RBG and me

This afternoon Himself and I went to the movies. We like to attend the show that starts about 4:00 in the afternoon. Today we saw "On the Basis of Sex," based on the early life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was an excellent film and provided a lot of conversation on the drive home.

Mindful that I am in the deep-rose-color stage of life, according to Erikson, I'm aware that in the past two years I have done a lot of thinking about what my life has meant and how best to use the time that remains.

We'd seen the other RBG movie a couple of months ago, the documentary called, simply, "RBG," and I thought at that time about how much this woman has accomplished, and how many have benefitted from what she has done. 

I've always been a behind-the-scenes kind of person. Organizations elect me secretary, to take the notes and preserve the record. Most of my jobs have been support roles -- secretary, dissertation typist, assistant to head of school -- and I have always relished being part of the lead person's success. At times old childhood messages ("You HAVE the ability. Why don't you do better/more?") gave me pause, making me wonder if there was something wrong with me that I didn't crave limelight. As a seminarian, I learned to construct and deliver a sermon and became very good at both, but I never felt the call to preach and preside. I knew I belonged in a hospital setting, meeting folks at the bedside.

Most  of us are not granted the "big picture" accomplishments, such as those of Mrs. Ginsburg. Some of us supported the triumphs of others or made our own smaller differences. My husband, an architect, designed buildings -- most importantly (in my view) a wonderful addition to our church -- that will live on long after we are gone. Basically a quiet man, he doesn't talk about how he feels about that. To me, it is a "medium picture" accomplishment. My own are of the "very small picture" variety: As a hospital chaplain, I held and listened to individuals beset by grave illness or unexpected loss. I am convinced that the world needs all of our accomplishments for good, from the ones that impact thousands of people to those that help far fewer. Some of us serve on the Supreme Court; others throw starfish back into the ocean.


Robby said…
The world does need all sizes of "accomplishments" because the world was designed to need all our talents and gifts. I expect that in those small moments when you met people in hard and difficult situations in your work role your work was a big thing to them, just done more quietly. But it can be hard to see that value sometimes when we look for our mark in the world.
Janet O. said…
Oh, Nancy, this struck such a chord with me. So true, so true! We all have a contribution to make. Whether we are throwing one starfish at a time back into the ocean, or impacting a nation with Supreme Court rulings, the ripples of good radiate far beyond our comprehension. Anyone who has sat beside the hospital bed of a seriously ill or dying loved one knows the great peace and appreciation felt when there is a truly caring, sensitive nurse or hospital chaplain to help share the sorrow and make sense of it all. Some of the best influences in my life have been people who worked quietly behind the scenes. And everybody knows a president of an organization can only be as good as their secretary makes them appear!
Frog Quilter said…
Well said. It takes a village to make a mountain.
Millie said…
I also saw RBG and was impressed. Looking forward to the movie.

I made a calendar of happy students in my classes, because it's easy to forget how many happy students I have had the opportunity to teach. It's a small thing, but gives me great joy, and to see their happiness in the pictures reminds me that small things can have big impact. When I'm having a rough go at work or something, I look up at the calendar.
A very thought provoking post. For a few years now (though I just entered that bottom stage on the list) I have wondered what I have accomplished and how I will be remembered. I did a lot of good things, but I could have done more. I think of life choices as trade-offs. If I had taken a turn in my path, what would I have had to give up. My thinking is that there is always a trade-off. I also really truly believe in reincarnation and that I will continue on at a higher level in my next life.
xx, Carol
Quiltdivajulie said…
Another marvelously thought-provoking post, my dear. As a fellow member of the deep-rose phase of life, I am with you on the introspection and review. I've created a Shutterfly book for each of the 15 years I've been making quilts - partially for the kids so they have some concept of what I've done and where the various quilts in the house fit (should they choose to know) but mostly for me to validate my efforts. And I'm about to undertake a similar effort for our younger son's poetry/drawing efforts to help him validate his worth, which he many times seriously doubts. I may not have made far reaching changes like RBG, but I've tried to leave everything I've been involved with better than I found it and, for the most part, I've succeeded.
Barbara Anne said…

Like you, my contributions aren't from leading roles. My career as a registered nurse allowed me to help people medically and with care along with helping their families through what was happening. I held the hand of every one of my patients as they went to sleep for surgery because that was important to me.

Now, I'm trying (slowly) to cover the world with quilts! Labeled, so those in the future won't have to wonder who, when, where, and why. :)

I believe all God's children have a place in the choir but not all are soloists and that's okay.

Congratulations to your husband for designing buildings and additions to suit the needs and wishes of other, but also for his art as those drawings and painting are his gifts to the world, too.

LoieJ said…
I surely understand about being in the supporting roles. I've been in the leader role a few times, and that was OK, but when I've seen someone step up to be president in an organization who is both a do-er and a visionary, and who also knows how to go after grants, well, Wowza, that is so wonderful and it is so not me. Yup, I'll stick to being the one who puts things into place if given direction by another. I'm compulsive, so I'm pretty good at secretary and at PR. I'm in an arts organization in this little town, and I've always been on the board as an officer or as the one in charge of a creative committee, and we are still surviving and thriving, since 2011. We have the most amazing president who isn't even an artist. We have each been given different gifts, as we are told in scripture. I sometimes have thought that this arts group is like church is supposed to be: We have our gifts, and our assignments, and we carry out our part of the process toward our goals, and we don't assign projects to someone who isn't right, but we also trust each other to fulfill what we each have taken on.