Holiness in our Midst: Session 88

Holiness in our Midst


Story Circle Prompt: Who loved you into being the person you are today?

In the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Esquire magazine writer Lloyd Vogel (played by Matthew Rhys) is assigned to do a profile on Fred Rogers (played by Tom Hanks), the gentle children’s TV star. Vogel wants to turn the piece into an exposé. But “Mr. Rogers” persists in encouraging the hard-driving investigative journalist to share his feelings, particularly his escalating anger toward a dismissive father. Vogel walks out on Rogers in one attempt. 

But after Vogel’s father suffers a heart attack, Vogel, tormented and confused, returns to Philadelphia to meet with Rogers. In a pivotal scene in a Chinese restaurant there, Rogers stuns Vogel (and the surrounding patrons) by asking him to spend one minute thinking about “the people who loved us into being,” as a means of encouraging him to forgive his dying father. My take-home from the movie was this powerful question, lingering long after the resolution of the father-son and writer-subject dramas.

So, I ask myself: Who loved me into being who I am today? (Note: It is easier to name the persons who hurt (or tried to silence) the essence of my being!) But two academic professionals from the University of Missouri College of Home Economics (now the College of Environmental Sciences) stand out. Both Veta Adams, assistant dean, and Dr. Virginia Fisher, director of the child development department, are long gone, but not forgotten. 

In the late Sixties, I was a transfer student forced to take dreaded home economics courses if I wanted to major in journalism. (“We don’t want you chasing ambulances for a living,” my family said.) I challenged the relevancy of the minutiae in every course and pointed out the inequities in requirements among home economics journalism majors. I clearly didn’t want to be there and soon came to the attention of the authorities. 

I was unceremoniously ushered into Mrs. Adams’ office and left there by my rather fussy advisor after I dared to question the importance of the college. Mrs. Adams shut the door and said, “Please call me ‘Veta,’” and smiled sincerely. She said, “You’re absolutely right. Our courses need to be re-vamped for the times.” That day I decided to stay in school and persevere with the coursework. Veta asked me if I wanted to work with her to create a club for home ec journalism majors. She opened her home for our meetings. “Janis,” she once said to me, “your problem is that you’re just too creative for your own good. We have to get you through the coursework and out there so you can make your mark on the world.” 

Early on in our friendship she told me: “You have to meet my friend Ginny. Dr. Virginia Fisher was equally non-conforming. She held strong ideas about children (and adults) needing their own sacred space. Her playground for preschoolers in the child development was an engineering marvel with its many spaces, shapes, nooks and crannies. I ended up taking as many courses as possible in her department. Together Veta and Ginny made it financially possible for me to attend a child development conference in Boston during my senior year. 

After I graduated, I spent many hours in their homes just sharing hopes, dreams and ideas. When I was ready for change, they recommended me for jobs with the blessing of the University of Missouri. One was food editor/feature writer for Today newspaper in Cape Canaveral, FL, the predecessor to USA Today. Later, I would be manager of food publicity for Quaker Oats Company in Chicago because of their advocacy.

Veta gave me the gift of unabashedly enjoying the freewheeling way I view the world. She did more than affirm my ability to write. She helped me focus my creative energy toward writing goals. For several years, I visited Ginny in Arrow Rock, MO during the town’s annual festival. I remember the wonder of learning to bake 20 pies one afternoon. My life-long love of regional folk music was born, as I watched her help a young couple, folk musicians, stage the cover photo for their first album. She was a visionary with more than a touch of quirkiness. “If you can think it, you can do it,” she said.

Veta and Ginny were life coaches before the concept existed. They “loved” my creative soul into being. And my creativity is still alive today, thanks to them. 

(Note: An endowment honors Veta Adams, a member of the MU faculty for 20 years. The award provides scholarships for students who show professional potential and who earn a part of their college expenses. Dr. Virginia Fisher was posthumously given a Distinguished Faculty award.)


  1.   Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the question: Who loved you into being the person you are today? 
  2. In the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Fred Rogers pulled puppets out of a suitcase and asks Esquire magazine writer Lloyd Vogel if he had a favorite stuffed animal or toy growing up. In your journal, write about your favorite “special friend?”


  1.   Read aloud Session LXXXVIII,
  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt. 

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.