February 21, 2013

Austin Montgomery Puts His Faith Before Basketball

This week I read a wonderful article about a young man I know.  Austin Montgomery is my son's friend and we attend the same church.  He was just at our home a few days ago.  Although I see him every Sunday, I was surprised to learn so much about him from an article in a local newspaper.

Austin recently earned the honor of 'Star Student' for Hall County, Georgia.  He tied with another young man for the award, given to the student with the highest SAT score at his school.  With a 4.0 GPA, he didn't need to excel at Basketball.  But at 6' 8" tall and a tradition of excellence in the sport in his family, he might as well shine there too.  He dunks with ease and drains 3 pointers repeatedly.  Although tall enough to easily block shots, he leaps up to really knock them off target.  He's a gifted athlete.  He is carefully considering where to attend college, with recruiters watching him closely.
All of this is really laudable.  He clearly works hard in his classes at school, studies hard at home and practices basketball with determination.  But he earns my greatest respect in his choice to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before he plays ball in college. 

He's already put his faith first; Austin has Sunday responsibilities at church dealing with administering the Sacrament to the congregation.  He didn't join the AAU team at first because most of the games were on Sunday. He joined after he negotiated with the coach that he would miss all Sundays. 

Austin's faith makes his choice of colleges very unique.  He needs a strong academic program, as he plans on studying Biomechanical Engineering; a strong basketball program to really let his talents shine; and the opportunity to defer his enrollment for two years.

Taking a two year break from play may hurt his basketball prospects.  But that doesn't seem to deter Austin.  He said, “It has to be a personal thing that you want to do or else you won’t be dedicated and do your best to help people wherever you go.”  With that attitude, Austin will be a great missionary, looking for ways to serve and help the children of God wherever he is sent. 

I am convinced we will see great things academically and physically from this young man.  But first, he will serve the Lord.  

Works Cited:

King, Savannah.  "Star Student:  Missionary Work Comes Before College."  Gainesville Times.  20 Feb 2013.  n. pag. web. 21 Feb 2013.  http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/section/6/article/79942/

"Star Students/Teachers Announced."  Access North GA.com.  19 Feb 2013. n. pag. web. 21 Feb 2013.  http://www.accessnorthga.com/detail.php?n=258472

Taylor, Zac.  "Boys Athlete of the Week:  Lakeview Academy."  Gainesville Times.  3 Dec 2012. n. pag. web. 22 Feb 2013.  http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/archives/76519/

Watch a video of Austin playing some awesome basketball here:  uTube Austin Montgomery Slam Dunking and An Amazing Slam

Photo courtesy of Alison Montgomery's uTube video. 

Updated 22 Feb 2013

February 11, 2013

Mary Taught me How to Visit Teach in Cold Snowy Boston

After the nor'easter hit this last weekend, I couldn't help but remember some of the times I was cold in snowy Boston. We lived there for 5 years while my husband studied Chemistry.  Although those years were difficult and stressful, I have fond memories of the people I met in the beautiful city.

February seemed to be the coldest month there.  Tires would pop on the sharp icy roads on particularly cold days.  Going anywhere took courage and many layers of clothing.  With our old Dodge Diplomat, we usually drove everywhere on those cold days, except when I went Visiting Teaching.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was asked to serve as a Visiting Teacher as soon as we arrived.  My duties were to visit certain women in the congregation monthly and make sure they were doing well.  I was given a companion—another woman who would accompany me on these visits.  As needs were noted, we would fill them ourselves unless the needs were greater than we could solve.  Then we were to let the Relief Society President know, so she could help us fill the needs. 

I gladly accepted the call, knowing I would become acquainted with a wonderful group of women, and hopefully make life-long friendships.  My companion Mary turned out to be a fabulous mentor as well.  Although Mary was unique in many ways, her dedication to Visiting Teaching became her most memorable feature.

Outwardly, Mary was a middle-aged practical woman.  She wore her long graying brown hair in simple neat braids on each side much like a young girl.  As typical of the late 1980's, we wore dresses to church and for visiting teaching.  As the weather turned cold, she wore multiple layers of clothing to keep warm, as she walked or took the subway everywhere she went.  Her ensemble was topped with the hats, scarves and gloves she needed.  She was an amazing sight, all wrapped up warmly with a dress on! 

To visit teach with Mary, I copied her fashion sense and put on as many layers as I could spare.  I even wore sweat pants under that dress I reluctantly donned.  From our warm apartment near the Longfellow Bridge in Cambridge, I walked over to Beacon Hill, where Mary was awaiting.   Ice floes on the Charles River illustrated the cold temperature, but I felt it more.  Wind blew across the frigid water and cut right through all those layers as I crossed that bridge.

