Holding Hands: Finding My Voice
I held my mother’s hand, a lot, and I have stories about events in our lives when I held her hand—very tight. One, in particular, tells me "who she was" and, at least partially, who I am as a result--how (and why) I found my voice, you could say.
When my sister, Karen, and I were quite young, fourth or fifth grade I guess it was, 1949 or 1950, we went to services at our church one Sunday morning and heard the priest ask for volunteers to be altar boys and we thought we'd like to be them so we asked our mother if we could go to the orientation meeting that evening and she said 'yes' and that she would go with us. When we crossed the threshold--holding hands--and saw the gathered (all male) crowd, we were stunned (What was up with us anyway? How come we didn't get altar boys?) My mother pressed on, announced we were interested in participating, much to the priest's obvious chagrin, and, anyway, we were told we couldn't and that was that. We left. We were humiliated; we blamed our mother. “Why did you bring us here? Why did you subject us to this miserable experience?” My mother calmly, but as I remember it, with a strained and profoundly disappointed look on her face, explained that the Roman Catholic Church would change, that it would become more open to us, but for that to happen, people needed to bring attention to the changes that had to be made and to be the instruments for those changes to happen. And, that we were doing just that.
I never forgot that night, neither the arriving, with anticipation, or the grim departure, but there was also an odd and sort of gratifying sense--perhaps it was a sense of promise--too. And, I have to say that there isn't a Sunday that I don't smile and pause to look up as the altar girls execute their tasks during the mass.
What does this story 'say' to me? Change institutions and policies to "do the right thing." Be on the right side of history….and needed institutional change. And do something about it.