Monday, August 30, 2010

Announcing... Our Teen Blog!

All of the people here have very good hearts and I am so happy to be here. Their spirits are high and they're all lovable people and I feel very at home.

- Khary Minor, Teen Intern

See people think that being around older people will be boring but that's not the case. These people are so kind and warm hearted that its crazy. If you don't get along with your immediate family they could be your second family.

- Tyreek Malachi, Teen Intern, in response

(Click Here for full story and response)

If anyone has ever told you that teens don't listen or communicate, we've got just the stuff for you to prove that person wrong. Announcing... our new Teen Blog!

Click Here (or use the new link in the sidebar) to check it out.

Not only have Philadelphia teens from diverse neighborhoods and family backgrounds been joining our seniors for class week after week, they have been running their own blog, to reflect on their class experience, and to tell stories from their own lives. Even as the academic year begins, teens will keep "talking" with our seniors via this blog. Its title refers to our upcoming November 14th  public event, Seniors' Storytelling Day - and that's because we (seniors, teens, and we "in-betweeners") are all so excited about it!

Hats off especially to Teen Intern Tyreek “Tea” Malachi. As the lead coordinator for the Teen Blog, his role is similar to mine here. Besides posting his peers' stories regularly, he also adds his own responses to strike up a little conversation with YOU, our fabulous readers.

In order to let our teen writers feel free to be themselves, and give them the respect they deserve, we have decided to let their blog be uncensored and unedited, so that what you hear is really the voice of their generation.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's Called Family

Remember how a few blog posts ago, I said something is in the air, and I was having trouble describing that feeling? I finally realized what word I've been looking for. That intense and deepening feeling in our classroom? It's called Family.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Arthur (Ups and Downs)

You heard what Hattie said about Arthur’s “bad day” in the last blog post. Ready to hear the perspective of the man who lived through it?

What I like about this story is how easy it is to relate to. When we were chatting before class, Arthur told me he really didn’t know why he was in such a bad mood.  “You know how your head feels some days,” he said, “like you just have a lot on your mind for no obvious reason?” Oh, trust me, Arthur, I know! That’s my head on a daily basis ;)

Another thing that got me thinking was, wait a second, the incident that made his day turn around wasn’t entirely funny – seen by others it would be reason for an angry argument! But to Arthur, it was a positive moment. It shows me that deep inside, he has a happy heart – and that makes me so proud of him. And the ending of the story when he calls our class the “the best thing that lifts me up”? Well, instantly, that got the group in full-on, laugh-out-loud party mode. Not a bad accomplishment for a guy starting out with a crummy day!

Arthur Murray
Ups and Downs

This week there is so much to talk about. This past Sunday, my choir sang at St. Pauls church and we had a wonderful concert. I believe everyone enjoyed themselves, plus I met a wonder pastor from South Africa and his name is Abodola and we took a picture together.

On the downside, the funniest thing I’ve seen all week happened today, with this worker whom I see every time at lunch – he takes away the trash in the lunchroom. Well, picture someone trying to eat and then someone comes and grabs your food and your plate and deposits it both in the trash (smile). It was a funny accident. It made my day because I was down in the dumps.

Afterwards I considered not coming to class (because I was still feeling a little down), then I remembered that this class is the best thing that lifts me up. So many wonderful people are here. When we’re here, we help each other keep our chins up.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hattie (Thank God for Today)

As you saw in the last blog post, our seniors have been exchanging friendship offerings in the form of stories, speeches (and full-sized bear hugs with teens!) One such offering was Hattie’s story about Arthur FOR Arthur. So imagine this, Hattie – who carries a perpetual smile (she’s the one with the fuchsia shirt in the bear-hug photo) – reading along, until the line about an unnamed senior being “really down in the dumps”. At the other side of the table, Arthur suddenly exploded in laughter. They exchanged knowing glances, and we all knew the story was written about him. He carried on laughing until well after Hattie read her last sentence.

