In a Blink of an Eye it’s Thanksgiving 2023 – A Love Note from Helene

Sent via email

21st of November, 2023

Dearest Family and Friends,

The Swansons (2003) - St. Saviour's, Bar Harbor, Maine

The Swansons, Left to Right William, George, Katrina, and Helene  (2003) – St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church, Bar Harbor, Maine

As it is each and every Thanksgiving I reflect on much.  For me, Thanksgiving is all the Holidays rolled into one. The Thanksgiving that transformed my life was the day my mother took me to a Salvation Army program in the Battery area of New York City to eat a meal alongside the homeless.  She explained that many did not have families having lost them in wars, many were merchant marines, others she explained had more than their fair share of difficulties.  We stood in line with them, mostly men, and received a meal.  She encouraged me to go and say hello and talk to them. That it would brighten their faces.  I did. It did. And it was so much fun hearing of their adventures! Afterwards, we went to the kitchen and washed pots and pans, and then went on our way.  We had a similar tradition every Saturday at the benches on the meridian at 89th and Broadway that separates the traffic lanes. I had the pleasure of hanging out with the tattooed ones.  It had been explained that they had lost their families, having been persecuted for their faith – – for their race.  I did not understand these concepts, persecution and genocide were concepts lost to me, at that stage of my life. I just thought the tattoos were cool as I was learning to count. And I would trace my fingers over the fuzzy fading dark greyish fading numbers.  And the kindness of their wrinkly faces would well up in their eyes.  They would play with me and tell me stories too.  My mother was tireless in efforts to ensure that I was exposed to the plight of others and that life was not hopeless.  Life was full of promise.  We made a nursery rhyme about the family way to ensure that others had what I had. I would sing, “We shall not rest till every child is well fed, well read, with a roof over their head.”  I am blessed to have had an ahh-mazing mother.  I made my second pilgrimage leaving from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, zigzagging a path across the then 15 unratified states to Washington, D.C. That pilgrimage, as the Nevada Legislative reflects, was one of the many sparks that resulted in Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia subsequently ratifying, thus meeting the 3/4th requirement to amend the US Constitution.

The first pilgrimage was a practice run so to speak, and has come home, as an Amazon warehouse associate in Melville, New York, I work alongside immigrants, the impoverished, single mothers and fathers, and those on the rise giving it their all and beating the odds, that make-up the blue collar workforce. I must admit some days I dread going into work.  Most days I have fun and have a good time with my co-workers who provide me with daily inspiration to give my all for all. My grandfather who lost his finger at 7 years old in a factory in England was insistent that you know a good company by how they treat their workers. Having founded the first commercial airmail company his premise was, “‘Treat them like gold and you have a loyal employee.’  And not to forget that it averages out that each worker is feeding at least four humans.”  The working conditions, inadequate wages, and numerous safety concerns have led me to a new vocation, A More Perfect Union, inspired by the folks at the Amazon Labor Union who have paved the path forwarding the movement to protect warehouse workers working smart in our modern-day high-tech society.

Rev. Katrina Swanson, my mother-in-law, opened my eyes to yet another world.  Sharing her wisdom, she spent her last days in this plane of existence we call Lifeso as to ensure that I was prepared, in order to give my very best in moving the United States, to pass the Equal Rights Amendment into the US Constitution — I’ll get to that in a bit. I fondly recall our first meeting where I was expecting bibles to come thumping down on my head, both she and my father-in-law George were priest. Instead, she welcomed me with open arms, hugging me generously, lavishing me with a peck, and ushered me upstairs in old Manset, Maine. Stating there was time to talk over tea the next day. With George standing by grinning ear to ear and giving me one of his famous “bear hugs”. I remember Katrina calling me at work at the Marin County Public Defenders Office to asking would I take up the unfinished business of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Saying I had to do due diligence and let us not forget Lucretia Mott. I also learnt from my years working with Melvin M. Belli, better known as the “King of Torts”, that to be completely transparent was essential for the facts to be known, and truth and justice to prevail, that anything less would be just that less. I learnt from William R. MacKaye how to advocate fearlessly on The Hill and put one’s ego to the side and be practical. He was a newsman after all. From Rev. Robert T. Coolidge how to be present for others grieving and sharing the music of Hildegard of Bingen.  From Rev. George Swanson, how to say no first to give one’s self time to reflect before committing to new endeavors with a simple response of “let me think about that” so as to have time to pray and reflect. Rev. Kathryn Piccard, a different way of “literally” reading the bible and concepts on forgiveness.  From my grandfather, I am blessed to have learnt splendid things on every day philosophy on where others perceive lemons stopping short, others make only lemonade, but how to dig deeper and restore that which you harnessed by including lemon peel and other scraps in your compost. Bottom line all is good — nothing goes to waste – walk not with fear, instead journey with anticipation for all that is to come for it is good!

