Perks and Responsibilities


         Sometimes when I take my grateful walk, being grateful is easy. Sometimes the grateful walks become clouded with the thoughts about the news or some recent happenings. Today as I sat at the end of the driveway on the first leg of my walk, I realized that my mixed thoughts centered around what perks we have (easy to be grateful for), and responsibilities (easy to gripe about) that each of us has at every stage of our lives.

         It will not come as a shock that my initial entry into this morass started with my President. The last weeks watching Air Force One flying about the country produced much thought about perks and responsibilities. Certainly the Presidency is filled with monumental perks, but it is filled with even greater responsibilities. The crises of the last few weeks may be far flung, but each one touches all of us, every last citizen.

         Our Founders never intended for the President to be a professional fundraiser or a totally partisan figure. But the Presidency has drifted into such a position. Having access to secure phones and aides while spending most time fund-raising for the party is not being fully engaged in the responsibilities of the office. So many problems on the President’s desk are not getting smaller. They are increasing in size, difficulty, and importance to our people, those people for whom he works and those whose well-being rests in many of the decisions he makes.

         What would happen to any one of us with important responsibilities wherever we are if we neglected them? If we left our desks piled high with problems, our classrooms with students, our homes and our families, our pulpits with congregations waiting, our stores full of customers, or the places we go to volunteer? Things wouldn’t get done. problems wouldn’t get solved, families wouldn’t get fed, and folks wouldn’t be helped.

         In most cases the number affected by our negligence is limited. With the President, the world is affected.                

Freedom Requires Vigilance, Courage, and Action–Lessons from Pioneer Ladies

         Watching the political happenings lately, I was drawn back to some very courageous pioneer ladies who lived in Yoncalla, Oregon.

          In 1920, the gentlemen of Yoncalla had a “gentlemen’s agreement” tnat the incumbents would not hold an election for any of the town offices. They would just skip the formality of an election.

         The women of the town decided, “No, No.” They took matters into their own hands and produced a an all-female slate for all the city offices. The slate included Jennie Lasswell who was the wife of the mayor. Can you imagine the conversations at the breakfast table and other places in the Lasswell household when the mayor became aware of the election?

         It seems that enough folks in the town agreed with the ladies. The entire slate was elected. Mary Goodall Burt became the town’s first female mayor. Mary was a PacificUniversity graduate and a former teacher. Teachers played a prominent part. Council members were: Jennie Lasswell, also a former teacher; Bernice Wilson, a teacher; Nettie Hanan, a community activist; and Edith Thompson, active in women’s organizations and community work.

         I wanted to name them for you because so many pioneer women remain nameless in the history books. I’m hoping someone who reads this  will carry a name or know someone who might know the area or a name. These ladies stepped forward just a year before I was born. And it was a big step. But they knew it was not right not to have an election. They were living in the struggle for equal right and the difficult movement to gain the vote. This was just not a Yoncalla Affair. These wonderful women were ordinary women living a pioneer life in Eastern Oregon who stepped up to do what was right. .

         I am grateful that the baby girl born in New Albin, Iowa a year after this successful campaign is able to tell the story. It is one of the wonderful stories of pioneer women of the Northwest that I honor in “Pioneer Women of the Northwest.” 

         When I think of these women, I don’t dare say or think that I cannot make a difference. I am one, but I am one who has had \the opportunity to follow incredibly brave, courageous, and strong women. I hope that I have helped to clear some brambles from the path of those following me. It is still a journey that requires courage. But I am determined to do what I can to make it better for my granddaughters and my grandsons. Freedom alwasys has and always will require vigilance, courage, and action.

Freedom Weekend–July 4 Plus One at 93

          `Yesterday the parades and fireworks. Today the talk about freedom. After all it is Independence Day Weekend. I pondered about it all a lot yesterday. I have had the privilege and pleasure of living for 93 of these special days, our nation’s birthday. I have had the responsibility for 93 years to understand and protect the freedom I was given those many years ago by those 56 signers who risked it all on that day in Philadelphia when they put their name to the document that secured the freedom I was meant to have, the freedom to become what I was born to be.

