Sunday, 13 May 2012 02:30
By D Francis
Antigua St John's - Looking across the still waters of the harbour at Redcliffe Quay, Cornelia "Connie" Michael took Caribarena.com on an interesting and passionate journey of the lows and highs of her life-long commitment to helping, sharing, and caring for the young, less fortunate, and elderly.
Many know her from government service as national disaster co-ordinator and educator at the National Office of Disaster Services, and organiser of centenarians' official birthday celebrations. She has also served in many other capacities in building her community and the nation.
Michael, a few months shy of her 70th birthday, fondly recalled “from a little girl, I was always interested in persons who appeared to be less fortunate. I was never upset if ‘Dada (Ethel Dorsett), this is my aunt who raised me, took any of my dresses that was too small or gave away any of my clothes to some of the other children who were in need. I was happy to see that I was able to help in whatever small way.”
Michael said her interest in helping to bring good cheer and happiness to others continued to blossom, so much so that when she was able to drive in her late teens, she would pack up the car and take people on long drives across the country.
"This brought a lot of joy to me as it did to them, as we stopped at various points enjoying the scenery," she said. "We even had ice cream along the way, and we would pass the lovely beaches and scenery, and these people were looking forward to this every time - both children and adults. It was a joy to do, and it meant a lot to them."
Michael said she was nearly brought just a few days ago when a man she inspired many years ago when he was a child came back to see her.
This was the story: "One day I was at the Spencer Gas Station area and this little boy came up to me and begged for a ten cents. I told him I don’t like to see children beg and then I drove off. When I drove off, the look on his face touched some part deep within me and I reversed. I asked him where he lives, he told me he lives at the ‘Poor House’ (Fiennes Institute).
"This was a little boy, you know. I told him I don’t believe him. He said ‘a true, a poor house me live.” I told him to get in the car and I drove right up there and spoke to a nurse who confirmed his story; that a man brought him there and explained that his mother left him with him and never returned.
"After that, I took to him, sort of adopted him, and provided his basic necessities for personal and school etc. After a number of years, we sort of lost track after a while as I heard that he had migrated.
"To make a long story short, this man is now a major corporate worker in the field of financial planning and he never forgot what I did, came to look me up, and stayed at my home with outpouring of thanks for what I nearly missed doing."
She urged members of society not to miss an opportunity to do a good deed for someone, as they never know where it would take someone in life.
She expressed concern about some people who may have the wherewithal to make a difference in people’s lives but shy away from doing it, and allow other things to cloud their judgment, placing a priority on less important things.
She also shared that although mothers today are much different than in her time, "good manners and behaviour will always be good manners and behavior," and parents should keep this in check with their children at all times.
Michael, the mother of two adult sons, said she took pleasure in raising them and the challenges back then were much different.
She credits her strong family structure to her husband, who served as principal at Five Islands and Freetown primary. He was a strong disciplinarian and stood with her in channeling the children in the right direction.
Valerie London-Davis, who was born with a leg deformity, credits Michael tremendously for assisting her as a child to get her first prosthetic leg. Davis is now a married mother of two children.
Michael said she will continue to do what she loves to do best - care, share, help, and advise... and didn’t waste any time in showing it as she briefly interrupted the interview to "pull up" some school boys hanging out in the area who were noisy and using unpleasant language.