Twirling, whirling from one end of the room to the other I kept my young focus securely on the picture in the corner of the room. These balletic turns were to help us strengthen our core, and create focus and balance.
Today is July 24th. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints, this is a very special day...a day of celebration and remembrance. It doesn't matter if you are a member in Utah, or a member in Ghana...today all members stop and think about the brave men and women who marched across a wilderness to create a safe haven for themselves and their families. A place where they could worship God the way that chose to worship Him.
Like me, focusing on something as I twirled and whirled these people focused on something as well. They focused on their faith in Jesus Christ and in their belief that their Heavenly Father loved them and was watching over them. They focused on the importance of family, and friends.
I had many beloved ancestors who marched in this mass exodus. One story that touches my heart deeply is about Ann Shelton Howard, my 2nd great grandma. She was 5 foot 8 inches. That was very tall for the time. She had beautiful blue eyes, and auburn hair. She liked to keep her beautiful long, auburn hair shiny, clean, and well fashioned.
She and her husband had eleven children in quick succession. They lived in England, and struggled constantly financially. They joined the church and when they were able they sent two adult sons to America to join the Saints in Utah.
When they came west they rode first by ship for a month and several days. Then they traveled in a train boxcar that had most recently housed cattle...and had NOT been cleaned afterwards. The car was so packed that nobody could sit or lie down. They endured the stench and press of this situation for over a week.
When they began their overland trip their wagon was packed to capacity. (Did I mention that they still had nine children with them?) Then the two oldest sons accepted a job working for a trailmaster going to the same destination that they were. He paid them and the entire family needed the money.
Two of the young daughters, one 3 and one 6 became very ill and died. Then Ann, Ann of the beautiful eyes and hair fell sick. She still walked along, until finally she fainted. They made room in the wagon for her, and her little daughter held her sick Mama in her arms (there wasn't room to lie down). Ann passed away the next day.
Can you put yourself in the travel worn shoes of these people and imagine just how difficult it would be to continue? How would you bury your beloved children, and then wife, and walk away....and keep walking...and walking....and walking?
I imagine that Joseph HAD to keep moving, he still had five children counting on him for care. Yet can you imagine how leaden and heavy his heart must have been as he continued?
Talitha Cumi Garlick Avery Cheney, my 2nd great grandma on my Papa's side of the family, lost her husband, and one baby, and was left with one young son, and her brother to make the journey to Utah.
She married again and had several more children. She taught school, and taught her children to read and write.
In her late 60's her family crossed the high mountains from Utah to Idaho. Talitha recorded in her journal how difficult it was for her to walk over these immense mountains. She recorded the difficulty but didn't complain, only reported. They settled a town known as Victor, Idaho. The winters there were extreme, long, with very cold conditions, biting winds, and deep, deep snow.
What possible concern is it to us in the 21st century what happened to people so many years ago? How does history impact us in our present, and lead us to a better future?
Being a pioneer does NOT mean that JUST those who came to America, to make a better home, to free themselves from religious persecution, or to forge new possibilities in life for their families were the only pioneers. You can still be a pioneer. Right now, in your own home, you can be a pioneer.
What does that mean? Are you doing your best to forge a life for your family? Are you doing your best to teach them by example? That is pioneering....to be on a road ahead of someone, and stop to build a bridge, or some means for them to travel that is easier than the weary road you have followed.
So...today July 24, 2013...stop and think, who have been pioneers in your life? Have your parents forged a road for you to follow? Have teachers, grandparents, or even further back, great, or great great grandparents been an example, and given you courage to face life's challenges?
Happy glorious 24th of July everyone. Be a pioneer and remember to find that focus for your life...just like that picture in the corner that I focused on kept me from wobbling and going the wrong direction, the focus that you have in your life will also help you to keep from wobbling and leaving the path you have chosen.