MAUREEN BURNS: Difference makers

By Maureen Burns • Last Updated 11:24 am on Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Maureen Burns

People make a difference. Some do it positively. Some do it negatively. Chatting with some friends this morning, a name came up. It is a local woman who has made and continues to make a huge positive difference in the world, especially in our area. I am talking of Ruth Hansen.

For as long as I have lived here, and likely before that, Ruth has been involved with community theater productions. She also works with children doing plays and summer theater camps. She helps with local variety shows. Ruth has a marvelous sense of humor and a deep faith and she radiates both.

As I talked with my friends this morning, I said, “Can you imagine the hole that would be in our world if Ruth Hansen was not here doing what she does so well?” Everyone agreed. We are blessed with Ruth and all she does.

I have a quote by Fred Meijer that I love. “We have succeeded by pulling together: sharing our dreams and our worries, having respect for each other and by enjoying life.”
Ruth Hansen is an example of Fred’s inspiring words.

For quite a while now, every single time I drive down main street in Greenville, I pause and enjoy the big window display at Greenville Kingdom of Flowers. They should win an award for consistent creativity and perhaps one for just adding some artistic seasonal beauty to our daily lives.

In the spring they had enormous bright colored butterflies which filled the window. At Christmas it was full to the brim with Santas. Right now it hosts an enormous red heart that is a wow. I don’t know where they come up with the ideas or the materials or the creativity. What I do know is that we are fortunate to be the audience for their savvy seasonal displays. Tom and Glen, bravo, you make our world a brighter place. You go over the top with what you do and we love every bit of it!

There has been something happening on the other end of town, too. A while ago, Julie Reed bought Pam’s Coffeehouse. It was a charming and busy place. I don’t know how she did it, but Julie has made it even more charming and cozy and business has doubled since she became the proud owner. I go daily to the coffee shop for my jolt of pleasure. Some don’t understand this indulgence. They mention the cost, they mention the calories, they mention the time. I ignore them all. And I could give you a long list of other daily attendees that might surprise you.

Recently, when I pulled in to Julie’s there were 18 cars in the parking lot. It was the middle of the morning in the middle of the week. What’s that line? Build it and they will come.

I think of Ruth and Tom and Glen and Julie. What is it that makes them do what they do so well? I think there are a few things. They each have incredible passion for what they do. It is a joy to them. They love, love it. You can’t pay for that kind of energy and it is boundless. It’s also contagious.

Another quality I see is that they each love people. They are kind, courteous, friendly and just plain treat people well. I could do an entire column on bad customer service, so the way they treat folks is a joy. They are the gold standard.

Laughter and a delightful, free sense of humor flows out of each of these difference makers. I am going to bet you a luscious latte that you will find it hard to be around any of them for very long without a laugh bubbling out of you. Beware. If you don’t like having fun, you may just want to nay, nay, stay away.

Let me just mention two men who also brighten our local world. They are out there, attending functions all over the place. They bless things, pray over food, shake hands and just plain share the community and all that entails. These men are Pastor Jerry Jones of the First Congregational Church and Pastor Steve Charnley of the First United Methodist Church, both in Greenville. I am not in either of their congregations but consider both of them good friends and want to thank them for being great difference makers in our world.

Jerry once gave the commencement speech at Montcalm Community College. I wrote down something he said then. “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They make the best of everything.”

To that I say amen and a great big thanks for all the people that appreciate what Ruth, Tom, Glen, Julie, Jerry and Steve give to our area. They may be unsung heroes, but today, let’s sing out their praises. Here’s to six local difference makers. We are grateful for all they do and are!

Maureen Burns, a Greenville resident, is a professional speaker and author. Her e-mail address is

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