Last week, we had two very different stories, both inspirational — the type of stories that give you pause and leave you wondering what exactly you have to complain about, and what you’ve done or can do to make your community a better place.
We start with Noelle Lambert, the 20-year-old college student who came back to the Island to thank the EMTs and good Samaritans responsible for her full recovery from a horrific moped accident in 2016.
It would have been easy for Ms. Lambert, a college lacrosse player, to be bitter about what happened to her that summer day on Martha’s Vineyard. She’s just the opposite. She’s funny, engaging, and has a great outlook on life — determined to do the things that she was doing before that collision with a dump truck severed her leg.
“This summer my goal was to get back in shape,” she said at her meeting with EMTs. “Ever since I got my running leg, I’ve been surprising myself. I cut better on my [prosthetic] leg than I do on my other one. I don’t even think about it anymore.”
She fully expects to be back on her team this spring playing lacrosse. Amazing.
Later that week, we were at an event with some other pretty amazing people — the Dunkls. We were in the audience watching as they reluctantly accepted the award for their contributions to the Island community by the Permanent Endowment of Martha’s Vineyard, earning the Ruth Bogan – Ruth Redding Memorial Fund Creative Living Award.
We say reluctantly, because nearly everyone who spoke about the Dunkls said the same thing. They like to be in the background, out of the spotlight, doing their good work.
You look at the Dunkls — Frank, Peter, and Heidi — and it’s easy to pass them over as just another family descended from immigrants. They fit nicely into the woven fabric of Martha’s Vineyard, and that’s just the way they like it.
But if you pass them over, you miss an incredible tale of a compassionate, kind, hard-working trio invested in conservation, culture, and giving back. You miss what really made America great — ingenuity, craftsmanship, thoughtfulness — not the trumped-up slogan of a political campaign.
Just how difficult was it to recognize this family’s good work? Emily Bramhall, executive for the Permanent Endowment, talked about that in introducing them as this year’s winners. She had to come up with convincing information, and, at the end of the day, even do a little arm-twisting to get them to accept the award.
No shameless self-promotion. No endless press releases seeking recognition for their good works. Just humble, behind-the-scenes hard work and ingenuity.
It was great to see the community respond, so many friends crammed into the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs to honor the Dunkls. You could tell they were uneasy about all the attention and the accolades. But by the end of the evening, you could also tell it was all well deserved.
We were struck by something Frank Dunkl told us hours before the event on a visit to The Times office.
“For generations it’s been our family policy to never knowingly hurt people and to help wherever possible,” he said.
Those are pretty good words to live by. Inspirational, even.