“Editress” Sarah Hale, Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1850.
This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found at the bottom of this post.
If you’ve ever thought you don’t matter, or you don’t make a difference — you’re wrong. History is full of men, women and children who have seen something broken, or wrong, or unjust, and fixed it – for a loved one, or maybe for the whole world.
Take, for example, the story of David and Kathleen Bagby. I came across their story by watching the gut-wrenching documentary, “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father.” David and Kathleen raised their son, Andrew, near San Jose, California. Andrew went on to medical school in Canada where he dated Shirley Turner for a time before ending the turbulent relationship. While doing his residency in Pennsylvania, Andrew was allegedly murdered by Shirley. Shirley then fled to Canada and revealed she was pregnant with a baby fathered by Andrew. While her extradition hearings moved slowly through Canada’s legal system, Shirley was free on bail and gave birth to Andrew and Shirley’s son, Zachary. David and Kathleen Bagby, Andrew’s parents, flew to Canada to seek custody of the child. Before they were able to secure custody, Shirley jumped into the Atlantic Ocean with baby Zachary strapped to her chest in a murder-suicide.
In less than two years, David and Kathleen lost their son, Andrew, and their grandson, Zachary, to horrific deaths. David and Kathleen’s grief and outrage are certainly normal, understandable, and expected. But they didn’t let it paralyze or consume them. They worked for seven years to change Canada’s bail laws. David and Kathleen believed bad bail laws allowed Shirley to be released when she shouldn’t have been, which allowed her to murder her son and kill herself. David and Kathleen were ultimately successful in protecting children by getting Canada to change its bail laws to make bail proceedings more stringent. Two average folks, with no public policy experience, but overflowing with a desire to save children’s lives, made a difference.
Another example. Completely different, but still impactful. If you enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones, you have Sarah J. Hale to thank. Hale was “editress” (as she called herself) of the Lady’s Book and the reason we have a national day of thanksgiving today.
Hale worked for 15 years placing “papers before the Governors of all the States and Territories….”
Yet she felt a national statement from President Abraham Lincoln would greatly aid and accelerate “the great Union Festival of America.” So, in late September of 1863, Hale wrote to Lincoln to request he make what had become a regional celebration into a national day of thanksgiving, to be held, as she suggested, annually on the fourth Thursday of November.
A week later, Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. One woman, Sarah J. Hale, took action that led to one of the most revered holidays in America.
This should go without saying, but you don’t have to change a country’s laws or start a new holiday to make a difference. Be a good dad, or a good mom. As Lincoln himself famously said, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Be a good daughter or son, brother or sister. Be the positive influence in your loved ones’ lives. That will be the most impactful, and personally meaningful, difference you can and should make.
And lastly, during this Christmas season, we cannot talk about the power of one to make a difference and leave out Jesus Christ. For Christians, he is the Savior of the world. For all of humanity, he has had the most profound influence for good in the history of civilization. Though he certainly had his supporters, in his lifetime, Jesus also faced intense persecution and opposition, culminating, of course, in his brutal crucifixion. We too, in our own small ways, might face challenges as we stand up for our loved ones, for the good, for the right. But know that you can make a difference, and it’s worth it.
For Sutherland Institute, I’m Dave Buer. Thanks for listening.
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