Humanitarian in Training: Part II

When I first committed myself to this journey, I was unsure what I was going to find along the way. I’m still kind of flailing around along the road, but that seems to be my modus operandi anyway. Now that I have a few volunteer hours under my belt, the subject has come up in conversation with a few friends and my family. I wondered whether I should even bring up the subject at all as I feared it would cheapen the experience or I would be touting my new found helping hands. I guess I thought I would immediately be turned into some altruistic, super hero philanthropist do-gooder once I started this. Admittedly, the first time I had to turn down dinner plans because I had a food pantry obligation it did feel pretty good. Perhaps altruism is one of those goals in life that even if you never achieve, is still worth reaching for.

When it comes to doing ‘good’ for others, particularly those that you have never met before, is it normal to wonder what the motivation is? I noticed after volunteering at one of the main locations for Community Food Bank of NJ that I was feeling guilty about it perhaps not being the right fit for me, as they only have individual volunteer dates once a month, and also I wished it was more of a personal experience. While everyone there is beyond lovely, it just felt like such a big place to start and most of the fellow volunteers were school children and their chaperons. I grappled with the thought that maybe it would be selfish to try to find different, smaller, food banks to better suit me, and within that thought I had to wonder what my motivation was. I know my original motivation was to keep the spirit of Rita alive, to let the world know that a light that untainted and bright could still rub off on even the most disparaging of introverts. My second motivation, upon really balancing the question between my head and my heart is that I really would like to be less pessimistic, to have some of the soft glow of the charitable rub off on me. Just writing in this style as opposed to my usual dark and brooding, creepy version of pastoral prose is a start (baby steps).

I remember when I first told my brother about my efforts his reaction was, “Oh man, I really have to start doing more things like that. I just want to get a whole bunch of toys and start giving them to kids!” I laughed, may have snorted, and told him “well, I’m not entirely sure parents would be ok with that sort of thing, unless… Here, put on this red coat! We need to find some reindeer! Do you think I can look elfin??” It was then that I realized, after seriously wondering how many baked goods, red felt and cotton balls I would need to prepare my brother for Santa-hood, that it was OK to talk about something positive, something that could rub off on someone else as equally positive. Most of us are good people, with varying layers of cynicism covering the good soil for which to plant the seed.

And so, I did find other opportunities to suit me through Jersey Cares. It really is a great tool for those in the NJ area to find activities and locations through a calendar of events that are all over the state. I’ve since volunteered at a shelter sorting cloths for some wonderful women and their children. To which I was also pleasantly surprised as to how generous some were with their donations of bags upon bags of brand new baby clothes and pajamas. I’ve also found a great food pantry/clothing deposit in East Brunswick that I really enjoy despite the miles being put on my trusty old car to get there. These are some great people there who are so friendly and energetic the time really flies. I met a woman named Lana, “like Lana Turner!” she told me with a saucy grin and a man named Paul who regaled me with stories of his racing old muscle cars back in the 60s while Lana and I sorted through bags of clothes and hung them up giggling. I think that’s what I needed, to drop my guard for once, not just concentrate solely on the tasks at hand, but to become open enough to take in the others around me. I started to feel a little lighter on my road, like I didn’t have to just get hours in to fulfill a quota of some sort in my head or convince myself I need to figure out my motivation. It doesn’t matter what the motivation is, was or will be, it’s just a start. A starting line that I imagine I will be at for quite some time but at the very least I’m finally on the track.


AndreaCain

Growing Up with Rita: Part IV – “Remembering Rita”

I assume that since Rita and I were only 22 months apart was one of the reasons Mom treated us the same…like twins. From early age through elementary school, we were dressed alike. Mom made most of our dresses so it must have been easier to use one pattern and one size.

The different personalities that were blooming under those identical dresses were evident early on. Rita should have been the oldest and I the younger sister. She had an independent, let’s do this, I don’t care what others think attitude towards life. I, on the other hand, stood back, was hesitant and tried to please others.

When we became adults, nothing changed. She continued life on a path requiring strong will, independence, determination and stoicism. She faced tough situations with true grit. She rarely expressed her deep feelings and emotions in words or tears.

We cried together as children when baby birds fell from their nests and we tried caring for them in shoeboxes. They all died and we cried. We cried over our dogs and cats when they died.
After we were both married and had families was the first time Rita shared with me on the phone that she was going to find a quiet place alone and cry. The date was July 12, 1975. We had been informed that our Dad’s only sister had died at the age of 47. We were close to her.

It was then that I realized that this tough skinned sister of mine had a heart of compassion and deep feelings. She cried in private. She was devoted to her daughter, family, friends, God, church, underdogs, and education. She “showed” it by her actions. She was my “show up” sister.

In 1987, our 16 year old daughter, Sara, was in a serious four-wheeler accident. She was in ICU for 8 days, three of those days unconscious. Without notice, Rita “showed up” at our house after a seven hour drive. Charlie and I were at the hospital. Our 12 year old daughter was home. Abby guided Rita on the 30 minute drive to the hospital. I will never forget the look on Rita’s face when she saw Sara. It was deep compassion, but no tears. She then took Abby home, fed her macaroni and cheese and sent her to bed for rest. The next day she went home.

After Mom died, Dad needed care. We placed him in an assisted living facility for 2 years in Findlay, Ohio. Rita oversaw his care from Flint. When he needed constant skilled care, Charlie and I brought him to Indianapolis so I could see him in a facility here on a daily basis. I kept Rita updated as she did me when she was on duty. After 8 months, I found another place for Dad that was closer to me. I told Rita all about it and that I felt comfortable with the move.

Early one Sunday while I was at church meeting with ladies for prayer, I looked up and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but my “show up” sister looking at me through the door window. I asked her what she was doing and she told me she drove down the day before and spent the night in Dad’s room observing the care he was getting as well as spending time with him. With a quick hug she was off, driving back to the children in Flint.

The best “show up” Rita event ever was on Lin’s birthday one year ago this past April. Rita surprised Lin at her party. She took a wrong turn getting off the subway and trekked the streets of Manhattan until she found her daughter.

I would give anything to see that rickety, worn out van pull up to Sara’s or my house spewing children out before it came to a complete stop.

I would give anything to see one more Rita “show up” at our family reunion in Findlay this July. Rita loved this time with relatives they enjoyed her humor and delighted in the children.

I guess the next “show up” sister event will be me when God says it is time for me to enter His presence. I know Rita will be there waiting to greet me with her witty, dry welcome, “Well, what took you so long?” No more tears.


CathernPaxton

I Am No Hero

I work for Weight Watchers as a meeting leader and a receptionist. I lost 107 pounds on the program over the last two years and it has changed my life. So, I joined the team. Over the last few weeks, I had grown a little frustrated with some of the meetings and members. Those who can’t take accountability for their own actions, who blame the program changes for their lack of success or how they claim to “do everything right” yet continue to gain weight. It can be disheartening because, frankly, Weight Watchers doesn’t pay generously. I’d make more at a fast food joint or Dollar Tree. Today, I received a potent reminder of why I work there.

