08 December 2012

Bravery: Found in the Depth of our Youth

This has been a week of bravery. I seem to have found it everywhere, in all facets of my life.


What does that look like? Is it a picture of soldiers, or rather, the memorial of soldiers' boots, helmets and rifles? Is it the ideal of "jumping off a cliff"? Personally, I find it to be a much more personal image.  A woman or man, sitting in a chair with a blanket, hooked up to IV's full of horrific chemicals, fighting a disease called cancer. It's facing your parents, your family, yourself, with a failure, with an admission.

It's making a decision: I will not be full of guilt, I will not regret. I will risk, and I will live the life I dream of living.

Within History, It Is Everywhere

On Thursday, 6 Dec 2012, Mariann Pierre-Louis hosted an interview with Megan Smolenyak on her blogtalkradio show; "Fieldstone Common." The interview was based primary on the most recent book from Megan Smolenyak, Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing. I always enjoy listening to these podcasts, and this was certainly no exception.

During the 60 minute show, they specifically discussed one chapter in the book that addressed the identification of Annie Moore as the first person to come through Ellis Island in New York. It was an interesting discussion, and you could certainly hear the passion in Mrs. Smolenyak's voice as she addressed a particular photo, that had to be proven to 1) be Anne and 2) be at Ellis Island. She indicated that she would like to see this image presented to all of our nation's children in their history lessons; how powerful it would be for them to see another youth making history. Being history.

This Annie must have been terribly brave. How intimidating! Little did she know she would become history. One particular comment from Mrs. Smolenyak stood out to me: she was sent across to the United States with her brother to meet up with her parents. Meaning, the parents were already here, and the children traveled by themselves. Can you imagine that? Forgive me for not being able to recount all of the details of Annie's life, and I do not have a copy of the text here with me, but can you possibly comprehend what it must have been like?  Getting on board that immense vessel, being the oldest, the one "in charge" of the situation to her younger siblings. Then traveling across an ocean to this huge, new world. To a huge, new city. Her family was living in New York City, so the destination alone had to be incredibly overwhelming. Then, she departs the vessel to find strange men (and women?) celebrating her? With cameras, a special coin; it was done up, it was a big deal. What a phenomenal young lady.

Then there is this post by Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist, A different kind of loss, and her account of a mother, and her four sons. All four went off to war, fighting for the Confederacy, and only one returned. She states towards the end of the story that the third young man to die was only 21 years old at the time... I know there were numerous young men who served, some even lied to be able to enlist. Did they go unknowingly? Did they blindly follow their fathers and brothers, neighbors? Perhaps, but the moments spent in battle would have taught them so much; would have stayed with them their entire lives.

Today's Youth: Brave Souls

Image Courtesy:
Fast forward 150 years or so. Today, we live in a society that is engulfed in technology, merchandise, a "commercialization" of the holidays. Just a few days ago, I read a comment (on Twitter, I think?) about how "sad" and "heart wrenching" it was to see all the ornaments with children's names on them in the stores, stating their wants for Christmas: new socks, shoes, a backpack. Simple, need to have items. As I write this, I'm literally watching inches of snow accumulate on my window sills, and of course, the idea of not having a decent pair of socks to wear is appalling. I do not think, though, that those children are sad. I think they are brave.

They are brave to face reality and understand that their parents - try though they might - just cannot put enough together to pay the bills, feed and house the family, and give them a Christmas filled with "stuff". They just need some socks.

(Yes, some people take advantage of these programs, and that is unfortunate. I believe, and I hope you will too, that most are truly in need to make the season special for their families. I must, therefore, also honor the parents with their own bravery; their ability to do that most difficult act in admitting that they simply can't get it done this year, and ask for help from these types of programs. If you are in doubt, I would urge you to read this letter.)

Soon, I will have to pull myself up by my boot straps (I just love that phrase!) and show some bravery myself. I plan on keeping all of these children in my mind, in my heart, so that I can be like them.

I would invite you to spend some time this holiday season making a donation, purchasing a gift, participating in a local program to help those in your community that are in need. Women's shelters, medical research, programs like Angel Tree, or the Red Cross. They could all use a little extra help right now, if you have it give.


  1. As soon as I saw your title, I wanted to read this blog. You are expressing such important ideas, and with such eloquence. I have a distant in-law relative who lost all four of her sons in the Confederate Army, and she was plunged into despair. All these brave people are traveling close to despair, using all their courage, and sometimes only amazing luck or a few sturdy brain neurons keep them from crossing over.

    Thanks for giving us information about Angel Tree. I'm copying the website. People should focus on the need, not the possibility of some people taking advantage -- many, many people are in need.

    1. Thank you, Mariann. This is an important issue to me, and the words come from my heart. You are absolutely right, in that there is very little from keeping people who are in hardship from "crossing the line" into a negative and unhealthy response to their life situation.
      I appreciate that you are willing to consider Angel Tree. It's an important, and very special, project for many communities around the United States, and the world. Most of these children would benefit from something so small, but it would mean the world.
      Thank you, as always, for commenting. This is an important one for me, so I appreciate it that much more. ~Jen


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