Good News on a Monday

How often does Monday bring with it good news? One recent Monday brought home many threads from my life and I am celebrating.

It was eleven years ago on Arbor Day, my family and our community of friends memorialized my father’s life. He’d lived with a passion for nature, sailing, photography, children, and books. For the last 25 years of his life he tutored at an elementary school. One-on-one and in small groups of eager learners he encouraged reading and math skills. About the same time, we celebrated the installation of a beautiful mural by artist Paul Micich that was installed in the library of that school. My parents commissioned the artist and the mural. My mother was the instigator of that project.

Monday, someone from that school called to tell me, my parents are receiving an award. They will be added to Des Moines Hubbell Elementary School Wall of Fame. I am happy for my mother and we are touched to know they are remembered and appreciated for all they did for kids and learning. We learned they’d been nominated six times for the award. This was their year!

Also on Monday I was invited to provide and opening message at the annual meeting of a civic group on whose board I serve. I’d recently had a poem published in a local newspaper and they wanted me to read it as an opening call for the gathering. I stepped into this challenge of vulnerable sharing. Later toward the end of the meeting, I was surprised to be presented with the Towerside Innovation District Connector Award—“for my exemplary leadership and ability to inspire authentic connectivity between people and ideas.” The award felt authentic to my strengths and identity.

That same day, our 23 year old daughter was featured in a blog about her volunteer service to Mid-Continent Oceanographics, a remarkable storytelling, tutoring, and mentoring organization for kids. Here’s a link to her story.

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And here are my remarks from the award day and a photo from the day we dedicated the mural:

Hello to everyone here today. Hello Students. Hello teachers.

How great to be in this community that loves to learn and grow!

Hello friends. Hello people who decided to honor my mother and father. We thank you for coming. We thank you for honoring them.

I have a couple of questions for you all. Give me a sign.

  • Who loves stories?

  • Who loves books?

  • Who loves someone who reads stories to you?

Today we are accepting this very special award because we love those things, too.

These same loves—of stories, books, art making, and reading—have been special to our family for generations—meaning our grand parents, great grandparents, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren all love stories, book, art making, and reading.

It was the love of learning, and stories and books that brought my parents Joe and Mary Reid to Hubble, not as students, but as volunteers.

A volunteer means they gave their time and talents to make the school even better than it was.

After my father retired from work, My mother Mary encouraged Joe to come here and volunteer.

My father did not always have happy memories of school. In fact, he had two memories that he talked about often with my brother and me.

He grew up on an island in a river. And that was a cool place to play. He loved to be outside with his sisters and brother Wally. They swam, canoed, made forts, climbed trees, rode their pony Stella (who wouldn’t love to ride a pony named Stella?). They skated and played hockey.

But he was not a great student, at least not in the beginning. Reading and math did not come easily to Joe. And he almost flunked first grade. Can you imagine? He felt dumb and was not happy. Learning was hard for Joe.

But he kept going and one day, somehow, he fell in love with stories and books. Somehow the light of learning got turned on for him.

The second memory happened to Joe and his brother Wally. They would walk home to the island after school and sometimes they cut through someone’s yard. They took a short cut.

One day a man yelled at them. Told them to “Stay out of My yard!”

He scared them. And they ran away. They stayed away from that yard ever after not wanting to get yelled at again.

My dad told us, “I decided then and there I did not want to grow up to be the mean old man who hated kids. I want all kids to know—you are all right just as the way you are!

So when my mother encouraged Joe to come and spend time in the classroom of Jan Parkinson and later Yvonne Drewry.

He brought his struggle and his gift—his empathy and ability to help students find their way to reading and learning.

When he came to school he carried with him a big pile of favorite books and he read to students one-on-one or in groups and spread that love of learning for 25 years.

My mother Mary shared her love of what is useful and beautiful to make sure this beautiful school became more useful and beautiful through a renovation. Renovation means the building works better and is taken care of so it will be here for a long time.

And she had the idea to connect a wonderful artist to a wall and turn that wall into a mural of kids on books walking into the clouds for you to enjoy in the library.  Paul Micich is here. Yeah Paul!

So remember—you can find what you need to overcome your struggles—whether it is trouble learning or a hard time with friends or at home.  

You can overcome your fears, ask for help, and give help to others whenever you can. Joe did not see himself as a leader, but he became one by giving his talents to help kids learn to read.

We cannot be what we cannot see. See yourself as sharing kindness, see yourself sharing your love of learning, and share friendship with all who need it.

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Share what you love with others. Share curiosity, share stories, share art and music. When you do, you make the world a more peaceful, happier place. You can be like Joe and Mary and one day maybe you will find yourself on the Wall of Fame.

Thank you for honoring my parents today with their place on the Hubble Wall of Fame.

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Catherine Reid Day