By Sherry Larson
When Mary Ellen Meyer hugs Eydie Kirk, Eydie says, “Your hugs make all my broken pieces go back together.” What a beautiful word picture – like mosaic art finding its way home. Then again, Mary Ellen Meyer is a beautiful person. And after receiving one of her famous hugs, I can attest to the healing power known as unconditional love.
Mary Ellen comes from a large family with six sisters and four brothers, and she continues to make time and space for new friends. Why? She says, “Because I get blessed, and they get blessed.” Mary Ellen loves to share her love for Jesus and wants to be sure everyone knows it’s Him who gets the glory. Besides her infectious smile and warm hugs, she loves to pray for and with people. She is also known for serendipitous gifts and thoughtful “thinking of you” notes. She explained that she doesn’t often know the situation when she feels led to reach out to someone with love, she just knows it’s the right time to act. Folks on Mary Ellen’s receiving end often tell her that her gestures “mean more than she will ever know.”
Her testimony has caused many people to notify the People’s Defender to inform us about Mary Ellen’s kind heart. It’s no wonder her boss Gus Herrington from Dollar General refers to her as “heaven sent.” He shared, “We don’t know what we would do without her.” Co-worker Gary Graham echoes, “She’s a very sweet girl.” Sandra Mullet, who also works with Mary Ellen, said, “She’s absolutely awesome, and if there is a better word to describe her than awesome – then she is that word!”
Many folks tell Mary Ellen that she is like an angel on earth, and she responds, “I don’t know about that, but I like to make people happy and blessed and give the glory to God. It’s not me – it’s what He is doing in me and through me.” She expounds on her love for giving gifts, flowers, and hugs.
Mary Ellen has worked for Dollar General for the past 10 years, starting in Georgetown before moving to West Union. She tries her best to let customers know that Jesus loves them and says, “I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus.” Last year a woman attempted to rob Dollar General while holding Mary Ellen at knifepoint. Mary Ellen was unharmed in the incident, but she did refuse to give the woman any money and deterred her long enough that people came in, and the would-be robber ran away. After a couple of days off, Mary Ellen was back to work. She stated, “I had a great support system, and my boss is very protective.”
Amy Queen is one of the individuals who first told us Mary Ellen would make a phenomenal story. Mary Ellen said that she met Amy on an Emmaus Walk. Queen said, “We are Emmaus Sisters. My name for Mary Ellen is ‘Sweet One.’” Winter Dryden is another of Mary Ellen’s Emmaus Sisters. She shares, “Mary Ellen is a ray of sunshine wherever she goes.”
Mary Ellen has many friends and wants to share about a few. She is incredibly fond of her friend, Yen. Mary Ellen said, “She’s very close to me – like a sister.” She shared stories about other friends like Missy and how their meeting was a “God thing.” She met Christine at Walmart and took her for a birthday dinner at Dairy Queen. Mary Ellen didn’t know that her new friend was going through a difficult time, but when Christine read Mary Ellen’s heartfelt birthday message, it made her cry. She said, “So I hugged her, and we just talked. She’s very special to me.”
Mary Ellen’s friend Teresa is someone she has known for a long time. She ran into her recently, and Teresa was having a bad day, so Mary Ellen gave her flowers – and yes – there were tears again. Mary Ellen explains, “I didn’t know who I was going to bless at the time. I just want to be at the right place and time. I want to be used by God to touch other people’s life when they are down.” Laura is another friend Mary Ellen met at Church 180 and decided to gift her with flowers one day when she saw her in Walmart. That meeting led to prayer and another wonderful friendship. And there’s Mary Lou, who Mary Ellen loves like a mother; she said, “I can always count on her being there.”
Mary Ellen is thankful for all her family, her pastor Mike Parks and his wife Talitha, friends, and co-workers. She shared how her church family blesses her. After Mary Ellen attended church for less than a year, Talitha Parks planned a special Valentine’s surprise for her following the church service. She said, “It was very amazing – like a total shock and surprise. People from the church were blessing me, and I broke down. It was a good breakdown. It was heartfelt and very touching.”
Mary Ellen is also renowned for taking selfies with friends old and new. I was a recipient of one of those cheerful photos after this interview. Later we became Facebook friends, and I’ve enjoyed loads of smiles through the pictures that she’s displayed. One lucky selfie subject was the Defender’s Amber Dryden Grooms, who has often said she believes Mary Ellen to be “an angel.”
And then there were tears from Mary Ellen as she said, “I want people to know I care.” She said, “Tell me you love me when you see me. The best thing to me is when they come up to me and hug me and tell me they love me.” Mary Ellen recognizes that the love and joy she spreads doesn’t “fix” everything, but she says, “you can be there for them.”
It’s not about the flowers or thoughtful trinkets that Mary Ellen gives others – it’s about the gift in her heart. The world needs more Mary Ellens who are courageous enough to be vulnerable and open their lives to love. She says, “All I want to do is spread love – and we can all do that in some way.” Yes, we can, Mary Ellen, and when we do, the brokenness of this world will heal one hug at a time.