Most will call 2020 the year to forget. Not in our case. Let me tell you about some of our people.
Yes, we lost two souls. Unforgettable people. People who we are glad we all knew. Andrea Bond, a peer and Williamsburg Fairweather Lodge member, and Betty Anne Griffin, a caregiver, NAMI Williamsburg family support group member, and vital family donor to Hope Family Village. My tribute to Andrea appears here.
Earlier in December, I learned that we had lost another dear friend of Hope Family Village. Betty Anne Griffin. She was 83.
Like Andrea, Betty Anne radiated light. Her hug before group was memorable. She conversed with people with ease. Curious, inquisitive, compassionate, thoughtful. Positive. She was fuel for support group. I’d look forward to seeing her on Tuesday nights. In our group, we treated each other like we wanted to be treated. Every Tuesday night. And, we departed each others’ company with hope.
You can’t explain the exact origin of ideas. They are an amalgamation. But, they all begin with a spark. Betty Anne was that spark.
One night, seated by each other, I was lamenting the countless obstacles confronting our loved ones: Safe housing, paying work, friends, societal acceptance, learning, continuous care. When I finally stopped, Betty Anne looked me straight in the eye and interjected, “Couldn’t we all just get together and buy a house them?” A former early childhood educator, she expressed herself with unmistakeable innocence. Here we all were dealing with turbulence. Frustration that the state and mental health system was not helping us to help our loved ones, so that we could live our lives, too. And, Betty Anne’s answer was, Let’s buy a house.
The moment she said it, We all laughed, as we are prone to do in support group. That’s it! A home filled with people who would understand one another’s experience. Who grow to accept and support one another in a world that seemingly would or could not. What happens when we find ourselves under attack or great stress? We seek refuge. A safe place with safe people. Predictable circumstances. From that place, we find conviction. Strength. Purpose. A reason to be.
All kinds of things motivate us. Events, beliefs, emotions, people, ambitions, goals, deadlines. Some combination. A sequence. All come together around one intangible. Timing. Without a doubt, Covid-19, our society’s reaction to it, influenced a certain flow to Hope Family Village’s development. As we look at 2020 and think ahead, perspective helps.
Betty Anne’s utterance (Winter, 2014) I would think about for some months. NAMI’s Monica Larkin would lament about the Eastern State surplus property for sale that should be used for housing for our loved ones. A chance encounter with my W&M friend, Duncan Charlton, that summer, (Summer 2014 ) who told me about designing and living in a cohousing community in Texas and that he was a Lodge Coordinator for something called Fairweather Lodge. You could call it a Big Bang.
By March of 2015, I met Betty Anne’s husband, Lee, at a Fairweather Lodge 2-hour panel discussion. All about our loved ones living in a home, together. Note, not a house, but a home. A program. A way of life. Driven by people living with serious mental illness, lightly coached. All begun with a spark. Betty Anne Griffin. She lives with us as an inspiration.
Without Lee and Betty Anne Griffin’s belief and financial support, we would not have accomplished all that we have. Many others, no less significant, have supported us at key times in our evolution. But, the Griffin’s investment in us, since we formed the nonprofit, 501(c) corporation, Hope Family Village in late 2017, has led to results that can be traced back to Betty Anne’s spark.
Bruce D Ario