Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Our 2011 Resolution: Listening to YOU

Smells like… 2011!! Time to make those new year's resolutions! Ours? Well, you’re a big part of it. This year, we are making concrete steps to ensure this project’s long-term sustainability, and first things first: we’d like to interact more with YOU.

As our project continues to grow, we would love to hear your thoughts about what you’ve been reading, and really incorporate your comments into our plans for growth. For this reason, can you do us a huge favor and fill out a short survey? It is very short (shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes max!) and you won’t be asked to give any identifying information. You must be 18 years old to take part in this study. If you’d like to participate, please click this link:

Our project is a continuous communication loop, and it takes your perspective and honesty to keep the loop going strong. Don’t let your comments stop with the survey – let’s keep talking via Facebook and email!

To sustain the project long-term, we have also established “The Best Day of My Life So Far Fund” via The Philadelphia Foundation, to receive tax-deductible donations. Your contribution would be greatly appreciated. To donate or to find out more, please visit our Fund webpage at:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hattie (Christmas 1964)

How about one more - can you guys handle one more Christmas holiday cheer? If you’ve got a sibling, I don’t know, you may pick up a couple Life Lessons and/or Tricks Up Your Sleeves in this story…! Have a fabulous day everyone!

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
Christmas 1964

When the children were young we always tried to give them at least 3 things they really wanted for Christmas. Karen was 11 years, she was the first born and an only child for 5 years and needless to say very, very spoiled. Her list always had to be shortened.

Kevin was 6 years old and sort of self-willed/ He selected 3 things, no problem. You can be sure, they were things he could have for a long time after Christmas.

Keith was 4 at the time and for weeks before Christmas all he wanted was a wagon.
As Christmas grew near Karen’s list started to get longer, Kevin’s list was solid and Keith just wanted a wagon.

A few days before Christmas, Karen’s list was surprisingly limited to 3 thins. Kevin’s list was unchanged . Much to our surprise, Keith’s list had really grown. He still wanted a wagon but he also wanted …
- An easy bake oven
- A Betsy Wetsy Doll
- A set of dishes
- A pair of skates
To this day Karen has a special relationship with her little brother Keith.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Helen (Our First Christmas In Our New Home)

When you think Christmas, do you think… bric-a-brac and unpacked boxes?! But somehow, when I visualize this story in my head, it all seems – as Helen calls it – so pretty. And so, from all of us, Hope you’ve been having a festive holiday season, and have a pretty little Christmas!

Helen H. Lahr
12/17/ 2009
Our First Christmas In Our New Home

We lived in a home where our children were born and grew up. Naturally, they grew up with other children on the block. When my husband and I moved in, other young couples did likewise. It was a lovely environment to rear children and they thrived.

Years later our sons had married and moved outside of the city and I had lost my husband. Our daughter and me were they only ones left in the house. Eventually we decided to relocate so we moved 27 miles away. The month was December, near Christmas time. You can imagine how hectic a time this was. Our home sold almost immediately and the people moved out of what was to be our new home, almost immediately. On the surface this would seem to be an ideal situation but in reality it was not. Packing, etcetera, had to be done right away. Finally everything was done and we were on our way to our new home.

Needless to say, boxes were everywhere. Members of the family wanted to see the house; even my son, who lived in New England, came down with his family. My grandchildren put the large Christmas tree together. When my children were growing up we always had a live Christmas tree; after the boys were married we purchased an artificial tree because we were to tired of dismantling the large tree, taking it down and cleaning up all the thistles from the carpet. I always kept my decorations up until Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.

Getting back to the unpacking, the boxes were all over the place. We had labeled the contents of each of the boxes but when it came time to decorate the tree we couldn’t find the box with the ornaments. My grandchildren improvised and decorated with other bric-a-brac and the tree turned out looking cute. Anyway, since we were filled with holiday happiness it all seemed to be pretty.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Right to Party

If you are a Facebook fan of ours, first off thank you for being awesome, and second, have you been checking out our latest class photos? Yes, we’ve got a lot of birthdays recently, almost one every other week. And you know how we roll: no bdays go uncelebrated!! How sweet does Robert look here in front of his millions of cupcakes, with his wife and best friends by his side? His daughter had baked all the cupcakes at home, then his wife brought them in, accompanying Robert to class for the first time. A full-scale family operation ;)

Food, fun, family, friends. Even though these are technically bday photos, is it alright to say that they embody the holiday spirit and our class’ constant party spirit as well?

