Friday, January 09, 2009


“A young Indian boy was auditioning along with some of us for a school play. His mother knew he’d set his heart on being in the play - just like the rest of us hoped, too - and she feared how he would react if he was not chosen.

On the day the parts were awarded, the little boy’s mother went to school on her horse to collect her son. The little boy rushed up to her and her horse, eyes shining with pride and excitement.

‘Guess what, Mom,” he shouted, and then said the words that provide a lesson to us all, “I’ve been chosen to clap and cheer.”

- Ed Slow Horse Chaparro

I received that little gem in a mailing today from Friends of Silence, a group that mails spiritual stories and quotes to me every so often. It made me think of my dad, Ensley Tiffin. You will probably never read his name in the history books, or see him honored posthumously by the Kennedy Center, or see him on the Biography Channel. Yet, he was instrumental in giving encouragement to hundreds of well-known and not-so-well-known people during the Civil Rights movement. He did this through letters of support to those who had done a courageous act, showed the true Christian way, took an ethical stand, knowing the potential risks to their reputation or job, or spoke up for justice in the face of adversity. Some recipients wrote back, saying that Dad’s letter was the only positive one in a bag of hate mail they had received that day.

One of his letters was quoted in the book Freedom’s Coming, and he once had a newspaper article written about his letter-writing habit, but other than that, he didn’t get much publicity. My mother, sister and I will be one day donating the collection of the letters he wrote (and those he received in return) to the Memphis Room at the Memphis Public Library, where they will be catalogued and archived. We would even like to get them published. However, if he never gets the recognition he deserves, that’s OK, too, because he never did anything for his own aggrandizement.

Daddy, of course, took his own risks for justice in his own life. But he knew innately that his gift was being “chosen to clap and cheer,” and he used that gift generously.

1 comment:

Cuidado said...

That's a lovely story about your dad.