The punchline? Well, this didn’t come about till almost half an hour later, when eleven other people took their turns reading their stories, and finally it was Arthur’s turn – he had written about the same incident, and beamed as he told it out loud. His conclusion was so awesome, it got the whole class cheering and laughing WITH Arthur. Stay tuned for that story in the next blog post!

Happy Monday!

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
August 19, 2010
Thank God for Today

I thank God for today for as it is truly a very happy day for me.  It seems that every one I meet today is in a very happy and joyful mood.

There was a man at our lunch table at the Philadelphia Senior Center.  He was really down in the dumps and feeling empty. It only took one incident to bring him around and he was shaking with laughter.

One of the helpers in the dining room was in such a hurry that when he cleared a table he snatched up a plate of a man who had just began to eat. As he dumped the plate into the trash, he heard someone yell, "I wasn't finished..." The look on his face was so funny that our friend down in the dumps laughed until he almost cried. This made us all feel good just to see him out of his depressed mood.

Laughter is such good medicine!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Our class is growing, and I don't just mean in physical numbers, but in weight of friendship, in depth of emotion, in that kind of dimension. Teens as you know have started coming to class. Seniors continue to bring friends, and now, teens have started to bring friends too.

And so many members, regardless of age, have started paying tributes to friends: Mo gave a spontaneous speech last week about what an honest guy Michael is; Helen dedicated an entire story to Arthur to turn his bad day upside-down (downside-up!); Barbara wrote one for Paul with prayers for his illness to get better; Cary, one of our teens, and a big guy, wrote a delicate story today called "One of A Kind" in honor of his best friend, Nieke, who was sitting at the far end of the table.

It's like... it's not just simple math; it's like an exponentially deepening feeling. I don't know how to express it fully in this blog post, but I just want you to know this has been happening. To quote one of our teens, Sarah, I think I should sit here for a little bit and "just take it all in."

(For more class photos, please click Here to view our albums on Facebook. "Like" our Facebook page and you can see photos automatically as they get posted. Thank you so much for reading and helping us grow.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mo (For My Grandkids)

On days when we have many first-time members in the room, we like to go around to introduce ourselves with a name and a couple sentences. I really like what Mo – one of our original members – said a couple of weeks ago. His first sentence was about how proud he is of his daughters and son; his second was about why he wants to do all this, the writing, the storytelling, the fact he shows up and brings friends to class every week. He’s doing this for his grandkids. He didn’t have to say more – it was one of the most  modest yet dignified introductions I’ve ever heard.

Having known him for almost a year, I know Mo has done a lot in his life, but, in class, what he always writes are stories from his childhood, from a young boy’s perspective. It all makes sense now – that’s the point of view his grandkids can relate to.

Mo McCooper
The Janitors

When we were in 4th grade we found out from the older guys that we could play basketball in the public elementary school gym - if we would work for Jerome the janitor clapping erasers to get the chalk out of them and use a large broom to sweep the classrooms.

After an hour or so of work, Jerome would take us to the gym and loan us basketballs. The Catholic school gym was in the basement where the baskets were only six feet high. The girls had to play their league games there. The boys had to practice there and played all the league games at another school’s gym.

Jerome’s brother Baron was also a janitor. We washed windows for him. That was tough. But, our basketball skills improved and some of us became good players for our schools, all thanks to the janitors who came from the hills of Kentucky and/or Tennessee where they made homemade whiskey. They never offered us any but the stories about them from the older guys fascinated us.

Mo McCooper
A Sailor Boy’s Sweetheart

During World War II, my dad’s little brother John served in combat with the U.S. Army. The family had a party in a large back room of a restaurant somewhere in Philadelphia. Dad’s 4 brothers and 4 sisters were there. About 6 other grandchildren were there. All the aunts and unvles sany songs and most danced. Suddenly into the room came this big broad-shouldered lady who must have weighed over 200 pounds, singing “I’m only a Sailor Boy’s sweetheart but I’m proud of my sailor boy.”

