Exert Your Influence

Sat 28th July, 2012

A few weeks ago, I had a baby! Well, not literally. But a new idea was “born”. This new page. Dedicated to highlighting and remembering the people who changed my life. We’ve all met someone, who left an indelible impression on us. They changed us. We loved them. Admired their grace. Stood in awe of their accomplishments. And will. Because of their own brand of wisdom. Love. Generosity. Kindness. And influence.  We left the relationship a better person. I hope to do  their memory justice. As some have passed on. We will never fully understand the impact our words and actions can have on others. The power they have to change lives. Good or bad. Forever. So, while we’re busy clawing away at life, may we ever be mindful of this. This minute. Right now. “We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere”

Until the next influence,

Best,

Juan

Early Years~Rosa Cunningham

Between the ages of 5-7 , my mom left the mainland to work first in Mustique, then Barbados. I was placed in the care of my aunt. On one of her visits back to the island, she was very unhappy with the care I was receiving. Within days, an argument and fight ensued. My mom made the decision to remove me from my aunt’s home. And placed me in the care of Mrs. Cunningham.

To the best of my knowledge, she was also looking after two other sisters. Mrs. Cunningham was a strict disciplinarian. Rules were rules. No questions. There were penalties for disobedience. You did as you were told. I remember never being allowed to leave the dinner table until I ate all my vegetables! Ugh. Adults.Despite a tough, outward appearance, she was a really wonderful person. Adjusting to a new household. And a different way of doing things. Was tough. However, things would soon work out for the better.

Years later, as I looked back on my time there, I realised she was genuinely concerned about my well-being. She changed my life. I thrived under her watchful care. Did well in school. Taught good manners. And respect for my elders. I couldn’t have been placed in better hands. Other than those of my mother. People come into our lives for many, many reasons.

I don’t remember seeing much of her after we moved out of the village. However, anywhere she saw my mother, she would ask about my well-being. I found out a few years ago, Mrs. Cunningham passed away in Canada after suffering with cancer. Thank you Mrs. Cunningham. I know your soul is at rest. You changed a young life. Many. Actually. I know mom has always felt indebted to you. Wherever you are, I’m sure you’re doing good.

Until the next influence…..”He who influences the thoughts of his times, influences all the times that follow. He has made his impression on eternity.”

Best,

Juan

Primary School~ Mr Cupid.

Teaching is the noblest profession in the world. I get steamed when I hear professionals holding out for millions more in pay. Spiffs. And benefits. While teachers, who often use their own money to buy school supplies, make median salaries of $40,000+. Okay. I’m off my soap box. It’s back under the bed. For the time being.

Mr. Cupid was my Common Entrance teacher. He was a pillar in the community. And changed not only my life, but the lives of thousands of students. Who graced the doorways of Belair Government School. There were no favorites in his classes. He took a personal interest in everyone. Had high expectations for us. Showed respect for all. Mr. Cupid had a passion for teaching. And it showed. One of the kindest people I’ve ever crossed paths with.

Somewhere between the ages of 9 and 10, I attended school every other day. My brother and I took turns staying at home. To take care of our younger sister. There was no one else to do so. I’m not sure if Mr. Cupid knew of this particular circumstance. But. He knew how hard mom worked. To take care of us. Many days, he took me aside, and inquired about my welfare. Went out of his to give my mother  progress updates. Looking back, it was one of the greatest blessings in my life. Especially as my Common Entrance teacher. At the age of 11, I gained entrance into the top co-ed Secondary School in the nation.

Mr. Cupid was in line to become Headmaster of BGS. A position the entire community expected him to receive. When he didn’t. There was a huge outcry. After decades of teaching. He would eventually take an extended leave. And later resign. Parents were saddened. Often encouraging, and sometimes begging him, to return to the classroom. Last I heard he was self-employed in the agricultural industry.

Long after I entered Secondary School. And later as an adult living in the USA. Whenever he crossed paths with my mother. He asked about my welfare. And sent best wishes. Here is a teacher I will never forget in this life. Nor the next.  He was loved. Thank you very much Mr. Cupid. For the incredible influence you had in my life. For caring. For loving your students. For helping to make sure no one was left behind. You are a wonderful example of a decent human being.

Until the next influence…..”Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on  another”.

Best,

Juan

Secondary School~ Estelle Plaugh

548738_536517049695376_596291331_nLike everyone who has experienced it. Growing up in a single parent household presents unique and often difficult challenges. So. When someone’s kindness makes your life easier. It impacts you. In every way. You never forget the influence. For as long as you live. One challenge many single parents face is who watches over the kids. When you must work.  I was just about to start high school when four of us moved into a one bedroom home in Arnos Vale. Smack dab above the airport.

