Experiencing Unity Through Deep Listening

New England Yearly Meeting is preparing to engage in discernment around their relationship with Friends United Meeting (FUM). The issue has been contentious in the past because of FUM’s discriminatory employment policy. They are creating guides to help Meetings engage in deep listening around our identity as Friends.

At Wellesley Friends Meeting, the experience of coming together in support of same-sex marriages under the care of the Meeting is often cited as a powerful example of finding unity and of the experience of God’s presence in the Body. I was blessed to serve as clerk of the meeting during that process. I was asked for a brief narrative of my experience of unity in that context.

I had written up our process in an article that was published in Friends Journal in 2001. [https://www.friendsjournal.org/2001069]. The following was excerpted from that article.

In 1999, Wellesley Friends Meeting called a special meeting for worship for business to test our leadings about same-gender marriage in our Quaker meeting. This was the culmination of seven long years of workshops and worship sharing, seven years of threshing sessions and small group meetings, seven years of wondering if we would ever come to clearness.

In January, we had convened a clearness committee for the meeting. Every member and attender was invited to participate, including our Young Friends. At this meeting, no one was to speak for or against same-gender marriage. We wanted only to determine whether we were clear that the time had come to formally bring this concern to monthly meeting for business. At this meeting we reminded ourselves of the work we had done together and sought for what more we should do. We held in worship that concern that some in the meeting may be hurt no matter how we proceed.

The gathered group was clear. The meeting was ready and needed to go forward. Ministry and Counsel labored and prayed over a draft statement to be used to focus the meeting.

Finally, the appointed time arrived. As clerk, I reminded Friends to offer messages in a spirit of love and community, while leaving time between speakers for worship and reflection. More than anything, we needed to keep in mind that we were not looking for unanimity with each other. We were striving for the almost unimaginable goal of discerning God’s will for our community about a concern that could become divisive.

Opening worship was longer than usual, and we centered very quickly. The clerk of Ministry and Counsel reviewed the process we had begun more than seven years before and read aloud the draft statement. The clerk of Young Friends read a carefully crafted statement urging us to support same gender marriage. We were impressed by the strength and clarity of their understanding.

People spoke of family members—sisters and brothers, sons and daughters—who were gay or lesbian and in committed partnerships. A woman spoke of the gay adults who had grown up in our meeting and reminded us of the joy we had found in them as children. A beloved older Friend spoke of her granddaughter who had married another woman a few months earlier; she had thought that a ceremony of commitment would be enough until she attended their wedding. People spoke from their hearts about feeling we should be open and welcoming to all people, even though some were personally uncomfortable and wishing for less controversial ways to accept them fully into community. We cried with each other and held each other in the Light.

After ninety minutes, I asked a respected elder of our meeting if he wished to speak. There was a collective gasp; everyone knew he was opposed to the issue. He told of his discomfort with seeing gay couples and of his belief that such partnerships are unnatural. He stated that he had come to this meeting prepared to prevent the meeting from accepting same gender unions. After hearing the heartfelt messages offered during this worshipful meeting, he would not just step aside but would join with the meeting in approving this minute. His personal transformation was a gift that brought closure to the meeting.

We were stunned, but we were clear. Our meeting had found its way past tolerant acceptance to embrace the diversity of human relationships. On this day, we opened our hearts to God, and we were faithful.

A Letter From the Pandemic of 1918

I have always been fascinated by old letters. We found a letter in our collection of Quaker books and papers from a Philadelphia attorney, Allen B. Clement, to his cousin Oliver Wilson Cope at that time with the American Expeditionary Force. He starts out reporting on the disposition of an estate. He goes on to comment on the effect of the Spanish Influenza epidemic on the medical system and his business. But then the letter gets interesting…

spanish flu picture

photo from multiple sources, no copyright infringement is intended

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              11/20/1918

Dear Cousin Wilson:

I am enclosing a statement of income showing an undistributed balance of $7.40 on deposit in the Haddonfield Bank to the credit of the estate. Thee will see by the account that thy indebtedness to Joshua has been settled and we have forwarded upon thy order to the West Branch State Bank, West Branch, Iowa, two checks…

These checks were not sent until today although one of them was drawn August 19. The delay in depositing this check was due to the fact that my brother got tied up with the influenza and was working day and night. They had no girl in the kitchen and his wife got the disease and my own stenographer was away three solid weeks on account of it and we were all in a bad plight. My wife is now in the hospital having had a tumor and her appendix removed. I have been going to see her twice a day and when at home our little boy does not want me out of his sight so while the matter has not been neglected it has just had to wait.

