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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Opening to the Divine

“The Divine is like the wind: It enters through whatever window we open for it and sometimes through cracks we didn’t know existed.” - Philip Goldberg

When I was serving as spiritual leader at Unity of Arlington, TX, J and I lived in a house built in 1954 which still had most of the original windows and doors that allowed for a great deal of draftiness. If you are familiar with casement, single-pane windows and louvered glass doors you know what I am talking about. When sitting inside on a windy day we could feel the breeze.

So, when Goldberg uses the analogy of the Divine as wind entering through any opening available, I have a sense of what he is talking about. However, it is important to point out that the Divine, as we know it, is never absent, so It does not need to enter. Rather it is the awareness of the Divine that is like the wind and will enter through the slightest crack.

Although, we often do not recognize it, each moment is fraught with opportunity to open to the conscious awareness of the Divine, and every aspect of our humanity is a portal to it. Every thought is a window; every sensory perception a gate; and every emotion a door. However, we often have the house of our consciousness so tightly closed off that we are unable to perceive the movement of the Divine in our daily lives.

Thoughts are not personal: they arise in the field of Infinite Mind and we have access to them all. All thoughts are recycled communal property. They are not ours unless we attach ourselves to them and begin to believe them. When we avail ourselves of the opportunity to observe a thought, rather than claim it as our own, we open the window through which the Divine enters. Allowing ourselves to become the “silent watcher” creates the opening. And, the great thing about thoughts is that they happen continuously giving us multitudes of openings each day.

Brain research has shown that our memory of past experiences greatly impacts how the brain interprets stimuli from the physical senses. When we see, taste, touch, hear or smell anything, our memory of it has a profound impact on what we perceive. For example, if one smells a rose, expecting to encounter a sweet bouquet of fragrance, the mind will conjure the memory of the scent even if there is none present.

The same is true of the ways in which we perceive the phenomenal world that we encounter every moment. Allowing ourselves to truly “stop and smell the roses” opens the gate through which the awareness of the Divine may enter. Rather than casually encountering the world around us and assuming that we know what we are seeing, touching, tasting, smelling and hearing, we can slow down enough to be present with whatever is before us in the moment and fully experience it, giving ourselves permission to touch, taste, smell, hear and see the Divine in all things, fully present, fully aware.

Just as thoughts and senses are openings, emotions also offer us doorways to the awareness of the Divine. Many of us in Unity have become accustomed to using denials to assist us in releasing the power of negative thoughts, thus affecting our emotional state in positive ways. For some, denial has taken on a psychological context not in keeping with the original intent, meaning that rather than using denials to deny the reality of negative thoughts or the permanence of so-called “negative” feelings, we use denial to deny our experience of feelings that we consider to be “negative.” 

For example, we may think that feeling angry is not “spiritual” so we deny that we feel angry. This is not the intent of the spiritual practice of denial. Attempting a “spiritual bypass” which is our effort to move quickly to peace, thereby avoiding any “negative” emotional state, only serves to keep us stuck. When we are truly willing to feel our emotions, whatever they may be, and go deeply into the experience of whatever we are feeling in the moment, we open the doorway to the experience of the Divine present in the moment. Being willing to delve into all emotions, including a “negative” emotion, is an act of Self-Love that opens the doorway to transcendence and realization.

Some philosophies teach that our humanity is just an illusion. Even if we believe that, each us of is living the experience of it for now. So, at least until we transcend our humanity, we might as well make the best use of it as possible. Let us choose to allow our humanity to be the opening through which the wind of the Divine, and our awareness of it flows freely.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A World Transformed

The past couple of weeks have been filled with activity, angst and apprehension for many of us. I can personally attest to that. It seems as though I have been forced out of my comfort zone into a whole new world. My prayer partner today said, “I don’t even have a comfort zone anymore.” I’m sure that most, if not all of us, can relate.

I have been running around, both literally and mentally, trying to learn how to do ministry in this new world. I am learning things about technology that I never knew I wanted to know. While I have done my best to remain peaceful and centered, I must admit that I have allowed myself to feel overwhelmed by it all at times.

In our commitment to continue to provide connection and spiritual support, we at Unity Spiritual Center Denver, along with most other ministries, have turned to the internet for our Sunday services, classes, and book studies, all of our regularly scheduled activities that can be online now are.

As I continue to learn how little I know about these things, I am eternally grateful for those who do, and I appreciate their willingness to offer support. I learn something new about livestreaming every day.

