Sometimes you are lounging on a lily pad in Monet’s Garden and sometimes your legs are fried on a plate in a Micheline Star Restaurant. Beccalynn navigates it with theology, humor, art, crafting and words. If we live a life filled with love the more love we discover. No matter where our flippers land.
Growing up, family gatherings were filled with tales of
blazing a trail within a land of opportunity.
On my Father’s side, my Great Grandma Pfiester came to America from Switzerland at the age of 11. She
married my Great Grandfather Dooley a second generation Irish immigrant-
originally it was O’Dooley, but they dropped the O’ because it sounded too
Irish. They were Pastors, inventors and
rebel rousers. If you thing Italians are passionate, wait till you spend time
with the descendants of a Swiss German/ Irishman.
On my Mother’s side, tales of Great Great Grandparents
traveling the Mormon trail to a land of hope and religious freedom. Names like
Gould, Pearmain and Coombs followed the call of Brigham Young to fill the
promised land of Deseret. One of the
Grandmothers died within weeks of reaching Fountain Green. Another, my
Grandmother remembers speaking in a Cockney accent.
Other immigrants within my family tree I am not so close to.
Those trace back to the Mayflower, Revolutionary war and some mystery as to if
we are related to Mary Todd Lincoln.
What all these people have in common is this: they wanted to
be here. They all came hoping for a better life. Fighting, blending in, and
sometimes separating themselves from a world they saw as evil for the right to
and Pursue Happiness/property.
What if at those family gatherings, the stories had been
different. What if they were filled with disillusionment and injustice? What if
those Great Greats didn’t have a choice to come to this country? What if my
Grandparent’s stories were filled with denied opportunity.
All my Great Grandfather had to do was drop the O’ from his
name in order to avoid discrimination. To be able to get a job. A name like
Dooley would have been accepted freely, promoted and granted liberties. A
person cannot change the color of their skin.
For them, this was not a land of opportunity. It was a land
of bondage. During the Revolutionary war, those who fought were promised
freedom, only to be denied it in the end. The Astonishing Life of OctavianNothing is a brilliant series dealing with this very subject. My Revolutionary war ancestors' stories now have a deeper dimension.
Around the tables of color, family stories of triumph in the face of
adversity instead of hope and promise. They talk about how to love an enemy in the face of violence. The value of hard work is flavored with tales of injustice, being passed over and sometimes hopelessness.
Drew Hart wrote about his own experience as a black man. In
a town where discrimination is still prevalent I often frustrated with those who say:
But just as I am a product of my lineage, so is my fellow
man. My privilege of having immigrants who journeyed because they chose to, can be named. The ability to know exactly where they came from blinds me to those whose only point of origin is the name of a continent. The slave trade decimated
cultures in Africa. They don’t have the luxury
of a cultural diversity as I do within: Irish, Swiss German, English.
My story would be much different if all I had to say was: my
immigrants were from Europe.
It is my responsibility to remember the persecution my own
Irish heritage felt. To keep in perspective the isolation my Mother felt as a
non-Mormon growing up within a Mormon culture in the 1950s. It is for these
reasons my parents marched with Martin Luther King for equality and I endeavor
to teach my kids to live these same values- Love your neighbor, no matter the
color of the skin. Share the hope of opportunity. Build those up around the
corner because the cause of equality starts with me. Living within White Privilege.