The courage in our veins 4

The same sentence repeats in my head—almost daily—when I think about the weeks, months, and years ahead: “This is going to absolutely suck.”

Perhaps I need a different mantra. 😉

Although it might suck, there will also be glimmers of hope. There will be egregious actions, but brave people will also stand up for justice. As a country, we are going to start understanding who we really are.

A historian recently wrote (I’ll post the link here when I re-locate it) that it’s crucial, right now, to write about who you are, where you come from, and what you believe in.

About 150 years ago, an Irish woman with six children crossed the Atlantic in steerage (the cheapest section on a steam ship). When she arrived in New York harbor, she registered with seven children. That woman gave birth alone on her way to America. That woman was my ancestor. That’s who I come from.

About 200 hundred years ago, a man left his home in a war-torn, hostile place that would eventually become Germany. He started a new life in a bustling, coal-mining town in Pennsylvania. The only trace I have of this man’s story is a ritual knife used for kosher chicken slaughter. I know nothing more about him, but that man is my ancestor.

My ancestors in Ireland believed so strongly in education, they taught school under the protection of field hedgerows, out of prying sight of the colonizers. (The rebels!) My ancestors survived persistent hunger when the potato crops failed, relying on their faith, on community, and on smarts to see the next generation succeed.

Like a lot of people, I anticipate the coming years with dread. The urge to run far, far away gets strong. But I have to remember where I came from. I come from the stock of people who survived war, oppression, violence, and starvation. Those times sucked, too, but my ancestors gave me a huge gift.

Last week, I wrote that we are stronger than our fear. This is true. It’s true because every living person in this country is descended from someone who faced their fear of the unknown and thrived. Our only exception, Native Americans, have faced 200+ years of colonization.

Your courageous ancestors, whose blood is flowing in your veins, can help guide you through difficult times.

Where do you come from?

Think about your family’s story. What did your ancestors experience that can help you in the years ahead? I challenge you to write about it on your own blog (if you have one, please link to it!) or in the comments here.

4 thoughts on “The courage in our veins

  • Katie

    Your post really struck a chord with me today. You are right, we need to remember them, they came to America for a reason. We need to fight for those things that we believe in.

  • Anne Pechovnik

    You asked us to reflect on our family history for something that might serve to sustain us over the next couple (I’m aiming for 2 years before the tide changes) of years. My mostly ordinary grandfather was a union organizer in the midwest back in the ’30s. My mother remembers, among other incidents, the tires of their car being shot in retaliation. None of that family went on to be famous for their public service or heroes of any kind. When I reflect on that I am reminded that I, as an ordinary citizen doing small ordinary things, make a difference. I don’t have to radically change my life to oppose the political climate in our country. But I do have to change a little bit by being more informed and involved. The most important thing for me to do is avoid the silence of complacency and despair. If I want things to be different I have to do what I can even if it doesn’t seem like what I do will change anything. I called my representatives about my opposition to the president-elect’s cabinet appointees. I joined my local League of Women voters. I spoke directly (kindly but not gently) to an acquaintance to confront her bullying and insensitivity. Those acts didn’t change the world. But they changed me: I am better able to do the next right thing. With many of us doing the same, something will shift.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      Wow, Anne. Yes. Yes! Our families stories (expressed or not) inform who we are, and can empower us as we move forward into history. Action is the antidote for despair. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Carole Coates

    I’ve thought about this a lot, how every one of us is descended from strong stock, from survivors–the ones who made it through the plague, smallpox, wars, starvation and other deprivations (and, true, sometimes just dumb luck) throughout the course of history. We owe it to ourselves to remember that heritage, to be proud of it, to live it, and to pass it on. (Love the way you think, btw.)

Comments are closed.