Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Way I See It - Musings of a Septuagenarian

Septuagenarian. I love the sound of that word. More than that, I love the fact that I have lived long enough to lay claim to the title. I’ve not only lived seven decades, but I’ve been paying attention. Perhaps that doesn’t automatically make me wise, but I know “stuff” about life, “stuff” worth sharing.

For nearly forty of my seventy plus years I was given a rare privilege. I had been a professional writer since my mid-twenties. Most of my work, print and film, was designed to sell something—a product or an idea—but in my early forties my career took a new direction. It began when I was hired as a writer/field producer for a documentary for the Presbyterian Church U.S. The job took me to Brazil to document a project the church had undertaken in cooperation with a missionary in Brazil and a group of remarkable Brazilian Christians.

A prolonged drought in the pampas area of Brazil had created a crisis. Families were starving to death. With the help of the American church, this small group of Brazilian Christians had purchased some land in the lush area near the Amazon River. Once they had the land, they drove to the pampas where they found families who were trying to flee the drought camped along the road, too weak from hunger to go on. They loaded these men, women and children into trucks, and took them to an area near the river where they fed them and nursed them back to health.

Once the refugees were strong enough, their rescuers taught them the skills they needed to raise cattle in this new region—very different skills than the ones they had used in the pampas. When the skills were learned, the rescuers gave each refugee family a parcel of the church-financed land on which to live and work. By the time I got there to research the film, some of the refugees had joined the original group to rescue and retrain other refugees

I had always loved being a writer, telling other people’s stories, but for the first time I truly felt that what I was writing mattered. And that was the beginning of a career that enabled me to share and document transformational experiences. Sometimes the films were about people trapped in poverty or by circumstances. Much of my work involved families whose children faced potentially fatal diseases like cancer or childhood diabetes. Some of my projects concerned physically or intellectually challenged children and adults who rose above the lot life had dealt them to inspire others.

I had other dreams. I had moved to California to write television dramas. I even managed to sell a script or two. And I must admit, when that career never took off as I had hoped, I felt like a failure. But today I can see that my life turned out just the way it was supposed to, and quite frankly, better than what I had planned.

I count as very special all the people I have come to know through my work, from the little girl at St. Jude who taught me what is truly important about life by the remarkable way she faced death… to the missionary in Bangladesh who broke all the rules in order to help and preserve the dignity of the street people of Dacca when city officials dumped them in a rice field miles from the city so they wouldn’t be an eyes-sore to foreigners who visited... to the woman who lost her daughter to cancer, and then honored her memory by becoming a chiropractor so she and her husband could go to Africa where today they are helping ease the pain of children and adults of an impoverished village.

The people I have worked with over the years and the experiences I have shared with them have enriched my life and expanded my mind. Sometimes their stories have broken my heart, but knowing them has always given me great joy. And now it is time for me to share some of those stories… and my experiences in gathering them. That’s what this blog is all about. Hope you will come along for the ride.




  1. Sunny is a remarkable woman. I met her in my condo community in 2006 while walking my dog. Being a social risk taker, she took the first step by introducing herself and telling me she thought I looked like an interesting person. She invited me to dinner and our friendship grew from that point on. Although a few years separate us in age, I often joke that we were separated at birth.

    Sunny is one of the most supportive friends I have (I'm fortunate to have a few of those). I retired to Santa Fe to write and paint. She has offered me considerable encouragement, and I have been writing and finding some modest success. Sunny not only gives wise advice but gives of herself to all of her friends as well to some organizations. She was active on the auxiliary board for the Santa Fe Opera whose purpose was to bring the opera experience to the schools. She was also helpful in suggesting fundraising promotional techniques for the women's abuse shelter. In short, she was definitely missed when she moved to St. Pete in 2008.

    I am glad that Sunny has started this blog. She is not only a very interesting and vital human being but also has a great deal of wisdom to offer.

  2. I am so thankful to have the honor to meet you Sunny and look forward to learning even more about your incredible life by reading your blog.

    Wendy Sherwood

  3. Sunny, I'm enjoying your blog! It's refreshing to receive the insights of someone who has lived such a full and thoughtful life. So different from blogs written by people who need to live a lot longer and to experience a great deal more before they will have anything meaningful to say!

  4. Hey Kiddo, this is my fourth start at a comment. What if it doesn't measure up? The pressure is so much... Oops, almost hit the backspace to erase this, but stopped myself. As a confessed blog-junkie, in recovery but failing miserably at it, I look forward to more, and newer postings. You go girl.

  5. I am so excited to be back in touch with you, Sunny, after so many years (30+?), back when you were associated with my deceased husband Gayle de Camp on film projects. He was so impressed with your talent and I delighted in your personality. It is wonderful to see that you have used your talent for so many wonderful projects.