September : My Wallet (Part Two) : My Faces

A full description, explanation and defense of my faces.

If this seems at all confusing to you, check out the first part of this post, here.

I keep Victor Hugo with me because of his great writing. Les Miz, I I have already preached, is a staggering work—deeply inspiring. It’s good to have that stern face glaring up at you.

I keep Jane Addams because she exemplifies the kind of courage I would like to have—her foremost goal in life was to serve others, and she devoted herself fiercely to becoming a doctor and, when health problems made that impossible for her, she was, despite a dark period of self-doubt and despair, able to adapt and change the lives of many orphans and young women for the better by providing them with support, home, education, and skills in her settlement house and other programs. She may be my favorite (the first face added), although it’s hard to choose. 

I keep Dorothea Dix for similar reasons. She, like Jane Addams, showed a courage during their life I long to be able to follow. Like most of my faces, she represents something I think I could never be but want to strive for nevertheless. She single-handedly embarked on a cross-country crusade to raise awareness concerning and improve the conditions of the mentally ill, who, in her day, where treated like animals—most often chained in unclean, dark cells. She single-handedly was able to evoke real change for these people throughout the entire country. 

I keep Abraham Lincoln because he shows what a person can do in the face of significant personal odds. He had severe depression and could get, at different points of his life, incredibly suicidal. The fact that in spite of these often crippling personal circumstances he was still able to do so much, be so steadfast, and leave such a lasting impact on his country is incredible, and a sort of “if he could do it so can you” kick in the pants.

I don’t know why I keep Ulysses S. Grant. He gazes roughly at me, mud-stained, hand against a tree, beside the official portrait of Abraham Lincoln. I think it is mostly because I am fond of him. Why he inspires me remains elusive to eloquent or illuminating description, but he does.

I keep Martin Luther King Jr. because of his bravery and faith. Like Ghandi, he is a beautiful example to me of the power of love. It was his sheer faith and the faith and love of his community that held the Montgomery Bus Boycott together for so long, as tiresome, dangerous, and lengthy as it became. Like Ghandi I feel he took the bravest stance of all in choosing non-violence to seek justice and change, and is a reminder, I think, to be your bravest self for what you believe in, no matter what personally is put on the line or exposed to a fierce offender.

I keep Alexander Hamilton because of his grit. His sheer productivity—he wasn’t going to sit around. While he aggravated a lot of people, he is an inspiring example to me of how to not mess around and really get stuff done. He clawed his way up and didn’t waste a moment. (that and I love how he couldn’t stop writing either–when I listened to the musical, it was the first character I’ve ever been able to feel such solidarity with, in that way)

I keep John Adams because of his self-discipline and deep thought. David McCullough’s biography of him is fantastic, if you’re interested in getting to know this great but often put-down man better. His personal morals, striving for better, self-discipline, drive, duty to his family, and need to serve others and his community as a whole are wonderful. I hope just because he gets a bad rap for his presidency and was on the bad side of many (he and Alexander Hamilton had a particular dislike for each other) you don’t write him off. Sometimes the worst presidents are the best men.

Can you tell I’ve recently taken U.S. History? 

The reason these people are so inspiring to me is simple. It’s not as much for their great accomplishments and admirable qualities—it’s for all the personal struggles they had, their self-doubt, despair, etc. It’s that in spite of moments when they felt they would never be able to do it, or that things look impossible for them; despite the same human self-doubt, fear, and direction-seeking we all share, they were able to do good in the world, the best versions of themselves. 

Writing this post has reminded me of all the other faces I want to tape in. I did.

Dickens, Gandhi, Thoreau, and Hemingway. Faced with the peril of making this post any longer, I shall abbreviate: for Gandhi, see my explanation of MLK and what the Ben Kingsley movie. For Hemingway, read this article  from The Art of Manliness. For Thoreau, tune in to The Snottor’s latest ramblings.

As for Dickens? I might put him in the same category as Grant. I don’t know why, exactly, explicitly–but I do know. It may be jealousy–I want to make as good characters as he did, write as well as he did. A reminder, I guess. It may be admiration–it may be because his writing was what inspired Jane Addams, that he stands an example of how writing about something you care about can really make a difference. I’m not really sure.

Whose faces would you tape into your wallet?


WARNING: When I taped in Jane Addams’ face, I did not intend for, soon after, a tiny yet imposing peanut gallery to be scrutinizing my every move. Be warned: once you start, it becomes addictive, and you’ll keep wanting to add more. Just fair warning. 

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