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3 Stories in U.S. History to Motivate You to Serve

by | Jul 19, 2023 | Service

It’s often said if you don’t learn from history, it is doomed to repeat itself. But what about those parts of history that we want to repeat? There are countless tales of bravery, selflessness, and ingenuity that we can learn from today and repeat intentionally tomorrow. Here are three stories to help inspire you.

Hamilton Free School

An old black and white image of elegantly dressed Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.

The name Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton has become far more common since the explosion of the Broadway hit, “Hamilton.” She was the wife of Alexander Hamilton and chose to carry on his legacy after his untimely death. Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton was raised in a wealthy political family in New York. She wa highly educated and strong willed with a desire to help others.

After her husband’s death, Elizabeth was forced to move into a humbler neighborhood. There, she quickly noticed how many families struggled to send their children to school. After all, the cost of private school was high and there were no free public schools in their area. She took action, and with the help of a few friends, secured a loan to form the Hamilton Free School in Northern Manhattan. Although it was always wanting for money, they were able to provide all the books, slates, and lessons children needed to be fully educated.

Elizabeth’s desire for literacy was driven by her deep faith. She greatly desired every child to be able to read and understand the Bible, and that drove her through the hardships of getting the school running. Read more about her contributions here.

What motivates you to help others, even when it isn’t convenient?

Feed Sack Clothing

Front and back views of a dress made out of feed sacks.

For many, the 1930s were a dark time in America’s history. The Great Depression rolled through the country. With many families out of work, out of money, and out of hope, American ingenuity grew. Many mothers couldn’t afford new fabric to clothe their children, so they used what they had … the cloth bag they got their flour and other food in. This trend grew, and the feed sack dress became a national trend. Many rural communities held competitions to see who could make the most out of the recycled material.

Bag manufacturers took notice and saw an opportunity to help. These companies began making flour bags that were brightly colored, featured beautiful patterns, and even had wash-away ink so their branding could be removed. This not only gave the public a way to make beautiful clothes, but many women could sell their extra bags for a few coins to help run their home.

So many of us have connections and resources that could help those around us. The sack manufacturing companies found a way to improve the lives of their customers while still selling and distributing their products.

What can you do to help those around you?

Choctaw Nation Donation

An image of a Choctaw statue in Ireland with feathers rising up. It is set in a park with a lake and beautiful sky.

In 1847 the people of Ireland were starving to death in the midst of the devastating potato famine. 16 years after they survived the Trail of Tears, the Choctaw nation saw the Irish suffering and were moved to action. A group of Choctaw members (who were not wealthy themselves) rallied together and collected $170—the equivalent of $5,000 today—and sent it to aid the Irish. This began a beautiful relationship that is still honored today between the two nations.

In 2017, a sculpture was built in Ireland titled “Kindred Spirits,” to remember the $170 donation. And in 2019 the first Choctaw student began studies in Ireland—thanks to the Choctaw Ireland Scholarship.

This story came full circle when the COVID-19 pandemic tore through Native American lands, leaving the Hopi tribe and the Navajo nation suffering. In memory of the donation made nearly 200 years before, the Irish sprang to action and raised donations for the Native Americans.

Although the Choctaw nation was struggling, it still found the motivation and resources to help another nation in peril. How can you reach out to help another person today?

History is Our Greatest Teacher

The examples of Elizabeth Hamilton, the bag manufacturers of the Great Depression, and the Choctaw Nation are just a few of the many stories throughout history that illustrate the power of good. You don’t need to be in a place of authority to help. Whether you check in on a neighbor, write a check for a charity, or participate in a food drive, there are always ways you to be a good influence. What will you do to be a blessing to others today? 

Still looking for ways to serve? Read another blog of ours, all about the qualities of a servant leader.