Fort McCoy News Sept. 8, 2017

Women's Equality Day speaker:

Share stories, 'pass on light'

STORY & PHOTO BY AIMEE MALONE
Public Affairs Staff

Sharing stories, learning from others, and conquering your fears are important markers on the path to success, said Hester Moore, guest speaker for Fort McCoy's Women's Equality Day event Aug. 24.

Moore, an actress, poet, storyteller, and teacher, shared a number of stories with Fort McCoy community members during the observance.

"When we listen to stories, we join the storyteller's community. When we tell our stories, we invite the listeners in," Moore said. "Our stories are our elders, and we can benefit from their wisdom when we listen."

Guest speaker Hester J. Moore gives her presentation to community members Aug. 24 during the Women’s Equality Day observance at McCoy’s Community Center at Fort McCoy.
Guest speaker Hester J. Moore gives her presentation to community
members Aug. 24 during the Women's Equality Day observance at McCoy's
Community Center at Fort McCoy.

The first story she shared was a tale about a monkey and a shark. The monkey lived near the ocean and, upon seeing a shark one day, began throwing fruits into the water for it. The monkey and the shark became good friends.

One day, the shark invited the monkey to a great feast where he would meet the shark's parents. The monkey, after asking how he would get there, agreed to go and the shark carried the monkey on his back out into the ocean.

When they were out of reach of the land, the shark confessed that he was taking the monkey to meet his parents because the shark's father needed a monkey heart to cure his illness. Thinking fast, the monkey scolded the shark for not telling him sooner because if he had known, he would have brought his heart with him.

The shark decided to swim back so the monkey could retrieve his heart. Back on shore, the monkey climbed his tree and began throwing coconuts at the shark, driving him off in shame.

"What's the moral of this story?" Moore asked. "You should never accept a bad situation as your eternal fate."

Moore also shared the story of the frogs and the cows, which both shared the same river as drinking water with many other animals. Every time the cows came to drink, the frogs would complain that the cows muddied and ruined the drinking water.

Eventually, one of the cows told the frogs that there was enough water for everyone, and the frogs were the only ones complaining. "A cow cannot stop drinking water just because a frog is complaining."

Moore said it is important to persist even when naysayers try to make you give up.

"Never stop expanding your horizons because the frogs are complaining," she said.

Guest speaker Hester J. Moore gives her presentation to community members Aug. 24 during the Women’s Equality Day observance at McCoy’s Community Center at Fort McCoy.
Guest speaker Hester J. Moore sings during her presentation Aug. 24
during the Women's Equality Day observance at McCoy's Community
Center at Fort McCoy.

And if the frogs are your own internal voice and fears, it's just as important to conquer them. "Those of you who said, 'I can't,' 'I don't know,' and other excuses, you should stop discouraging yourself. These are your frogs," Moore said. "If you listen to them, you will do nothing to advance yourself."

In a town known as Wells, people and animals had plenty of water from the full wells scattered throughout the town. During the dry season, the water level was always low from the lack of rain. One day, an old man found a young boy sitting by one of the wells. When he asked why the boy was sitting there, he said he was waiting for the well to be full of water so he could get a drink.

"The old man said to the child, 'If you don't kneel down to drink and gather your water, you will only get a drink when the rain comes,'" Moore said. "One can be in the midst of wealthy resources, but unless he or she realizes what it takes to enjoy those resources, he or she is at the mercy of nature.

"Your talents, gifts, and experiences are your wells," she said. Every person has to figure out what he or she needs to do to access those wells and use what's at his or her disposal.

Moore also shared personal stories from her life about fears she had to conquer through the years. Her first fear was her mother, who was a strict disciplinarian to her 15 children. "My mother used to set you up, and one day she set me up good," she said.

Her second fear in life was a bully at school who used to beat her up and take her milk money and lunch. One day, when she couldn't escape in time, Moore fought back against the girl, who was much bigger than she was. The girl left her alone after that, she said.

The third fear in her life was the fear of failure after being told she wasn't good enough to succeed. She went to New York at "the late age of 45" to break into show business, and Moore said she was terrified because they expected her to act, sing, and dance.

Guest speaker Hester J. Moore gives her presentation to community members Aug. 24 during the Women’s Equality Day observance at McCoy’s Community Center at Fort McCoy.
Guest speaker Hester J. Moore invites community members to join her
in singing "This Little Light of Mine" on Aug. 24 during the Women's
Equality Day observance at McCoy's Community Center at Fort McCoy.

"I'd been told all my life that I couldn't sing," Moore said. "'You sure can act a fool, but you can't sing.'"

She sang a few songs throughout the presentation, including her New York audition song: George Gershwin's "Summertime" from the opera "Porgy and Bess."

Attending college was another example of conquering her fear of failure. She said she drove by the University of Memphis many times throughout the years before getting up the courage to finally attend classes.

"I would pass by this school many, many years. I wasn't good enough; I wasn't worthy," Moore said. "But I graduated in 2005 with honors.

"You've got to beat the fear. There is fire in all of us," she said. "So think about the women in the 1900s, the late 1800s — Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton — when they said women should not be voting."

Susan B. Anthony was arrested for her attempts to vote. When the judge fined her $100, she told him to pay it. "She never paid that fine," Moore said.

"Think about the Harriet Tubmans who could not read or write. She stood 4 feet 11 and weighed 90 pounds, but she said, 'I want to be free,'" she said. When Tubman wanted to give up, she said a voice reminded her of everything she had learned and that she should put that knowledge to use to escape and be free. And she continued to use that knowledge to help others escape slavery and find their way to freedom.

It's important to learn from stories, whether they are fables or the true stories of heroic men and women, Moore said.

"There is a light in all of us, and we must shine that light and pass it on," she said.

The Women's Equality Day observance was coordinated by the Equal Opportunity adviser. For more information about observances, call 608-388-6153.