When I tell most people I am from the lovely, photographically enchanting enclave of Gloucester, Va., they give me a blank look that says, "Where's that?" Or a blank look that says, "I thought Gloucester was in Massachusetts." Often I've aided the geographically-challenged by saying the Virginia strain of Gloucester is across the river from Yorktown and Williamsburg, or an hour east of Richmond on Chesapeake Bay, or 2 1/2 hours south of Washington D.C. and a light bulb goes off above their head. But I've been scrapping all that lately and just saying, "Pocahontas lived here." Eyes light up at the mention of Pocahontas.
Just this morning it happened. I am in Charlotte, N.C., for the week for a retreat/conference with my co-workers in TEN3, Transformational Education Network (www.ten3.org). We are here at the headquarters of Serving In Mission (most notably in the public eye recently because two of SIM's doctors contracted Ebola recently while serving in West Africa) from literally around the world. From California to Zambia, 10 of us TEN3 missionaries are here from around the globe to talk strategy, plan, pray, encourage and exhort each other on our mission to provide transformational Christian education materials and technology skills to disciple and equip young people in Africa and the Caribbean.
This morning I met another missionary who is here for a separate conference. This missionary serves in Ethiopia but is from Australia. When she asked where I was from I told her Gloucester, Va., and explained roughly where it was. Then I mentioned it's where Pocahontas lived. That was the game changer. She had seen the movie. You know, the Disney animated film "Pocahontas." Even though the scenery in the Disney flick is utterly and completely lacking anything remotely close to what you'd find in Gloucester -- for example, the next waterfall someone stumbles upon in Gloucester will be the first -- and I have yet to meet a animals or trees that can talk, it's one of those things that's made Pocahontas famous.
Beyond the Disney flick, I asked the missionary what she knew about Pocahontas. She was an Indian princess, she said. That appears to be part of the fascination with Pocahontas; other fascinating things include that she was an Indian princess, saved John Smith's life, conversed with animals and traveled to England, among other things. In May, when I was still working as a reporter for the Daily Press, I attended an event in Gloucester in which the Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe, paid a visit to the historic site of Pocahontas' village, called Werowocomoco, on the banks of the York River. He hopes the site will become a national park, something that would truly put Gloucester on the map. Historians and government officials say that around the world, Pocahontas is more well-known than George Washington and other iconic American figures. They say that if Werowocomoco received a designation as a national park, visitors from around the world fascinated by the story of Pocahontas would pay a visit. I bet I won't be explaining so much where to find Gloucester if that's the case.
Here's a link to the story I wrote for the Daily Press about Pocahontas' old stomping grounds becoming a national park: Werowocomoco story
Oh, and one other thing. We look forward to you paying a visit to see us in historic Gloucester.