When I was in college at Villanova University, a Catholic school, everyone was required to take a religion class every year. The first class in my senior year, a young priest showed up, and after writing his name on the board, proceeded to reach into a box and take a bunch of communion wafers and toss them out into the room.
Dear Friends of the Foundation,
Mariah had a knack for shopping for clothes. And so, even with ALS, she was always dressed to the nines. This was a part of her resiliency; ignoring her disability and moving forward to do the work of caring for others in need.
For a couple of years now I’ve been having difficulty parting with Mariah’s clothes. If you’ve been in this situation with a spouse passing away, you know it’s a difficult thing to do. When I finally made the decision, the pandemic was upon us and so I couldn’t have any relatives or close friends sort through and choose things that were meaningful to them. For me, Mariah’s clothes were all meaningful. I can remember times, places and events through those clothes.
In 2020, I had been lamenting the fact that although the foundation seems to be ready to roll with exciting programs, we got stuck in the casualty-of-Covid mode; the mindset that we were waiting for the pandemic to ease and that our vision was narrow and unattainable right now. I increasingly knew that we needed to follow Mariah’s model of resiliency in supporting our mission and decided that this would be a perfect time to donate some of Mariah’s clothes to a good cause and one that supported underserved communities.
A few years ago, I met a woman, the Rev. Dr. Michelle Simmons, Founder and CEO of Why Not Prosper, a non-profit committed to providing programs and services that support formally incarcerated women in their re-entry efforts from prison to community. I knew these women needed resources to get back into the world, to move forward, so I offered Michelle some of Mariah’s clothes.
Michelle was quick to accept my offer, and then made me one, “When you bring the clothes, would you spend an hour with the women talking about the Foundation’s work.”
Searching for topic, I realized that when Mariah and I received the news in 1981 that she had ALS and a 10% chance of living two years, our first instinct was to pull back and assess where we were and what we needed. Without realizing it, we were creating our own little kingdom, defining who would be in our lives (our kingdom) and what values were important to us. This, we felt, would give us the best chance of survival while at the same time making a peaceful surrender to an early death. I still believe that our kingdom helped Mariah survive 37 years with ALS, an extraordinary success.
Recently I’ve been giving a talk to groups about the value of defining and caring for their lives, their kingdoms. At Why Not Prosper, I drew the parallel between the lives these woman lead now and Mariah’s life. They needed to assess their kingdom, the values of their kingdom and who they wanted in it, that is, who was good for them and who was not during this crucial period of their lives.
I gave them a paper with concentric circles on it so they could identify themselves in the middle as the king, and moving outward to define in decreasing importance who was closest to them, who supported them and cared for them and what values were most vital to them. They continued out along the circle until they reached the area of people and values that were toxic and no longer welcome in their kingdom, their life.
I concluded with Mariah’s concept of arriving already loved which I believe to be so powerful and important now. To take responsibility for and enforce the kingdom, they each needed to love and care for themselves and have the internal relationship and strength to control their environment and make it successful for them. They loved it.
Coming into the New Year, my intention is to be resilient in moving past the limitations of this current pandemic in order to deliver our mission to as many people as possible. Contact us if there is a way we can support your group and/or organization.
Best of the New Year to you!
Ron Gladis, President
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