"Outreach Happens."

Barbara J. Meese Memorial Fountain

How can you accurately encompass Barbara Meese in a few minutes time? Really you can't. You can't take something bright and beautiful and effervescent and lay it out on paper. And when I really think about it, everything that I would want to share with you about Barbara would have to be elegantly crafted and articulated and just simply perfect because that is who she was to me. Barbara was perfect and beautiful and bright and inspirational and a million other adjectives that still won't even come close to doing her any form of justice.

It's funny you never really know where you are going to be when something great begins, when someone steps into your life, even if it's just for a moment. But, when that moment begins it's the start of something amazing and most of the time you don't even know it, but it's already happening, it's opening up right in front of you.

I remember the moment I met Barbara for the first time, I can close my eyes and picture it exactly as it was six years ago. I was 18 and got a job working for her in the Outreach Department at Cuyamaca College. The first things that I learned about Barbara were the following: everyone loved her, she has this amazing Christian faith, she had more energy and spunk than your average eighteen year old, an amazing quick wit and sense of humor, an intense love for people, for her close friends and family, she had this way of making you feel so loved and wanted and appreciated, she was a stickler for her employee's being on time and being dressed conservatively, I learned that one real fast, and she was probably the most honest and blunt person I have ever met. If Barb started a sentence with the phrase, “can I be honest with you about something,” you better brace yourself.

I spent the summer after high school graduation working everyday with Barbara. She had this amazing ability of turning a work day that consisted of 10 hours of stuffing fifteen thousand envelopes into an afternoon full of, “what would you do if” questions and get to know you games. I don't think one day went by that summer in which I wasn't overly excited to go to work because I knew that Barb and I would talk about a thousand different things throughout the day and I would get to know this amazing lady a little more.

We continued to do that each morning for the next six years. I started every day off by coming into her office and just talking, before work even began. We would talk about our lives, hopes, dreams, fears, mundane daily annoyances or cute guys, we would talk about our families, friends, anything. For the first time in my life I was genuinely opening up to someone, and an adult of all people. The reason I could so freely talk to Barb about anything was because she was one of the few people that would really genuinely just listen. If I had a problem we would sit down and fix it together. Barbara pulled me through some of the most difficult years of my life.

But Barbara pushed me too, when I messed up a work and she reprimanded me for doing so,I think I took it harder than I did when my own mother or father came down on me for doing something I shouldn't have. Being with her almost everyday and watching her interact with people with such grace and energy and love, it made me want to be just like her. I wanted to love life, to love the moment as much as she did, I wanted to laugh the way she did, to be free the way she was, to be honest and upfront, to never let something I believed in fall by the wayside, I wanted to enjoy my work the way she so passionately enjoyed working in Outreach.

Barbara taught me how to embrace each second of the day as if it was a true gift from God, she helped me find my faith again after I had lost it for years, she taught me how to be a leader, a self starter, and motivated. She embraced my creativity and forced me to use it every way I could, she pushed me to push myself, she taught me the importance of being on time, professional, prepared, and of course always accenting your outfit with the perfect jewelry and shoes. Barbara taught me how to manage my time, and even though she pushed me to succeed she always wanted me to make sure that I didn't have too much on my plate. She always told me that school came first and if I needed a day or two off during a really tuff week of midterms or finals she offered before I even had to ask.

A little over a year and a half ago when I was left with an Outreach Department and no Barbara, and after I recovered from the shock of it all, everything just started to come so easy to me. If it wasn't for all those lessons, and talks, and corrective criticisms then honestly I wouldn't have made it. Everything I am today personally and professionally is really mostly because of her, yeah a little bit of me is in there too, Barb wouldn't want to take all the credit. And when I look back I think about all those times, and there were so many of them when she would just sit me down and tell me, you know this job, and everything about it, and everything that I tell you and teach you, I am just preparing you for the real world, I preparing you for the rest of your life. She was right.

The fact is she was the most faithful person I had ever met. The fact is she never ONCE felt sorry for herself. Right up until the end she was always asking me if I was okay. I know in my heart something will always be missing, Barbara cannot even come close to being replaced, but yet I find this comfort in knowing that she was so wiling and giving and strong to her faith in God. I find this comfort in knowing that she is not bitter, she is not mad, she has accepted that this rain that has fallen upon her now, this cancer, this unstoppable fate, this was Gods way of letting her know that he trusts her to be strong, and in turn to prove that I am strong too, that all of you are strong as well. Barbara always told me, you have to remember that God isn't going to give you something that you and Him can't handle together.

And through this she can inspire the uninspired, restore faith to those other who might have lost it, she has shown that even when something of this magnitude happens, encompassing this much pain, we just need to take a moment, a deep breath, close our eyes and find comfort and appreciation in the past. We should look back find warmth in our memories, in our collection of moments with Barbara. And in the present and the future we need to carry her in our hearts, in our thoughts, we need to use her as a muse to be as loving and inspirational and as caring as she was. We need to enjoy each moment and each second of what we have, and who we have.

The moment I walked into her office six years ago I hadn't the slightest clue how drastically things were about to change, I had no idea what was set into motion, what was opening up right in front of me. I had no idea that our relationship would become what it did. And all I can think of now is that I am so blessed to have had my moment with her. I thank God for that.

-Jennifer Abel