I had a friend say to me the other day “I don’t know what my legacy will be – how I will be remembered when I am gone.” Most of us wonder about the same thing. Why are we put here on this earth? What is the meaning of my life? Some people leave a legacy that will live for the ages like presidents, popes, corporate leaders, etc. It is not just about the grand feats of architectural triumph, or performing staggering feats of medical wonder in the operating room, or being captured in the press for various and sundry reasons that will remain for all times on the internet and revealed when your name is searched. It is all in how you interact with and have an impact on the people around you.
Your legacy can be found in the impact you make by reaching out to hundreds of people through an organized effort or by reaching out to just one person and impacting that person’s life for the better. Your legacy can be in how you influenced the generation that follows you. I would like to share some of my experiences in mentoring and reaching out to others and how it comes back to you in ways you never would have dreamed of thereby enriching your own life as well. I would like to hear of ways you have done so as well and by sharing those experiences we continue to enrich each other’s lives and inspire others to do the same.
Alta Vista Elementary School is a wonderful elementary school in Sarasota doing some exciting things to challenge and encourage its students even at their very young age. It is a Title One school with most of the children facing huge challenges at home. Its principal, Dr. Barbara Shirley, started a pilot mentoring program for her students. Yes, even at that young age, mentors are so very important – someone who focuses just on them as individuals, helps guide them and encourages their dreams.
I was invited to be part of this program and assigned three third-grade girls who were selected by the school based on their needs and receptiveness to the idea. It’s been several weeks now and we are working on trusting each other and finding ways to communicate so that we are both comfortable.
One young lady, whom I will call Ni’yah, was indeed having trust issues from the beginning. She did not like being asked “so many questions” so I had to find a different approach. She was always punctual and ready for our meetings but reluctant to share much information about herself. Her way of communicating was to ask me questions which I welcomed because it soon became clear that she felt that she needed to be in control of how information was divvied out during our meetings. Somewhere along the way in her short life she had learned that it was not safe to answer questions from strangers. But I did notice that she was eager to meet me and through the use of her questions to me, my answers to her, and her comments to my responses, I began to get to know her.
This particular week, she came through the courtyard with her class and I could see her smiling and waving at me. I noted that her teacher was carrying pizza boxes. The mother of one of her classmates was hosting a lunchtime birthday celebration for her class. Ni’yah asked if she could stay with them for lunch. My heart dropped a little thinking that she was happy to not be seeing me this day. But imagine my surprise when she asked “Would you like to come with us?” I was further surprised when she did not ignore me to focus on her friends but had me sit next to her and actively spoke to me as well as to her classmates. It was a good opportunity for me to see her interacting with her teacher and classmates. I felt that, in her own way, she was accepting me into her world. It was also fun to engage with the other members of her class as well who were curious about our relationship.
You never know the impact you have on a child by just being there – being consistent in their lives and listening. We move ahead at her speed and that is just fine with me. I am just honored and happy that she seems to be happy that I am there and that I can make a difference in her life. We all can make a difference in the lives of our children, our friends and our families. It just takes a little time, a listening ear and being present.
Sometimes you look into the eyes of children you see a sense of hopelessness, fear, or just confusion. It could be about their current situation, their past or not seeing a difference between the two because they have never been taught or allowed to dream. Dreams awaken us to the possibilities of what life could be and sometimes it is just that possibility of living those dreams that keeps us going – young and old alike!
The notion of losing the ability to pursue your dreams has been eloquently expressed in these lines from a poem by Langston Hughes “What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / Like a raisin in the sun?” (Hughes 1-3).
Langston Hughes raises the challenges of achieving the dream, particularly but not solely, by those who exist in the poorest parts of our society in yet another poem saying “And then the wall rose, / Rose slowly, slowly, / Between me and my dream” (Hughes 8-11).
Sometimes as children we don’t know how to dream or what to dream because we are not encouraged to dream. Sometimes as children and adults we just don’t know how to get there or where there is because everything seems stacked against us like the wall or walls coming up between us and our dream(s). The wall can be racism, money, education, little or no family support, any number of things and any of these can quickly squash a dream.
It is important to dream. Important for our children because how else can they get motivated to see themselves with a future that is rich and full and I am not talking about money! Important for adults and seniors for how else can we continue to have life that is full and satisfying.
