For Those Who Have Eyes to See
When my daughter was 10 she attended a summer camp in Ohio. The couple who ran the program – I’ll call them Mr. & Mrs. Greenjeans – weren’t Amish, but they kept a small farm and had business dealings with their Amish neighbors. In what seems to me a stroke of genius, they began a camp for kids and had them pay for the privilege of living on a working farm for a week or two, doing the chores and participating in all the realities of farm life.
It was a perfect situation for my daughter, earthy-crunchy as she was even then. (For one childhood birthday she asked for a bag of flax seed to plant and the book “Raising Dairy Goats the Modern Way.”) At the camp she kept farmers hours, tended the rabbits, milked the goats, collected eggs, attended Amish auctions, and affirmed her love for life and the planet.
Her experience that summer made such an impression on her that when she applied to colleges, she wrote her essay on the man who ran the camp as a “person who greatly influenced [her] life.”
Thinking that the camp owners might appreciate knowing what an impact they’d made, I forwarded them a copy of my daughter’s essay.
Shortly thereafter I got a letter from the wife of the man whose praises my daughter sang in her essay. The woman was mad. Here is the gist of her comments:
The kids come here year after year and Joe (not his real name) is the one who gets the credit for everything! He’s the one out there doing the fun stuff with them, teaching them things and playing with the animals. But who keeps the camp organized and running smoothly? I do. Who makes all the meals, packs the picnic lunches, does the laundry? I do. He gets all the praise, and I’m invisible!
I wrote her back immediately. I didn’t want to take away from the impact Mr. Greenjeans obviously had on my daughter, but oh, did I understand her lament! I told her that I shared her feelings in my own life and understood about the invisibility of women in general. The image that came to my mind was of a world glistening with hologram women. Too often women are noticed when seen at just the right angle – like the flying dove on my Visa card. I told her that I, too, was a hologram woman and sometimes we’re the only ones to notice eachother radiant and shimmering.
She replied, and that time I could tell we had connected in a solid, satisfying way.
In the scriptures there are occasions when the women emerge when we have eyes to see. In Acts 1:13-14, the followers of Christ gather in an upper room after Jesus’ crucifixion:
And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas [the brother] of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
How quickly we slip over the phrase “with the women.” The hologram female believers of their day glistened their way into the narrative of this significant post-resurrection event. Did we notice them? Might they, except for how “presumed” they were, have appeared in many scriptural accounts if the compilers had had “eyes to see?”
Still, what would an ideal world be? When women are recognized for their accomplishments and showcased for their talents is this a good thing? When men are recognized and showcased for theirs, is this a good thing? When do we – or do we at all – need to break things down along gender lines? Since the time before time, Christ’s mode was always giving glory to His Father, not claiming it as His own. Should we – men or women – similarly shun the spotlight? There are clearly individuals who thrive on and in recognition and others who plead to stay in the kitchen or the ditch and not take a bow.
What is the impact of recognition on individuals, on cultures, and on both over prolonged time?
In Amish tradition, standing out is not something to be sought after; being part of a larger community is. As idealogically appealing as that may sound, I can’t discount the satisfaction, the validation I feel when something I have done well is acknowledged. Am I a product of my culture (my transitioning culture at that) or am I tapping into an ancient God-given attribute?
While I ponder all these questions I want to keep my eyes open to the majesty of all the hologram humans around me.