Sunday, September 5, 2010

Moses

I am an avid reader of children's books.  Over the years, I have amassed a rather nice collection of them.  One of my favorites is Moses-When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carol Boston Weatherford.  I'd bought it a number of years ago after seeing the cover from across the room at our local Barnes & Noble- the beauty of it gripped me and was unlike any I'd ever seen (Kadir Nelson is, in my opinion, one of the most gifted illustrators....everything he paints is breathtaking). 

Benjamin found this book, in a random stack, the other night, and asked me to read it for his bedtime story.  I thought this request rather unusual, given his other choices (like T is for Touchdown, or the current issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids), but I obliged.  And in the fifteen or so minutes it took me to read it, with about eighteen different interruptions, I uncovered some solid, if not mind-boggling, inspiration.

When I was in elementary school, Harriet Tubman was one of just two (just two....) black people that we learned about in history.  Every year it was the same summary- she was from Maryland, she escaped slavery and led other people to freedom via the Underground Railroad....blah blah blah. 

But- friends, I have got to tell you- when you read the details of this woman's life, you are not only humbled into a pile of dust at your feet (my aforementioned anxiety holds not a candle....) but you are utterly dumbfounded by her will to accomplish feats so incredible that the rest of humanity may as well hang it up. 

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery, in the early 1800s, and, at age seven (SEVEN!), she was forced to rock her master's baby, day and night.  If the baby cried- she was whipped.  I could just stop there.  That's enough.  She's a hero- if I'd been whipped every time one of my babies cried, I'd have died, though the baby may have died first because at seven years old, I would not have been that capable (I barely felt capable at 27).  But I digress.....A short time later, Harriet Tubman, after refusing to tie-up another slave who had attempted to run-away, sustained a blow to the head by a two-pound weight, as punishment, leaving her with a lifetime of severe headaches, dizzy spells, fainting, and bouts of speechlessness....And we haven't even gotten to the part where she walks nearly ninety miles, barefoot, to Philadelphia, then turns around and makes the trip, with a $40,000 bounty on her noggen, eighteen more times.  She helped to free over three hundred human beings- uh huh...yep. 

So there I was, laying beside ding-bat #5 (our term of affection, sometimes, for our third born), trying not to assault him in any fashion as he is standing, on his head, on the bed, making fart noises, my patience wearing thin, and I'm hearing myself, repeat, several times, "Benjamin- BENJAMIN- are you paying attention? Ben- BEN?- are you listening to this story? because this woman was great and if you and Mommy could be even a little bit like her, we would be doin' somethin'.  Benjamin- BENJAMIN!! 

So, in your spare time...if you are needing a good boost...and you can't decide between eating a bowl of ice cream or going to the gym...read about the life of Harriet Tubman.  It will renew your faith in the human condition, in women, in our ability to persevere through even the toughest of circumstances and strengthen the idea that if you put your mind to something- you really can change the world.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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