September 27, 2021
A Michaelmas message from Mary O’Connell, outgoing president of LifeWays North America:
As Michaelmas approaches, I have been thinking a lot about the theme of courage. The qualities of courage are timeless, yet the way courage is manifested is as unique as each individual and the challenges they face. Harriet Tubman returned to the South 20 times as an escaped slave to help approximately 300 slaves, including her own parents, escape. Buffalo Calf Road Woman, a young Cheyenne mother, fought beside her husband and brother in the battles of Rosebud and Little Bighorn in 1876 when U.S. troops attacked Native Americans who wouldn’t cede their territory. Millions of young men, many who were not even 18 years old, stepped forward to leave their families to serve in World War II in 1941 after Pearl Harbor was attacked. In 2001, the people aboard Flight 93 prevented terrorists from attacking the U.S. Capitol, while police, firefighters and citizens rushed into buildings to save their fellow human beings on September 11th.
We have many examples of courage in our written and spoken history. Today, we see examples of courage all around us. Healthcare workers have stepped up in heroic ways to care for people while the risks and requirements of their profession grow more strangling over time. Parents, bone weary from over a year and a half of parenting and working during a pandemic with ever-shifting restrictions and expectations, still find creative ways to help their children experience a world that is good and safe, despite their own fears and doubts. Teachers and caregivers show up every day with lessons to spark hope, curiosity and optimism despite having to pivot constantly as rules change while many of the experienced mentors and teachers they depended on for guidance have retired or simply moved on.
As I reflect on the meaning of Michaelmas this year, I see an ever-pressing need to face today’s challenges with strong hearts and minds. Michaelmas reminds us that in the face of darkness and uncertainty, we can shine our inner light and courageously do what is right, even when it is hard. Our work at LifeWays North America is to support you in this task, and to help you and the children in your lives shine your lights.
Since I became board president of LifeWays North America in 2015, our work (like yours) has shifted and changed over time to meet the needs expressed by our community. We began to offer online instruction as we heard from more of you that traveling to an in-person training was simply not possible. We continued to offer the LifeWays Early Childhood Certification training as our online offerings expanded, and a few years ago, at the suggestion of Chinyelu Kunz at Kimberton Waldorf School, we created a unique hybrid online/in-person course, LifeWays Fundamentals, which continues today. Last year, as in-person trainings abruptly came to a halt, our online offerings expanded. Experienced teachers from all over North America, like Anna Rainville, Lynn St. Pierre, and Sharifa Oppenheimer have partnered with us to bring you inspired and engaging content no matter where you live. Our amazing founder and Executive Director, Cynthia Aldinger, 71 years young, still works full time to creatively and compassionately meet the needs of our grateful LifeWays community. Our intrepid colleagues in the San Francisco area have continued offering safe in-person training throughout the pandemic, despite rapidly changing rules and restrictions, and we are looking forward to starting our next in-person LifeWays Early Childhood Certification training in Boulder, CO next spring. Like you, we “keep on keeping on”, and that requires courage. Thank you for fortifying us with the joy and support we need to boldly and lovingly take up our work each day.
My time as board president of LifeWays North America is coming to an end. At our board meeting in a couple of weeks we will welcome our new board president, Shanah Ahmadi. I am so very excited for our organization and for all of you whom it serves! Shanah completed her LifeWays training in 2007, the same year she began a home-based program in Norman, OK. In 2010, she began a non-profit organization, Rose Rock School, which became a LifeWays childcare center in 2015 when it relocated to a much larger property. Currently, Shanah is a lead caregiver and the administrator at Rose Rock, which serves children in early childhood and grades one through three, and she has served on the LifeWays North America board for the past year. Shanah is a courageous, authentic, loving and dedicated human being, and she is just the right person to be at the helm of LifeWays North America for this next stretch of time.
As for me, I’ll still be working as Training Coordinator for LifeWays while also co-teaching with my wonderful colleagues here in Wisconsin to offer farm-based education at Paradise Farm.
Please hold our LifeWays board members in light and prayer during our board meeting on October 9th and 10th, as we welcome our new board president and explore the ways in which we will serve our community in the coming year with courage and love.