A meaningful Mother's Day

One of the most commercial days of the year is Sunday.

But did you know Mother's Day was originally intended to promote peace — not gift baskets and greeting cards?

Ashland resident Nancy Spencer, who was a teenager during World War II, pointed me to the original Mother's Day Proclamation, written in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe.

The day was intended "to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, / The amicable settlement of international questions, / The great and general interests of peace," Howe's poem reads.

"I think it's a wonderful piece of writing and more people should know about it," said Spencer, who, at 85, still teaches music and plays the musical saw. "Mother's Day has become entirely commercialized, which is too bad."

Two of Spencer's brothers fought in World War II and returned home. One of them was a navigator on an aircraft bomber that photographed the aftermath of the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

"The brother that was on the plane that photographed the destruction, his wife says that he never did get over that," Spencer said. "I'm sure it had a lifelong impression."

The Ashland chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom will read Howe's proclamation at 1 p.m. Friday at the Ashland Branch Library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.

Howe is best known for penning the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" during the American Civil War. However, after the war, she became known as a pacifist and a leader in the women's suffrage movement.

Although Howe is known as the mother of Mother's Day in the United States, the holiday wasn't officially recognized until 1914, under President Woodrow Wilson.

Although Mother's Day is now one of the most commercial days of the year, our Sunday can be different.

We don't have to buy anything.

What's more important, though, whether or not we buy flowers, is that we focus on the person, not the presents.

"I'm certainly in favor of honoring mothers, it's just that I don't want that original message to be lost," Spencer said.

The most meaningful present you could probably give your mother, or another mother in your life, is to be present with her. On days such as Mother's Day, time spent is really more important than money spent.

However, gifts can be tokens of kindness, and we shouldn't feel like we can't buy something for others. Our focus is what's important.

Gift buying and wrapping can harm the environment, but it doesn't have to. You could handcraft a gift, wrap it in recycled paper and deliver it by bike. You could cook a meal for a mother in your life. You could write her a letter or give her a backrub. All of these things can be inexpensive, environmentally friendly and — most importantly — meaningful.

After all, an eco-gift for your mother is also a gift to Mother Earth.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com. For past columns see dailytidings.com/ecologic.

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