Passion Rechanneled

by Vinita Hampton Wright on 02/10/2014

artistic tissue paperHere’s a little story. My grandmother Lorraine grew up during America’s Great Depression. Her father, a coal miner, was disabled by the time Lorraine graduated high school. She had always wanted to be a teacher—it was her great passion. But reality sent her in another direction. The day after Lorraine’s high school graduation, her father put her on a train to the nearest city. She would stay with a relative, find a job, and send money back to her parents and four siblings. This she did, and the years went by with their shifting circumstances, and Lorraine was never able to attend college and get her teacher’s certification. She carried on as wife, mother, then grandmother. Her husband died prematurely, and she remained unmarried until her death decades later.

It wasn’t until her widowhood, in her grandmother years, that Lorraine became quite involved in the local Methodist church. By the time I was old enough to notice, she had been teaching children’s Sunday School class for awhile. And what a class it was! Two—in some cases three—generations of people in our little town learned how to look up Scripture references and read from the Bible aloud and with confidence. We memorized the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Twenty-Third Psalm, and the Beatitudes. We learned stories through flannel graphs and building projects (I recall that we somehow built a Noah’s Ark there in the classroom). Grandmother was good at crafts—needle crafts, ceramics, you name it—and so during Vacation Bible School there was none of this stuff made from dried macaroni or popsicle sticks—we learned to paint ceramics and put antiquing on our framed praying hands. I don’t even remember a lot of what we did, but at the end of VBS, we had truly nice crafts to take home, and we had learned how to work comfortably with art.

And much later—I was in college then—Grandmother Lorraine started her own after-school program by bringing crafts to the church parlor, where any kid could come after school and work on projects. Grandmother was involved with youngsters until failing physical health, including Alzheimer’s, made that impossible.

I still think Lorraine would have been a wonderful force in a public classroom. She had a way of making kids feel good and important and curious and hopeful, and she would have brought that gifted presence with her every day, year after year.

But that dream did not materialize. So she just built another one, and I know that her passion for teaching was a healing energy in our little town, for a lot of people, not just the kids. She held adult Bible studies and women’s groups in her home—but those are other stories.

Do you remember someone who personified a life of passion?

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

WriterLinda (Linda G) February 10, 2014 at 8:41 am

“America’s Great Depression”? Is that apart from the world’s Great Depression of the 1930′s?

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 10, 2014 at 9:42 am

That’s simply to specify the American experience of the Great Depression, because I cannot speak to the experience of it elsewhere, and neither could my grandmother. “The Great Depression” could be interpreted many different ways depending on which country a reader might be living in.

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Lynne G February 10, 2014 at 10:19 am

I think that could have been said in a much less rude manner.

The illustration of Lorraine and her blessed life took root during the deprivations of the Depression in the United States…we all have grandparents and parents who have many stories of this era in American history.

We have also just experienced (and are still experiencing) the effects of a worldwide recession … but we know what is closest to us … how it affected us and our families and our communities in our own town, state, & country. We learn compassion in our own communities.

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WriterLinda (Linda G) February 10, 2014 at 12:41 pm

You are right, Lynne and that is how I did it the last few times. It is not necessary to continuously trump one’s national horn and sound as if that nation stands out among all others. The trouble with that is that no one believes it anyway. I think we need to cut down the self inflation and say for example The Great Depression period. Everyone knows all about that. Ditto World Wars — notice it says world, not any single country? And who fought with whom?

My grandmothers came here from another country and practically kissed the ground because finally they had enough to eat here. Grandpas ditto. Never did I hear anything but gratitude from them as they adopted our ways and our culture. No besting. No stand outs.

I suppose there is no point really.

