But for all the emphasis we place on national elections, in my life I've found that what happens locally is so much more vital and impactful. That county supervisor may determine which road gets fixed, the school board member decides the direction of your child's school, the sheriff makes your streets and neighborhoods clean and safe, your mayor makes sure the roads are plowed when it snows. Those national politicians move us emotionally but those around us enrich our lives, give it flavor, make us feel whole.
In my life I have been awed by the impact the seemingly little local people make in our daily lives. Mary, who smiled and said hello to me every night at dinner in college. Susie who could top over 500 Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas every day before 11 am. Doug who was irritatingly slow yet his persistence made him the most amazingly efficient and productive custodian I've ever seen.
For the past twelve years that I have been in this community our lives have revolved around dance. In our little dance community Ma Beth has been a rock. Transporting so many kids over the years, mending costumes, and just being a smiling face for the girls week in and week out.
Every year we have a big holiday recital. The production takes months to plan and then execute. Toward the end the nights of dress rehearsal followed by three shows in two days are exhausting for the girls and the parents. By Sunday afternoon you are numb. At the end we all go to Ma Beth's house. Bone weary you walk into Ma Beth's quaint home, you see her smiling face, and you walk into the kitchen and are greeting with the warmest richest aromas you can ever imagine. Ma Beth always prepares three pots of chili (chicken, beef, and veggie) and Broccoli Cheddar Soup (proudly adapted from the Panera recipe she always says). The soup pours life back into your soul and soon your are joyous to be in the company of friends. One of the parents is a musician and he always has his band at the party. Soon happy folk and bluegrass tunes are played, the soul is replenished, the heart is happy, the brain is free from care; a rare moment of tranquility. A rare moment when nothing else in the world matters except to enjoy that moment.
What is even more amazing about this moment is that Ma Beth has been fighting cancer for several years now and has been the caretaker of a husband falling deeper into dementia.
As I listen to this year's speeches I am encourage with hope for the future. But regardless of the outcome I am amazed by the power of people around me to shape and amplify the lives around them.
This spring Ma Beth entered into the final stages of cancer. The family was not sure she would make it to the spring recital. The girls put together a show for her at a local theater. It was like some kooky episode of the Brady Bunch, some kids were off key. Other kids choreographed dance numbers that were quite good. All was beautiful though because all was done in recognition of a beautiful powerful person who everyone loved and whose presence made lives better. All wanted to let Ma Beth know how much she meant. She was delighted.
Ma Beth did make it to the spring recital but sadly she passed away a few weeks ago.
I'm not sure why I want to write about her, I surely don't do her justice. Perhaps in this season of world issues I just want to tell a small story of a small person who made a big difference in her world and the world of those around her and who made us feel warm and cared for on a cold winter's night.