Friday, April 24, 2009

A View from Susy Flory's Window!

I want to share with you an interview that Susy Flory shared with those of us blogging her book, So Long Status Quo. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I did!

Author of
So Long Status Quo: What I Learned From Women Who Changed the World
April 22, 2009

(Permission granted to reprint/reproduce this interview in part or in whole.)

Q. You describe your middle class suburban life as safe, boring, and predictable—like staying curled up in a comfortable couch. That sounds pretty good! Why were you so dissatisfied with your life?

A. I loved my comfy couch, and my safe life, for a long time. But at some point it became like a trap, like a safe warm cocoon that I couldn’t break out of. Do you remember when you were a kid and you longed for summer vacation? During those long hot days of school just before break you dream about summer and can’t wait for school to be over so you can sleep in, play with friends, relax, and enjoy yourself. Then summer comes, and it’s wonderful, and you get to do those things you were dreaming about, but after a while it goes on too long. You get bored, and there isn’t much of a routine or purpose to your days, and all of a sudden you can’t wait for school to start again. Do you remember that feeling? That was my safe-on-the-couch life. I yearned for something more.

Q. So what became the “something more”?

A. First, I studied a group of amazing women who changed the world, like Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mary Magdalene. I immersed myself in their lives and tried to get to know them better. Who were they? What were their lives like? Why prompted them to step out and make a difference in the world? Then, for each woman, I created a little adventure in order to follow in her footsteps and live out one of her ideals or values. So for Rosie the Riveter, I went into a metal shop and learned how to weld. For Eleanor Roosevelt, I traveled to Cuba on a secret humanitarian mission to work with children. For Mother Teresa, I went on a fast. Now that one was hard!

Q. The book’s title, So Long Status Quo, sounds familiar. Where did it come from?

A. It’s from the chorus of a Nichole Nordeman song called “Brave,” about letting go of your fear and stepping out in faith. I love this line: “I think I’m letting go…” Faith is about letting go of your plan, and trying to live out God’s plan. And His is better!

Q. So Long Status Quo highlights nine amazing women who changed the world. Of those nine, who is your favorite?

A. My absolute favorite was Harriet Tubman. She had so many obstacles to overcome. She was born into slavery. She was illiterate. She suffered a brain injury when she was young that caused her to go into a coma. She had slave catchers after her. She had no money. She worked all alone. Yet, she accomplished unbelievable things. She never quit. Even after she had been a conductor on the Underground Railroad – she led 300 slaves to safety, to freedom, without losing one – after that she became an army scout, a spy, and an army nurse during the civil war. She was unpaid, just a volunteer. When she was an army nurse she was the first line of care and would care for the soldiers lying on the battlefield. They were just lying there, suffering and in pain. She took care of them with her own money, her own supplies, and no one to really help her. She was doing it on her own. And, at night, when she would go back to her room, she would bake 50 pies; she would make homemade gingerbread and homemade root beer from actual roots she got out in the woods.

Q. She would cook and bake at night after she’d been working all day?

A. Not only that, but the next day she’d hire ex-slaves to go out and sell the food and drink in the camps. Then she would use that money to buy supplies for the soldiers. So, I was just amazed by how resourceful she was and how she didn’t give up when she didn’t have the things that she needed to take care of these guys. Even when she was an old lady, she started a retirement home for former slaves. So I just like her. I like that she didn’t quit; I like her resourcefulness. I like that she didn’t make excuses and I like that she used her own hands to help in whatever way she could, even when she wasn’t paid, even when she wasn’t welcome. I think she’s probably just about the most amazing woman I’ve ever read about in my entire life.

Q. What are some of the lasting impacts of writing the book and venturing on your journeys or adventures to change the world? How is your daily life different?

A. I think I am measuring my actions, the things I do everyday, in light of eternity. There are some things I have to do to make ends meet, pay the bills, that don’t necessarily have eternal value. But, I am measuring my life, I’m measuring my actions, I ’m measuring the choices I make in light of eternity and with a goal of lasting value.

Q. In the book you talk about the particular project where you sold jewelry for fresh water. You took an inventory of the things you owned and were surprised by all that you have. Now, have you found the clutter level climbing back up? Are you more proactive about reducing your purchases or consumption of goods?

