My first gift was a woman from Columbia University who is writing her Master’s thesis on the Sunfire series of teenage historical novels. I wrote several in the series. She graduated from Yale and plans to get her doctorate in American Studies.
It is always a pleasure to hear from fans. When she interviewed me, she told me she loved my books because they were about independent women with interesting work and I felt as though I had a part in her success. It also reminded me that things can change. When I wrote those books, Yale didn’t even accept women.
The Sunfires were different from my other teen romances because they were based on actual history. I have always loved historical fiction and I loved researching and writing them. Mine were about a one-room schoolteacher, a Lowell mill girl, a telegraph operator caught the Johnstown flood, a 1930’s movie star, and a young woman during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My favorite was Corey – an escaped slave who walked to Philadelphia freedom. The Sunfire series was a first and Corey was an even bigger first because it pictured a black heroine.
The History Fairy also brought two impersonal gifts. They were TV documentaries on the Freedom Riders and the Women’s Movement. Both events touched my life personally.
I have had a deep interest in racial equality since I was fourteen, and attended a teen conference sponsored by the American Friends Society. One of the presenters was a Philadephia Quaker named Bayard Rustin. He spent the war in prison as a conscientious objector and then began a struggle for equality in the South.
Rustin absolutely fascinated me. He wore denim work shirts and played the guitar even though he was a very educated man. He taught us enthralling protest songs that were as inspiring as his words. I had never met anyone like him and I fell in love because I was a silly young girl, but I also fell even more deeply in love with his message.
I never learned much about him. I know he was with A. Philip Randolph, and organized of the March on Washington. I believe he spent most of his life in the shadows of the movement because of his homosexuality. It is only recently that I’ve seen his name and work openly acknowledged.
As I watched that documentary on the violent confrontations in Alabama and the prison jamming in Mississippi, I realized how slowly ideas change. I was also reminded how important courage is. Those “agitators” of the early ‘60’s saved the soul of our nation. I believe those amazing non-violent young people are the true spiritual leaders of our time.
I’ve known for a long time that poverty is the partner of ignorance and education is the key to change.I have learned that good laws create new opportunity and they do eventually work. It was wonderful to see that Truth condensed into one TV show. I realized things have changed for the better. Not finished, but changed.
I was a small contributor to the march toward equality – a few dollars, a few parades. I volunteered for a few social programs, did a few press releases for Rep. Shirley Chisholm’s campaign, volunteered for classroom assignments where I could do some good.Over the last 66 years my ideals have not wavered and I know that foot soldiers are important to the march of history.
I was very glad so much was caught on tape. Thank God for brave journalists. I was also sad as I remembered how naive we were. In the beginning, we mostly believed racism was limited to the South. Not so. But I believed it then. Didn’t I have friends who were black? I know better now.
The second show reminded me I’ve changed a lot of ideas about women’s issues as well. I’m ashamed to remember that in the early seventies, I told my boyfriend I wasn’t a feminist. He was black and he said quietly, “Then you don’t know what’s been done to you.”
I think I resisted jumping on the feminist bandwagon because I wanted to be beautiful and sexy and successful. The propaganda about the women’s movement was ugly and fierce. I did join NOW almost immediately and I did go to those consciousness raising meetings.
My consciousness may not have been raised as much s startled when the leader suggested my problems might not all be psychological. She said they were sociological! I was busy having an identity,or mid-life crisis. At any rate, I chose to be an aging hippie instead of a insistent feminist. It never occurred to me just to be ordinary.
Part of my resistance was that I detested thinking of myself as a victim. However, when I got drunk, I whined a lot. I obviously thought my life was pretty unfair. Also, I desperately wanted to believe Prince Charming was out there somewhere and would be coming along to save me very soon.
In the end, Prince Charming let me down and I sobered up. With the help of Bill W and Ernest Holmes, I combined my spiritual emergence with attention to my feminine side. Two friends and I wrote a small workbook for women alcoholics. We started the first women’s meeting in town. Getting sober meant looking at my life in new ways.
As American life changed, I also changed. I learned to be grateful for my journey and to enjoy the remainder of the trip. I thought I was getting smarter as I aged but it may have been that new ideas were exploding all around me and I didn’t want to miss the fun. Who knows?
That was then and this is now. What I know for now, for certain, is that we all very connected. On a clear day, I can see a direct line from Eleanor Roosevelt, my girlhood idol, to Michele Obama who is reinventing First Lady.
We all have a part to play in our march toward discovering our spirital magnificence. When one person finds more Light, it opens us all up to more Light. The poet, John Donne wrote in the 1600’s. No man is an island… do not ask for whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.
At age 14, I thought that poem about a bell was all about Gary Cooper blowing up a bridge for love of Ingrid Bergman. Now I know the poem was written for love of all of us. We Are One.
What are three ideas you changed over the years?
Why did they change?
Did your change impact others? How?
I spent a couple of days in the hospital last week and I‘ve slept a lot since then. Thank God the bacterial infection did not go into my lungs. Now that I’m back, is it too late to tell you how happy I am about the election?
My team won and I am happy because I felt strongly about the personal freedom issues. But it turns out, I am not good at games. If my team wins, the other team loses and I love so many people who are on the other team.
Generally, my friends and I agreed on personal liberty stuff but differed on economic ideas. So, one week after the election, I am recovering and asking, “Can’t we all just get along?”
I believe this nation is rich because of its diversity and ability to have civil discourse. Like most Americans, I am ready to stop fighting and rebuild a cooperative government.
The good news is that the election is over. I am ready to move on and I believe resisting change is silly. Whether we want it or not, life will most certainly change. Our job is to make sure life flows in the direction of love and justice for all. We may do that in a peculiar zigzag path but we are moving ahead.
Dr. Raymond Charles Barker said that a consciousness once stretched never returns to its original shape and I think that is equally true on a personal and national level. When the edges are pushed out, they never can return to the “good old days”. Nostalgia tends to breed discomfort and disease, not solutions.
Living longer creates a sense of trust in the evolutionary process. This has been true for me personally and I believe it is also politically true. Wasn’t it fun to see the diversity in our newly elected officials?
I remember when white males absolutely ruled our political and corporate organizations. You youngsters may have enjoyed watching Mad Men, I just found it distressing de ja vu all over again.
Yes, there was a time when voter suppression was a given, not a failed scheme. There was a time when there were no women on the Supreme Court and the women who ran for president were considered eccentrics at best and probably nut cases.
In those ancient times, when I told my shrink I was working on Rep. Shirley Chisholm’s presidential campaign, I think he wanted to lock me up.
There was even a time when the South was totally Democratic and all African Americans (then called Negroes) who were allowed to vote, voted for the party of Lincoln. Our first Afro-American Senator, Edward Brooks, was a Republican from Massachusetts.
There was also a time when a politician’s personal life was off limits. Clinton’s life was a public soap opera but Kennedy was a real dog with the ladies and no one even mentioned it.
Those were not the good old days and I do not want to return to them. I was pleased that so many women were elected this year because I think women change things in basic ways. They learn at their mother’s knee that protecting the young is their most important duty.
It may not make me a good feminist to say this but I think women are less theoretical than men. They know that passing a law based on an abstract idea will have a direct and concrete effect on the lives of families. Men also know this, but women know it at a more cellular level. This election defined women as a spectacular voting block.
As a New Thought person, I believe that all change begins in the consciousness of the individual. When I look back at the political leaders I admire most in my life, I see many giants. Eleanor Roosevelt, Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Gloria Steinham, Shirley Chisholm, and John F. Kennedy are a few of the political leaders I admire.
I also admire some fascinating and inspirational spiritual leaders. They include; Ernest Holmes, RC Barker, Frank Richelieu, Valerie Seyffert, Kennedy Shultz, David Walker, Louise Hay, Sue Rubin, Nancy Anderson, Barbara Lunde, Earlene Castellaw, Arlene Bump, Carolyn McKeown , Sandy Jacobs, Maxine Kaye, Carol Carnes, and Marilyn Hall Day. These are people who were here before me and I know that I stand on their shoulders.
Perhaps the greatest leaders of all have been my students and friends who followed me into the ministry. They taught me to question and to stretch my understanding of how God works in our life.
I cannot name them all here but my dear friend and prayer partner, Jeanette Keil, has been a daily inspiration for many years. I also love my young friends, Jeff Proctor and Judy Beiter, who left the planet a lot sooner than I expected. I miss them both.
There are too many other friends to mention by name but they are all a part of my beloved spiritual family. Some of them, like Eleanor Roosevelt, opened my mind to God’s Infinite Possibilty. Though she was a remote person, she was a powerful influence for me.
Every one of my wonderful collection of influences opened me up to the power of God in my life. They were all unique and individualized expressions of God. I felt connected to them. Whether I could articulate it or not, when I watched, listened and learned from them, I felt God in action.
I am not an abstract person. I see God in the love of mother and child, in the bloom of the rose and the rise of the sun. When I am feeling the connection of oneness and love with people, I feel the presence of God.
People are connections. They surround and love us. We cooperate in ways we don’t often notice but we have come a long way since the days of the cave people. We cooperate in amazing ways with spectacular results all the time. Our government, when it is working correctly, is God in action.
Elections matter. Whether it is a vote for the rights of same-sex marriage or a bond issue to support the schools, our decisions matter. Today, I recognize the loving connection to each other in the government and in God. God is One and we are connected to each other.
God is Infinite Opportunity, Infinite Power and Infinite/Unlimited Love. God is the Creative Energy of the Universe working in our lives. Full time. 24/7.
I am grateful to be a citizen of the United States. I am grateful for the good government we have. I am grateful for all the historic mentors who lead us into the light. I am grateful to be connected to life and to each of my individual readers. I am grateful to be to be home and recovering. All in all, it is fair to say, I am celebrating life. How about you?
Who were my early mentors?
What historical figures do I most admire?
What did I learn from these early mentors?
Who am I connected to now?
When do I feel connected to God?