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Places of Vision

September 28, 2017

For some people, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word “museum” is stuffy. They think of  old, dusty objects and tributes to dead ideas and deeds. That may be true of some museums, not certainly not all. Some, I would even say most, are places where we honor and help preserve mankind’s highest ideals. One such place is Green Hills Farm, the home of the writer and humanitarian, Pearl S. Buck.Historic-House-Tours-Photo

One of the things I love most about Ms. Buck’s house is that, impressive as it is, it doesn’t feel like a museum. It is a home – warm and welcoming. It brings to life the story of a talented, energetic woman who saw injustice and didn’t turn away. Instead, she used her talent and energy to break through barriers and nurture understanding. I have always admired Ms. Buck, both as a writer and a humanitarian, but being in her home, seeing the objects that were part of her life, I see her as a human being. Two of my favorites of 21740579_10155686751232692_3843948112621252102_nthose objects are the desk and typewriter on which she wrote The Good Earth.

As with many, my introduction to Pearl Buck was The Good Earth. I first read the book sometime in my teens and was caught up in the story of struggling Chinese peasants who battled obstacles more fearsome than their legendary dragons.  The sweep of the story, the characters whose lives were so different from mine, but whose dreams were so much the same, taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten. I went on to read other books by Ms. Buck, some set in China, some in other Asian countries, some in the United States. These stories are peopled with characters whose lives are as diverse as their settings, but, always, it is their humanity that drives the story.  I remember the first time I saw the desk and typewriter. I stared in awe. I imagined her sitting there, tapping away on the old-fashioned, round keys. I still get a thrill when I tour the house and point them out to guests, especially students. I wonder what they feel and hope they are inspired to reach beyond themselves as Ms. Bucks always did.

The feeling of the Pearl S. Buck House is much the same as her stories. I’ve been a volunteer for about two years, not nearly as long as some (it seems this is a job no one wants to leave), but already it’s an important part of my life. Before becoming a volunteer, I knew that Ms. Buck did more than write about the plight of people whose choices in life were restricted by the circumstances of their birth. I knew that she had founded Welcome House and that it has helped change the fate of many children born into seemingly hopeless situations.  What I did not fully comprehend was that the legacy did not die with the woman. Pearl S. Buck International, the organization that evolved from Welcome House, helps to make sure that it goes on.

Hearing about lives that have been changed by this organization is inspiring, so inspiring that it would be easy to think of Pearl S. Buck as a superwoman. Walking through her home changed that for me. Imagining her with her husband and children, being a wife, a parent, a member of a community, I am reminded of one of her favorite quotes: “All, under Heaven, are one family.” It’s a message I’m proud to pass along to visitors to Ms. Buck’s home, especially the many groups of school children who come. People nod in recognition when they hear this. I have the feeling that they take something of her vision with them when they leave, ensuring that her legacy will continue. Her vision will prevail.

 

 

 

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