Stolen Water

Stolen water is sweet, And bread eaten in secret is pleasant – Proverbs 9:17

couple-bar

We met at a bar one rainy Saturday evening.  It wasn’t the sort of night or place you would expect to meet someone like her.  I was in Chicago on business.  After having dinner at the hotel, I decided to go for a walk in spite of the rain.  I wanted to check out the Navy Pier but the rain was coming down hard now so I ducked into the first bar I spotted.  The atmosphere was cozy and intimate.  A great place to hang out for a while.  I went over to the bar and sat down.  It felt good to be out of the rain.  I looked around.  This place was ideal for a nightcap or a late night rendezvous.  It reminded me of one of my favorite bars in New York.  I smiled and ordered an El Presidente cocktail.

It was after I took my first sip of the cocktail when she walked in.  I froze.  My heart stopped and everything and everyone in the room faded into nothingness.  All I could see was her.  She was wearing a knee length magenta spandex dress which hugged her in all the right places.  Her thick chestnut hair fell in thick waves down her back.  She closed her umbrella and walked over to where I was.  There was an empty stool right beside me.  She sat there.  The bartender turned around and from the way he acted, I could tell that she had been here before.  After exchanging pleasantries, she ordered a Grasshopper.  When he turned away to fix it, she glanced at me.

Our eyes met and held what seemed like a very long time.  My heart was pounding.  I was nervous and excited at the same time.  It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way.  She smiled at me.  “Hello,” she said.

“Hello.”

“I’ve never noticed you here before.”

“This is my first time here.”

“Are you from out of town?”

I nodded.  “Yes.  I’m from New York.”

Her eyebrows arched.  “The Big Apple.  Hmmm.  What brought you here to the Windy City?”

“Business.”

“What sort of business do you do?”

“I’m a Construction Manager.”

“And what exactly does a Construction Manager do?”

“I oversee the process of new commercial and residential buildings, as well as bridges, tunnels and roads; supervise building deadlines, the progress of workers, and managing the budgets for each project.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“What about you? Are you a model?”

She laughed.  “No, but I’m flattered that you think so.  I work at Bluedog Design.”  The bartender placed her drink in front of her.  He glanced at me and then moved away to serve someone else.

“I’m impressed.”

“So, what do you do for fun?”

“I jog, swim, play Squash and do a lot of reading.”

Her cell rang.  “Excuse me,” she said as she fished it out of her handbag.

I turned my head because I didn’t want to seem as if I were eavesdropping.  I took a couple of sips of my cocktail.

“That was my husband,” she said.  “He’s in Vancouver.”

My head swung around sharply.  “You’re married?”

“Yes.”

I glanced pointedly down at her left hand.  There wasn’t any ring.

She followed my gaze.  “I took it to the jewelry store to have it resized.”

“Oh.”  She’s married.  What a bummer.

“What about you?  Girlfriend? Wife? Both?”

“Neither.”

“What’s your name?”

“Andrew.”

“Tina.” She held out her hand.  I grasped it.  It felt soft and warm.

Her being married put a damper on the evening and I could think of nothing else.  “Doesn’t your husband mind you going to bars alone?”

“This is the first time I’ve been in a bar alone.”

“I know if I were him, I would have a problem with you being here alone in a bar talking to another man.”

“He doesn’t know that I’m here talking to another man.”

“And what if he did, wouldn’t he be upset?”

“Let’s not worry or talk about Sam.  I’d rather talk about you.”

I finished my drink and slid off the stool.  “I have to go.”

Her eyes widened.  “But why?  We were just getting to know each other.”

“You’re married, Tina.”

“I know but you and I click.  The evening is still young.  Still a while longer.”

“I can’t.  We both know where this will lead if I don’t leave right now.  It was a pleasure meeting you, Tina.  My advice to you is that you go home and stop going to bars alone.  Goodnight.”  I turned and walked out of the bar.

It had stopped raining.  I could have gone to the Navy Pier but I decided that I had had enough excitement for one evening.  I headed back to the hotel.