We visited an older immigrant in the South End, a young homesick nanny in Back Bay and a divorcee in Brookline, among other interesting women.  As it was, it took all Saturday to walk that route and visit with them.  After the last appointment, I crossed the BU (Boston University) bridge and headed home.  Although it may have only been a few miles of walking, in the cold weather it seemed miles and miles further.  I admit it was a pleasant walk in the Spring, Summer and Fall.  But this visiting teaching route froze me to the core in Winter, especially in February. 

Mary was a true disciple of Christ.  She cared deeply about our charges, making sure they knew we'd be there to help no matter what.  Even the coldest weather didn't deter Mary from visiting these nice ladies.  Mary had a joyous laugh that melted all discomfort as we reconnected monthly with our new friends.  One woman never once came to church while we visited her, yet she welcomed us each month once she got to know Mary.  Mary's consistency and steadiness in visiting teaching taught me volumes about how important this assignment was.  Even in the coldest weather of February in Boston.

February 7, 2013

Widow Mercy Wright Allen Tamed a Wilderness and Stabilized her Destitute Family

Often our greatest heroes aren’t in capes and tights.  Seldom do we see greater courage than in those who sacrifice to preserve their families.  I found one such hero today when I looked up my relation to Ethan Allen, the patriot.  One historian fingers Ethan’s grandmother, Mercy Wright Allen, as the source of his extraordinary courage.  For Mercy held her family together under very trying circumstances.

When Mercy married her cousin Samuel Allen, she made a grave financial error.  The marriage may have been correct in every other situation, but Samuel proved to be a poor provider for their family together.  Not only did he lose the inheritance his father passed to him, but he promptly died thereafter, leaving Mercy and their 7 children literally destitute.  

In 1705, Samuel invested his inheritance in cheap land; cheap because no one wanted to live on it.  He didn’t even want to bring his family to live on it.  Having had 38 people killed and over 100 kidnapped in Native American attacks the previous year in Deerfield, Massachusetts devalued the land substantially.  Speculating that the land would recover its value, Samuel invested his fortune in the little fertile valley.  But the natives remained a threat; Samuel and his family couldn’t develop a farm or homestead the rugged frontier there.  After several years, Samuel and Mercy retreated to Coventry, a small farming community in Connecticut.  The family acquired a small parcel of land where the family barely subsisted.  Samuel’s death in 1718 simply exacerbated the problems; the estate had little provision for the family and no inheritance for the children.  

Most women in the early 1700’s would simply apprentice the children out.  This gave them skills in a trade but usually broke up the family.  Mercy could live on the small estate left to her if the kids were self sustaining.  But she wanted to keep her family together.

After what must have taken considerable thought, Mercy traded her small estate in Coventry for a larger parcel of newly acquired land in the frontier of what became Litchfield, Connecticut.  This act made ‘Widow Allen’ the only woman to own land in the area.  She was breaking the social norms, a testimony to her determination and strength.  

This speculation was risky, as had her husband’s unsuccessful attempt, but this time Mercy carefully chose the land.  This parcel was newly purchased from Native Americans; no terrible history dampened its value.  And she put the kids to work to homestead it.  She had one grown son, Nehemiah; the rest of the kids were too young for the physically demanding work of felling trees and clearing stumps.  They could help build a small cabin.  They plowed the land and brought in livestock.  Mercy and her children had to work hard to build a homestead.
Fortunately, in 1721, Mercy won a land lottery, granting her a house lot in the town’s first land division.  That gave her additional holdings that would help her hedge her bets on her homestead speculation.  She even helped build the town garrison as protection from the Native Americans.

Trouble with the Native Americans cropped up in Litchfield over the next several years, as was common in all of the settlements.  One settler was scalped!  When the Natives attacked in 1723, three years into their habitation, Nehemiah fled east, leaving Mercy and the younger kids to defend themselves and continue to homestead without him.

Although it was nearly impossible to continue homesteading with only teen and preteen children to help her, Mercy fought it out.  Now in her mid fifties, this was backbreaking labor.  But she soldiered on.

Mercy lived only a few more years, but they were very productive years.  She managed to compensate for her husband’s mistakes.  She ensured that her children had farms of their own or married well.  And she did all of this during a time when purchasing land and farming was left to the men in society.  It would have taken considerable courage to venture into this foreign world uninvited.

As historian Michael Bellesiles wrote, “Widow Allen made the necessary economic negotiations for her young family in a doubly hostile world—a wilderness adverse to settlement and a male-dominated society suspicious of women.  In an age when women generally acted only with male guidance, Mercy Allen held her own on the frontier.”

Mercy was unwilling to see her family dissolve after the poor financial decisions of her husband and his subsequent death.  Instead, she made wise choices and put her family to work, compensating for her husband’s errors and keeping the family together.  To her children, there could be no greater hero.  

Works Cited

Bellesiles, Michael A. Revolutionary Outlaws: Ethan Allen and the Struggle for Independence on the Early American Frontier. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1993. Print.