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 10, 2014 at 2:59 pm

It’s quite interesting that my attempts NOT to speak for other countries and others’ experiences has come across to you as “continuously trump one’s horn.” I am so averse to bragging about the USA–and so vocal and public in my criticisms of my own country–that I am surely on Homeland Security’s watchlists by now. It’s unfortunate that you have misinterpreted the phrasing.

susieQ February 10, 2014 at 10:12 am

My mom wanted so hard to be a concert pianist. Her parents would not let her continue school outside of her town so she never continued in her quest. Rather after 4 of us kids were born she started to teach piano and later organ to at least 150 students in 50 years! Most did their thing for awhile but some later went on to become proficient enough to work in liturgy and many other areas of music that benefitted so many…She was always concerned about them as human beings and some still contact her as she grows older.
God had a plan for my mom and because she listened the world is so much better because of her wisdom, her love and active caring!

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 10, 2014 at 11:33 am

Your mom is another wonderful example of a life open to God’s work in this world. I’m so grateful for her, even though I’ve never met her. Thanks so much for sharing her story–Vinita

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Linda J February 10, 2014 at 10:49 am

Love your question. The person that came to mind was my mom. Had a Masters in Biochemistry, violinist, solo voice, working in cancer research and along came my oldest brother. She let go of all of those parts of her life to become full time mom. Losing a son to tragic drowning, losing a husband to divorce … through all of that, she still found such gentleness, tact, openness to love. God had some great plans for her – she connected up with our home parish, first going to weekday morning Mass, and found a pastor before his times building parish teams. Mom took the place of an amazing Adrian Dominican sister who saw her gifts and potential. Mom became their liturgist, their organist, their choir director — what a lady! What an inspiration! Love you mom.

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kathy February 10, 2014 at 10:58 am

What a beautiful story and person as well! I’m sure her daughter is as special as the apple doesn’t fall far.

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 10, 2014 at 11:32 am

Thanks for this lovely story about your mother–one more example of what can happen when a person says yes to God and offers whatever gifts she has. Peace–Vinita

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kathy February 10, 2014 at 10:53 am

Very inspiring story about your grandmother Lorraine ! It makes me appreciate all the women who never had the opportunity to fulfill their purpose and gifts as they wished they could.how beautiful that she was not discouraged and she gave of her gifts and talents so remarkably, it inspired me to pray – please God let me use my gifts so wonderfully. She was truly blessed and gave out a lot of joy and passion from her God given self.What an incredible light to her community and world! May God bless all the ppl reading this to use our God given gifts and to inspire us to deeper friendships and loving acts of kindness.

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 10, 2014 at 11:31 am

I’ve come to believe that God’s “plan” is simply for us to be open to the Spirit regardless of our circumstances. All of us have dreams and goals that never materialize, yet we have such potential to be loving forces in this world. Thanks for posting, Kathy–Vinita

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Carol Burns February 10, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Both of my Depression Era parents went to bed almost immediately after I did as a child in the 50s. They both grew up on hard scrabble farms, were high school dropouts, and believed that working hard at your job was the path to sainthood. A good night’s rest was essential for the next day when they gave 110%. One night after I went to bed, I made a trip to the bathroom. On the way back to my room, I noticed the light was still on in my parents’ bedroom. So I looked into the open doorway and there was my dad, kneeling beside the bed, hands clasped in prayer, head bowed over and touching the covers. His life had been full of challenges and disappointments, and I was deeply touched to see him turning to God at the end of the day, no matter what. While I seldom kneel by my bedside at night, I always fall asleep expressing gratitude to God for the blessings and sacred moments during my day. And thanking God for that precious moment when I saw my father in kneeling humbly in prayer. I love you, Daddy, and miss you everyday.

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 10, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Thanks for this story. I think it speaks for the stories of a lot of people whose passion was simply to work hard, trust God, and love others. They are saints of the highest order. Peace–Vinita

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helen February 10, 2014 at 1:14 pm

I see a thread in these stories of such loving and giving women. It’s com-passion. Their humility and generosity of spirit comes through so definitely. I’ve known women who have pursued their passions, and many of them ran roughshod over anyone who got in the way. None of these women would have done that. Their compassion was stronger than their passion. Yes, they truly responded to whatever God had ready for them, but how different from the call they thought they heard.

