour, Roses and Radicals, and (I truly loved this one) Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Relating to business I’m reading Lean In and, as a counterpoint, Lean Out. I’m intrigued and immensely enjoying this research, but all these viewpoints and counterpoints leave my brain a tangled mess. When my thoughts become tangled, I find the best method of unraveling them is talking. I’ve come up with some of my best party planning ideas when talking to the cashier while at the supermarket checkout. (Probably why I’m not interested in curbside pick up or grocery delivery.)
In the past few months, I’ve learned that the phrase, “I’m studying the history of women’s rights,” is a classic conversation stopper. People become uncomfortable and shift around looking for an out. One person abruptly stated they had to leave and ran away. I think most people are afraid of getting involved in a controversial conversation because of the tension in our current culture.
Viewpoints collide and emotions run deep, but I believe that this is a very important and vital study. I keep typing and deleting as I’m trying to explain further, but I’ll never be able to fit everything I want to say in this post. I’m going to state a few truths I’ve discovered, and leave it at that for now.
That’s all I’m going to say about this for now. I can already feel the discomfort and I can hear the, “Well, I don’t know what she means by that,” running through your mind. Feel free to comment below or message me if you want to talk more about this and look for future posts about women’s rights. Wait! Where are you going? I need someone to talk to about this!
Tomorrow my sister and I head out to visit the Women’s Rights National Monument. It is in Seneca Falls, New York and is the sight of the first Women’s Rights Convention where the suffrage issue (women voting) was first publically proposed. As I research this topic, I feel that visiting this monument will help me gain a deeper perspective on the issue and the time spent with my sister will help me unravel my thoughts. Follow along on my Instagram (@edy2207) story for an inside look at our adventure.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."
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