Hannah Strege, a.k.a. “Snowflake #1,” turned 24 this past New Year’s Eve.
And by “snowflake,” I’m not using the term pejoratively to describe someone who is overly sensitive. Hannah was the first frozen embryo ever adopted in the United States. Her parents, John and Marlene Strege, reached out to Focus on the Family and Dr. Dobson back in the 1990s with lots of questions about the ethicality of it all.
Reassured that the program and process were well within moral and biblical guidelines, the Streges became reluctant but enthusiastic pioneers. Upwards of 2,000 frozen embryo adoptions later, Hannah is now in graduate school at Baylor University. She’s been to the White House, advocated for innocent life in an amicus brief before the United States Supreme Court – and appeared on countless television, radio and podcast interviews.
Hannah has even been the subject of a terrific book: A Snowflake Named Hannah: Ethics, Faith, and the First Adoption of a Frozen Embryo, which was authored by her father, an award-winning author and journalist.
The Streges are also family friends, and I received an email the other day from John telling me about Hannah responding to birthday greetings on Facebook over the New Year’s holiday.
It seems Hannah was thanking older friends on the social media site by using the titles “Mr.” or “Mrs.” In reply, several of them responded by asking her to call them by their first names – something that makes Hannah a bit uncomfortable.
Referring to Hannah’s habit, John emailed me. “I’m thrilled she does so, because that’s how we were raised,” he wrote. “Respect your elders.”
I resonate with both John and Hannah. Growing up, Jeanette Breen was my best friend’s mother, but she was “Mrs. Breen” forty years ago – and she still is today. I can’t imagine calling her “Jeanette.” Ditto for Mr. and Mrs. Friel, Mr. and Mrs. Verni, Mrs. McCabe, Mr. & Mrs. Glasser, Mrs. Liddell, Mrs. Fox, Mrs. Geng and Mrs. Walters.
As a student at a Catholic school in New York, several of the nuns called me “Mr. Batura” – a habit, though odd at first, made me walk a little taller. Sister Rosemary always said gentlemen weren’t born, they’re made.
When I started working at Focus on the Family twenty-five years ago, I was thrilled when I first met Dr. & Mrs. James Dobson. I had the privilege of working closely with both of them over the years, and they’d regularly send me notes and emails on ministry related matters. They’d always sign them “Jim” or “Shirley” – something they still do today when we correspond. I suppose they’re giving me permission to call them by their first names, but even now as I hit the age of fifty, they’re still “Doctor” and “Mrs. Dobson” to me.
“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot,” said Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.
My own mother used to remind us that good manners will get you farther in life than a million dollars.
By no means am I suggesting that calling people by their first names is rude. It’s a matter of personal preference. But training young people in the finer points of etiquette is wise and important.
It was the famous dancer, Fred Astaire, who once observed, “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.”
Mr. Astaire was right. Good manners aren’t just taught – they’re caught.
Don’t think your son or daughter are watching or listening? Think again.