42, African-American, barriers, Brooklyn Dodgers, celebration, courage, dreams, faith, first, handcart, honor, Jack Robinson, Jackie Robinson, kindness, patience, Pioneer, Pioneer Day, Pioneers, prejudice, racial segregation, respect, Ruth Muir Gardner, suffering, work
Last Wednesday Utah celebrated Pioneer Day with parades, speeches, and fireworks. We honored those courageous souls who left their old lives behind and crossed the plains to find a new home in the west. They buried loved ones in shallow graves along the trail. They crossed icy rivers, climbed snowy mountain passes, and in summer they walked hot, dusty trails. Their feet bled, they starved, and they froze, but throughout their suffering, their faith was firm, and they kept their eyes on their goal. They laid the foundation of what we enjoy today.
The dictionary defines a pioneer not only as someone who is among the first to settle a region, but also one who is first or the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress. Last night we watched 42, a movie about Jack Robinson, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era. I cried. My heart went out to him and his family. He suffered greatly, but because of his tremendous courage, he softened hearts and opened the way for other African-Americans to be able to break down the barriers of a cruel, intolerant society. He was truly a pioneer.
We too can be pioneers. We can choose to be different from a crowd that usually seeks the lowest common denominator. We can treat others with kindness and respect without regarding their differences, such as race, nationality, economic status, or religion. We can stand up for what is right. We can follow our hearts and work to accomplish our dreams. We honor those who went before us when we live as they did, with courage, faith, and perseverance through our trials. A children’s song by Ruth Muir Gardner says it best: ‘You don’t have to push a handcart, Leave your family dear, Or walk a thousand miles or more, To be a pioneer. You do need to have great courage, Faith to conquer fear, And work with might for a cause that’s right, To be a pioneer.’