One of the greatest things we can teach our children is how to dream – dream of a world beyond the one in which they live, dream of themselves in any job they can think of, dream of themselves successful and happy, dream of themselves surrounded by friends, family and love. Teach them that with dreams they can learn, discover and challenge themselves to be the best they can be for that is the only way to make the dream a reality. Even in retirement, I still dream of all that I can do. One is never too young or too old to dream – do you?
As we take the leap from 2017 into 2018, I hope that each and everyone of you is looking forward to the new year with anticipation. We get not a “do over” but a “get it done”! By that I mean, all those things we did not get to last year we can put on a list and decide what stays and what goes. Once you do that, make a plan to move forward and accomplish those goals.
Let’s not forget that just as we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, we are surrounded by many who need to be lifted in spirit and in love so that they too can move forward in pursuing their dreams. The smallest gesture of kindness can make a huge difference in the life of a child or anyone who is suffering or facing a difficult time. Being there, listening, holding a hand, offering a smile – costs nothing but comes back to us in ways that are immeasurable. Let’s make it a great year!
Yes, I am one of a dying bred – people who still actually mail Christmas cards. Not only Christmas cards but birthday cards, anniversary cards, “Hello” my friend cards, “Thinking of You” cards, etc. Yes, I am doing my part to keep the paper card industry thriving in this country. Well, that’s not exactly the reason.
On holidays and special occasions, I think there is nothing more special than knowing that someone took the time to pick out just the right card and then took more time to send that special card you. Don’t get me wrong. I truly appreciate every eCard that I receive. But for me, I send paper cards ninety percent of the time.
It is much easier to send an eCard, group email, Facebook post, Tweet, Instagram message and any of the other social media or electronic messages that are available to us. We can do that without thinking. But a card that you can open with anticipation, read and re-read over and over again is special.
There will come a day, I am sure when I will succumb to the convenience and cost savings of the world of social media. But for now, I prefer to continue to reach out and spend a little time with those I may not seen for a while but whose friendship I still hold close.
Merry Christmas to everyone – however you get your message out!
Earlier this week we had an exciting event at Girls, Inc. You may recall from an earlier post that I am volunteering there and thoroughly enjoying it! For the most part, the Fall program involves after school care, help with homework, literacy and, as always, running their town of “Dream Harbor” where all of the girls have jobs, clubs and activities.
On Tuesday, November 7th, the same day as the rest of the country, Girls, Inc. held their own election for their new Mayor and other city officials of Dream Harbor. Girls voted using computer ballots and the results were electronically calculated to determine the winners.
This organization is held in such high regard and given so much support in the city of Sarasota that city officials took time to participate in this week’s swearing in ceremony. Ron Turner, the Supervisor of Elections, congratulated the winners and certified the election telling the girls that they had 100% participation! Everyone voted from the kindergarteners to the middle schoolers – they all took the election seriously and made their decisions.
Bernadette DiPino, Chief of Police for the Sarasota Police Department, swore in the fourth grader elected Chief of Police of Dream Harbor who in turn swore in her “Peacekeepers” whose job it is to help all girls be respectful and kind to each other and recognize good deeds. The Honorable Rochelle Curley, Judge of the Twelfth Circuit Court in Sarasota County, Fl, swore in the new Mayor and the rest of the elected officials. The girls also heard from the Honorable Shelli Freeland Eddie, Mayor of Sarasota City. How exciting for them that the Mayor would take the time to be part of their ceremony. All three of these strong and accomplished women and the Supervisor of Elections provided uplifting words to all of the girls and encouraged them to continue to be “strong, smart and bold” members of society.
I was so proud of each and every girl in attendance, the way they participated in and learned so much about the importance of our election process. Of course, the day ended with a party and congratulatory high fives all the way around! I am honored to volunteer at this organization and count among my blessings that I can be part of it. I hope you can find an organization that works for you – it will fill your heart with joy!
There is a saying that has been around for years. It’s been embroidered on pillows, quoted in books, used in movies – so long that I am not sure who said it first but it still resonates every time I hear it. It goes “Every day might not be good. But there is good in every day.”
Like many sayings, they are intended to inspire and uplift us but over time we become dulled to its meaning. This one is worth revisiting.