Two years have passed since that night in a Chicago bar and I don’t regret my decision.  I was tempted but I was able to walk away and not look back.  Now, I’m happily married to an amazing woman I met right here in New York.  I believe it that it was my faith that saved me from doing something I would have regretted for the rest of my life.

When faced with temptation, you can either run towards it or away from it.  The more you resist it, however, the more fortified you become.

Sources:  Four Seasons Chicago;Yelp; Sparrow Chicago; Global Business Travel; Bluedog Design

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was one of 13 children to Susan and George Coleman, sharecroppers.  The family lived in a one-room cabin in Atlanta, Texas.  When she was two years old, Bessie’s father left the family in search of better opportunities in Oklahoma.  Bessie’s mother did her best to support the family until the children were old enough to contribute.  When Bessie’s older brothers went to work, she took care of her two younger sisters.  She became the family leader, reading to her sisters and mother at night.  Bessie promised her mother that she was going to “amount to something.”

Bessie began attending school when she was six and had to walk four miles every day to her segregated one-room school.  There she loved to read and had the distinction as an outstanding Math student.  The school closed whenever the students were needed in the fields to help their families harvest cotton.

Bessie attended Langston University, known then as Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University.  She was able to complete one term before she ran out of money.  She returned home.  At 23 she moved to Chicago where she lived with her brothers.  It was when she was working at the White Sox Barber Shop as a manicurist that her interest in aviation was kindled.  She heard stories about flying during the war from pilots returning home from World War I.  American flight schools did not admit black women and one of the pilots was willing to teach her how to fly.

Determined to earn her pilot license and encouraged by Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, Bessie went to France after taking a French language course at Berlitz School in Chicago.  In France, she learned how to fly in a Nieuport Type 82 biplane and on June 15, 1921 she became the first African American and Native American to earn both an aviation pilot’s license and an international license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.  For the next two months, Bessie took lessons from a French ace pilot near Paris to polish her skills.  When she returned to the United States she became a media sensation.

She specialized in stunt flying and parachuting.  She earned a living barnstorming and performing aerial tricks.  In 1922 she made her first appearance in an American airshow.  It was an event honoring veterans of an all-black 369th Infantry Regiment of World War I.  She was billed as “the world’s greatest woman flier.”

It was Bessie’s dream to establish a school for young black aviators but she didn’t live to fulfill it.  On April 30, 1926, Bessie was killed in an accident while preparing for an airshow.  She was only 34 years old.

Bessie Coleman remains a pioneer of women in the field of aviation.  “Because of Bessie Coleman,” wrote Lieutenant William J. Powell in Black Wings 1934, dedicated to Coleman, “we have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers.  We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream.”  Lieutenant Powell served in a segregated unit during World War I and pushed for black aviation in his book, journals and through the Bessie Coleman Aero Club which he founded in 1929.

Notes to Women is pleased to honor this remarkable woman who broke down gender and race barriers by daring to dream big.  She kept her promise to her mother.  She did “amount to something”.

The air is the only place free from prejudice.

I refused to take no for an answer.

You’ve never lived till you’ve flown!

I decided blacks should not have to experience the difficulties I had faced, so I decided to open a flying school and teach other black women to fly.

 

Bessie Coleman painting

Sources:  Biography; Notable Biographies; Wikipedia; Brainy Quote

Eleanor Gehrig

Just recently I watched the movie, Pride of the Yankees and was touched by the wonderful love story of baseball great Lou Gehrig and his wife Eleanor.

Lou and his wife were married for nine years.  They met in Chicago.  Eleanor was from a well to do family,  She met Lou in Comiskey Park and married him after a long-distance courtship.  They lived in New Rochelle and then later in Riverdale.  They travelled a lot but their life was centred on Yankee Stadium where Lou teamed with Babe Ruth, Lefty Gomez, Tony Lazzeri, Bill Dickey and later Joe DiMaggio.

