Featuring: Nancy Smith, Transportation, Knollwood Life Plan Community

We’ve all heard the parable of the Good Samaritan, the story about a traveler on his way to Jerusalem who is attacked by robbers, stripped of his clothes, beaten and left half dead on the road.  A priest and a Levite passed by, but both turned away avoiding the man. Finally, a Samaritan came along and took pity on beaten traveler, bandaged his wounds, and carried him to an inn to be cared for.  The parable has inspired paintings, sculpture, satire, poetry, and film, and the phrase Good Samaritan has come to mean someone who helps a stranger.

Nancy Smith (right) receiving the Ceca Award

Nancy Smith, a bus driver in Knollwood Life Plan Community’s transportation department, is one such Good Samaritan. On a recent return trip from the grocery store, Ms. Smith stopped the bus at an intersection close to Knollwood and noticed an elderly gentleman with an elderly dog, in obvious distress. She asked him if he needed help, and he said yes. There was a thorny vine over-hanging the sidewalk and the man had become entangled in it.  He was bent over, still holding onto his dog’s leash, and thorns were stuck in his head and down the side of his face to his neck. With the help of one of the residents on the bus, Ms. Smith untangled the man from the vine, and calmly and gently pulled out the thorns one by one. The man was bleeding slightly, but newly unencumbered, he turned and headed down the sidewalk without so much as a fare-thee-well!  No matter, good Samaritans like Ms. Smith aren’t looking for gratitude–they perform extraordinary acts of care, of kindness, because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s who they are.

And that’s why Nancy Smith received the Ceca Award a second time— for being a Good Samaritan. Ceca Foundation partners with Knollwood and other healthcare communities to recognize and reward their exceptional caregivers through its Ceca Award Program. Nancy cried when she received it. She kept asking, “What did I do?” And Major General McHale smiled and said, “Just being your sweet little old self. Don’t worry about it.”

Nancy was born and raised in the Washington, DC area. She started her career as a bus driver with Montgomery County and ended her time there as a Supervisor in charge of 40-50 drivers. She’s a woman who says exactly what’s on her mind, but it was dealing with those bus passengers, especially kids, that helped her find her voice.

She learned to use that voice to set things straight in a firm but kind way – teaching lessons in the process. She taught the girls on the bus to respect themselves and change their demeanor, setting a new example for the group. She taught a young man who was trying to avoid paying the bus fare, that she recognized his special situation, but he had to abide by the rules, just like his buddies.

“Most of the time it was the kids. Once you let them know you aren’t messing with them, aren’t playing games, you have no more problems.” It was on those busses that Nancy Smith found her voice. And that’s where she learned how to use it and do so it in a kind, but authoritative way.

Today, Ms. Smith uses that voice to advocate for her residents. She may have come to Knollwood to drive the bus, but she does so much more. Residents are her first priority, so she’s become a patient advocate.  She drives them to doctor’s appointments, and she always goes in with them. “Some have walkers, or are frail, so I always go in with them, just holding their hands,” she explains. “They usually ask me to come into the exam room, just to sit there in case the doctor says something they can’t understand. So that’s what I do.”

Nancy focuses completely on residents’ needs. “They like riding in my truck,” she laughs. “And the day I pick them up, I tell them, ‘This is your time, so whatever you want to do is what we’ll do.’” She started with just a few people, taking them to appointments, to the DMV, grocery shopping and other on adventures, where she’s had to use her voice.

“I took them to a museum near Georgetown Hospital when I was still driving the big bus. I pulled up to the gate and when a young man came out to greet us, I told him what we were there for. And I heard him say, ‘The old people are here.’ I said, ‘Excuse me son, come back here! They are not old people! They are senior citizens and they’re military, so don’t disrespect them!’” Ms. Smith is not to be trifled with, and she will always take care of her people. “Some don’t use their voice,” she says, “so I use mine. I see something wrong, and I’m not going to let it happen on my watch… and they know it.”

Nancy is calm, kind and big-hearted, but doesn’t like a lot of attention. She’ll be remembered as someone who cares – a trusted caregiver, a patient advocate, and a woman with a voice, who is not afraid to use it. And she is a natural Good Samaritan, the kind of person who helps strangers—the neighbor we all wish we had.