Friday, March 6, 2015

Elliot (Counselor-Guardian)

I've got a little story for you, by my bud Elliot. Elliot is awesome. I never know what he will write when he sits down at our storytelling table, but I always know whatever it is will sweep me away. I am not sure if he knows how powerful his thoughts are. If you just go by looks, if you just pass by him in the street, you may think he's a simple guy, but that can't be farther from the truth. He's a genius at making sense of life.



And so on the surface, the story you are about to read may seem fun and simple but its significance is huge. I will show you the story first and then explain...


Elliot Doomes
1.29.2015
Counselor–Guardian

When Ms. Perez enters her little office in the basement, she takes on her secrete identity – she becomes the guardian.

Nothing will escape her vigilance.

I have seen her pick up her phone and put her two-edged sword to work. They put her on hold, they transfer her, but she holds on until she reaches the desired personnel.

She contacts doctors offices and hospitals to make appointments for me. For seniors who don’t have phones, she helps them to acquire call phones. She has helped me in a number of ways.

Don't worry, guardian angel, your secret identity is safe with me.
You see, a couple weeks before Elliot wrote this, Ms. Perez checked out our group's blog (hi there, Ms. Perez, if you are here with us again!) and saw another story I had posted by Elliot called "Real Wealth." (You guys can reread it here.) Elliot told her that he had been attending our group for some time now and casually gave her the blog's link. That story changed their relationship instantly.



She said to him, "I didn't know you can write like that. I didn't know you think like that." Elliot was beaming when he recalled what had happened to our storytelling group. "She talks with me now. She had never done that before. She used to talk to me but not with me. Before, she would just remind me of when my appointments are but that's it. Now she asks me how I am doing personally." She even printed out a copy of Elliot's story to keep at her desk.



And so, Elliot wrote this new story about Ms. Perez for a reason – it’s a gift for Ms. Perez to thank her for seeing him for who he is. Because what better way is there to thank someone for seeing who you are, than to tell them you see them for who they are too?

There's a big difference between ordinary day-to-day interaction and a meaningful relationship. And I feel like with just a couple "little" stories, Elliot and his counselor might have just made the giant leap. I am really happy for both of them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This Thursday - meet you on the bridge!


I was watching the Oscars the other night (haha I guess I am in an award season kind of mood this year... been blogging about that a couple times now) and planning for our Thursday's Black History Month event. The performance of the song "Glory", from the movie "Selma", came on, and I really was moved. I liked how they superimposed a stage set of the Edmund Pettus Bridge against historical footage of civil rights events on the bridge, and blended footage of marches with real-time walking of the singers onto the stage. I liked how they not so much brought us to the past, but brought the past out of the past and into the present, how they made history come out of its shell and become relevant. I liked how later the when the song won its award, John Legend and Common said in their acceptance speech: "This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now it’s a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transforms race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status... This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated by love for all human beings.”

My wish for our event Thursday is that the stories you hear will fill you with the spirit of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. These stories have been written on hope, signed with compassion and elevated, by you listening, by love for all human beings. See you Thursday 1pm sharp at the Philadelphia Senior Center's Auditorium!  

Here's a sneak peek at one of the stories you'll get to hear:

Joe Garrison
12.12.15
The Not-So-Good Old Days

Previously I have written stories about the Golden Age of radio, but I’ve never written before that Black actors were often relegated to playing stereotyped roles such as porters, servants, and buffoons. There were times when they had to speak incorrect English – the more incorrect it was, the more laughs it got. One tactic that really pushed my buttons was when a Black person was offered a dollar for doing some menial work. This felt disrespectful to me as a Black man.

I would have liked to hear an interview with some of the Black actors who took these roles to see why they didn’t fight harder to play more dignified characters. However, there was one Black actor who didn’t go along with this, he would not play any part that was beneath him. His name was Canada Less. He was an activist for the betterment of the Black actor and he went to several network directors and said he would not act unless he was given proper, dignified roles. For every actor who played those undignified roles, there were people like Canada Lee who paved the way for actors like Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and even James Earl Jones and Denzel Washington. The day of the black servant or buffoon is gone, and I’m glad because to me those were not the good old days.

