Written By Tony Mussari
The Face of America Project
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you have been following our Face of America journey, you know the good, the bad and the ugly about Kitch’s battle with breast cancer. We shared our story as a patient and a caregiver to help others better navigate the dark gravel road called cancer.
In this our first newsletter of 2012, we would like to share some very good news. Kitch completed all of her post treatment tests, and recently she heard these words from her primary care physician: “No Evidence of Disease!”
The acronym N.E.D. filled our hearts with a kind of joy and relief that defies description.
To everyone who helped reach this goal, we want you to know that we are grateful for your acts of kindness and your prayers of healing.
We are forever indebted to the doctors, nurses and medical technicians, who gave Kitch the competent and compassionate care that produced this positive outcome.
You can be sure that we will spend the rest of our life helping others meet the challenges of cancer so they can hear the words “No Evidence of Disease.”
Two years ago this weekend, Kitch and I were in Yarmouth, Maine. It was the first trip in what would become our Face of America journey across America.
While we were there, we attended Sunday service at the historic First Parish Church. We visited with Frank Knight, one of the most respected citizens in Yarmouth and the revered caretaker of Herbie, a 240-year-old Dutch Elm that was about to be taken down.
“You get old because you stop doing things,” Frank Knight told us. “You don’t stop doing things because you get old.” The former tree warden of Yarmouth knows what he is talking about. He was 101 years young when he shared this advice with us.
For three days, the Down East Village Restaurant and Motel was our home. Ed and Sue Ferrell were perfect hosts.
To this day, we have fond memories of our visit to Maine, the people we met and the things we learned there about America at its best. We are looking forward to a return visit, if and when our book is published.
You can read about our experience in Maine at this address:
Happy Birthday, Dr. King
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day, Kitch and I would like to share some of his quotations that remind us of what America is on its best day:
Everything that is done in this world is done by hope.
He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
Life’s most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?
Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.
The time is always right to do what is right. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
When I think about the life and death of Martin Luther King, the poignant words spoken by Senator Robert Kennedy come to mind:
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort...Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world...Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.
Recently, someone asked me a vey pointed question: “Why do you spend so much time searching for the Face of America on its best day?”
My answer was quite simple: “I am trying to be useful.”
When Kitch and I produced corporate videos of J.P. Morgan’s CEO, Dennis Weatherstone, he was quick to tell large audiences of employees that among the most important people in the bank were the people who worked in the mail room. “If they get it wrong,” he would say, “everything can fall apart,”
That does not mean that CEO’s, and other executive types are not important, but without the men and women who are on the ground in the classrooms, offices, operating rooms and mail rooms of institutions in cities and towns across America, not very much would get done.
These are the people who make America work. Seldom if ever, do they get any attention. Their work does not make the headlines. They are not the subject cable news programs. In a way, they are very much like my father.
My father was a signal maintainer for the D&H Railroad. If he got it wrong on the job, trains would crash. If he got it wrong at home, I would not be writing this. He was not rich, powerful or famous. He was the most important and lasting influence in my life. Watching him sacrifice for his family gave me a Ph.D. in what really matters in life.
He was not an angry man. He was not a self absorbed man. He was not stressed out about his situation. His world was his family, his neighborhood and his church. He was thoughtful, generous, and kind. He took pride in his work, and he was grateful for everything he had. He was a patriotic and loyal citizen. He lived a useful life.
From my father, I learned that the greatness of America can be found at the ground level. He taught me by example to live the words of Emerson:
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
As we begin the third year of our Face of America journey, Kitch and I are determined to do what Suzanne McCabe encouraged us to do:
Please keep on focusing on the positive people and happenings around us. So much of what we hear and read focuses on the negative – your stories remind us that we really are surrounded by good, but the negative tends to drown it out. Please keep giving good a voice!
Toward that end, you will find three new articles in our Face of America Blog. They highlight the accomplishments of three genuine Faces of America:
Mollie Marti, Holly Berry and Debbie Heberling.
You will find their stories at these secure addresses:
Until the next time, we hope that all of your stories have happy endings.
Tony & Kitch Mussari
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