Everyone is talking about the problems in our country and everyone has an opinion about how to fix it. But while we are discussing it one woman is doing something about it.
Mary Donley is an 83yr old public health nurse serving the Block Island community. She has been their nurse for over 50 yrs. For many of those years she was the only health care provider they had. In an interview she said: “If you go in and listen it does more for people than anything. When there is no doctor they are scared. You don’t want to make the wrong diagnosis. I can’t help but think what if this was my family, what would I do?”
That is a great lesson for all of us in these times. If this was my family what would I do? I would pay attention. I would give assistance. I would care. Have we lost this basic response? Have we become numb to the needs of those around us because there is just too much need??
Watching this CBS news show featuring Mary was inspirational. The camera followed her as she carefully made her way down a dirt path to treat a woman with an ailing foot. In the next scene she slowly walked up a steep hill to visit a stroke victim with diabetes. It was a typical day for 83 yr old Mary, making her rounds.
Her personal story is about getting through and giving back. In her interview she speaks about the past: “If you have 7 kids you do what you have to do and keep going.” Mary found her calling and kept going through lives adversities by helping others.
She takes care of their physical problems but she also helps with their financial ones. The Mary D fund paid out $50,000 last year for electric bills, oil bills, water proofing a basement after Hurricane Irene, college tuition, day care. If someone is in trouble they call Mary. They come to her home to meet with her face to face. She listens and talks about personal responsibility and sticking to a budget. There is no board or bureaucracy; she makes the decisions about who gets what.
Block Island is a small community. If someone is in trouble everyone knows about it. Mary will get a call from the power company telling her that someone’s electricity is about to be cut off or a school will call about over due tuition. She doesn’t give cash. She finds out what bills are over due and she writes checks to those companies.
Mary estimates that 30% of the islanders have turned to her fund for help. She understands the people in her community. Many of them contribute to the fund. She has been called a bleeding heart and also a steel magnolia. She hates the title of Saint Mary. Mary sees herself as an ordinary person who has been gifted with this. She feels like a kid, running around, doing things and she wants to hang onto it.
I would describe her as an ordinary person who made an extraordinary commitment to take care of her community.
The people of Block Island seem to take care of each other. Mary says “it is better to be here because these people are the ones who will take care of you. What you do for someone is never forgotten”.
Do we have to live on an island to have this philosophy? Can we take care of our own wherever we live? Our own families, neighbors, friends? We don’t have to fix the problems of the whole world. We can focus on our own little corner. It seems to work for Mary Donley. She has more life force than people half her age and a beautiful attitude: “It’s life. I love life and I’m sticking with it. I will go with my heels dragging”. That’s the spirit! Ardis