(Christmas is in 5 days! Can you believe it’s here so soon? Yup, we’ve got a Christmas story for you. See you in a few. And a friendly reminder: for loads more photos, "like" us on Facebook!)

Robert Leung
The Best Day of My Life Story

My name is Yuk Tsun (Bobby) Leung. I call this story the best day of my life because after I joined this wonderful class in the senior center, I’ve met a lot of different peoples of all kinds and all colors. Because we are all human beings and we live in the same world, I come to the class each week and learn a lot.

I told my family and my children. They are all very, very happy for me. I look forward to each Thursday of every week. When I go to class, we all have a good day so that’s why I call it “The Best Day of My Life.”

Yours Truly,
Robert Leung

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mr. Gordon (Thanksgiving Holiday)

I LOVE Thursdays because of our weekly writing class, you all know that… but ok, I’ll admit it, there is one more reason why I like Thursdays. NBC’s Thursday lineup. (If you are reading this outside of the U.S.: NBC is this big TV network here and for whatever reason they have started putting all these comedies back to back in one night. “Comedy Night Done Right” is their latest slogan… and oh yeah they’re doing it right!) Anyway, the reason why I mentioned all that is, in the past couple weeks, every sitcom is doing holiday episodes with a twist – basically no one ever depicts a peaceful holiday, because mishaps make better comedy. So all we get are dysfunctional families and groups of friends saying, Hey we’re dysfunctional but everything is all good and dandy because we all love one another. I mean, that’s trendy. And it’s really funny. And so, in a counter-intuitive kind of way, how unusual, and how refreshing it is to hear a peaceful story about a six-generation family all getting along during the holidays?

(Yup: SIX generations!!)

Arlin Gordon
Thanksgiving Holiday

I went to the great states of North Carolina and Georgia for a family reunion, during the Thanksgiving holiday. We had family coming from all over – even Florida and St. Louis. Our family was gathering to give unity to the family and keep us all connected.

I met my great-great-great nephew, who was 6 months old. At this family reunion, we had six generations of family coming together, for the first time! As usual, we all gathered in the kitchen. The greatest love always gathers in the kitchen!

I am the oldest uncle in the family, still living. As I sat there in the kitchen, my niece came up to me and asked, “Uncle, tell us about our great-great grandparents!” I replied, “Are you sure you want to know about them?” Then I asked “Why are you asking me?” She replied “Because you grew up with them.” So, I began to share with the family the history of their great-great grandparents. They came from Durham, North Carolina and had a lot of wisdom and very educated. Great-great grandmother always baked our bread and I didn’t even know that you could buy bread in stores. She worked for Dr. Kuchner, a mid-wife, who delivered babies. She would travel with the doctor and learned everything from him. I wound up working for the same doctor, cleaning his offices and would also ride with him at night, going to the houses. We both learned a lot from the doctor.

Great-great grandfather woke up early every morning. He got up at 4 am to work on the railroad, as a track layer. He had oatmeal for breakfast and rice for dinner every day. He would check our homework every day. He was 102 years old when he passed and I was so surprised to learn that he could not read. I remember, after checking our homework, he would say to me “This doesn’t look right and it’s not neat. Go back and do it again.”  And upstairs I would go to do it all over again! I learned a lot from him. He would say that, as Negros, men had a responsibility to our race, to raise our families in a godly manner. He was not a religious person but he respected God.

Holiday time was always the children’s time of the year, at our home. Adults had to wait until the children finished the meal before they could eat. We would all listen to the radio programs, The Lone Ranger and The Shadow since there was no TV.

I spent the Thanksgiving holiday talking to family about their great-great grandparents and was totally amazed when they asked to hear about them. I found some pictures to share and we all agreed to get together once a year to talk about family history.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hattie (My Good Fortune)

I think the same thing every time I see Hattie - and it's exactly what I thought the first time I met her on the very first day of this class: What a Smile.

