Friday, November 16, 2007

Is it our Minds or Our Hearts?

We sometimes feel as though there is little we can do. We sometimes feel as though much of everything that is going on is happening to other people. We seem to be moving in the direction where we seek isolation from others, even neighbors, and seek to live our lives as independently as possible. We still allow those that would seek to divide us into nice little groups control policy in our country or at the very least have the most influence. We also still appear content to view the world and our own country from a postion of reason brought about by our minds and certainly not our hearts.

Why have I come to this rationalization?

On Wednesday, November 14th I lost my grandmother, Helen Grace Roberts (1912-2007), as she left us to continue her journey of 95 years in the heavens. She will join the many that have gone before her including my grandfather who passed some twenty five years ago and her youngest daughter (my aunt) who passed earlier this year. In the last weeks of her life I was graciously afforded the opportunity to reflect upon a life that was truly remarkable.

Many of us see or hear what is going on around the world these days almost instantanouesly. It seems though the easier the ability to connect with the world with technology the less connected we truly are. Helen Grace Roberts was born in an era where the events were dissimilated by people, not by agencies. People would rely on one another as citizens, not only for information, but for everything out of a sense of pride and trust. Hearing her life's tale over the years I realize we as a people have lost that sense of trust. We do not see things the same way those born before the Great Depression and I wonder if it is the fact that we feel we have seen more and have done more in our lives or the view that we are more progressive.

Today, there is talk about the War in Iraq, immigration, price of oil, credit markets in flux and a bottoming housing market. It reminded my grandmother in one of our recent conversations of what the country experienced in the late 1920's sitting right between the two great world wars. Much of her life she experienced the same things we have been experiencing today in that she witnessed the assimilation of many immigrants into our culture from Europe, experienced Black Tuesday and collapse of credit markets and the Great Depression. At 8 years old, my grandmother witnessed the suffrage lines for the ratification of the 1920 amendment granting suffrage to women. She graciously informed me that not all women in her day that became eligible to vote actually wanted the responsibility. Many women believed that they had the freedom to remain in the house and out of the affairs of men such as voting at the time and in fact many husbands did not want wives to participate regardless of the new right. My grandmother raised three daughters during some of the most historic times in our nations history and never held a single job outside the home in 95 years. She was married to my grandfather at age 14.

By the time my grandmother was 18 years old, she had would learn of the formation of the Republic of China, the admission of New Mexico and Arizona as the 47 and 48th state, see the creation of the Bull Moose Party, learn the tale of the RMS Titanic, witness the planting of the first cherry trees in Washington delivered by the Mayor of Tokyo, watch soldiers leave and return during World War 1, be taken to a Teddy Roosevelt stunp speech opposing Wm Howard Taft, see the first women vote in America and feel the effects of the Great Depression. My first 18 years seem boring in comparison, though there was the ends of Vietnam, the gas crisis of the 70's, the hostage crisis in Iran, Beirut, and the biggest movement of my youth the rise of real conservatism with Ronald Reagan. (not the brand practiced today I might add)

I reminded my grandmother earlier this year that in the year of her birth, 1912, both Fenway Park in Boston and Tiger Stadium in Detroit were built and open for baseball and she told me the story that was told to her years later about how the Red Sox beat the NY Giants in the 1912 World Series. She also would let me know that in that year the Girl Scouts was created and she stressed that she was born the same year as Julia Child. Always she would point to the advancement of women in our nation.

I had to point out that Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson were also born in 1912 but golf never seem to interest my grandmother much. I think it was because it was in her day a very elitist activity and its construct was everything that was wrong with society in her day. She never believed too much in privledge and believed you earned your own way by who you were and not what family you may have had the luxury of being born into.

Given the era in which my grandmother was raised and what she witnessed growing up around Washington DC it was no surprise for me growing up to learn she was a Democrat. I asked her earlier this year if she believed growing up that a women would ever have the chance of winning the Presidency and she responded very matter of factly that it matter very little to her that the President would be a women but rather it would be the right women or right person for the country. I was amazed. Her was a 95 year old women still putting faith in the American people to elect the right person. At 95 she echoes the view of so many of that era that place more significance on what is good for the country. They see things from a different pair of glasses compared to those of us it seems born say after the baby boomers. Our values seem to have gotten somewhat skewed in that we tend to seek to put ourselves before much of anything else. Looking back at my grandmothers life I wonder what kind of country we would have today if that generation had done the same.

Throughout life she would put the importance of life in the hands of family and faith. No matter what our country would face in her life, she would always fall back on her faith in God, family and our country.

Being raised myself in a very different time we rarely would see eye to eye on political matters, at least until I had my children and I began to shift from the right back to the middle in terms of ideolgy. Often times we think we believe something, until the issue hits home. We see this all the time on various issues. My grandmother lived in the era of social stigmas like out of wedlock pregnancy, the eras of segregation, and the era of feminism and came out the other side with a profound sense of American perspective. On balance no issue today is any different to be honest, but merely a different struggle that if we used history as our guide on balance we would be better served. The issues of womens suffrage, womens rights, the civil rights movement, todays gay rights and the continuuation of the womens rights with regard to abortion have one very common denomenator; they all involve people that we know, work with, or have in our communities.

If my grandmother instilled one thing in me it was that it is not that by which divides us that defines us as a People but those things we have in common. When you seek to find that which is different or that which divides us you are using your MIND and when you realize the things that make us who we truly are as a People it is our Hearts that define us.

My grandmother always led with her heart. No matter what the issue or no matter what the lesson; the answer always came by way of the heart.

I promised her Wednesday on her last day with us here that I would continue that example for my children that she set for me and would seek to extend a hand or an hear to those who may not be of like Mind but of like Heart.

In the end, in all the humility of a life that witnessed so much; Helen Grace Roberts knew the truth in the biggest lesson; we are all just people, people trying to feel at peace with ourselves and with our world.


Will said...

J. I am sorry for your loss.
You identify a definite battle in the psyche of America. The struggle between our hearts and our minds is a very really one though an intangible one.
When we look for justifications for things we usually are simply using our minds. In our hearts we know what is right or wrong and it is when we shut ourselves off from our hearts is when we lead ourselves down a wrong path.
I watched the debate last night only to be disappointed yet again for the lack of ideas and the fcat that not a single person up there has any clue how to heal this nation. They are all out the "mind" and nothing about the "heart" save maybe Obama, but I wonder just how much change or hope we really want when there seems to be so much interest in not solving our problems as a nation these days.
Your grandma got it right. Those in power today care more about staying or preserving the power than they do the country in general.
There whole "we the people" does not seem to be resinating like it used to thats for sure.

Rem said...

God bless your grandma and all her good sense. After reading many of your blogs and I can see the acorn truly doesnt fall far from the tree.

I see so much closing off of the heart in today's debates. No room for allowing others the respect and freedom to be diffferent, to be right, to be wrong without a kneejerk challenge to defend one's own views.

I think your grandma is very proud of you for fostering civilized debate.

Anonymous said...

I can tell this has taken a toll on you the last week and I am sorry for your loss as well.

I hope that you will continue to be a source in the coming weeks for a citizen viewpoint on what lies ahead for our community.

Anonymous said...

A thought for a future blog: in light of the fact our national leadership is unable or unwilling to get our country's fiscal house in order(SS,medicare, prescription drugs, no child left behind, etc)how can we get state and local leaders to cut the fat and increase funds in areas of roads and schools?