My mother-in-law was to me the epitome of humility and compassion. No one was ever turned away from her door. Some of the crazies of the neighborhood, some under the influence of alcohol or drugs, some of the “bad boys” etc. always had a place in her kitchen in the rocking chair, a cup of coffee, a bowl of her luscious chicken noodle soup, and her ear. They talked and talked, and she listened and listened. She comforted them with just being there, the gift not of the food or drink, but the gift of her presence.

And she extended it to me. I learned how to be a mother from her. She never raised her voice, she never criticized. She rarely advised, but if and when she did, it was worth acting on. She sewed baby jackets for every one of her newborn grandchildren. She sewed velvet and corduroy dresses for her granddaughters. She sewed pajamas for her grandsons. She sewed sofa covers for our couch out of heavy duty material. She sewed our burlap drapes. She never said no. She watched our six kids any time.

So I don’t know what her passion was, but I do know that like the women mentioned above, she had more compassion in her little finger than many of us rustle up in a lifetime. And I am grateful for it. She was God’s gift to me. She actually loved me, she didn’t just put up with me because I married her son. That’s real compassion.

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 10, 2014 at 2:48 pm

I really like how you have woven compassion into this discussion. And I do believe that often the most passionate people are com-passionate. I suppose there’s a whole other discussion about passion out of balance, or passion that is channeled wrongly. A few examples such as your mother-in-law makes clear the better choice! Thanks for posting–Vinita

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Jean C February 10, 2014 at 6:22 pm

My grandmothers had been “gathered unto their ancestors” as scripture puts it, by the time I was born, so I never knew them, and there was only one granddad left by the time of my birth, and he was senile, so little interaction with him. I did, however, hear some stories about them from my parents. Both families came to Canada at the beginning of the last century, on my father’s side descendents of the Irish potato famine, on both sides, grandfathers who were ironworkers, shipbuilders in the U.K. Large families, many mouths to feed, they came to Canada in search of a better life for themselves and their children. Both grandfathers went to work for the railway. I grew up in a post WW2 immigrant neighbourhood, heard tales of hardship “in the old country”, so understood what a sacrifice it was for them to have left their homelands, families.

Where I now live, in the west, there is nothing older than 100 years outside of the Aboriginal culture. The stories I’ve heard here of the not so distant past immigrants from eastern Europe who settled the prairies are amazing. I’ve often marveled at the endurance, the hope for a better future these people held onto, and now of course,their descendents are far better off than they would have been had their grandparents remained back home. I guess I’d say all these people were passionate about getting on with life, rebuilding their families, and I’m supposing many had to lay personal goals aside in the interest of their children and future grandchildren. I know I have a better life thanks to all of them.

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WriterLinda (Linda G) February 10, 2014 at 6:29 pm

That is the striking thing about immigrants, isn’t it — they work harder than most folk. That hasn’t changed today either. Please tell me where that scripture line came from, the gathering unto ancestors so I can read the entireity. Thanks.

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Jean C February 10, 2014 at 8:42 pm

The description is found in several places in the Bible, notably last week’s Mass reading, Thursday Feb. 6, from the Book of 1 Kings 2 “Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David.” It is phrased slightly differently depending on which Book of the Bible, but the concept was that when we die we are gathered to and sleep with our ancestors.

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WriterLinda (Linda G) February 10, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Merci.

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claire February 11, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Are you French, Linda G?

WriterLinda (Linda G) February 11, 2014 at 6:44 pm

No. Canadian.

WriterLinda (Linda G) February 11, 2014 at 6:46 pm

That is I am Italian Cdn and studied French for seven years so I would not have to take something stupid like child care or another of their courses. It has never served any purpose apart from giving me something to read when I’ve already read the English side.

ann February 11, 2014 at 8:24 am

Hey Vinita, I’ve never heard any trumping!!!! Linda G., I think some mornings you just get up on the wrong side of the bed.

