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Shared Passion

It was twenty years ago that the three of us were invited to the lake home of a fourth friend for the weekend. We had gotten to know each other at work and as we became more than just colleagues, we decided that a weekend getaway just before school began would be a great way to start the year. Little did we realize just how important that weekend time would become to each of us.

While we certainly played and had fun on those trips to the lake, we also problem-solved work situations, celebrated the coming of grandchildren, and comforted each other when our lives got rocky and difficult. We have become life-long friends, not just because  we worked together but because we shared the same passion for our work. We did our best to make a difference in the lives of students, teachers and parents. Our work was often demanding but we kept at it anyway because we were committed to it and we knew we weren’t in it alone. We had each other.

This year we decided to celebrate our “20th” year together by going on a trip. Another special co-worker from our “school days” had recently moved to Charleston and when she learned that we were planning a trip together she offered to put us up at her house and show us all the beautiful and interesting sites in Charleston.

So, that’s what we did. We all flew to Charleston two weeks ago and had a fabulous time. We saw a plantation, rode the carriage around the city, ate delicious southern food and sat on the beach with our toes in the sand. Just what you would expect.

Except for the night we started talking about the immigration issue and the separation of children and parents. Remember I said the four of us were passionate about helping kids? Well that passion was also shared by our hosts. So when we all started expressing our concern about the situation, we agreed that there must be something we could do.

So we brainstormed that night and talked about it again the next morning. We decided to focus on three ideas:

  • Develop an online presence to search out resources and find like-minded people who also feel a need to do something.
  • Develop materials or host webinars to help parents understand some of the issues children may experience because of their separation from parents.
  • Possibly raise money that could assist with aspects of the search and reuniting of families.

Shared passion for making a difference in people’s lives doesn’t stop when you retire. It may seem like its gone underground for a while; but it often resurrects itself to take on new issues. In those short five days all six of us experienced the camaraderie of renewed friendships and the exhilaration of taking a stand on something important.

Shared passion, shared beliefs, and shared commitment creates exponential possibilities. Let me know if you would like to join us.

 

Soap Box Talk #1

I’m about to step up onto my soapbox. I’ve wanted to do this for some time but I couldn’t think of anywhere to post my thoughts except on Facebook and there is no purpose in that. I realized as I was sitting in church this morning, that I could speak from my soapbox on this blog. So…here goes.

When Jesus was alive, he attracted people to him. Why? What were people attracted to? He was neither handsome or wealthy. Some may have heard about the miracles he performed and wanted to see for themselves. Others just came out of curiosity to see what a gathering crowd was all about.

Zacchaeus was one of those who was curious about the crowds in Jericho the day that Jesus was passing through. According to Luke 16:1-9, Zacchaeus was a Jew who worked as a tax collector.  (That wasn’t a good thing for a Jew to do. The Jews saw him as a traitor, a cheat and a sinner. They wanted nothing to do with him.) 

Zacchaeus is said to have been a very short man, so he climbed up into a tree to get a better look. When Jesus got to the place where Zacchaeus was sitting, he looked up and told him to come down from the tree. When Zacchaeus came down Jesus immediately welcomed  him and told him he wanted to go to his house for supper.

Zacchaeus was certainly not expecting this. He just wanted to see what was going on. But when Jesus “welcomed him” and invited himself to dinner at Zacchaeus’ house he readily agreed. (He also repented of all the cheating he had done as a tax collector and vowed to give it back fourfold.) Why would Zacchaeus respond this way?

Zacchaeus responded to Jesus’ expression of acceptance and love!

And, now, here comes the soapbox! When are Christians going to wake up and realize that our faith is only attractive to people when we treat others the way Jesus treated Zacchaeus? He didn’t start lecturing him about being dishonest as soon as his feet touched the ground. He didn’t grab him by his robe and shove him towards a group of angry men so they could stone him. Instead he threw his arms around Zacchaeus and probably kissed him on each cheek, as was the typical way of greeting a friend. He made him feel loved and accepted.

It seems to me that I hear too many Christians speaking in ways that are neither loving or accepting. These words are harsh and judgmental. We need to stop judging other people as “sinners” because of their life style or their beliefs. We need to accept others and love them as Jesus did. When we do that, we might actually create opportunities to open up lines of communication and have conversations that could lead to productive resolutions of some of today’s issue. Instead, our harsh words and judgmental attitudes push people away from anything that is supposedly Christian.

