One From the Heart
"I think that just living your life is all a learning experience," said Mary Anne MacAlarney who then proceeded to tell me some of the heartfelt life lessons that she has learned. She is a woman who is a great listener and an open-minded learner. Her insights on how to "get on with things" in spite of roadblocks and challenges are both simple and inspirational.
Pink: Mary Anne, I always ask how, when and why you came to Hilton Head Island?
Mary Anne: My husband and I came here so long ago-34 years. We came from Michigan, but I have lived happily here for so long, I feel this is my real home.
Pink: I know you consider yourself a lifelong learner, and at the age of 75 you are still in the process. What are some of the things you have learned recently?
Mary Anne: Since my husband died, I have learned social things. That is, things I can do and enjoy doing with people. I like to be with people and to interact in fun ways. I have never been one to sit around. Recently I have learned to play social Bridge, which is such a pleasure. I play with friends who play well, but they play well for the game, not to beat someone else. I have also just recently learned how to play Mah Jong. That is something new that has become very popular. A friend named Pat Foley taught me to play, along with some other gals, and we play twice a week now. It is the same philosophy-we play well, but we also play for the enjoyment of the game.
Pink: Have you ever mastered something new that was outside of your comfort zone?
Mary Anne: Yes, I sure have. My husband decided he did not have enough to do when he retired-he had been busy all of his life-and decided he was going to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). He talked me into taking the course with him and we both actually DID it! We rode along in ambulances and the whole nine yards. I learned some real life lessons from that. I was a housewife who had never worked outside the home and was thrown into a whole new setting. Sometimes when we went on the ambulance we would go into a home and it would be someone I knew. Other times it would be a total stranger on the beach. They all had one thing in common though-they desperately needed emergency care and we were there to provide it. I learned so much about people, compassion, and patience. It was a wonderful thing to have done.
Pink: You have gone from being a wife to being a widow. Many other women have had the same experience. If you are comfortable, please talk a bit about that life changing experience.
Mary Anne: Well, as I said, I was always a housewife. When my husband died, I sort of lost my definition. I started a whole new and different life from when I was married. I had to stop and look at what I could do and my skill set. I had several jobs that I really liked, one at Rose Hill and another at Colleton River. I called myself a "Girl Friday" and that is what I did-lots of little things very well. I just pulled them all together. I learned to pick myself up, and I also discovered that the best therapy is to help other people and to help yourself as well. There must be a balance. Do not neglect yourself and your own needs.
Pink: Whom do you admire? Is there someone in particular who has taught you life lessons?
Mary Anne: Yes, my sister Emily. She was 16 years older than me and like a second mother. She taught me how to be a young lady, she taught me the facts of life, and gave me a strong set of values. Her best life lesson was to always wear a smile no matter what else you have on. I carry that as my words to live by.
Pink: Finally, what do you do now as a volunteer?
Mary Anne: I was a long time volunteer at the Hilton Head Hospital. At church, I am a greeter and an angel. That means I greet and make name tags for visitors and new members. I am the secretary of the Yacht Club of Hilton Head Island. I am also a greeter there. I guess being a bartender is the most unique thing I do now. I volunteer to take my turn at a club I belong to. That's a lot of fun! I do keep as busy as I can. That is a good life, I believe.
Pink: Yes, that is a good life and in her role as a student of life, Mary Anne is also a great teacher. Her lessons are all about making the most out of life and she teaches it well!