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Sep. 19

Raynia Kinniston… “Points of Light” Volunteer Royalty

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Today’s post is written by Shawn Anderson, five-time author, corporate trainer and national speaker on the topics of “possibility thinking and creating opportunity.”  He is also the Founder of the Extra Mile America Foundation, a non-profit organization that will lead the charge in motivating 200 mayors in all 50 states to declare November 1, 2011 as “Extra Mile Day”…a day to recognize those in the local community going the extra mile.

When “Royals” fever struck the nation earlier this year, it was hard to miss a headline about the Royals somewhere. On TV, on magazine covers at the grocery store…the Royal newlyweds were everywhere! But if ever there were a true “Points of Light” Royal who deserves the same sort of amazing attention, it would be the 97 year-old Royal Wonder who has been volunteering and serving at the exact same place for the last 51 years.

Meet “Points of Light” Royal, Raynia Kinniston.

Although those who are privileged to meet Raynia today might not be obligated to bow or curtsy as protocol would dictate when you meet a Royal…we really should. Seriously… for those who are passionate about service and volunteerism… meeting somebody who has led the way by serving at the same organization for 48,000+ hours is a true honor.

Need some help with the math? What does 48,000 hours really mean?

48,000 hours… divided by 8 hours a day… equals 6,000 work days… divided by 260 days (average number of work days in a year)… and you have 23 years.

That’s right. If volunteering was Raynia’s full-time, 40 hour a week job, she would be celebrating her 23rd job anniversary this year. Now that deserves a “Wow!”

When it comes to truly shining in service and volunteerism, I have met no one in my life who has consistently shined brighter than Raynia. Since 1960, Mercy Hospital in Sacramento has proudly had the honor of witnessing a remarkable woman… serve a remarkable amount of time… with a remarkable spirit.

Just three years short of age 100, Raynia continues to volunteer three days a week at the hospital’s emergency room, front desk and gift shop. It has only been in the last couple of years that somebody has needed to drive her to her volunteer position. Even past the age of  95, Raynia would travel independently catching a 6:10 A.M. bus, then hop on a connecting train, arriving at the hospital to smile and spread positive cheer.

Sure, it’s easy to be impressed by the fact she is 97, has volunteered at the same place for 51 years, and is still going strong. We should all be so blessed… and motivated. However, what I found most impressive about Raynia when I initially met her in 2009 was something entirely different. It wasn't her age or years of service.  It was her story about why she chose Mercy Hospital.

You see, Raynia Kinniston has ended up working so long and unselfishly at the hospital because she just flat out loves life. We all know hospitals are often considered the beginning, and often, too, the ending of the most precious and beautiful of all gifts - life itself.

Raynia knows this. She has lived it.

At the same hospital where she volunteers, she has experienced life’s happy moments at the highest of levels; her son and two grandchildren were born there. In this same place, Raynia also experienced life’s most bitter and sad moments; this is where she was when she got the news that her son had died. Her husband, too. This hospital, this specific location, this special place where life begins and ends for so many was also the place where so many of her friends and neighbors had found their very best days… and their very worst days.

It all happened here. At Mercy Hospital.

She says: “I just want to be here with people when they get their news. I just want to support people in what they are experiencing.”

Raynia Kinniston, a Royal of a human being, models for me how great life can be when we have a passionate purpose. Raynia knows life. She knows how to embrace it. She knows how to treasure life and hold on to it with every fiber of her being.

And even more importantly, she helps others do the same.

PS: Three months after finishing my search across the country for “Extra Mile Americans”…I had the privilege of spending time with Raynia again. After that second meeting, she sent me a card which still sits on my coffee table in Marina del Rey. It is there as an accountability reminder of how life is supposed to be lived. The card reads, “I shall never forget you, Shawn.” But as you can see, “It’s you, Raynia, whom I will never forget.”

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