Last week, a member arrived. She was exceedingly overweight. Morbidly, so. She looked fairly young, probably upper 30’s or early 40’s, and she was very upset with herself. She was close to tears. She has had multiple back surgeries, has joint and leg problems and takes fistfuls of medications. She joined Weight Watchers twice before and lost a lot of weight, but could never keep it off. Her fiancée encouraged her to join. I give him a lot of credit; it’s difficult to put that across without hurting feelings of sounding shallow, but he said he loved her no matter what, and just that he wanted her to be happy, healthy and for their life together to be long. So, with great effort, she came in and joined for a third time. She came to my scale, we chatted for a minute and, filled with trepidation, she took a deep breath and stepped on.

The scale said 414.4 pounds.

The tears she was holding back before finally burst forth. She had never been that heavy in her life and hearing the number was crushing to her. All I could tell her was that she had taking the hardest steps: she came here, she walked in, she joined and she got the number. Now, she can move forward. The meeting leader and I talked with her for a while and she left.
This morning, I was near the store window when I saw her walking up. As she reached the midpoint between her car and the store, she began to slow down. We made eye contact and I waved. She waved back, took a deep breath, nodded and walked in. She was upset again. She was scared. She was not reaching her daily points target each day. We don’t recommend members staying below target because the body, when not eating enough, will slow the metabolism and inhibit weight loss. However, she was getting 65 points per day. To put that into perspective, the average female member gets about 30-33 points per day to eat. So, I made sure she knew that as long as she was satisfied and that she was getting the right nutrients, she shouldn’t worry about it. That made her feel a little better, but she was still scared she didn’t have a loss. With great courage and some encouragement, she stepped on the scale.

It read 400.0 pounds.

She lost 14.4 pounds.

In a single week.

She looked at me for a moment as it sank in, and, again, she burst into tears. However, these tears were the opposite of those from the week before. In the span of thirty seconds, I saw a transformation. A woman wracked with discouragement and fear, came in with no hope on her face. Half a minute later, that hope was given to her. It was as if Spring bloomed in the store. Color came back into her face and she pulled me into a hug. This is what she said:

“Oh my God, I owe you so much! You and Rachel [the leader] encouraged me and helped me do this. I feel like you gave me back my life!”

I felt my own tears welling up. This girl, a stranger the week before, was filling my heart with such joy. She single handedly reminded me why I do this. Not for the money, but because it was a way of giving back, a way of reaching out to people who, like me, battled their weight for decades and to help them attain their goals.

When you touch another person in such a way, the rewards are worth more than any cash award could possibly be. Being able to touch the lives of strangers, to inspire them to reach higher, to strive, to climb, to become so much more than they could have imagined, is indescribable. I was lucky to land in a place where I am to be able to do this. What motivated me to write this for the blog was a quote that ran through my head as the member left…

“Make no mistake — this is not about me. I am not a hero.”

I’m just a guy who, in some small way, is giving back.


Scott McIntyre

Growing Up with Rita: Part III – “Like Mother, Like Daughter”

I write a weekly newsletter. I have done this for the past seven years. My readers range in ages from 18 – 97. I write about life with Cathy. Rita was a big part of my writings. When she had the time, she would text snippets from her busy life. My readers loved her accounts. Her writing style was like Erma Bombeck.
I am sharing my newsletter dated May 9, 2015 with you. This was written 3 months before Rita was murdered.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. It has been a few years since both Sara and Abby and their families have been here to celebrate our motherhoods together. Also arriving will be Phoebe and Gino. This will be their first time together as puppy cousins Sniff, sniff, woof, and woof.
I imagine that when I write to you at this time next Saturday, I will have oodles of things to share with you. I can hardly wait!
Many of you continually ask me about my sister Rita. She is so busy with eight children, two adults and dogs, that she rarely finds time to text me or answer mine. I have bugged her for so long. I don’t know how she found the time but she wrote the most wonderful letter sharing how each of the children are doing in her witty, charming account. You will find it at the end of this letter in its entirety. If you are like me, you will read it more than once.
To understand Rita, you should know about our wonderful one-of-a-kind Mother. Her name is Nellie. She grew up in a large, poor family. Her compassion for children never waned. We would often come home from school to find a baby in Mom’s arms. She nurtured them for a short time until the parents could take over again. There was one little boy that we thought was going to be our little brother; however, that did not work out and we were all heartbroken. Our parents also raised their great niece.
Mom knew exactly what Rita and I needed. She was able to feed our hearts, souls and minds. We were very different in our personalities, but she knew how to nurture us into the caring adults we are today.
When Rita’s husband died and her grown daughter moved to New York City, it was no surprise to me that at the end of her education career, she would find a multi-rational family to raise. Boy is she good at it.”
Happy Mother’s Day Rita. Mom would be so proud of you, and so am I. Cathy


Their father has been talking to the older kids about being entrepreneurs and saving money. Chasity, who is now 12, took her first step toward financial independence by boxing up her outgrown clothes, listing them on Craig’s list, and selling them for $35. Not bad for a day’s work for a 12 year old.
Christian, 11, decided to do his monthly book report on a Bill Gates biography. He, like Bill Gates, has declared he will be a millionaire by the time he is 20. So he is selling his Xbox games for outrageous prices. (Don’t bother to give him gifts. He’ll sell them as soon as he get them.) Whey they have saved a tidy amount, they will try their luck at buying stock. We’ll see…the candy counter still has enormous appeal.
James is almost 9 and continues to move through life and the house at lightning speed. At first I thought his trail of clothes and school debris was forgetfulness or just plain laziness. But it might be that his clothes fly off as he whip around. Track and field is definitely in his future.
Christina is 8 and growing up fast. She can very capably get both baby boys into the tub, bathe them and get them ready for bed. She can be quite amazing. And clean house??? Like a professional. So it’s rather amusing that she can never remember what day it is or how to tell time.
Angelisha and Blessing are finishing kindergarten. I have never been able to spend much time in their classroom, but I know exactly what goes on there. Nearly every day the dolls are put in chairs ready for their lessons. Apparently a couple of them are little pistols as I hear their teachers say, “I can’t keep reading if you are going to talk.” Or, “Max, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the carpet.” They teach the dolls songs, sight words, and how to make letters. (Every ‘S’ I make is a curvy little snake.) I feel I have been to school with them.
General will be 2 next week and has emerged as dominant dog. He pretty much rules the house. Most families spring into action when they hear “The bus is leaving!” or, “There’s a fire in the oven!” At our house the call to arms is, “HE’S GOT A CRAYON!!” He is a budding artist and no matter how many huge pieces of paper we give him, he considers the walls his canvas. We have a program of Adopt a Wall. The older children have a section of wall for which they are responsible for graffiti removal. When they begin buying stock, it will probably be in Mr. Clean Erasers.
Genesis is now a happy robust 10 month old. Still toothless (not even a nub!). He gums French fries with the best of them. He gets his food via meals-on-wheels. His high chair is a baby walker, so in between bites, he cruises down the hall or backs into the living room. He hangs his arm over the side and looks over his shoulder like he is backing an 18 wheeler. It lengthens feeding time, but I get to grab a few bites while he is out an about.
Rita


CathernPaxton

Growing Up with Rita: Part II – Grandma and Grandpa Who?