I’ve enjoyed all of your posts, but a theme seems to be how women have
re-channeled their passion, which is what Vinita’s post was about. But I’d like to pay tribute to two nuns who taught me in high-school, who were following their original passion for teaching. My English teachers got so carried away that she pounded the glass on her desk and the blood did flow! We were in awe, as she excused herself to go to the emergency room. And my geometry teacher had a huge sign over the door to the classroom that said the most important people in the world enter this classroom: my students! They were models to me of what a good teacher is, tho I did avoid bleeding! Ann

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WriterLinda (Linda G) February 11, 2014 at 10:56 am

I have already said that saying anything about that is pointless anyway. What would get Linda G into a god mood is an actual discussion instead of one person putting down an experience and someone saying something pretty and encouraging in response. That in itself is fine and goes absolutely nowhere. When someone does attempt to maintain a thoughtful and meaningful discussion it is suddenly taking up too much space and intimidating other respondents and so we need to exchange email addresses instead and do it thusly. That too is fine (actually it worked out extremely well for us) however I do not see many realdiscussions here nor deep intellectual seeking (yes you are all intelligent and I see tons of starter ideas and nobody picks up on it because there is no real theme on this board so it goes all over).

Well? Is anyone up to that challenge? Enough pretty pretty already, let’s see a real community here. We are intelligent. We have questions. We seek answers. Not just a pat on the back.

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Mise February 11, 2014 at 12:42 pm

That’s exactly what I felt like when I joined in the discussion before: that I was “…taking up too much space and intimidating other respondents…” I came here to this community of believers, openly acknowledging that I was a non-believer. I came with questions, seeking answers. I look in on this blog from time to time. Admittedly not a lot and so maybe my impression isn’t accurate, but the glimpses I see seem like long infomercials promoting books published by Lyola Press. And there is certainly a lot of what Linda G calles “pretty pretty”.
Your call, Linda G, for who is up for the challenge peaked my interest, but I wonder how serious you are. How ready you are for the hard questions and real discussions. If memory serves, you dismissed me out of hand… something about how all non-believers are just makiing noise and should be ignored.
Also, I agree with those other posters who feel you got WAY too defensive and read alll kinds of things into Vinita’s choice of words (re.American Great Depression). Even someone like myself who’s reading this stuff only once in a while and hardly knows her at all knows enough to realize that Vinita wasn’t banging the drum for “America the great”. Seriously, you thought that was what she meant? Seriously? You need to get over yourself.

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WriterLinda (Linda G) February 11, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Hi Mise, wondered where you got to. Hope you’re doing well.

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Mise February 11, 2014 at 1:49 pm

That’s it? That’s your only comment? Interesting.

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 13, 2014 at 10:32 am

Mise, you are always welcome, and I know that it’s impossible to post what everyone needs or finds the most helpful. And we do use this blog to promote our books. We are a ministry but we are also a business and must manage to stay in business, which is very difficult in the publishing world these days. However, the books we publish are part of the ministry, and I would never promote a resource on this site that I felt was not truly helpful to people. I have promoted some non-Loyola Press resources as well, because I thought they were worthy and would help others. Our main goal on DDF is to encourage those who visit and to supply some food for thought. Some of it’s “lighter” but it’s certainly not insignificant. We are not a theological or philosophical forum–that’s not why we created the site, and I am not qualified in either area to be a good moderator or to supply answers. I encourage you to hunt around for other blogs that might provide material that better suits your current questions and struggles. I am not suggesting that you stop visiting us! But I believe there must be a blog or two out there that would benefit you in ways we cannot. As a publisher of Catholic school curriculum, we do have limits on what we can post.

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Jean C February 11, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Vinita,
Did your Grandmother express at any time in her life that she sensed she had made a greater contribution to building the Kingdom than she would have had she succeeded in her original goal to become a classroom teacher? In reading of her work, I’m impressed by how she presented Christianity and how the kids and adults caught that faith. In redirecting her passion for teaching she served God through hands-on evangelization, something perhaps she wouldn’t have been able to do with a formal classroom curriculum. I just wondered whether at some point she saw the whole beautiful picture of her life’s work?

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 12, 2014 at 9:43 am

I don’t recall her talking about this directly. But she had a a vision experience that changed her life, and she mentioned it a number of times. It was sort of a dream, a very vivid one, in which Jesus told her simply, “Pray, and tell.” And she took that as her mission from then on. She experienced a lot of heartbreak and dealt with it by trying to live her faith more mightily. If she ever had doubts, she didn’t say anything. And when I told her about my doubts–in God, in my faith–she was attentive and encouraging. Thanks for asking–Vinita

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WriterLinda (Linda G) February 13, 2014 at 10:47 am

Vinita that is chilling(ly beautiful) as he told me in a meditation a year ago to go tell the people! In other words spread the gospel.

