February 2014

Line in the Sand: CH2'S Person of the Year

Author: Mary Frances Lowrey & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Mary Frances Lowrey
Selecting a “Person of the Year” was much harder than I initially thought it would be. I can see why mainstream media picks them by categories, such as musician, business person, actor, politician, etc. It was hard to narrow down to only one person whom I thought deserving of this title (I found out later that Courtney selected multiple deserving people…she is pretty smart.). In order to narrow it down to one, I asked myself three questions: Did they influence others for the greater good? Did they put others before themselves? Were they trailblazers? Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (2013), met all my criteria.

Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan, located in the country’s Swat Valley. She attended a school that her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, had founded. After the Taliban began attacking girls’ schools in Swat, she gave a speech in Peshawar, Pakistan, in September 2008. The title of her talk was, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” At the time, Yousafzai was only 11 years. In 2009, she began blogging under a pseudonym for the BBC against the Taliban and their rules of no education for girls. Eventually her real identity became known and she became a target for the Taliban. Her courageous stand as an educational advocate for all children cost her dearly.

On October 9, 2012, the Taliban boarded her school bus as she was headed for home and shot her in the head at point blank range. For 10 days, Yousafzai laid in a coma, 14 years old, her life hanging by a thread. She and her family were relocated to England where she underwent multiple surgeries and began her next phase of educational advocacy.

Malala Yousafzai is my 2013 “Person of the Year,” because this child influenced change for the greater good of others. She highlighted a problem in our world. She courageously carried on when she knew she was in danger. She bravely told her story and continued her platform to promote education for all children. Malala Yousafzai leads by example. She knows (and so does the Taliban) that education is the key to change, growth, prosperity, enlightenment and freedom. Despite the Taliban’s continued threats, Yousafzai remains a staunch advocate for the power of education.

Courtney Hampson
In mid-December I needed a mental health break and decided to go into work late and have a little me time, which basically amounts to a leisurely walk with the dog, a full cup of coffee (not three slurps before rushing out the door) and more than 10 minutes of the Today Show. So, I tuned in for my daily dose of Al Roker. I must admit, I have a slight obsession with weathermen. Al is in good company with CNN Headline News’ Bob Van Dillen, but I digress…

This isn’t about me, or Al, or Bob, or any other weather prognosticators. That morning, on the Today Show, they were revealing TIME’s person of the year, and it got me thinking about people here in the Lowcountry who had impacted my life in 2013. So, since we had zilch planned for our January column, which then got bumped to February, I was intent on identifying my (er, CH2’s) Person(s) of the Year. My counterpart couldn’t think of anyone local who did anything meaningful, which only fueled my fire. Alas, here we are.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as the night before the Today Show / TIME revelation, I had the privilege of hosting an event to benefit Family Promise, a Beaufort County organization whose mission is to provide food, shelter, and support services for homeless families during their transition to permanent housing. Currently, 350 children in Beaufort County are homeless. Not something we think about often, is it? So, let’s. Think about this, that is. Think about the size of your child’s classroom. Multiple it by 15, and approximately that many kids are homeless in our community. Staggering.

As part of the event, I had the privilege of meeting Family Promise board member Lakeisha Bennett. She made a huge impact on me as she stood in front of a crowd of 500 people and boldly shared her experience of being homeless and how Family Promise helped her and her family. From homeless to a board member for the organization, Lakeisha only reinforced the importance of giving back, especially after receiving.

Then, I started thinking about the other people in our community who impacted my life this year. Jake Walsh, the Army veteran who bravely told me his story of war, of sacrifice, and the difficulties associated with reintegrating into civilian life. Recognizing that he is not alone and that 30 percent of the 834,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been treated in a VA hospital for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Jake set the wheels in motion to do something about it. With local support, he created Honor our Heroes, an organization committed to alleviating veteran’s stress and honoring their sacrifices. Their programs provide small business grants, short-term financial assistance, educational assistance, and mental health and wellness referrals to local veterans.

Then, I thought about Joe Naughton and Jaison Horbar, two recovering addicts who brushed aside the stigma associated with addiction and decided to help others. With one in every three people (yup, look around; it is you or the two guys sitting next you) being affected by addiction, Joe and Jaison created a non-profit organization, Greener Grass, with a mission to ensure that no alcoholic or addict desperate and willing enough to seek help from a treatment facility is denied this life-saving opportunity due to their inability to pay either out of pocket or via insurance. Further, through Greener Grass, they want to work to lessen the burden of the family that has suffered alongside the afflicted by providing, where needed and when possible, financial assistance for such things as food and basic necessities.

I think what strikes me most about Lakeisha, Jake, Joe, and Jaison is that they have been there. They’ve been at the bottom. They were brave enough to ask for help, find their center, and are now dedicating their lives to helping others in similar situations.

That is how you make an impact. That is what citizenship means. These are the people who define our community and are changing our community for the better. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.

Now, you may have noticed (yes, I got your e-mail), that A Line in the Sand didn’t appear in the January issue, but I’m back baby, and I am looking for a new (friendly) foe. That’s right. This is a contest to find the right person to tow the other half of the line.

Think you’ve got what it takes?
Female writer, laden with sarcasm, and fueled by pizza, CrossFit, and margaritas seeks male with writing experience (or a brilliant command of the English language), quick wit, sense of humor, willingness to be photographed with kooky props, and ability to argue monthly.

Submit your answers (and a writing sample or two) to the following questions to m.washo@celebratehiltonhead.com and we’ll see who has what it takes.

Hamburger or hot dog?
Book or Nook?
Brittney or Miley?
Bruce or Bon Jovi?
How do you pronounce pecan?
Spend or save?
Dog or cat?
Most compelling Line in the Sand argument you’ve ever read?
Who would your person of the year have been and, why?

Be creative. And may the best man win.

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