This week, our author Debra Darvick emailed the publishing house to say: “We were way ahead of the curve!”
Then, she included a link to a feature story from the Illinois University’s News Service by Jodi Heckel, headlined: Illinois artist’s virtual ‘Museum of Us’ lets everyone tell their stories. That news story describes how Jorge Lucero, a professor and the chair of art education for the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, created a program via Zoom that he calls a “souped-up version of show-and-tell.”
In fact, Debra was part of a team of our authors who hosted such gatherings back in 2013 to preview the 2014 launch of a new book by the University of Michigan sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker: United America, based on his years of research about values that are shared by nearly all Americans. To demonstrate that, Wayne and others from our publishing house hit the road, hosting “United America” programs, including adult evenings of Show and Tell.
Debra took part one evening and published this story, in 2013, about the experience:
Show and Tell is for Grownups, Too!
A week or so ago I had the pleasure of participating in a program at the Northville First United Methodist Church sponsored by our publishing house. The evening was the last in a four-part series of programs about American values. The book anchoring the group’s study is Dr. Wayne Baker’s United America. The somewhat cumbersome but totally descriptive subtitle—The Surprising Truth About American Values, American Identity, and the 10 Beliefs That a Large Majority of Americans Hold Dear—gives you a context for the weekly discussions. The overall goal, through Wayne Baker’s ongoing work and his new book, is to engage in civil dialogue and exploration of the many shared values and perspectives that remain between and among us.
Despite the media’s color-war distillation of our citizens into red or blue camps. Despite Congress’ appalling lack of cohesive efforts for the greater good. Despite the myriad of issues that we allow to set us apart instead of acknowledging what unites us. As Wayne’s research at the University of Michigan has shown, we still have core values that vast majorities of us hold. As part of the United America pre-publication roll out, the Northville group was involved in four evenings of workshop experiences that might accompany a “group read” of the new book.
The evening that I visited the Northville series was given over to the kind of heartfelt sharing I haven’t experienced since I was in kindergarten.
Participants had been asked to bring a memento from home that reflected a value they held dear. One man brought in the patch that had been sewed to his father’s work uniform. His father was a postal worker, “at a time when being a postal worker was a true profession.” Holding the patch aloft, he recalled a man who never missed a day of work, who never complained, who embarked upon his 92-mile route in rural Minnesota through snow, blizzards and all the rest.
He was a bit shy in his sharing this palm-sized embroidered badge, but I know I wasn’t alone in my admiration for this man, long-gone, but whose example to his son remains as shiny as the brass buttons on his gray wool uniform.
Someone else brought in coins from the 1850’s, and through them gave us a history lesson. There were no presidents on coins at the time, but instead images of Lady Liberty, the American bald eagle, a shield, laurel branches. There were no mottoes on coins until 1865, when the Civil War was winding down. The country was reeling from the self-inflicted devastation, and this is when the phrase In God We Trust made its first appearance—on a two-cent coin.
“There is a shield on the coin’s flip side,” Mark said. “The North wanted to make a statement—that we trust in Providence. Not Presidents. Not other humans. It was a statement that Americans were united by a force outside of human representation.”
Others who stood before the group shared beloved items, including wartime love letters—and a beautiful prayer rug from Persia (today’s Iran). That rug, and others, had been been brought to America by the family patriarch, a Methodist missionary who got his young family out of harm’s way at a time when local Muslims were bent on cleaning house of all the country’s Christians.
“This rug reminds me of love and respect,” said his great granddaughter. “And the courage to take action in the face of danger.”
One woman brought a 5-inch-thick binder containing the genealogical record of her Norwegian forebears dating all the way back to—are you ready? 1250. Her pride was tempered with a bit of anxiety over whom would one day receive this precious legacy.
Because that’s the whole point of it all—the sharing and the passing down of what we value. We may pass along the heirlooms and mementos that are dear but more importantly, we pass down what we hold dear: honor, perseverance, duty, love, kindness, concern for those less fortunate. The passing along of our values may be the most important show and tell of all—showing our loved ones, through our actions, precisely what we value. And telling them—with patches, rugs, letters and coins—where they came from and what we pray they take with them as they go forward.
Care to Read More?
Debra Darvick’s book from our publishing house is, This Jewish Life: Stories of Discovery, Connection and Joy.
She regularly shares creative ideas, personal reflections, family stories and great recommendations at her home website: DebraDarvick.com
Or, you can simply click on this colorful banner that will carry you over to Debra’s realm: