Nevertheless, this blog has been so much about my struggle with life. Not just life in South Dakota but my life as it is now. I've written some pretty painful stuff since I've blogging. I've sarcastically written about South Dakota and some of its odd ways. I've really never meant any harm. If you had listened closely, very closely, you would have seen the struggle to find meaning and hope in what was a very hard situation for me.
I am just so anxious to put to paper how I feel. Something inside me has shifted. Something has changed. It is hard to put into words or fully describe. There is so much I could say and so few words with which to describe it.
Today I had technology classes with a former graduate of this program, an elementary school principal who has a vision of technology in the hands of hungry learners. He's personable. I've connected with him because I like technology. I've connected because he's easy to connect with.
As I was sharing my thoughts about my impending dissertation, the one whose topic I have now changed a half a dozen times, we chatted about my life. I feel this need to be self-effacing about my age. He told me I was inspirational. I've heard that before and wasn't quite sure about it. This time though, it sounded more sincere and believable.
Then I mentioned about the 8 kids - incredulously he asked if I had birthed them all. I said yes. Then in the flow of this odd short conversation I mentioned that once upon a time I was a single mother with three children who had been abandoned by her husband and had just gotten a GED diploma. He looked at me and said,
"Joyce YOU can do anything you want!"
I knew what he meant. He meant that if I had accomplished those things, I COULD do anything I wanted. That is ringing in my ears tonight. I believe him. I can.
Tonight we had a very strange experience for a doctoral program. I knew this was a Christian campus. This is my second degree here. I'm home. I had no idea how spiritual this journey would be. I am finding it more profound, more life changing and faith building than the seminary, or the MA program on this same campus.
We built an altar - we raised our Ebenezer as a group led a group discussion on the meaning of life. It was like church, actually, it was better than most services I've attended. On Sunday, we were given a Bible from the founder of this program. We had communion together. Tonight we were led in worship by the group ahead of us. One of them shared he didn't know Jesus when he started the program. Both he and his wife are now baptized. Wow! Get your doctoral degree and find the Lord.
But something else happened tonight. Our professor asked us to share something about ourselves that was unique. One of the young men has made a movie - a real movie, not just some youtube video. Another young man runs marathons. A woman was in the Navy and was an iron woman. Wow! What a group! Another man shared a tender story about never finding his voice until he was in twelfth grade. I thought how many people never find their voice. He was blessed to have found it. He has a soft, gentle, southern sound that as you know is music to my ears.
Then this other man stood up and shared that he'd shook hands with a president. He said he's shook hands with Ronald Reagan. Everyone was really impressed. I should have been too. The professor mentioned seeing Roslyn Carter and Carol Channing. There was a short discussion about how our lives sometimes interface with the famous. I take nothing away from these experiences. Nor is my intention to brag. But what hit me was the enormity of the experiences I have had. I had never thought about it that way.
When I was a child, twice I saw Lyndon Johnson in person. I shook his hand. He was right there in my neighborhood. Another time, at the same location in front of OLPH Catholic church I saw Bobby Kennedy. I saw Hubert Humphrey in person.
Later I would sit in the audience of the old Mike Douglas show. I remember Arthur Treacher - yes, there really is an Arthur Treacher. I was on Romper Room with Miss Jane when I was little as well as Bozo the Clown - no I'm not old enough for Howdy Dowdy though.
As a child I went to the New York World's Fair and the Montreal World's Fair. I saw great works of art at the museum's in NYC. I would literally play at the Metropolitan. I saw the Mona Lisa there when it came on tour.
LBJ wasn't the only president I've shaken hands with, I shook hands with Carter. Later, as a leader in the field of aging, I saw Clinton many times. Shook his hand. I was a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging and sat in the room with Hillary and the Cabinet. Hugh Downs was there, as was the feminist Bella Abzug. I had a personal conversation with Bella. I've been to a reception for the King and Queen of Norway. I've had a personal conversation with the now deceased Benazir Bhutto. I even saw Pat Boone in the airport at Sioux Falls. He had a nice chat with my husband as they went through security. Pat got pulled aside, he evidently has a plate or something in one of his legs. For one of my children's birthday's, she got tickets to Regis and Kelly - we went. Harrison Ford was his guest that day.
I've testified before the Connecticut legislature and been there for the bill signing chatting with the Governor. I had a personal conversation with Chris Dodd outside the building where I was director during the Tiananmen Square crisis. He was called out by his aides for updates, I had the key to let him back in the building. We chatted about the crisis.
I am sure I am forgetting something that might amaze you. I thought tonight - what a life I have had! What opportunities that I have had - had I told them all of this they would have thought I was a braggart or liar - but they are all true. And I'm not bragging. I am thanking God for all the amazing experiences I've had.
I'm really looking forward to more.