I was an administrator at a university in Connecticut, overseeing multiple departments and responsible for the wellbeing of all students. Overwhelmed by the associated challenges, I struggled to bring balance into my life. The needs of family, the pressures of work, and the sorrows of marital discord pulled at my heart. But then, the unexpected occurred.
A local paper ran a story about the Underground Railroad, and its Connecticut network. In this captivating article, the writer focused on Harriet Tubman, an extraordinary humanitarian and abolitionist during the Civil War. As I read about Harriet and her defiant strength, I thought, “If she can do that, I can certainly manage this (whatever this might be).”
I put a photo of Harriet on my desk, and whenever I met with a student or dealt with a problem she joined me. I listened with my heart attuned to a woman who had manifested the best of human achievement during the worst of human failure. Greatness is born by the choices we make in such divides, and certainly Harriet was and is an icon of such greatness.
Isn’t it amazing how we traverse centuries through a heart-felt story? I met Harriet through a newspaper article and later, books about her life. Even though time and circumstance separated us, I felt I knew her because of simple words on a page that evoked my compassion and understanding, and then helped me with decisions I had to make.
In a few months, I’ll be visiting the Fort Hill Cemetery in upstate New York where she is buried. As my mentor of all things possible, the one who taught me about perseverance, about justice, and about faith, I look forward to placing flowers on her final earthly resting place. And I wonder, what will she say?
Time condenses when the heart is awakened. Centuries become days through a book or a story passed down by ancestors. And so it is that we find ourselves comforted and inspired by strangers who then become friends; we might even travel with them along a path to freedom.
Today the Rave Reviews Book Club is celebrating Women's History Month through a collection of blog reflections. If you have a moment, check out the stories for you might discover new friends, and perhaps you will be inclined to join! The Club was founded by author Nonnie Jules and has a membership of over 500 authors; I'm one of the proud members.