Friday, September 07, 2007

A bit about conversations I overheard yesterday and Lewis and Clark

Overheard at a dinner event--

"So his cow, she was star gazin' . . . " This is an actual condition caused by a nitrogen deficiency. I love the romantic terminology.

"I made that dress mom is wearing. It only got a red ribbon at the fair, but she doesn't care. She thinks it's perfect." I wish they gave out ribbons to Moms in this business, because that one would have gotten a blue.

"So while you were on the floor arguing with the Speaker of the House, I was chatting with that Reprentative Howard about the bill I've been working on that will stop illegals from . . ." It's a strange business I'm in. On one hand there's the old farmers whose land has been in their families for a hundred years. And on the other are state representatives and senators.

I got to eat dinner next to a couple I genuinely like and respect. They are foster parents who sometimes have as many as four toddlers at a time, volunteer to work with the kids in my organization and teach school. Their own children are grown and gone and are presenting them with grand babies, but I guess that's just not enough for these two. This evening they had multiple babies in car seats and a teen mother and her little one. I have to say they are the most unflappable people I've ever met. And they are my heroes.

There's more to the story . . .

I have to give a lot speeches in my job: to parents and leaders, to civic organizations, to classrooms full of kids. I almost always have it written down and I've rehearsed a hundred times by the time I give it. I am a good speaker on the whole because I'm usually reading something I wrote and I have a lot more confidence in my own written words. This time I learned at the last minute that I was expected to speak before the kids in my program gave their talks. Of course, it was to a crowd of ninety or so and, of course, I had to follow both the state representatives.

So, having little choice, I winged it. I told them my sons were learning about Lewis and Clark and the Corp of Discovery and I told them what I'd learned as I was teaching it. How I was fascinated by the story of the group arriving at the mouth of the Columbia river after traveling four thousand miles together. Specifically the vote they took among themselves that involved whether or not to spend the winter on the north side of the river or the south side or to go the way they came up river and spend it with the Nez Pierce. How the vote included everyone in the crew of 40--Sacajawea the indian woman and even York the slave (both of whome were at least a century from being given a vote anywhere else). This group of explorers had formed deep relationships: learned to trust one another's judgement and Lewis and Clark's leadership skills. Their goal--not just finding the northwest passage or exploring the land between the coasts, but just surviving the journey--had unified them and made them family. Funny how that goal levels the playing field, removes the boundaries of black, white, indian, male and female. Lewis and Clark would have died out there in the wilderness had it not been for the group of people with them and they both knew it. I stated that today our unified goal as human beings is pretty much the same really, that we are all just trying to survive the journey and that none of us will make it by ourselves.

In our organization we give children the opportunity to learn to work together, trust one another's judgement, form deep relationships, develop leadership skills through accomplishing common goals. I told them how impressed I am with the youth and the families I get to work with and pointed out how much each of them has grown over the last three years and how excited I am to think that this experience has contributed to their lives.

And then I let the kids come up and speak for themselves because that was where the proof was. They did themselves and their groups proud as I knew they would.

All in all, it was a good evening.


Scotty said...

Glad you had a good evening, Mary.

T'was a nice read before I head off to work this morning - a good-news story to kick-start the day.

Have a good 'un.

Mary O. Paddock said...

Thanks for reading Scotty. And I don't mean that lightly either.