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BRODY: Who are we to judge what makes someone different?

Her name is MaVynee Betsch and I am proud to call her my friend. 

She is the color of cinnamon, and she glistens as if sprinkled with damp sugar. 

Her hair is a 10-pound bundle of dreadlocks, which she carries, twisted on her hip. 

It made me think of an umbilical cord connecting her with the Mother Earth she so adores.

She stood in the doorway of her bus home beckoning us inside, she in a brilliantly colorful long dress draped around her tall slim body and with sandals on her slim brown feet.

She moved like a cat, urging us to enter a space that was floor-to-ceiling with books, pamphlets, petitions, pictures of animals and children, and I was immediately drawn to her as I listened to her clear melodic voice and looked at her smile, which radiated love and genuine pleasure to have us there.

We were not there by accident. 

My son cut out and sent to us a feature article in the Orlando Sentinel newspaper about this woman, MaVynee Betsch, who lived at American Beach, a small enclave on Amelia Island. 

It consists of a mere 200 acres flanked on either side by swank condos and million-dollar mansions, the population consists entirely of black people. 

Most important it is a legacy, one that MaVynee is devoting her life to keeping alive. 

Why? Well her great grandfather bought the first piece of property there in 1935, and because she believed in preserving black heritage, she intends to spend the rest of her life seeing to it that developers do not swallow it up and turn it into more playgrounds. 

It is just one of her causes.

She’s a devout animal lover, a pacifier and lover of peace, a vegetarian and defender of children. 

She graduated from Oberlin College in 1955, and spent 10 years in Europe as an opera diva and classical dancer.

Then she got very sick with colon cancer just like her mother. 

But instead of treatment and surgeries, she came home to American Beach, changed her diet and her lifestyle. She bathed in the salt water of the ocean and breathed in sea breezes.

She has not been to a doctor since, and if clear skin, sparkling eyes, erect posture, joyful attitude and endless energy are any sign of wellness, then she is totally well today.

In the newspaper article there was a hint that she was unusual. 

I suppose by normal standards, she is different, but I can tell you I came away from my visit with her not questioning MaVynee’s differences but rather, questioning how we judge differences in the first place.

Here’s a woman who knows what she believes, someone with the highest sense of ethics and morality for all life, the education and poise and intelligence to articulate these feelings and the energy and dedication to live what she preaches. Now you tell me that is different.

Her rock is reverence for all life. I know she would never pull rank or feel superior to another because she simply doesn’t need to.

Materialism and the need to own things doesn’t seem to be in her experience at all. 

She has just made her life a living statement of what she believes. 

She has written an opera, books and articles and gives lectures whenever asked.

I get the feeling that, though I’ve only spent time with her once, that I could trust her with my life. In fact, I hope to make her a part of my life and a part of yours through my words.

The view from the mountain is wondrous.


Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in The Sun for more than 25 years.