Connecting Through the Power of Love and Forgiveness: Two Mennonites at Breakfast

Jim Smucker, President and CEO, Bird-in-Hand Corporation. Photo credit, Lancaster Online

I invited Jim Smucker to breakfast at Mr. J’s Bagels, within walking distance of both our houses, this morning. I wanted to say thanks to him for agreeing to sponsor the Sweet and Sour food collection as a prize to the person who wins the 100 Day Challenge. Jim has recently moved to Virginia and has taken the position of Vice President and Dean of Graduate Programs at Eastern Mennonite University, also located very close to the place I downed my ham scrambler and coffee and Jim drank his ice water.

I knew Jim when I was president of Goshen College. He was, and is, one of those “dream alumni,” who love the institution that helped form them in youth and then go about trying to help a new generation experience the same thing. After a successful career in a family business, he has fulfilled his dream of earning a PhD and finding the place to serve the Mennonite Church. For Jim, and for me, life is all about values: naming them and trying to live by them.

We started out agreeing about the Power of Love and Forgiveness. He wanted to know all about my life since I left Goshen College.  I told him about the Fetzer Institute, the place where I spent the last six years of my career. When I stated the mission: “To nurture awareness of the power of love and forgiveness in the emerging global community,” Jim’s jaw dropped. He knew instantly why I went there.

He himself has responded to the call to come to EMU because of his deep belief in those values. We then talked about people we admire in the public arena who have exemplified these values: Bill Moyers, Parker Palmer, and Max DePree.

I told Jim that one thing I hoped my memoir would do was pay tribute to the Mennonite farming community that shaped me. I want to probe how the children were taught to be kind both in church and at home. How did the parents convey love without “spoiling” the children? How did they prepare them to endure hardship while loving enemies, the hardest lesson of all?

Four generations of Mennonite women. Taken when my mother was a baby, 1927. L-R Grandma Barbara Hershey Brubaker Herr; Elizabeth Brubaker (Grandmam); Baby Barbara Ann Hess,;Mother Anna Mary Herr Hess.

As Jim and I talked, the minutes and hours flew by.

I walked back up the hill to my house energized.

There are 57 Days until Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World launches.

My New Beginning is to take one last look at both the interior and the cover and to offer a prayer and blessing for all the love and forgiveness that formed me, that formed the book, and will be sent to the printers this week!

What’s your New Beginning? I challenge you to look at love and forgiveness in your life and do one thing to advance either or both.

Mmm. Gotta love edible days. Raw red pepper day #57. Yum.



Shirley Showalter


  1. Richard Gilbert on July 18, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Forgive. Love. Create. That’s my mantra, Shirley. I am not good at it, but try to forgive myself too!

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