On my pilgrimages, three in all, I met many women from all walks of life.  Ahh, so many, so many ahh-mazing women, each of their stories of struggle and triumph compelled me to continue on when oft I found myself wanting to give up.

It is the women of the world, mothers in particular, whom I think of these days.. these nights… the women on the front lines of a war raging in the Middle East.  A wretched war where innocent women and children are accepted as necessary collateral damage. Women and children who are paying dearly the price with their lives, both in Israel and Palestine, and let us not forget Syria and Yemen. A war where the rally cry is not “an eye for a price of an eye”, instead I dizzily watch, sick to my stomach, “an eye for an eye making the world blind”.  I spoke of this most recently with Katrina’s Dream board member, President Trevor Mwamba (UNIP of Zambia).  He shared that he has some thoughts on these matters and when I queried about who would be best suited to restore stability, rebuild the region, and give peace. He explained that all this should be under the purview of the United Nations, for that was the very purpose for which it was designed. I paid close attention, breathing in his every word. Can you believe it? I didn’t interject excitedly. And drew the apparent  conclusion that women, children, and men were paying the price with their lives. The world stuck in a broken modality, who negotiated to the best of their limited abilities, a blinded eye to this horror of horrors.  This horror show unveils daily in nanoseconds on mobile phones, computers, televisions, and radios for a world’s ear.

“He who is without sin, throws the first stone”.  So going back to that transparency thing, I don’t know about you but I have been really bad, I don’t regret, each moment has brought me to this day. So, picking up stones ain’t something I’m about to do. I rather write a letter, place a call, send a text and dialogue towards resolutions producing positive results.

So, no shame, no blame. With that being said I am asking folks to take a few moments every day to consciously send positive energy in the direction of those who are suffering – to not choose a side – to just send peace and love energy.

How does all this tie into Thanksgiving and breaking bread over discussions of things.  At family dinners growing up we talked about everything from a to z. Therefore, Thanksgiving is my favorite.  Good times, gathering to break bread and it is at the very end of the Christian Calendar Year. Therefore, I like to treat it like New Year’s Eve too. So, I consider things of concern and things my ministry is leading me to see or do and give Thanks. So, what better day, than right now as we enter into the Advent Season, than to demonstrate how thankful I am to all those who took the time to help me to see the error of my ways, Thankful for those who forgive me of my trespasses.  Thankful for those who carried me when I was too broke to go on.  And thankful I am for those who paved a path for me to follow.  Thankful for mothers who risk their life to give life.  Thankful to the men in their lives.   Thankful for everyone, everywhere, everything.

But what are words without deeds, It is time that the US Congress, “to put a dime on it”, and remove the only impediment left on having the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) pass into the US Constitution.  It is time to remove the deadline on the ERA. And to reach out far and wide and open the gates to having the United Nations to move forward without delay and go to the General Assembly and step in and invoke Resolution 377(v). without delay.

Thus, my Thanksgiving message doubles as a call to action.  I am asking all of you, my dear family and friends, to engage thoughtfully with love and peace at the forefront of your words with cool eyes, open hearts, and a soft tongue, difficult conversations around your Thanksgiving table.  Talk to your loved ones.  Talk to strangers.  Build a Power of 10 network. And whether you’re operating in a solo, or a small group, organization/network afterwards encourage your Power of Ten to pick up the phone and call upon US Congress to do their part in moving our country forward for mothers and women and remove the deadline on the Equal Right Amendment and make it their priority now. I know it can initially be intimidating, this is where I remember Bill MacKaye over breakfast engaging me to advocate on The Hill intrepidly with his to dos, and I have faith in you too.  You will be an old pro in no time flat.  Take a gander at the script on our Power of Ten website page for a tad more, it’s your best resource.  And I encourage you to follow other organizations and groups working on this to increase your power base of knowledge. Bear in mind I have to update that page with the most current bill numbers. Mea culpa, mea culpa. And I’ll put up a list of legislators there as well. And I’ll send out updated emails accordingly.

I expect I’ll have more to share from Bishop Trevor on the Peace resolution progress on his foray of politics and governance through the eyes of man of the cloth, in the days to come as the world comes together to usher in this amazing Age of Information which advances World Peace.

Thanks in advance on behalf of or all those very lives depend on the steps we take today.  And thank you for being a part of my journey in this thing called Life.

Love and Light,


P.S. For your enjoyment another of my favs, David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy duet

P.S.S.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Katrina’s Van Alstyne Family Turkey Stuffing Recipe.  Umm, Yummy!

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