Irene is a singer. She’ll be 93 this October. She radiates happiness and energy and brilliance. She is a woman who takes it all in and loves everyone with the kind of love that knows you are flawed, but doesn’t care because we are all flawed.
“People ask me what my secret is,” she laughs. “I say I have no secret. I just am me.”
She is so much her.
She sings soprano in the church choir. She has sung for God for years, decades.
“Is that your secret?” I ask.
She just laughs.
“I still go to church,” she says. “I still go to the center.”
She uses a cane that her neighbor gave her. The cane is solid, black, nice, but not enough to keep her steady all the time. Her house is neat and clean. Her caregiver sits at a table watching as Deb and Scott Hammond, two Maine Rotarians, fit Irene to a wheelchair.
Irene is an easy fit, gracious and kind. It’s hard not to stay inside her house and hang out forever, to maybe beg her to sing hymns, to share her secret that is no secret.
Outside flowers surround her home. Birds of Paradise and Bougainvilleas flourish, blooming everywhere, reaching out of the lush green leaves and up to towards the sky.
Bar Harbor/MDI Rotary Club, Rotary Club of Ellsworth,Maine and Dawson Creek Rotary Club members raised funds to purchase, ship and fit wheelchairs to people like Irene. Club members were helped by a Rotary District 7790 grant and nine Rotary clubs in Belize.
It’s a collaborative effort that crosses three countries and creates lifelong friendships for everyone involved.
The Angry Man
I once had an angry local man ask me why our Rotary club goes to other countries when we should be doing work here, in our own county. He was the kind of man who believes in taking care of needs at home first, I guess? Which I get.
But the thing is we do.
Local Rotary clubs in Maine help local organizations in Maine all the time. Our club alone raises thousands of dollars that we give to local nonprofits every year. But the beauty of Rotary is that it’s more than that. It’s about building international friendships, too. It’s about Rotarians from Belize also coming to Maine or Canada and helping us with projects. It’s about making connections and building stronger friendships, not just with the woman next door who needs her driveway shoveled out, but with people like Irene.
I told this to the angry man. I said, “You can help people at home, and people far away. They aren’t mutually exclusive.”
And he said, “No you can’t.”
And I said, “You know that playground? By the Y? Rotarians helped build that? You know our hospital? Every year, Rotarians raise thousands to help local cancer patients who go there.”
He sputtered and turned away.
There will always be people who are threatened by love and friendship. Don’t let them make you doubt yourself.
Stay shiny even as they try to dull you down.
EVERYTHING ISN’t AN “EITHER OR”
There is too much anger and hate in this world. We need to hold each other close and offer support on all levels. And good work? It doesn’t have to be an either-or situation.
You can help people in your community. You can help people across the world.
You can have friends next door. You can have friends in another hemisphere.
Good things don’t need to exclude other good things. Dichotomies don’t need to be worshiped.
LIVING LOVE TO FIGHT HATE
When people kill other people, shout hate, hurt their bodies, their souls because they’ve created a hierarchy of worth and decided that some of us are ‘other.’ When people refuse to see the beauty in difference or accept the responsibility that comes when you are lucky enough to be part of a dominant culture, hate festers and becomes violence. Not always, but too often.
And it’s easy to feel powerless against that.
What can you do against that?
Support organizations and people that are working for peace and supporting empathy. Work within yourself to support empathy and acceptance and peace. Make friends. Spread love. Spread knowledge. Be brave.
Meet people like Irene, deal with people like the angry man. Do like Rotary asks you to – build goodwill and friendships. Be a part of a movement towards change.
And don’t give up.
Never give up.
IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!
My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!
You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON
On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!
WHAT IS PATREON?
A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you.
HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!
You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here.