I attended an awards banquet tonight. The county Mental Health Agency began honoring people in the community in what they call their "Care and Compassion Awards". The title says it all. They honor those who exemplify compassion by helping others.
As soon as I read about the award I knew I had a nomination. I met Holly Martino a year ago, but have just really become acquainted with her during the past two months when she offered to help my aunt. Charlotte lost her car, and her independence, during the Christmas holidays and Holly offered to drive her to appointments and to pick up groceries. But she does so much more. She has become Charlotte's dear friend, her advocate in keeping her in her own home. She takes her on outings and gives her a quick call every morning to make sure Charlotte is up in time for lunch.
It takes someone really special to help an elderly person to this extent. Trust me - I've tried it and there are lots of times that patience wears thin and you want to drive in front of a speeding train. But, Holly has patience not many of us share.
I'm not sure if Holly has always been this tolerant. She must have developed a lot of patience when confined to her bed for a year after a B12 deficiency led to debilitating nerve damage. Laying in that bed, she had lots of time to think, and during one conversation with God, she promised to do whatever she could for other people if she could get out of that bed and lead a normal life again.
Today, Holly is a bit shaky and walks with a cane, but that doesn't stop this feisty woman. She's adopted several elderly people during the past few years. Before her disability, Holly was a teacher and embraced the students that were challenges for other teachers. Students with conditions such as Asperger's Syndrome. She fought to make sure they weren't left behind by the educational system, and still fights to insure they have a place in our schools.
Tonight, the names were read, and glowing stories shared of people who started agencies or programs which help hundreds of people in the community. But the final award went to the woman who has made her mark, not in great numbers, but by helping one individual at a time - Holly Martino.
Holly is a beacon for those of us who think, "I can't do that." "Life has dealt me a low blow." Or "I'm only one person, how can I make a difference?" Anyone can make a very big difference. All we have to do is have the right attitude and look for a place we can help.