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Proctors: A worldly gathering place

By Robin Wiley
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
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It amazes me still how a simple act of kindness can rebound in such an unexpected and divinely sensational way. But this story may curl the hair on even the baldest head!

When a passionate architect who had recently visited Proctors requested a tour for his wife prior to Sunday's performance of "Fiddler on the Roof," I hesitated -– but for only a second. Could I comply with this request and still make my hair appointment and movie plans? I decided not to forgo a chance to witness a theatre enthusiast experience Proctors for the first time, so with a shift of my plans, we agreed to meet at noon.

The couple brought a guest, another theatre buff from Florida. He identified himself as a Navy SEAL, temporarily stationed in Pennsylvania. Interestingly, he had been in the cast of "Fiddler on the Roof" while in college.

As we wound in and out of the hundreds of people patronizing the bustling Schenectady Green Market that takes place at Proctors during winter months, alternating giant-screen film showings and the 2,700 people gathered to see "Fiddler," my guests could see that Proctors had truly become a significant community gathering place. Little did I realize just how huge that community was! We ended our tour with a glass of wine in the Delack Guild Room. That is when I received one of the most wonderful surprises of my life!

While relaxing before the show, the Navy SEAL mentioned that he had participated in a piracy mission off the coast of East Africa. I told him I had grown up there, in Mogadishu, (aka Mogadiscio), Somalia. Long before the American military arrived in Somalia, government diplomats like my father were there working on the Foreign Aid Program. It caught him by surprise.

"Where did you live?" he asked.

"In Lido Compound," I responded.

"Which house?"

"The one on the right, just inside the guard gate," I said.

"Which bedroom was yours?"

"The last one on the left,” I answered with some hesitation. “My back window faced the Indian Ocean, and my side window faced the guard gate."

"That was our commanding officers office!" he informed me. "I've had many meetings in your bedroom!"

If you have seen the film "Gone With the Wind," you might comprehend the emotions that coursed through me. Trying to stay "in character" as a professional representing Proctors was out of the question. I stood there, hands trembling, heart racing and tears flowing down my cheeks.

The American military had set up camp in my childhood home; one I had not been able to revisit since leaving in my young teens, and yet here on the other side of the world, at Proctors, stood a man who had attended military debriefings in my bedroom!

He'd seen my favorite places, the ones that only lived in my memories: the tree outside my sister's window where I spied on neighbors from my fort; the sand dunes and caves where I played and swam; our tennis court that doubled as an outdoor theatre at night.

In those moments, through a purely coincidental encounter in an embracing gathering place called Proctors, I relived my youth -- with a stranger from another place and time. A stranger, but now a friend, who really understood.

Robin Wiley is the director of corporate relations at Proctors. She uses her marketing background to help her sponsors gain strong returns on their investments in Proctors. Robin can be reached at 518-382-3884, x115.

To learn even more about Proctors, visit www.Proctors.org or click HERE.

 
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