Richer for it

To the Editor:

The path toward volunteerism was laid early for me as I struggled through an aggressive childhood cancer. Gratefully spared, but anxious, I begged to be around for each next birthday over the first 12 years or so of life.

A touchstone was provided by my grandmother, one of Washington, D.C.’s early environmental stewards, whose ichthyologist and physician father had offered her the same. Together we recycled, counted returning migrating birds and examined the summer shores of Sebago Lake for hints of overuse. The message was clear: You are a part of the world community. Don’t waste your precious days. Identify your passion and do all that you can to make a difference in whatever gift of time you have.

This summer, I found myself in a crowd of 400 plus at the Schoodic Institute. The aim is that this science, research, and education nonprofit, working on behalf of all of Acadia, can bolster the economy of eastern Maine while also ferreting out and addressing major changes in our natural environment with its international conservation partners.

As I looked around, I saw the faces of so many who had pursued their passions and given of mind, body and spirit to a host of causes. From Friends of Acadia, where I was fortunate to spend many years chairing the board, to local hospital funders, to art enthusiasts, to Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) leaders, they were clearly enriched through their traditions of generosity. Their faces glowed with determination. Their depth of dedication filled the room with something palpable.

As I listened to the Secretary of the Interior, the Director of the National Park Service and David Rockefeller Jr. extoll the virtues of the Schoodic Institute, I reflected back to the summer of 2013. A group of us talked about how volunteers before us had left a legacy to the Maine coast. We spoke of the need to inspire a new generation of stewards and to use our own time wisely.

My husband, Ben, and I later acknowledged the power of change that lay within that handful of friends. Some worked on behalf of medical breakthroughs; others tirelessly counted birds while examining ecological mismatches. Our friend Richard Rockefeller spent hundreds of hours fundraising for land conservation and separately exploring PTSD issues.

Richard is gone now, swept away this spring while headed on a volunteer mission. His spirit guides my pen, and his lessons steer me toward a commitment to work to see that his passions and my own are further secured.

Richard’s impact went well beyond his role as my friend and conservation mentor. I owe him a debt of gratitude for his important role in helping to save my daughter. When cancer tried to snatch my daughter away, he took the time to pull me aside. His advice changed the planned course of medical intervention and took her to an experimental clinical trial that is now standard treatment for similarly threatened women. Generosity of spirit works in many ways.

In fraction of a second, all can change. So, lend a helping hand, clean the roadside, make a call, or write a check – your opportunity is now.

In the meantime, I will work to ensure stewardship and land protection through MCHT and strive to meet the daunting task of raising the dollars to grow the programs of Schoodic Institute. Together, we can make the difference. As you take the challenge and rejoice in your good fortune at being a part of this place, at this point in time, instill in your heirs the spirit of giving back through creative energy, time and dollars. Their own lives and the world will be richer for it.

Dianna Emory

Bar Harbor