The Gehrigs’ lives were turned upside down when Lou was forced to retire in 1939 with the disease that later came to be known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”.  I remember the scene in the movie when Lou was in the locker room, untying his shoe laces and he toppled right over.  Eleanor Gehrig later said that she never told her husband that he was suffering from a fatal illness.  In the movie, he knew that it was fatal but he tried to hide the truth from his wife.

Eleanor cheered him up at home with gatherings, parties and impromptu performances. He died two years later at the young age of 37.  Eleanor said that she never intended to play the role of a professional widow to a celebrity although for years, she and Mrs. Ruth were greeted as “the great ladies” of the Yankees.

In the movie, Pride of the Yankees, I saw the love that these two people shared for each other just jump off the screen.  It was heartbreaking to see their happiness ripped away by a disease that claimed his life at such a young age.  My favourite scene was when Lou gave Eleanor a bracelet, which was among the items, Mrs. Gehrig had lent to be used in the film, to add realism.  And I liked how she kept a gigantic scrapbook of Lou.
Gehrig_wife_Eleanor

I felt that Gary Cooper was the perfect choice to play Lou Gehrig and it seemed like Eleanor felt the same.  Of Cooper, she remarked, “Gary studied every picture of Lou’s.  He had every one of his mannerisms down to a science and he is so like my husband in the picture that there were times when I felt I couldn’t bear it.”

Eleanor felt that Teresa Wright was too young to play her. Barbara Stanwyck, Jean Arthur or another actress with more experience would have been preferable.  Eleanor later said, “But now I know that no one could do better, or even as well as little Teresa. Of course she’s prettier and younger but then no woman could object to that, could they?”  Of course, the movie was a success and grossed over $3 million and was one of the top ten films of 1942.  It earned eleven Oscar nominations, including ones for Gary Cooper’s and Teresa Wright’s performances.

Eleanor sold war bonds during World War II, raising over $6 million by auctioning off Lou’s memorabilia.  She joined the local Red Cross, chauffeuring the disabled for which she received Presidential recognition.  She worked for the All American Football Conference as a secretary-treasurer and then was promoted to Vice President after she resigned due to the fact that she couldn’t even balance her own bank account.

Eleanor’s greatest achievement was her tireless efforts to promote ALS research.  She partnered with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, testifying before Congress to fund research in various debilitating paralytic diseases.  She eventually will most of her estate to the cause.

Sadly, Eleanor’s relationship with her in-laws never improved.  In the past, she never felt comfortable in their home.  They would converse in German which she didn’t understand.  And as portrayed in the movie, Lou’s mother, Christina was frequently clashing with Eleanor.   The elder Mrs. Gehrig’s relationship with her son was a bit overbearing, smothering.  She was one of those mothers who wouldn’t have approved of any woman her son showed an interest in.  Not surprisingly, she had broken up his previous relationships.  I remember in the movie, how she reacted when Lou first brought Eleanor home. Eleanor quickly picked up on her coldness toward her.  I resented her interference in their lives.  She tried to impose her decorating tastes on Eleanor, even going as far as putting up her own wall paper and moving in a chest of drawers much like the one Lou had in his old room.  Lou had to step in and make it clear to his mother that Eleanor was the mistress of their home, not her.

The Gehrigs never had children.  Eleanor may have had trouble conceiving.  They considered adoption but according to Lou, his mother, “wouldn’t have any of that. She said she didn’t want a grandson if it wasn’t a Gehrig.”

After Lou died, the relationship was forever marred when there was a dispute over the division of Lou’s estate.  He had left his entire assets to his wife but he bequeathed the interest he got from stock investments and monthly payments from a $20,000 life insurance to his parents. His parents believed that Eleanor was withholding these payments from them and they sued her.  The matter was privately settled but the discord between the two parties was never resolved.

Eleanor died on her eightieth birthday, leaving no survivors behind.  Surprisingly, the turnout to her funeral was not as large as the few mourners gathered expected.  Her body was cremated according to her wishes and her ashes placed with her husbands. According to George Steinbrenner, chief owner of the Yankees, Eleanor Gehrig was, “a great woman, and the Yankees have lost a dear friend.”

Notes to Women remembers this remarkable woman who loved her husband and stood by him and was a advocate for ALS, raising awareness and pushing for the funding of research.

I had the best of it.  I would not have traded two minutes of my life with that man for 40 years with another.

Sources:  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0311798/bio; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Gehrig; http://www.nytimes.com/1984/03/08/obituaries/eleanor-gehrig-79-widow-of-yankee-hall-of-fame-star.html

Education of Women and Girls

Just recently I read that Sir Thomas More placed great importance on the education of women.  Here’s an exerpt from his biography on Wikipedia:

More took a serious interest in the education of women, an attitude that was highly unusual at the time. Believing women to be just as capable of academic accomplishment as men, More insisted upon giving his daughters the same classical education given to his son.  The academic star of the family was More’s eldest daughter Margaret, who attracted much admiration for her erudition, especially her fluency in Greek and Latin.  More recounted a moment of such admiration in a letter to Margaret in September 1522, when the Bishop of Exeter was shown a letter written by Margaret to More:

When he saw from the signature that it was the letter of a lady, his surprise led him to read it more eagerly… he said he would never have believed it to be your work unless I had assured him of the fact, and he began to praise it in the highest terms… for its pure Latinity, its correctness, its erudition, and its expressions of tender affection. He took out at once from his pocket a portague [A Portuguese gold coin]… to send to you as a pledge and token of his good will towards you.

 

The success More enjoyed in educating his daughters set an example for other noble families. Even Erasmus became much more favourable towards the idea once he witnessed the accomplishments of More’s daughters.

It is wonderful to hear or read about men who don’t have a problem with women being educated.  As a woman I cannot imagine not enjoying the benefits of a good education.  Growing up, I was exposed to great works of literature.  I developed the love for reading and writing since I was a child.  I remember the big red Oxford dictionaries I always consulted whenever I came across a new word.  My parents took pride in sending my sisters and me to good schools so that we could get quality education.

I was touched by Michelle Obama’s story of how hard her father worked so that she and her brother could get a good education.  Michelle attended  Whitney Young High School, Chicago’s first magnet high school, where she was a classmate of Jesse Jackson’s daughter Santita.  She was on the honor roll for four years, took advanced placement classes, a member of the National Honor Society and served as student council treasurer.  She graduated in 1981 as the salutatorian of her class.  Michelle attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School.  Michelle stated in an address to students at a public school in Chile that she and her husband, Barak owe their successes to good education.  She believes that education prepared her for the world.  “Growing up there was never any question in my parents’ mind that we would go to college. … And they always told us that even if we weren’t rich, we were just as smart and just as capable as anyone else. … They thought us that if we dreamed big enough and if we worked hard enough anything was possible.”

What are the benefits of educating women and girls?  Higher rates of high school and university education among women, particularly in developing countries, have helped them make inroads to professional careers and better-paying salaries and wages. Education increases a woman’s (and her partner and the family’s) level of health and health awareness. Furthering women’s levels of education and advanced training also tends to lead to later ages of initiation of sexual activity and first intercourse, later age at first marriage, and later age at first childbirth, as well as an increased likelihood to remain single, have no children, or have no formal marriage and alternatively, have increasing levels of long-term partnerships. It can lead to higher rates of barrier and chemical contraceptive use (and a lower level of sexually transmitted infections among women and their partners and children), and can increase the level of resources available to women who divorce or are in a situation of domestic violence. It has been shown, in addition, to increase women’s communication with their partners and their employers, and to improve rates of civic participation such as voting or the holding of office.   Improving girls’ educational levels has been demonstrated to have clear impacts on the health and economic future of young women, which in turn improves the prospects of their entire community.

When you educate a girl in Africa, everything changes. She’ll be three times less likely to get HIV/AIDS, earn 25 percent more income and have a smaller, healthier family – CAMFED USA

Unfortunately, barriers to education for girls remain.  In some African countries, such as Burkina Faso, girls are unlikely to attend school for such basic reasons as a lack of private latrine facilities for girls.

