By Sharon Lewis
Our task is to embrace shared wisdom because it can be a defining moment that takes us to our destiny.
I recently talked to Ms. Marilyn a community advocate and leader in Woodhill Homes, a Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) property located in Cleveland’s Woodhill Neighborhood.
Most days, you can find her in her kitchen preparing meals for the young, old, and everyone in between. She feeds her neighbors several times a week. She makes Sunday dinner maybe three times per month. When asked why, she said it is because she loves to cook and enjoys watching people eat what she has prepared.
Other times you will find her cleaning the grounds and hallways, sometimes on her hands and knees. Or, you will find her preparing layettes for new moms or mothers-to-be, distributing diapers, or packaging Personal Protective Equipment (PPE – masks, hand sanitizer, etc.)
She is a mother, grandmother, and a friend to many.
Ms. Marilyn also writes grants and makes essential connections with people and organizations. This activity helps her get the resources needed to fill the cracks in the lives of people facing incredible challenges. If there is a social service organization falling down on the job, she will step in to pick up the slack. Wherever there is a need, you will find Ms. Marilyn.
I asked Ms. Marilyn for three words that best described her. She said, “passionate, committed, and loving. I am passionate about what I do. It’s part of me; it’s who I am. I must do it. I am committed to this work. Loving, because I love to love on people. People need to hear that they are loved or beautiful. People need to hear something positive about themselves. It changes the way that they see themselves. It changes them on the inside and helps them heal from their trauma. Whatever that trauma is. I’m committed to my community.”
Ms. Marilyn landed in the Woodhill Homes 20 years ago after becoming the victim of a scam, which cost her everything, including her home and money. Having been raised in the church by a family that believed that one should be of service to one’s fellow man, she persevered. Even though on a fixed income and initially down on her luck, she worked diligently to help her neighbors. In the beginning, she was seen as an outsider and shunned. Her help was neither wanted nor welcomed.
In a memorable conversation with a man, she talked about her struggles and the desires of her heart to be of service to her community. His laughter hurt and angered her initially. He told her that she would not be successful until or unless she gained the people’s trust, and eventually the people came to accept and trust her. Though not as dramatic as Paul’s biblical Damascus Road experience(Acts 9:1-19) , it has proven to be the guiding principle in her life’s work.
She is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in Human Services, and a certificate in Psychology from Perdue University. She completed a Fellowship at Case Western Reserve University’s Mary Ann Swetland Center for Environmental Health, dealing with food systems. She sits on the Safety Board for CMHA and is a Ward 6 Precinct Committee Person. Ms. Marilyn has learned to be faithful to the many boards that she sits on so that they will be faithful to her and her work. She has become a fierce advocate and protector of her community through it all.
I asked Ms. Marilyn how she keeps such a rigorous schedule. She said that it is hard work and that sometimes she gets tired and feels like she can’t go any further. She weeps and cries out to God, but she always hears God say, “I got you, I’ll do the rest.” She feels his presence so that she can keep on going.
Many of us go through life without ever discovering our true purpose. People go after the desires of their hearts, but due to either a lack of preparation or understanding, their purpose fails to materialize. If we are fortunate, we will discover the keys to success.
We appreciate you Ms. Marilyn, a Neighborhood Hero!