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Public Service

May 24, 2015

The Courier-Gazette

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 12.30.57 PMI was moved by Reade Brower’s weekly column, For the Record, in The Courier Gazette, May 7, 2015. Reade is the owner/publisher of The Courier-Gazette, a newspaper that was established in 1846. Reade is married to Martha, an old friend of mine and former art teacher and contributor to the column. With permission from Reade, I have re-printed part of it below.

Public service speaks for itself and comes in many forms, and is painted by many different brushes. What has become more and more apparent over the years is that who we serve is important.

Recognizing that living a noble life means doing something bigger than yourself gives one perspective and gives us the sense of a life well-lived. Giving back is not an exercise; it is a way of living. It is a choice.

The scene in the baseball movie “for the Love of the Game,” starring Kevin Costner, was prophetic of a life not complete: He reaches the pinnacle of his career and because of a self-centered lifestyle is found alone in his glorious moment with nobody special to share it with. When we make it about ourselves, that is the result. When we make it about others (us), we have each other to share in the moments of joy and the times of sorrow which defines a rich life and a life well-lived.

Recently, David Brooks of the New York Times wrote an article entitled “The moral Bucket List,” where he examined how and where he needed more balance in his life. Even though his professional career, his money situation and his external achievements have all gone better than expected and accomplished more than he ever dreamed, he recognized the need to develop more inner character for a happier life. He wrote, “If you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary.”

Brooks went on to discover how what he describes as “deeply good people” live their lives and concluded that they are made, not born. Their goodness came from an “unfakable inner virtue.” They seemed to have a “call from within” that led them and they did “good” without thinking or forethought.

The column goes on to highlight a local educator who just received her master’s degree and exemplifies a “life worth living” each day, doing down to earth good work. I had the opportunity to work with Beth Gifford through an adult education program I was working with while at the Maine Department of Education. It is so wonderful to know that both Reade and Martha understand and value the importance of educators who have the combination of “good teacher” and “good person.” These educators are in classrooms across the state, day in and day out, doing the important work of what I call “teaching for life.” More of the article…

Martha Brower wrote recently in these pages about an extraordinary woman in our community who fits what Brooks has to say.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 12.21.30 PMBeth Gifford tells Martha, “I will always be a grateful spirit whose evolution mirrors the souls of those whom I have blessed to serve.” She is an example of a person who turned a calling into a career and Martha celebrates Beth’s humble beginnings and her achievements when she shares with the community a story about Beth’s upcoming master’s degree.

I have observed Beth in action and seen firsthand Beth’s successes in helping others achieve and learn at the Learning Center, where she is the executive director. Her ability to lead comes from her innate sense to be non-judgmental and to treat her students like people. This year 13 students will graduate with their HiSET (formerly called a GED). A ripple will be created by these men and women that will continue through the years and solidify a legacy.

Education empowers people and gets them off welfare; more importantly, it gives them dignity and a thirst for learning that may never end. It is called inspiration and it makes for a life well-lived.

CONGRATULATIONS BETH and THANK YOU for the impact that you make each day being an educator and a learner. It is educators like you who provide wonderful examples of a life well lived, for your students and teachers who enter your classroom.

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