When I first moved to Bangor nearly seven years ago, I considered bringing my business here with me. I was told by a Bangor business leader that “it would never be successful because Maine people don’t want to work with people from away.” No matter what I did, this person said, I would never be able to get over the fact that I was “from away.” I want to publicly state how wrong this person was in his crystal ball analysis.
I decided not to open my business here, but it was not because of this warning. It was because I was asked to become the CEO of the Bangor Region YMCA, a community organization that had been a diamond in our Queen City for more than 150 years. The Y makes every person it touches a better person. I get to see the best of people every single day and feel so blessed to have this opportunity to serve such a wonderful community.
When I became CEO, however, I never knew just how much this community would matter to me. I never knew that this woman “from away” would be treated with such love, compassion and just pure kindness. Allow me to tell you just how wrong the perception of “from away” truly is.
Nine months ago, I moved my parents to Maine to live with me. These two people have always been the loves of my life, the reason I am who I am today, the greatest of grandparents to my three children and all of their cousins and the supreme example of a loving and committed marriage. George and Doree Dickerson set the bar so high for goodness, kindness, integrity and so much more. They had not just lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, for 70 years, but were pillars of the community. And then they fell in love with Maine, just as I did seven years ago.
Two months ago, I lost my phenomenal dad. Nineteen days later, my incredible mom joined him in heaven. You see, these two people were madly in love for more than 70 years and had only spent three days apart at any given time in their lives. Nineteen days was a lifetime for my mom, and all she wanted was to be with her beloved husband. This loss of my mom and dad has stirred the gravest of sadness inside of me.
The love and support that I have received from friends, my Y staff and board, members of the Y and people all over the state is beyond heart-warming. Ninety percent of these people had never met my parents, yet there was not a day since moving them here that I was not asked by someone “how are your mom and dad doing?” And, since their passing, there has not been a day that I have not been shown such love and support from people from all walks of life in this community.
How blessed we all are to live in a place where this love still exists. How blessed I am that this love shared with a woman “from away” proved my early advisor so wrong. My experience was just the opposite, and my journey from such loss to such love demonstrates that.
We should stop using the term “from away.” It puts a stigma on people that truly isn’t accurate and could keep people from choosing to live in our community. I am so happy it did not dissuade me from choosing to live here.
I may be a fifth generation Nevadan, but my heart lives in Maine. I may not be the true definition of a Mainer, but I know that the genuine Mainers have made me their adopted daughter. For that, I am blessed. This adopted daughter could not be more grateful to this community for taking me on this journey from such loss to such love.
Diane Dickerson is CEO of The Bangor Region YMCA.