PARAMOUNT


PARAMOUNT
 by Sharon Stevens
“Since it is likely that children will meet cruel enemies,
let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”
C. S. Lewis
If I had been there…
Can you imagine how it would feel? What would I remember on the ride back home? How many memories would I carry within for the next day, and then the next, and for all the days after that? What songs would I sing after I returned? What stories would I tell and memories might I write?
On August 28, 2013 I thought all day long of what I would have remembered if I had been there in 1963 with the March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. or on March 6, 2012 with Andrea Keller, a graduate of WTAMU.
At our Buffalo Bookstore we sell college textbooks for WTAMU and on this day I sold a book for History 1302 with the photo on the cover of Civil Rights Advocates singing in protest in front of the Washington Monument for the March on Washington.
Remember that in 1963 those returning home would have faced the same discrimination they had left behind. How much worse was it in their communities for those filled with the glory and inspiration they carried home? I can only imagine how angry their employers must have been for those attending in Washington to take time off to participate in something those in the rest of the country felt was an act of rebellion against the status quo. Those brave and courageous souls knew the backlash was going to be horrific but they were willing to take the leap of faith to feel moments of celebration. Of course they knew that things wouldn’t change over night, or over years, but they knew there WOULD be change and excitement to share with their children as well as their grandparents.
Andrea Keller was named as “20 Educators to Watch in the Nation” by the National School Board Association and was given this award in Washington DC. On the morning she received this honor she stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and skyped with her class back home at Stipes Elementary in Irving Texas. She skyped with us first to make sure everything worked perfectly before she connected with her class. The substitute teacher said the excitement with her children with Autism was so special and the ultimate field trip for those who might never get the chance.
When Andrea returned home she didn’t face any discrimination or ugliness. She didn’t fear for her life as those attending the March on Washington. Andrea would go right back to teaching and living her life without a fear of reprisal for celebrating her God-Given Freedom. Her memories might not be as serious as those in 1963, but this doesn’t make them any less precious or meaningful because I know that Andrea doesn’t take this memory for granted.
How do I know this? I believe this deep down in my heart and soul because Andrea Keller is my daughter and I witnessed her skype from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
I wish I could write the words for great speeches…stirring, moving, inspirational words to launch a movement. I can’t. EVER. But this doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the words of others. I love to share and the greatest joy I celebrate in my life is to gather the stories and pass them on. For example, in the Amarillo Globe News on this day is a story about Lisa Lawrence and her memory of facing horrific ugliness when she and her friends, after finishing her first year of college wanted to go to the movies at the Paramount Theater in Amarillo Texas. They were denied because they were “colored” so they circled in front of the theater until they were arrested for disturbing the peace.
As writers we need to center ALL our gifts together and realize that however we connect or whatever we treasure is just as important and relevant whether in 1963, 2012 or August 28, 2013! They represent those “brave knights and heroic courage” for every generation! Can you imagine what Abraham Lincoln saw from His vantage point?
OH, I wished I could have been there!

WORDS


WORDS

by Sharon Stevens

“If we want their attention to tell them stories,we need to shout something riveting in the first few words.” – Nandy Ekle

Post Cards From the Muse – Wordsmith Six Blog


When I read Nandy’s blog regarding “underwear” I was instantly jolted back in time to a memory that jogged my heart.

When our daughter, Andrea, was attending WTAMU she worked part time at In His Hands Preschool at the United Methodist Church in Canyon. Her group was studying the alphabet and each day was devoted to a different letter. One day the class read U and the accompanying image had to do with underwear. Of course the kids hooted and snickered. They didn’t know why, they just knew it was funny.

I have no idea what the symbol for V was the next day, but I remember quite clearly that the letter for W represented Washington…George to be exact. The kids didn’t really care as much for this visualization as they did the underwear until Andrea connected it locally. She asked them if they knew what color George Washington’s hair was. Of course they all thought it was white, representing his age as well as the powdered wigs they saw in the picture books. Andrea informed them that the actual color of his hair was closer to a strawberry red and she could prove it.

Our daughter had been volunteering as a Girl Scout at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for several years. She knew that the archives housed a lock of George Washington’s hair along with a letter of authenticity and also the provenance.

Andrea arranged with the preschool and the museum for a field trip to check out not only this, but some of the other treasures housed there. I don’t know how many kids remember this almost twenty years later, but doubtless there are some who can connect the trip to the museum to Washington himself.

Andrea has led hundreds of tours in her teaching career since then. Just like any other teacher she loves to recall bits and pieces of those who have touched her life, brightened her heart, and strengthened her path. And with her years in Girl Scouts she has become creative in using any item as a teaching tool.

We again used the story of Washington’s lock of hair when Andrea asked us, her parents, to come speak to her class at Stipes Elementary in Irving Texas as part of her Flat Stanley project. (She is now at the Sally Elliot Elementary School). After years of volunteering at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum we knew the history of our area and loved to share our heritage. My husband and I were in our costumes from the 1890’s and encouraged to talk about pioneer life in the panhandle of Texas.

To our delight several other classes came to hear us speak, and it was wonderful to have input from Margie Stipes. We learned from her the true meaning of a “Baptist Pallet.” Stipes Elementary was named after Margie and John Stipes. They were both long standing members of the school board and influential in supporting teachers and schools.

But back to our visit…that year celebrated the 275th year of Washington’s birth, and I presented Mrs. Stipes and principal Marty French a George Washington dollar coin along with the story from the museum about his lock of hair and a picture of Flat Stanley showing it off.

This past Monday we celebrated Presidents Day commemorating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. When this holiday rolls around every year I remember the time that our daughter who was going to college to become a teacher arranged a field trip of young children to visit our local museum to see a lock of history.

Andrea was able to take a letter of the alphabet and give it meaning and make it tangible. She made it just as real for the kids as the image of the U in underwear. Like every teacher from time immemorial she helped those students to take this symbol and make a word, and then connect it to an idea, and turn it into a story.

Isn’t this what we as writers try to do?

Several years ago I found a quote from George Washington on the back of a medal presented from the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge that I think says it all.

“Impress on the mind of every man from the first to the lowest…the importance of the cause and what it is they are contending for.”

Sharon Stevens