It glows from the inside out and warms the room - and when you're anywhere near it, you feel actual "nurturing vibes" (don't you love that description btw? That's what a volunteer wrote me on email after coming to class one day and scoring a seat next to Hattie, it was months ago but I still remember that description because it's so right-on.)

Beauty from the inside out. We all want it. Hattie's got it. What better way to try to get there, than learn from the very best?

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
My Good Fortune

I just ate a fortune cookie….  When I read my fortune, it said, “Your personality is fueled by the fascination you feel for life.”

I am truly fascinated by my life so far.  My zest for life is fueled by my family’s encouragement and patience with me over the past 77 years.  The people I have met along the way have certainly enriched my life. 

My thanks to all who have put up with my twisted sense of humor and corny jokes. 

Love to all.

Hattie Lee Ellerbe

Looking back over my life, it seems incredible that I survived childhood (smile).  I never wanted to grow up.  I wanted to be a little girl and play, play, play.
We grew up with lots of toys and dolls (there were five of us girls).  And, even though we had toys and dolls, we made up games, we had music sessions, singing as Dorothy played the piano.

We had to concentrate on our school work, of course, and sometimes we even played school.

We were supposed to be poor but thanks to the care of our parents (mother died at early age), paternal grandmother and maternal Aunt Belle (in New York), we were wealthy.

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
Ant Bell

When there was a large box marked “special delivery” brought to our house, we were so excited. As young as we were, we knew it was from Auntie Belle* who lived in New York.

*Note: We used to call her “Ant Bell”. She’d ask, “Do you see any crawlers on me? Do I look like a bug or an insect? Don’t call me ‘Ant Bell’.”

The box would be full of dresses, underwear, books and other items she thought we might enjoy. This was always a happy time.
In summer, Aunt Belle would send for the three older girls to come to New York City for the week. Sometimes we would go to visit her for special occasions.

Aunt Belle was very proper and always let us know she was our only “blood-aunt” and the rest were in-laws on our mother’s side. She always referred to our paternal grandmother (who raised us after our mother died at age 28) as Mrs. Hudson and Grandmom called her Miss Belle. Aunt Belle’s packages were always special but her visits were even more special…I’ll write more next time.

Oh, did I mention I have a wonderful son named Keith? (Smile)

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
Guessing Game

In my family, there is a guessing game going on, especially among my grands, and nieces, and nephews.

1.    Who is Grandmom’s favorite?
2.    Who is Aunt Hattie’s favorite?

This is because I whisper to each or them ”You know you are my favorite.”  They laugh as they see me whispering .  My nephew Artie sums it all up by saying…when I die, I am going to have it inscribed on my tombstone…”I know I was Aunt Hattie’s favorite.”  Then he says…Can’t you see my big brother Robert scrambling through the dirt, raising up from his grave to erase it?

Truth be told…You are really all by favorites.  I am so Blessed to have such wonderful children (Karen, Kevin, Keith), 5 grands, 5great grands, one great, great grand and of course my numerous  nieces and nephews.  I am also blessed with two wonderful daughters-in –law.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Yet again, two blog posts in a row, content that I am unable to summarize. Thank you, Brenda, for allowing me to post your note publicly. Thank you so much for reaching out to me, and let's keep in touch!

From: Brenda Whiteman
To: Benita Cooper
Sent: Wed, December 8, 2010 10:30 AM
Subject: Thank You from Ernestyne Bush's cousin

Thanks, Benita, for writing about my dear, late cousin Ernestyne Whiteside Bush.  I just read your beautiful blog.  I googled Ernest Whiteside Bush and it popped up.  What a blessing it was for me.  My family and I attended her home going service yesterday at St. Matthews A.ME. Church.  It was a wonderful service.  There were so many warm, spiritually uplifting stories about the bubbly lady  that I called my aunt.  She and my mother were very close, just like sisters.  Aunt Ernestyne was a native of Dothan, Alabama.  As a child, she lived in Chattanooga.  My mother lived for a while in Chattanooga, also.  I am going to send this to my mother, Evelyn Durham, your blog. 

