Strong Girl: Mary

Meet Mary. Mary Heberling.


I’m an only child, or so most think.

I don’t have any biological siblings. That’s true. But sisters, I have countless.

Looking through my digital photo albums (wish I could say they were printed), the first photo I found of Mary and I is exactly how I picture our friendship.

It was a summer day, our Sophomore year in high school. We were 15, and like most 15 year olds, we were playing dress up. We rummaged through a box of odds-and-ends clothing, creating clashy outfits and posing as Lewis and Clark exploring the Columbia River Gorge. Typical us.


To the best of my recollection, it was a night filled with laughter – the kind that makes your stomach hurt, so much so, that you fall off the couch and roll on the floor.

A lot of my photos with Mary are similar to this first one -minus the eccentric outfits and historical reenactments. They are photos of us sitting on the floor of a Roman hotel, cheeks bright red from fits of giggles after spying on cute Italian waiters; shots of us serving up homemade calzones, our flour-dusted faces proud evidence of our kitchen antics.

Each picture documents the blessings of bliss and Joy that I’ve experienced with Mary over the past nine years.

Mary (right) and I dressed up for "Boy Band Day" during spirit week in high school.

Mary (right) and I dressed up for “Boy Band Day” during spirit week in high school.

I don’t think we’ll ever need to question the future of the next nine years, or 19 or 99. She, like many of the sisters I have, have too much laughter to bottle up to not be a little silly sometimes (okay, a lot of the time).

Laughter aside, Mary is doing incredible things in her life. Through helping build strong communities, this Strong Girl has plans to help others in big ways. But she can tell you her story herself…


How does the word “movement” fit into your life, especially any changes that have happened over the last few months?

Movement has been an interesting concept to me these past few months and really this year after college graduation.  Movement can be the physical motion of taking a step or running, but there is also movement in the sense of moving forward (or backwards) emotionally or professionally.  It’s not always something you can physically see.  Since college graduation I have found that sometimes not moving or waiting is a form of progression.  Waiting out a problem, waiting out a job position, or waiting out a lease may be better in the long run.  For me, waiting has brought me farther professionally than might have otherwise happened if I had acted impatiently.  Now I have a job that directly reflects what I studied in college and where I want to go professionally in the future, but it took a good year before I got there.  There was lots of waiting and patience, but I am now moving in a direction that I feel confident and good about.  A feeling I might not have experienced if I hadn’t taken the time to move into a waiting position.  However, you have to remember to jump on opportunities when you can and don’t wait forever!  You don’t want to miss out on moving in the right direction if you have the chance. 

What are you currently doing and what brought you there?

Right now I have been working at my new job for three weeks.  I am the Main Street Program Coordinator for the City of St. Helens, OR.  It is a year-long position through AmeriCorps in their VISTA program, which stands for Volunteers in Service to America.  I had heard of AmeriCorps before I graduated from college, but wasn’t sure about doing it until earlier this year.  I wanted to find something that reflected what I studied in college (urban planning), gain experience, and help low-income populations in America.  I was lucky to find this position that encompassed all of those qualities along with that social justice aspect to it.

My goal in this position is to (hopefully) revitalize the downtown area of St. Helens, which has been hit hard by the economy and the closure of an industrial plant that provided many in the area with jobs.  I plan to bring more small businesses to the area, support the small business owners who are already there, and excite the community into supporting their downtown.  It will be great experience and I’m sure I will learn a lot!

What is one goal you have this year?

One goal I have this year is to get accepted into graduate school.  I would like to earn a masters degree in Urban Planning so that I can further my education in the subject and be more prepared for long-term planning positions.  I hope to concentrate in health and community development planning so that I can help others gain the opportunity of healthier lifestyles through better built environments.  Luckily, my position in St. Helens will be great experience needed before graduate school and to prepare me for other opportunities after I finish.


Currently, who/what do you draw inspiration from? When you wake up in the morning, what pops into your head and gets you saying, “Today is my day!”?

Of course I gain inspiration from my family and friends who have been supportive in my goals and accomplishments.  I want to make them proud and feel grateful to have them in my life.  But I also take a lot of my inspiration from music.  It is my second love and something that makes me happy.  Whether it’s listening to a new favorite song all morning while I get ready or playing the guitar quietly at night to not wake up any of my neighbors, it provides me with a sense of peace and calmness.  I always find myself singing along in the car and tapping my fingers to a good song while working.  It has always been in my life and brings lots of joy to me.  I also apparently make really good CD mixes.

What is one thing you know to be true? What is your statement of faith that drives you to keep doing what you’re doing?

One thing I know to be true is to never stop dreaming.  I’m a person who likes to dream big.  That’s how I’ve always been.  I think big picture rather than tiny details.  That’s probably why I was never successful in accounting class. J There is always a bigger goal playing in the background of my mind and it is what drives me every day.  I am constantly thinking about the long-term and where I need to go or what I need to do to get there.  However, I have learned it is essential to realize that goals and dreams don’t always happen right away or the way you want them to.  It is important to remember the practice of patience and persistence.  If our dreams came easily to us, I don’t think we would appreciate them as much.

What is something new that brings Joy to your life?

I recently took up guitar playing, which is one thing I’ve always wanted to do, but for some reason just couldn’t quite follow through until now.  Therefore, I am quite proud of myself for sticking it out this time.  In fact, it’s a lot easier to learn that I ever thought it would be!  As mentioned previously, music is what brings me peace and calmness.  Learning a new instrument is never easy and it takes time and practice, but once everything starts clicking you just can’t stop.  When I’m sad or excited, I go straight to my guitar and it makes those days so much more joyful.  While playing you can feel the stress melt away from your shoulders and just enjoy the moment.  That, for me, is something new that brings joy into my life and I hope to have it stay that way.

Thank you so much, Mary, for sharing part of your story with us! Your insight on waiting, and the possibility that can come through trusting in something greater, is beautiful wisdom. You’re doing awesome things in this world!

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