Directions to the Schwartz Center
A Message from our President and Chief Executive Officer, Mary Hodgson
It was the Thursday before our Walk, our biggest fundraiser, things were hectic, and I was already four days late in getting this letter done for our annual report. I had an idea of what I wanted to write, but I hadn’t had the chance to sit down and pull it all together. And to make matters worse, as I pulled into Posa Place, our driveway, I found myself caught behind the long line of buses waiting to drop off our children.
Recently, while driving in my car, I had been listening to a CD series about the four “limitless qualities”: loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity and overall mindfulness. I wasn’t feeling any of those as I sat there realizing the long list of things I needed to get done. But the CD was playing and it reminded me that I just needed to relax and be in the moment. As I let go a bit, I found myself watching the staff laughing and teasing each other. I saw two staff members lean against each other, arms locked and smiling at the children as they arrived. I found myself brought to tears by the love and caring I was witnessing.
So I changed my plans, and instead of what I had intended to write, I am writing to you about our staff, my heroes, and the keepers of the four limitless qualities.
Our staff exudes a joy and loving kindness each and every day – with each other, and with the children they care for. It never fails that when I take people on a tour of the Center they mention the smiles – how everyone is always smiling. Those smiles are filled with an infectious joy that permeates our facility.
I also see compassion daily. We are a Center that exudes compassion. When you have hearts as big and open as the hearts of our staff, compassion just pours out, and with that compassion comes the experience of suffering. When a child suffers, or we lose a child, our staff is there in the midst of their own personal suffering, for the child, for the families, and for each other. I have watched them support each other through those times. They might get together after work and cry, but they are back the next day, wearing their smiles to greet our children and bring them joy.
Now I thought I knew what equanimity meant but I decided to look it up just to be sure. Sorry Webster but Wikipedia is the place to go. Turns out, I didn’t know what it meant. Wikipedia defines equanimity as a state of stability or composure arising from a deep awareness and acceptance of the present moment. As I read that it occurred to me that it is in that state that the magic happens here. Our staff, when working with a child in a therapy session or in a classroom, focus on the child. And through that state of equanimity they achieve a knowing which allows our children to achieve major milestones. By coming to know our children so deeply and appreciating their gifts they are able to guide them through new experiences and ultimately new successes. It is also in this state of openness that they accept the gifts offered to them by our children.
Many of our children cannot move around without help, and are not able to speak, so they listen. Our children have taught our staff to listen below the noise and to notice what motivates them. In turn, our staff knows when a child is in pain, or not feeling right, or just plain sad, or maybe just being a “pain in the neck” teenager. Our staff knows when a child just needs some one-to-one time. They intuitively know when the best conversation to have is the one you don’t have.
Our staff also brings hope to so many people. Not just to our children but also to their families. It has to be devastating to discover that your child has developmental challenges. Families often come to us very early in the process of learning about their child’s needs, and our staff gives them hope. They give families hope about the beauty of the life their child can have, hope about the accomplishment their child will achieve, and hope about the gifts their child will give to those around them. And for parents who are faced with the devastation of a progressive disease, our staff helps to redefine their hopes as time goes on.
Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun and author, sums up what it means to be fully human when she says, “We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts. Our staff is comprised of people who are as fully human as any I can imagine. So while our purpose for being here is our children, our staff is how we change lives. I am thankful for all they have taught me and for having an unending resource of the limitless qualities.
And thank you to all of you, our generous friends, for your limitless love of our children, ongoing support, and appreciation of the smiles.
With deepest gratitude,
Board of Directors
Jeanne Eagle - Chairman of the Board
Paul Hamel - Secretary
Jeffrey Martin - Treasurer
Dr. Charles Gormley
The Schwartz Center for Children is a partner agency of the United Way of Greater New Bedford