Your story blog about your relationship with your grandmother is so inspirational. I admire the fact that you are an architect and writer.  Keep up the great work!!!     
 -- Brenda Whiteman

From: Benita Cooper
To: Brenda Whiteman
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 4:18 PM
Subject: Re: Thank You from Ernestyne Bush's cousin

Hi Brenda - I am so sorry for your loss. Despite the sad reason for your writing, what a beautiful, wonderful letter you wrote! In honor of your aunt Ernestyne, I began a new section in the blog sidebar "In Memoriam" (scroll to the bottom and you will see it) - I added her name as well as my own aunt whose passing I mentioned in a blog post last year. I was also going to do a blog post to let readers know about the new section of the blog. I kept thinking about it but I wasn't sure what I should say because I don't want to be overly sad or overly celebratory, and then I realized what you said in your email is so heartwarming and perfect.... would you want me to post some version of your email as the blog post - a sort of public eulogy? I know it's very personal so no pressure if not, but I think readers will really stop to think about their own families and their own lives when they read it. Let me know what you think. Benita

Click Here to read about the first time Ernestyne and I met. It feels like yesterday.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pen Pal Wanted

Hello world – I need your help! OK, so I promised Arthur something in class last Thursday but I need your help to make it happen. His request? Well, see for yourself below – it’s the most adorable thing. I can’t do it justice with any sort of summary. If you are interested, please post a comment on Facebook and/or email us. The sooner the better, so I can go back to Arthur with good news. Our contact info is in the blog sidebar.

As you may remember, a few blog posts ago Arthur answered a question that not one but two of you asked, about how to deal with a heartbreak. You guys are just so fabulous that apparently Arthur can’t get enough of you!

Arthur Murray
Just Being Yourself
I would love sincerely to be able to be a pen pal to anyone.  All I need are questions.  From the best of my knowledge I would return a response.  I’m seventy years old.  I love all God’s children (excuse the expression) from 1 to 100 or more years.  Love all of you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mo (The Big Surprise)

And now, the answer we’ve all been waiting for… What went through Mo’s mind at our event when we pulled the huge surprise on him? Huge literally. We showed a beautiful video on the big screen that Kathleen, one of his daughters in California, had made specifically for the event. Listen to our podcast on the blog sidebar and you’ll hear the audio portion of the entire video!

For several months prior, Steve (our project’s filmmaker) and I had so much fun scheming this surprise with Kathleen from opposite sides of the country. And I gotta say it was very tricky not to spill the beans about something this exciting – I’m one of those people who can’t keep a straight face, my husband has timed me and determined that my face can stay straight for, oh, like two seconds max. So yup, Kathleen and I are still giving ourselves virtual high fives over email for pulling this one off!

P.S. Shoutout to Mo’s other children as well: so cool that you are all so supportive of your dad. The fact that you’re so proud of him makes him so proud of you – he tells us that every week.

Mo McCooper
The Big Surprise

This past Sunday was one of the more rewarding days of my life.  As part of our Writing Group appearing on stage at the Library’s main auditorium, I was asked to sit down for a moment because Mrs. Benita Cooper, our wonderful teacher, had a surprise for me. 

When directed to look up and behind me at the huge screen, I was immediately amazed to see my lovely daughter, Kathleen, explaining to the audience how much she loved our program and Benita’s wonderful efforts to develop our website.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I just wanted to pick Benita up and give her a huge hug.

My kids called me all week to talk. Kathleen told me that her husband was the one who filmed her in the backyard. He did a fantastic job.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Loretta (Our Big Day/ I Don't Give Up)

Besides on paper, our boldest audience members at our event asked our seniors some brilliant questions out loud. I am glad we squeezed in a last question at the end. For the young lady who asked it (hi there if you are reading, hi and thank you for sharing), I could tell the moment was a special, soul-baring one – even from the bright stage, I could see it in her eyes. What I didn’t realize was how special it was for Loretta as well – until she shared about it in class the next week. And you know what, thinking back, Loretta did “finish” the young lady’s sentence, as they say. Like the two of them shared a real connection and understood exactly what the other person was trying to say. And to witness that connection stream across a room between two previous strangers makes that moment special for me too.

