Tuesday, August 17, 2010
This is the story of a Notary, a volunteer and a gift. A lesson in never being afraid to ask, and the generosity of strangers. A reason why I love my adopted hometown of Natick, MA. Even when I have to visit the Town Hall.
In my real life job working for a financial planner, I am a registered Notary Public. I am also a bit overwhelmed with paperwork and get so focused on everyone else's needs and deadlines that I overlook my own. Like the fact that my Notary appointment had expired. What a royal pain in the neck that was. You have to get three people (including an attorney) to vouch for your upstanding moral fiber (now what would attorneys know about that), submit a business resume, fill out the application explaining your reasons for pursuing the matter and then send in a fee. Once the state has approved your moral fiber you then have to take your oath in the presence of two other Notaries before you can resume your duties of verifying people's signatures.
Since I kept missing the monthly meeting of Notary oath taking at the library, I was referred to the Town Hall. It seems that the clerks could give me my oath. So I stopped by one morning on my way to work and while waiting for the clerks to complete their end of the paperwork I noticed a beautifully crocheted American flag hanging on the wall. My grandmother had crocheted many things in her life so I knew that this flag took lots of time and love. I wondered where it had come from.
Generally, I keep my mouth shut about such things. I don't know why - too shy? Maybe it was because it reminded me of my grandmother who passed away recently, I don't know. But that morning I asked my question. "Where did you get that pretty flag? I know someone who would really like it."
The clerks told me the story of a senior citizen named Helen O'Malley who volunteers at the Town Hall on a regular basis. Helen is extremely patriotic. She always dresses in red, white or blue. And in fact, her entire home is decorated in red, white or blue too. It seems that Helen made this flag for her beloved town to display proudly for all of the community to see. They also said that she had made multiple flags and might have another one available for me. They took down my name and number and promised to pass along my interest to Helen the next time she came in to volunteer.
A few weeks later, our phone rang one Saturday afternoon and sure enough, there was Helen herself on the other end. She had lots of spirit in her voice and was extremely friendly. She explained that she crocheted these flags as a hobby and certainly had one available for someone who would provide it a loving home. I told her that I knew someone who I would love to give it to and who I thought would display it with patriotic pride. And I asked how much she would charge.
"Oh no. I would NEVER charge someone for an American flag. Especially one that I made. You can have it free of charge. I can drop it off or you can pick it up."
Flabbergasted, I offered to pick it up from her at the Town Hall the next time she was volunteering. And I did. And when I arrived she was easy to spot - all decked out in red, white and blue. What a kind lady Helen is. And talented as well. She has high hopes for her country. And that spirit probably spurs her on to volunteer for her town, when she could be selling her creations for a tidy profit at the weekend farmer's market instead.
In my eyes, Helen is a local treasure. I have a feeling there are lots more like her right under my nose here in Natick. And there are probably lots of them in your neck of the woods too. As I come across them, I'll be sure to share them with you here. Have you encountered any in your part of the world? Sometimes, all it takes to discover one is the nerve to ask a question.