Kindest in the Valley: Recipient #01, Aiko Schatz
Her unique name fits her perfectly. Aiko is a spunky woman, full of energy and laughter. Her eyes have a sparkle to them, and her smile might just be the most contagious of anyone I’ve ever met.
We spent an hour and a half in her living room, chatting, crying, and laughing.
“This is home,” Aiko said, smiling. She was born in Japan, as her dad was in the military, and moved from place to place with her family until eventually settling in Wisconsin. She lived in the Oshkosh area for years, but never truly felt at home until she moved to Appleton.
She spent her working years as a teacher (my goodness were her students lucky to have her!), and she even received Herb Kohl’s award for teaching excellence (this nonchalantly came up in our conversation, which reiterated how incredible this woman is!).
Now retired, Aiko spends her free time volunteering, going on adventures, attending concerts, reading books, and meeting new people.
When asked how she would describe herself in three words, she said:
“Like how I listed opinionated first?” Aiko said laughing.
Personally, I would’ve listed positive or kind as the first word to describe her. She’s been through so many difficult situations in her lifetime, situations that would break the spirits of most, and yet here she is smiling, laughing, and making a difference in the lives of those around her.
Aiko’s proudest accomplishment is getting through life’s difficulties and being OK after all of it. “Rise above it and keep on keeping on,” she said, still smiling.
She has found that the secret to a happy life is finding happiness in even the smallest of things.
What makes Aiko happy?
• A sunshiny day
• When someone tells a funny story
• A really good piece of chocolate
• Watching the little kids over here play (she pointed to the school playground that can be seen from her backyard)
She told me a story about helping a lost and scared man a few weeks ago. She stayed with him, calmed him down, and took the time to make sure this man knew that someone cared about him. This beautiful display of kindness, and yet she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I wish I would’ve done more”.
The world needs more of you, Aiko. You have a heart of gold, and you make a positive impact on everyone around you.
Thank you for living a life led by kindness, respect, and positivity!
Aiko’s message to all of you:
“Make a difference. Do something that makes a difference.”