In addition, when I watch, read or listen to the news, I feel the tension take hold of my body and fearful thoughts arise in my mind. I am doing my best to heed the advice of the medical experts and am making the best choices possible to help protect myself and those around me. I know that we are all in the same boat.

Even though I am, at times, uncomfortable in this new world, I trust the I am, as I believe we all are being called to a greater expression of our true natures and to come together in unity.

While our experiences are unique, I suspect that in our shared humanity, most of us have similar feelings and thoughts. We are all wondering how to best respond to this new reality we are living. We may be questioning how to best support our families emotionally, spiritually and financially. We may be wondering where to go, what to do, and how to adjust to whatever is happening in our own lives. I know that it can be an unsettling time.

There is a part of me that would love nothing more than to “fix” it for you, to take away your stress, to relieve you of your angst, and to have us all awaken from this nightmare and go back to life as usual.

The deeper part of me knows that I can’t fix it. I don’t have all the answers. I can’t relieve you of your experience. In all honesty, I wouldn’t even if I could. It is not a time to go back to life as usual. This is a precious time in the evolution of human consciousness, and we all get to have our part in it and experience all of it together.

I am choosing to hold the vision that this is a time of transformation. Humanity has the opportunity now to allow the former things to pass away and to give birth to a new earth (Rev. 21). We can give birth to a new reality, one that reflects the unity we long for. 

This process is illustrated beautifully in nature as the caterpillar becomes a butterfly. The caterpillar spins a chrysalis in which it literally dissolves. I have heard this substance described as “goo.” The caterpillar is no longer recognizable; it dies to its former self. Then, the “imaginal cells” that will eventually coalesce and form the butterfly take over and begin their work. Through a process of metamorphosis, that which was once a furry worm crawling on the earth is transformed into a glorious butterfly flying above the Earth. “The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The caterpillar experiences the relinquishment of its former self inside the chrysalis, and once the transformation is complete, the butterfly emerges and shares its glorious beauty with the world.

It seems that we, individually and collectively, are currently in the stage of the chrysalis in which we are being encouraged to go within and experience the discomfort of the “goo” as we allow all that has kept us bound to the baser aspects of our nature to dissolve and be transformed. Take heart, I have also heard it said and fully trust that God is in the “goo.”

Amid it all, we can choose to remember who we truly are – God expressing as conscious human beings who have dominion over our thoughts, feelings, words and actions. You and I are the “imaginal cells” of the new Earth. We have the opportunity now to remain focused on the potential and possibility of a shared vision of “A spiritually awakened world living Oneness,” our Unity Spiritual Center Denver vision statement.

We can, together, envision a world where we share the world’s resources, rather than compete for them. A world in which the basic needs of all people are satisfied. Wars cease. All people are loved, honored and respected without regard to any label we may assign them.

This is our opportunity to co-create a world that works for everyone. Now is the time. We are the ones.

As we navigate these changes, we may experience angst, pain, anger and apprehension. That is expected. I encourage us to give ourselves permission to feel it all. Yet, through it all, I encourage us to hold to a vision of what is possible. Together, with FAITH – Focus, Attention, Intention, Trust and Hope – we WILL make it our new reality.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Activate Your Within

If you watch network television, you know that there are many advertisements for pharmaceuticals. It seems that at least every other commercial proclaims the benefits of some drug and encourages us to ask our doctors about how we might benefit from them. As if it weren’t enough that they attempt to convince us that we need the medication, they then frighten us with the list of potential side effects. While I do have my opinions about the gross profiteering of the pharmaceutical industry, I fully respect medical science. I know that many lives are enhanced and saved with medications. This post is not about that. It is about an inspiration I received from one such commercial a while back.

Although it has since changed, a medication which stimulates the body’s natural ability to produce insulin for the treatment of diabetes at one time used the slogan, “Activate Your Within.” Every time I saw that commercial, I smiled. I thought it was the perfect prescription, not only for this disease, but for all that ails us.

At this time, as we are all called to respond to the reality that is COVID-19, I encourage us to use “Activate Your Within” as the prescription that will, more than anything else, help us to navigate these uncertain times.

We are being asked to adjust our daily living. In some cases, we are being required to make changes. Most in-person meetings are no longer happening. Travel is being restricted. Restaurants and other places where people gather are closing. Some cities have instituted curfews, and some are requiring people to stay inside except for absolute necessities. It is an unprecedented time in our country, indeed in the world.

