BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, MESA ARIZONA – This week, we had the opportunity of assisting a young filmmaker shoot his first short film. We went to Phoenix Childrens Hospital where (13 years ago) he was born with persistent pulmonary hypertension. He was in intensive care for over two weeks. It was touch and go for quite a few days. Finally, he responded to the medical care.

Through the years, his parents have generously shown their appreciation with monetary contributions to PCH. This year, he was able to make his own contribution. We toured the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and we filmed him talking to and handing a generous contribution to a nurse that was there when he was a newborn. We walked among the tiny beds with tubes and wires hooked up to preemies and saw the look of fear and hope in the desperate eyes of young parents as they hovered next to their tiny newborns.

As we experienced our young friend’s life-affirming generosity, I realized that all around us were families who were living in fear of each moment. No one can know how the other feels in such circumstances. I cannot imagine, nor do I want to know, what it feels like to be the lifeline between life and death.

Every day we experience life situations that can teach us about ourselves if we are open to the lessons taught.

Today my business partner signed a legal document that has ended her teaching career in this state’s college system. I cannot begin to relate the sadness and disillusionment this situation has created for her, me, students and other faculty.

I do not have to ask Cyndi how she feels. Her silent tears reveal to the world and me how alone and lonely she feels. Her eyes are dimmed as her “lifeline,” teaching, has been removed.

This last year, she chose to produce two films and study animation so she could develop media arts at the college. As a result of that choice, she sold her house to pay for that real-world education. Her eight-year relationship ended. She rented a small condominium, slept on a mattress on the floor and ate on a card table. She said she enjoyed living a more austere life as she educated herself for the coming year.

On a beautiful Monday afternoon, she received notice from her employer of intent to dismiss and a seize and desist order on her personal web pages that were created to generate funds for future movie projects. She had never been reprimanded in any way. She had never been contacted by anyone prior to the delivery of the notice. It seemed that every day more and more of her lifeline was cut.

After all of this, her name is forever tarnished with lies that have been proven false. Sadly, the false accusations plant a seed of doubt that lingers in the stale and stagnant air. Her supportive son has moved to New York. She minimizes what is going on so hardly anyone seems to understand how dire her situation is. She has received letters from her former students expressing their disbelief and discontent that their mentor and at times, lifeline, has been removed from the world of academia. They’ve requested to take classes in her living room.

I sit and stew and wonder about those who are responsible. I wonder how they are able to sit comfortably in front of their fireplaces with gifts under their trees, knowing a good, kind human has been so terribly wronged because of their actions. Do they have night terrors knowing what they have caused? Can they appreciate that they have destroyed the life of a dedicated teacher and prevented students from leaning the skills they need to pursue their dreams? What was their motive? What motivates such evil in the face of good?

Tomorrow will be a new day. The holidays are upon us. Cyndi will be out and about helping those she knows and those she meets in any way she can. She will dissolve her retirement account to pay her legal fees. She does not want to owe anyone anything. The irony is that there are many who owe her everything because of all they learned from her. As 2007 comes to a close, she will have much less than she had at the start of the year. There is one thing, however, that she never lost. Her integrity. She retains the ability to look at herself in the mirror of your eyes.

She will remain our lifeline.

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