Living a Spirituality of Action: A Woman's Perspective
From Chapter One…
I come from a small town in Wisconsin. My mother was an interior decorator; my father was a floor covering man. When I left home, I became a teacher and taught refugee children while continuing my education as a theologian. As I grew older, I searched for a metaphor that could hold the various pieces of my life together. I looked to older women in my life for example. I particularly grew to appreciate my own mother.
My mother had a “can do” attitude toward life. She was the only one in her large family who went to college. She became a businesswoman in a man’s world. She was devout yet practical about her religion. She raised four daughters with the belief that they could become whatever they wished. She was gregarious and was two hours late for her own funeral because there were so many mourners who wanted to pay their respects before the service. She was a local girl who had never left home and yet she did much to change the fabric and structure of her community.
As I have tried to imagine a metaphor for my own journey, I find myself drawn to the symbol of “the wise mother.” Mother—because so many vulnerable people in the world need tender care. Wise—because tenderness without wisdom cannot be sustained. If I had to draw my image of “the wise mother,” I would picture her as a refugee woman carrying a child over a minefield. She has greater success if she has some knowledge of where the mines are and how they are triggered. She is a woman who does her best to protect the child from those who are not tender, from those who do not care. With every step, her entire effort might blow up, but she continues in the attempt to give life to the child in her arms.
In my current work with Sudanese refugees, my image of “the wise mother” does not necessarily imply biological motherhood. A “mother” in a refugee culture is a person who tenderly cares for the vulnerable. In the Sudanese community that I work with, many of our children have been taken in by women who raise them simply because they need care. After the mayhem of a battle, the “mother” is the one who plucks a child from the arms of her dead biological mother, shields the child’s eyes from the horror, protects her across the minefield and raises her as her own. I know many of these “mothers.” These women are not saints, nor are they particularly heroic. They are simply ordinary women trying to get by.
This book is written for those of us who are ordinary women—women from rural Wisconsin, the New Jersey metro, the streets of Berkeley or the Wyoming plains. It is a book for mothers, daughters, students, artists, businesswomen, writers and chemists. It is a book meant to encourage women to own their gifts and use them to make the world a better place. It is a book for ordinary women who have the courage to do something, even if that something seems small.
Friday, August, 29, 2008