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Helene Swanson shares her experience walking across the USA for the Equal Rights Amendment

Month: March, 2014

Congressman Bera Comes on Board

DSC_0351I arrived in Placerville, California several hours ago. I am a mere 85 miles to Carson City, the state capitol of Nevada, the first of 15 states that are on my pilgrimage that have not ratified the ERA. My tummy is beginning to knaw at me. I’m a bit hungry.  It is time to get a bite to eat but with a storm front coming in from the northwest I hasten to make arrangements for a place to stay warm and dry for the next few nights. The walking is turning out to be everything I dreamed it would be spiritual, uplifting, challenging and rewarding in every since of the word.

Heading into Sacramento last week my thoughts were on my oldest son.  I have not had a lot of time with him since my husband William died.  He accompanied William back east to weeks prior to his untimely departure to celebrate Godfather Bob’s 80th birthday in Vermont with the Coolidge clan and to Harvard University in Boston to prepare for the Bishop Pradip L. Kamble’s (Church of North India) visit to the USA to promote our mutual ministries.

It is still so hard to believe that William passed on five short days before out tabled tour and visit at the White House.  Those last few days were moments of great joy for William.  He and Bobby bonded in the way fathers and sons do when they carry on family tradition.  William loved our children. He was a great dad and an awesome role model. But I have to work on not getting tangential when I think of him.

The time I have spend with my children has not what I wished it could have be in the months following William departure for Paradise.  We were all hard hit especially financially and without the flow of incoming monies all of our plans fell apart. William’s death hit Bobby and Harry our sons the hardest.  They were truly dependant on his support.  Our boat maintenance business was personality driven. I was simply the marketing and administrative end.  William was ‘meet and greet’ as well as ‘worker bee’. So when he passed the decision to keep the business alive or fulfill my word to my mother-in-law Katrina was put to the test.   Being that William wanted it as much as his mom… well… he as he stated the night before his mom’s ordination, “we must all pick up our cross”.  He set the example as did our brother Jesus and I do not despair instead I rejoice for I have been blessed with loving children and a good husband.  Although things did not work out as we thought – the trials we went through have brought us all closer together.  It is one where we have grown closer regarding our personal life philosophy and overall theology and as St. Augustine stated our purpose is to build a “City of God”.

So as I was saying, I had arrived in Sacramento spent my first night with family friends, the Plesser’s, and then headed to towards Congressman Ami Bera’s office to request that he co-sponsor the “three state strategy” and the “start over strategy” resolutions, which call for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  I had been calling lots of folks, but I am learning as I am going so I didn’t really get this meeting as well organized as I had hoped, I called my son Bobby in desperation.  And as a dutiful son he dropped everything he was doing to accommodate me.  Agreeing to meet me at the congressman’s district office.

Then out of nowhere I got a call from Megan Hansen of the Marin Independent Journal and I gave her an interview.  I had left Marin County several days before so while excited to give this interview I was blown away that they even covering days after the fact.  Here is what Megan added to the piece http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_25378293/sausalito-woman-walks-across-nation-urge-passage-equal

During this time I got a bit lost and wound up having to back track and was rather concerned that my mobile phone would run out of juice.  I wound up turning it on and off to conserve power.  Finally I turned on to White Rock road I was about ½ mile away. I called Bobby to see how far away he was.  He said he had another 20 minutes to go.  Despite the short notice we were both relatively on schedule.  We arrived within minutes of each other at Congressman Bera’s Rancho Cordova district office.

The meeting went fantastically.  Congressman Bera said that we would make it a “hot issue” in his office.  I was really impressed by Ami.  He was quick to state that he was an outspoken proponent of women’s rights but was not aware of these resolutions and would co-sponsor both resolutions.   Here is a link to Congressman Bera’s Facebook Page where he posted above picture https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=747399791939787&set=a.537648192914949.124183.528662157146886&type=1&theater

Bobby offered to host me for the next couple of days. I was walking on air for the next few hours.  And it was the first day of spring.

I spent the night at Trinity Episcopal Church in Folsom where I stayed in the parish hall.  An AA group was throwing ‘Monica’ a 30 year sober and clean birthday party keeping me up all night.  I had a fun time rocking with them all night long.  Who knew that could party so hard?

Dream 2 Reality - Faith Cameron Park

Then it was on to Faith Episcopal Church in Cameron Park where Father Sean Cox showed extraordinary concern for my well-being. I was deeply touched by his compassion for this lone pilgrim. Immediately offering the slice of bread in his hand and a cup of coffee.  In parting he gave me a yellow cotton shirt to keep me cool and protected from the blazing son.  Being formally military he expressed his worry for my safe passage across the Nevada desert and wonder how I was going to get water.  I brushed off the concerns having putting my faith in God. He truly exemplifies the Christian spirit of love and concern for your fellow being.

Well it time to get back to couchsurfing.com and looking for a hook-up for a place to stay the night and enjoying my ‘cup of joe’ at a delightful little place called Cuppa Coffee & More with Melissa here in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Dream 2 Reality - Cuppa Coffee Placerville

 

Despite the grey skies and news of much needed rain I am grateful to sing God’s praises, “Thank you God for small miracles and daily blessings. Thank you for today.”

DREAM 2 REALITY: Pilgrimage Across the USA for the ERA

What an amazing week.  We launched my pilgrimage across the USA for the ERA on March 8, 2014.  The skies were clear, boats were on the bay, it was a beautiful day. We had nearly a hundred people for International Women’s Day Bridge Walk: Let’s Pass the ERA!

