For you personally, for your business or organization, there is nothing more fulfilling and inspiring than being in a place of gratitude – you probably know this; coaches of all kinds talk about this.
I don’t know about you, but I refuse to let the “doom and gloom” that’s out there impair my creativity and optimism. I refuse! Instead, I focus on what I am grateful for – and that includes having “history” as an active part of my life.
I wanted to share a personal story that happened several months ago that made me articulate – really for the first time in public – my sense of gratitude to the historical people who are part of my life.
I HOPE it gets you to thinking about the historical people, places, or events that are part of your life – or could be – and what you might do about it. This is not about dwelling on the past, but on making the present richer.
A quick story
I had been asked to lead a service at the Universalist church in Essex, Massachusetts, during National Women’s History Month (March), because one of the sermons I give is about Judith Sargent Murray, an early Universalist, and what we can learn from her. I conferred with the minister, the Rev. Art McDonald, ahead of time, because he planned to be there and we had to decide who would do what.
He asked me about “saying something” for the children, and I immediately begged off. I have zero experience in this area, and working with kids has always been something I’ve avoided (although that’s rapidly changing). So Art, being the intuitive minister that he is, realized he needed to do something to help me in this area. So we got to that part of the service, and here’s what he did.
He called the kids up to the front of the church, having them sit on the floor, and he held up one of my books about Judith Sargent Murray.
“Bonnie wrote this book,” he told them. They were impressed.
“Bonnie is going to talk about this woman a little bit later. Her name is Judith Sargent Murray, and she’s been dead for, like, 200 years, but Bonnie has been reading about, and studying, and writing about this woman for about 20 years. Isn’t that really WEIRD?”
The kids didn’t know how to respond – was he insulting me? Were my feelings hurt?
Art continued: “No, really, isn’t that weird? To spend all of that time on this dead woman? Why do you think she does that?”
Again, no answers – the kids were uncomfortable, and didn’t know WHY he was saying such things.
Then Art says, “Bonnie, would you like to respond to that question?”
Now…I’ve done a lot of public speaking, including fielding questions. I’ve also worked with reporters in my PR work – point being, I’m used to having God knows what thrown at me and holding my own.
But this was different, starting with the fact that it was an intimate setting and there were all these kids waiting for me to say something intelligent.
So, 1/3rd of my brain is thinking, I am going to kill him. Another 1/3rd starts talking because I need to say something. And the final 1/3rd is trying to figure out what my answer really is.
The 1/3rd that’s talking starts saying things like, “Well, because of Judith Sargent Murray, I could self-publish my own book. Because of Judith Sargent Murray, I can vote. Because of Judith Sargent Murray, I can pretty well do whatever I want to…” and things like that. Yes, over simplified, but you get it.
Finally, I stopped myself, and said, “You know, I could go on and on, but at the end of the day, it’s just my way of saying thank you to her.”
As simple as that – saying thank you. I had never quite articulated it that simply, and that clearly before.
That was the real answer.
Back to NOW
Embracing history is not about living IN the past, but living WITH the past. I thank God for Lucy Stone every time I vote, to use another example. I want to help preserve land that is thousands of years old because it sustains me today. Ditto historic homes, artifacts, letters….All of it is part of our collective present.
I do believe that being “in gratitude” at all times is the best place to be, and that includes gratitude to all of the people who got us here and whose spirits are still with us.
I HOPE there is a historical person, place, event, or
project that is meaningful to you, and if you don’t have one right now, you
easily could be. Please find one! The connection will be meaningful for you
personally, as well as your business or organization.
2011 © Bonnie Hurd Smith
Bonnie Hurd Smith, the President and CEO of History Smiths, is an expert on using history in new and innovative ways. She is a marketing, PR, event planning, and cultural tourism professional who also happens to be a respected historian (especially women's history), author, and public speaker. Her companion website is called Women Make History.