Yesterday, I wrote about meeting an elderly gentleman at my local grocery store who wisely offered me a suggestion. Quoting a line from the play Our Town, he told me to “slow down.” I did.
And his words and the play he referenced continued to make a mark all through yesterday and into today. I thought of Our Town during last night’s debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. I listened closely as each of them reflected on “Main Streets” all over this great country of ours.
I thought of my own life. My own voice. One woman’s voice. And I thought about all the people who walked all the Main Streets in my life…
My dad was born in Chicago. His dad died as a result of injuries in World War I. His mom remarried and the family moved to Michigan, where 80 acres of land waited to be loved and farmed. My mom was born in Boston. Her dad was a fireman. He died of lung cancer as a result of his honored profession. I was born in Michigan, and my first home was the farm in Michigan. My dad was serving sea-duty in the United States Navy, and my mom and my older brother were staying with my grandmother until my dad returned. Two years later, my younger brother was born, and my family moved to wherever my dad was stationed for many, many years. We lived in Illinois, Maine, California, New Hampshire… finally settling in Rhode Island when my dad retired from his service to his country. I walked many Main Streets. I loved many Main Streets. My mom and dad taught me to love my country. To get involved. To think. I was the first woman in my family, on both sides, to graduate from college. I went on to teach high school for 30 years, always encouraging my students to get involved. To think. To aspire. To grow. To challenge themselves.
I thought about my voice. One woman’s voice. I grew up sandwiched between two brothers. There was no room for being a pampered “girl.” I played baseball. I played hockey. Boys’ hockey, with the boys. I studied hard. Main Streets had taught me about community. Brothers had taught me about competition! My parents had taught me about family and love and voices.
One girl’s strong voice became a strong woman’s voice. People who know me know that I have strong opinions. But I listen, too. I learn. I am tolerant and passionate and patriotic. This is how I listened to last night’s debate. And as I sit at my computer this morning, I look out of my window and see a sign for my own MAIN STREET. And I am sitting in a room of my home, a home built in 1780 by Dr. Jeremiah Greene… a first cousin to Major General Nathanael Greene. I am told that Nathanael Greene discussed the American Revolution in my home.
I beg each of you to listen. To study. To find your passions. To register. To speak to your children about politics and religion and education and civil rights. To teach history. To help your children and grandchildren find their own voices.
To slow down. To debate. To vote.
Our Main Streets are counting on us.