It was Uncle John with pillows stuffed in his coat and a wig borrowed from a mop.  To me he was hilarious.  Best of all he came home safe and sound from the War!

Mo McCooper

When school ended each day from about third grade through eighth grade, I used to run to our apartment on top of the barber shop. I’d run up the stairs and grab a note and money and run back down the stairs and head the ACME Market.

Mostly, I’d get Wheaties, the Breakfast of Champions for breakfast, and potatoes, string beans, and meat or fish from the butcher for dinner.

Within a few minutes, I was back in the apartment and would give Mom the change and rushed down the stairs to head for the playground. The football, basketball, and baseball teams had already been chosen at that time. The latecomers, including myself were then added to the teams.

Looking back at school, I realized all that running back and forth to the store probably got me into better shape than playing on the playground. I appreciated the playground even more.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Living in the Moment

I don’t know if you ever feel the same way. I think I’ve told you, my head tends to travel at the speed of light and I have a way of driving myself crazy. I’m one of those people with excess energy, physically and mentally. I am so glad that I’ve got our class once a week to keep myself in check. It reminds me to take a breath and, you know, just take it easy and live in the moment. That’s a hard lesson for me to learn. Still an amateur at it.

Hattie Lee Ellerbe

Since my last birthday, May 10 (I turned 77), each day seems more precious than the one before! New beginnings for family members, news of their progress in some cases and in general, close family relations. To quote from my favorite hymn, “Great is they faithfulness…morning for morning, new mercies I see…all I have needed, thine hands have provided.” I am just so thankful to be alive and to be a part of this lively class (smile). Today, June 3, 2010, is indeed one of the best days of my life so far.

Another Great Day
Arthur Murray

All I can say this week is that I’m happy to see another day. 
And, whatever you do in life, do it to the best of your ability, because you only have on life to live. 
Keep God in your life.  Ask Him for your wants and needs, and trust in Him each and every day. 
Show lots of love in every way you can. 
Be patient and stay positive.  Don’t let the Jones-es get you down.
Life is so precious.  Meet and greet everyone you can in life.  You never know where life will carry you. 
I love you all.  I’ll say it again: I love you all.
Mrs. Benita Cooper, this is the best class I’ve been in.  

Henrietta Raust

Each moment you are ahead, yet living in the moment.
Living ahead of the moment.
Able to see what’s coming next and knowing how to handle it.
Living in the moment.

I know, I love it! I love it!
Not lost in someone’s head or nightmare.    
Living in others’ moments,
But able to be in the nick of time to step aside.

What belongs to Source goes to Source.
Never taking what belongs to Source of course.

Living in the moment. And I love it.
Creating new music every day.
Life is Euphoria, Utopia, Power, and Ambrosia.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Your Favorite Stories?

Hi Blogreaders,

We have a big favor to ask of you. Do you mind telling us via Facebook or email what your favorite stories on this blog are? Are there particular paragraphs, sentences, words that have moved you? The reason why we'd like to know is because our seniors, volunteers and I have started selecting stories to feature on Seniors' Storytelling Day, and we thought, Wait, we gotta ask our expert readers! You are very much a part of our team, and we want you to be a part of the planning process. What stories would you want to hear out loud on stage and on screen on November 14? Tell us and we'll try our best to make it happen.

We're excited to hear your picks!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cosby Surprise

As you know, around here, we don’t stay mellow. A few weeks ago, as you saw in an earlier blog post, our class went on our first field trip and it was for a very special occasion: Bill Cosby was in town for a private filming production and we were personally invited by the producer to be part of the small audience! The week after, guess what everyone’s favorite story topic was? This week in class, the seniors are still talking and writing about the trip!

Henrietta Faust
Guess Who

The bus tour on 7/22/2010: A day that will live forever. See, we, the Senior Center Writing Class – each of us was so glad to be out of room LC1 in the basement. You could see and feel our excitement in a new adventure. Our first writing class bus tour to a beautiful university. We arrived at the auditorium and were seated and were told that in a few minutes we would see an interview. Back when we were still on the bus, waiting to get off, our teacher Benita Cooper had said, “There is a surprise for you inside.” And as everyone now sat in the auditorium, waiting and wondering what the surprise would be, the door opened and in walked the most important man in the world: TV star Bill Cosby. Everyone applauded and marveled. And on went the show.