I believe more people have died in the United States with the Grippe than in the army from disease and accidents. They were short of nurses in the hospitals as a great many of them have gone to Europe and a great many were stricken down with the disease. Bertha needed to go to the hospital but they could not take her on account of the scarcity of nurses and the surgeon said there was too much risk of her getting the disease while her wounds were fresh and the fever and complications would be very serious.

The nurse that Bertha has at the hospital told me that the green room where they keep the dead was entirely filled up and they had a row of bodies outside in the drive-way at the back of the hospital covered over with sheets. I suppose that will not sound like much to thee after thy experiences in this war but for old way back Philadelphia such a thing was never know[n]. The undertakers took advantage of the situation and as there were not enough grave diggers and the bodies had to be left at the grave-yards some times for several days the undertakers took them out of the caskets and sold them over again. One fellow had his garage stacked with bodies in boxes that he had taken out of a pair of caskets he had for the purpose, holding the funerals in his parlor and telling the people that the graves were not ready and dismissing them then removing the body to a box in his garage. I believe they have arrested this particular man and I think several others.

I had a letter from Caleb who says that after a couple of days in a “Big Push” a German machine gun got him, that he was in an evacuation hospital, had been successfully operated upon and would soon be ready for the base hospital. This letter was written on the 15th of last month.  I heard from Mary Witson that they removed a bullet from his neck.

With much love, I am

Thy cousin

Allen B. Clement

The Knock

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I entered a writing contest hosted by the Chatham-Lee County chapter of the North Carolina Writers Network — a short story, less than 300  words, all one-syllable.  My story did not win, but I got very positive feedback from two of the judges and mixed from the third, so I am declaring this a success!

The Knock

There was a knock on the door. That was odd; no one ever came to the front. Friends used the side door. Could be a prank – men in trucks who want to fix her house or church folks who want to save her soul.

She did not want to speak with them.

The knock came once more, quite loud. “How rude,” she thought, “why don’t they just go on.”

The third time was not even a knock, but a loud thump, thump, thump. “Quite daft,” she said out loud.

She rolled her chair to the door.

“Who is it?” she said in a firm voice, for it does not do to sound weak when one deals with strange men in trucks or church kids bent on their quest.

“Just raise the latch on the door,” said the voice on the other side. She did not know this voice.

“Mom, it’s me, your son.”

“My son knows not to use the front door. Who are you?”

“Mom, I will call for an aide.”

“No, just come to the side door. You have the key.”

“There is no side door. This is not your old house – you are in a nice home for folks who need some help. You moved here two years ago.”

She was shocked and looked at the room and the door. No, she was in her own home. The man on the other side tried to mess with her mind. Men did that a lot.

“Leave now. I will call the cops.”

She found her phone and pushed the red key. The screen on the desk lit up.

“Oh! It’s my show! I’m glad I did not miss it.”

She sat back to watch.

 

 

Thirty-three Years and Going Strong

img016 (2)“Go to church, you’ll meet a nice man,” I’d heard said. I certainly was not looking to find a husband in my Quaker meeting. I was in my thirties, divorced, with a seven-year-old daughter, used to being on my own.

On a sunny April Sunday, I slid into the pew next to the roughhewn post holding up the balcony. Usually, my daughter Melanie and I sat upstairs. In our meetinghouse, the benches were arranged in a rectangle; she liked to watch the people below and signal to the children sitting on the other side. But that day, she stayed in the fellowship hall with her best friend, and I decided to sit downstairs for a change.

An attractive, bearded man sat down beside me. After a deep and mostly silent hour of worship, we shook hands with those around us, as is the custom at the end of a Quaker meeting. An older woman sitting at the other end of the pew leaned over with a friendly, “Good morning.” She then turned to the woman behind her and began an extended conversation. The post blocked our exit at one end of the pew, and the two women dawdled at the other end. We were stuck. We introduced ourselves. He said he was chemist on sabbatical at the National Cancer Institute and had been sitting next to the post most Sundays since he arrived. I mentioned my work as an engineer and pointed to the balcony above us.  Finally released, we walked to the fellowship hall, talking all the way.