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claire February 11, 2014 at 3:39 pm

I find remarkable how some people, like your Grandmother, Vinita, who had a dream for themselves, a dream that seemingly was broken, in fact was just postponed. Her life turned into the accomplishment of her dream, just done another way.
I cannot think of anyone around me having lived a life of passion. In the course of my lifetime, several women have inspired me. My mother-in-law being one. She is the ancestor I would venerate if I were Chinese :-)

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 12, 2014 at 9:45 am

I consider it a great gift to have known even one person who lived passionately. We all carry so many wounds, and it takes years of courage and perseverence for us to allow the passion to be our guiding force, rather than our pain. I’m glad that you have had the gift of inspiration from the women you mention. Peace–Vinita

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Lynda February 11, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Vinita, thank you for this inspiring post. Our ancestors lived very difficult lives at times in ways that are different from how we live. My mother was a wonderful woman who worked incredibly hard but always, always made time for me. She did without nice things almost all of her life. She gave up her family to marry my father and was devoted to him all their lives together. I still have the doll house that my parents gave me for Christmas when I was five years old – that Christmas I received skates and a doll house but Mom got nothing as usual. Mom was a simple woman but I still miss her and she died in 1977. How blessed I am to have such a mother.

Let’s try to remember that we are all children of God who loves us unconditionally and that is a great reason to celebrate our unity. Blessings to all.

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 12, 2014 at 9:47 am

Thanks for remembering your mother in our company. These stories really matter, and merely reading them or hearing them adds to our strength and wisdom. Peace–Vinita

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pat February 12, 2014 at 4:52 pm

I am coming to this post a day late. But I must agree that Vinita didn’t get national or trump anyone. There is so much conflict and debate in our lives. A blog for women should be a place where our faith is safe and supported. I think it takes a village of women to walk with each of us on this road we call life. Pretty pretty brings the sun and softens the hard edges of the world

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Vinita Hampton Wright February 13, 2014 at 10:05 am

So true, and the question becomes how to manage a blog such as this one where we welcome people to share feelings and opinions, even if they are at odds with the post. When people (not me–I’m the host and expect criticism) begin to feel targeted or disrespected, we who are hosting this space must determine how best to respond. More on that later. Thanks so much for hanging out with us! –Vinita

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WriterLinda (Linda G) February 13, 2014 at 11:43 am

Pat i love your last line which rings with certain poetic truth. My experience is that if we prettify things or view them through rosy lenses of should-be, when we meet the real world it comes as a shock unable to be dealt with. Perhaps I have testosterone overload (yes women have it, that;s why the guys like to get us drunk and suppress that so th estrogen rises and we get all squshy. Naughty menfolk anyway.) but I prefer to view things as they are just like the guys do. Debate and conflict do not bother me, I’m Italian and find it redundant to harness my hormones.

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Jean C February 14, 2014 at 12:22 am

Linda, I don’t agree with your statements. Each person’s life experiences provide the unique filters through which they perceive the world and life in general. If they don’t agree with how you perceive life and faith it doesn’t mean they are wrong and it doesn’t make you right by default. It makes for two different perspectives. You have no way of knowing with what fortitude another person will meet challenges so the generalizations you have put forth as truth don’t stand. I also find your statement about men offensive, and your biochemistry is far off the mark. This blog is not a forum for debate and conflict, nor for stereotyping people of Italian descent.

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claire February 11, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I was not born in the US and came to it much later in life. I don’t find you brag about the US. So I wouldn’t worry. The Great Depression is known all over the world. It was much worse in the US than in many other countries. There was collapse of Germany, of course, after WWI, and Germany has never forgotten what happened in the late 1910s and early 1920s. This is why they are the way they are today.

I find you inspiring always, Vinita.

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