Donna Reed is a retired speech/language pathologist in the Champaign schools and a part-time English As A Second Language instructor at Parkland Community College. And that isn’t even an ounce of the amazing work Donna has done in this community: Character Counts of Champaign County member, Leadershape Institute leader/coordinator, Illinois’ Random Acts of Kindness coordinator, professional storyteller, appeared onstage with C-U Community Theatre, National Board of Professiona Teacher’s Standards recipient, has written for the News-Gazette “Voices” column, and just recently released her first book, My Voice, essays on the warm and funny moments of life.
What are you grateful for today?
Laughter. There’s nothing that makes me feel any better! I think it’s in my DNA, because my dad always found a way to show me the positive side of life. We all go through hard times, and none of us is exempt from sorrow and tragedies, but if we can find laughter just around the corner, it makes life a whole lot better.
Tell us about one of your friends and what you love about her.
Cheryl is my best friend. She grounds me. We have history. We met in grade school and have been a part of each other’s lives ever since. Whether it was falling in love or out, a wedding, a birth, a death… we’ve been there for each other through it all. She is a life-long learner, and her curiosity about life continues to amaze me. Just when I am done admiring a leaf, she reminds me to look at the backside.
Describe one of the best days of your life.
The birth of our son. A child changes you. I never knew just how much, and then I did, and I think I became a better teacher, friend, daughter, person. Having a child makes you stop and look at the bigger picture. (Of course you can’t stop for long, because you have never been so busy, and there is always one more thing to do!) Only through living these wonderful years do I realize how important this has all been. While you love your children and teach them life lessons, they change your life forever, and you become more than you ever thought you could be.
What’s the best lesson you learned from your mother/grandmother?
From my loving grandmother, Marie Boyer, I learned through example that there is always room at the table for one more. From my sweet mom, Marie Mankey, I learned that if you always look for the best in another person, you will always find it.
We’re all unique. What is your special gift?
I think I’m a good communicator, and I believe the most important thing about which to communicate is a person’s relationship with others. Whether I am teaching children or my college kids, building that relationship with each individual comes before the English lesson. As a writer, I enjoy expressing the humor in relationships as well as writing about aspects of relationships that touch the heart.
What could women be doing to make their community a better place?
It all starts at home in order to make the broader community a better place. Women can make sure the family sits down together at the table and shares the evening meal or lunch, or breakfast… whatever works for the individual family. There is so much that can come from that one simple act. Women can make this happen.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
I would travel throughout the US and elsewhere on a lark. I can’t seem to let go of the planner in me…when will we arrive, what will we need and what will we do when we get there, where will we stay, and it just goes on and on! Yes, I would just take off and go!