When I was six-years-old, I wanted to marry a rich man and “do good” by giving all his money away. The other option was to marry a minister. In my six-year-old mind, ministers are poor but do lots of good. Either way, poverty, doing good, and living my life through my husband were the common threads as I sat on the grass in the summer shade and thought about the future. “Doing good” is still a primary goal in my life, but the methods changed.
When my fourth grade class studied Ohio history (I was reared in Ohio), I wanted to be “the first woman governor of the Ohio.” I can still hear my voice saying exactly those words. Obviously my notion of what women could do had changed in five years!
I didn’t marry a rich man; I married a minister and became one myself. I never ran for public office, but I helped a friend become mayor, and I’ve always been interested in politics.
Now I’m asking the question again, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” I don’t know the details, but last week, in an unexpected place, I found a good answer that isn’t job specific. It’s character specific.
“I believe in aristocracy …. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as for
themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke” (E. F. Forster in What I Believe, 1939).*
I want to be wise, kind, considerate, gutsy, fun, and able to take a joke. I want people to know God’s love through me.
Question: What do you want to be?
*Excerpt from “What I Believe” in Two Cheers for Democracy, by E. F. Forster, copyright 1939; quoted in The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, illustrated by Maira Kalman, pg. 42, Penguin Books, 2007.