One learns history from stories of the past. Two area residents and those stories of years gone by have developed into a friendship for the future.
For 76-year-old Stanley Potts, a retired carpenter, and Sarah Rowland, a Central Methodist University student counselor intern, a class assignment has turned into something that has changed both their lives forever.
“There is something very meaningful about her and what we have shared,” Potts said. “I could have said no and missed this opportunity and I would have never known all that we have shared.
“Sarah, very quietly, asks a few questions and then she allows me to say what I want to say,” Potts added. “What she has done is let me be the star which isn’t one of my goals; I’d rather be the black paint on a black top road where no one notices me.”
The assignment that brought the two together is a part of the four-year degree completion program at CMU. The Master of Science in Clinical Counseling at CMU provides a counseling service to State Fair students.
Earlier this year, the program began a partnership with the Sedalia Senior Center to create a “Life Stories Project.”
As part of the assignment, students were paired with senior citizens and were asked to interview the seniors and write their stories.
Potts and Rowland were two of the first to volunteer for the project, according to Angela Schubert, Ph.D., LPC, director of CMU Clinical Counseling Center at the SFCC site.
“Sarah always expressed a desire to work with older individuals,” Schubert said. “And Stanley was the first to volunteer here at the Senior Center.
“The work that the two of them have done together just confirms that everyone has a story and that those stories have value,” Schubert added. “I think people are very interested in hearing the stories of people who have lived long and diverse lives; we simply need to let them tell them.”
Rowland said that for her part she was more than grateful to hear Potts tell his story. The two were scheduled to meet four times for 45 minutes to an hour but have found they wanted to meet more frequently.
Potts said he initially thought the process would not take that much time because he had nothing to share.
For Rowland, nothing could be further from the truth.
“I really enjoy coming here and listening to Stanley,” Rowland said. “I am so very grateful for the experience I have been given and for Stanley.”
As part of her paper written for the project, Rowland asked Stanley to reflect upon the state of the world and its culture.
“The world has changed and there is a different moral climate from when Potts was young,” Rowland wrote. “He has seen the decay… the acceptance of things that are immoral to him and he hopes his grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be successful in spite of the changes and challenges in our culture.
“I (Potts) have a goal, a mission, and a responsibility to pass on my knowledge to others,” Rowland continued in her narrative.
At the end of her story, Rowland added the following statement: “I hope I am not the only candidate worthy of hearing his story, his hopes and his beliefs.”
Both began to cry softly when Potts read those words.
“I have a fear that I will lose contact with Sarah, someone so dear to me, when she graduates,” Potts said. “I sense that it won’t be convenient for us to meet any longer and that our relationship will be all too short.
“That’s the way life treats us you know,” he added quietly.
Rowland assured her friend that nothing could be further from the truth.
“I truly enjoy coming here and I want to volunteer at a later time,” Rowland said. “After about five minutes I felt we weren’t strangers but we were becoming friends.
“This is your life story, I tried my best to put down what you had told me,” Rowland added. “I am the fortunate one for having the chance to tell your story.”
Each was asked to describe the other in three words, something they both found rather difficult to do.
“Stanley is just so incredibly creative and jovial and he continually gives so much of himself to me and everyone he comes in contact with,” Rowland said.
Potts also struggled with his assessment of his new friend.
“I can’t think of a word that describes the depth of her commitment,” Potts said. “For her to learn to do what she is doing, and doing so well, is simply remarkable.
“She is so dedicated and compassionate and more than that she is so contented with very little,” he added. “She is simply a remarkable individual and friend.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484