Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nina's Message

My friend Sherman sent this story around as an email. He gave me permission to republish it here.

Hi Social Welfare undergrads -- especially the women.  I got a message to give to you.
When I got to my bus stop yesterday morning, Nina was already sitting there.   As I sat down, she introduced herself and let me know she wasn’t waiting for a bus, but just taking a rest on that hot morning before finishing her walk to the Dollar Store a few blocks to the west.  She heard that they had some good blueberries at a dollar a box, and she told me how her family used to raise blueberries and grapes on a farm back in New Jersey.  I countered with my own tale of picking blueberries in Maine as a child, and we both agreed that east coast blueberries are better than California ones.
 She asked what I do and I told her I was a college advisor.  “I hope you’re better than the one I had” she said, and told me her story of how she went to Bucknell (which is in Pennsylvania and not Ohio, as I guessed -- Nina sternly corrected me on that).  “I was a double outcast.  I wasn’t wealthy and I was a girl.   There weren’t too many of either at Bucknell, especially studying biology.  They called me a chicken farmer’s daughter, even though my father never raised a chicken in his life.  We raised grapes that were so good that we were the only farm in the county that the Welch’s people would buy from to make their juice and their jelly.”   She told when she was near to graduation; her advisor told her she should get married and stop her foolishness about trying to work.  “He told me no one would hire me as a biologist, and even though he was right, I think he should have supported me instead of trying to kill my dream.”   She said she ended up becoming an occupational therapist because they let woman work in that field -- “since they didn’t pay enough for men to take the work”.  I told her I had a lot of women in my major and that things were different these days.  “Oh yes, I know they are.  Girls don’t have to leave their homes now like I had to.”  She said that after graduation, she and a few girlfriends decided to leave New Jersey and they came to California.  “Back then, they didn’t have the same stupid rules in California that they did elsewhere.  I could work anywhere once I got here to California, and I got as much money as a man for my work.”
 Back then was in 1943.   Nina is 89 years old now. 
 “I better get going” she said, “before the sun gets too high in the sky and it’s too hot for me to walk.”  I asked her if she needed help getting up and she said “Oh no. I have my system.”  Then she rocked back and forth in a forward direction and each time she did, her butt lifted higher up off the bench until she finally got high enough to lay all her weight on the cane in her right hand and lifted herself up off the bench.  “You tell those girls of yours to keep studying and make sure they know how lucky they are.  No one is going to call them a chicken farmer’s daughter or tell them they can’t work in certain jobs. You know, I like that Obama fellow, but it’s time for us to have someone wearing a dress in the White House.  Tell your girls to work for that, and maybe it will even be one of them who become a lady President.”
 As Nina walked away to get her blueberries, I promised I would pass the message on.   
 And so now I have.
Thank you Sherm.

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