Circling the Wagons: If Mama Bears Can Lift Cars, Can They Stop Them From Going Off The Fiscal Cliff?

24 Oct

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

By Gayla Schaefer

We have all heard the urban legend that in times of great crisis and physical danger to their children, mothers can summon SuperMom strength to rescue or protect their offspring.

Perhaps another such analogy is needed for the current metaphor that our nation is about to be driven off of the fiscal cliff by polarized partisans “making chests” at one another.

Circling the Wagons

Our Strong Mother public service leadership model idea holds that when there is a job that must be done to protect our children, mothers find a way to work across ideological lines to accomplish even the most daunting goals. By working with one another to root out the common shared goal in the milieu of competing priorities, mothers worldwide oft-times accomplish the impossible simply by breaking the problem down to bite sized chunks that everyone can agree on first or “circling the wagons,” as my grandmother and family matriarch, Nanook, would have said.

For those unfamiliar with this Old West saying, you circle the wagons to provide protection and support for the ones who need it most when you face a common danger. You don’t stop to take a poll if everyone in your party agrees on how the wagons should be circled before you do it. You just do it, and then make adjustments as needed.

You Just Do It

I have used this imagery many times when a mother in our community of friends, relatives and neighbors falls on hard times or are threatened by a tipping point which might lead to catastrophe.

A few years back, I can recall this type of effort when a the home of a mother new to our community was robbed just months after moving in. Having found a new job in our area after coming close to the financial brink during the economic meltdown in Florida, much as my own family did, she and her husband and children had just started to rebuild their new life here in Tennessee when the thieves struck and looted almost everything of value. She told one other mother who shared the news with a few more at the school, and before we knew it, collections from teachers, staff, classmates, and families who were near strangers had been gathered together to help this family maintain their footing, and more importantly, their trust in their new community. We didn’t stop to ask her political affiliation before doing what needed to be done.

I also recall when a call went out that another mom had learned there was a student at our children’s school whose family did not have a working refrigerator. Within days, the Network of Mothers had secured an almost brand new one from a young widow who had not been able to move it out of her garage alone. She offered to donate it and others offered to come pick it up and deliver it to the family in need.

Once again, it never dawned on anyone to check voter or congregational identification from anyone involved.  And, I could go on and on with more examples.

Those Who Don’t Know Their History Are Doomed To Repeat It

Dawn likes to call me the “Storyteller of the Tribe” because I collect stories such as these and share them later when the wisdom contained in a previous experience would seem to be of relevance. A close friend made during my days as an MPA student at the University of Memphis once said she wanted to make sure her story ended well in part because she knew she might one day end up as one of my “lessons.”

When someone comes to me with a problem, I relate a story that might shed light on solutions in the bigger picture. It also seems to help people realize they are not the first to encounter a particular issue. Really, it’s just how I talk. During my studies at UofM, however, I learned that storytelling is also a recognized method of leadership, and one that women especially seem to excel at.

What I see facing our communities and our nation is need to remember these small-scale stories and adapt them to the bigger picture. Citizens across the United States look toward Washington, D.C. with increasing distrust and dismay because the Beltway folks don’t seem to understand how to get anything done anymore.

It seems simple enough to the rest of us though: sit down at a table with each other and get to know AND RESPECT one another again.

Only then will the parties involved be able to build from that shared goal (saving the country from this looming “fiscal cliff”) and start circling the wagons around ALL Americans once again.

2 Responses to “Circling the Wagons: If Mama Bears Can Lift Cars, Can They Stop Them From Going Off The Fiscal Cliff?”

  1. lynngolsen October 24, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Your common sense comments on the upcoming “fiscal cliff” were most welcome. The need to start listening to each other on matters of such importance has reached the critical point. Your excellent blog shows the way. Keep up the good work!

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