As I drove away, I saw him deep in conversation with two younger women. “Oh, well. That’s that,” I shrugged. This quiet, studious man, wearing a hearing aid and glasses, kept invading my thoughts all week. Our conversation had been rather inconsequential. But, oh, my! Why did I keep thinking of him?

The next Sunday my daughter was at her grandmother’s house. Being uncharacteristically forward, I again sat in “our” pew. The man walked in late, sitting closer to the door. He caught my eye and smiled. Wow, maybe he had been thinking of me, too! So, gathering my courage, I invited him to lunch.

Since this was another glorious April afternoon, we headed to a nearby pond. Half way around, my shoe got stuck in the mud (it was an accident, I swear). As he gallantly rescued my errant shoe, he blushed, “Umm, by the way, what is your name?” He had actually forgotten it over the week. To be honest, I knew his name only because he had, oddly, referred to himself as David earlier in the conversation. I used his arm to balance while I put my shoe back on which led to the casual thrill of holding hands as we rambled.

I admit that over the next few weeks, I was rather pushy and he was willing to be pushed.  Time was running short before he needed to return to Wellesley College in early June. I would drop by his apartment at 5:30 a.m. with bagels and juice before work. He was working twelve-hour days to finish his research, so I met him with turkey subs and iced tea when I got off work. Eventually, he decided he had better stay for an extra month.

For months afterwards, we alternated flying to visit each other. We became intimately familiar with the Newark airport, the then frenetic hub of cheap airlines. We phoned daily and sent handwritten letters. (This was long before the days of email and Skype.) We took Melanie for weekends at our family’s lake cottage and at his family’s farm. He sat in the balcony with us when he was in town.

At Thanksgiving, we drove to Cleveland to celebrate at his sister’s house. Darkness surrounded us as we parked at a rest stop on the Ohio Turnpike. Before I could get out of the car, he surprised us both by proposing. We had not discussed marriage. I had a career and a child. I knew he and Melanie had developed a special bond, but was he ready to be a father? Could we really make this work? An old Quaker saying, “Way will open” popped into my head, and I eagerly said yes.

The following June, David and I were married in the meetinghouse where we had met. Our wedding service was serenaded by the cacophony of the seventeen-year and thirteen-year locusts which had simultaneously emerged that week. In a traditional Quaker wedding, there is no minister to conduct the service and nudge us along. After a nerve racking period of silent worship, in the manner set out by early Quakers, we stood alone in the front of the room and recited our vows to each other: “In the presence of God and these our friends, I, Nancy Learned, take thee, David Haines, to be my wedded husband, promising with divine assistance to be unto thee, a loving and faithful wife as long as we both shall live.” David, likewise, promised the same to me. After we exchanged rings, we gave Melanie a small locket. We then settled back into the silence, in awe of what we had just done. We were married. We were a family.

Who knows what brings two people together, what kind of chemistry makes two random people right for each other. What serendipity brought us to that pew at just the right time in our lives? How could we know then that we would continue for more than three decades to prefer to spend most of our time in each other’s company?Hog Day My husband, bless his heart, says calling it a “preference” is an understatement. Our lives are entwined.

David sometimes claims that it all started when I sat in “his” seat. Sitting on that particular bench was not planned, at least not the first time. Sociologist Barbara Owen calls such synchronicity “the breakthrough of the sacred.” Today, celebrating thirty-three years of marriage, we both still joyfully believe we met because of divine intervention.

 

 

 

 

 

My Not-So-Secret to Writing

This is the first Wednesday of the month and I finally took the leap to join the Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG). This online group was formed to share the woes and victories of being writers. Thank you to the founder, Alex J. Cavanaugh and the co-hosts for the June 3 posting: Pat Garcia, J. Q. Rose, and Natalie Aguirre.IWSG Badge

This month’s optional question: Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours? Something readers would never know from your work?

I hated English class. In eleventh grade, I got a D on a poem we were required to write.  Despite that, it was chosen for the school literary magazine. My teacher said I should change the wording – she still did not like the poem. I didn’t change anything, and it was published. But I truly dreaded writing since then. I was afraid to show anyone my work for fear of being belittled.

I love math. My graduate degree is in engineering. I was able to avoid having to do much writing in my classes.  I had been working several years when I was assigned to a team working on a proposal for a new system.  I submitted the text for my section. The senior engineer was patient, and I sweated over and over again to get the text right.

The next one was easier. Managers started asking me to be on their their proposal teams. Encouraged, I became reasonably good at making obscure engineering data intelligible.

I started to enjoy writing reports, even taking minutes at meetings became satisfying. I got more and more positive feedback.

Finally, I ventured to write a book. I joined a great little support group. We met monthly and over the next few years, I shared parts of the book. I brought one difficult section eight times, before I got the high five from my group.

I have since published that first book, and I am working on my third.

My secret – looking for and finding supportive critics and readers and actually listening to their advice! Is this really a secret? No, but I wish it had not taken me so long to figure it out. (Confession – I am still too nervous to try writing poetry.)

 

 

The Great Influenza

During this current pandemic, the news is filled with references to the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918-1919. In my book, We Answered With Love: Pacifist Service in World War I, Mary Peabody, a Radcliffe student in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is corresponding with Leslie Hotson, a Harvard student, working with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in France, They were both affected by the outbreak of this deadly flu.  The following is excerpted from their story.

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In October, 1918, Leslie received a letter from Mary that left him stunned. Buried within her usual breezy news and encouragement for his work, she commented that she and her sister had been deathly ill with influenza, but luckily, both survived.

The first cases in Boston had appeared in August among soldiers infected with the virus. At the Boston Naval Yards, more than seven thousand men were in transit, living in overcrowded barracks and dormitory ships. Within two days, sixty-eight men had reported ill. The flu spread quickly through the close quarters of the military units stationed in the area. By September 4, the epidemic reached the 16,000 men of the Naval Radio School living in the Harvard dorms and camped on Cambridge Common. A few weeks earlier, Mary had written that “the atmosphere here in Cambridge is so strange this fall; the Radio School is all quarantined for Spanish Influenza—a very catching and serious disease that has already taken the toll of many lives; they say they have it under control here but that it is now spreading to Devens and other places.”

The disease spread quickly. On September 3, the first civilian was admitted to Boston City Hospital. As people gathered in the streets for rallies and bond drives and as soldiers and sailors gathered to prepare to go overseas, they infected each other. The disease hit swiftly and without warning. A person who was seemingly healthy in the morning could be dead by evening. Those who did not die quickly often suffocated from the buildup of fluid in their lungs. There was no cure; doctors and nurses could only hope to treat the symptoms. Survival was a matter of luck or some other unknown component of a person’s constitution. Unlike other forms of influenza which strike mainly the elderly and young children, this strain was most deadly in young adults, the very people who were crowded together in troop transports and living in dormitories at colleges.

Most of the doctors and nurses in this country had been conscripted or had enlisted in the military. Massachusetts was initially able to use medical students and to bring in medical help from surrounding towns and other states, but this source of aid soon dried up as the disease spread down the east coast and beyond, and as medical personnel themselves succumbed to the disease. Emergency hospitals were created in a futile attempt to accommodate the growing number of patients. The Red Cross formed a National Committee on Influenza to try to use nurses, volunteers, and medical supplies more effectively, but this effort was insufficient to stem the spread of the epidemic. The dead were left in gutters and stacked in caskets on the front porches. Trucks drove by to pick up the corpses. Public gatherings were forbidden. People hid indoors, afraid to interact with their neighbors.

Leslie’s unit was in the country and only mildly affected by the epidemic. The first outbreak in France had occurred in July. In Paris, the government closed the schools but was unwilling to expand the quarantine to avoid hurting morale. In October, at its peak, more than 4,500 people in Paris died of influenza or related pneumonia. In many French cities, more than half of the families had at least one victim. Throughout France, the AFSC workers volunteered for hospital duties and provided services to the sick and dying in their neighborhoods. Fortunately, only five members of the AFSC died of the influenza.

By December, the virus had mutated, and another new and lethal variant began to spread. In Paris, in early 1919, more than three thousand people died from this wave. By the time it ended, the influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919 had killed as many as fifty million people worldwide—many more than died as a direct result of the war.

