I remember mixing the blueberry muffin batter. I was so careful not to spill the little tin of blueberries on the counter, because I knew it could stain. My brother was really in charge of the batter, but he would let me mix it too. He added the secret ingredient – the honey. It was my job to make the tea, which meant I put the mug of water in the microwave. We put the carefully crafted breakfast on our Dukes of Hazard TV tray, but we would cover up Bo, Luke and Daisy with something classy – like a paper towel. Just one more added touch to make it perfect – go out in the yard and find a flower. Pick the dandelion, put it in the glass and a perfect Mother’s Day breakfast in bed was ready.
I wonder how much the founders of Mother’s Day would recognize today’s ritual? What would they think of the handmade cards, the breakfast in bed, and the dandelion bouquets? There are three women generally recognized as the co-founders of Mother’s Day. All of them had similar ideas, and were inspired by similar motives. They were churchgoing women who wanted to recognize the role of mothers.
They were crusaders, rallying around the universal power of mothers to make the world a better place. Their passion, their overriding sense of call, was to the cause of peace. Julia Ward Howe, who wrote, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was appalled by the evils of war and wanted to create a day where women would come together to make change in the world. Juliet Calhoun Blakely came to the pulpit in her Methodist Church in Michigan when the pastor was too drunk to finish the job and preached about temperance. Anna Jarvis taught Sunday school at a Methodist Church in West Virginia. Jarvis advocated for children’s health and welfare and promoted peace in a community torn by political rivalries. It was in West Virginia that the first Mother’s Day was officially recognized in 1908. On Mother’s Day we stand in the shadow of these mighty women, and I wonder what they would think.
These were women that had a strong sense for the pain in the world. What would they think of the sentimentality of the day they helped create? They understood pain in the world as only a mother could. Their sons’ bodies were sacrificed on the altar of war. Their sons had missing limbs, broken bodies and shattered spirits. Their sons abused alcohol, wasted their income, their time, and their energy on the promise of an empty bottle. Their daughters lived with terror of domestic violence. Their sons and daughters died slowly of disease. They were mothers – not just of the offspring they raised – but of all children.
It was in the midst of this pain that they stood. Out of the ashes of war, out of the shadow of abuse and alcohol, out of the despair of disease, the mothers stood. They were angry with the state of the world, and wanted a day to recognize the power of mercy and love. They wanted a day to recognize the power of women – mothers – to make a change in the world.
What would they think now? What would they do when they saw women in Africa weeping over a child dying every 45 seconds of malaria? What would they say to those that claim that health care is a privelege, not a right? What would they think when they saw more sons and daughters going off to another war to kill the sons of other mothers? How would they respond to the meth labs in living rooms? What kind of pain would they feel?
I’m guessing that they would feel just as mothers do today when they see their children suffer. I’m guessing they would continue to stand with their fellow mothers and support a local shelter for victims of domestic violence. They would get involved with Imagine No Malaria, a project with a plan to eradicate malaria deaths. They would help at food pantries at their church, organize health clinics, contribute to literacy campaigns. What would they do when they saw that their children were in pain? They would do what mothers do today: they would work, volunteer, preach, donate, teach, mentor, guide, and pray.
What would they think of a dandelion bouquet? I think they would treasure it just as my mother did – like all mothers do. They would see the love out of which it was made. They would know that all the work they do in the world is for this: So that children every where can live in peace. Those women, and women before them, and women since them have wanted this: to live in a world where all of God’s children are free to pick a dandelion bouquet – free of disease, free of fear, free of war.
Its a dream we all share. It is a dream for which we all work. In the meantime, take the time to pick a dandelion bouquet, and say a prayer for mothers.