Again…I should be writing about graduation and I promise Josie DID graduate and there will be a full description…soon. Fair warning…this post will be a bit different. Whew! I had a week! But hopefully after this post you will understand why Josie inspires me. The reactions she had to events humble me and demand more of me on a personal level and on a social level. I want to do more and do better to educate people. To inspire people.
I drove my niece to school a couple days ago and she was chattering away in the back of the car and she said “She’s such a Karen.” And so I asked “What’s a Karen?” I was especially interested in what she would say since she is only eight. She said “I don’t know the exact meaning, but it basically means spawn from Satan.” She didn’t say it with malice, just matter of fact. She did add she had met someone really named Karen before and she was very nice and she didn’t know why people used “Karen” for bad people.
Maybe it’s a Pollyanna complex, but I’d like to believe most people are good. I know bad people exist and this week made me look a little closer at humanity and our relationship with it. A friend made me realize not everyone sees the humanity of others. Ignorance and hatred combine to poison our good sense and we tend to lose sight of other peoples humanity. This can happen in the most simple ways and it builds. It is important to actively acknowledge the humanity of every individual, friend and foe. But perhaps it is more important to look for the good that surrounds us, so we aren’t swallowed up by the bad. Thumbing through my research folder I was drawn to an article I had read a dozen times already. An example of goodness overpowering bad.
In 1908, Dr. J.E. Wells lost her second horse in eight months to what appeared to be suspicious and unusual circumstances. She had been “very bitter” over the loss. “Bitter” tells me this was not an innocent action. Josie was beyond successful. She was a Black woman, educated and making not just a difference, she was making a name for herself in her community. Her success was not selfish. It was not from personal want of fame and fortune. Her success came from her genuine desire to help people. She did not discriminate on complexion. She treated Black and White patients. It does not take an ace detective to determine that there were people who did not want her to succeed. People who did not want a Black doctor (A WOMAN) treating White patients. People who had let their ignorance cultivate a culture of fear and hatred against an entire race of people.
Josie was angry about the death of her horses and she had every right to be. I’m sure there was crying and venting and frustration. Josie needed her horse. Her medical office was in downtown Nashville, a few miles from her home. She was staff physician for Fisk University, which was on the other side of town. And as a doctor she would also have had to travel to see patients. Her friends knew of her loss ,and without any knowledge on her part, they gathered enough money to present to her for a new horse, $100.00, which would today be almost $3,000. Preston and Georgia Gordon Taylor (Georgia was an original Fisk Jubilee Singer,) J.C. and Nettie Langston Napier (Nettie was the daughter of John Mercer Langston,) Bishop I. B. and Mrs. Mattie Scott, Dr. George and Mrs. Annie Hubbard and many others showed up on her doorstep at 77 Maple St. and presented her with the check and .50 cents for a new harness. Josie was NOT speechless. She was encouraged. She had briefly lost her faith in humanity, and her friends inspired her to look deeper.
‘My dear friends–words fail me in attempting to frame my sincere appreciation to this act of true friendship. I knew my friends sympathized with me in this loss. But believe me, I never expected any material sympathy. I have been very bitter over the loss of my last horse. I rebelled for many days about the same. But one thousand times the value of the horse could never compensate me for the spirit that prompted this demonstration of your true friendship. It is the first time in my life I have ever been truly surprised, but will hold this surprise as sacred. This act will restore my full confidence in our Heavenly Father, and whatever comes in future I know that His way is best. That I shall be strong in the future, and shall be willing to trust Him more,will be my constant prayer.”
We can all see that the goal of the horse conspirators was to dishearten Josie. To throw barriers, obstacles onto her path of success and weaken her spirit and her drive. What they accomplished was the opposite. The people around Josie were roused to support and encourage the woman who had given them so much of herself. They rallied, and lead by the example she set, they acted unselfishly to show her an act of true friendship. This in turn inspired Josie to continue forward knowing she was a part of something bigger, her confidence and her spirit strengthened. I hope I would have had the same reaction as Josie, to push the hatred away and soak in the love. But, I’ve been known to have a moment or two of hatred and THAT is something I will work on, so maybe I can inspire people to want to be better too. We learn more and we do better. Josie is an excellent teacher.