#12 another defining moment...

in the chinese puzzle that is my life...

not only is chinese puzzle a weird “word of the day” but the this week’s theme for words is “toponyms” and i totally had NO idea what that word (toponyms) means. but i am not going to look up what they are (and we all know that i am quick on the google). i am going to wait and see if the 5 words of the week will give me a clue as to what they are. whew, what a fun week this is shaping up to be already. i can hardly wait to drag my body out of bed EARLY every morning to see what the word of the day is and to try to figure out what a toponym is... you have got to have goals, people or life isn’t worth the living.

on to yet one more defining moment in the life of lea. and this moment really was the main reason that i wanted to do this 40 days. this one woman really made such a HUGE impact on the rest of my life and helped me set a kinder and gentler course for my days. 

civinettes club photo circa 1985 i am on the bottom (or course) right hand side supporting fran’s knee

civinettes club photo circa 1985

i am on the bottom (or course) right hand side supporting fran’s knee

when i was in high school, there was one social club for girls. anchor club. it was the brightest of the bright, the best of the best, the cutest of the cute, the popularest of the popular, the cheerleaderest of the cheerleaders... well, you get the picture, you went to high school.

every year they would vote in some new members and since i went to a small public school, but the time your senior year rolled around UNLESS you had been convicted of a major crime (like picking your nose at the lockers), you would most likely be initiated into anchor club. but boy, those years of waiting while other girls came to school on anchor club “tap days” were brutal. the new anchor girls were wearing their big sisters shirts, they had been roused out of bed by the whole club that morning and had gone for some super secret breakfast thing. and the rest of us wandered through our day wondering if next year would be our year. only the cheerleaders got tapped their sophomore year and then more girls as junior and then on to those that matched their clothing almost every day. and since i had some cute outfits, i was a shoo in for my senior year.

but mrs. cunningham intervened. the beginning of my junior year she asked my friend, fran, and me if we would like to help  start another social club for girls. one that didn’t vote in girls, but every girl who wanted to be in could sign up. mrs. cunningham thought that there should be another option, that every girl who wanted to, should be able to join a social club. 

i thought long and hard about this. anchor club was the IT club for girls and i liked all the girls in anchor club. i knew that the new club (civinettes) would not be as “cool” as the other club. but i also knew that i would never be a leader in the anchor club. that was for the cheerleaders and homecoming queen and i was not going to be either of those. so we said yes to this teacher and yes to a different kind of club and a different kind of involvement. 

the first year of civinettes, i was the chaplain. and the next year (our senior year) fran became president and i was vice president. i learned so much from leading that group, from starting it from scratch.

and the biggest lesson that i learned was to not ever join a group that voted in members. i would go on to college and go through rush and would not pledge a sorority, even though my best friends did. i did not want to be a part of any group that voted on other girls. i had been on the losing side of that proposition and i knew what it felt like. 

to this very day, i know that mrs. cummingham starting that club and me deciding to join it (and the fact that my friend, fran, joined it made it a lot easier to make that decision) had a huge impact on me. it was if on that day, i looked popularity in the eye and i said, “i will strive for something other than you”. i also thought about the girls that would never make anchor club in their four years of high school and how they might like to have a club that they could join if they wanted to. i though about the years to come after i was gone from my school and how i could always say that i helped to start a new club. ok, it sounds a bit hokey, but really i knew that i was saying goodbye to being in the “in” group (or it felt like that). and i did it willingly. and i got something greater than fleeting approval of the crowd. i think i might have gotten a backbone. and those are sometimes in short supply in high school.

i know that i tend to be a little overdramatic about things (really, you don’t see that in me?) but i also think that a lot of our biggest decisions in life are made in moments that don’t feel big at the time. they aren’t made at the alter when we say “i do”, they are made years before when we say, “i don’t” to someone else even when that was hard. i think most big decision are made on say a thursday afternoon when a teenager decides that her shy, quiet, follow the crowd, don’t make waves life might need to be spiced up a bit. when someone like mrs. cunningham shows her that there is another way.

so thank you mrs. cunningham for having the foresight and compassion to know that sometimes one choice isn’t enough options. for taking a group of rejected girls and making them into a cohesive unit. for pushing me to take a leadership role when i had never done anything like that before. and for changing my focus from the typical “how popular can i be?” to “what can i do to serve others?” it is because of that one choice that i have Bible studies in my home, that i start Bible study groups for middle school girls, that i start clubs instead of joining them, that i am not afraid to be a teeny bit different.

my children know of this story and i tell them all the time that i hope they have many moments like this in their life when they choose what is right to do over what might be popular or easier. in fact when millie got an invitation to join the beta club in middle school, she almost declined because she didn’t want to be in a club. but i did explain that it was a scholarship club and is based on your grade point average and was different from the anchor/civinette clubs in my high school saga. so she joined that club. and i haven’t spoken to her since... ha ha.