“Do you think they knew they were changing the course of history?”
My friend Judy and I were walking out to the parking lot after attending a lecture about the Women of the Harlem Renaissance. Women like writer Zora Neal Hurston, actress Lt. Josephine Baker and artist Augusta Savage. African American women of the 1920’s and 30’s whose actions set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement that was to follow.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “They were just doing what they were called to do.”
Today marks the beginning of Women’s History month. It’s a celebration of women, strong women, courageous women, women who left a mark, women whose actions altered the course of history. As I left the lecture, I found myself thinking about the actions of these women. Despite the smothering cloak of racism and amidst threats of violence, these women followed their dreams, speaking their truth, standing up to injustice and hatred in order to become who they were meant to be.
I talk about this with my writers at the homeless shelter. They have stared “in the eyes of the devil”. Licked the pots in sorrow’s kitchen. Fallen so far that they thought they could never return. And somehow they did. Drugs, alcohol, crime, violence. Life in foster homes, on the streets and in the jungles of Vietnam. Victims of racism, loneliness, abuse and addiction.
These are their stories. Stories about staring in the face of darkness, a darkness most of us could never imagine. Lost souls without a map, wandering.
But somehow they have found their way. Someone gave them a flashlight, a small hopeful beam to follow out of the darkness and into the light. And somehow they manage to walk. One step at a time. One moment at a time. One day at a time. In the direction of the light. Their resilience amazes me.
“I worry that there’s not enough time,” they tell me.
Time for what? I wonder.
“Time to make things right. Time to leave a mark. Time to do something that will make a difference.” Time to change the course of history.
They are my heroes.
We each have a chance to leave a mark, our own unique mark. Like the Women of the Harlem Renaissance, we cannot know what is to come, what impact we will have. But the choices we make today have the opportunity to change the lives of the people who are to come.
What will be your mark?