Photo credit: Roemmich Lifestyle Photography
Laura Christman, Contributing Writer
Kindness is powerful.
Sharing her life story with some 300 people in Redding, writer Sharon Randall repeatedly underscored the importance of caring for others.
“We are so very different, but in the matters of the heart we can come together,” she said. “Kindness brings us together.”
The popular newspaper columnist’s talk Sept. 22 at David Marr Auditorium was presented by The Women’s Fund of the Shasta Regional Community Foundation. Randall also was featured in two other events organized by The Women’s Fund: a dinner fundraiser with 55 in attendance at The McConnell Foundation on Sept. 21 and a visit with Simpson University and Shasta College students at Simpson University on Sept. 23.
“I could not have hoped for a more rewarding experience for The Women’s Fund, and personally,” Women’s Fund Chair Denise Yergenson said. “Sharon Randall is a wonderful person and a consummate storyteller. I was so honored and proud that she came to our community and supported our organization. This is the largest revenue ever from a single fundraising event for The Women’s Fund endowment.”
During her talk at David Marr, Randall praised The Women’s Fund for helping women and their families. “It’s about abundance of the heart; about good people doing what they can.”
Randall knows from experience how the generosity of others makes a difference. She shared what it was like growing up in North Carolina when an injury sidelined her stepfather from his mill job, making tough times even tougher. Christmas might be a little late that year, her mother warned, perhaps not arriving until spring. But then people from church showed up at their home with a canned ham, tin of cookies and decorated Christmas tree.
“They wished us a Merry Christmas and left,” Randall said.
She recalls her mother saying: “Life is a bank. In good times, you put in all you can. In hard times, you take what you need … We take turns giving and taking. It’s the same bank.”
Many in the audience have known Randall for years but were seeing her for the first time. Her column has a loyal following in Redding, where it is published in the Record Searchlight.
The same humor and heart in Randall’s writing were evident in her talk. She was relaxed and conversational, pausing in the middle of her life story to take several audience questions. She offered updates on her grown children and recounted how she met her first and second husbands.
Randall’s self-syndicated column is published in 36 newspapers throughout the country. She began writing it in 1991 when she was a reporter for the Monterey County Herald. She writes with humor, but doesn’t shy away from heartache. When her husband was diagnosed with cancer in 1994, she shared his four-year battle and death with her readers.
“I never planned to write about cancer, but suddenly there it was and it would not go away,” she said.
Kindness took on new meaning, she told the Redding audience. It came in casseroles, cards and prayers. Readers told her their children were praying for her children.
“Kindness is love in action. Love of God, family, friends, even strangers,” she said.
Randall left the Pacific Grove home she lived in for 35 years to move to Las Vegas after her second husband was offered a newspaper editor job there. Las Vegas wasn’t a place she ever expected to be, but she discovered the desert has a special beauty. When a door opens in life, it’s worth seeing what’s on the other side, she said.
“Life is so very good. That’s my story,” Randall said.
All proceeds from her visit go to The Women’s Fund endowment, ultimately resulting in an increase in dollars available for grants to the community. Sponsors covered costs. They were Donald F. Gallino general contractors, The McConnell Foundation, Record Searchlight, Shasta College Foundation and Shasta Regional Medical Center.
Women’s Fund Cabinet member Bev Stupek, who helped organize the visit and chauffeured Randall from place to place, described the columnist as delightful, gracious and very interested in the mission of The Women’s Fund.
“Sharon is every bit the warm-hearted, compassionate and funny woman she appears to be in her columns,” Stupek said. “She’s an amazing observer of the world around her, insightful and genuinely interested in every person she meets. I guess that’s why we all relate so well to her – she tells the stories of our lives too.”