Exciting times! Watching planes taxi down the runway and takeoff. Was a novelty for a young, curious 11-year-old.  I have vivid memories of my friends and I. Racing towards the fences at end of the runway. Holding on for dear life.  As we enjoyed the powerful wind forces of the airplanes. Getting ready to take off. Yes. It might seem dangerous to some. But we’re not talking about Boeing 747’s here. But a very small island airport, monopolized by LIAT’s Q300’s and Dash 8’s. And aren’t kids invincible anyway? So there!

I digress. Back to Estelle Plaugh.  One of the kindest, sweetest souls I’ve ever been associated with. She was our closest neighbor in distance and friendship. A woman who lovingly looked out for my sister and I, while my mom was at work. We didn’t have a television then for a while. So, every day, when we arrived home from school. Instead of leaving us to own mischievous devices, Estelle had us over. Fed us a snack. Then we settled in her living room. Mostly watching cartoons. Many days, we also played with her grandchildren.

Estelle just wasn’t a kindhearted “babysitter of sorts”. She was more. So much more. She was one of my mother’s dearest friends. I remember a few Christmases, when we only had the necessities. This kind soul, bought small gifts for my sister and I. Taking it one step further, on more than one occasion, often shared her resources. When ours was lacking. Estelle saw needs. And filled them. Expecting nothing in return.

I attended church with Estelle a few times although. Although I often felt as if I didn’t belong. It was always a wonderful to spend time with her. I remember the ache and sadness I felt at her passing. I was She had major surgery. And because of her religious beliefs. She signed an order not to receive blood transfusions. She died a few days later. And didn’t survive very long. I didn’t understand many things at the time. But I knew in my heart, we had lost an anchor. Someone who watched out for my family as if we were her very own.

Estelle. I’m sure wherever you are, angels attend you. You’re doing just as much good as you were when you walked the earth. I hope we get to meet again. I hope I get to recount how as an eleven year old. I looked up to you. Loved you. How I’ve carried your memory with me. Decades later. And will. Forever. I remain indebted to you for your selfless giving. Your gentle nature. Your kind words. Your love. Thank you.

Until the next influence,

Best,

Juan

Secondary School~ Maria “Pigeon” Brown

angelsNo one forgets their Secondary/High School days. No one. Everyone thought they were the hottest thing since…you know what. In my generation, high tops were cool. Butter melted on the boys’ tongue. Girlfriends stayed true. Being a 4H member was an achievement. And in this post, you walk with angels.

As many of you know, I grew up in a single parent home. It seemed as if my mom’s expenses doubled, when I entered Secondary school. The financial struggles increased two-fold. I will always be grateful for the sacrifices, made on my behalf. In an attempt to secure my Secondary education. I was a proud student too. Becoming the first in my immediate family to attend Secondary school.

The Lord provided an angel to help us. I attended Marriaqua Secondary School. It’s been renamed as St Joseph’s Convent Marriaqua. The school’s Secretary was Maria Brown (she might still be), affectionately called “Pigeon”. To the students she was an angel in disguise. Maria, if you ever come across this blog; I want you to know, for as long as I live, I will not forget you. More importantly, our kindness, support, and caring. Like so many others who have passed through MSS, I am grateful.

Maria often went out of her way to reach out to my mom, especially at Parent Teacher Days. She took an active interest in my welfare.  Literally, kept an eye on me, especially my academic performance. When word reached her, that I was acting the fool, she immediately reminded me, of how hard my mom worked, to give me. Many days I went to school without food, if she became aware of it, she would take care of me.

Maria had a huge role in a life-changing experience. During my Secondary School years, the government-funded a program, which provided help to low-income families. It was $50 pcm then. Peanuts now, but an extra $50 filled massive holes. Maria introduced my mom to the program, and advised her on how to get me on it. It was a lifesaver throughout my high school years! I remember eagerly waiting for the time to come. Each month I would join hundreds in long lines at the Calliaqua Police Station, as we waited for our allowance. There wasn’t a more grateful girl alive!

The struggles I experienced in Secondary School was made lighter by the caring, compassionate, and selfless acts of Maria. More than a decade after graduating, she never forgot me. SVG is a small place. Running into my mom at the capital, engendered conversations on how I was doing.  According to me mom, she openly wept, when she found out, I was filing the paperwork so my mom could become a US resident. She was so proud! Right before my mom left SVG for good, Maria provided help and advice on paperwork issues she was having.

Maria. Thank you. Thank you. Wherever you are, I know you are still blessing lives. Angels do walk among us. I have been in their company.

Until the next influence,

Best,

Juan

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