On October 22, 1918, as Mary was recovering, she wrote to Leslie,

“I had a chance to do a lot of thinking while I was sick. As I lay there knowing I had a disease of which hundreds were dying, I seemed to see life more really than I had ever done before…and I realized the immense place that the little things of every day occupy. I looked at a clock and a book and thought how many generations of men had lived thru’ all kinds of dangers to create those things that we take for granted. The sun shone into the room where Helen and I lay and we could hear the funeral processions clattering by at frequent intervals up Brattle Street—then the children in the next yard would scream and laugh with joy at their play. How strange it all seemed…and when I went down to the Square the first time and saw the life and bustle, I was shocked that the world could be so heartless and carefree when hundreds were dying and being killed….How wonderful life is—so fragile and short—men must have opportunities to get more than the necessaries, the swamping details—these are not life—life is big and rich and full; and so few people have a chance to realize it. When I was up and around again I had the burning desire to stop people I met and tell them how happy they ought to be that they were alive in this beautiful world.”

 

 

Barbara Loop Owen

I was asked by my former Quaker meeting to write a memorial minute for a member of the meeting. We had been walking buddies, and I knew her and her family fairly well. Her memorial minute is different from her obituary. The focus is a celebration of life and the gifts of the spirit expressed in her life.

For Quakers, memorial minutes are important: they become part of the permanent records of the Meeting. I was asked also to read the memorial minute when it was presented to the meeting. Thanks to Zoom, I was able to participate in a meeting in Massachusetts while sitting at my home in North Carolina.

Memorial Minute for Barbara Loop Owen

Barbara Loop Owen was born March 9, 1937, in Toledo, Ohio. She was the daughter of the late Allan B. Loop and Eleanor Wilcox Loop.

Barbara received her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College, her Masters from the University of Chicago, and her PhD through the Saybrook Institute in California. Barbara’s doctoral thesis, Synchronicity: The Breakthrough of the Sacred, reflected her quest for a rich spiritual life and her belief in the availability of the divine in her life.

When she discovered the Society of Friends, she was excited to have finally found a denomination that fed her firm belief that there is that of God in all people. She joined Friends Meeting at Cambridge in 1981. Later, when she moved to Holliston, MA, she became active in the Wellesley Monthly Meeting of Friends and considered that her spiritual home the rest of her life. She was a frequent attender at New England Yearly Meeting sessions, bringing her daughter Corinna and her grandchildren. This was a time of respite and spiritual nourishment for her, and she attended until 2009 when her health started failing.

Barbara’s place of refuge was a small cottage on Friendship Long Island off the coast of Maine. She created a magical place for her children and for her grandchildren. They spent many summers wandering through the woods, looking for sea glass along the shore, picking mussels for supper, and making pictures from sea shells. She shared her love of bird-watching, especially the white-throated sparrow which she considered her spirit-animal. Barbara opened up her island cottage to others, offering a series of empowerment workshops for women; she often spoke of how life-giving these occasions were to her. When her health required her to move to assisted living, she made sure to retire by the sea in Maine.

She was a dedicated psychotherapist who devoted her life to helping others in any way she could. She specialized in working with families who were struggling. She especially liked working with children and found many ways to engage them – working in the garden, playing with puppets, or taking the canoe out on the pond behind her home.

In both her therapy practice and in her life, she often said, “What can I do for you? What do you need?” She always tried to put others first. Her favorite song, which she sang often was “You are such a treasure to me.” And she meant it.

Barbara Owen died peacefully at her oceanside home in Scarborough, Maine, on January 5, 2019. She is survived by her brother Christopher, her son Timothy Owen, her daughter Corinna Owen, son-in-law Scott A. Burpee, and her three grandchildren: Christopher Burpee, Mackenzie Burpee, and Scarlett Owen. Barbara had a special bond with her sister, Sara Sally Ruddick, who died earlier of complications from Parkinson’s disease; and both are survived by Sally’s husband and two children, Hal and Lizza.

 

The Year My Mother Didn’t Die

On her ninety-eighth birthday, my mother was kicked out of hospice.

“You are not dying,” they pronounced.

This was unwelcome news to my mother. A psychic had told her a decade ago that she would die when she was ninety-six. Her body was failing, and she was tired.

Five years ago, she lived independently, volunteered at the senior center, and took the bus into town to shop. She had given up her car a few years earlier. Then she noticed numbness in her feet. She needed a walker. She could no longer climb the stairs in the senior center bus. She still lived independently, but her world shrank.

Her feet grew progressively worse. The commercial she hated, “I’ve fallen and can’t get up,” became her reality. She moved from her apartment into assisted living. Her electric scooter gave her some independence around the facility, but she became physically dependent on aides to get her out of bed, take her to the toilet, shower and dress her. She was mentally capable, but her legs were useless. When I mentioned that she had to give up a little dignity, she declared, “I gave up a damn lot of dignity.”

