The Exeter Bulletin — Winter 2004
Jay L. Sears '57
January 15, 2004
Wings of Light
Yes, those are angel wings, and Jay L. Sears '57 wears them for a reason. Combined with his dazzling white suit, they call attention to his mission. "I try to be a living example and to inspire others to acts of kindness," says Sears, a recent recipient of the Family Counseling Service of Long Island's Family of Man Award. This is one of many honors he has garnered for his volunteer work with the homeless in and around Quoque, NY. This seemingly upscale Long Island community, part of the affluent Hamptons, is no stranger to the problems of poverty, Sears says.
Sears is an architect who designs multimillion-dollar waterfront houses for the rich and famous, but his real calling is ministering to those who live, sometimes a whole family to a room, in motels. "It is easy to become homeless," he says. "For some of the people I meet it is a paycheck away." Mission of Kindness, the nonprofit group he founded in 1996, is especially concerned with the children crowded into these makeshift residences.
Sears says that at Exeter he began his "search to find out why I was here." But it wasn't until years later, in 1978, that he got his answer. Sears had been scheduled to fly to California but changed his plans after experiencing several dreams about a fire onboard the plane. He later learned that the flight had burst into flames on takeoff, killing most of the passengers.
When Sears heard about the accident, he sank to a bench in a daze. He was approached by a stranger who asked if something had happened to him. "Yes," Sears replied, "I should be dead right now." Replied the man, "There is a tremendous aura around you. You should go back where you came from. You will change many lives." Sears took the man at his word and returned to Quogue where, he says, he "began to reach out to people."
"I try to do ordinary things with extraordinary love," is how Sears describes his work with hundreds of homeless adults and children. Mission of Kindness helps provide them with housing, food, legal assistance and other forms of support. Although Sears has volunteers who work with him, his are the spirit and the shoulder that drive the project.
In addition, he visits schools to educate children on the value of kindness, serves as a volunteer fireman, a Little League coach and a volunteer for the Red Cross. He has recently teamed up with the Eastern Farm Workers to aid the island's migrant workers.
His work has its highs and lows. One homeless boy perseveres and is accepted at Yale, while others remain bound by the chains of abuse and despair that have been forged around them. Sears says he sees a light in some of these children: "Often they are the only things holding a family together."
Sears credits Exeter instructor Allan Clarkson with giving him the first glimpse of that kind of light. "He believed in me and said, "You are OK." From that point in my life, I moved up toward the light. Now I try to inspire that light in others."
— Julie Quinn