By Frances Stebbins
Frances Stebbins has been covering events in western Virginia, especially those relating to faith communities, since 1953. She lives in Salem.
In one of my favorite Bible passages, First Corinthians, Chapter 12, the writer we know as St. Paul makes a strong point that God loves all His creatures-people no matter how different they are.
The passage immediately precedes the more famous one about Love.
Touching on this sentiment at a recent discussion group which a number of members of my church hold weekly in a Salem park in summer reminded me of how different people are in their temperaments. And that in turn took me back more than 40 years to the popularity of the Myers-Briggs test to help adults discover their preferred ways to make decisions, relate to others and get things done.
My late husband Charlie and I were active in the Marriage Enrichment movement in those years; we took the test which had been developed by a mother and daughter professional psychologists. To learn one’s preferences a series of more than 100 questions were answered and then evaluated. The goal was to help people understand each other, not only couples, but also folk who worked together.
I recall that one year board members of our Salem church evaluated themselves in order to understand their different ways of making decisions.
The non-sectarian test also could be adapted to have a definitely religious aspect. People taking it at a retreat could liken themselves to such historical figures as St. Francis.
For those who still remember the test, I came out as an ISTJ. That means in Myers-Briggs terms that I am an Introvert, a Sensor or one who learns especially through the senses such as hearing. I also tend to use my mind to plan and get things done which makes me a T. Finally the J denotes that I tend to set goals, stick to a task for a long time and am not inclined to jump into new projects and then abandon them relatively soon.
Charlie, in contrast, shared with me the Introvert and Thinker components but he differed in being an “N” or Intuitive person which gave him the gift of Imagination which down-to-earth me lacks. In the fourth component , he rated a “P” or one who dislikes being confined to fixed goals.
After we took the test and even led workshops on it for couples, I found it more useful than he did. Today, considering the response of my associates to such issues as accepting old age and reacting to the Covid pandemic, I still find it helpful as I try to live day by day.
And, as we age together, my daughter and I –Extrovert and Introvert but similar in three other components—often react to events in a similar manner.
Another aspect in which people differ concerns their adjustment to night and day. I know of no test to measure why some older adults say they habitually wake in winter long before dawn and customarily are ready for bed at what for me is the beginning of my most productive and , usually, most light-hearted time.
Clearly, I’m a Night Person who often completes a writing project at 2 a.m. and never willingly chooses to do anything productive before 10 a.m. I know few friends who live in a similar manner. Fortunately for marital harmony, Charlie also preferred working on morning newspapers, for long ago reporters got busy in the newsroom at 2 p.m. and deadline was near midnight. He kept day hours, however, in the years our three children were growing up.
So, “Different strokes for different folks” and, as the biblical writer of Corinthians asserted, God appreciates all for their diversity.
The obituary column revealed in May the death of Margaret O’Donnell Key who at 97 was a member of The Tea Sippers Club. She was one of a fast-vanishing group of British brides of American soldiers who were stationed in England during World War II.
I did not know Mrs. Key, but I’ve been acquainted for more than 65 years with Joyce Brown, a native of Leicester, England, and the widow since 1982 of Tom Brown, a Roanoker. At 97, Mrs. Brown still carries her age well, according to her daughter Doris Jean Mattox with whom she shares her home in Botetourt.
The family has been active in St. James Episcopal Church, which serves the North Roanoke and Southern Botetourt areas, almost from its beginning in 1950.
These women, who came to America around 1946 and were lonely for their British tea and pastries, in time formed a social group they called The Tea Sippers. Unlike many such groups which are ceasing to exist as members age, Mattox says the Tea Sippers have attracted some younger women from England and New Zealand.
As with World War II veterans, the British brides recall a day long vanished.