February 22

Thou didst gird me with strength for the battle. . . . — II Samuel 22:40 (RSV)

God bless my seventh-grade history teacher, Mrs. Weaver, for turning the dollar-bill figure of George Washington into flesh and blood for us. She walked him into our lives with descriptive tidbits told with dramatic flair.

We knew, for instance, that Washington had red hair covered with a powdered wig; that he had false teeth that gave him fits; that his face was scarred from smallpox; that he was a farmer ahead of his time in rotating crops; that in the French and Indian War he had two horses shot out from under him; that he was shy but learned to be sociable; that he wrestled a bad temper; that during the crushing winter of Valley Forge he knelt in the snow to pray.

And we knew that when, in the throes of victory over the British, the people were ready to crown him king—King George—he penned a hasty reply from his Mount Vernon home: "Banish the thought from your minds!" Instead, he submitted to the Constitution, and with Congress launched a republic, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

On this day, Washington is rightly honored as the father of our country, a larger-than-life figure. But, as Mrs. Weaver would tell you, he was also a person with foibles and faults like all of us, whose virtues are not just to be admired; they're to be imitated.

Lord, help me to have faith in You and stay the course through wins and losses.

—Shari Smyth