Tuesday, October 15, 2013

31 Days of Mississippi Goodbyes: Being Part of the Junior League of Jackson

Parts of this post have been stirring around for a really long time. I've hesitated though, because I want to write humbly and I don't want to sound angry. I'm really not. But I do get frustrated when people don't understand something that's really important to me.

The fact is, I get really tired of the reputation the Junior League has with some people. I don't really mind when my good friends poke fun at it when I know it's in jest, but I do take issue when people in all seriousness, have this idea that the Junior League is primarily an elitist social club for Jackson women.

Is it a fun way to meet friends? Yes. Are there ladies in it whose names represent "old" Jackson families? Yes. Is it an increasingly diverse group of women who are committed to further cultivating a positive climate in a city they care deeply about? YES.

Back in September we had our big general meeting to kick off the year. Ordinarily, on meeting days there are three different times to choose from, but this one to start the year is all together and it's huge. It's like a giant pep rally, too, where everyone is just really excited. But it's more than that. You hear about the things the League has accomplished and the plans for the upcoming year. This year we heard about a new organization we're working with (new to us) that helps homeless teenagers. There were so many beautiful success stories in which kids, in one way or another said, "y'all made me feel like I had worth". The leader of  this program left us with a great quote-- "Stewardship is what I do, with all that I have, after I say 'I believe'". That'll preach, right?

This month has a good many volunteering assignments for me as I'm trying to meet all my obligations before January, obviously. The League year ends with the school year and I had forgotten how good it feels to be active in this way.

And now we're looking ahead to Mistletoe. Last year (my first year), Mistletoe really overwhelmed me. I realized, for the first time, how extensive of a production it is. You can look at it and guess at much. But really seeing it? It overwhelmed me. Just seeing the untold hours put into the process. Realizing that those at the head of this year's Mistletoe had been chosen before last year's began. Watching (some of) the take down. And knowing that the millions of dollars raised in the last few years have been funneled right back into the community. I had tears in my eyes as I picked sticky candy out of the carpet in a pavilion area, realizing that my menial task that day would have far reaching effects on my city's and my city's children's tommorows.

If you're a Mississippian and have every had a really sick child, there's a good chance you've benefited from the help of the Junior League, too. The volunteers that rock tiny premature babies when their mommas need a break? The ladies that are often helping in different ways at the Ronald McDonald house? The women of my mother's generation who helped raise funds to BUILD the cancer clinic? Those are big, big things.

So you can understand why it gets under my skin when people think it's some kind of glorified cheer leading squad. All that I just shared? It doesn't really sound much like Hilly Holbrook, does it?

This was a little piece written that I saw in various places (the newsletter, headquarters, ect.) last year and it stuck out. I want people to understand this:

I am not content to sit still.
With so much need out there, I am moved to action.
Driven to lend a hand.
Forget what you think you know about me.
I’m not here just to make friends. I’m here to make a difference.
You are more likely to see me wearing sneakers than high heels.
Grabbing a hammer instead of a wine glass.
Holding a sick child rather than holding a party.
The Junior League of Jackson helps make me more effective.
Because I am working with an organization that knows how to get things 
done and knows how to empower members to accomplish any goal.
Being part of JLJ means that when I work to help others and support our 
community, nothing can stop me.
Watch me go.

I am so, so going to miss being part of something so much bigger than myself. But I know I'll find ways to serve others in New York, even without such an awesome organizational structure. And I look forward to picking up where I left off when we get back!


Mary Louis Quinn said...

Have you looked into transferring into the League there?

Sarah Denley said...


Several people have recommended it and one lady who works at the Children's Museum lived in NYC for awhile and was actually in it. It sounds like a lot of fun, I'm just nervous about committing to anything since I know we'll just be there for a year or two and since my child care options are super limited. Peyton and I have talked about it some, though!

Mary Louis Quinn said...

I didn't think about the child care- that would be tough. I have had a hard enough time here finding child care for JLB stuff. Four years in and I *finally* have someone who can help me out during the day!

Tacy said...

Sarah I just want you to know that I have enjoyed reading these posts. As a survivor of Southern wonderfulness, and as someone who has read about the follies of Hilly and her elite, I commend your candidness and commitment to the Junior League.