Mrs. Vermont and the Hungry Heart

Hannah Kirkpatrick – Mrs. Vermont

Dear Mrs. Vermont:

I have to confess it has been a really long time since I paid much if any attention to beauty pageants or frankly, beauty pageant winners.  I don’t get the point.

We “met” each other Friday night at the Burlington premiere of The Hungry Heart.   (Met as in you said hello to me and hundreds of other people entering the theatre.)  I thought it odd that Mrs. Vermont would be at a movie premiere, but then again, I’m still not totally sure what Mrs. AnystateUSA does as part of wearing that crown.  And why this movie?

The Hungry Heart focuses its lens on St. Albans and Franklin County in Northern Vermont.  More specifically it focuses on the journey of addiction of a number of community residents and the unrelenting commitment and love of Dr. Fred Holmes, a man who started his career as a pediatrician, and retired as the last link to salvation for many of his patients.

The movie paints a profound and heart wrenching picture of the complexity of the prescription drug crisis, and while the focus is on a small area in rural Vermont, the impacts touch all corners of the state and the country.  The distressing reality is that this could likely have been filmed in any one of a thousand locations across the US, with similar stories of survival, success, failure, and heartache.  This is a resonating point the producer sent me away to think through.

But it wasn’t filmed anywhere else.  It was Made in Vermont.

And so that’s why Mrs. Vermont, you decided to come to the premiere.  Right?

Before the movie started, the producer, Bess O’Brien, spent some time thanking the benefactors.  She invited the dignitaries up on stage to say a few words, and there you were.  Like it of not, I was going to find out a bit about Mrs. Vermont and why you were at the premiere.

You stepped to the microphone.   Even when I’m ready, I take crappy notes, and I was not ready at all for what you said so my account of your talk is sparse.

You said you were in recovery.  You alluded to the struggles you went through and the support your family gave you.  And shortly into your talk, you fumbled your words ever so slightly.  You stopped.  You started again, and told us that you just reached your four-year anniversary of being clean.

Mrs. Vermont, that is not what I expected.

It’s Sunday.  I spent some time over the past day thinking about you and your sixty seconds or so on the stage.  I fixed myself on your verbal stumble, with what you wanted to say.  I did so not because of the trip over the words, but because of how you recovered.  And I can’t help but think about how impactful that was to every person that was in the theater.  It’s not a straight line.

The stumble meant nothing.  The recovery meant everything.

Mrs. Vermont’s name is Hannah Kirkpatrick.

So Hannah, if I may call you that, I now get the point.  Thanks for being at the show.  And thanks for the work you are doing, and the work that you will do.




observationally yours

2 thoughts on “Mrs. Vermont and the Hungry Heart

  1. Reblogged this on Hannah Kirkpatrick and commented:
    Dear Observationally Yours (may I call you “Matt”?),

    It is with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat that I digest your post about me. I must admit, my heart raced in uncomfortable anticipation of what the next person might have to say about the “beauty queen”…the well-worn pre-judgement, perhaps, or misinterpretation, or underestimation?

    Like you, I was pleasantly surprised. First, you are an enviable writer. Frank, succinct, heart-driven. Second, I feel “heard” by you. Not that my speaking at this event was about “me” – it truly wasn’t – but since I put myself out there to a packed theatre of my neighbors with my darkest vulnerabilities, it’s nice to not be torn down at least. Thanks

    In reflection, Matt, your post represents what I love most about the recovery community. We are all bonded by our greatest weaknesses. Not our strengths, our glories, or our egos, but by our struggles, and our victories over a darkness that could have consumed us, and always lurks. There is an invisible string connecting every one of us heart to heart, and I believe that web is woven of COURAGE. The courage it takes to get down on our knees, to ask for help. The courage it takes to dig deep and makes the changes necessary to give us a brand new life. Finally, if we are among the lucky ones, the courage it takes to turn around to our communities, to extend a hand and offer a little hope to others, “I’ve been there, too. Hang in there. You are worth it.”

    So Matt, thanks for acknowledging all of me, stumbles included. (Should I not edit that part out of the recap video?!) Thanks for describing so succinctly,

    “The stumble meant nothing. The recovery meant everything.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head…that’s what this recovery thing is all about.

    My very best,
    You may call me Hannah

    • Dear Hannah – Thanks so much for the comment and again, for all the work and inspiration you bring. You’re impacting a lot of people because of your willingness to be out there. That’s not lost on me or any of the other people that have the pleasure of meeting you or hearing you speak.

      As for editing the video…I wouldn’t change a thing.


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