Inspired by My Ancestors

Melissa Jeter
January 25 2023

By Melissa Jeter

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.”

—Hebrews 12:1

New year, new me, right?Maybe, but I just want to sit on the couch. The days are longer and my dog wants to go out. She monitors my every move for a sign that the walk is coming, but after feeding her I just want a nap. Also, I was going to read another book about racism; I was losing hope for anything to change. Perhaps I’m likeSisyphus: pushing the rock up the hill just to let it fall back and start again.

The last time I chose the couch, I thought:During slavery, people worked fifteen to eighteen hours a day! Anytime people say that Black folks in America are lazy, I consider it a slur. That’s when my grandfather came to mind.

John Frankwas a part of the Great Migration: he migrated from the Carolinas to Ohio. The plantation that bears our last name is still there. My grandfather carried the last name of those who came to Virginia via England, and to England from France. French Huguenots. The name is French forto throw away.

Once he came to Ohio, my grandfather worked in steel mills while owning his own business repairing houses. As a kid, I didn’t see him much. When I did see him, he’d usually be working on his truck, and it was a treat to see him. He was still tall, though his knees were bad.

I stopped working out intensely when my own knees felt it was going badly. And I had intended for many years to start to intensify working out. This year I really need it so I can recharge my brain. When I’m in my body instead of my mind, I ruminate less on all the things that I cannot control and did not cause.

My grandfather was a boxer. Kickboxing workouts were my favorites. So this month, I’ve started to intensify my morning routines to work out. I’m sure that thinking about my grandfather and his life inspired me. I will not think my way out of, or into, this life. Inspired by his memory, though, I can at least get off the couchand like Sisyphus, push that rock.

I’ll be stronger and more hopeful for the work of it. I anchor this new year in the cloud of witnesses that are a vital force in my life.

Prayer

Let us be grateful for the vital force that wakes us and moves us. Let us be grateful for the inspirational foundations upon which we stand. Let us never forget the mighty cloud of witnesses who are revealed in our being.