Mad for…Irene

Be the living of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile. St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Today is the feast day of Mother Teresa. To me, she is a great model of selflessness and humility. People of all faiths came to see her as an example of goodness and service to others. As I was thinking about her today, I decided I wanted to share with you a bit about a pretty terrific and remarkable woman who shares many of these qualities. Her name is Irene Beck.

Irene is the much beloved grandmother of my two nieces, Maddie and Ellie. She’s the mother-in-law of my only sibling, Robin, who married into the Beck family. My first real extended exposure to Irene was when my two oldest boys were very young. They invited us to visit with the entire Beck clan in Galena, Illinois for a couple of nights. We were so gotten by the welcome Irene showered on our boys that I don’t think I’m quite over it even now. She had all sorts of toys and fun little boy activities to entertain Nick and Drew, who were quite young at the time. Let’s keep in mind, she didn’t then and still doesn’t have any grandsons! Her focus was on making sure that our little family felt welcomed with open arms, and in that she succeeded! Every single interaction I’ve had with her since then has been equally notable. She’s a gifted communicator, authentic and genuinely caring woman who never fails to shine light on others with her compassionate and inclusive personality.

As I’ve shared previously in this column, Bill and Irene Beck are phenomenal humans in copious ways. For instance, they run a charitable trust that is committed to helping those in need. Depaul University (Irene’s alma mater), multiple community food pantries, schools serving low-income youth, and many other worthy charities have been recipients of their generosity. I could write a plethora of articles about the way they contribute positively and make a difference for others by the way they live their lives.

However, today I want to share something more personal. My only sister lives a few hours away. It’s a bummer of the highest order!! I don’t get to see Robin, Chris and their girls as often as I’d like. When Robin started struggling with her health some time back, I worried. When she needed to move out of her home to a more allergy-free environment for a while, Irene didn’t hesitate. Bill and “I” took her in– which meant having the whole family in the city with them. It’s hard for me to be far away sometimes, but it was such a relief to know that the great Robino was safe and breathing easier in Chicago under their watchful eye, being loved up.

Irene is a proud New York native and a very involved grandmother. She is stunningly present for my nieces. Thoughtful, sunny, and always wearing the brightest smile, this is a woman who knows how important it is to be plugged in to the lives of those around her. She never tries to attract attention to herself, but in much the same way as Mother Teresa did, she shines so brightly that one simply cannot fail to spot her awesomeness. Today, I wanted to take a moment to thank Irene, and point out to my little corner of the world what a brilliant example she is of what the face of kindness looks like. I am grateful to know you, Irene!!

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