Even on our worst days, we need to remember that we all have bad days and it’s OK. The challenge is to try to not let the bad days outnumber the good days and that can be a huge challenge for some of us. When that happens, we should always challenge ourselves to find at least one good thing about each and every day. It will lift us and make us grateful for the day regardless of how bad it seems to be. You might be surprised. If you find one, you can find others and before you know it – the day is not so bad after all.
Everyday I consider my first first good thing, my biggest blessing of the day is when I woke up. I get a chance to start all over again with a new day. We all do! Perhaps there was a physical, mental or emotional problem that zapped all of our strength and will power the day before but today – we get a chance to face it again and maybe accomplish a little more and find the strength to keep moving forward.
Sometimes, I just go outside and sit in the sun surrounded by the orchids or I volunteer at Girls, Inc. and see the smiling faces of the girls and realize how good the day really is . We need to find that one nugget inside of ourselves or outside of ourselves that, no matter how bad the day seems, will make us smile and say to ourselves that today is a good day and I am the good in this day!
Little did I know when I booked a trip home to Baltimore about six weeks ago that the day I would be leaving was also the day of the 17th Annual Baltimore Running Festival. Staying in a downtown hotel right in the center of the festivities was going to make it impossible to get out of town without leaving the hotel a lot earlier than originally planned.
So in spirit of “if you can’t beat ’em – join ’em” I left the hotel early and walked, rolling suitcase and all, among the crowds gathered to watch the runners as they began their trek. I couldn’t help but think of it all in the context of what this means for the runners and for those of us watching and cheering from the sidelines.
The goal of the marathon is to get to the finish line. Of course, for the elite runners – like Jordon Tropf who won the Baltimore marathon – their goal is to finish first. He did so in a total time of 2:28:06. For the majority of runners, the goal is the challenge. “I can do this” is the mantra they hear replayed in their heads from the moment they start to train until they cross the finish line. Whether you are the first person to finish in under 3 hours or the last person who finishes in 8 hours – it is a huge sense of achievement.
Whether you are 15, 25, 52 or 80 years old, whether you are fit or disabled, whether you do the 5k, the half marathon or the full marathon – the goal is the same – to push yourself and accomplish the task at hand. We are inspired by the participants in the hand cranked bikes or those pushing disabled children or friends in wheelchairs.
Those of us watching and cheering from the sidelines or at home while watching on TV play a very important role in providing support and encouragement to those in the marathon. How many times might a runner have given up but for the encouragement of friends and strangers along the way.
We should look at our lives as a marathon. Set a goal and work towards achieving that goal. Don’t look at the finish line as some place that is so far away we will never get there. Put one foot in front of the other, train, practice and keep moving forward – you can do this! We can do this!! We can encourage others to cross their own finish lines whether it is getting that high school degree, going to college, getting a job or just making it through another day when facing incredibly difficult challenges. It is not always a race in the sense of a run or walk but could be just working towards our own goal – sometimes a more difficult marathon of sorts for many of us. Look around you and find the people whose day-to-day marathon you can cheer on, someone you could lift up and help across their finish line. Look to those who are lifting you up and helping you achieve your own goals and cross your own finish line. It may be difficult but it is so worth it!
It’s almost two weeks after Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean and Florida leaving a path of devastation, despair and sadness. But if we take a moment to look back on the storm we can find examples of incredible kindness, sensitivity and hope where we rose to be our best selves even in the midst of the chaos.
When I went to church this past Sunday morning, along with many other Floridians, I was moved to tears during much of the service. The church was packed as everyone came to give thanks for making it safely through the storm – whether suffering material losses or not, everyone was thankful to have their family and friends safe. When I entered the church and gazed down the long hallway – I felt so much of a sense of pride and amazement at seeing the stacks of supplies that were there for anyone who needed it – food, paper goods, diapers, water and more – serving not only our church but the entire community and the needs of all.
Before the hurricane hit, as preparations were being made and immediately after when everyone was helping with the clean up that will be on-going for a long time, no one cared what anyone’s race, ethnicity or sexual orientation was – it did not matter! Everyone dropped everything to help in some way. Think about it. Should it really take something like a hurricane to make us reach out to one another with kindness, respect and love? I hope not but if it does, let’s keep in mind what could have happened, be grateful that it didn’t happen and act as if we can be the person that we were during the storm even if the storm never comes.