Mom had been ready to die ever since her feet and legs failed her. She got her papers in order. She gave away some sentimental objects and wrote lists of what to do with the rest of her stuff. Each time I visited, she reminded me of her final wishes.

She told us repeatedly that she was done with this life. She had faith in a better life on the other side. She asked us to let her go – pray not that she gets better, but that she dies in her sleep or as she put it, she “wakes up dead one morning.”

This past August, she was wracked by a major infection. They rushed her to the hospital. She was pumped full of antibiotics. She kept failing. The priest gave her last rites. My sister and I took turns staying overnight on the uncomfortable sofa in her room. Finally, after five days of IV antibiotics, she rallied.

When she was ready to be discharged, the doctor from hospice interviewed her. They chatted for almost an hour. Finally, he asked, “how do you see yourself in thirty days?”

“Dead,” she said.

He looked startled but recovered. “But what if you don’t die?”

She thought a moment and said, “Then I would like to continue riding my scooter around my assisted living facility.”

She left the hospital under the care of hospice and went back to her home. Mom was not able to ride her scooter, but she did get around in a wheel chair. She ate in the dining room, participated in activities, played cards, paid her bills, and watched game shows.

In October, her legs became infected. This time, she stayed in her room at the assisted living facility and was given a mild antibiotic just to keep her comfortable and prevent gangrene.  Mom no longer was able to get out of bed. She started drifting in and out. Aides put her in diapers and changed her in bed. Her heartbeat became irregular. The hospice nurse called and said she was dying.

One night, my sister was asleep in the chair next to Mom’s bed. Suddenly Mom woke her up.

“They are all there,” she said excitedly.

My sister asked who.

“Ma and Pa, my sisters, your father, my best friend from high school.”

Betty suggested she go with them.

Sadly, Mom said, “I can’t. They are behind the ribbon.”

“What ribbon?”

“The ribbon. The ribbon. Over there, right in front of them.”

She fell back asleep.

The next day, the priest gave her last rites.  Her son-in-law brought a fellow musician and they sang to her. She weakly joined in singing “I’ll Fly Away” and “How Great Thou Art,” her two favorite hymns.

Cousins and friends came to say good-bye. Others sent flowers and chocolate.

She got better. She started participating in programs at the facility. She played dominos and did word search puzzles. She remained unfailingly cheerful to her aides, grateful for her visitors, and grumbled just a little but only to her daughters. She said that she was ready to go, but God must not be ready for her.

She turned ninety-eight in December. Five weeks after being dismissed from hospice, she texted that she won two games of bingo, the food was awful as usual, and her friend Margaret came to visit.

Four days later, Mom died peacefully in her sleep.

Obituary

The Girls of Troop 32

The new Chicken Soup for the Soul book, Mother Knows Best, will be available March 19, 2019. The essay I wrote about my mother’s role in operating an integrated Brownie day camp in Winchester 60 years ago is one of the stories in this volume.

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My mother, Alina Learned, and Carrie Delaney Byrd, an African American, were our Brownie leaders in 1959. This was surprisingly radical in Virginia in the late 1950s. African-Americans in our town still had separate public schools, swimming pools, and neighborhoods, and changing that reality was more than a decade in the future.

In the summer, Mom and Mrs. Byrd ran a day camp for our troop at Jordan Springs, then a Catholic seminary. Many years later, my mother explained why they had taken vacations from their jobs to run a day camp. At that time, Black girls were not permitted to attend the Brownie camps sponsored by the local Girl Scout council. In fact, the nearby Girl Scout camp and the national Girl Scout camp in Washington, DC, only allowed African American girls at designated Blacks-only weeks. Integrated troops were excluded from the sponsored camp sessions. We could not stay together as a troop using official scouting facilities and, since there were relatively few African American Girl Scouts in our town, some of our friends would not be able to attend camp at all. Mom and Mrs. Byrd agreed that they had to operate their own program. Neither of them had ever run a day camp before, but they figured they could learn by doing. And they did.

And in their quiet, unassuming ways, these two wonderful mothers created a brief oasis of hope and promise for the young girls – white and Black – of Brownie Troop 32 in Winchester, Virginia.