Eben Avenue was not the only street in Findlay, Ohio that provided memories for Rita and me. When it came to Grandparents and Great Grandparents, we were blessed. Bell Avenue, Broad Avenue, Center Street and Cherry Street also housed grandparents.

As adults, Rita and I shared many giggles and guffaws when talking about our memories of interesting grandparents. We devised ways in keeping them straight. These recollections are not meant to be disrespectful but helpful in placing images in your mind as two young sisters saw them.

Pearl and Hazel Gardner, our Dad’s parents, lived next door to us our entire growing up years. Grandpa was a large man of few words. He rarely shared his thoughts and feelings with us. We knew he loved us, but we never heard the words which was not uncommon for that generation.

Grandpa would come home from a hard day’s work carrying his black lunch pail and head down the short sidewalk from the house to his own man cave which was his two car garage with a coal stove, woodworking tools, his pipe, his chair and his dog. I mentioned that he was a man of few words, but there were times when Grandma would push the wrong button and out would come words that left Rita and me standing there, wide eyed knowing not to utter a sound. If you recall the father in “Christmas Story” with all those unintelligible words expressing great frustration, well that was Grandpa Pearl. Grandma would stand there, close her eyes with a grimace, shaking her head and clenching her fists. She hated for us to hear such profanity. She had great self-control and patience because we knew that 99 pound, energizer bunny body could do great harm to Grandpa if she so desired.

The writers for the “The Beverly Hillbillies” must have taken our Grandma Hazel for their Granny. They looked alike and frequently sounded alike. Grandma Hazel was busy from sunup to sundown facing the day properly adorned with her clean aprons. She knew what was going on in our house and our aunt’s house down the street. She was the ultimate, loving busybody. She was talented in writing and playing the piano. She attended the Findlay College Conservatory of Music. She is responsible for Rita’s love of the piano.

She was close to permanently traumatizing us when we witnessed her going after a chicken in the backyard, catching it and chopping off his head with an ax. Rita and I recalled the horrible stench of wet feathers as she prepared to pluck them off before cleaning and cutting it up for the frying pan. She taught us to iron, shell peas, snap green beans and the proper way of washing dishes. She often said that a good cook starts with a sink filled with soapy, hot water. She made the best sugar cookies and would send them to us when we were away in college. She died in 1992 at the age of 92…then there were no more.

William and Edith Gardner were great-grandparents. Rita and I knew them as Grandma and Grandpa with the Kitties. For years we thought that were their names. Since we already had a Grandpa and Grandma Gardner, this was a way to distinguish them. As you might have already figured out, they always had a litter of new kittens for us to play with. Rita and I loved those kittens. We mostly spent time there during the summer months as that is where the large family garden was located.

The nursery rhyme, “Jack Sprat”, was a perfect description of them. Grandpa William was tall and thin while Grandma Edith was short and fluffy. When she laughed, it sounded more like a wheeze than a laugh. On her kitchen stove was a grease jar where the drippings from bacon and other meats were collected and used for frying eggs and everything else.

Bob, Pearl, Willilam, EdithThe four generation picture shown is of Dad, Grandpa Pearl, and William and Edith Gardner. Rita and I chuckled as adults at this picture. There were other four generation pictures the same day but by the time this (the last) was taken, we were done with all the photo shoots as seen by my dazed look and Rita’s pout of disgust and teary eyes.

Clinton and Rosa Chambers lived in a stately two story home with beautiful wood throughout the interior. When we would go to their house for a visit, Dad always went by way of the back ally to their backyard. There was a very long narrow sidewalk leading up to the back porch. Rita and I spent most of our time running and skipping up and down this walk. There was not much for us to do in the house except peck on the piano, so the backyard with the porch swing was our place of entertainment.

Grandma Rosa looked and cackled like the Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz.” I can still hear her and Grandma Hazel laughing in the kitchen…a joyful cackling session to say the least. Grandpa Clinton, had only one arm. He tragically lost the other in a farming accident. He was a soft spoken man, hard to hear and understand most of the time. His attire was always the same…a crisp, clean long sleeved shirt with the empty sleeve neatly tucked inside his belt. Suspenders completed his ensemble.

Mom’s father died when I was 6 weeks old. They had 8 children together. Marie, the first child died at age 5. Grandma Mae married Frank Dewey who was raising his four children on his own. A large blended clan was formed fondly known as the Lentz/Dewey family. Christmas and Thanksgiving Holidays were celebrated in the average size two story house with a carved out basement that housed a ping pong table. How this house was able to sustain the large family of 11 with their spouses and children is nothing short of a miracle. It was the nosiest of gatherings in our growing up years. A player piano in the front room was constantly being played, cousins running and squealing, other children playing “button, button, who’s got the button” on the stairway, back and front doors banging from kids running in and out while the ladies were in the kitchen preparing a huge feast.

The three oldest cousins, Sandy, Twila and I, spent time together while the second set of three, Rita, Nancy and Janealla, had their own time together.

Grandma Dewey was the epitome of patience. This short, rounded woman was kind and gentle. She smiled through the chaos of the day and the trials of life as well. Grandpa hardly said a word during these holiday invasions. He sat along the side somewhere, picking at his fingers probably wondering when they were all going to go home. He was a good man to put up with all of us.

Grandma Dewey was an artist. She helped Rita and me paint our first framed pictures. Our Mom kept them for many years. There are a number of artists from this family thanks to Grandma.

The annual Lentz/Dewey reunion is still held in Findlay, Ohio in July. Rita loved attending this precious event and we all loved seeing her, often with the Tyler children. The number attending the reunions has dwindled due to deaths in recent years. This year I will go with a huge lump in my throat. No Rita 🙁

Grandma Mae’s parents were Charles and Lodema LaRue. Grandpa was another tall, large man who wore suspenders. He was quiet and gentle as was Grandma LaRue. She wore her hair in a bun. She had a large mole on her chin with a few long hairs in it. There were not as many cousins for us to play with at the LaRue house. We did not know as many from this family as with some other grandparent gatherings. Rita and I found it difficult to be in the house due to a strong odor. We did not find out until adulthood that Grandma LaRue had a bladder problem. Rita was an expert at turning up her nose in a funny sort of way whenever the occasion called for it. I have pictures to prove it. Rita and I were blessed. How many people have a plethora of memories from growing up with 10 grandparents? I hold them all close in my memory bank alongside my sister Rita.


CathernPaxton

Time is precious.

Time is an illusion, created by humans to measure the space between sunrise and sunset; so the hunter knew when to return home, when the farmer would know when it was time to stop plowing. As much as I love science fiction, time travel is just a fantasy. A wish fulfillment device to consider “what if?” questions and roads untraveled. A second is a second, an hour sixty of those seconds. It never changes, but sometimes an hour feels like a minute and a minute an hour. Everything is a matter of perception. As we get older, it feels as if time moves more quickly, even though the distance between each moment remains constant. Time, in fact, is the only constant in the universe, the one thing, once spent, we never get back. Time is precious. We squander so much of it even though we swear there is never enough.

My parents are both long gone, having passed about six years apart from each other. They died differently; mom lost her battle with cancer. She knew it was coming and once it spread too far for any treatment to guarantee quality of life, she let go. It was the bravest thing I’ve ever witnessed. In the days following, nothing was left unsaid. She passed peacefully in her own bed. When she left, I felt the pain of departure, but after the initial loss, I was happy and relieved for her. No more pain, no more fear. I moved on very quickly and every so often I have to remind myself just how long it has been since she died.

My father, on the other hand, was taken without warning by a sudden heart attack. I got the call from the NYPD. Dad was three days shy of 67 years old. We buried him on his birthday, a day he and I were planning to spend together. He was more than my father, he was my best friend. He was young, vital, in great shape, loved dancing, drinking, women, movies and music. We had so many more things to do together, but time, that precious thing we waste but don’t have enough of, ran out. I didn’t take it well. I was shattered. It took me a full year to pull out of the resulting depression. It was the longest year of my life. And I know exactly how long it’s been since I received that call (nineteen years and four months). I think of it on the anniversary of his death. Every. Single. Year. However, I can’t tell you the exact day my mother died. Not because I loved her any less, but because of how she left, and the closure we had. Her passing didn’t scar me.

The ancient cliché of time healing all wounds is a fallacy. Time only creates distance from events, healing comes from within, and only if conditions from without make it possible. We learn how to live with it, we create a new normal, we find a reason to get up every morning and move forward. Everyone has a reason, whether it is a child, grandchild, domestic partner, or pets (or all of the above). Perhaps it’s a mission, created to honor the person lost. Or a promise to live up to the example that loved one set. Yet, the wound is still there. We carry the pain, no matter great or small. For some, it can be a sharp pain that envelops our being to the point we can’t function until it passes. Where stepping outside in the world of people and daylight is an anathema to us. For others it’s a dull ache, rather like an old broken bone that twinges in rain. To this day, I miss my father, but the dull ache becomes a sharp pain at certain times of the year, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and, of course, his birthday. Or any time I’m about to perform on stage. Or when I listen to Gene Krupa records.

I didn’t lose my dad to a senseless act of violence. He wasn’t stolen from me by the unfeeling actions of a human monster. However, I was told something by someone I respect greatly.

Loss is loss.

Something large and important is taken from us. A piece of ourselves is gone. A chunk of our heart is chipped away, smashed into splinters, and trampled on until what remains is dust. Words are cold comfort. Everyone tries to say the right things, but it usually boils down to a phrase repeated ad nauseam: “sorry for your loss.” I heard it so many times, I swore I would never use those four words in that order again.

In the face of monumental loss, the best we can do is take each day as it comes, and do all we can in the time we have. With each person we lose, we are reminded of our own mortality and the fleetingness of time. We should all reevaluate the time we have and how it is spent. If I’ve learned anything it’s that those we love need know that we do, in fact, treasure them. Not just in words, but in action. Never let things go unsaid, never wonder “did she know how I really felt?”

Time is limited, so spend it wisely. We can always make more money, replenish our food, collect more stuff. However, once each second is gone, it never returns. Years spent unsatisfactorily aren’t refunded. So, try to dedicate the days you have to those you’ve lost. Live up to the example they set. You loved them because they touched your life, they helped to make you a whole person. They did something you admired. Take those best qualities and make them your own. Trust me, that is the best kind of theft and they would be proud of you for doing it. You see, when you do that, you give them something in death they never had in life…

Immortality.


Scott McIntyre

Humanitarian in Training: Part I

This time of the year tends to be either a bright, sparkling time of magic or the most heart wrenchingly lonely time of the calendar year. Perhaps even a mixture of the two. All things tend to get magnified; love, loss, generosity, greed, gratitude, disappointment and all the aspects of human emotion and introspection in between are heightened. There’s something magnetic in the air that, for better or worse, grabs a stronghold of our thoughts and actions. Everything about this collision typically leads to excess fretting, which, in turn, leads to excessive indulgences and it seems to really be a sort of polarization of the human spirit.

It is true that this time of the year brings out both the absolute best, and sometimes the worst in all of us. So, within all this excess, anxiety and love, I now find myself trying to navigate this mission of selflessness. I’ve always considered myself a kind person to the people in my life that I cherish, and I know I would do for them whatever they asked, but admittedly, it takes me a very long time to warm up to people in general so strangers tend to stay strangers and I live my life in a very tightly closed circle. I’ve been inspired by this foundation’s namesake and creator, but also realize this is going to be a journey to try to make a difference while simultaneously fighting against 30 years of my natural inclinations. How can someone that finds human interaction so uncomfortable become more of a humanitarian?

So I’ve scoured the web and found different charities to sign up for – so wait, you mean I can’t just walk up to a food bank and say ‘put me to work, in the back?’ Oh, ok so away I go with the emails. There are phone numbers to call, but being me, despite trying to be this helpful soul, there’s always been something about speaking with people on the phone that makes my mouth go dry and my head go blank. I find myself falling back already into what is easiest, too anxious to directly contact anyone. So I wait, and in the mean time, I donate my singles to the charity jars next to the cash register, and I gathered up all my old clothes and I pack them into the clothing bins outside the super market. And I still wait, a part of me sort of hoping my emails won’t be returned because that may force me out of my comfort zone. Getting caught up in the hoopla of the holiday season, the thoughts of giving are with my family and friends again as opposed to strangers. Checking my emails I see all the deals from various stores’ lists I find myself on, but still no replies for my charitable efforts to begin.

And then there are the excuses, I could just call- but its so much easier to remain taciturn in my bubble, and I still have all this shopping to do… and then my shopping was done, and my work hours were not quite as hectic. Ok, so now I have a choice, to remain on the sidelines or get in the game (a surprisingly effective sports metaphor really). So, I called, I left a message and I received a call a few days later from a very nice woman named Traci Hendricks of the Community Food Banks of NJ and my visit was scheduled.

As I set out to Hillside, NJ I fought my nerves sparking and crackling at the newness of it all whilst my anxiety scratched at the back of my head ever so gently. Despite having one of the warmest winters on record for the east coast, as I headed out it began to sleet and I found myself having to remember not to complain as I dipped and dodged in between traffic by Newark airport. Remembering that at least I have a car, at least I have a warm coat and that these little inconveniences are no tragedy.

When I arrived, I was the first person there and as I waited for the others to arrive, I soon had to bat away hopes that I may be the only one there due to the weather. Soon I was joined by the other volunteers, mostly consisting of a school group and parents and we were sent to our task. The building was huge and incredibly well organized and our group leader was a high energy, open hearted man named Omar. I got the impression, almost immediately, that he was another one of those truly warm hearted people that you feel happy to have come across in the world. With a playlist prepared and a lively atmosphere around us, he put us all to work making boxes and packing up plastic bags. Time flew by on our little assembly line and it was really great to see the look on some of the parents’ faces as they watched their children put in great work with no complaints, and these were teenagers!

At the end of our time Omar gathered us all before we left for a great little speech to remind us of what we have and how grateful we need to continue to be because you truly never know if you may find yourself on the opposite side of the spectrum. You could tell how much he really cared about his work there and that this was far from a canned speech. He felt every word he spoke and as I was I nodding and smiling to his words, I scanned the group and I noticed something I could scarcely believe, within his captive audience, not one person was glancing at there phones. Now that, in this age, is enough to inspire any pessimistic observer to become a humanitarian in training.


 

AndreaCain

Growing Up with Rita: Part I

My twenty two month younger sister, Rita Ann Gardner Langworthy, and I spent our growing up years in Findlay, Ohio. Nestled in a town of 35,000 was a short street approximately two blocks long called Eben Avenue. It was this neighborhood we called home that brought the greatest joys and memories any child could experience.

We were born in the forties to Robert and Nellie Gardner; however, our bank of memories were birthed in the 50’s and 60’s.

If you are familiar with reruns of past TV programs, “Leave it to Beaver”, “The Donna Reed Show” and “Happy Days” and the like, that is the life we lived. Mom didn’t wear lovely dresses with a pearl necklace and high heels while doing housework and caring for the family. She was a stay at home Mom until Rita and I were in junior high school. She then began wearing the nice dresses and high heels for her office job at the headquarters of The Marathon Oil Company until her retirement.

Dad’s sister, Verna Mae, lived with her family on the same street up one block. Dad’s parents, Pearl and Hazel Gardner, lived next door to us. It was definitely a family affair.

The street was peppered with other families with children about our ages. The houses are still there today. The McAlexanders, DePuys, Wooleys, Hagermans, Sands, Rikers, Davises and Clines were the kids we spent most of our time playing out door games.

Rita and I walked to the elementary school only 2 ½ blocks from home, along with the other neighborhood kids. There was a huge, old, creepy house located by the railroad track we had to cross. We would run full speed ahead past it and over the tracks before slowing down. We knew it was haunted and would take no chance of a monster coming out after us.

The students who attended McKinley Elementary School were walkers. When it was time for lunch, we walked home. Mom was at the door waiting to greet us. Lunch was ready.

We had an hour lunch break. Following our meal, Mom would sit down to watch her two soap operas…”Search for Tomorrow” and “The Guiding Light”. They were only 15 minutes long and were performed live on TV. She really got into them. More than once she would send us back to school with tears streaming down her face at what poor Joanne was experiencing.

After school was time for play until dinner when Dad arrived home. We helped with dishes and then scampered outside to play hopscotch, jump rope, hide and seek, jacks or sometimes off to the backfield to play ball until darkness sent us home. Our parents did not need to worry about our safety as they do today.

Our house was a small two bedroom home. Rita and I shared a bedroom. Bedtime had its own routine ending with Mom and Dad lovingly tucking us in.

Those early childhood days seem like only yesterday. It was the best of times growing up with Rita.


CathernPaxton

A Legacy Most Worthy

I didn’t want to take down the Christmas tree this year. I cringed at the thought of removing the lights from the house, the wreath from the door, and the inflatable Tigger with the giant candy cane from the center of the lawn. I hated the idea of replacing the cheer and warmth of the season with the steely cold of a grey January.

My family was never religious. When I was growing up, we went the Santa Claus route rather than a spiritual one. While we generally have a nice time every year, usually for me Christmas is a bit of a chore. The shopping, or more accurately, finding the money to afford gifts, contributes to a lot of holiday stress. The travel back and forth on Christmas Day makes it the least relaxing holiday on the calendar. One year, we didn’t even decorate. We just didn’t have it in us. Yet, all that did was make it even more depressing.

Two thousand fourteen was a tough year for us. A very dear friend, Alessandra, died suddenly of a stroke at the age of 42, leaving behind her husband, Carl, whom I’ve known since grade school, and two young boys. Mere weeks later, I lost my job. One hit after another made it difficult for me to embrace the coming Christmas season. I focused on the negative. The house was barely decorated and the tree was hastily put up with only days to spare. By December 27, it was all gone. The house showed no signs of Christmas. It was as if it never happened.

January of 2015 was no improvement. Kevin Brown, the first real friend I made in the theater a few years earlier, succumbed to cancer. He was just a few years older than me. His death affected me more than I anticipated and it was the first loss of the year to chip away at my outlook on life. Kevin possessed a hugely positive spirit. He loved life, people, and the craft of acting. He was a fantastic performer and an all around great human being. He found joy in what he did and didn’t consider himself above a particular role or play. After he died, I altered my approach to each role I took. I tried to find the joy in every part. It was my small way of celebrating his life which, in turn, began to enrich my own.

In March, I was hired by Weight Watchers. As a successful member, I qualified for employment and was fast-tracked into their meeting Leader training. For the first time, I found myself in a profession where I could give back to people — to inspire and encourage them to reach their goals, to be part of helping them feel better about themselves, and achieve things they thought impossible. The pay was a mere fraction of what I used to earn, but it opened me up to a wider variety of people. It pulled me out of my own self-imposed exile.

As most everyone reading this knows, Rita was murdered in August. I’ve written before how I felt when it happened, but her death had an impact that took a little longer to manifest. Yes, it opened my eyes to the plight of a city that normally escaped my notice and the nightmarish life of the children she devoted her life to helping. What I didn’t expect was that her loss helped me enjoy Christmas again.

You see, Christmas is not about faith for me. It’s not even about the Pagan origins of the tree, the Winter Solstice, or some fat guy shimmying down my chimney. This year it finally sunk in. Christmas is about love. It’s about the love of family and the time you have together. It’s about the love between friends and the bond you share. It’s about recognizing what you have, even in the face of loss. It’s about loving your time and spending it on things that fulfill you. It’s about finding even the smallest happiness in the darkest of times.

This Christmas I was happier and more enthusiastic. I put up the tree earlier than usual. I was on the roof stringing lights and hanging them all over the yard. I enjoyed friends on Christmas eve and family on the day.

On the 26th, the post-holiday blues began to set in. The end was here, but I was in denial. Finally, a week and a half into January, I knew it all had to come down. Unlike previous years, I wasn’t eager. I wanted to hold onto the season. Sure, I don’t personally need December to appreciate the people in my life, but the world is a different place around Christmas.

I enjoyed the community this year — the feeling of mutual celebration. Instead of dragging me down, it gave me a boost all because of those who lived by example and whose deaths put the punctuation on the sentences. How they lived their lives truly inspired me to do better, reach farther, and be more. To be less insular and more understanding. Perhaps if I can be better, I can in a small way start to fill in the holes created by their losses.

It’s strange when I think about it. When my own parents died, I mourned and moved on, but didn’t make any major changes. Yet, the deaths of two people who were not major players in my life shined a light on something I didn’t see without them.

That, my friends, is a legacy most worthy.


Scott McIntyre

“Looking ahead” from our President

Dear Friends,

I am Rita Langworthy’s daughter – her only child.

Six months ago, had you asked me who or what I was, my answer would have been much different. But today, there is no other answer. I am Rita Langworthy’s daughter. No other answer fully encompasses who I am. However, those five powerful words most certainly do, and it is an answer that bears great responsibility.

It is my honor and privilege to be the acting first President of this organization and I am most grateful to my fellow Board of Directors as we stand together, having accepted the incredible opportunity to make a positive impact on children, which Rita provided.

During the inception of The Rita Langworthy Foundation, someone said I had “lofty goals.” They did not know me well, but have quickly come to witness that just as Rita was, I am a woman of action. Rita laid the foundation of this organization simply by living every day of her life as a selfless example of love and true generosity. It is our job to nurture and grow the seeds she planted.

Very few companies can offer promises of guaranteed success. In fact, I can’t think of a single financial wizard who wouldn’t scoff at such a claim. However, failure cannot exist within this organization. We have built a solid business structure with conservative annual anticipated growth; and whether we disperse only the designated minimum grantee award or we far exceed those giving goals each year, this Foundation has been designed for success.

This is just the beginning. The Rita Langworthy Foundation is on a path to become a powerhouse of giving. This new year brings with it incredible opportunity for us to grow together and spread “The Rita Effect” far and wide. Here are just a few of the highlights of the year ahead:

Every child, no matter the circumstances into which they are born, deserves a chance to not just survive, but to flourish. Rita’s bright smile and joyful laugh will live on in every child we are able to help. Her indelible spirit and soul cannot ever be stolen from the world.

With love and hope for a bright future,
Lin Randolph
President
The Rita Langworthy Foundation

Rita Langworthy Foundation

Year-end Letter from our Treasurer

Hello,

It still seems surreal to me why I find myself writing this letter to all of you. While the events of this past year have sped by quickly, August 10th still seems unfathomable. A pillar in my life, an example of selfless strength, my mentor, a woman I so admired had her life senselessly snuffed out. I replay the day before in my head over and over. As I bounded down the stairs with a handful of children, taking them to their parents, my eyes were met by the familiar gleam and smile of sweet Rita. I quickly told her I had a bag full of books and movies in my office for her from our retiring pastor and would meet her there. I never did. She was let into my office by a friend as I was whisked away by the cries of my then four-month old son. Rita loved my little one and was so pleased that my husband and I had become parents. She, even in all of her busyness, still made a tremendous effort to bring us a meal and meet our new addition shortly after he was born. I will forever regret not making it back to my office that day. I could go on and on about how incredible Rita was, but now we must shift focus to how incredible Rita is. Her life well-lived did not end, she still lives on through all of us. She impacted those around her so deeply that now we all have been left with a powerful charge, to continue to shine her light to those in need.

Today, I am incredibly thankful for The Rita Langworthy Foundation. It was a true honor to have been asked to serve on the Board of Directors of this wonderful organization. Things came together quickly and were official much faster than I had ever witnessed. That was Rita’s doing. Never one to wait around and figure out who was going to meet a need or solve a problem, she took care of it.

In the short time The Rita Langworthy Foundation has existed, we have cultivated a strong donor base. People who loved Rita, family, friends, and many people who had never met her. Her powerful story of love and servant-hood has touched many. Now it is our turn to continue her legacy of compassion and the power of a strong education. Where you are born should not determine the trajectory of your life. Rita knew and lived that each day. Thank you! Thank you for continuing to bear the torch. As we continue to share Rita’s story, we hope you do too. We cannot continue Rita’s legacy without you. Your gifts of time, service and money will continue to create a lasting impact on the lives of many. Educators, students, and children will all continue to feel the warm embrace of support from Rita.

As we delve into a new year, may our hearts take hope that out of darkness Rita’s light still shines. Please consider becoming a monthly donor, making a donation in memoriam or honor of someone, or making a one-time donation to help sustain the good work The Rita Langworthy Foundation is doing.

Rita never wanted to take up anyone’s time or be a burden in any way, so I will wrap this up. If any of us can live our lives with a fraction of the goodness Rita lived hers, good will prevail.

Wishing you all the best in 2016,
Angie Beauvais Field
Treasurer
The Rita Langworthy Foundation

Rita Langworthy Foundation

My life as a TV series

I like to say that my life is a lot like a TV series. I guess it’s like that with all of us. Each year is a “season” of episodes, with a variety of plots and situations, as well as cast members who come and go. People who impact the story in a variety of ways, enter when appropriate and eventually exit when their particular part in my story is over. Each exit is different. Sometimes, plots are dropped; characters just kind of vanish, or are phased out. Others leave in a burst of drama, making a big splash as they walk out the door. Sometimes these people come back for a short run later to cause trouble, but don’t return to their status as regulars. Still, others leave the cast due to death and tragedy.

On the flip side, as people leave, others arrive. They are brought into the story as the plots change and circumstances bring them into our lives. New jobs, a move, or a life change, will always introduce us to new folks or strengthen the bond of people we looked at on the periphery. Those people can become as welcome as old friends; blood siblings in a way, confidantes who help make the story more vibrant and exciting. Or they can create more conflict, and as any writer will tell you, conflict is the key to good drama.

As we wind down 2015, I reflect on my life, as I do every year. I’m that kind of person. A man who reviews his story, rewinds the tape, as it were, and has a “flashback” or “clip show” to remember those who have left and recognize the people who recently joined. My personal core cast of regulars has largely remained fairly stable, all things considered. The usual time passage has taken some from us, but we’ve also had some wonderful additions. I’m fortunate. Too many of my friends, my supporting cast, have not been. The list of people I’ve held dear is missing a few notable names since 2014, which makes me sad. A number of them were taken from us prematurely, but a few others just phased out of the series. Either in reaction to those losses or simply because life has a way of pulling us apart.

At the same time, I can see the list of new people has grown in unexpected ways. The TV series analogy is one I’ve used my whole life, but feels more appropriate now as an actor. In the last four or so years, I’ve met dozens, if not hundreds, of new people through the theater and various television work. While most of those came and went with the jobs, a select few have been added to the cast and are most welcome. I see them often and very much enjoy their company. However, knowing how things ebb and flow, I find myself wondering how long these new friendships will last. How long until something happens that drives us apart, takes them away and exits them from my drama? I sometimes question the wisdom of forming so strong a bond, knowing they may leave at any time.

Just a few short months ago, Rita Langworthy was coldly and suddenly removed from her daughter’s life. Now, I had known Lin for a few years thanks for the various pug meet-ups. She was always fun, funny, upbeat, outgoing and generous. When she came to my NYC theater debut, I was thrilled. Once I learned my wife Jodi and I were on the short list of people to come to her small birthday lunch, the event where I met Rita, I was touched. So, when Rita was killed, my heart broke harder than I expected. At that moment, a deeper friendship was formed. I would give anything for Lin to have her mum back, to not feel that pain and loss every day. Yet, at the same time, I am grateful for this new and stronger bond and for the awareness Rita’s death has bestowed upon me. From even the most tragic event, I try to find something positive, some way to make it meaningful, however small. Lin has turned the tragedy into a foundation for the benefit of others while keeping her mother’s legacy alive, while I have gained a good friend. In turn, this friendship has opened my eyes to a lot of what is going on around me. Rita’s death made me aware of my own tunnel vision. It’s forced me to change how I see things and, hopefully, made me a slightly better person.