            I pondered what it might have been like to be born in a different country. But I wasn’t. My thoughts went to the memory bank. Oh, my goodness. What freedom I ;have had. As a very little girl I could go places in my dreams. The attic in my grandfather’s house was huge like the rest of the house; it held such treasures to ponder. I could start school at age 4. I could warm my hands and dry my mitten by the pot-bellied stove in the school. I couold explore everything around me. Each year there were new freedoms. I learned and explored. I became an eager student. In my country schools I would watch what the other grades were doing. If it was something I wanted to learn, it didin’t matter what grade it was; I would go join the lesson. I wasn’t restricted. I became a very independent learner. I found games and sports to be places where I could excel. It seemed easy to be passionate about what I could do academically and physically. I was free to explore, to learn, to grow, and to be grateful.

            My high school days were filled with opportunity and freedom. If you had visited my small high school, you might have felt sorry for us. The gym was small, the curriculum was limited, and most of us were poor monetarily. But we were rich in so many ways. We were diverse, circumstances didn’t change expectations, our teachers and coach believed in us. We were free to believe in ourselves. The foundation of independence, self-worth, gratitude, passion for learning, integrity, work, team-work, and so much more were secure. Freedom was our gift and our responsibility.

            And the rest is history–college, a tour in the U.S. Navy, an incredible famiily, a career serving for more than sixty years, and especially the ability to practice my faith.  Ninety-three  Independence days later I can turn on the movie of my life as I did yesterday and smile. My yellow brick road has taken me to such incredible places to do such marvelous things. It has allowed me to follow the main road, to take detours, to sit and rest, or to hurry on.  Only in America, could I have taken the journey that I have. Only in America do we find the documents and founding that allowed me to follow the path that I did. Only in America could we have fireworks at a Statue of Liberty as we did last night. I too, am a lady of liberty. I was born in the United States of America. I was endowed by my Creator with freedom and guaranteed that freedom from my Founders.

            Yes. I am a proud, humble, and grateful American!


The Signers–56 Brave Men

It was on July 4, 1776, that the church bells finally started to ring over Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence had been adopted. There had been much secrecy surrounding the meetings of the brave souls who risked everything, including the charge of treason, to be in that room that day.

The 56 men were lawyers, pastors, merchants, physicians, and farmers. There was a printer, a musician, an inventor, and more. They were men going about their lives, fulfilling their dreams, and playing with their children. Then, as now, lawyers made up the largest group; there were 24.Pennsylvania had the most signers with nine. Benjamin Franklin was the oldest; he was 70. John Rutherford was the youngest; he was 26. Eight were born in Europe.

John Hancock’s signature is the largest and most prominent. He was the first to sign and the signature rests in its own white space. The name became synonymous with “signature.” “Give me your John Hancock,” or “Put your John Hancock here,” means your signature. His signature was as flamboyant as was his reported life style.

Have you ever wondered what the derivation of “gerrymandering” is? I have, but I never have taken the time to find out. When I read the short biographies of the signers this week, I learned so many interesting things. Among the signers was Eldridge Gerry, a man from Massachusetts. Eldridge was a graduate of Harvard College, a merchant, governor, he opposed the federal constitution, and taught us about redistricting. He was soundly criticized for redistricting to advantage his political party for re-election. “Gerrymandering” has been with us for awhile.

All these men were so very interesting; but they were much more. They were extraordinary patriots. They pledged everything to the cause of freedom, and they risked everything. And most of them gave everything. They saw their land and homes destroyed, and the men with fleets of ships and merchants with successful businesses saw it all destroyed. Their families as well were targets.

The bells rang in Philadelphia and our freedom was born. We got up this morning in this free land. Conversations and the news quickly turned to the celebrations of the day. Fireworks displays, band concerts, parties, patriotic parades, flags waving, and families and friends gathering. Hot dogs at the baseball game and barbecues at the park, or maybe a swim party. This is our fourth of July.

When I took my grateful walk this morning, I took a little extra time to be grateful for my freedom. It was foggy at 6 o’clock, and I could see very little just a short distance from me or just the shadows of the buildings below me by the stream at the bottom of the slopes. In a short hour or so, all would be visible. When the fog cleared, it would all be there as it was yesterday when the sun broke through. All this to be grateful for in a free land.

When the signers woke up on the morning of July 4, 1776, they still had work to do. It would be well into the afternoon before the bells could ring over Philadelphia.

We still have work to do; freedom is not free nor is it sustained with fireworks and holiday parties, picnics, and parades.