Loretta Gaither
Our Big Day/ I Don’t Give Up

Our event on Sunday was really nice. We were on stage at the Free Library and lots of people were in the audience. A young lady, in the audience, asked a question about how could she write her story when she has problems physically writing. I told her to get someone to help her write – somebody who she knows and connects with could write it for her as she tells her story. I told her that I have problems with my hands so writing is difficult but I know what I want to say – it’s all in my head. I told her not to give up in getting her story out to other people. I don’t give up and I keep on going with the Lord’s help.

I was glad to tell my story about being on Montel’s TV show – I prayed to get on and the Lord answered my prayer. I thanked Benita for being able to tell my story at the Free Library. I was not nervous on stage because I knew that God was on my side to show me that I could do it – even when others thought that I could not. It made me feel good about myself when Benita introduced me and told everyone that I made my skirt. It was a beautiful day for everyone!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Arthur (Broken Hearts)

Hope you've all had a belly-filling, holiday-tunes-humming, thanks-giving week. My husband and I put up (and glammed up) our skinny Christmas tree at our condo last night, and now, oh yeah, I am holiday-ready!

What's a holiday without a little heart-to-heart conversation? We made a promise on stage a couple weekends ago, which was to respond to every one of your comments and questions on our Event Audience Cards - and we're sticking to our word (it'll take time but it will happen!)  So, how did we pull the first question out of the pile last week in class? Well, not one but two of you asked it - so we thought maybe more of you out there may have the same question as well. You asked our seniors for advice on how to mend a heartbreak. Believe it or not, the men at the table were the most enthusiastic - I thought that was awesome, I was silently cheering for them inside for opening up like that.

I especially liked it when Richard (who is normally quiet) said right away, "For some reason, women feel like they're the only ones who get their hearts broken, but that's not true." He then went on to share about his dating experiences, from when he was 19 (when that relationship ended, he was convinced it was "the end of the world") all the way to now. As you can imagine, Richard's memories unleashed an energetic conversation around the table. This is what Arthur has to say.

Thanks very much for sharing your stories with us! It was great to meet you all.

I would love it if any of you could offer some words of wisdom for how to mend a broken heart?

-Gina A, age 32

I loved today. It warmed my heart and made me feel so positive.
I have a question that I’d love advice on: How have you learned to deal with heartbreak?

-Katie E, age 27

Arthur Murray
Broken Hearts

Outside of being nervous Sunday November 14 everyone was so nice and the people that came were very nice. I don’t know where to begin. I was excited and nervous. Also the event staff and volunteers were so nice.

Well, two audience members asked about what to do or how to react on a broken heart. I myself believe when or if your heart gets broken, first you must pray and ask your Lord and Savior to help you, guide you and he will answer your prayers. Keep faith in him, you can’t let the joneses get you down. It may be good to have an ace in the hole, (smile) to have more than one friend to relate to. Sometime we think we’re doing alright until we drop our guards down. In life you never, you never know, what tomorrow brings. I would love to know more about the situations that brought you the broken hearts.

As for myself, I have experienced it five times, on and off. 1973 was the last time we broke up. Every time I had my heart broken, I started singing more. So, I'd say, fall on the next thing you love to do in life. Get off a bus; get on another. I changed my surroundings by meeting new people in life, new love, new people, new energy. Mainly keep God in your life no matter who tells you not to. I don’t have to worry or regret anything now. I feel good whenever I do something good in life to help someone.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Brenda (I Want to Say Thank You)

What better way to ring in Thanksgiving Week than with a pitch-perfect note... to YOU?
To all who attended “Our Big Day” at the Philadelphia Free Library, I want to say thank you.  Your words of encouragement both in person and on our website, your attendance and excitement made everyone feel so special.

For some this was the first time being on stage in front of a live audience, but we were not nervous because we felt such a warm reception.  When I hear the stories of the other members of the group, I am reminded of some incident in my life that I had forgotten and I now have the opportunity to share.

You may not find our autobiography on a shelf in this library, but our short stories will be forever in the minds and hearts of the readers.

So join us whenever you can or share your stories with family and friends.

