Something To Think About


Over the weekend I had the opportunity to read books written by two women from not only vastly different eras, but such vastly different ideologies, I was astonished to find parallel themes within each volume.

One book was an ebook, randomly found while researching another subject, but the other book I garnered a couple weeks ago when I was lucky enough to score a book haul, as I am not one to indiscriminately carry library books around.

Now, ebooks are ever so cool, and ever so convenient, but sometimes a book lover just wants a physical book in their hands. Sorry, but ever so cool technology just can’t compete with the whisper of soft rustling of pages, the satisfying tactile feel of flipping through said pages, the ever so delicious faint scent of ink (if you’re a real book lover that is), and let’s not even get on the subject of bookmarks! Or okay, let’s get on the subject of bookmarks. Which is faster to locate your place, tech or tactile? Very subjective, how fast is your device, or your fingers? At a glance you can see – a physical bookmark. End of the argument, physical books have no battery to charge,…thank you very much!

One of the books I scored was Footsteps of a Pilgrim: The Life and Loves of Ruth Bell Graham. Very timely read, as the book highlights the poetry of Ruth Bell Graham, the late wife of the legendary Billy Graham, who passed away so recently (2/21/18).

Having previously read a biography of Ruth Graham, I was aware of her eloquently revealing poetry, which is by turn, tender, poignant, reverent, joyful, open, funny, ironic, yearning, observant, and bittersweet.

Turning the pages of Footsteps of a Pilgrim, I was especially struck by the sacrificial themes, which dwelled upon the lengthy separations of Billy and Ruth Graham during the course of his ministry, which was for a couple, so very much in love – trying. Nevertheless, Ruth Graham understood the ‘bigger picture’, and willingly supported her husband’s ministry by staying at home, raising their family, and whispering tender thoughts upon the patient pages of her journals.

Had Ruth Graham been a different woman, a different wife, made different choices for her life, would Billy Graham’s ministry been able to touch so many millions of lives?

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13

 What does it mean to lay down your life? The ultimate sacrifice, i.e. armed forces, and those who live and die to protect us is well understood and honored, as it should be, but what about the sacrifice of ‘self’ – of laying aside your comfort, your desires, for a greater cause? Thinking missionaries and aid workers, Mother Teresa comes readily to mind. But taking the thought further, what of parents, teachers, and caretakers? The gist is putting others before yourself. My what a novel idea in the 21st century, where selflessness is not a popular theme, but one must remember that when Ruth Bell Graham was a young wife in the 1940’s, she had no way of knowing the impact her sacrifices, setting aside self, would have world wide with millions of lives impacted.

Contrast Nellie Bly.
“Nellie, who?” you say, and until Saturday evening, I confess, I was among the ignorant of this woman’s life.
Nellie Bly was the pen name of Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman (1864-1922). Bly was an investigative journalist in a time in history when it was a novelty for a woman to work as a journalist, and the few that did were mostly relegated to the society columns.

Nellie Bly is most famous for undertaking in 1889 a Phileas Fogg inspired trip around the world in 72 days. Philias Fogg, of course is the main character of Jules Verne’s classic Around the World In 80 Days, and would that persnickety traveler ever be put out to know his record had been utterly crushed by a tenacious woman-journalist, who carried nothing more than what she could fit in a handbag!

Now if the round the world trip, which included a visit to Jules Verne, himself, while Bly passed through France wasn’t intriguing enough, it turned out the trip was transformed (unknowing to Bly) into a contest when another woman journalist, Elizabeth Bisland attempted to also circumvent the globe, and beat Nellie Bly back to New York.
No dice, Bly was one tough gal. She won the race by three days, and was lauded with much fanfare.

Think back to what it must have been like traveling in the late nineteen hundreds. Steamships, railroads and telegrams were abundant, but comfort and guaranteed safety were not. Nor was decent food, or amenities we in the 21st century take for granted. Clean restrooms for one, hot showers for another, while Nellie made do with the best she could get, when she could get it – if she could get it!

However the Round The World In 72 days isn’t the greatest impact Nellie Bly made, nor was lack of luggage her greatest discomfort sacrificed. Two years before she set sail to circumvent the globe, Nellie Bly set aside personal comfort and safety for a greater cause. As an investigative journalist, Nellie Bly managed to have herself committed to the Woman’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell Island where she experienced the brutal horrors, indignities and injustices administered to the weakest and most helpless members of society.

Ten Days in a Mad-House, may not seem like an engaging read, for Nellie Bly clearly began her mission – solely as an investigative reporter out for a scoop. But as Bly sinks lower into the helplessness of the condemned, she is so impacted by the hopelessness of their plight, her sacrifice of ten days: cold, hungry, exhausted, bewildered, infuriated, threatened, traumatized, striped of dignity – literally, was not in vain. The sensation caused by Nellie Bly’s expose prompted a grand jury investigation, led the asylum to implement human reforms, raised appropriation by a million dollars, which in 1887 was like a billion dollars, and impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of mental health patients.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13

 Clearly not everyone is called to be a Ruth Bell Graham or a Nellie Bly, but how we live our lives, the choices we make, or don’t make have an impact upon others, something to think about.

Until I post again,…may God bless and keep you!

2 thoughts on “Something To Think About

  1. I am one who loves the feel of the book in my hands…yes, scent of the ink, whether real or imagined, and the bookmarks, as well.


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