Small acts make a big difference for Kim Cornetet and those she touches

“Someone once told me the 2 most important days in one’s life: the day you were born, and the day you realized why you were born.”

Kim spoke these powerful words recently when accepting the Visionary Award from Girls Inc. It took her 45 years, and losing her mother, to discover her why.

In December, 2003, Kim’s mother, Joyse Siebers, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Joyse had been a dynamo. She’d majored in phys ed at Transylvania U. and studied dance under Martha Graham. She taught phys ed, dance, exercise and swim classes in high school and at the Y in Oswego and Fulton, NY. She became a college men’s golf coach to soldiers returning from WW2. When Kim graduated, Joyse gifted her with a series of golf lessons, saying, “I hope you stick with it. You meet the nicest guys on the golf course.”

When their mom was placed in hospice, Kim and her sister, Lynn Ricketts, wrote notes on Christmas cards to alert Joyse’s friends. Kim says, “Every one wrote back mentioning some small thing my mother did to change their life. ‘When I was new in town, you were the first to invite me over to meet the neighbors…’ ‘You sent me a Valentine when no one else did.’” When her daughters read these messages to their mom, “she just smiled. She felt such peace,” Kim says.

“That’s when it hit me like a lightning bolt—my why. I always thought God’s plan was something big I was meant to do. As my mother’s life was winding down, I realized the power of small acts of kindness. Servant leadership. It was right under my nose. I had been doing it all along. My mother had modeled it for me and instilled it in me.”

Kim did meet a nice guy, James. Their first date took place on a golf course. They’ve been married for 29 years and raised 4 children.

The family motto: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Kim and James practice what Kim calls Bumblebee Management. “Like a bee spreading pollen from flower to flower, we spread kindness from person to person and watch them blossom.” Kim learns from everyone she encounters. “And then I buzz around spreading information, love, and ideas others teach me.”

Girls Inc. of Sarasota, FL, is part of a national nonprofit dedicated to inspiring all girls to be “strong, smart and bold.” Girls of all backgrounds, ages 5 and up, take classes in entrepreneurship, technology, finances, engineering and science. They participate in a girl-run city called “Dream Harbor” and pay what they can afford.

At the luncheon honoring Kim and others, 3rd and 4th graders spoke of their own progress. In a moment that had guests reaching for Kleenex, more than 60 members of the Girls Inc. choir swayed with flashlights and sang Jessie J’s “Flashlight” (from Pitch Perfect). “…I’m stuck in the dark, but you’re my flashlight/You’re getting me, getting me through the night…”

Kim grew up in Fulton, NY and, like her mom, attended Transylviania U. She’s now a Board of Regents member. Kim also volunteers or fundraises for organizations including the Salvation Army and Second Chance Last Opportunity (you may want to ready my earlier column about Second Chance founder April Glasco). Kim teaches Sunday school and leads Bible Studies at Sarasota’s Church of the Palms. She and James own a company that distributes decorative fabrics.

The theme of the Girls Inc. luncheon was transformation. Event chairs Veronica Brady, Susan Malloy Jones and Sally Schule wore sheer capes with a blown up image of a butterfly. In a symbolic gesture, at the end of the luncheon, they bestowed these capes on the day’s award winners.

Closing her remarks at the luncheon, Kim said, “As the light in my mother’s life began to dim, her example illuminated my own purpose for me. My sister and I learned that little acts become a BIG act, and they lead to a life well lived.”

In a recent WSJ column on the American Dream, 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner Peggy Noonan expresses a related insight. “A big house could be the product of the dream… but the house itself was not the dream. You could, acting on your vision of the dream, read, learn, hold a modest job and rent a home, but at town council meetings you could stand, lead with wisdom and knowledge, and become a figure of local respect. Maybe the respect was your dream.”

Thanks, Kim, for reminding us of the difference small acts can make. Thanks to you and Girls Inc. for kindling girls’ dreams. And for your fine definition of a life well lived.


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8 thoughts on “Small acts make a big difference for Kim Cornetet and those she touches

  1. Linda Freeman

    I am so blessed and inspired by sharing the company of Kim, Suzy, Diane and countless other kind, strong, caring women. You encourage me to be a better person!

  2. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as emailed from Nelle Miller
    Kim told me years ago that her mother crafted a handwritten note to at least one person she knew every day. Something that resounded in me since I try to do the same. A small way to reach out and make a difference each day. Reading about Kim, it now has a context. Thanks.

  3. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as emailed from Kim Cornetet
    Oh my… what compliments!… when all I do is reach out and be kind… and try to encourage others to do so, too.

  4. Diane Mahan

    Suzy — Terrific story! You truly captured the essence of Kim. Such a simple yet profound concept on what defines a life well lived. Thanks Suzy!

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