Again, thank you.
Brenda Bailey

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seniors' Storytelling Day: Jason's Photo Essay

Let's keep the photos rollin'! As promised, today we've got event photos from last Sunday by Jason Bachman. Want more? You got it. Just click Here to "like" us on Facebook and scroll through loads more pix.

For those of you who are newer to our blog (hey hey hey and welcome!!) we are always posting new pix - and FB is where they're at! FB/Twitter is also the easiest way to read our seniors' stories - as they are posted here on the blog, they get streamed right away onto your personal walls. And YES! The seniors do check FB/Twitter pages in class and love seeing your lil' profile pictures ;) so take a second to "like" and "follow" us and "suggest to friends" if you like what we're doing.

(Heading to class in a few hours... I am pretty sure today's gonna be a riot and everyone's gonna have a lot to talk and write about. Can't wait to show them all the pix, and can't wait to show YOU our seniors' stories about the past weekend!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Seniors' Storytelling Day Photos: Tracy's Faves

Bet you've been waiting for these: photos from this weekend! Our fabulous event photographers Tracy Ramone and Jason Bachman took over a thousand (!) pix of the festivities, and are now working hard to edit them down - we'll get them up on Facebook for you soon. In the meantime, a sneak peek. Here are some of Tracy's faves. Next up: Jason's photo essay.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thank You for Coming

Benita & her new bud. 7-year-old Baye stunned and inspired the entire auditorium when he raised his hand to ask our seniors, "What advice do you have for people my age?"

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to yesterday's event, and for making our seniors feel like the rockstars that they are! Below are some of the audience responses we've received. We will be sharing every single one of your responses with our seniors, and in time we WILL be answering all your questions. Please keep in touch via Facebook/Twitter/email - don't stop commenting and asking questions - our ears are always open.

I enjoyed listening to everyone’s thoughts. My heart was touched and I did cry!
-Kathleen K, age 27

Hi I’m Miyarrah (Miya). I am 11 years old. I would love to pledge a donation of $5.00. Your show was really inspiring. I loved it and I’m 11. One day I would love to volunteer, hope I can!
-Miyarrah D, age 11

As a senior who has just started doing yoga at the Senior Center, I would like to be a part of this class.
-Eileen H, age 73

I saw “multi-generational”, and from that moment I was impressed (this while getting my morning coffee at Starbucks). This is such a neat undertaking and I thank you for all of your hard work to bring diverse peoples (age, race, religion, socioeconomic status) together. That is the result when people seek to listen to others. Really liked the time/day of the event. Such much love and respect. Love the no frills, all heart approach. To the handsome and beautiful Seniors – Thank you so much for talking to us today. You are all such an inspiration. I loved seeing the confidence, strength, and joy. You are a special group
-Kaleigh E, age 24

You all rock! Such a great means of communicating and sharing ideas, stories, and love. People often forget that seniors are full of experience, wisdom, and life, so this was a fantastic refresher and way of getting to know everyone. Thanks for being such an inspiration, Benita!
-Monica G, age 27

I think this project is truly awesome (!) especially if you are a dreamer and love to hear about old times, good times, and stories of wisdom. My mother (Bea) never ceases to amaze me with words of inspiration. I would like to be a part of whatever event you sponsor moving forward and encourage/challenge seniors to put on a talent show. I’m so inspired by the group. Thanks!
-Evangela N, age 52

I think this program is great for seniors! I know many seniors who like to talk about their lives but do not have the opportunity to do so. A person could learn a lot by going to this program.
-Sam O, age 23

I think seniors are so full of wisdom – we really need to honor and respect their unique perspectives. So glad to see you providing a forum to showcase their talents and life experience. You should take it to a national level – call Oprah!
-Trish P, age 48

This is such a great idea and clearly something that so many people can benefit from. I hope it continues to grow and because it clearly brings so much joy to the seniors who tell their stories and those of us who listen. It’s great to see how much support the seniors offer each other.
-Kelly Q

Benita, this baby of your has been growing up and the future possibilities are endless. Expand your vision.
-Jay K

