Second Fiddle – Major Player

Second Fiddle – Major Player

Lent 26


We’ve all heard someone described as a “second fiddle”.  The term is used to imply someone whose worth is not as great or whose contribution is not as important as someone else’s might be.  In short, it is not a compliment.  This week we will be discussing, as we grow a garden of self, about respect.  If you ever need to clear a room quickly, just throw out “respect” or “self-respect” as a talking point.  We all desperately want it and yet, nobody wants to really discuss it.


Sunday a woman often described as a “second fiddle” passed away.  She had a full life, rich in circumstances and adventures but one that was also filled with public scrutiny and debate.  People either loved her or gave her little attention except to occasionally insult her or speak rather disparagingly about her.  She was, quite possibly, one of two of the most accomplished women of the past two hundred years and, in spite of all of the talk about her, possessed the healthiest dose of self-respect anyone could ever hope to feel.


This woman first came to the public’s attention as an actress.  She never gained stardom from her acting and a less than kind person might call her a “B list” actress.  Through acting she met her husband and became his second wife.  Women of her time were often called second fiddles to their husband but this woman was not just second fiddle as a wife, she was a second wife.  Her husband’s first wife had also been an actress and she was considered an “A list” actress, surpassing both the husband and second wife in stardom and in garnering the public’s favor.


So how did this woman who passed away yesterday have so much self-respect?  Let’s first talk about the other accomplished woman I mentioned.  She too was a wife at a time in which woman were supposed to be the “second fiddle” to their husbands.  She would become famous for not being a beauty and no one was surprised when she married a man she’d known all her life, a distant cousin.  The husband was charismatic, though, and everyone was surprised when he chose the quiet, studious cousin as a wife.  The woman was learned and not afraid to speak her mind and became an asset in her husband’s career just as the one recently deceased had been.  Both accomplished great things because of their self-respect.


Respect is not something that can be bought and even taught.  It is the prize at the end of a quest, much like the treasure one seeks after following a map.  In this instance, though, we are the only ones who can undertake the search.  We have to look within and find the treasure ourselves.  It is not an easy task.


The second woman I mentioned used her self-knowledge (see last week’s posts for discussions about this) to learn to love herself, something we discussed two weeks ago.  The more recent woman had a more difficult time in doing this but both woman would find their self-respect and once found, never lose it.  They became quite possibly the two best “second fiddles” to have ever lived in the White House as the First Lady.


Nancy Reagan passed away yesterday and so, this post has been edited and publication held for twenty-four hours out of respect.  Many saw her only as a shadow of her husband, President Ronald Reagan.  Living in the White House opened their lives up for public discussion.  Nany Reagan was a step mother and wife, something a bit unpopular in a time when woman were encouraged to walk in the limelight and not the shadows.  However, scrutiny of her time as First Lady, wife to the President of the United States of America will reveal some very important contributions.


Nancy Reagan was single-handedly responsible for getting various drug abuse prevention programs started in the US.  Her “Just Say No” advertising campaigns are still being used and resulted in other programs being implemented.  She also began grandparent mentoring programs and hosted children in the White House, giving them a connection that many never felt before to their own country.


The other successful woman in the arena of self-respect was also a First Lady.  Eleanor Roosevelt became well-known as her husband’s polio kept him side-lined but she really came into her own after their left the White House.  Her activity as an advocate further opened the door for women that their being needed to work in factories in World War II had cracked.


Anne Frances Robbins, called Nancy by friends and family, considered being a wife a privilege and worthy of respect.  “I see the First Lady as another means to keep a President from becoming isolated, I talk to people. They tell me things. And if something is about to become a problem, I’m not above calling a staff person and asking about it. I’m a woman who loves her husband and I make no apologies for looking out for his personal and political welfare.”  She was not above calling members of Congress either, inviting them for tea and then drilling them on problems that had come to her attention.  In short, she lived with confidence because she had self-respect.


Eleanor Roosevelt is a favorite of mine and role model of sorts.   Her belief that “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility” is something I have tried to live every day.  She is the longest serving First Lady in the history of the United States and is now considered a politician, diplomat, and activist.  “I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.”


“A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”  This quote of Eleanor Roosevelt’s not applies to herself and Nancy Reagan but to us all.  Take a quick look at yourself and I think you will discover things there to like about yourself.  They are things to improve on; consider them the difficult parts of the treasure map that is you.  After all, every quest has its hurdles that must be overcome.  Think about the movies Indiana Jones – snakes, canyons, chasing marauders, etc.  We all have them, even First Ladies and Presidents. (Maybe I should add “especially” First Ladies and Presidents.)


Every second fiddle provides harmony to the ensemble or orchestra.  Without the second fiddles of the world, life would be just a simple melody, nice but a bit boring. In their own right, second fiddles are major players that help round out our living and give it meaning and illumination.


I hope this week you join the discussion and remember that, As Eleanor Roosevelt reminds us, “People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.”  This is how we grow our self-respect and a better self.


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