Responsively Yours: Learning to Choose

Responsively Yours: Learning to Choose
Harriett Olson holds a child after nap time at Houchen Community Center, a United Methodist Women mission institution in El Paso, Texas.

Psychologists tell us that children experience anxiety if they do not operate within some limits. The world about which they are learning is so vast that they need boundaries in order to learn to make choices. Perhaps that explains why so many of us as adults tend to see our choices as being limited. We gain a feeling of security from considering only a few possibilities (even if none of them are very good) and we can be satisfied that we’ve “made the best of a bad situation” that was not our fault.

Learning to make good choices and to know that choices are possible is one of the things that students learn at many of the community centers that are national mission institutions of United Methodist Women. I have a vivid memory of visiting Spofford Home in Kansas City, Mo., and meeting a little boy who was playing by himself in a quiet room with a staff member. He came boldly toward my group of visiting adults to explain, “I had too many reds, but next week starts on Sunday, and I can get more greens.”

It turns out that reds and greens were markers given out for behavior, and children could earn extra swim time for the number of greens they received. I was very touched. This young boy was learning that he had choices that could make a difference in the rest of his life. 

We have choices about how we interpret what goes on in the world around us and how we respond. United Methodist Women helps women, children and youth recognize the many choices to they have and is also committed to helping expand those options. 

Women of Northeast Jurisdiction United Methodist Women called on The Hershey Company before their June meeting in Hershey, Pa., to express our concern that the company’s cacao sourcing policies do not give adequate choices to women and families in Ghana and Cotê d’Ivoire. The former Ghanian ambassador, who is from a Methodist family, was the company’s invited spokesperson that day. He said children’s labor was needed to help families have an adequate income and that they worked by necessity and tradition, just as farm children do in the United States.

The former ambassador didn’t seem to recognize that while the families and the children who are affected by these trade policies may not have many choices, the company does. In fact, in releasing a new line of fair trade chocolate, the company has demonstrated not only what can be done, but that it can choose to apply fair trade standards to its cacao purchasing.

United Methodist Women, we also have choices. We have chosen to respond to the love of God, to allow the Spirit to work in our hearts and lives, to “be transformed,” as the Bible says. We can make choices that will help United Methodist Women grow and flourish as the organization we need today in our congregations, communities and the whole connection. We can choose to follow the call of God toward choices that we can’t even imagine yet.

Harriett Jane Olson
Women’s Division
Deputy General Secretary

Posted or updated: 8/31/2012 11:00:00 PM
response cover