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A Women Worth Knowing, Part 1

In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to remind us all of Rachel Carson, born in 1907 to a traveling salesman and a piano teacher, grew up on a small farm that nurtured her special admiration for nature.  Her mother, a former school teacher, introduced her to great literature, as well as a love for the outdoors.  Rachel was the only one in her family to graduate from high school.  Her enrollment in a four year college brought additional financial hardship to an already strapped household.  China was sold.  Acreage was liquidated.  More piano students were recruited.  Four years later, with a degree in Biology and a flare for writing, Rachel was admitted to a PhD program on full scholarship.  

As her families financial situation worsened and her father’s health deteriorated, Rachel moved her family in with her — her aging parents, her two adult siblings and her sister’s two daughters.  At the beginning of the Great Depression, her brother and sister struggled to find employment, leaving Rachel as the primary provider.  She cut her course work in half and took a job as a lab assistant.  

In 1932, at the age of 25, Rachel was awarded her Master’s degree in zoology at a time when women were not represented among scientist.  As she moved toward her doctorate, she continued to financially support her extended household.  About the time Rachel’s sister was diagnosed with diabetes, Rachel’s brother decided to move out taking his small but meaningful income with him.  Rachel withdrew from school to find a full time job.  Months and months of searching turned up nothing.  

Rachel Carson's 1928 Yearbook Portrait - Pennsylvania College for Women

Rachel Carson's 1928 Yearbook Portrait - Pennsylvania College for Women

A year and a half after her sister’s diagnosis, her father died of an heart attack.  She still did not have full time employment. Two days a week she wrote a script for a government educational radio program about the sea.  The success of the program prompted her to try the same thing for the general public —translating scientific material into comprehensible and interesting material for the nonscientific reader.  She was published in magazines and newspapers which brought her many accolades. This, as it would later be revealed, was what Rachel was designed for — translating scientific material to the general public. In June 1936, she was the second women to be hired by the Bureau of Fisheries as a full time scientist.  

This is only the beginning of Rachel’s story but we can already so many moments when she must have felt overwhelmed, frustrated, disappointed. She never resigned herself to settle for what her emotions were dictating.  She continued to press forward and when she did, she stumbled upon a way in which she would forever change the world.  (Keep watching the blog for more of her story.)  

Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.
— Ann Patchett


How's your Vision?

In Wonderland, Alice encounters a fork in the road.  She’s lost.  When she sees a feline with a big smile looking down on her, she asks, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” the grinning cat replies.

“I don’t much care where,“ Alice responds.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk,” the Cheshire cat answers.

Vision sheds light on both who you are and where you are going.  Most of us move through life without a vision of where we want to go.  Vision will map out the road ahead, as well as clarify where we are going to end up.  


Writing out a vision for your life doesn’t mean it will turn out exactly as planned.  Taking time to examine the depths of our heart and make plans that propel us in that direction is time well spent.  Most of us operate under the belief that we’ll get to the more important stuff tomorrow, next year, in the slow season.  But the slow season never comes.  We’re either going to be proactive or reactive today, this month, this year.  

Take some time to think about your future.  Identify the areas in your life that are most important to you — Community, Relationships, Career, Finances, Faith, etc — and write out a vision for each of those areas.  A simple example, if you want a deep connection with your children as adults, thinking through what that looks like helps you decide what you need to do daily, weekly, quarterly, annually for the next 10 years, in order to get there.  Crafting a solid vision of your future is both logical and emotional.    

Vision evolves. It needs to be reviewed, updated, revised. Work on your own clearly envisioned future until it compels your heart. Avoid being like Alice on the road to I-don’t-much-care.  



The Story of Heroes

Yesterday had us all thinking about our Veterans. I’m grateful for their service and sacrifice; and I suspect there is more for me to learn from veterans.  So I set out on a hunt, reading veteran stories. I kept wondering why.  Why do they do it?  Why do they sign up to sacrifice everything, if that’s required?

Alvin York became famous for his assault on a German machine gun nest in World War I.  His medal of honor citation reads in part like this:

After his platoon had suffered heavy casualties and three other non-commissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading seven men, he charged with great daring a machine gun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machine gun nest was taken. . .

You're probably familiar with John Basilone's heroics in World War II on the Solomon Islands. The Marine Gunnery Sergent was awarded the Medal of Honor for halting a Japanese assault during the Battle of Guadalcanal. His medal of honor citation reads in part like this:

In a fierce frontal attack with the enemy blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone's sections, with its gun crews, was put out of action, leaving only two men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived. A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners...

You may not recognize the name Leigh Ann Hester whose medal of honor citation reads:

 Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, a National Guard member, played a critical role in wielding off a     50-insurgent attack 12 miles southeast of Baghdad in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Thanks to her valorous marksmanship and leadership in battle, Hester earned an honorable position in military history books as the first Army woman awarded the Silver Star for valor since World War II.

A common thread woven through out these stories is determination, a single-mindedness in their purpose.  They have resolved to stay at their post or stay engaged in the battle or stay with the mission. It strikes me that quitting is a luxury that veterans never have.  I found myself asking, “What am I doing in my life with so much determination that I would never quit?”  If you have the luxury of quitting, look for something more.

These stories demonstrate that Veterans have committed to something bigger than themselves.  They serve a cause that is beyond them, their families and even their friends.  They give themselves to an objective that is so large, no one person can make it happen.  What movement am I a part of that can’t be accomplished without a much larger force? If all you have going in your life can be accomplished by you, your vision isn’t big enough!

Notice that these medal honorees did not serve alone.  Every one of them was a part of a unit — a division, a regiment, a battalion, a company, a platoon, etc.  Team work is essential and life-preserving.  A team comes together to achieve a common goal. We can accomplish more together than we can on our ownIf you are operating alone, it's time to look for a team.

Leave a comment below and tell us what you’ve learned from the veterans in your life?