Until people start seeing Christians as people who are loving and accepting, we won’t be attractive to anyone. And I certainly don’t think that Jesus will be very pleased with our judgmental attitudes either. After all, he is the one that gave us ALL the gift of free will. We ALL get to make choices about how we live our lives. Of course those choices have consequences- some will be good and others will be bad. But it isn’t our job to judge the choices of others. When it is time for judgment, that will be done by God.

So, I’ve had my say and I’m stepping off my soapbox, for now!

 

The Gremke’ Sisters

When you think about the world around you, or when you are watching the news, do you ever hear about something and think “That’s just wrong. Or, that is really unfair.” You might even think that someone should do something about that it. Those are compelling thoughts, but it’s the next one that’s the kicker:

  • What did you do about it?

I know what I’ve done most of the time—–Nothing! Most of the time I just did nothing at all. I’m not proud of that but unfortunately it’s true. And, my guess is that it’s true for most of us, most of the time.

With that i mind I want to introduce you to two sisters who chose to do something about what they saw that was wrong: Slavery and women’s rights. Their names were Sarah and Angelina Gremke’. They grew up on a plantation in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1800’s. They lived with slavery on their plantation and all the others around them.

They also lived with the limitations the culture imposed on women. Their education was mainly focused on how to be a lady and get a marriage proposal from a prominent family. They weren’t allowed to study anything of significance or pursue any type of career. That was especially an issue for Sarah who was very intelligent and wanted to become a lawyer like her brothers. Sarah was forbidden to pursue a law career by her father. He felt so strongly about it that he locked her out of his library and strictly forbade her to try to enter the library or to read any of the books in it.

The book I referenced in my previous blog, The Invention of Wings, was based on the Gremke’ sisters. Sarah and her sister, Angelina, led the anti-slavery crusade and were the only Southern white women known to be part of the abolitionist movement. I didn’t realize that while I was reading the book. I continue to be amazed at the things that real women have done in the past and I’ve never even heard of them. I do remember reading about abolitionists in school but I don’t recall reading about any female abolitionists.

Sarah and her sister, Angelina, used their individual talents to take a stand against two societal issues they recognized as wrong: Slavery and Women’s right to equality. Angelina was a gifted speaker and traveled to many different cities. often speaking as many as six times a week on these these two issues. Sarah, traveled with her sister, but only spoke occasionally. Her gift was writing. Sarah  wrote a series of letters that were published in the New England Spectator and later were collected under the title Letters on the Equality of the Sexes.

The sisters began their crusade in the 1830’s and continued it for several decades; eventually living to see their dream of abolition come to pass.

These two women saw that slavery wasn’t right and they did something about it. The following quotes are from Angelina. They provide insight into what they thought, what they did and what they were willing to suffer as a result:

Can you not see that women could do and would do a hundred times more for the slave, if she were not fettered?

If a law commands me to sin I will break it; if it calls me to suffer, I will let it take its course unresistingly.

These two women responded to their observance of a wrong by speaking out and by writing. This makes me wonder if the next time I see something I know is wrong if I would have the courage to speak out or to write about it.

I hope I do!

REGRETS

Some words are automatic triggers that call up certain experiences or situations in our lives. I suspect that the word “regret” is one of those. We all have things in our lives that we regret: choices we’ve made, things we’ve said or didn’t say, actions we’ve taken or chose not to take. Usually when we think of something we regret its a negative thought and may even stir up temporary sadness or anger. And, sometimes people stay mired in thoughts about things they regret they didn’t do because they think their life would have been happier or more fulfilling if they had made a different choice.

Rather than being stuck in sadness or anger about our regrets I’d like to suggest that not only can we learn from our regrets so that we can leave lingering ones behind us. We can also gain some insight into how to choose when we know that either choice is going to create some amount of regret.

The idea for this blog came from the book, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. The book is about two young girls growing up in Charleston, South Caroline on a plantation in the 1800’s. One of the girls is white, Sarah, and the other girl is black, Handful. Their lives are very different in many ways; one is a slave girl and has no money or opportunities, the other is the daughter of the plantation owner and seemingly has all the money and options she could want. But, in truth, they are both trapped in a  culture that dictates who they can or cannot be. The story chronicles their lives as they struggle with the limitations and expectations they live with to create the best life they can for themselves.

Both girls make choices throughout the story that change the course of their lives. Some of these choices are good and some they regret. But there is one choice Sarah has to make at a mid-point in her life that seems to offer an opportunity for regrets no matter which choice she makes.

