Thursday, February 23, 2017

Inspiration & Motivation

Isaac Beckley Werner's Journal
Searching for an old journal, kept by a man I had never heard of that allegedly contained references to my ancestors, resulted in my manuscript about Isaac Werner, his community, and the Populist Movement in Kansas.  As a by-product, it resulted in my weekly sharing of Kansas history through this blog.  We never know what may inspire us and motivate us to do something we might never otherwise have imagined!

For Ken Spurgeon, it was a collection of Civil War letters.  As a graduate student in history, he learned that if a Kansas settler were a non-combatant or claimed no allegiance in the free state vs pro-slavery bloody years when Kansans and Missourians fought, a sheet over their chimney would signal their lack of alliance to either side.  Among the letters that Spurgeon read was one written by a woman who explained that to leave a chimney bare, or "lone," was a declaration of who you were and what you stood for.

Memioral on side of Dr. Higley's cabin
In 2003, when Ken Spurgeon and Jonathon Goering formed their company to make their first documentary, "Touched by Fire:  Bleeding Kansas, 1854-1861," Ken remembered that letter and it became the inspiration for naming their company Lone Chimney Films. Since then have come "Bloody Dawn:  The Lawrence Massacre," "The Road to Valhalla," and most recently "Home on the Range, The Story of America's Iconic Song."

Lone Chimney Films represents, for them, their commitment to historical accuracy. They place great importance in using academic scholars to advise them and serve on their board.  Their purpose is to share history in an accurate way with study guides and teacher aids to accompany their films.  Beyond the classroom, they reach out to communities, providing lecturers to civic organizations and for historic events.

Such random events, like my search for an old journal and Ken's encounter with the words of a stranger in an old letter, can inspire and motivate.  My memories of going to the Stafford County Courthouse with my father when I was a little girl may very well be at the root of my decision to study and practice law.  As parents, teachers, and adults in general, every day we have the opportunity to strike a spark of interest and enthusiasm, or sadly, to miss that opportunity or even discourage a dream.  Poets, writers, athletes, actors, dancers, musicians, and other famous people inspire and motivate us, but so do every day people, and that should be reason enough to make each of us smile.

A very special personal letter to me
Lone Chimney Films was founded in 2003, but in 2006 it became a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization.  Their films have been shown on Public Television stations beyond Kansas, and schools and public libraries have benefited from the use of their films.  Neither Isaac B. Werner nor the woman writing her letter in Kansas could have imagined the lives their actions have touched.

Dr. Higley did not sit down to pen "My Western Home" with the intention of writing the Kansas State Song.  Harper Lee's father did not leave for the courthouse to try cases with a plan to set an example for his daughter's influential novel "To Kill a Mockingbird."  Every day millions of people influence the lives of others, and that should inspire all of us to be the examples we hope to be.  Someone just might be watching...

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