Thanks! This was very inspirational. How do I find out more about volunteering or getting involved? Thank you all for putting this event on today!
-Leah R, age 28

Wonderful! I would love to help this initiative grow. This is very valuable. Congratulations on getting this started.
-Jean R

I learned about TBDOMLSF from my girlfriend who is a volunteer. I am constantly impressed by the happiness that I see in her when she talks about the stories. To see the same joy on the faces of the seniors made for an uplifting day. Thank you.
-Drew P, age 23

I am privileged to have been introduced to this program and have been proud to lend my advice and experience to help it build and grow. You guys have a wonderful mission and message! Keep up the good work!
-William H, age 43

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I run writing groups in South Jersey and you have inspired me to expand into senior writing groups. I would be happy to volunteer, please contact me. I have run writing groups with urban teenage girls – we all loved it. It’s great that you are building bridges. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
-Valerie D, age 61

This program reiterated to me the fact that seniors are our walking, living, and breathing history. And most of what they have to say is not written in books. I enjoy them and their stories and I on a daily basis encourage people to get to know one of them or more a day. My mom is a great inspiration to us all and there are others like my mom out there.
-Sandra T, age 39

Very inspiring! Wonderful program!
-Laura H

I just got married young and wanted to keep on writing, but I have to know what inspired you to keep writing and how to keep doing it.
-Steph S, age 19

Thank you so much for coming and sharing your life stories. I was so inspired! And also encouraged to get to know my family better. Do you have some suggestions for what questions I should start to ask them?
-Rebecca L, age 26

What was your first job like? Pay? Work conditions? Bosses? Colleagues? How did your first job end? When, what decade was your first job?
-Carl R, age 58

Thanks very much for sharing your stories with us! It was great to meet you all.
I would love it if any of you could offer some words of wisdom for how to mend a broken heart?
-Gina A, age 32

I loved today. It warmed my heart and made me feel so positive.
I have a question that I’d love advice on: How have you learned to deal with heartbreak?
-Katie E, age 27

You all show a great deal of patience, courtesy, and kindness for one another that I really applaud. You show the ability to respect and learn from each other despite being from different backgrounds. Please offer your advice to people in this world who often do not respect each other enough. How can we all learn to listen better and break down boundaries between people from different backgrounds?
-Robert M, age 28

Benita, what a wonderful idea! I just loved listening to your seniors!
-Renee P, age 75

I love the concept of your organization and applaud you for bringing this group together to share their stories. Keep it going. We can learn so much from our elders if we only listen!
-Christine H

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Forever Friends"

Want to hear something sweet? During dress rehearsal, we passed the mic around to test the volume, expecting every senior to just say something like, “Testing 1,2,3.” Instead, one by one they started saying how much they love their friends who were sitting around them. Even through we were on stage, it felt like a cozy living room. And as I sat there with them in the semi-circle, I couldn’t help thinking, What a privilege it is to be among true friends. No, our Sunday event doesn’t begin or end with the hour, and it’s not just about stories. It’s a snapshot of an ongoing process: the making of friends.

I’ve never done a blog post like this one, but maybe it’s about time. A blog post tracing a senior’s transformation from first-time visitor to fervent core member of our class.

The making of “Forever Friends”. There are no steps for it. But it goes a little something like this:

Lucky Day

Today is my lucky day. My friend Mike and I came to visit this nice senior citizens center, and were fortunate enough to meet my new Chinese friend Benita on her birthday. She is a wonderful lady. She looks and speaks just like my daughter Dorothy.

I’m so very glad and happy to meet her, and all of our new senior center friends.

Forever friends,
Robert Leung
July 8, 2010

Robert Leung
A Great Fortune

Hello Everyone.  Actually I don’t have too much to write or tell…
I am very fortunate that I've started coming to this class at the senior center.  The people here are wonderful.  I wish that I did not live too far from here, otherwise I would surely love to be here more.

I like to come here as often as I can.