Rather than getting caught up in fear or in resistance, our best course of action is to “Active Our Within.” We can take advantage of this time of social distancing to go within to connect with the Life Energy that is moving in, through and as us. As Paul said, it is the Life in which we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). It is the Life that lives and moves and has its being as each of us.

We can view this time as a global call to remove our focus from the things of the world and focus our minds and hearts within. We have been storing up “treasures on the earth” for far too long. It is now time for us to remember the teaching of our way shower, Jesus, and “store up our treasures in heaven,” and begin to fill our hearts with the things that are eternal, such as love, compassion, and empathy. ¹

I encourage us to, rather than thinking of ourselves as isolated, consider social distancing as being cloistered. We can make this a sacred time of connecting with the God of our understanding and with our higher selves. We can make this a time to “Activate Our Within.”

Cloistering ourselves from the clamoring of the world around us and “activating our within” strengthens us in body, mind and spirit. It reduces the body’s stress response which weakens the immune system. It can help to restore the body to its natural state of homeostasis. It can support us in clearing our minds of the negative chatter that we are bombarded with from the media on an hourly basis. As we “Activate Our Within,” we restore our minds and open to divine inspiration. As Unity minister, author and teacher, Eric Butterworth, says in this book, The Universe is Calling,

“The key is to know your oneness, and ideas will come rushing, streaming, and pouring into you from all sides, while you sit quiet.”

We also fortify ourselves in spirit as we remember our Truth as expression of the One Life of God in human form. When we know our Truth, we are set free from the fears of the world. We recognize, claim and realize the eternality of our ‘I AM’ as we “Activate Our Within.” As Scripture tells us, “Greater is [that] which is in you than [that] which is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

We don’t require medication to “Activate Our Within.” We do that through prayer, meditation, and contemplation.
  • Start by turning off the television or radio.
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Allow the flow of breath to remind you that you are always in the flow of Divine Life.
  • Release attachment to the outer and bring all of your attention into the moment.
  • Center your awareness in the heart.
  • Feel your heart beat.
  • Imagine the Life that is beating your heart.
  • Consciously connect with that Life.
  • It is that impulse of Life that lives as all creation.
  • You are enfolded in It.
  • It is in you. It is you.
  • You have now “Activate Your Within.”
  • It has always been active: It is now active as your consciousness.
  • Focus on that which is within you, as you.
  • Invite divine ideas to fill your mind.
  • Open your heart to new inspiration.
  • This is the key to spiritual healing.
  • Take the inspired action.
  • Trust that you are guided by a Higher Mind.

“Activate Your Within” and know that this is the One Source of all that you need in every moment.

¹ Matthew 6:19-21

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Untamed Spirit

Earlier this week, I began reading author Glennon Doyle’s latest release, Untamed. In the prologue, she shares a story of taking her young children to the zoo where they, along with other zoo-goers, witnessed a demonstration involving a cheetah born into captivity. With the intention to tame her, the cheetah was raised alongside a Labrador retriever and learned to mimic the dog’s behaviors.

During the daily exhibition at the zoo, hosted by a zoo employee, the Labrador, within view of the cheetah, chased a stuffed rabbit which was tied to a Jeep bumper. At the end of the chase, the dog was rewarded with a treat. Having observed the dog, the cheetah was released from her pen and chased the same stuffed rabbit to the end of the track. She was then rewarded with a large raw steak which she hungrily devoured.

During a Q&A following this display, one of the children asked if the cheetah is sad not being in the wild. The zookeeper responded that having been born in captivity, the cheetah has a good life in the zoo where she is safe and cared for. She assured the child that the cheetah, having never known the wild, is much better off in the zoo.

Continuing to observe the cheetah who had been returned to her fenced area, Doyle and her daughter sensed that, even though she was born in captivity, the cheetah still possessed a wild spirit and would break free from her captives if given the opportunity.

The author goes on to share her own stories of being “tamed” by society and doing her best to fit in, to belong, and to be accepted. The book is an autobiographical account of her struggles to break free and be Untamed.

As I read her words, I was reminded of the universality of Doyle’s experience. Most, if not all of us, can relate to this in some way. I know I can. We are conditioned by the culture in which we live to conform to its accepted standards. This applies to our ways of self-expression, including creativity, gender roles, sexual orientation, social status based on skin color, ethnicity, education, and finances, as well as body shape and appearance.

Much like the wild cheetah, born into captivity and taught to conform to the behaviors of a domesticated animal, we are conditioned to look, think and act in ways that conform to the expectations of the people around us and to deny our untamed spirits.

