Flourishing in the atmosphere of love
An Interview with Cindy Pritchard and Liz Murray
by Julie Finnin Day
RVRN Executive Director
2022 Family Enrichment Program at the A/U Ranches’ 100 Elk Outdoor Center. The late fall air was cool in the shade, as families slowly arrived for the program. Cindy Pritchard arrived with her sister, Liz Murray, who lives in Buena Vista.
Clearly, Cindy had been waiting for this moment. She leaned in with a smile and said, “Wanna see something?”
“Sure!” I said.
Cindy let out a little shimmy. “Tina Turner–‘Proud Mary,’” she added gleefully, referring to one of Turner’s signature song-and dance moves. Cindy could not contain her excitement for the days ahead. RVRN’s Family Enrichment Program is one week out of the year when she can leave the world behind and join fellow Christian Scientists in an atmosphere of joy, acceptance, and spiritual uplift.
“It carries her the whole year,” says her sister, Liz.
When Cindy was a child growing up in Pasadena, Texas, “the school said, ‘Oh, she’s never going to be able to do that’”—about everything—says her sister, Liz. “Our parents just never accepted that.” Yet, in those days, Liz says, there was nothing like RVRN for her sister and family. “I wish RVRN activities would have been available then. To have this as a younger person” would have meant a great deal.
While today there are many social services available to those with developmental special needs, Cindy has always succeeded with the support of her loving family, Christian Science church, and her own skills and talents. Because of this support, she’s never needed to rely on disability pay or services.
Cindy now resides south of Houston in Friendswood, Texas, where she has her own apartment, drives a car, and works full time as a greeter at Walmart. “I’m a hostess. Everybody loves me,” she says. Cindy will mark her 17-year work anniversary in July, and is looking forward to retirement in the near future.
In those many years, Cindy has greeted literally thousands of Walmart customers and she is well known around town. While she has many friends, some people can be cruel, too. They tease her and make unkind comments. Cindy relies on God, and on support from Liz. “When I call [Liz]—when I’m stressed out or if I’m hurt—she’s always there to pray for me. She’s so sweet!” Cindy says, tearing up.
The first year Cindy attended RVRN’s family program, the metaphysical speaker asked the participants to name some of their favorite superheroes. Cindy’s was Wonder Woman. The speaker went on to tell them that they each have a superpower that they can call on. That has really stuck with Cindy. “There’s something about [Wonder Woman] I love,” Cindy says in her sweet Texas drawl. “I guess it’s how she’d fight off the bullets” with her deflective golden wristbands. “You don’t get mad,” Cindy explains. “Just treat everybody equal. In my work, you have to know the truth about them.”
Attending RVRN’s camp session with other Christian Scientists has been “life-changing,” says Liz. “Just being tin the environment with such supportive and caring staff-—and no judgement or ridicule—is indescribable. It carries her through the year.”
At last fall’s session, Cindy enjoyed canoeing, cooking, painting pottery, and adaptive horseback riding. A highlight of the week, however, was karaoke in Valerie Lodge where she and her fellow participants took turns singing their favorite songs in front of a screen, as music blared from the sound system.
“That’s what’s so great about camp,” says Liz. “You can go up there and just totally be yourself—and everyone’s behind you. It was Rebecca [Creighton, RVRN’s Program Director] who said, ‘Cindy, what’s your favorite song?’ And Cindy said, ‘Tina Turner.’ Rebecca said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ And Cindy says, ‘Oh no, no, I don’t want to.’ But Rebecca said, ‘What if I do it with you?’ To have someone who would jump up and do that. How many adults would do that?” (“None,” quips Cindy.) “And Rebecca has some moves!” Liz laughs, adding: “Rebecca has the ability to make each one of those participants feel so special.”
“What these participants gain from the RVRN camp experience is truly beyond—beyond—anything they’re getting any place else,” Liz reflects. “I know it’s one week of the whole year—but Cindy talks about it all year, and she can draw on that experience. When she returns from camp, family members notice a difference. Our sister-in-law has observed that she has more self-esteem.”
Cindy adds: “When I come back [and go to work at Walmart], I do have a whole lot of esteem. I don’t let anybody get to me. If I take something [negative] in… I say ‘Nope! It’s not gonna bother me.’ That’s where I think that super power kicks in, inside.”
“She’ll call me and say, ‘I kicked in my superpower,’” says Liz. “People can be cruel. And to say, ‘You just cannot touch me,’” Liz says, thinking for a moment and then adding: “‘Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you’” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 571).
“Being in that atmosphere of love at the RVRN program—I just can’t say enough,” she adds. “It’s hard to put into words how much it has helped Cindy.”