If we are lucky, then once in a blue moon or two or three, we will chance across a person we immediately sense has an air, a quality, a purpose, a zest if you will, that sets them apart. We are drawn to them like a moth to a flame. Football coaches often refer to this as the “IT” factor. They are right.
It was early March of 2014 when such a moment occurred for me. I was in Austin, TX attending the first national convention of the Network for Public Education. (I was on NPE’s board.) At some point I happened upon Vivian Connell of Chapel Hill, NC and immediately knew the blue moon was shining brightly.
A former teacher who headed off to law school in her late 40’s, Vivian impressed me with her passion and good sense. She was at ease with herself, and unlike some I met at the same gathering, showed no intention of claiming a spotlight for herself. I noticed she had a brace on her left leg. She said the doctor was having a hard time figuring out why her leg was hurting.
A few months later she learned she had ALS.
I had lunch with her in Chapel Hill in mid-July. She did not dwell on her diagnosis, instead, she talked about her various projects, her family, etc. And knowing the severity of ALS, I avoided it as well.
Her condition has steadily worsened since causing plans to be altered and accommodations to be made to co-exist with her health issues. She has refused to dwell on her situation and has faced each day with determination and resolve.
She recounts it all in this piece on her blog. It is a remarkable story from a remarkable lady.
And through this writing you come to realize the grace of Vivian Connell. A quality that is too often missing in today’s world. And something that is never on display when TV brings us another “debate” of those who wish to be addressed as “Mr. President.”
Vivian’s story seems especially appropriate on this very special day.