Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"We From Central" - An Essay By Lynn Jeffcott (Class of 1968)

Lynn Jeffcott graduated from Madison Central High School in 1968. Since then, she's had two careers focused on writing: one in business and marketing and another in education. After she retired from her job at a small Iowa college in 2001, she wrote "an inspirational book dedicated to those who face illness, tragedy, or hard times." Published by Word Wrangler Publishing, it is available through her website, which features an excerpt from the book, as well as a photo and some biographic notes about the author. I've added a link to her website to the "alumni websites" category in the sidebar.

Lynn also sent a copy of an essay about Central she wrote shortly after her book was published. That essay is reproduced below. Please note that Lynn retains the copyright to her essay. You may not reproduce it without her permission.

We From Central

By Lynn Jeffcott Kreul, 1968 graduate and Madison Central High School Alumna

(This is a short but heartfelt essay dedicated to the many graduates of Central High School who, despite humble beginnings, have given to the world quietly but positively and meaningfully.)

Most students of Madison Central High School came from neighborhoods where people from other schools did not venture after dark, where the nearest thing to a country club was the gathering spot under the streetlight. And many of us started down the path with more than a little stacked against us.

Today, we understand and celebrate connections from our past. Why? A look back is a reminder that we got where we got by our wits and brains, not by privilege or legacy. Our individualism and pride originated from sheer grit, faith and a lot of up hilling, not from our ancestors’ ranks on the social register.

Our motto was NOT “yes I can, “ it was “yes, I better, because no one else will do it for me.” We came up on the bumpy road just on the other side of the tracks. The clothes we wore to high school, even what others considered paltry necessities—soap, shampoo, shoe polish—came from the jobs we went to every night of the week and on weekends. The world did not realize that it wasn’t just a matter of studying and achieving, nor did it understand that it was no easy thing to strive for excellence when our energies were tied to survival.

Sadly, there were those who had the notion that few of us were capable of distinction. It did not occur to them that we had to overcome before succeeding. And we had to succeed without a mentor or a support system. What we did, we did alone and without accolade.

Perhaps the bulk of us didn’t gain mention in “Who’s Who Among High School Students.” Yet, despite our lack of resources and our undistinguished backgrounds, many of us became distinguished people, who no matter what our jobs or titles, made contributions to our families, our communities and our world. Which is worthier in terms of character? Success gained through insurmountable odds or that which is earned with little impediment? In the cosmic sense, hard-earned achievement must gather its own merit.

We were products created, not from the bolts of abundance, but from one thread at a time. It was the best gift The Heavenly Weaver ever gave us. Having to gather fiber by fiber, we learned to appreciate what it takes to make a life and get through it with dignity and purpose. We from Central High School. We came from the workingman’s millhouse that produced material dependable, durable and able to withstand a storm. And no one is exempt from storms in life. No one.

Our heritage fortified our lives, and it did the same for our souls. It expanded our awareness and stretched our innerness. It reserved a spot in our hearts for anyone having a rough time in life and gave us the courage and willingness to lend support to those who struggle. It taught us to recognize that the value of a human comes from the fabric of his being, not from where he grew up. And it instilled in us the wisdom to pity those who believed otherwise.

As it turns out, this was not an essay about who we were or where we resided when we attended Madison Central High School. If we live long enough, we can experience great joy, but none of us escapes illness, tragedy and loss. That’s what knits us together. In the end, we are all cut from the same cloth.

Here’s a toast to Central High School. Here’s a toast to all of us connected not just through mutual experience, but also through human experience. We graduated from Central High School, and it taught us when we graduate from life, the only thing that matters is the spiritual condition of the heart.

© 2006 Lynn Jeffcott Kreul

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