Please enjoy following speech delivered by Patricia Estabrook at our 20th Anniversary Pax Britannica Gala & Reception:
This is a love story. It begins with my husband, Ray Estabrook. Shortly before we got married, about 35 years ago, he had a dream. In his dream he saw a plaque that said, “We will love and serve them all.” He asked me, “Can you do that?” I had a son from a previous marriage and I thought he meant that he wanted more children. I was so blinded by love that I said, “Sure!” Little did I know. For 15 years we didn’t have any more children and then we started the Game Loft.
When I first saw all those kids and we didn’t have any money or any time I said to my mother, “What will we do?” And she said, “Just love them.”
When I first saw all those kids and we didn’t have any money or any time I said to my mother, “What will we do?” And she said, “Just love them.” Now I know you can have service without love but you can never have real love without service. And that was the beginning of the Game Loft. We loved the kid whose mother died shredding the family order. We loved the kid whose family moved away and left him. We loved the kid we kicked out 217 days in a row and welcomed back day after day after day. We served the the bullied, the ostracized, the successful, and the struggling and especially we served the isolated. We loved brilliant Carlos as well as clique we called “the vipers.” And we served them all. Soon we had 100 kids, and then 250 and then on and on beyond counting.
About ten years ago we had a kid at the Loft I’ll call Taffy. Taffy was a real pain. Every day kids and staff and volunteers came up to me and said, “There is a limit, and that kid Taffy has crossed it. Get rid of him.” Taffy teased, he stole, he disrupted games, he bragged, he ate everything in the kitchen, he complained, he whined, he drove us nuts. It was “Taffy, no, and Taffy, stop, and Taffy, leave that alone.” All of us, staff, volunteers, kids, parents, everyone, had enough of Taffy. We kicked him out and let him come back, over and over again because loving and serving him was our mission. And we never wanted to see him isolated and alone.
Then one day we got to the end of the school year picnic at City Park. It is a big occasion for kids and parents and it is our Loft “graduation” party. Taffy was about 13 at the time. All day long he got under everybody’s skin. He was pushing, pushing, pushing everybody. The party was no fun. Everybody was asking me to send Taffy home. I explained the rules again and again until I just gave up. I was so mad that I said, “Taffy, get out of my sight, you are driving me crazy!”
And so he did. He went down the hill and sat on a rock by the water with his back to all of us. And I was glad.
I stood there and watched him sitting alone and isolated and all I could think of was that at last he was out of trouble. After a while I called out to him, “O.K. Taffy, you can come in now.” He sat with his back to me looking out toward Islesboro. O.K., I thought, let him sit. And he sat. Then I noticed the tide was coming in. Well, I thought, he’ll come in soon. But he sat. And then the tide was up to his rock. And then it was around his rock. And I called out, “Taffy, it’s time to come in.” And his rock was getting wet and I called, “Taffy please come in.” But he sat. And then I begged, ‘PLEASE come in?” But he sat and the water kept rising and he was alone on his tiny island. And then I got really worried and I said, “Lord, please bring Taffy back to us. We need him.”
And just at that moment Quin Frazier came over and said, “I’ll bring him back.” And Quin walked down the bank, splashed into the water, and sat down next to Taffy on the rock. I was too far away to hear but I think they sat without talking. They were together. And the water rose. It was at their toes, then their ankles, then their knees and I was praying. And then, without a word, Taffy and Quin turned at the same moment, splashed through the water and returned to the gazebo and the party started again.
"The dream of love and service that Ray shared with me had grown. It had grown to the kids in the program, the staff, the parents, the volunteers, and the community."
It was at that moment that I realized something about the Game Loft. The dream of love and service that Ray shared with me had grown. It had grown to the kids in the program, the staff, the parents, the volunteers, and the community. It had grown to Trish who served meals, to Tom and Dallas who run games, to the generous staff who give of themselves every day, to Chuck who defrosts the refrigerator, and to Matt who cleans the stairs. All of them, all of you, love and serve. The dream that Ray had all those years ago has grown to become a community where no one is isolated.
I saw Taffy a month ago. He is a grown man now and lives in another state. He has learned some lessons over the years. He is a member of a community and he volunteers regularly to make sure that no one is isolated or neglected.
And now I want to thank you all for being here. For the love of community you share and the good words you do. Truly you help us love and serve them all.
- Patricia Estabrook