While observing Marian Johnson externally, one would see a beautiful woman with a warm, gentle smile. When Marian humbly shares who she is and how she serves, one is privileged to glimpse her internal beauty. Conversation with her is akin to peering through the viewing aperture of a kaleidoscope and seeing an endless variety of colors and symmetrical forms. Twist the scope… see the jewel tones of a loving mom of two kids. Another turn yields a woman making a positive difference in children’s lives as a schoolteacher. Maneuver the scope past the burst of color of prison ministry and pause…focus on the eclectic array of foster children she has loved and nurtured in all sizes, shapes and colors.
When Marian and her husband moved to Cincinnati as newlyweds, it was just the two of them, as they had no family nearby. They eventually had two children, a lot of love to give and a desire to serve the community. They decided to open their hearts and homes to foster children.
“As a foster parent, I was always looking for beneficial activities to do with kids. I’d search the newspaper and Family Magazine to find enjoyable, educational outings they would not otherwise be exposed to. I worked with Boys and Girls Clubs and the Peaslee Neighborhood Center in Over the Rhine and was able to get some of my foster kids involved with Camp Joy. They always came back saying how much they loved it! They’d be excited about how they felt loved and had so much fun – the ropes courses were highlighted repeatedly as a favorite!”
Currently, Marian is a respite foster parent, helping out other foster parents. Recently, while respite parenting two children, she was – as usual – researching worthwhile things to do together. Enter Camp Joy’s Harvest Fest. Marian’s group stayed the entire day, enjoying the plethora of activities Joy had planned. Marian noted, “It’s far for me to drive, but it’s worth it. I will keep bringing kids to Joy and telling people how wonderful Joy is and how much they love kids and the kids love them!”
When Marian was asked why she goes above and beyond the call of duty – and why she has taken foster children in for 18 years – she reflects, “I won’t just plop them in front of the TV. I want them to learn and have fun and enjoy being a kid. It’s the right thing to do. I know I help them because I expose them to a functioning, safe home. I teach them hygiene skills and coach them to make wise choices. If the agency I work with, the Lighthouse, helps and I help, I know the kids will learn better ways to cope. I encourage them to never give up hope.”
Manipulate that kaleidoscope one final time until your eye rests upon a glowing ruby heart encircled by a halo of golden light. A Neil Diamond melody begins to softly play and you hear his words:
“Turn on your heartlight – let it shine wherever you go,
Let it make a happy glow for all the world to see…”
Marian Johnson could have inspired those lyrics. She has touched the lives of so many with her loving, generous heartlight. Shine on, Marian, and on and on…