CELEBRATING THE HEROES AMONG US
Rock of Ages is in the business of celebrating and memorializing life. We as a society and as individuals do not memorialize death; we give tribute to the impactful lives of our loved ones. In turn, it is important for each of us to choose to live an impactful life and to teach our children to do the same.
Vermont overall is an excellent example of the impactful life for it ranks highest per capita in volunteerism, i.e., the most number of volunteer hours donated per capita. It is my privilege to have on staff here many retirees who work part time for us at the Visitors Center. But in addition to working part time, most are highly involved in their churches and in civic organizations. The number of organizations and people who are enriched by the volunteer efforts of my combined staff is staggering and inspiring.
I’d like to take a few moments to tell you about the endeavors of a friend and former colleague of mine. Her name is Ann. She and I once taught in the same school. Later she moved to Connecticut to continue her career as a teacher there. But then her life took another direction. She learned about a terrible slum in Nairobi, Kenya, a slum where the conditions are unspeakably bad. She learned also of a native Kenyan who’d given up his own job and had started a school for the children in the slum because those living in the slum are discriminated against in their own society and few of the slum children were able to go to school. A high school diploma is necessary in the culture to get the most basic of jobs in the retail and service industries, so it is of great importance that a child graduate from high school if s/he is to have an opportunity at a better life.
So this gentleman of limited means built a small elementary school in the slum to provide these children with an education. He sought out sponsors to donate the $2.00 per month needed to provide school supplies and one meal a day to each child. But by the time my friend Ann learned of his school, his limited resources had been tapped dry and he was concerned he’d have to close the school. Ann flew to Kenya to meet the school master and was confronted with the crushing poverty of the slum. Her life was changed by the time she returned to the States. She spoke to friends, church groups and civic groups to raise money for a foundation she established to fund the school and keep it afloat. Her passion was contagious. In a few years time the school of 50 or so students now had four hundred students, all sponsored by someone who contributes to the foundation set up to save the school. Now many more children have an opportunity to get out of the slums one day. Ann continues to work and provide for her own needs and for the money necessary to travel to Kenya a few times a year to volunteer in the school. Her time in the States is devoted to working and to continuing to share the plight of these children in hopes of reaching even more lives.
Ann has been an inspiration to all of her friends and she is an unsung heroine. I offer this challenge to parents of young children that you nurture their innate desires to do great things. Every child is born with the seeds of greatness. Point out to them the unsung heroes that are in your own life. Read to them biographies of people whose selfless lives have made a real impact on the world. And most importantly, show them by example what it is like to live a life beyond oneself. Involve them in your own volunteer efforts where appropriate and demonstrate for them compassion and love of humanity. Here’s to a brighter future made possible by the generosity of the human spirit.