Please read on and enjoy each writer’s experience of 7/22/2010.

Beatrice Newkirk
The Surprise

We, the members of the writing class went to Temple University. To our surprise, there standing on the stage was Bill Cosby. I have never met him in person, and just being there was the first time I had seen him in person. He looked so young, as if he had never aged.

His brother and his sister in-law were there on the stage with him, and he asked them interview questions. He also had kids up on the stage, whom he interviewed also. When he asked the kids questions, their answers made us laugh. Thanks to our teacher, it was a great surprise.

Hazel Nurse
A Surprise Trip

In place of our weekly meeting, our Senior Center Writing Class rode down Broad St. to Temple University to interact with students as promised by our gracious, gregarious leader, Mrs.

Before posing for another group photo, she quipped, “There is a surprise for you inside.”

After being welcomed by our hostess and production producer Nicole, and comfortably seated in an auditorium, to our amazement and applause, in strode Bill Cosby with his wife Camille. What a person he is - not only one of America’s most successful business men, but an actor, comedian, and author.

Before an array of photographers, he exhibited his expertise by drawing laughs, as we saw some skillful teens on stage jump “Double Dutch” with ropes in hand.  One participant in another seven-year-old age group, declared that she was paid two dollars after cleaning her house for one week.  A four year old male remembered a “Boy Cosby”  but didn’t seem to relate to the present “Bill”.

After more questions from the entertainer, a wife expressed surprise that her spouse with no knowledge of golf, had traveled from Georgia to Florida to hit some balls.

Thanks to all for this invitation to enjoy this energetic entertainer, who joyfully shares his talents with others. 

Bernice Moore

When we went to Temple University a couple weeks ago, it was fun meeting Bill Cosby. He was nice to talk to. It was good to see him in person. It was sad the way he had lost his son. The children were good to see on the stage. They told nice stories, It was good to meet other people. Temple is a nice university to go to. We did have a lot of fun meeting nice people. I hope we will be able to meet Bill Cosby and everyone else again soon, someday.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Invisible Growth

How do I explain this… ah, it’s like this. My husband and I are best friends with our neighbors who have a baby boy. We see him so often that we (... haha or maybe it's just me) never quite realize how big he’s become until we see a photo of him and I exclaim in shock, “He’s grown so much!” Of course we all laugh because it’s so ironic I don’t see what is literally under my nose every single day. I guess that’s how it sometimes is with me hanging out with my senior buddies every week. I’m too close to perceive their emotional growth. But then, once in a while, I hear them read their stories out loud, especially stories about how much this class has meant to them, and silently, I exclaim in my head (because it’s sappy to say out loud) “You’ve grown so much!”

Below are a few stories that have caused some of those sappy outbursts in my head.

Loretta Gaither
This Helps Me

I just moved out of my home and had made arrangements for another place.  When I arrived I found that I didn’t get the apartment.  It is very upsetting because I was told I would have the place and now I am homeless.

I will find another place.  There is a purpose for everything, for that I thank God.  The storytelling class and people in this class help me to know that soon I will get another place.  Coming here to the senior center helps me to stay strong.   Prayer keeps me going.  Writing helps me.

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,

Linda Carr
The First Time I’ve Been Happy

This month is the first time I have been happy since April.  I’ve been real sad because my family split up.  I feel good because Carolyn is helping me find a place that I need so bad. 
Also I saw my grandson, who is away, for the first time in five months.  I was so happy to see him. 

I am glad I came to the center. It gives me something to do.  I’ll be glad when I get my own place.  I never had my own place, just me alone.   I am excited.  I had a nice time last week at Temple University on our field trip to see Bill Cosby.  I am glad I came to the center.  Everyone is so nice.