‘Somebody had to do it first’

Published 8:52 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2016

By Tonya S. Swindell

I’ve always admired people who were the first to do something positive. To me they are trailblazers capable of seeing, writing and pursuing visions placed in their hearts by God.

One such visionary was Shirley Chisholm. She became the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1968. Four years later, she was the first black person to seek nomination of a major political party, when she ran for President of the United States.

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While writing and reflecting on her legacy as a true American trailblazer, Congresswoman Chisolm simply affirmed, “Somebody had to do it first.”

There have been many firsts in my family, too. My grandfather was the first and only cab stand owner in a small North Carolina town for many years. My grandmother was the only trained midwife paid to deliver babies within that region. Their daughter, my mother, was the first African-American social worker to be employed by the county.

My father was a visionary, role model and leader in other significant ways. Not long after schools integrated, he taught driver’s education and coached high school football within a small county in North Carolina.

Eventually he became assistant principal of the high school. Even after he retired, I saw people of different races, socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds shake his hand and tell him how much he influenced their lives.

I believe my family’s willingness to fill important roles, perform essential tasks and get along with others allowed them to “do it first” and do it well.

Now I want to follow in their footsteps and pass on what I’ve learned. So whenever possible I tell my kids about our family’s history. I also use biblical examples to enhance their belief that all things are possible.

Recently I praised my oldest son for instilling hope into one of his friends. To further boost my son’s confidence, I pulled out my Bible, so we could read about Caleb and Joshua. I wanted him to know Bible heroes received because they believed, even when others did not.

Caleb, Joshua and ordinary people prove that it only takes one person to believe, receive and proceed with a calling from God that is lit by a fire He ignites within the hearts of His people.

Godly fire brings divine inspiration to write the vision and make it plain so the reader may run toward it without fainting. And ultimately, a person who launches into unknown territory must believe that his or her mission is possible.

Thanks to a thoughtful gift I received from my husband, I am inspired by words of another visionary: Nelson Mandela. He became the first black president of South Africa after enduring 27 years in prison. And his uplifting words still stimulate the hearts and minds of people predestined to do something first.

His words on my wall read: “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

Tonya Swindell writes a blog for www.inspirenewlife.org and a teacher for Kingdom Building Equipping School (KBES.com). She can be reached at 1brightot@gmail.com.