How Writing Helps Us Peel Back Meaning and Purpose One Layer at a Time
My publisher, Herald Press, asked me to do a guest blog on their MennoBytes site. Having written lots of guest posts, I decided to answer a different question, one I get a lot when I talk to groups about my memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World
“How does this childhood story relate to your later life as a professor, college president, and foundation executive?”
So I chose to write a post about leadership and used Robert Fulghum’s famous “All I Really Need to Know. . .Kindergarten” approach.
Here’s how I boil down (click to read) leadership from things I learned at home and church.
AFTER I wrote the post, I went back to the scrapbook Mother made for me long ago and found this amazing note written by Mary Lauver:
In this note I see a woman leader using the gifts available to her at the time, transforming her childlessness (a great loss in her mind) into mothering all the children of her congregation, saving and re-using everything (the rag bag becomes luggage for the trip), using every inch of writing space, using imagination (the story is told from the perspective of the corn and bologna), describing her love of nature (the corn and bologna are consumed after setting up camp on an island near Niagara Falls and after making a campfire).
So, after I wrote the blog post, I found even more in this story. And no doubt, I will continue to learn even more as I hear from more readers and reflect longer and deeper on childhood as gift, childhood as lessons learned, and childhood as preparation for all other stages of life, including death.
Shirley – I enjoyed reading your post and just shared a link to it on She Writes.
You asked, “Who do you have to thank from your childhood?” As an adult I tracked down my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Kline, and thanked her for her tremendously positive influence in my life. She saw a spark in me that others had missed and took the time to kindle that flame.
Laurie, Mrs. Kline was right! And one teacher can ignite a spark that leads to a flame. That’s what happened in your life.
Thanks for sharing this story and for sharing my story.
Thought provoking post, Shirley. What a wonderful memento and life lessons learned.
I have many people to thank, but lately I’ve been thinking about my paternal grandmother who had a great sense of humor, made the most delicious home made eggnog, and gave me a portable typewriter when I was in high school so I could write her letters she could read. She may have had an impact on my writing I didn’t not realize until this past week!
Carol, a grandma who gives a girl a typewriter is giving her a lot more than legibility. I love how we can look at the many “facts” of our lives and see so much more in them now.
It’s as though we walked through our childhoods dropping bread crumbs and now we can pick them up again, noticing the scenery around them for the first time.
Lovely post, Shirley. I enjoyed reading about how you learned the important lessons growing up. It sounds like you were blessed with loving teachers in church and at home.
I have many to thank from my childhood. There are teachers that encouraged me and gave me the freedom to write stories and plays and create, who encouraged me to get a good education. My own parents always encouraged me in school. And I’m thinking of a family friend, the mother of my best friends growing up. She recently passed away, and I in remembering her, I remembered her encouragement of me and her pride in any accomplishment of mine. That continued into adulthood. I have a card that she sent me after I started working as a newspaper reporter, telling me how proud she was of me and how glad she was that I was writing. Her name was Barbara, and she was an important influence on me.
Tina, you are right to highlight the role that adults outside our family can play in our lives. Now we have the opportunity to look around us for young people to affirm. That’s how love works.
Thanks for sharing your story.
It’s easy to think of those who helped me out as a growing girl. One memory that comes to mind is once, in choir, on a Sunday morning my nose would not quit sniffling and the accompanist slipped me a very pretty linen hankie – the embroidered one typical of that time. Not knowing what to do with it, I think I left it crumpled in my chair – thinking nobody wants a used hankie. Years later, I remembered that and mailed her one that I purchased in our local 5&10 and hoped I hadn’t embarrassed myself by my not knowing how to give it back to her after washing and ironing it. It’s just one example of inexperience mingled with gratitude.
Nice opportunity to take a trip back through memory lane.
Oh yes, JoAnn. I know those moments. We fear being uncouth and ignorant, and then we do something worse. Been there. Done that.
But you “embraced your blush.” You remembered and returned, and now it’s a story!
Thank you so much for stopping by. Loved going back memory lane with you.