“The essence of America–that which really unites us–is not ethnicity, or nationality, or religion. It is an idea–and what an idea it is: that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That it doesn’t matter where you came from, but where you are going.” Condoleezza Rice
Marian Anderson was the first African American woman to sing at the White House, and the first black Metropolitan Opera Star. My mother, a soloist and voice teacher, learned that Anderson was going to perform in Winnipeg, Canada, where I grew up. Although I was just a child, probably 6 or 7, I remember the event clearly when our entire family went to hear Anderson’s marvelous contralto voice. Despite having been rejected for music school because of her color; despite the racial barriers that initially limited her opportunities, Anderson continued to follow her passion, and was later received at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera, in addition to the White House. And, at her death at age 96, over 2000 admirers attended a memorial service held at Carnegie Hall.
As we celebrated Independence Day this week, we were reminded once again that freedom is not free. Whether the battle is for freedom of thought and worship, for racial equality, or for justice, it has cost the lives of many good men and women; others have suffered loss of family, of limbs, sometimes of emotional or mental stability. And still more have prayed for those in battle. The question is, what will we do with this hard-won freedom? That question is relevant for us as a nation, and even more so as Christ-followers. The Apostle Paul said, “For you have been called to live in freedom. Use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
Nellie Cashman’s purpose, borne out of Ireland’s potato famine, was to make money in order to serve others. This was what her faith dictated. Leaving County Cork, Ireland, where her father had died and many were starving, Nellie’s mother took her and her sister Fannie to the United States in about 1850. After growing up in Boston, Nellie, Fannie and their mother migrated to San Francisco in 1865.
Cashman loved the outdoors and became involved in prospecting for gold in California. Petite, she set up shop and learned mining in camps where she was the only woman. Never was she treated with anything less than the respect she demanded, and gave, in her dealings. She moved with new prospecting fields, and was noted across the American and Canadian west as a gold prospector, restaurateur and boarding house owner, nurse, and philanthropist. She led a rescue of miners in the Cassiar Mountains–they were “my boys”.
In her fifties Nellie climbed the Chilkoot steps out of Skagway, Alaska with a dogsled and provisions. With 900 pounds of food and supplies, 1100 short of the 2000-pounds required by the Mounties to pass through to the prospecting fields. She talked her way past the officers by comparing her weight (90 pounds) with that of the Mountie (200 pounds), stating why she wouldn’t need as much food and supplies as he would.
Throughout her life, Cashman used the money she earned in her many roles to build hospitals, churches, and to help those who were less fortunate. She used her freedom for good and, in 2006, was inducted into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame.
For a fascinating novelized biography, read TOUGHNUT ANGEL, by my friend Jane Carlisle Baker (available @ https://www.amazon.com/Toughnut-Angel-Tale-Real-Life-Adventuress/dp/1522980571/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498955102&sr=8-1&keywords=toughnut+angel).
“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” Peter Marshall
Who has exemplified using their freedom for good in your life?