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Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, Thursday, July 18, 2013.

Half of life is just showing up. – Hunter S. Thompson

Look how much you can learn from a stranger…

Last week, I was asked to work at the welcome table as a volunteer for a lecture given by the Reverend Joan Brown Campbell. She has been the Director of Religion at Chautauqua Institution for fourteen years and will soon be retiring. She is a much sought-after speaker and ordained minister of standing in two Christian Denominations, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the American Baptist Church. I have to admit that I knew little about her, but I was looking forward to hearing her speak.

Reverend Campbell stood at the podium with the sun shining behind her.

Campbell told us her life story of how she had been a 33-year-old housewife and mother of young children when she was appointed to work on a committee for Carl Stokes. At that time, he was running for mayor of Cleveland. It was in that job that she became a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That friendship changed her life and her life’s path.

King told Campbell that he had visited a lot of black churches in Cleveland, but had not visited any white churches. She told him, “rather naively,” that he was welcome to visit her church. She had no idea of the firestorm that would come from some members of her church who did not want King to visit.  Her ex-husband’s job was also threatened.

Seeing Reverend Campbell was like watching American history because she helped further the Civil Rights Movement and so much more I could write pages and pages.

Sometimes just “showing up” can change your life or your life’s path or you may gain a new perspective. Her speech was one I won’t forget. One day, when my grandchildren ask me to name one of my role models, I will be able to say, “Joan Brown Campbell.” She was a woman who believed that justice was more important then making her own life run smoothly.

Please take a moment to watch this inspiring woman. I’d love to hear your thoughts.