1140 - Blessing - Helene Swanson kneeling with Rev Este Gardner Cantor + red child 3of3

My youngest son Harry and fellow Christ Episcopal Church Sausalito congregant Katharine Whipple and I caught the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge, where we caught up with the Rev. Este Gardner Cantor of the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Berkeley, California.  I was excited and nervous.  I knew I was to go on the air at any moment.  I kept praying for the right words.  Then the call came in from Kris Welch, host of the Living Room show on hosted a special KPFA broadcast and Toby Blomè of CodePink and I spoke on the need for the Equal Rights Amendment.   By the time I finished my spot on the radio KGO Channel 7 the ABC and Channel 4 the NBC affiliates were on the spot.  Here a link to the broadcast. http://archive.org/details/tv?q=Helene+Swanson

1147 - Ch 7 Interview - Helene Swanson 5 of 5Folks started arriving in small groups.  Before we knew it we had a rather good size.   The group moved to the flagpole and a number of different groups spoke before the crowd.  Then it was our turn, MonaLisa Wallace, Board Member of the National Organization of Women came to the mic, she spoke of the need for the ERA and Somer Loen, also of NOW who introduced me, followed C.E.D.A.W.  MonaLisa.  It was at this point that I turned over the mic to Rev. Este for my blessing.  I felt such calm and peace.  God was reassuring me that I would be okay.  Then Rev. Este invited the crowd to participate.  People gathered laying their hands on me and laying their hands upon each other.  It was truly a blessed sight.1134 - ERA YES Helene Swanson speaking GGB 3-8-14 3of6

Este, Harry, Kathryn, Mona and me walked across the bridge together where we went our separate ways to share the news and bask in the glory of the day.  I caught up with Harry and Dunphy Park where our ministry Olof’s Brothers, an agape service, which serves the anchorage was going strong.  I spoke with many of our congregants.  Harry who has assumed my late husband’s position of running the program arrived shortly thereafter.  We enjoyed laying on the grass and the sun dancing on our skin.  We enjoyed the world God created for us.

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1164 - ERA YES! Arriving in Marin County 3-8-14 Rev Este Gardner Cantor, Helene Swanson, Harry Rudl

We then headed up to Christ Church Sausalito the first parish to host me on my pilgrimage.  Father Chip Larrimore let Harry and I into the parish hall where I helped myself to the chocolate chip cookie stash unaware it had been set aside for Sunday Coffee hour.  I hope everyone forgives me.  I was unaware of my transgressions at the time.  The next few days were made very easy for me as Harry arranged for a place for me to stay each night.   We said our “so longs” at the Indian Valley Campus Organic Farm where Harry is part of their work/study program.  We prayed to God that he protect on both and look after our ministries.  I then made my way to Vallejo.  I slept roadside on Highway 37.  It was a time for solitude.  It was the 50th anniversary of my late husband birth.  It felt good to be alone with my thought of him and God.

When I arrived in Vallejo, Ann Arms of Ascension Episcopal Church in a beautiful home with pristine views of Mt. Tamalpais and the San Francisco Bay hosted me.  Ann a widow like myself discussed just how hard it is being alone making our way and the difficulties of being an older woman in this society. She washed my clothes.  They were quite dirty.  It had been several days since I had had a shower, so she set out toiletries and I felt brand new as the water hit my skin.  The next morning I was interviewed by Sarah Rohrs of the Herald Times and I met with Mel Orpilla of Congressman Mike Thompson’s office.  I learnt that Congressman Mike was a big supported of Women’s Rights and that they would forward the news that I was headed to DC to their Washington offices and that Mike would be speaking with his colleagues in congress about my pilgrimage and would work colleagues to ensure passage of ERA resolutions moving the House.  The meeting ended and it was time for me to move north towards Carson City, NV, my first state capitol on the short list of those states, which have yet to ratify the ERA.

I wound my way on back roads to Vacaville, California where Carlyn Chrystal invited me to shower at her home.  I enjoyed a meal at Church of the Epiphany, which they sponsor for the homeless and economically disadvantaged of the area.  It was humbling to see the good works of this community.  I spent the night in the parish hall.  Waking early to head off to Davis, California.

Upon arrival in Davis I reached out to Father Mark Allen of the Episcopal Church of St. Martin’s who on short notice made arrangements for me to take a shower and stay at the parish hall.  I attended all three services and was deeply moved by his sermon.  He helped make clear the difference between Faith and Belief.  I walked away knowing that I have faith that I will a make it to Washington DC.  I believe we will pass the ERA by 2015 with everyone working together.

photo-7

I am now in Sacramento where after a visit with Thea (the Bishop’s Assistant) of the Diocese of Northern California, I spent the night with my late husband’s childhood friend Steven Plesser, a criminal defense lawyer who is active in defending the rights of many activists in the area.  I learnt a little more about my husband and how he a young child even then was championing the rights of others.  I felt William’s presence. It was a precious evening.

This morning I awoke thankful for this life that God has given me.  I prayed for the strength to continue on my pilgrimage.  I have faith that I will cross the Nevada desert and that God will provide the means for me to do so.  I believe that with all of us working together we can pass the ERA.

So with this I close for now and ask that you sign our online Moveon.org petition and join our Facebook events.  Please share the petition http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/lets-pass-the-equal-rights with everyone on your email list and invite your friends to join both events.  They are: 1) https://www.facebook.com/events/370467279764897/415605338584424/?notif_t=like and 2) https://www.facebook.com/events/1402339576696516/  Also it is very important that you ask your friends to call their Representatives and their Senators to co-sponsor the following Equal Right Amendment resolutions  Here are websites that will everyone http://www.2passera.org/ and http://www.equalrightsamendment.org

With all of us working together “We Can Pass the ERA”!

Love and Light in Christ,

Helene de Boissiere-Swanson, Founder

http://www.KatrinasDream.org