THE GIFT OF INFLUENCE
Have you heard the name Norman Borlaug? I hadn’t until recently, but Borlaug was the man-one of only six in history—who won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. What an amazing feat! What did he win them for? For developing hybridized grain crops—wheat, corn, oats—that would produce under even the most abject growing conditions, anywhere in the world. It is estimated that Borlaug’s research has saved more than a billion people—and counting—from starvation. But wait, there’s more to this story. Henry Wallace was a farmer in the state of Iowa, USA, before being chosen by Franklin Roosevelt as Secretary of Agriculture, and later, Vice President. Wallace would spearhead the Borlaug research project and find the money for it because he believed that we could use the plentiful resources on our planet to feed every living person, if we could just manage them well. Wallace sent Borlaug to one of Mexico’s most desolate farming areas, and what he did there changed the future of farming world-wide, thus rescuing a billion people from starvation. Perhaps it was really Henry Wallace who should have received the accolades.
As George did his research, Henry was there, looking over his shoulder, discovering the miraculous way things grow"
Then, again, one could ask where Henry Wallace gained his love for growing things and his believe that our world could sustain everyone? It turns out that, when Henry was five, his father became a faculty member at the University of Iowa. There, a brilliant young student named George became Henry’s hero. As George did his research, Henry was there, looking over his shoulder, discovering the miraculous way things grow. In young Henry’s heart a love affair grew with the things of nature, which would eventually place him as U. S. Secretary of Agriculture, and open the way for the Borlaug projects. Perhaps it was rather this George-Washington Carver-whose influence on Wallace who should have received the medals and fame for his influence on Wallace!
But that’s not the beginning of the story either. Moses and Susan were simple farmers in Missouri, USA. Although Missouri still supported slavery, Moses and Susan did everything in their power to ease the suffering created by slavery. A slave family worked on their farm, but were treated with respect, and as hired help rather than slaves. In fact, the slave mother, Mary, and Susan became inseparable friends.
Late one January night, a band of hooligans with sacks over their heads came pillaging through the countryside, burned down Moses and Susan’s barn, torched their crops, and killed several of their neighbors. They also kidnapped Mary, her one year-old daughter and five day-old baby son.
By dawn, Susan was so distraught that she pled with Moses to do whatever he could to find Mary and the children. He sent runners in all directions and two days later made contact with the offenders. He arranged to meet them at an intersection of two roads just across the state line in Kansas.
Through the night Moses rode his last remaining horse till he met up with the ruffians and made them an offer. He would swap the horse for Mary and her children."
Through the night Moses rode his last remaining horse till he met up with the ruffians and made them an offer. He would swap the horse for Mary and her children. He learned that Mary and her daughter were dead, but that they would make the trade for the baby who had been stuffed inside a burlap bag and was barely alive. As the hooded horsemen rode off into the night, Moses opened the bag and placed the baby inside his own coat and shirt where the warmth of his body could help keep the child alive. All the rest of the night he walked and as he walked he talked to the baby, and sang to him.
When he arrived home the next day, Moses and Susan decided they would keep the baby, adopt him, and raise him as their own. They would educate him like his mother would have wanted him to be, and they would give him their name. So Mary’s baby, whom she had named George Washington, would grow up as George Washington Carver. Would it not have been more appropriate for the Nobel Peace Prize—for helping save uncounted people from starvation—to have been awarded to these two unassuming Missouri farmers, Moses and Susan Carver?
Have you ever wondered who touched a life in your history that resulted in you being who, and where, you are today? Whose life will you touch today who will perhaps, in turn, profoundly influence someone you many never meet and change their destiny? What a gift our influence can be.