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It’s been known as a food for the gods. It was originally consumed by the elite upper class, its beans plucked from the fields, crushed to a powder and served as a drink. For centuries it was too expensive for simply anyone to partake of. Originally it was served as a warm, smooth liquid in 1500BC. It was first made available to the masses in the 19th century in the form that it is familiar to us today – the chocolate bar.

Chocolate in all its gloriousness has honestly enraptured me. It is by far my favorite food. I travel the aisles of Trader Joe’s and never leave without either a bag of chocolate chips or several of their specialty packaged varieties. I browse the See’s Candy Shop just to be offered their special chocolate of the day. Whitman’s Sampler and their lovely graph were favorites at the family table — the women gathered around, all taking bites and expressing their devotion for one or the other. My mother used to hide Godiva Chocolates in the house when I was young. I wasn’t aware of this until I became a mother myself. Their silky smooth confection and gold, gilded box scream “grown up”. An after-hours-only pick-me-up, sometimes paired with a delicious red wine, Godivas have become my little “momma’s secret” as well. As much as I love the chocolate, I knew nothing about the company itself, until I recently came upon the legend behind the name and the reason why Joseph Draps, the founder of the Godiva Chocolatier, chose the namesake.

Leighton-Lady_Godiva

A countess in Coventry, England, Lady Godiva was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia.  A woman with a sense of justice, she sought her husband’s empathy for the poor peasants of the village and the high taxes they had to pay during the 11th century.  She was relentless in her pleadings for them to be lowered, and in his exasperation, he told her that until she rode a horse, naked, through the streets of the village, he would not change the laws. Thinking she would never take the dare, he felt confident the issue had been laid to rest. Yet. her boldness persuaded him otherwise. One morning, with the dew still blanketing the grounds and her long hair draped over her porcelain body, she rode through the village streets proclaiming her devotion to the people and their need for fair taxation. She won the dare along with the people’s heart, and the Earl of Mercia reluctantly lowered the taxes.

Lady Godiva…sought her husband’s empathy for the poor peasants of the village and the high taxes they had to pay during the 11th century.

Whether the legend is just a myth or historically factual, there are several values I admire here. Lady Godiva clearly felt responsible for the people under her care. Her generosity has been repeatedly noted in the churches of England (along with her husband, she even founded a monastery), and she sought justice and peace, knowing other voices lesser than hers would not be heard.

These are the values I hold onto when the 1099 and W-2 forms start arriving in the mail. Our federal and state taxes supply much needed funds to inner city programs, offer scholarships for students, and help pave paths for those countries in need around the world. Our men and women in uniform, both abroad and local, are at the mercy of our responsible, timely payments. We need to remember these truths, rather than subscribe to the often-portrayed image of greedy Uncle Sam merely dipping into our pockets. Hopefully, Lady Godiva’s values will spur us to sit down with the receipts and financial records from the past year with our #2 pencils in hand, adding or subtracting our way through the 95 page book – maybe with a box of Godivas right at our elbow!

We need to remember these truths, rather than subscribe to the often-portrayed image of greedy Uncle Sam merely dipping into our pockets.

I share this story of Lady Godiva with my three girls and hope that they remember her legend when they are adults. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll let the secret out and purchase the gold box of chocolates when my husband and I file this year, and we’ll converse as a family about the values we hope our girls possess as women.

Image via Nina Gabelica on flickr and Wikipedia Commons

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