By Mary Anne Biggs
-Excerpt from speech delivered at the 2014 Dare to Dream breakfast.
My professional career took place in the education arena and I was very fortunate to be able to experience many different roles. From 1969-1981, I was a high school teacher and in that role, I looked for opportunities to challenge and encourage my students to undertake tasks they weren’t always sure they could accomplish (sometimes I wasn’t sure either). Through strong relationships based on trust, hard work, we persevered. Many of those relationships formed so many years ago are still of special significance to me today.
Perhaps my most daring and most wonderful job was as the Principal of a Middle School. Now Middle Schools are fascinating microcosms of life. Because this is a great transition time, kids are changing and hormones are raging. Some days we deal with immature children and other days we open the doors to maturing young adults – all this from the very same 400 middleschoolers. Those of you who have raised children this age know what I am talking about. I was fortunate to work with an incredible staff of adults who were an amazing blend of flexible, focused, caring, and a little zany at times. They understood these changes, created a supportive environment and we all expected much from our kids. We didn’t always get everything we expected, but we knew there was sometimes magic embedded in high expectation.
In 2002, I had the opportunity to retire at age 53. In many ways, I wasn’t sure that this was a good decision. I really enjoyed what I was doing, and at the same time, I was beginning to think about what other opportunities might exist. My husband and I had many long discussions about the “yes’s” and the “no’s”. I remember one scene like it was yesterday. We were sitting in front of the fireplace enjoying the last embers of the fire. It was late. We had talked well into the night when he turned to me and said,”You know, once you are retired, you can do anything you really want to. What do you really want to do?” SILENCE
I had recently finished reading a book written by Victor Frankel. As many of you probably know, Frankel was a Jewish Psychiatrist. During WWII, he was captured and placed in a concentration camp. Here he worked sometimes as a doctor and many times as a laborer. He observed and studied the people he was entrapped with. He watched the daily routines, the struggles, and the despair. After the liberation of the camps, Frankel began to record his experiences there. One of the questions he explored was. “What was the difference between the people who made it out of there alive and those who didn’t.? Were there factors which could increase a person’s chances of getting out alive? And he concluded that there were three things that could make a difference. They were: someone to love, something significant to do, and something to look forward to.
It was important in the camps, but also in families, schools, churches and it’s happening right here at the Woman’s Resource Center, the public library, the homeless shelter. What is it??? It is building community. At St. Luke Community Clinic, the volunteer efforts and cooperation of churches, the medical community and private individuals help provide medical services to folks in need… At hospice, volunteers are teaming with professionals to provide families with support, kindness, and dignity as they work through end-of life issues. At Samuels Library the computers, books, magazines, workshops, and programs encourage growth and connection for everyone in our community. The House of Hope turning lives in positive directions.
The list kept getting bigger. There are so many opportunities to help. I wanted to be a part of the energy, part of the creativity and part of the financial support. It finally occurred to me the answer to Joe’s probing question: What is it that you really want to do??? I WANT TO HELP BUILD COMMUNITY”
Like many of you in this room, we enjoy our volunteer efforts. We plan to do them for a long time. Not forever, but for a long time. And then comes this question,” Is there a way to support the causes that are important to us, even after we are not here to do the work or write the check?
Once again, The Woman’s Resource Center has been a leader in this effort. Through the foresight of Elaine Bromfield’s family teaming up with the Community Foundation of the Northern Shenandoah Valley, a fund was established to support a cause that Elaine believed in. Elaine was a role model and community leader who believed in the power of women, of education, and of hard work. Sadly, she is no longer here to support this cause, but her scholarship fund provides resources to empower women with the courage and determination to pursue educational training that will result in self-sufficiency. Congratulations, Kathryn, Elaine would be proud of you.
Isn’t it strange that Princes and King
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings
And common people like you and me
Are builders of Eternity?
“To each is given a bag of tools, a shapeless mass, a book of rules; and each must make- ere life has flown – a stumbling block or a stepping stone.” In this room this morning, we have all been a part of the creation of a stepping stone. Step forth and know that your community supports you. Thank you.