In 1905 Ann Reeves Jarvis, Anna Jarvis’ mother, died. The grief-stricken Anna went home from the funeral and began plans for an annual Mother’s Day to honor overworked and under-appreciated mothers. Anna spent her time lobbying, writing letters and working hard on her project, finally getting the consent and support of big players such as Mark Twain, John Wanamaker, and William Jennings Brian.
Just 3 years later, the first Mother’s Day services in Philadelphia featured Anna Jarvis speaking to 5,000 people, because there wasn’t room for the 15,000 (!) who wanted to attend. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed the legislation to make it a national holiday.
What a trailblazer! Anna Jarvis created a project solely from her heart to honor her mother, (although she was actually not the first one to come up with the idea- Mary Towles Sasseen had celebrated the day as far back as 1867, but Anna Jarvis was the one who fought to make it national) and within 9 years it was a national holiday that would become an international one. Wow! Talk about dedication and perseverance, and working to bring a vision into reality….
But then something happened: Mother’s Day took on its own stride. Florists raised the price of white carnations (the official Mother’s Day flower) annually, and businesses began capitalizing on the idea. Anna Jarvis was very upset, and at one point had 33 lawsuits simultaneously against Mother’s Day usurpers capitalizing on it! It didn’t help. Mother’s Day continued to grow and change and become one of the most commercial holidays ever of all time.
For my attorneys reading this article, you might be thinking, “Had she only trademarked the idea!” 🙂 Indeed, there may have been things Anna Jarvis could have done differently so she didn’t spend her life bitter, end up in a sanatorium (ironically, paid for by companies that had profited from Mother’s Day (!) and die poor and alone even as this holiday became one of the most profitable ever.
How do you make G-d laugh? Make a plan.
Sometimes our plans and desires don’t work out the way we want. Sometimes people steal our ideas. Sometimes people speak ill of us, criticize our ideas, and then steal them later, anyway! This has happened to me- but you know what? That’s how it goes sometimes.
It’s all too common to be upset, clenched, bitter, and blameful. ESPECIALLY when we feel that something we created is being tainted or not going the way we want, OR that things don’t make sense and are “unacceptable.” Honestly, I struggle with this frequently- ask my sister how grumpy I can get when things take “too long!” But the point is, we cannot control much. Sigh.
Whether it’s launching that new program, getting out of debt, organizing your closet or getting something passed in Congress, our attitudes are everything. Here are some ways to Deal when things don’t go as we want that might have helped Anna Jarvis:
1. Let it go– they tell writers to “kill their babies”, meaning that sometimes we have to let go of our genius ideas as they can actually block the success of the project overall, and allow our original idea to morph or let something totally different come through as the new plan. Not being too attached to an exact idea is HARD but can be crucial for success.
2. Ask an expert or a friend for help– sometimes our frustration comes from us not knowing how to do something. Very often the support of a friend or an expert can either get us there OR give us the clarity that it’s not somewhere we want to go, after all. (See #1)
3. Brainstorm doing it another way– We can be overly attached to doing things our way. Maybe there’s another way to do it that would be totally different and just work better.
4. Be willing to collaborate with your “enemies”– Anna Jarvis didn’t want anyone to profit from Mother’s Day…but what if she had worked with the florists and greeting card companies to give a portion of their profits to poor mothers, and maybe to her as well? With the right attitude, there might be room for everybody to win.
5. Focus on your happiness– this project might be your end all be all that you’re willing to die for. Short of that, make choices along the way that honor both your values and your health…and the results will be better for YOU and the world. Anna created this project out of love for her mother, but her happiness, joy and power were sapped away as she focused on fighting to preserve her original idea.
6. Allow for greatness– we might be focused on something to reach 100 people, but if we are flexible and open to receive what comes, we might reach 1,000…or 1,000,000! Focus on the spirit of your project succeeding, and allow the details to change over time, which they inevitably will.
Here’s to you, Mary Towles Sasseen and Anna Jarvis, your visions DO live on.
Happy Mother’s Day…may whatever dream project you are working on to leave your mark on the world be a beautiful reflection of your creativity, fierceness, and dedication…and succeed beyond anything you could have imagined.