Saturday, September 26, 2009

On Living and Living On

Writers spend a great deal of time alone. Whether reading or writing, few can escape the necessity for solitude very long in order to improve skill or produce good work. It is not a team sport.
Knowing that, I joined a club today anyway; A club that will demand precious time away from my writing. I’m not even sure what prompted me to step so out of character. My life is already too busy, packed with deadlines and people requiring things of me.

How did such a small blurb of an announcement in the Osceola Gazette paper catch my eye. St Cloud’s Women’s Club would meet for their first session of the year with the Executive Director of the Osceola Performing Art Center, Ed Moore, speaking about plans for the new season.

I questioned my husband who is not a writer, but a successful business man who takes an active interest in local politics and civic activities: “What does the Women’s Club do?” He smiled and answered valiantly, “Well, I’m sure they probably do charitable work and it’s probably something of a social club.”

In short, he didn’t know.

I clipped the tiny announcement and paper-clipped it to my planner page for September. Memories of my mother flowed through me, a happy pain. Only seven months earlier, I’d lost her to Parkinson’s. A gifted, working painter, she still found time for the Women’s Club while I was growing up in Key West. That afternoon, I inked the meeting’s date and time onto September.

Over the next five days until the meeting, my hectic life continued and I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to attend. The night before the meeting, various problems arose resulting in a required almost “all-nighter” to correct the problems for the next morning’s deadline. At my age, sleep is important, right up there with food. Lack of either results in grumpy fatigue and loss of enthusiasm.

Four minutes before the scheduled meeting I parked two blocks away and became the last person to enter the meeting.

I can think of no better way to describe the next hour and a half other than time travel.

The meeting room was filled with folding tables seating 60 ladies of various ages and one man, Ed Moore. At the door, I was greeted, escorted and seated. No pressure, only kindness with pleasure at my presence. The walls displayed endless medals of appreciation, war effort history, and historical photographs of St Cloud. Near the stage, a long table sported a sterling silver coffee pot at one end and sterling tea pot at the other with tempting desserts in between. Memories of tea parties as a child with my mother coursed through me.

We sang America the Beautiful, pledged the flag, and read out loud the club’s prayer to find and touch our common human heart. The prayer seeks the good qualities and behaviors in us all.

The “social club” consisted of homemakers, retired teachers, entrepreneurs, and professionals from most industries. The curator for the club’s Heritage Museum, Lucille McClure, holds a degree in physics. All of these women unite for one common cause: to make their world a better place.

Their contributions to schools range from scholarships for Hugh O”Brien Youth leadership; girl scout conference; St. Cloud graduates, as well as grants for elementary school books and visual aids, and band support along with purchase of uniforms. Other accomplishments include town sidewalks, parks and beautification, clean-up campaigns, flower and art shows, Red Cross and relief work during the war, lobby effort for energy independence and stoplights, and so many other worthy, socially conscious endeavors.

But perhaps their most significant accomplishment to me, a retired teacher, was that the Women’s Club “established, owned and operated a library for the city from 1910-1968” when they sold it to the city. Our Veteran’s Memorial library is a direct result of this “social club.” Long after these women have passed beyond this life, their vision, compassion and causes will continue to impact and inspire lives.

This year marks 100 years existence for the club whose goal is to add 100 members. Please forward or give this blog to any woman writer you know that yearns for a meaningful legacy through community service. As to the initial fear of losing writing time through membership, I’ve remembered how worthy experience deepens and enriches my writing, my life; perhaps some of you will too.

Club meetings begin at 1:30 p.m. every third Wednesday of months September through May, 1012 Massachusetts Ave., St Cloud, Fl. For more information, contact Heritage Museum Thurs-Fri 10am-2pm 407-957-7587.