Freedom

Around Y2K, the not-so-cataclysmic millennial turn, both of my parents moved past their 80th birthdays. In January 2003 Susan and I visited them at the big concrete house in Jackson, Mississippi. Shortly afterward I wrote a letter to her parents in Texas describing that visit: Continue reading “Freedom”

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Connecting with the East

At age 11 Ruth Weigle wrote, “I pause now to look back over my childhood days before passing into the dim, shadowy regions of the future.” She composed those words in 1933, little aware that within a decade the entire world would descend into total war. She herself would face unimagined challenges as a young adult.

But there was still some time to make the transition from youthful freedom to responsibility. Growing up in New Haven in the 20s and 30s, she had many advantages: excellent schools, a safe neighborhood, the intellectual climate surrounding Yale University and particularly the Divinity School.

Ruth would later recall an impressive visitor to her childhood home on Cold Spring Street – the great poet-sage of Bengal and India, Rabindranath Tagore. At the funeral of a loved one she would reflect long upon these words which he wrote: Continue reading “Connecting with the East”

Change of Plans

Kate Smallwood accepted Billy Guyton’s proposal of marriage in 1908 and almost immediately left Mississippi for a 5-year term as a Methodist missionary to Suzhou, China. A few months before leaving Suzhou to return home she wrote to her sister, who was also engaged,

You wanted to know Billy’s and my plans. He writes me that he is going home this summer and when you see him, ask him to tell you, because his plans are my plans, and what he does or what he wants me to do, you will find me trying my best to do. I am glad you are in love. I hope you love Mr. Johnson as much as I love Billy, but I doubt it. Maybe you will someday.

I asked Aunt Ruth, Kate’s daughter, if her mother was a changed person when she returned to Mississippi from Suzhou. My intent was to know if she had changed philosophically or religiously. Continue reading “Change of Plans”