"To show a child what once delighted you, to find the child's delight added to your own - this is happiness." - J.B. Priestly
Fill your cup. You are responsible for your own happiness, joy, and peace. Do not allow others to take it from you but remember that they are not responsible for making you happy either. When you keep your own cup filled then you have more to give to others. Take guilt-free time out of your day to sit outdoors, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, journal your thoughts, read a book, take a walk, or anything else that brings joy to your life.
Choose to be fully human. Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, was recently in Bowling Green and spoke about “Our Earth, Our Money, Our Selves.” Her words greatly resonated with me, and I wish that you older girls were there to hear what she had said about our connection to our communities, living simply, and most importantly, being fully human. The connection we have to the earth can remind us that we are fully human as does taking time to prepare a meal with vegetables grown in our garden: filling a pot with vegetables that were only moments ago covered in dirt from the outdoors. I watched you all do this the other day with energy and excitement. You picked, dug, and scavenged for anything left in the garden to put in our stew. Together at the table you peeled, chopped, and inspected each piece before throwing it in the big pot. We covered it in water, threw in some salt, and let it rest. Every few moments you would go back to the pot to see what had changed wondering when it would be ready to share for dinner.
It’s okay to feel pain. Maybe I should say that it should be expected to seek pain rather than run from it. As you deeply care about something that needs changing, and I hope that you will many times over, you will find yourselves feeling deeply hurt by the suffering, fear in the unknown, and disappointment in the greedy. Let pain be your teacher as you discover if these feelings are because of something that can be changed in your own life or if it is time for you to extend help to others. Keep yourself strong so you are prepared for the hard times. It’s okay to cry, admit your weaknesses, reach out to others who know more than you do, and most importantly, seek truth. Surround yourself with strong women who can handle your joy and pain.
“Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being. . . she will need her sisterhood.” ~Gloria Steinem
You get one chance to live your life well. Do not let time, feeling rushed, or insecurities convince you that you cannot make positive change in the world. As you move forward in ways that will change the world, expect your insecurities to rise up inside of you. Face those head on, deal with them, and share them with someone you can trust. Encourage one another and lift each other up. When you are living out your passions in life you will be able to help others to do the same. Believe in those around you and allow them to show their goodness to you. Stay grounded in the reality that you are one person and not better than anyone else. You have total equality with every other person in the world. Whenever possible speak with pleasantness and bring peace whenever possible.
“Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” ~Proverbs 3:17
Don’t be afraid to change your mind. In fact, whenever possible you should see if your mind needs changing; however, this shouldn’t be confused with pleasing others, which you’ve seen your mama do from time to time. If your goal in life becomes pleasing others then you begin to lose your power. Powerful people are never loved by all, but are powerfully loved by a few. That is enough. Choose to love others even if their gifts, abilities, and calling are different from yours. It may just be that someone who is radically different from you may be exactly what you needed to express that difference in yourself more fully.
It’s okay to be yourself. When you find the strength to be yourself, you will face judgment. Face it with dignity and strength – you will find these in the people who love and support you no matter what. You were designed to be unique and you are beautiful. Please accept others’ feelings even if they are feelings of judgment against you. Always choose love and be careful not to allow your own beliefs to get in the way of someone else’s. But, and this is the most important part, realize that you may not be able to do this while in close relationship, and you may have to simply love from afar. Choosing to love does not mean that you allow someone else’s words, fears, or opinions affect your ability to be who you are.
Work hard, give freely, seek your calling, but do not get into the habit of thinking you are more important than you are. Feeling too important just makes you take responsibility that isn’t yours. But know that if you follow your calling in life and love what you do, then you will succeed. And when you succeed, sacrifice, and contribute to society in a way others do not, it can appear as if you are special or different. Do what you can to allow others to do what they have been called to do. You may not become the most well-behaved women by many standards, but my prayer is that you will become as passionate, empowered, humble, and strong as humanly possible.
"Well-behaved women seldom make history." ~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich