So many wonderful things happened this week; I easily had enough content to write a new blog each and every day of the week, but, of course, I didn’t have the time… I was too busy enjoying myself!
This week I had the pleasure of representing Disciples Peace Fellowship, Disciples Women, and Disciples Center for Public Witness at Quadrennial Assembly in Atlanta, Georgia. For those of you who don’t know, Quadrennial is a convention that occurs every four years (hence QUAD-rennial) for Disciples Women. Of course, there were a few men
and children, as well as ecumenical sisters from other denominations, but the majority of women came from across the country to represent their Disciples churches and families.
To begin with, I’d like to show a few pictures, because a picture is worth a thousand words, so three pictures means I don’t have to write a long blog, right?
The view from my 21st floor hotel room window.
A peace poem from the MLK Jr. National Historic Site.
Mary Frances Early, the first African American woman to graduate from University of Georgia, Atlanta and Joan Browning, a Freedom Rider, at the Celebration of the Civil Rights Movement.
After traipsing through Atlanta for an entire week, facilitating tours to the MLK Jr. National Historic Sites, and participating in a Civil Rights Movement Celebration service I want to share only one story; a story of a woman I met at my last supper at Quadrennial.
Women who had purchased the Quadrennial meal plan would meet at meal time on a separate floor of the hotel to eat together. Each meal I sat with a different group of women from many different states and of many different ages. The diversity of strong women around me was inspiring.
At the last supper of the event, I was seated next to a woman named Sharon. About halfway through the meal Sharon and I got to talking about where she was from and what her life had been like. She explained that this was her 10th Quadrennial. 10th! With some quick math my thought process continued: “Quadrennial only occurs every 4 years… 10×4 is 40, she’s been attending for 40 years!” Imagine the women she’s met and the stories she’s heard and the changes she’s seen, like the fact that all of the Quadrennial registrations occurred online and most updates were sent out via e-mail. I wondered internally if the planners had to be more organized back when Quadrennial started because they didn’t have cell phones to call people when they weren’t on time to a worship rehearsal or whether they just ran all over town looking for people? and what kind of topics did they discuss? How did they travel? My mind reeled thinking about the differences between then and now.
Over the years Sharon had traveled from seven different states to Quadrennial and this time had flown all the way from Oregon to Atlanta on what was probably one of the farthest commutes of any woman within the U.S. She nonchalantly told me her story of growing up in rural Iowa and not having a bathroom in her house until she was in 12th grade, which showed me, yet again, a resounding change she had seen happen in her lifetime. She explained the love she felt from and for her siblings and how her and her husband had moved often throughout the west with their children.
She attended her first Quadrennial in Indiana as a physically younger woman. At this point in our conversation the song lyrics “I was older then, I’m so much younger now” from one of Bob Dylan’s songs popped into my head as her young spirit shimmered and gleamed. At that assembly she was randomly assigned to room with other young women from Puerto Rico who asked her questions she had never considered, like “how far do you have to walk to get your water” and “how far do you have to walk to get to church and to work?” Reminiscently she said “those women changed my life.” Even today, every time Sharon turns on a water faucet she is reminded of the things she takes for granted and how much those young Puerto Rican women challenged her ideas of the world.
After discussing her loving family and all the places she’d been, Sharon drew our conversation to a close saying with genuine honesty and heartfelt conviction “I must be the most blessed woman in the world.”
Just think about that statement for a moment–how powerful it is. “I must be the most blessed woman in the world.” The way she said those words and the way I could tell that she meant them with her whole heart bring forward waves of emotions in me, emotions I can’t describe with just a few measly words in this hastily thrown together blog that I write between activities at yet another camp.
Every day when I think about my life I don’t think about how blessed I am, I don’t think about the opportunities I’ve been given, like traveling around the country, seeing places I’ve never been before and being treated with such courageous compassion at every stop. And yes, everyday we’re told to “remember our blessings” and be thankful for what we have, but how can I ever truly think about it with a large enough scope? Will it take nine more Quadrennial Assemblies for me to internalize what Sharon discovered at her very first Quadrennial? I sure hope not.
As Sharon still remembers the women who opened her eyes and made an impact on her life at her very first Quadrennial I will always remember my very first Quadrennial when Sharon from Oregon left a mark on my soul in a mere 20 minutes over lasagna and iced tea, and will continue to remind me what it means to be the most blessed woman in the world.
The Most Blessed Woman in the World
Cara McKinney is a 2014 Disciples Peace Fellowship Intern, sponsored by Disciples Center for Public Witness and Disciples Women.