Heroes and Sheroes

18 Jan


I’ve always loved biographies and genealogy. Nothing inspires me more than reading about ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. As a child, we all learned about the founding fathers and their brave contribution to our nation, but the only woman I remember learning about doing anything for the revolution was Betsy Ross, who sewed the first flag. Really? That’s it? I’m sure there were many, but sewing Betsy Ross was all we got. Then I read about Harriet Tubman. Wow! What a woman!! She risked her life to be free from slavery and then risked it so many more times to take others to freedom as well. Her bravery was incredible, and she was the first person who taught me that smart doesn’t always come from books.
In the years since, I’ve read about so many more women who’ve become my sheroes (to coin an Oprah phrase). In my very feminist college days, there were Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan and Robin Bartlett (my economics professor). They taught me that it was not only ok to be equal to men academically, but if I am able, it’s ok to be superior to them academically. Radical notion at the time, and I’m pretty sure I scared more than a few boys away because of it. I marveled at Billie Jean King beating Bobby Riggs in tennis. I watched in awe as Margaret Thatcher and Indira Ghandi rose to power in male dominated cultures, not because they were in a royal bloodline to do so, but because they were elected by the people of their nations. I saw Sally Ride go into space, Oprah become a cultural icon and Louise Hay change the way millions of people think. It’s been a great time to be a woman in some parts of the world.
This morning,  I was reminded about these sheros by someone I’d never heard of. This morning, I learned about a woman named Irena Sendler, who lived in Poland in World War II. She was a Catholic woman who created a network of mostly women to smuggle Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto. She was caught, beaten, tortured and imprisoned, but continued to do her work. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize in 2007 and lost to Al Gore’s slide show about global warming. It reminded me that there are so many women (and men) out there who do what heroes do every day without recognition, and it’s because of those people that we live the privileged and blessed lives we do. Knowing that inspires me to be better at everything I do and to do it with gratitude. It also makes me appreciate anyone who chooses their work as a calling instead of a job. If we all did what we were called to do instead of what we think we should do, I’ll bet there would be a lot happier, more courageous and spiritually uplifted people in this world. Answer your call and let me know how it goes. I am, and so far it’s been a thrilling journey. Have a great day!

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