To Preserve a Benevolent Attitude

Slater, Verona Wylie

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Interview Participants
And now, This I Believe, the living philosophies of thoughtful men and women, presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Verona Wylie Slater is the daughter of a strong-willed, tough-minded preacher who moved from a small town to New York’s Park Avenue. She is the sister of the writers Philip and Max Wylie. When she returned her script, she said she had no public deeds to offer and therefore nothing to tell about herself for an introduction. But for twenty years she has been a housewife devoted to her job, her husband and three children, and impatient with complaints that parents give nothing to the
younger generation. Now here is Verona Slater to share with us her brave beliefs.
My early life was spent in Presbyterian parsonages where I learned a great deal about the “thou shalt nots” of this world. In those days his [father's] parishioners’ problems were often brought to the minister for settlement. He was supposed to be their spiritual advisor, marriage counselor, economic stabilizer, and psychiatrist. Sometimes, father referred to conferences with his flock, saying he had been wrestling with men’s souls. In these mysterious matches I thought of God as a giant referee who spoke through father.
My brothers and I held long conversations about what might be true or false in Christian teachings. One
evening during a thunder storm, my eldest brother was inspired to make an unholy experiment. He stood on a sloping rock, which jutted out into the lake near our summer home. Holding his face upward, he defied the Almighty to strike him with a bolt of lightning. The storm was loud and close. The skies opened with a terrifying flash, but the bolt flew across the dark waters a mile away. We felt relieved, foolish, and very insignificant. I have felt unimportant many times since that night and remembered with a smile a bolt of lightning which scorned the Parson’s children.
It took many years to recover from the idea that God was a figure of personal vengeance. Now I think of God as a spirit of goodness, reflected in sane human beings everywhere. In much the same way I look
through the pantry shelves to see what is needed for dinner, I have frequently taken inventory of my thoughts searching for a simple philosophy by which I might live. My philosophy embraces three things I would like to be as a woman: wise, gentle, and brave. To be truly wise would take more than one lifetime, perhaps. But achievable wisdom implies the use and enjoyment of my five senses. I can observe. I can read and gather at least a partial understanding of the world. I can learn by listening to others. I can enjoy music. I can taste what is sweet or bitter. I am warned by the smell of smoke and pleased by the fragrance of flowers. With my fingers I might stroke the silken hair on the head of a child. But these same nerve ends keep my fingers from the fire.
Gentleness is the sort of kindness which accumulates with wisdom. It is the big watchword in my book. It is so easy to become an opinionated monster after 40. With age, I want to preserve a benevolent attitude. Children need tenderness to combat their natural savagery and to comfort them in distress. A soothing manner is an important ingredient in any formula dealing with men. It lightens the tensions that shorten men’s lives. A gentle approach toward other women is a vital necessity if I hope to accomplish anything in group projects and if I wish to have friends.
The real value of gentleness is lost if it is not fortified with bravery. When I am afraid, I am paralyzed and ashamed. Women who show a quiet courage in grief and disaster fill me with admiration. I
have to evaluate and control fear. In order to reason clearly, I must be brave. Rather than a monument to my own failings, I want my children to be a credit to the society in which they live. All the wisdom I glean, all the gentleness I can maintain, all the courage I can command, I want for them.
That was Verona Wylie Slater who, in applying her beliefs, has made a good life for herself and those around her. She lives with her family in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania.
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