A. After I wrote that chapter I went through my closet. And it’s not that I’m a huge shopper, but when I did count my shirts and my underwear and my shoes, it really showed me that I had way more than I thought I had, and, definitely way more than I needed. So I did give away a bunch of stuff. I think we can accumulate things sometimes for emotional reasons, almost like overeating. So my closet is on a diet!

Q. Because your book is focused on women, do you think it could be considered feminist or sexist?

A. To me “sexist” is when you elevate one sex and denigrate or put down the other, and that is not what So Long Status Quo is about. Amazing men have been written about extensively all through history, but women have not, and this book whetted my appetite for women’s history. I’m really trying to focus on a subject – women’s history – that has not been given the time and energy and passion and interest I think that it deserves.
I think a good example from So Long Status Quo is Perpetua, a Roman martyr, an educated and amazing woman who wrote her own story, who showed true heroism facing death in an arena – and no one knows about her!

Q. If you had to choose some powerful women currently impacting our world in a positive way, who might they be?

A. Catherine Rohr was a very successful stockbroker in NYC. Something happened; she felt a call on her life. She sold everything she had, and along with her husband, rented a U-Haul truck and moved to Texas. She started a business-training program in the Texas prisons called The Prison Entrepreneurship Program, and it’s been going for about ten years. She went behind bars and taught business classes to these guys who were the lowest of the low in society. She’s had tremendous success and has given these guys a chance for a new life.

Another one is Wendy Kopp. She came right out of college, an Ivy League school, and founded a non-profit called “Teach for America”. She recruits the best and the brightest students across the country to go into inner city schools and teach for a year or two, before they start their careers. A lot of them end of staying in those inner city schools because they love the kids, they love the challenge and find it very rewarding. Wendy is brilliant; she could’ve made a million dollars, but instead she started a non-profit and built it from the ground up. Wendy Kopp is a woman changing the world.

Q. What would you say to someone who is reluctant to climb out of their comfortable couch to try to make a difference in the world? Sometimes people feel like they already serve at their church, or give donations. Isn’t that enough?

A. That’s exactly where I was, before I started this journey. I don’t want to be judgmental, at all, but since I was part of that mindset, I think it’s quite widespread in the American church. We have this inner feeling that if we can give money, then that should be enough. But, there’s something very special, something you cannot reproduce by watching about in movies or reading about in book, about going and interacting with people, and serving them however you can. It’s life changing. It just doesn’t happen when you write a check or put something in the offering plate. It’s happens when you go get your hands dirty and you love people – and they love you back.

Q. So you experience their humanity, or their struggle?

A. Absolutely. You go to serve others, and to bless them, and, of course, you’re the one who is blessed a thousand times more than you ever gave. It’s from the connection with others and the joy that comes from the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. There’s just no substitute for it.

Q. To really be there…

A. Yeah, and that’s what I see with Jesus’ life. He was in the market place, he was down at the well, in the fields with people … He was down in the dust and grime of everyday life talking to people, helping people, healing people. And I think Jesus is our example. We should do the same.

Q. In your book, each chapter ends with suggestions for readers to try a little adventure on their own. Where should a beginning volunteer start?

A. I think a lot of times when you’re doing volunteer work or you’re trying to make a difference you look at what other people have done. But, I think that’s the wrong place to start. I think that you have to start in your own community, with the needs that are in front of you. Use whatever resources or gifts or talents you personally have. So if you love to knit, knit for others. If you love to create scrapbooks, if you love to cook, if you love to spend time with people, if you love to take care of children, serve others. Start with yourself and what you like to do, and then find someone who needs what you like to do.

Q. Would So Long Status Quo work for book clubs or women’s groups?

We just created a Reader’s Guide for small groups or book clubs—any kind of group that wants to work through the book together. It’s free and you can download it at I’ve also started a blog that highlights women changing the world, both past and present.

Q. How can we become women who change the world?

A. By starting in our own backyards. And if God wants it to turn into something larger, that’s up to Him. I think if we do what we can, with the tools God has given us and the resources that we have, then who knows what can happen? Mother Teresa put it this way: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Don’t be the missing drop.

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