These are beings being beings...

A Perspective on Stanley Davis:
Stanley’s Stepson Expresses Appreciation & Understanding

Stanley Davis of North Brookfield, Massachusetts
A man who has played the role of provider in the lives of many people

The life of a person cannot be summed up in a few pages.  We can have a glimpse, though, from a particular perspective.  In this biographical sketch, Matthew Reynolds shares his perspective on the truth expressed through Stanley Davis’s way of life, because Matthew wants Stanley to know about the impression he has made.

Seven years have passed since the day Matthew was elated to learn that Stanley had proposed to his mother.  As an honest man who has experienced hard work, ranging from the military to entrepreneurship, Stanley is a stepfather of whom any stepson would feel proud.  Matthew also felt relieved, because his mother had recently lost both her parents, and she needed a source of strength and inspiration. 

Matthew’s first impression of Stanley was that he was a man with the sort of wisdom that can make a person both serious and joyful.  Stanley grew up in the years following World War II, and his parents had lived through the Great Depression, so he learned to appreciate honest work and family values.  Stanley found great success in business, but he also found disappointment and misfortune.  The material wealth that comes and goes is not so important, but the struggle to make ends meet through trying times is a forging process that refines the personality.  Stanley impressed Matthew as a person with well-developed wisdom and the ability to generate joy even under difficult circumstances.

Circumstances have indeed been difficult.  In the years since Matthew met Stanley and became his stepson, Stanley has made tremendous sacrifices to take care of three young grandchildren.  When Stanley married Matthew’s mother, he did not know that they would be taking custody of three children who had suffered abuse and neglect.  For five years, Stanley and Matthew’s mother put aside their own needs to help the children heal.  These grandparents even saw their marriage suffer at times because of unavoidable stress associated with raising young children.

When relationships are strained by difficult life circumstances, good intentions and actions are sometimes misunderstood. From Matthew’s perspective it is clear that some of Stanley’s effort goes unnoticed because of the chaotic environment at home.  How can the self-sacrificing hero end up playing the role of the villain?  How can a foster parent, who has depleted his own energy through acts of selfless dedication, be viewed as a “strict” or “stubborn” tyrant?

Sometimes upholding family values seems old fashioned.
Sometimes teaching good behavior seems overbearing.
Sometimes being practical seems like being pushy.
Sometimes having high standards seems like being stubborn.

Sometimes wisdom is left unrecognized.

Sometimes the person who provides for everyone seems like he is overbearing when he actually just knows the importance of discipline and responsibility. Matthew’s perspective on Stanley is like the perspective of a student on a teacher.  Matthew is a good student, and he is able to recognize the virtues of his stepfather even when other people are not able to recognize them.  Stanley obviously is doing what he knows how to do in order to make ends meet and ensure that everyone is provided for… but the difficulty faced by people inside and outside Stanley’s household can become a source of conflict; when life is overwhelming people in the household, all the self-sacrifice in the world is not good enough to please everyone.

Difficult times and hectic days have drained a lot of energy from Stanley and his wife, and it is a shame that their great accomplishments as foster parents can be drowned out sometimes by their stress and nervous tension.  Matthew’s perspective enables him to see the situation as it really is: the foster grandparents are tired, because have given freely of themselves.

Stanley is a man who has an entire lifetime of experience behind him, a skilled craftsman who has lived powerfully and honestly.  Before Matthew met Stanley, Stanley had already accomplished much and contributed to the lives of many people.  Now, after seven years as a husband to Matthew’s mother and a guardian of Matthew’s nieces and nephew, “appreciation” is not a strong enough word to express what Matthew feels toward Stanley.  Tremendous respect is sometimes called “reverence,” and tremendous gratitude is sometimes expressed in poetic ways – but Stanley already knows that lots of people feel respect and gratitude toward him.  Instead, Matthew wants to express understanding:

Matthew knows that Stanley is a misunderstood hero.  Events never unfold quite as we intend them, but we find meaning for our struggle when we reflect on the good that it does for others.  Heroes don’t need to be understood; they just need opportunities to give of themselves.  When the work is done, they rest. 

A Perspective on Mary Arnold...

A Biographical Sketch of Mary Arnold:
Powerful Living, No Regrets

Mary Arnold is a retired customer service representative who is enjoying the freedom that comes with life mastery after 69 years.
Mary heard that we were doing a biographical sketch of her, and she responded with sideways humor: “You’re not going to find any dirt on me, and if you do, you can’t prove anything!” she wrote. She was right; as hard as we tried, we could not find any dirt. Digging into the life of Mary Arnold, we found only good news about great accomplishments and contributions to the people and places she has touched, in central Massachusetts and beyond.

Mary is notorious for sticking to her personal principles even when other people have tried to compel her to abandon them. From 1993 to 1997 she worked as a customer service representative for an auto parts company, her boss tried to compel her to lie to a customer about some motor oil. Mary refused, and her boss threatened to fire her. Mary told him that he could fire her if that was his decision, but she would not lie to the customer. She did lose her job because of this incident.

We asked Mary about the incident at the auto parts business, and Mary told us it had a funny conclusion. “They wanted me to teach a new girl how to use my computer and do my job,” she said. “I turned the power off and told my boss to figure it out himself!”

From the perspectives of her children, Mary is a source of pride and encouragement. According to Mary’s daughters, her example leaves them no excuse to ever become overwhelmed with life. “Whenever anyone is having a rough time with work or relationships,” says her daughter Jennifer, “Our mom is an example of stability and steadiness. We all use her as a reference point.” Perhaps that reflects Mary’s personality, or perhaps it reflects the leadership role that she has played for her children.

From the perspective of Barbra Faucet, Mary’s friend of fourteen years, Mary has an uplifting personality-type – “the kind that makes people feel better after spending time with her.” Anthony, one of Mary’s co-workers at the hospice she volunteers at three days a week, is starting medical school, and he knows that as a physician he will be coming back to the hospice to play a leadership role. He says Mary will continue to be among his most important teachers no matter how far he goes with his education in medicine.

Mary says she wants to use this mini-biography as an opportunity to remind her family to enjoy the simple things in life, because “life can be dangerous,” and, “it’s just not worth taking chances.” This is the kind of admonition that comes from a person who has seen much of the good and bad that life has to offer. “Appreciating the most meaningful things, we don’t have to take chances,” Mary says. “We can just enjoy one another and take it easy.”

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