Friday, September 2, 2011

Accomplishing the Impossible

When I checked my emails this morning, I found a note from the AFS/USA president sent to all volunteers about placing the final 2011-12 students with host families. He began with this:

  • Recently, a volunteer passed along a quote to me from Eleanor Roosevelt, "You must do the things you think you cannot do.”

Do the things I think I cannot do.... Before my Pilot Mountain project, I would have thought "nice quote," in a bland sort of way. But two years into the project, I have upped my opinion of doing the impossible. Research into the home front war years did that for me. I read about the efforts to raise funds, to collect scrap metal and to do without essentials. I interviewed former students who lived through the ration book years, brought nickels to buy stamps for their war bond books and scrap metal from the farms to earn a sweat shirt.

The teachers were in charge of the war effort at Pilot Mountain School. They weighed the metal and kept meticulous records. They collected the nickels and kept the redemption books in their desks. When a child filled the book, the teachers were the ones who converted the book to a war bond. They worked extra hours to register citizens for rationing coupons. They were the ones who awarded the sweat shirts and taught about Victory Gardens. They did the impossible, the things they probably thought they could not do.

Eleanor Roosevelt, courtesy of the NY Times

In this newest century, we are called upon over and over to do the things we think we cannot do, whether it is to place foreign students in host families or to create jobs for the unemployed. We need to post Mrs. Roosevelt's quote on the doorframes of every household.

I have done what I didn't think I could do when I was in the midst, when doubts crept in. I finished a manuscript about a schoolhouse that existed during mid-twentieth century America. A major, major theme of its story is how the parents, teachers and students accomplished what the rest of the world didn't think they could do. Good for them.

We must do the things we never thought we could do. Thank you Eleanor Roosevelt for reminding us.

Catch of the day,


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