Margaret Barry Settlement House
Photo taken in 1953
759 Pierce Street NE Minneapolis, MN; added to the Historic register in 1984
New Years bring new resolutions. As the year begins, I find myself reminiscing. I think back on the giants who shaped me, and the giants who shaped them. it is said that we stand on the shoulders of the prior generation. That is true. We do so even if we never met those people. God invites us to let Him enlighten us and fill us with the light of His grace. We are lucky, throughout history there have been many lights to guide our way.
I have written about the Margaret Barry Settlement House before. I never actually knew my great grandmother Margaret Barry. Yet she shaped me. Her life inspired many people through and because of the lives she did touch. She founded the Margaret Barry Settlement House. She was a formidable yet loving force. I do not recall directly hearing about her or the Settlement House when I was little. But I surely heard about the necessity to make a difference, help others, encourage people, and the like.
Obviously, her son (my grandpa) and his wife (my grandma) were shaped by her. My grandpa was a brilliant and ardent defense attorney and tremendous man. My grandma was a woman of great faith, strength, humor, hard work, and joy who filled the hearts around her with love. Their daughters (my mom and my aunts) were beacons, lighthouses, and guideposts. They knew in the core of their being that one must take Jesus’ words to heart. Which words? All of them, of course. But today I write about the ones that said “When I was hungry you gave me to eat, when I was thirsty you gave me to drink… and so on”. He explained that when we do it to the least of our brothers, we do it to Him. Faith must move us to action. He expects us to live our faith in church and outside of church.
I have always been told “to whom much has been given, much is expected”. I did not come from wealth or privilege. Rather, I was raised to see that no matter how much or little you have at any point in time, you have indeed been given much. Thus, I mustn’t let myself off lightly. I must try to make a difference as often as possible.
The Margaret Barry Settlement house helped new immigrants learn the language, the culture, and the ways of society. They taught life skills to the adults and kids while treating them with dignity and respect. My relatives raised their children to give, to be hard-working, and to love. To always love. God hasn’t led me to do the same work my great-grandmother did. Rather, I do teach and tutor. I do try to make a difference in my community in other ways.
I pray that my life and example may some day be a testament to my great-grandmother’s settlement house. It is a fact that I have spent a lifetime hearing inspiration scattered throughout the world. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” when i was tiny. and so many inspirations since then.
“We are the world, We are the children. We are the ones, To make a better day”—Lionel Ritchie
And when I hesitate or hold back in my reticence or shyness, I must remind myself of this song verse “when you get a chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance”. Here is to the metaphorical dances that shall not go undanced in 2012. I will begin anew each day. May God help me mount up with wings as eagles….