As Henry David Thoreau once said,

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”

We all have within us an untamed spirit longing to be released and run free. For many of us, that wild spirit is hidden beneath the veil of years of conditioning by and conforming to the world. There is an aspect of us, our essential selves, just waiting for us to claim it and live it.

In Unity, we believe and teach that our way shower, Jesus, experienced the same sorts of conditioning that we do. He was a Jew living in Roman occupied Israel. He was conditioned by his religion, ethnicity, nationality and heritage. He learned to do what was necessary to belong and be safe in his surroundings. Since we do not have much information in our Christian Scriptures about his early life, we can only surmise, based on historical data, what his life was like. What we do know from our Scriptures is that his baptism was a turning point in his life, and one that we can allow to be a guide for us.

Jesus’s baptism symbolizes his willingness and readiness to release the conditioning of his past, accept his divine nature and be reborn into a new way of being in the world centered in his untamed spirit.

After his baptism, he dares to come face-to-face with his conditioned self, as represented by his 40 days and nights in the wilderness facing Satan’s temptations. Through all of that, he breaks free from the cage of his limited idea of himself and emerges ready to live his highest mission. He moves beyond the veil of conditioning and into the freedom of Spirit.

We, too, can free ourselves from the conditioning of the world by following Jesus’s example, not literally, but metaphorically. Every moment is an opportunity to release ourselves from the past and be reborn in the spirit. We can choose moment-by-moment to accept and realize our divine nature. We can hear the voice of Spirit saying to us, “This is my child in whom I am well pleased.” We can embrace our courage and faith and meet our conditioned minds head on. We can make a choice today to serve our true selves – the Christ within. We can move forward day after day making the conscious decisions to be true to our highest calling.

We, too, can reclaim our untamed spirit and answer the call of the wild within us. I encourage us to go within, remember who we truly are, and set a clear intention to live it.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Waking Up With Jesus

In my post last week, I shared about an experience I recently had that inspired me to use this Lenten season to explore the idea of Jesus as our way shower. This past Tuesday, I began facilitating a six-week online group who have chosen to join me on this journey. You are welcome to join, as well. Please email me at for information.

As I began this exploration, I was reminded of a series of lessons I presented during Lent in 2015, as well as a series of related blog posts. What follows is an edited version of one of those posts. It captures much of what I have come to understand about Jesus and forms the framework for our Tuesday evening exploration.

In the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, Charles Fillmore, the cofounder of Unity, said,

“Jesus Christ was the [prototype] man, which includes all the mental phases through which man passes in demonstrating life's problems. So we find Jesus Christ passing through all the trials, temptations, and mental variations of each of us…The experiences of each individual are in miniature the experiences of all.

We may "put on the new man," that is, bring forth Jesus Christ in ourselves. First we must put away the "old man" of error and limitation through denial of his reality. The second step is to accept the truth of our being, in faith; then through understanding to begin diligently to live Truth in thought, word, and deed. The Christ is the man that God created, the perfect-idea man, and is the real self of all men; Jesus Christ is this Christ-self brought forth into perfect expression and manifestation.

Jesus, the man of Nazareth, demonstrated that this attainment is possible to man... We are exhorted to "have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus," which implies that all may demonstrate as He did…”

Jesus of the Gospels is a metaphor for each of us. His journey to awakening and his teaching provide us with a road-map, a model for what is possible for each of us. When I speak of “awakening” I am referring to moving beyond our habitual state of consciousness, which is most often identification with the body or life situations, and embracing and living from a higher level of conscious connection with the transcendent nature of being, which in Unity we call ‘Christ.’

It is my intention to be clear that awakening is our path to freedom from the limited concept of self that we have imposed on ourselves or taken on from our families, peers, schools, and yes, our religion. We are taught from birth to believe things about ourselves that are not in alignment with our true nature. We are conditioned by the world around us, and we primarily live our lives from this conditioned state of consciousness. This is the “old man” that Mr. Fillmore referred to in the above quote.

Living from identification with the conditioned mind colors our experience of ourselves, others and, most importantly the God of our understanding. This identification keeps us asleep and in bondage to its limitations. As we awaken to the Christ of our being, or as Mr. Fillmore said, “put on the new man,” we free ourselves to live empowered and fulfilling lives. The master teacher Jesus taught, “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). I emphasize that he said we must know the Truth in order to be free. To know the Truth is to awaken to it.

While I unequivocally believe that it is possible for each of us to attain the level of awakening and embodiment that Jesus did, it is vitally important to me, as we move through this series, that we do not get lost in the weeds of self-judgment, comparing ourselves to the ideal that we believe Jesus exampled.

