A Story of a Lady Who Is Embodying Overflow's Mission

If you've been around us or at Overflow in the past 18 months, and especially the last 6, you might recognize this lady. 

This woman's name is Mary Ayres.  She is Amanda's mom.  She's had a rough journey over the past 3 years.  She retired 3½ years ago.  Then, in February 2012 (shortly before Overflow's 1st birthday), she had a stroke that has left her with aphasia, an acquired language disorder caused by damage to the brain, in her case the stroke. Aphasia makes Mary have extreme difficulty remembering words and she has lost most of her ability to speak, read, and write.  She is still very intelligent but has issues with communicating - both sharing her thoughts and understanding what others are trying to share. 

Due to Mary's stroke, she and Virgil, Amanda's dad, moved to Chicago in August 2013.  They made the move so that Amanda could pay their bills, file their taxes, communicate with their doctors, and an increasing number of things they couldn't do for themselves as they got older.

Then the unexpected happened.  In June of last year (2014), Mary lost her husband of 34 years.  Now we are totally responsible for caring for Mary for the 20 plus years of life she has left to enjoy.  And how, you ask, are we helping her get the most out of life when she is disabled by aphasia???

This is where Overflow and Mary intersect!  Instead of staying home alone doing practically nothing while we work long hours, Mary spends 4 days a week at Overflow (that leaves 2 days to be home alone, and 1 family day where none of us work).

Since Mary is hanging out, she has started to build relationships with some of Overflow's customers. 
  • On Monday mornings, a group of women about the same age as her have invited her to be part of their women's group.  She can't say much but she really likes to feel included and involved in their lives.  
  • On Thursdays, a group of parents from the school in our building have invited Mary to join their prayer group.  They pray together for the kids, teachers, staff, parents, and anything else that comes to mind.  
  • On Saturdays, Mary also joined a Zumba class and helps greet the women as they arrive.  They all love to see her smiling face at 8am on a Saturday morning.  They've started to call her the Zumba mascot.  
When she first moved to Chicago, we were the only people she knew.  Now she has a community of people and her need to feel like she belongs is met. Moreover, she helps meet other people's need to belong.  She's embodying Overflow's practice of community building!

But wait, there's more...
Mary loves chocolate and tea.  If she could, that's all she'd eat and drink.  But, as we've shared with her about child labor in the chocolate industry (we dare you to Google "child labor and chocolate" and see what you discover), she's reduced how much chocolate she eats.  She understands that children should be in school, not in the cocoa field working from sun-up to sundown.  So she's more careful in her chocolate consumption.  Plus, she's started to consume fair trade tea as a way to make sure tea growers receive a fair wage.  We can't get her to drink coffee (yet) but she's definitely thinking more and more about the stories behind the things she buys.  She's embodying Overflow's practice of ethical economics!

This is just one story of one person and the impact we have as a community.  It just happens to be the one closest to us.  We see what's happening with Mary and we think, "Yes!  We really are changing the world one life at a time."

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