Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"if you just dig"

CC image on Flickr by Zach Dischner
Dig within.  Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.
Marcus Aurelius

Few would equate New England winters with a time of abundance and hope.  Frozen waters lay still, frost hardens the ground, and the sun's prolonged absence sends many bodies and spirits into hibernation.  In such harsh conditions, it hardly seems time to plant seeds, dig a well, or seek harvest of any kind.  Logic seems to tell us our efforts would be wasted.  Not now.  Save your energy.  Maybe later.  Who hasn't had this train of thought before?  And yet, one cold morning in February, 1985, in a suburb of Boston, a remarkable woman saw a need too great to let the season's conditions hold her back.  So, she ventured out with the few tools she had and a fierce determination to help sustain lives on whom winter was taking its toll.

Despite its proximity to several affluent communities, Hull, Massachusetts was experiencing economic hardship.  Many families struggled to put food on the table and keep warm.  School drop-out rates were disheartening, and businesses that once served as the lifeblood of this seaside community were forced to close their doors.  At the time, Hull seemed to lack fertile enough ground for much to take root.  But that didn't stop this woman on a mission.

Diane was not one to spot a problem and waste too much time talking about it.  And, so, she began collecting donations of food and clothing from neighbors and friends.  Her collections filled a single box at first, but it was a start.  And one, Diane insisted, was far better than none.

Diane then found a small storefront in Hull for lease, secured the space, and began transforming those donations into a food pantry and thrift shop.  She reached out to the community and engaged both those in need and those who could give.  She set up channels of communication and exchange and made this storefront the hub.  She called it Wellspring.  Families who were struggling to buy groceries and clothing found affordable resources and a steady supply of hope in the encouragement, counsel, and warmth of Diane and her volunteer staff.

In spite of its midwinter roots, Wellspring gained momentum and began to flow.  With Diane's vision and the enduring support and leadership of many staff, volunteers, partners, and community members, Wellspring continues to flourish and serve today.  Its services have expanded to include counseling, shelter from domestic violence, literacy programs, adult education, computer learning, career development, and continued sale of discounted books, meals, and household goods.  In 2002, the center's home expanded into a multi-storefront property.  And as a result of this organization, countless families have emerged from times of need, better positioned to thrive independently.  I don't think even Wellspring's founder could have imagined its reach or impact a quarter of a century later.

I also don't think Wellspring's founder could have imagined the lengths to which community members would go to support the cause.

Wellspring's Drowned Hogs, 2010
Every February, for fifteen years now, a group of hearty, brave souls known as the Drowned Hogs, have taken to the frigid waters of Nantasket Beach to raise money for Wellspring.  Each year they run in, some in costume, some in very little, while spectators gather along the shore.  Some choose to remain warm and dry and donate what they can.  Others dress up in banana costumes and viking hats and charge the waters with wild abandon, knowing the pledge sheets they've brought make the effort worthwhile.  And the magnificent thing is, they return in greater numbers every year.

And this past Tuesday, pro NFL running back, Kevin Faulk, returned to Wellspring for his third consecutive year to assist with the food bank, bringing a line of visitors and donors that went out the door.  Twenty five years after Wellspring opened with a handmade sign and a single box of donations, a pro football player appeared enthusiastically on the scene, ushering in new waves of support, resources, and hope.  Just imagine if in 1985 Diane had succumbed to winter's numbing forces and passed on the chance to dig.  I am so proud and so grateful that she didn't.

Now imagine your own environment and the needs that you identify on your journey.  What now?  As educators, we face some challenging circumstances and dilemmas: How many needs do we encounter that cause us to feel powerless?  How often does feeling powerless lead to passivity?  How many times are we faced with a dearth of resources?  How often does doubt prevail?  How can we overcome the perpetual feeling that it's not the right time to dig?

On the eve of another winter, I wish not to retreat into a slow rhythm of complacency.  I wish to be able to see seeds and visualize their growth.  I wish, despite cloud cover and layers of frost, to dig with determination, to nurture, and to let wellsprings bubble up.  I wish for the Drowned Hogs' screaming banana costume guy to silence any voices of doubt or procrastination.

Surely, no outcome is guaranteed, but no potential should remain untapped.  And life has shown me, through the works of my mom, that wonders may emerge, if you just dig.


  1. What a great story of inspirational story! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sarah,

    As one of the three members of your blog, I felt compelled to write a comment. Your writing is inspiring, full of emotion and grand imagery. Not only do I love what you have to say, but the way in which you write brings it to another level. As I said when I first reached out, I could learn a lot from you.

    I was moved by the post written about your mom. Thank you.

    Check out my friend Arvind Grover's blog. I know you will appreciate it.

    Be well, Sarah, keep writing and thank you.