Posts Tagged ‘Books’
Stephanie Reed, a woman I’ve neither met nor spoken to, gave my family a great gift in 2004 when her book Across the Wide River was published. I recently ordered her second book, The Light across the River. These are fictional stories of the Reverend John Rankin family and the role they played in the Underground Railroad.
Reverend John Rankin is my 4xgreat –grandfather on my mother’s side.
My mother had a keen interest in genealogy. She struck up a correspondence friendship with Mrs. Reed while doing research on the Rankin family. My mom was recognized by Mrs. Reed in the acknowledgements of Across the Wide River. I got goose-bumps when I saw her name in the book.
As a child I did not pay enough attention to the stories my mom told about our family history. These stories take on greater importance, I realize now, when you have your own children. The desire to explain “who we are,” “where we came from,” and “what we stand for,” takes on new meaning.
Across the Wide River came at an important time in my life. My mother died of breast cancer in 2002 the day after my daughter Emma’s fifth birthday. My children will have virtually no memories of my mom. She won’t be able to pass on to my children the stories of her – our – family. The responsibility falls to me and I was less than an attentive student.
Then came Across the Wide River. This book provided me an opportunity I could not have created on my own. Mrs. Reed handed me a strand of our family narrative that I could use to engage my children in learning about family and, more importantly, to provide my children with ancestral roles models.
We have direct descendents who had the courage to stand up against prevailing public sentiment in defense of a greater moral value: Freedom.
Across the Wide River is symbolic of the great power of family stories. As we read and discussed the book together, I could feel my own children gaining confidence to strive to do the right thing. They are developing a sense of responsibility to continue a family legacy of standing up for social justice.
I have never done anything even marginally similar to the heroic efforts made by those who were part of the Underground Railroad. I don’t begin to expect that my own children should or will one day do things that make them historic figures.
But there is a strange sort of comfort, a reservoir of courage somewhere deep within, that springs from the knowledge that someone in your family – even family members who lived more than 170 years ago – successfully confronted more difficult challenges than we will ever encounter.
My daughter Emma talks about an inner voice she hears on the few occasions she’s had to confront a bully in the school yard. She says it’s as if Lowry or one of her 4xgreat uncles is saying, “You can do this.”
Every family has stories of making it through difficult and challenging times. My wife Joni’s parents managed the stress of little income without their daughters knowing the difference and became role models of public service.
Many families are descendents of combat veterans who had to face up to the untold horrors of the battlefield – men and women who returned to their families and communities to build a future.
These types of family stories are of critical importance to next generation and the generation after that. Through our family stories we learn that courage, cooperation and perseverance are not qualities limited to fairy tale heroes. These are qualities that reside within us all to be called on when needed.
Our family stories help us learn that even in the darkest hours there is light ahead.
Thank you to Stephanie Reed for sharing these family stories.