Who are you the champion for?

Happy birthday, Gloria Steinem!

Today the leader of the movement for women to develop their fullest human potential turns 78.

With Gloria Steinem in her home in New York City (Photo by Avionne Adams)

In last week’s SPARK! I told you what a privilege it was to spend an evening in Gloria’s home in New York City where she’d invited women leaders to participate in a salon for feminist.com.

As she has since the 1960s, Gloria continues to urge us to connect with each other for support and to make change and go for better lives.

Since that evening at Gloria’s, I’ve thought a lot about what a difference we make when we champion what it is we wish to improve in the world.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world…it is the only thing that ever has. ~ Margaret Mead

Last week at the Women on Fire tea in New York, I was reminded of the amazing and powerful women in our community who epitomize Margaret Mead’s words.

Here are stories I want to share with you because they illuminate the power of each woman with an idea, an inkling, a possibility to spread enthusiasm and to be its champion to make a difference.

Woman on Fire Pier Boutin, of Housatonic, MA is a mom and an orthopedic surgeon.  In a transition period in her life a couple of years ago, she was on vacation with friends in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco when she discovered a four-year-old boy stumbling about with seriously clubbed feet pointed nearly backwards.

“I couldn’t not do something when I knew how to help him,” she said.  So she arranged for “Little Amed” to come to the United States.  For nearly a year she oversaw the direction of his multiple surgeries and cared for him in her home.

While Pier championed that one little boy, she was also mindful in connecting to his village, helping with health and education issues. (For pictures of Pier and Little Amed, see this past post.)

The friendship and knowledge Pier shared in Morocco has gone beyond just that one little boy, who today can walk, run and play!  The course of his life, in which he was destined to be uneducated, alienated and a beggar, has been righted.

And, until Pier, only a handful of boys attended school in that village. Now, that “Little Amed” is home in Morocco, the local school is filled with boys and girls getting an education.

Pier and her family have been inspired and lifted up beyond their imagination.

Gloria changed the course for millions of women.  Pier’s desire to help one child led to changes in a village and who knows what else!

Both women led movements.

You may not even realize it.  Many of you lead movements, too – whether it is to champion a local school levy as Woman on Fire Kim Dettmer did successfully in her Ohio town recently … or Tracy Stuck guiding college women at a major university to find confidence and direction in their lives … or Andrea Raynor as a Hospice chaplain to lead many through death and dying … or Susan Kruger-Woodcock in leading a movement to help high school students get better grades.

There are so many more of you leading a movement and using your talents and desires to change lives for the good.

The positive energy created by a movement of one person or a group to champion one person, one cause, one group, one program, one belief is what makes a difference in this world.

A movement is only composed of people moving. To feel its warmth and motion around us is the end as well as the means. ~ Gloria Steinem

Who and what in your world are you the champion of?  Where is it all going?  What do you need in order to take any next steps?  Let us know how we can help you by commenting below.

What do you really, really want?

What is it in your life that you really, really want?

Is there a change in the world you want to see; a place to visit; a person to meet; a personal challenge to accomplish? What are the powerful stirrings inside of you asking you to be or to do?

At my own Vision Day a couple of months ago, I wrote out a long list of goals and dreams that I really, really want.

On the top my big stack was this goal:

I have reconnected with Gloria Steinem.

(Tip:  When writing your goals, create them as though they have already happened.  I don’t know why it works, but it does! I’ve been testing it for years.)

When I was a political press secretary many years ago, I had the great fortune on occasion to talk with Gloria Steinem, the gracious and revered leader of the Women’s Movement.

Each encounter I had with her I would walk away so inspired — and always changed for the better.

She would be personally encouraging, honoring and focused on the possibilities of women – singularly and globally – to have want we want and need.

Last week, seemingly out of the blue, my Vision Day dream came true!

Some of the women leaders in Gloria’s living room included actress Kathy Najimy, Carol Gilligan, Gloria, and Kathy LeMay

Only weeks after my Vision Day, thanks to Woman on Fire Ellen Wingard, I was invited to reconnect with Gloria and spend an evening in her home.  Pinch me!

Gloria opened her beautiful apartment to a group of women leaders to celebrate the writer Marianne Schnall who leads an organization near and dear to Gloria’s heart — feminist.com.

As I entered her warm and inviting brownstone on the Upper East Side of New York City, I could hardly believe it. I made mental notes of every thing and every one, because I wanted you to be with me to share it all.

I was dying to take pictures to show you her apartment’s 20-foot soaring ceilings, her beautiful treasures and pictures, her enchanting red bedroom with floor-to-ceiling dark wood bookshelves and dreamy ceiling mural.

Her home is so warm and cozy that I felt hugged being in her space.

But there is a great reverence for her – certainly not from her because she is so lovely, easy and self-deprecating — that to take pictures would somehow violate the sanctity of the honor to be in her home.

A professional photographer roamed about and did take pictures (that I hope to show you someday) while I chatted with Gloria in her beautiful bedroom where the bar was set up.

(This being New York City where you need to make good use of all space when there is only a living room, bedroom and galley kitchen!)

Gloria, who turns 78 on March 25, looked as chic as always – in her uniform of black pants and top with a metal belt wrapped around and slung low to her waist.

She was her warm and engaging self and eagerly asked for me to tell her all about “Women on Fire.”

Even in her own home, she is, as I’ve always experienced her: gentle and giving, curious and empathetic, preferring to turn her attention to others rather than seek any for herself.

Later, in her cozy living room, surrounded by us all and actress Kathy Najimy, feminist writer, ethicist, psychologist Carol Gilligan and former PBS president Pat Mitchell, Gloria told us she has lots of ideas for the future.

She sees women coming together in smaller groups where each woman can express herself and be heard.  She suggests it should be an odd number of participants “so if there has to be a vote on something, there is no tie.”

“Laughter is the only free emotion,” she  said to us. “You can’t compel laughter,” she said, laughing. And, she urged us to always keep “fun and joy, sex and poetry” in our hearts.

As a Woman on Fire, I sat enthralled, honored to be in the room with other women equally eager, empowered and enthusiastic to make a difference in our world.

Then, coincidentally, in the New York Times today, only days after being with Gloria, is an article entitled Gloria Steinem, A Woman Like No Other.

That is for sure.

In the piece, Christine Stansell, a University of Chicago history professor, said of Gloria that she “was to the women’s movement what Martin Luther King Jr. was to civil rights: the galvanizer.”

The piece raised the question but did not answer it.  Who will be Gloria’s successor to lead women?

Ms. Steinem’s DNA has been scattered into a million cells — in the blogs, as well as in the work of women whose labors do not land them on cable shows…” the article reports.

I believe that is the truth. And, that is the answer to the article of who will lead women.  We will.  We are the million cell the galvanizers — that will continue to change lives for ourselves, our families, our communities, our world.

So, what is it you really, really want?  And, who are you bringing along with you to make it happen?

Thank you, Gloria Steinem, for bringing me and so others along with you all these years. You can be assured the seeds you planted so long ago are blossoming everywhere you look.

Once again, as I did in my 20s, 30s, 40s and now 50s, I walk away from you feeling as though I can take on more of the world that I dream of.  I am so grateful to you, Gloria, my sister Ohioan.

Please share with our community on the Debbie Phillips blog what it is  you really, really want?  It’s inspiring to hear!