I also want to mention that these days Black artists are prominent in all forms of art, especially music. Who could forget Paul Robeson and Marianne Anderson? But even in the field of opera, I know of at least two black women, Leontine Price and Jessie Norman, who were very prominent and true divas.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Jana (Anticipating)

For those of you who have hung out with us all these years, you know a lot of us here at Best Day love Valentine’s Day and aren’t afraid to admit it – myself included! I have waited for the perfect moment to share this story with you by one of our fabulous volunteer facilitators Jana, and here we are. Jana’s got one of the kindest, biggest hearts I have ever known. It’s like… the instant she enters our room, the room just feels several degrees warmer and cozier and nicer, without her saying anything. I am not exaggerating – I know my senior buds would back me up on that!! So, hey there, Mr. Future Prince Charming, I just need you to know, whoever you turn out to be, you are a very lucky guy. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Jana Henry
10.16.2014
Anticipating

Anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for a love story. A real romantic love story. I have been planning my wedding since I was a single digit. I remember looking at my mother’s wedding pic thinking pretty dress but different color scheme. I have planned a wedding I’m sure for every season so I have options. I have even thought about engagement pics. But even more so than the wedding I have thought about how I will meet my best friend. In a coffee shop, at church, on the train. Will it be like in a movie and I’ll lose my breath. Will I not like him and run the opposite way. Maybe I know him now and we just both have no idea we’re meant to be. I use to sit and ask my granny how she met my grandfather. It was a beautiful story. Simple but beautiful. She just knew. Even years after he died she still talked about him like she just knew it was the way a love story was supposed to be.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Keep Smiling, Stay Happy

Pharrell's song "Happy" has always been a favorite among our Best Day volunteers and seniors – it gets sung and hummed along often at our storytelling sessions and volunteer meetings, no surprise there, right ;) ? And since the song won a Grammy yesterday, here are a few stories from our seniors to keep the good vibes rolling. “Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,” but around here, our choice is to stay relentlessly, courageously happy. Have a great week everyone!

Loretta Dotson
1.29.2015
Pleasant or Grumpy

Okay, are you mostly pleasant or grumpy?
Who has and keeps the most friends?
Why it's pleasant of course, who wants to be around a sour puss with a frown? Not me.
Who has more invitations to affairs?
Again, it’s the pleasant ones. We go to parties, to enjoy ourselves, to laugh, to dance, maybe even to flirt a little.
Who might live longer?
Why it's the pleasant ones of course, remember "laughter is the best medicine."
Who makes the best babysitter?
The pleasant one of course. When the children are happy, the parents are happy.
Who sees their grands more with enjoyment?
Of course it’s the pleasant grand-parents. We like to have our grands surrounded with lots of love, pleasantness and cookies.

Keep smiling, stay happy.

Frances Bryce
1.22.2015
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

During the Christmas Holidays I usually visit our home in California where my son, daughter and her husband live.  I have shortened my time which was usually from the months of November to March; now it is when the school is out for the holiday because I am a Reading Buddy for students in one of the third grades at Greenfield which I enjoy. 

A conversation arose one day during the holiday about the placement of a roll of paper towels.  My daughter noticed that the roll was placed from front to back after her husband had put the roll on.  She thought it was on the wrong way.  He asked me about the paper placement.  I replied that the direction of the roll was an option.  When they left, I replaced it the way she usually has it, so as not to make an issue of such an unimportant thing.  Her husband had stated that he didn’t know there was a right or wrong way.  I reversed the towels later as we talked she said that she had replaced the order of the towel as her husband had placed it. We had a good laugh about pleasing the other person and not getting bogged down in insignificant things.

Joan Bunting
11.13.2014
Happy: The Best Day of My Life So Far Is Today

Have you heard that song, “Happy?” Well, that’s the way I feel today, not saying that I’m not happy everyday but today I feel extra happy.

Maybe it’s because of that long walk I took today. I actually feel exuberant. And it could be because Frances and I were talking and I mentioned that my youngest daughter (who is also the baby of the family) Teresa will be honoring me next month and got all exciting just talking about it. Or could it be that I really enjoyed the beauty of the fall season.

Whatever the reason it’s just good to be alive.

Be Happy!

To cap things off, how about some “Happy” lyrics by Pharrell?

It might seem crazy what I'm about to say
Sunshine she's here, you can take a break
I'm a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don't care baby by the way

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do

Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,
Well, give me all you got, and don't hold it back, yeah,
Well, I should probably warn you I'll be just fine, yeah,
No offense to you, don't waste your time
Here's why

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along…