Sarah has been asked to marry a man she believes she is in love with and has hoped for some time that he would propose marriage to her. In the meantime, Sarah has finally found the calling she has been seeking all of her life. But now Sarah realizes she can’t have both. She will have to make a choice between the man she loves and the calling she has finally found.

Some time later, after Sarah had made her choice she was reflecting on what her life might have looked like if she had made a different choice. And as she considers that she makes this statement. “I believe that I would have regretted either choice I made. I wanted them both but that wasn’t going to be possible. I realized then that I’d chosen the regret I knew I could live with best.

I was listening to this chapter on Audible as I was driving and I immediately pushed the pause button and thought about what Sarah had just said. I knew I had found a quote that would be the focus of a new blog. (I repeated that line several times, trying to make sure I wouldn’t forget it in case I couldn’t find those ten words again in the book.Searching through Kindle pages of a book for specific words isn’t easy!)

Its been a couple of days now since I first heard those words. That has given me time to think back about a couple decisions I made when I was truly torn between the options. Both options offered opportunities that I might regret not taking. For one of the decisions, I chose the regrets I could best live with but I didn’t make that choice for the other one. And, three years later, I reversed that choice. I’ll save that story for another blog.

However, that’s the view looking back. What if I used this thought in the process of making the choice by asking myself, “Which of the regrets resulting from these two choices will I be able to live with best?”  I’m going to keep these words where I can readily see them so that I can be proactive in my use of it the next time I encounter a truly difficult decision.

Four Wise and Influential Women of Today

Given some of the seemingly idiotic and irresponsible behaviors we hear about on the news and we see acted out on stage and screen, we may be tempted to think that common sense and wisdom is a thing of the past. However tempting that thought is, it’s just not true. There are many wise and influential men and women present in our lives, but we often don’t realize it at the time. I’d like to to change that by telling you about four women I know today who are both wise and influential; even though they’d probably deny it.

I’ve been a member of the Assistance League of Kansas City since I retired. It’s a great philanthropic organization made up of volunteers who achieve some amazing things. But today I’m not talking about the organization. It’s four very special women who agreed to serve as president of this organization that I want you to meet.  It’s really a two year commitment because you spend the first year as president elect and virtually shadow the President for a year and then when you become president the next one shadows you.

I’ve been on the Board for the past three years and just began year four.  So I’m now working with my fourth president. I’ve been reflecting on this in the past few weeks and I’ve realized that I have been exceptionally blessed to have had the opportunity to work with these women. I thought about writing a thank you note to each one of them but instead I’ve decided to share those thoughts with all of you.

Ann was president during my first year on the board. I have known Ann the longest as she was one of the first people I got to know when I joined ALKC. Ann’s influence and wisdom comes from her passionate commitment to detail and making sure that things are done right. She is one of those leaders who isn’t going to quit until all the t’s have been crossed and the i’s dotted. But Ann is also aware that sometimes you need to let something go. Ann was wise enough to listen to the input of others on the board in order to know when it was time to do just that.

Cindy was president my second year. She was the chair of the nominating committee a year earlier who asked me to take on a rather daunting responsibility that wasn’t exactly in my area of expertise. But, I have to say that I have no regrets whatsoever about coming on the the Board at that time. Cindy is a retired lawyer, a “let’s stick to the point” person who is great at delegation. She certainly fulfilled all the responsibilities that were hers but she also understood that the more people who are involved in various activities the stronger the organization is and the better trained future leaders are.

Margie followed Cindy, and, while I changed my area of responsibility, I still remained on the Board. And I am glad I did. Margie has a tender heart but knows how to be firm yet kind. She knows what her priorities are and speaks her mind in a way that allows for discussion and differences of opinion without allowing anyone to become “disagreeable.” Margie cares about people and always seems to be able to get people together on something without ruffling anyone’s feathers…well maybe a few feathers were ruffled occasionally.

And now, Penney has taken her place as President. I’ve only seen her “in action” in two settings so far, although I have seen her in the role of President elect for the past year. The first setting was at the Board Retreat last week and then in the Chapter meeting this morning. And what I’m seeing in Penney I really like. She is very well-planned, thoughtful and inspiring. I could see elements of that last year and it’s starting to shine already this year.

So, this is my thank-you note to these four talented, wise and influential women. They have made my time on the Board pleasant and productive. I have learned from each of them. And I consider each one of them my friend.

And the Assistance League of Kansas City has benefitted greatly from their leadership.