JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Have you ever met someone who seems to have a song in their heart—no matter what kind of day it is? Chances are March's Gr8 Acts of Kindness winner wrote the melody.
Missy "MeMe" Murray's heart has had its share of struggles – but it beats strong for her kids.
"Twenty-five cents... thank you, honey," Missy Murray, or "MeMe" as the children call her, counts money at the MicroSociety Mini-Mart. Murray loves the students. "One quarter. Everything here is 50 cents," Murray attempts to help young shoppers make their selections. "Everything over here is two dollars."
The students are so valuable to her that Murray volunteers every week, and really whenever the school needs her.
"I love this faculty and these children," Murray said. "This is just my heart." And the perfect place to surprise her with the Gr8 Acts of Kindness award.
"Does the line start here?" I asked as I led a line of First Community Bank staffers, Jonesboro Public School administration officials down a hallway to find Murray working at the Micro Mini-Mart.
"This is a very special day because I have brought several of your friends and my friends," I tell Murray. She looks up to see everyone come into the room. "Oh, no!" Murray shrieks.
"You have given so much of your time to these young people to ensure that they are successful," I said to Murray.
"Oh, I love these babies!" Murray said.
"And that's why you are the next winner in the Gr8 Acts of Kindness," I announced and the room erupts with applause for the woman who stands blushing in front of them.
"She has filled many different roles over the years," Kathy Holler said. "She has been a buddy to little people struggling with dysfunctional homes. She has tutored children to help them feel the satisfaction of really learning something that challenges them."
Holler nominated Murray for the Gr8 Acts of Kindness award.
With the award, comes cash! "300, 400, 405, 406, 407, 408 dollars," we count out into the palm of Murray's hand. Money well-deserved for a volunteer who goes above and beyond.
"Congratulations!," Allen Williams, First Community Bank Community President said.
Murray hugs him. "Thank you so much," she said wiping away tears. She turns around shocked to see another friend.
"Mr. Clay! Mr. Clay," Murray said. "This is such a nice honor for a very deserving gal," he said as she hugged him.
"She's really an unsung hero," Dr. Kim Wilbanks, Jonesboro Public Schools superintendent said. "She never wants credit. She never wants any attention."
"She has a true servant's heart," Amanda Turner, MicroSociety principal said. "If she is not making someone smile, she is looking for ways to brighten their day. Whether it's talking to them to make their day better or if they're not starting off on a great day or whether that's helping a staff member in grading papers, making copies, laminating. She's just always busy."
Murray is busy helping students and adults in her church's Celebrate Recovery program.
"I started working around here in Jonesboro with CRDC with the state rehab office," Murray said. "I was with the Jonesboro School system for a while as the substance abuse counselor at the Alternative School under Anne Smith."
But her work with children began much earlier.
"Sometime in this past year, Missy and I were at the McDonald's by the high school drinking tea and just visiting. School had just ended for the day so there were several kids coming in the restaurant," Kathy Holler said. "I watched a group of about 4 or 5 young men come in the door and instead of heading for the counter to order, they came toward our booth. Missy had her back to them so she had not seen them. I had no idea who they were but as they got closer to us, I heard these words from more than one of them, "Mimi! We haven't seen you in years! How are you, Mimi? We are so glad to see you!" By this time they had her up out of the booth and were smothering her with hugs and laughter! I just sat in amazement as she began calling each of them by name and asking about their little brothers and sisters (again, by name) and listening to them as they told her about their families and what was going on in their lives.She had not seen these boys since grade school... yet she still remembered their names... and they remembered her. That only happens when people matter to each other, and it was so obvious that they mattered to Missy and she to them."
A native of Waverly, Tennessee, Missy grew up friends with country music singer Loretta Lynn's daughter.
"To know Loretta Lynn," Murray said. "She's just the sweetest person in the world!"
Missy and Lynn's daughter, Sissy, were in school together.
"We were against each other to be harvest festival queens in junior high at Waverly and I won," Murray said. "I felt bad about it because Sissy and I were friends. Miss Loretta stood and clapped for me."
But, Missy's struggles in life had just begun. Her father had died. She landed a scholarship to pay for college, but eventually came back home.
"Finishing my degree at Memphis State and fell in love with a little community outside of Memphis called Somerville, TN.," Murray said. "Third poorest county in the nation. I started teaching out there and enjoyed it tremendously."
Missy went on to teach in inner-city Memphis.
"A lot of my kids would have parents, brothers, and sisters that were involved in drugs and alcohol," Murray explained. Her own brother struggled with these issues. So she decided to take her education further. "I decided to go back like at the age of 35 and get my Master's degree in rehab counseling and start doing what I could to make a difference with people who have substance abuse problems in their family," Murray said. She began to dig in and turn lives around.
"And then I got sick," Murray said.
Doctors said she needed a heart transplant and she was put on a waiting list.
"I was working my way up and diabetes set in," Murray said.
Missy never got her heart transplant—but you'd never know with how she lives her life. Her heart beats stronger than ever to help others.