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Where I'm From: Part I

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jan 17, 2015

“Remember, you are the expert on you. No one else sees the world as you do; no one else has your material to draw from.”
George Ella Lyon “

Don Meyer
"All of us has a from. And today I will tell you about my from.” With those words my dear friend, Dr. H. Robert Rhoden began his never-to-be-forgotten chapel message here at the University of Valley Forge. 

He began by referencing the classic poem by George Ella Lyon titled “Where I’m From” which was inspired by Jo Carson’s book “Stories I Ain’t Told Nobody Yet” (1993). Lyon wrote that poem in 1993 and since then this idea has literally gone around the world, from Ecuador to China and from men in prison for life to refugees in a camp in the Sudan. 

Dr. Rhoden began his remarks by reading a “Where I’m From” poem written by his grandson Brennan when he was in eighth grade. He then proceeded to share with us his own personal version of “Where I’m From.” As he did, all of us bounced back and forth between his from and our own from and ever since then, I have continued pondering my from

I am from the Good Samaritan Hospital; a farm in Lebanon County, Pa. I am from Farmall Tractors and New Holland balers and John Deere plows. I am from Holstein cows, hogs, chickens, geese, sheep and a pony. I’m from a grain drill that almost cut off my arm, and from when I could have been killed by a horse that threw me off on my head, and a dentist who never used enough Novocain. 

I am from wheat fields and cornfields; oat, barley and alfalfa fields; the great smell of hay, straw and silage. I’m from an old apple orchard and pick up softball games; trout fishing in Snitz Creek; meadows with mint tea; and vegetable gardens.

I’m from the unique smells of the barnyard and the fragrant smells of lilacs and peonies; from old jeans and leather caps; from hand-pushed lawnmowers and garden hoes. 

I’m from Crouses, Longeneckers, Gibble’s and Meyer’s; from 25 first cousins; from a left-handed father, a great-grandfather who was 80 on the same day I was 8; a grandmother who made quilts and a courageous mother who kept my three siblings and me together when her young husband died at age 42.

I’m from the Church of the Brethren with its foot washing services; from family reunions; people who spoke Pennsylvania Dutch and who always prayed before their meals; from Christmas programs with bathrobe drama and Christmas caroling. I’m from homemade ice cream and butchering at home; from buttered noodles and Lebanon bologna and from shoofly pie and scrapple.

I’m from two one-room school houses; and an old stone farmhouse with no central heating and snow on my bedroom windowsill; from black and white television and phones with party lines; coal stoves and creaky floors and an old, comfortable porch swing.

I’m from Hershey Park and cheering for the Phillies; from the Philadelphia Zoo and an occasional visit to the shore; from Routes 322, 72 and 22 and from Mill Road, Rocherty Road, Colebrook Road and the turnpike.

I’m from a graveyard of my father when I was 15, another for my son when I was 26, and my mother when I was 44. And I am from many graveyards since.

I’m from ultra-shyness and a deep fear of public speaking; from no plans to go to college; from being a member of the F.F.A. (Future Farmers of America) and a desire to be a lifelong farmer.

As for all of us, my from has become substance out of which my to was formed. Dr. Rhoden also said, “Your from doesn’t have to trap you; it can empower you. You can’t do anything about your from but you can do something about your to.”

That’s just my childhood from. I could write another column on my adult from.

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
Responses can be mailed to president@valleyforge.edu 
Official page: Facebook.com/DrDonMeyer
Follow on Twitter: @DrDonMeyer
Archives at www.valleyforge.edu/thinkaboutit