by Phyllis Dolislager
We are the rich! We have a choice. What will I fix for supper? Which outfit should I wear today? Should I buy my son two or three pair of jeans for school? Which car should I take today? Where will our next vacation be?
Rich? Yes, I think so. Now I don’t readily admit it, but when I take time to ponder—to think back to my ancestors—I know they would declare all of us rich. And as we look back to them, we find the source of our wealth. We’re rich in history—rich in dedication—rich in inspiration—rich in hard work—rich in love—rich in freedom—and on and on the list goes. In fact, we are our ancestors’ contribution to our nation’s bicentennial.
Rich in freedom? Yes—right now, I must be careful to guard my freedoms, but not to abuse them. I must not lightly hand my freedoms over to another person or organization. I can’t let my freedom stifle that of another person. If I am to preserve my freedoms I must exercise them. I must vote. I must write. I must instruct my children. I must worship openly in my church. And thanks to my ancestor, Samuel B. Huntington, who signed the Declaration of Independence I have these freedoms.
Rich in love? Oh, yes. But receiving love makes us vulnerable. What do I do with this love? Do I bottle it up or spread it around? One of the most beautiful examples I can recall is that of my friend, Elsie Vis, teaching me to make bread-and-butter pickles. She invited me to her house for the day, and there we sliced and sliced and sliced pickles, onions, peppers, etc. That afternoon when I packed my canned pickles into the car, all I could do was accept her gift of time and her love. But what else could I do about it? It certainly wouldn’t benefit her to have me show her how to make pickles, but I could show someone else, and I did. Rich in love? Yes! But the more it gets spread around the richer we become.
Rich in hard work? Yes, but some days it doesn’t have the appeal it should. Here’s where our heritage becomes apparent. If my ancestors hadn’t been willing to work—to do hard, manual labor—I’d still be in the “old country.” My heritage includes farmers, factory workers, millers, a country doctor who made his calls on horse back along Indian trails in Courtland and Cannon Townships, and other hard-working men and women.
So I, in turn, teach and show my sons the value of work. At the ages of six and eight each boy has specific chores to take care of; each has family obligations, which keep our unit functioning smoothly. They don’t necessarily enjoy their hard work, but when they’re older, they too will be able to look back and reflect on their heritage that was rich in hard work.
Rich in inspiration? Yes, again. I’ve been inspired by a brother who lost a hand in a farm accident and didn’t give up. I’ve been inspired by my father who charged the price of his wedding suit but became a farmer who now operates a big business. Inspiration has come from grandparents who lived through the depression and aren’t bitter. And inspiration has come from a great grandfather and his father who twice rebuilt their mill in Porter Hollow after it had been destroyed by fire. What a legacy has been left for me. Yes, plenty of inspiration for me to pass on to my children and to my children’s children.
Rich in dedication? Dedication to God and the ideals purported by His son, Jesus Christ, has been a prime motivator in the lives of my ancestors. This dedication has led them into service for others. How well I remember a Christmas when Mother had stopped to visit a neighboring family and found them with no gifts or food. With tears in her eyes she emptied her cupboards and returned to their home. This same dedication of purpose has brought Mother to bedsides of the sick and shut-ins. She has even taken them to the hospital and prayed with them before surgery. Mother’s dedication even brought my grandmother—to our dining room—in a hospital bed—to recover after an auto accident. Dedication? Beyond a doubt. What a legacy I have to pass on.
Rich in history/ Rich in tomorrows? Our history has laid the groundwork: it’s presented a tested pattern for the future. Will we heed its advice? Will we seek its counsel? Can we learn from it without getting so caught up in the past that we neglect our future? I think so. The richness of our history has been the examples of the people who WERE that history. And they kept pressing on—determining their own future—and so will we.
The Rockford Register, 1976