Yes, it is essential for us to hold the vision of our potential to know ourselves as the expression of Christ in the world and to free ourselves from identification with the conditioned mind. And, it is also crucial that we accept and love ourselves right where we are on the path so that we do not impede our progress. It is important for us not to have unrealistic expectations of ourselves. It is equally important for us not to denigrate ourselves when we find that we fall short of living our highest intention to embody and live from Christ consciousness. It is a journey of self-mastery that Jesus exampled for us. I offer the following as encouragement along the way.

For most of us, awakening from the conditioned mind is not a one-time experience that happens suddenly and is permanent. It is usually a process that happens in phases. Although there are some who have reportedly experienced instantaneous awakening and who appear to have been able to maintain it for extended periods of time, it is not the norm. Whether it is not the norm because collective consciousness maintains the belief that it has to be a process, I cannot emphatically state; however, the evidence is that, for most people, it progresses over time. The same is true for Jesus. As Mr. Fillmore stated, he passed through all the stages while on his earthly journey that we do on our respective paths.

Further, because it is tempting for us to fall into the trap of assessing where we are and thinking that we should be at a particular stage in our process at any given time, it is important to know that we are not engaged in a linear process. Instead, it is often a circuitous spiraling path.

When we are intentionally engaged in our journey, we are continually spiraling toward realization of our Christ nature, even though at times it may not seem so. It is vital to acknowledge and honor that for ourselves. It is essential that we give ourselves permission to be exactly where we are and give ourselves compassion for what we are experiencing in the moment.

Finally, it is not a process of abdication, but integration. We are not called to renounce our humanity or to abandon our lives, but to integrate our new-found awareness of Truth and live it. It is not about leaving the world behind, but about shining the light of Truth on our conditioned mind, realizing that we cannot be defined by our past conditioning, and choosing to bring that consciousness to bear in our daily lives. We are here to bring the Kingdom of Heaven into conscious manifestation. We do that by fully engaging in our humanity while knowing that our True Nature transcends time and space. We are to be fully in the world, while maintaining consciousness awareness that we are not of the world.

I invite you to join me on this journey of exploration. Join us on Tuesday evenings for sharing, guided meditation and other experiences that I hope will help us to more fully allow Jesus to be our way shower on this path to awakening.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Following Jesus

Last night, at the beginning of a parenting class that we are hosting at Unity Spiritual Center Denver, I was given a few minutes to speak to the class about Unity and what we offer at our center. With few exceptions, the vast majority of the thirty or so participants do not attend Unity services. It was a welcomed opportunity for me to introduce them, albeit briefly, to what we are about.

During my talk, one of the participants who does attend Unity, said “talk about the way shower.” I knew immediately that he wanted me to share about how Unity views Jesus as the example of what is possible for each of us, rather than as the one and only son of God sent to save us through his death on the cross. He and I have had a lengthy conversation about how Unity differs from traditional Christianity in our approach to understanding the life and legacy of Jesus. It was one of the things that first attracted him to Unity. 

My initial reaction to his request was resistance. Not knowing who was in the room, or where they might be coming from in their religious view, I hesitated. However, I moved through it quickly and shared a sentence or two about Jesus as our way shower.

This morning, during my quiet time, I reflected on my hesitancy. I realized that, more often than I care to admit, I resist speaking what I know as truth when I fear that someone will have a negative reaction to it. I have empathy and compassion for myself in this regard because I have experienced others being triggered by my views and arguing with me to convince me that I am wrong.

As I reflected further upon the topic I was hesitant to discuss, however, I realized that if I am to truly follow in Jesus’s footsteps as my way shower as I profess to do, it is imperative that I boldly and unabashedly speak what I know in my heart to be true. From what we know of the life of Jesus, he did not hesitate to speak truth to whomever was in his presence. 

Further, I reflected on other ways that Jesus was a great teacher and way shower. I also reviewed whether or not I am truly living his message.

I sat with this awareness as I entered into my meditation time during which I invoked the spirit of Jesus. I imagined him reaching out to me, grasping my hand as we began to walk together. Hymn lyrics began to sing in my head,

Where he leads me I will follow.
Where he leads me I will follow.
Where he leads me I will follow.
I’ll go with him, with him, all the way. 

In that moment, it occurred to me that today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar. Lent is traditionally a time of penitence, fasting, and repentance of sins in preparation for the celebration of Easter. The encounter with Jesus took on a deeper meaning within the association of Lent.