I have also heard the saying that education is the greatest weapon to fight poverty.  According to Aid For Africa, “when a girl in Africa gets the chance to go to school and stay in school, the cycle of poverty is broken and things change.”  There is nothing more heartbreaking than a girl who wants to become a nurse or a teacher but she can’t because for many poor girls in Africa culture and tradition often keeps them at home while their brothers go to school.

Education can take a woman a long way and open many doors of opportunity.  It gives her a sense of accomplishment and value.  She is not limited.  She can dream big and reach big goals.  Education improves gender equality and empowers girls and women.  Education could mean something as simple as wanting to learn how to write your name.

“ Education is a lifetime inheritance. It is a lifetime insurance.
Education is the key to success, a bus to a brighter future for
all our people. Without education, there is little that a person
can do—actually there is nothing a person can do without an
education. A person is never too old for knowledge; as my people,
the Xhosa, always say, ‘Imfundo ayigugelwa’ (Every day is an
education; you learn something new). We must be knowledge
seekers and we must strive for a better life through education.”
ZUKISWA, AGE 16 (Ubuntu Education Fund) Kwa Magxaki Township, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

For those of us who have access to education, let us be thankful and pass down the importance of learning to our children, especially our daughters.  Let’s remember the women who fought to have the right to education and to vote and all the rights that were once denied to women.  Let us think of the mothers and fathers whose parents could not afford to send them to school or university but they in turn worked hard to provide their children with quality education.  Let us think of the women and girls who live in countries where their education is not valued.  Let us do what we can to help our own children succeed in life or prepare them for the world through education.  And let us see what we can do to help organizations like CAMFED, Aid for Africa, Global Fund for Children to help women and girl to have the quality of life they should have through education.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Nelson Mandela

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”
― Brigham Young

“Segregation shaped me; education liberated me.”
― Maya Angelou

“There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and women.”Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

“Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody. ”
― Jane Austen

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
― Malcolm X

“Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community.
African proverb via Greg Mortensen”
― Greg MortensonThree Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time

“Knowledge will bring you the opportunity to make a difference.”
― Claire Fagin

“I learned to dream through reading, learned to create dreams through writing, and learned to develop dreamers through teaching. I shall always be a dreamer.”
― Sharon M. Draper

“Education is the movement from darkness to light.”
― Allan Bloom

“Learning is important. It is a way to make a life better for yourself and your family.”
― Rosie ThomasIris And Ruby

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Morehttp://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/03/21/michelle-obama-education-prepared-world/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_educationhttp://us.camfed.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home_index;  http://www.aidforafrica.org/girls/http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTEDUCATION/0,,contentMDK:20298916~menuPK:617572~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:282386,00.htmlhttp://www.globalfundforchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/GFC_AnnualReport_2002-03.pdf

Precious Lord

Today I learned who wrote the beautiful hymn, Precious Lord, the one we hear playing in the background when we see images of starving children in poverty stricken countries.  Here is the story of how this hymn was born: 

Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband.

My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago’s south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn’t want to go; Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child, but a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis .  I kissed Nettie goodbye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.

However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back.

I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay. But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.

The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union  telegram. I ripped open the envelope….Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words:YOUR WIFE JUST DIED.

People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was “Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead.'”

When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that same night, the baby died.

I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart.  For days I closeted myself.

I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to  St. Louis . Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie.  Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died.

From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him.  But still I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially one friend. The following Saturday evening he took me up to Maloney’s Poro College , a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows.

I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody. Once in my head they just seemed to fall into place:  ‘Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired,

I am weak, I am worn, through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.’

The Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.

And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.

—-Tommy Dorsey

This story is a reminder that during the times when we are hurting and we are angry with God, He is right there.  He never left!  He speaks to our hearts and there are times when we  ought to listen but we don’t.  We let the cares or distractions of the world occupy our thoughts.  God knows and sees everything.  When He speaks to your heart–listen.  If like, Tommy, God tells you to stay close to a loved one, do it.  You may never get another opportunity to be with that person.  And, whenever you are hurting and you feel alone, remember this promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Tommy was not alone–he had God and his and Nettie’s son–a reminder of the love they shared.