We often don’t know what to do, but we don’t give up."

St. Paul the Apostle

Life is tough sometimes. Sometimes the unexpected happens and it feels as if the earth has fallen from beneath our feet. When those “take your breath away moments” happen, they can be scary, anxiety-ridden and perplexing.They can cause us to call everything into question.

The “what if” has come to pass. What if all of the other “what ifs” come to pass? Then what?

I have had to face this question recently and my response to myself has been: we keep going.

Please understand that I do not mean to imply that what it will take to keep going will be easy or pretty or comfortable. It almost assuredly will not.

What I do mean to say is that while we give all respect to the gravity of the difficult moment in which we find ourselves, we must soldier on. Those moments, no matter how gritty, ugly, hard and gut-wrenching they may be, do not exist in vain. They do not exist to wreck us emotionally and leave us eternally in ruins.

They will pass, and we will be better.

The real tragedy would be if we refused to let our hardest moments make us stronger, wiser and more resilient.

If we make it through to the other side of the seemingly insurmountable trials that we thought we couldn't, imagine what else we can do.

Zac Ochsenbine

I admit it. I am goal-oriented. I am ever-working toward achievement. I am focused sometimes to a fault. I am in good company as many people who are successful in rigorous environments are wired this way. And while it serves us well to be task-oriented, we must be intentional about not missing the moments in life that happen in between the big accomplishments.

The other day, one of my daughters asked me to help her with an art project. At the moment she asked me, I was feeling extremely overwhelmed. My “to do” list runneth over. I had some research I needed to do for work. I had an upcoming speaking engagement for which I still had not gathered my thoughts. I had two parent board meetings for my daughters’ respective schools for which I needed to prepare. I was behind in my team manager duties for my younger two daughters’ soccer teams. And I still wanted to get a workout in that day. I had too much going on. I didn’t have time to color.

As I fixed my mouth to say, “No,” something gave me pause: her face. Her expectant, hopeful face made me stop and think. I had prayed for motherhood and the prayer had been answered; and unlike many of my accomplishments, this blessing was not a box to be checked. Parenting was not a task that was accomplished once and for all at one finite moment in time. It was an ongoing, moment to moment, day by day endeavor.

Yes, my “to do” list was important, but my daughter was more important. I decided to focus on the opportunity that I had in that moment: to put the “to do” list on pause and turn my attention to my young daughter who would be overjoyed to spend an hour on a Saturday coloring with her mommy.

As I told my daughter that I would indeed color with her, a feeling of peace came over me. I knew I was making the right choice. I was choosing to enjoy life with my daughter. This was a precious, sweet moment in her childhood that we would both remember.

Life is precious and it is short. It is imperative that we do not forget to embrace each of life’s moments as we strive toward our goals.

I don’t want to look back on my life and feel like I missed a moment of it.

Born into slavery circa 1747, Molly Williams is recognized as the first female firefighter in the United States. While a slave to the wealthy Aymar family, she met and married her husband, Peter Williams. In 1783, Aymar sold the Williamses to Wesley Chapel, the first incarnation of the John Street United Methodist Church in Manhattan’s Financial District. The Williams family lived in the basement of the church as indentured servants with Peter serving as the sexton in charge of buildings, maintenance, and grave digging and Molly cooking and cleaning. They had a son, Peter Jr., and eventually bought their freedom.

Mrs. Williams continued to work for Aymar as a servant after she became a free woman. In 1815, Aymar became a volunteer in Lower Manhattan’s fledgling firefighting corps, Oceanus Engine Co. 11. Fires broke out frequently and those most affected were those with the most property, so many wealthy merchants took part in the firefighting corps out of self-interest. Mrs. Williams would accompany Aymar when he went to work at Oceanus Engine Co. 11. Initially, she cooked meals, cleaned the station and cared for the crew when outbreaks of flu, yellow fever, and cholera erupted. However, in time she would replace the sick crew, fighting fires in their stead.

There was a great blizzard in New York in 1818. Between the blizzard and a great influenza outbreak, many male volunteers were unable to work. At the age of 71, Mrs. Williams took the place of the sick men and worked at the firehouse. The members of the firehouse credited her for being as tough as the male firefighters. During the blizzard, Mrs. Williams answered a call that came into the firehouse and “pump[ed] out as much [water with as much] strength as all the men.” Mrs. Williams was remembered for pulling the pumper to fires through heavy snow during that blizzard. Her commitment earned her the name “Volunteer 11.” Often seen fighting fires in a dress and checkered apron, she was known for her distinguished presence and attire. Her fellow firefighters described Mrs. Williams to be “as good a fire laddie as many of the boys.”

Mrs. Williams died in 1821 at the age of 74. George W. Sheldon wrote in the 1882 oral history The Story of the Volunteer Fire Department of the City of New York, that Molly Williams was “one of the most famous ‘volunteers’ of the earlier days.” Though there is very little known about her personal life, her firefighting efforts remain an important part of women’s history and Black history and paved the way for all female firefighters.

This text is excerpted from:,, and,

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