No, I am not returning to the religion of my childhood. However, I am making the conscious choice to use this Lenten season to more fully explore what it means for me to follow in the way of Jesus the Christ; to live into our Unity belief that Jesus is our way shower. I do not yet know what direction that will take, but I am open to the possibilities.

I invite you to join me in this exploration. Beginning Tuesday, March 3, at 6:00 MT, and continuing each Tuesday through April 7, I will host a video call on Zoom for anyone interested in joining me for this journey. If you would like to participate, please email me at, and I will send you the necessary information.

My hope is that I, that we, will more fully embrace, embody, and live the example of our way shower – Jesus.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Unsung Heroines

In observance of February as Black History Month, I have focused my Sunday lessons for the past two weeks around the profound contributions of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, respectively. In her own time and place, each of these women furthered the cause of freedom for African Americans in this country. You may listen to or watch recordings of these lessons.

There are many other well-known and lesser known heroes and heroines of the black community, those who spoke, stood, fought and died for freedom, equality and justice. I could choose any one of them to use as an example of Unity’s fifth basic principle which states that we are to live the Truth we know.

However, as I have considered my lesson for this coming Sunday, I have thought more about the many unsung heroes and heroines, the men and women who suffered indignities and hardships, and who day after day continued to get up and show up for life, no matter how unfair it may have been. I would like to share personal reflections of two such women.

I was born in Washington, Georgia; a town that has the distinction of being the place Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, held his last Cabinet meeting and voted to dissolve the Confederacy. While things have changed in the century and a half since 1865, in the 1960s and 1970s there was a distinct atmosphere of discrimination and prejudice, and while not to the same extent, sadly continues today. I did not live there growing up, but we spent a great deal of time there with both sides of my family.

As a child, I would often visit my maternal grandmother in Washington for weeks at a time during the summer. Every day, I walked from her house to the city pool where I would stay until closing time. I loved to swim and play in the water. It never occurred to me at that time that there was anything wrong with the fact that there were no black children playing in the pool. They had their own pool on the other side of town.

Sally was a black woman who worked for my grandmother when I was young. I loved Sally. She was kind and caring. She always had a smile and a warm hug for me. I didn’t understand why Sally couldn’t stay and eat with us. Instead someone had to drive her home to the other side of town where she lived in a small weathered frame “house” that most of us would consider a shack. Every morning, she would be waiting on her porch when we came to pick her up, ready for another day’s work. She never had the advantages of an education or a job that paid a decent wage simply because she was a black woman living in the legacy of slavery in the South. Still, she persevered.

My paternal grandmother lived outside of Washington in a little community called Ficklin on the land where my father was born and raised. My uncle, aunt and their two daughters lived with her in a two-story white house with colonial columns. It was not a fine house, but a large family farm house. I spent many summer days and nights there as a child, as well.

A young black woman that everyone called “Fuzz” lived with and worked for my grandmother. I now feel embarrassed to think where the name “Fuzz” came from, but that is what she was called. Her real name was Ida Ree. She came to live with my grandmother as a teenager and stayed with her until my grandmother’s death. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that she came to live there because her mother couldn’t afford to care for her, and knowing that she would have room and board at my grandmother’s, sent her to live with her.

As children, my cousins and I often played board games. When we were finished playing and ready to go do something else, we left the board and the playing pieces all over the floor. When we returned, we always found the game neatly put away. After a bath at night, I would leave my dirty clothes on the floor. The next morning, they would be washed and folded. It was as if “Fuzz” was a fairy who followed us around, cleaning up our messes.

I now recognize that even though she was ostensibly embraced as part of the family, that in many ways she was treated little better than an indentured servant. Her room was upstairs in the coldest, draftiest part of the house. It was furnished with a single iron frame bed and a mattress not much better than a cot. The walls and ceiling were clapboard and the floor bare wood.

She cleaned the house, worked in the garden, walked around the farm and picked wild blackberries in the summer heat for my grandmother’s famous blackberry jelly. She showed up. Day after day, she lived her life with grace and humility in the shadows of the white people who could not and would never understand the privilege they enjoyed.

Sally and Ida Ree are just two of the many unknown and unsung black heroines who day by day, year after year, endured the hardships and injustice of a society who judged and treated them as less than. I will never know what their lives were truly like. I will never know what pain they endured. I do know that through their adversity, they persisted. They survived. They triumphed.

I salute them. I honor them. I thank them. Their legacy lives on in the lives of all of us who were touched by their strength, kindness, love and fortitude.