Volunteer Spotlight: Lynn Hildebrand

Lynn Hildebrand– mother, grandmother, STARS of Hope volunteer, extraordinary empath

By: Misha Bukkasagaram

Lynn Hildebrand, a local in San Bernardino at the time of the San Bernardino shootings, was a positive example for those struggling to persevere from the attacks. In her grief from the attacks, she found light in one symbol, and that symbol was a simple wooden star that read the word “Faith.” At a memorial site in San Bernardino for the victims of the attacks, she found the dusty star leaning sideways against a bush. Today, the first star among several she received through the rough patches in her life sits on her desk. “Every single day, every single time I look at the stars, I feel a sense of joy. I sense a feeling reminding me to be grateful for my many blessings, even in the time of overwhelming adversity. But the stars also let you know that it is ok to feel exhausted, totally dejected and feeling like giving up. The stars let you know to breathe; they are a symbol that someone cares, and they emanate feelings of peace, courage, and comfort,” Lynn says with the warmth and love that seems to consistently flow through her veins. Seeing the effect that a single star had on her, Lynn was ready to see the effect it could have on others at their lowest, and she thought, “How did people as far away as New York and Canada hear about San Bernardino?”. The answer was on the back of the star: Stars of HOPE/New York Says Thank You Foundation. The stars became a motif in Lynn’s life, but her jubilation comes from seeing the people, especially children, around her spread the comfort she once reached out for. 

During Humane Education classroom presentations, Lynn loves to refer to Dr. Jane Goodall and “The Power of One.” She often sees the truth of those words when she sees others painting stars of HOPE. For example, in a fifth-grade classroom at Thompson Elementary School in Highland, California, a group of four boys was beginning to create a message on the back of their stars. Lynn approached them, but they were so dedicated to their stars that they barely noticed her.  Huddled together, one boy wrote down their ideas. She could hear them say phrases such as, “We need to think about how they would feel when they receive our star– we need to think about what will make them feel better.”  The empathy they demonstrated at such a young age touched her heart. This was just one of the many times she experienced the impact that children could have on the lives of others, but it was greater than that. The compassion that the young boy seemed to wear with pride affirmed that children hold the power to change the world. The empowerment that they direct to perfect strangers plants their seed for a lifetime of making the world a more peaceful place.

Beyond her work with STARS of Hope, Lynn respects the helpful effect animals can have on a person’s life and works with the HSSBV Humane Education program to break “The Link” between animal abuse and human violence. She cherishes the belief that nurturing kindness for animals will be manifested in kindness to people, animals, and our environment. She also believes that animals can be critical to the recovery process for distressed individuals. Animals can bring a sense of companionship, support, and unconditional love that fills a void for humans lacking security. 

The empathy that Lynn holds in her heart seems to grow as she experiences others practicing good. Lynn prevents hate from ruling the universe and spreads what she can do to obtain love instead. 

Besides finding joy in bringing encouragement to others with her involvement with Stars of HOPE, Lynn cherishes her family’s love and devotion to one another and discovers strength, comfort, and joy in her Faith. The most beautiful thing that I picked up from Lynn is that life is short, and what you do to care for those at rock bottom could be the difference between your personal growth and your demise. Recovery and growth can be found in many forms, but having someone to lean on can make surviving much more comfortable and beautiful. Selfless individuals like Lynn are vital for the path to a more loving world, and I hope she touched your heart to the extent that she did mine.

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