Recently I attended a retirement dinner for Mary Figueroa, the longtime site coordinator for the Amazing Afternoons Program held at the Edward Williams School in Mt. Vernon. In a lifetime, everyone should be fortunate to have one Mary in their presence. While Dos Equis may feature the most interesting man in the world, Mary is by far the kindest soul in the world. Where she stands, every moral compass points north in her direction. Her warmth melts the coldest of hearts. Her spirit could make the most solid conservatives lean left.
I first met Mary nearly ten years ago. She welcomed Backyard Sports into the Edward Williams School knowing immediately the impact that movement and activity could have on her children. This was of one of our earliest collaborations with an after school program. We began in early January right after holiday break. I arrived early to set up and prepare for the kids. Ten or fifteen minutes elapsed after the anticipated start time and no students were in the gym. I was growing impatient and frustrated that the after school program was not operating on “my schedule.”
I found Mary in her office with two young children sitting on her desk. I entered preparing to speak with Mary about the importance of timeliness and schedules. I noticed that she was simultaneously rubbing the children’s feet and sifting through her drawers. The children were siblings, a young brother and sister. Apparently, their mom sent them to school in the middle of January without socks. Mary was warming their feet while rummaging through her office looking for socks. She saw me and just smiled. “Danny,” she beamed, “we are so thankful you are here today. As soon as I am done here warming these feet, we are going to get that sports program started. Boy are we lucky to have you here!”
Like the Grinch, whose heart grew three sizes upon seeing the spirit of Who-ville light up even without presents on Christmas morning, my chest began to thump. Mary has the capacity to make hearts grow despite the emptiness of dreary surroundings. Not a day goes by where I don’t try and channel Mary’s goodness. It is very easy to get frustrated in service work when things don’t go your way or according to your best laid plans. Mary reminds us all that our ability to give must far outweigh the anticipation of a “get” or a return for our efforts.
I will miss Mary. I will never forget her.
Head Coach, Backyard Sports Cares