Yours truly,

Robert Leung
A Very Good Feeling       

I have a very good feeling whenever I come down here, because I have a chance to meet all kinds of different people.  Young and old.  Women and men.  They are very friendly, we talk and exchange ideas.  I come with my other friend, Mo and Michael.  And, of course the friendly lady, Benita, who is in charge of all the meetings.  Today we have fifteen very kindly people and couldn’t find a nicer day then today.  Outside, the weather is very, very nice.  It’s about 75 degrees.  Not too cold and not too hot.  It’s a perfect day.  I look forward to coming here for the meetings.  Hope to come here again and again.  

Robert Leung
Here Each Week

Hello.  My name is Yuk Tsun (in English you can call me Robert Leung), the Chinese “young” man.  I have been coming regularly to visit the Senior Center and listen to all these people speak, learning a lot of different things as I look forward to each week.  And the chairman (“chairlady”) is also a Chinese person.  She is very, very smart, plus, she’s so kind to everyone.  We are very fortunate to have her.  As the times pass by, I begin to know more people. Until then, I’ll know more and will be able to write more.

Robert Leung
A Meeting Day

Today is the 3rd week this month I am at this meeting. It is always fun to meet all of these wonderful folks – woman & man, young & old – they are all very kind!

That is why I look forward to Thursday each week. I am sure to learn a lot of different things and a lot about different people. Different ages, different races, man & woman – we are all the same living in this wonderful world!

Like myself, I came from far, far away, miles and miles away – China. That is why I learn a lot here, from all these wonderful people. I am really glad that I joined this class!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Have YOU Picked Out Your Party Outfits Yet?

The week we've been waiting for is finally here!! Sunday is not coming soon enough. Hope you like our Dress Rehearsal pics on Facebook. Click Here if you haven't seen them yet… or just want to see everyone's giant smiles again. We've got photos and of course we've got stories too! As you can see below, our seniors are busy inviting friends and picking out their outfits. So follow the seniors' lead and help us party it up by inviting your friends. The more the merrier!

BTW The crowd IS looking like it'll be pretty big on Sunday, so please be early to make sure you get a spot. We've got fun jam-packed into the hour so if you even miss one minute, you're gonna miss some serious good stuff… can't give it all away here… all I can say is we're starting with a bang, and you'll find out soon what I mean ;)

Beatrice Newkirk
Our Trip to The Library

I am looking forward to the November 14 trip to the Library.  I know we will have some fun.  Some of my kids are coming.  Some of my friends too.  And my great grandsons and my grands.

There are lots of things to learn.  My daughter who is also named Beatrice loves reading about our class on the computer.  She says she is getting lots of information from the class.  We have lived the stories.  We can talk about lots of things. 

I tell my kids what they want to know.  We have so much to tell them.  Without the past, there will be no future.

Hazel Nurse
So Much More

Last Thursday, as Dee and I descended on the elevator, my comment about our class was – “It is just sheer fun!” Dee is one of the volunteers who assist Benita with class and type our stories afterwards. This writing and storytelling class offers one the privilege of expressing feelings, meeting new friends, learning facts, appreciating family, preserving favorite photos, enjoying other’s stories and being fortunate enough to engage in good conversation with some of the greatest and most interesting classmates.  By way of our leader Benita, trips to Temple University, Channel Twelve and the Central Library have, as they say, “put frosting on the cake”! Now, Dee, this is More Than sheer fun!

Brenda Bailey
Where Am I?

I am so excited to be on stage at the Free Library to tell my story to everybody.  While riding the van home last week, I had the time to think about what I would wear, say, and how I was going to get there.  Then I noticed that the van was going past the zoo and down the expressway onto City Line Avenue.  I asked the driver, “Am I being kidnapped? I live near 53rd and Baltimore Avenue.”  He did not answer.  So, I repeated the question.  Then he said, “I’m lost.”  Now, my mind went to so many smart things to say, but I did not go there.  I just sat back and started my role as a “back seat driver.”  Turn right.  Turn left.  And, finally, I arrived home.  I really wanted to report him, but I just said, “Thank you, and don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.”  When I got inside my house, I totally forgot all I had planned in my head for the stage.  Now I’m back to square one, two, three. ???

Friday, November 5, 2010

If We Have This Much Fun During Rehearsal...

... wait till you see us "for real" on 11/14! Oh yeah, the seniors are on a total high - you'll see! Click Here for our photos from today.