Monday, March 03, 2003

I thought I'd just publish this. It's what I've been working on tonight so I might as well. For anyone who never quite understood Snowball, or the impact the program or the people involved had on my life, read this and hopefully you'll understand a tiny bit better. This is a letter that I wrote tonight to Linda Dunne, who was in charge of Snowball, a woman who I got to know very well during my high school career. And if some of you may wonder sometimes, "Why the hell is Mary such a bitch?" well part of the answer to that question is that I learned from Linda, the best of the best. Anyway, it's like 4:18, I've had a weird night, where I felt anxious and very nervous most of the time, but after a good conversation with John I am feeling a lot better. So, I'm going to go read my book which I was told tonight may be ripped away from me this weekend so I better enjoy it while I can. Later


I’ll never forget the last Snowball that I staffed. You walked casually up to me early that Friday morning, you were busy checking and rechecking a million things for the weekend but you took the time to ask me how I was feeling. I always felt nauseated the Friday mornings before the participants arrived. I told you I thought I was going to throw up, I was scared, I was anxious, and I couldn’t focus. You looked up from your papers, focused on my face and said, “Close your eyes.” I looked at you doubtingly and you again instructed me to close my eyes. I closed them right after I saw you begin to bend down toward the ground. I asked what you were doing and you calmly replied, “I’m grounding you.” You held my feet on the ground for about a minute while we both remained silent. Then you stood and told me to open my eyes. “Do you feel better?” You asked. I replied with a slow yes. You said good and were well on your way to tackling another problem before I could even process what had happened.

I have a countless number of memories involving you Linda, each one contributing in some way, however small, to who I have become. Yet this one is exceptional in that it does such an amazing job of demonstrating who you are. You are a woman of action. I’ve never seen you sit idly by as things spiral out of control. You teach by example, in everything you do, in everything you say there is a lesson; one just has to pay attention to gain a wealth of knowledge. I paid attention Linda, I learned from you. I am so thankful for the lessons that I carefully gleaned from being in the presence of a master.

That Friday morning, you came over and you “grounded me”. You held my feet to the ground when I felt like my world was crumbling around me. You made me feel safe again. You restored the order in my life, and without words you stressed the importance of silent contemplation, a focus on the present, and simply remembering to take deep breaths and enjoy life. You did it in your efficient and subtle way, bringing me back to where I needed to be. Casually moving on to something else, as if your abilities, your strengths, your innumerable talents and insights into the human spirit were nothing out of the ordinary. That morning was not the only time you “grounded me”.

I entered into my freshmen year terrified and insecure. I was extremely unhappy and unsure of who I was. Quite honestly, the only reason I went on Snowball my freshmen year was to miss a day of school. That weekend brightened up my entire world and my path in life and the connections I was to make were forever changed. I remember you there, instructing us, making sure that no one got out of control and everyone was where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there. I thought to myself, as you stood there and received silence immediately after you had raised your arm, "This is a powerful woman that knows how to take charge." I had experienced the magic of Snowball, it was in my blood and I knew I had to become a part of it. So I interviewed with you, and made staff.

While on staff I soon realized just how much work went into pulling off a really successful Snowball weekend and I also quickly recognized who the driving force was behind everything. It was you. It’s always been you. I never realized, while sitting there quietly my freshmen year in a general session, just how much of yourself you put into Snowball, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to grow to understand that over the next few years as well as build a relationship with you.

Linda, I have so much to thank you for. Thank you for always treating us as adults. I never once approached you to discuss something and felt as though you didn’t completely respect my opinion or what I had to say. I never felt like a child, and you taught me that not only could my voice be heard in a crowded room, but it was worth speaking up and sharing my opinion. You pushed us all to go the extra step, to focus just a little bit harder, to be held accountable for our actions and our promises. All too often high school students complain that they deserve to be treated like adults, when in reality they still act like whiney little preschoolers. You held us to a certain standard. If we wanted to be treated as adults, then we needed to respect one another, practice open and honest communication, and be responsible and dependable. We made many mistakes, things that most likely could have been avoided had we listened to you, but you let us make those mistakes and learn from them. You always stressed that Snowball was our baby, it would be what we made of it and our hard work would determine the outcome. By never stepping in and taking over, even when we begged you at times, you allowed us the unique opportunity to experience the intense feeling of pride for a job well done. We walked away feeling that we had truly made a difference in another person’s life, a feeling which to this day is what drags me out of bed on the gloomy days and stays with me every single second I walk this earth. You created that environment. We were convinced that you had chosen us to help change the lives of others. Little did we know that we ourselves would be forever changed, forever inspired, and forever blessed for having been involved. You knew this all along, but we had to discover it on our own.

I could not ask for a better role model of a strong, independent and powerful woman. You taught me to have confidence in my decisions and myself. Throughout high school I watched as many girls I knew fell by the wayside, their voices dying down and their personalities slowly tailored to fit someone else’s standards. You showed me that I didn’t have to lose myself in order to gain acceptance. You taught me that a strong personality is not only good, but it is essential in navigating your way through the twists and turns that life provides. I learned, through you, to never pretend not to know an answer, but instead to exhaust every possible avenue until a solution was found. In a world where all too often young women see men in most of the positions of authority, I looked at my “boss”, the person in charge of it all, the one who gave the instructions, the person who was consulted at every turn and I saw an intelligent, confident, and determined woman. You may never know quite the impact that has had on me, but rest assured that it has ignited a fire within me that will not easily be extinguished.

Linda, you helped me build the foundation of who I am, when I needed it most. It’s because of that foundation that I have the confidence and strength to pursue my goals and dreams. By “grounding me” you gave me wings to fly, and I am forever grateful for that.

You undoubtedly have touched every single life that has crossed your path. I know this because I have seen you in action; I have watched you lift people up, hold them until they believed in themselves again, and then I’ve watched as you’ve let them go to walk on their own. Your leadership does not end here. Your ability to nurture and guide is an intrinsic part of who you are and will only direct itself into a different outlet within your life. Do not forget however, the enormous impact you have had upon not only my life but the lives of thousands of others.

Thank you Linda for everything.

Love Always,
Mary Boyd


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