How long will these bonds and friendships last? I have no idea. I always intend them to be permanent, but they never are. Everything in life is transitory. Nothing lasts forever and it’s a waste of energy to worry about things I can’t control. Instead, let’s appreciate what we have today and the people in our little cast of characters. Cherish the times you share, the love you hold for each other and the good things they bring. Make the best of your time and revel in the experiences. Celebrate the lives of those who have left the stage by living up to their best example and the way they have changed your life. I am a different person today because of everyone I let into my little circle.

Join me as I go into my next “season” with my heart and eyes wide open, and trying to live up to the best example of those who matter most.


Scott McIntyre

Like Wonder Woman, I now wear a bracelet of indomitability

Feeling quite like the superhero, Wonder Woman, I now wear a bracelet that holds within it so much strength and love that it is impenetrable by negative forces.

“She’s gone off the deep end now!”

No, I haven’t lost all my marbles. I know the beautiful bauble that adorns my wrist holds no magical powers, but it has given me the gift of a tangible reminder every second it lays against my skin that an incredible woman began laying a path and it is my duty — and honor — to continue her work.

Grieving in the United States is an odd thing, to say the very least. Americans set an unspoken time limit on the mourning process that is simply unrealistic and unhealthy. We are expected to put on brave faces, returning to work and going about our daily lives, as if nothing has happened; and we do it because we are rarely given any other choice. Employers expect us back at work within days and the people around us tire quickly of our sadness. So, we hold back the screams and sobs and do our best to go through each day as if our hearts haven’t been ripped from our chests; and everyone commends us on how strong and brave we are.

What makes matters worse is that while you are in the initial stages of loss and grief, your loved one’s death becomes a monetized social event. Service. Music. Flowers. Food. Thank you notes. It’s a surreal moment when you realize you are going through the same preparations for your mum’s death as you did for your own wedding.

I do not envy those in the business of death. What a weight they bear.

When Tina, from Full of Grace Rosary Design, reached out to me with a business solicitation shortly after I made public my mum’s murder on my personal Facebook page, she knew she was stepping onto volatile ground. She did not know me personally, but knew others that did. She was kind, compassionate and respectful in her communication, and her intent was genuinely from the heart as well as something that aligned with my mum’s beliefs, so we began the creative process of designing and creating a memorial together.

11880148_10153574523168524_648357046_n
I sent select flowers from each floral arrangement received at mum’s beautiful memorial service and at home to Tina where she prayed over them and set the blooms out to dry.
Once dry, the petals were gently separated.
Once dry, the petals were gently separated.
11948101_10153610200123524_637454004_n
The dried petals were then ground.
Purple polymer clay was cut for mixing with half of the ground dried petals.
Lavender polymer clay was cut for mixing with half of the ground dried petals.
11995715_10153615562543524_1330497536_n
Each bead was hand rolled, encasing bits of petals.
Batches of handmade beads were cured
Batches of handmade beads were cured and then lightly tumbled and glazed so as to maintain the integrity of the dried petals and their texture.
The perfect sterling silver, CZ and purple crystal butterfly bead, was special ordered for each bracelet; and the remaining dried petals were encased in epoxy resin and molded into contrasting beads.
The perfect sterling silver, CZ and purple crystal butterfly bead, was special ordered for each bracelet; and the remaining dried petals were encased in epoxy resin and molded into contrasting beads.
The final sterling silver pieces (wire, beads, findings) were all chosen, including an "infinity" lobster clasp because as Tina said, "Your mother's legacy should be infinite!"
The final sterling silver pieces (wire, beads, findings) were all chosen, including an “infinity” lobster clasp because as Tina said, “Your mother’s legacy should be infinite!”
Four months of patience and hard work came together and Tina presented me with the final product -- The Rita Langworthy Memorial Bracelet.
Four months of patience and hard work came together as Tina presented me with the final product — The Rita Langworthy Memorial Bracelet.
The two indominable forces in my life together again.
The two indominable forces in my life together again.

Having been denied my mum’s few remaining earthly possessions, I have relied on decades of photos and memories that only her daughter could possess. One would think this would be enough — to have such a precious treasure trove — and yet it hasn’t.

I can still feel our last embrace in April as we stood on the sidewalk outside my apartment building before I told her “I love you” and put her in a cab headed back to her airport hotel. Mum wasn’t demonstrative despite how deeply she felt. It was, however, because of her level of empathy that she felt the need to protect herself. And so, that hug will forever be burned on my tactile memory because we stood holding one another for longer than we ever had before. And it was a farewell that tore at me four months before it would become our last.

That tactile imprint is what rushed back to me, like a full-body slam into a brick wall, when I touched the bracelet Tina had created. For the first time since that April embrace, her arms manifested themselves around me and I could truly feel her with me.

The bracelet, while elegant in its own way, is not particularly dainty and its weight is a constant, welcome reminder of her physical presence. I have touched each individual bead and turned them gently on the wire, feeling the surface and admiring their rare, individual beauty.  And just as I protect her ashes, I also protect this physical manifestation of her — tucking it away in it’s cotton lined purple box every night safe from anyone who may wish to do it harm.

Okay.

Taking a breath.

The hard part of this post is over and now I can tell you about how YOU could be a lucky recipient of a Rita Langworthy Memorial Bracelet, too! That’s right! You didn’t think all those petals went into just one bracelet, did you? I arranged for Tina to make a limited amount of bracelets and we are going to give THREE of them away this weekend and auction off the last one at our Inaugural Butterflies & Blues cocktail party fundraiser in NYC next year (October 17, 2016). These will be your only two opportunities to acquire one of these rare bracelets as no more may be made.

Here are the rules:

  1. Submit your “The Rita Effect” story HERE. (click link to be directed to story submission page)
  2. Deadline: Sunday, December 20, 2015, 11:59PM EST
  3. We will randomly select THREE submissions which will be highlighted in our next newsletter as well as their author’s receiving one of the LIMITED EDITION Rita Langworthy Memorial Bracelets.
  4. Bracelets are packaged in purple gift boxes and come with a card describing the creative process.
  5. Bracelets will be shipped via USPS Priority Mail and may be mailed only within the U.S.

Good luck!

P.S. Do not despair if you are not one of the lucky 3. We hope to begin selling the beautiful sterling silver & crystal butterfly beads individually shortly.


Lin Randolph

Change starts with us…

This is to be almost a form of journaling, but not based solely on my fears, worries, or inner secrets, but hopefully of a change. My first thoughts when I committed to writing this were admittedly selfish ones; “I’m so rusty, what if it’s awful? Writing is my own solitary, therapeutic respite not often opened to visitors. Are there too many cobwebs for company?” Then I pondered, “How can any words really live up to the light that Rita Langworthy carried within her?” After which, I realized, no words really can, only actions can. I had the pleasure of meeting, before her untimely death, what I can only describe as a vision of inner warmth in a world often too frigid and bitter to fathom it. Rita Langworthy was the type of person whose inner light shone through a room like a lighthouse through fog and made everyone around her feel like they were better versions of themselves by proxy. Originally, I remember hearing about her charity and her sense of humor throughout the years of working and later maintaining a wonderful friendship with her daughter Lin. I remember being captivated, those 10 plus years ago, by them and by this person who seemed to be, and who most certainly was, the antithesis of all the selfish inner inclinations that seem to drive our nature. She was, and is now in many ways still, an amazing angel of refuge to so many that loved her, and will continue to be this to so many more through the reach of her daughter Lin and this organization.

I know that poverty in our country is an issue. A massive, often ignored issue that we may even see on a daily basis but choose to ignore like that pesky broken spring in the mattress we roll away from in hazy sleep. In fairness, it seems almost futile to try to wrap a hand around these things that are so beyond our command, take hold of them and try. I’ve read the articles, often interspersed between the latest organic food trend, and Kardashian beauty tips. The situation is becoming worse, worse than the Great Depression. But, again I’m human, so I push it to the back of my mind, meanwhile worrying about my own financial, mental, superficial problems. Modern man has evolved at an astounding pace, so astounding, in fact that we may have given up small bits of our humanity in the leap. When we have food, shelter, and warmth, we have become more and more unhappy with the lack of frivolous “essentials” as opposed to the basic human needs. Essentially, we’re unhappy due to boredom. But what if we really didn’t have these essentials? Shelter, food, safe water to drink, or even a safe place to lay our heads at night; truly, I wouldn’t even begin to know what that feels like. I’ve always had a roof over my head and food to keep me satiated. Compared to the millions of children that are struggling just to survive, it all seems incredibly trivial really. There are huddled masses of these children but only a handful of people that find themselves called to wrap them up in just enough light and warmth so that they can bloom.

I’ve been inspired by this wonderful woman and her daughter’s will to continue her Mother’s ever reaching grace. It is never too late to try to make a difference in the world.

So, back to the action part — I would like to document my journey within this column. I’ll be signing up for various food banks and as many volunteer organizations as I can fit into my timeline in an attempt to hold on to at least a fraction of the good that Rita gave to this world. I’ve become so cynical that the smallest gesture of humanity throws me back on my heels a bit. But what if we all gave that little glimpse when we could? More than just giving our change into the charity jar at the cash register, what would that add up to? A step above, albeit a small one at first, it could add up to real humanity — real reach. I soon realized in researching where I could sign up to volunteer, that I should have done so years ago. These sites require around 2-3 hours of a commitment a week and there really is no excuse not to. Though I may never live up to an angel, I can see no reason I can’t offer some small sentiment of refuge.

 


 

AndreaCain

#purpleforrita love was everywhere!

Hashtag #purpleforrita

We often bemoan social media because at its worst, it is a breeding ground for gossip, rumor mongering and hate. But at its best, put into the hands of those who wish to send positivity into the ether hoping to light a spark within others, it can start a fire that warms the hearts and nourishes the spirits of countless others. The first annual #purpleforrita day did just that.

Rita, my mum, should have been here, surrounded by friends and family, to celebrate her 71st birthday on Monday, December 7, 2015. While our hearts were heavy with great sadness, we once again refused to allow our grief to snuff out her light.

And while the early morning hours were stained with tears, the tributes to Rita were so numerous that the heavy, grey clouds were forced out of the sky and #purpleforrita shone everywhere. For one day, folks all over the world made it a day of celebration, joy and love.  We turned Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, purple and it was marvelous.

There were candles and cake!

 

 

People who, like Rita, typically avoid being in photos TOOK SELFIES!

 

 

Even Rita’s fur-riends spread the love! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And there were butterflies.

 

 

Of course, as someone noted, “Rita would wonder what all the fuss was about, but smile at the thought of being loved so much.” We, on the other hand, all know what the fuss is about and will continue to make a fuss. So take that mum!


 

Lin Randolph

Compassion, not pain & destruction.

Has there ever been a time when mankind wasn’t causing pain and destruction? It’s all over the news and social media. It’s on television and in our streets. Violence, terrorism, hatred, prejudice, selfishness and despair. It takes a sudden act of violence to shake us out of our complacency. Most recently, the terror attacks in Paris have brought out the rage. It’s a righteous rage. We should be angry and devastated at the senseless brutality. The sad part is that this rage doesn’t last.

This is what happens…

We live our lives concerned with our own issues and problems, trying to make life work for us. We are vaguely aware of events across the globe, coming up for air long enough to be shocked at another hostage beheading, or we’ll cock an ear at the news of a suicide bomber striking a dilapidated desert village. Then, out of nowhere, somewhere “civilized” is attacked. Paris is targeted and over 120 people are killed. Suddenly, everyone is awake and demands action. Security levels skyrocket and everyone is a suspect. For now. Until it passes. Then, after a fairly short time, after a few reports of prevented planned bombings, or some other media blast takes our attention, we go back to our lives. We go back to ignoring the death and suffering and hatred until it touches us or our favorite tourist spots again.

We, as a species, are inherently selfish and protective. We look after our own. We may complain about conditions, we may even be moved by the plight of the oppressed and homeless, but we don’t dwell on it. We step over the person sleeping in the street. We change the channel when we see reports of far off lands being decimated and enslaved. It’s not confined to foreign lands, either. How many of us are truly aware of the suffering and killing in our own country? Beyond your own town, how concerned are you?

It seems that people will always find a way to kill, whether it’s other people, animals or our natural resources. We’ve been doing it for centuries. We kill, hurt and persecute. We consume and discard. Take away the weapons and we’ll fashion new. Silence the voices and we’ll find another way to make a point. We will punish a whole group for the benefit of a single agenda. We’re a fragmented, hateful society, too wrapped up in dogma, judgment and our own interests to see the plight of others except in times of tragedy. Every individual thing of beauty mankind creates is negated by every act of hate and violence. I really feel that if we stop caring about symbols, status and what divides us and start focusing more on the living, the breathing what makes us a single community, we’ll have a chance.

Of course, everything I write here is more a reflection on me than the rest of the world, isn’t it? Am I actually looking at the population in general or am I really turning the lens inward? I’m really describing myself, and my overall apathy to the world at large. What it takes, really, is for the violence to hit close to home. To impact someone I love, to wound a person I hold dear. That violence is why this foundation exists.

I consider myself lucky for having met Rita. It was only a short time, but we did chat for a while at her daughter’s birthday get together. She was funny, happy, very sharp and very young for her years. The love she held for Lin was palpable. Seeing the two of them together was like witnessing a physical manifestation of joy. Nobody can ever tell me the love between an adopted parent and her child is any less intense or real than any biological connection. I’ve seen it firsthand.

When I learned of Rita’s murder, I was heartbroken; for Lin having to lose her mum in such a cruel fashion and for the world, for everyone she touched. A spirit like hers should not be stolen away. Nobody has the right to take such a thing. Yet it happened. The violence hit home. Flint, Michigan became a real place to me and many others who never gave the city more than a passing thought, if that. It shook me out of my complacency. It made me think of who else was being victimized, killed and forgotten.

Thanks to Lin and The Rita Langworthy Foundation, her spirit lives on in the work and in Lin herself. The message and example Rita put forward in life will live on well after her death. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll have taken a step back from the hatred and the self fixation and the complacency. Maybe we can make compassion our default instead of ignorance, distrust and hate. Don’t let it take something like this to happen to you.


 

Scott McIntyre