Friday, January 28, 2011

Dr. King Past and Present

It’s been a snowy few days here in Philly. And I kind of like it! We’ve got just the set of stories for you to curl up with for the weekend…however the weather is like in YOUR city ;)

Last week in class, a few days after Martin Luther King Day, not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 different seniors wrote about Dr. King. Which, as you can imagine, led to a lively all-group discussion that prompted many more stories. And I don’t just mean the H word – larger-than-life History in the abstract – the seniors shared some very sweet childhood memories of hearing him speak (you know, like literally, in person!!) mixed with their reflections of TV programs that they had just watched and volunteering activities they had just done in the past week.

Huddled around the same table with my senior buddies, I was just one degree away from Dr. Martin Luther King himself. How surreal is that? Who needs time travel? Past and present – I realized there is no real line between the two. Wow. Even now, as I am typing here on the blog, I don’t think I’ve really gotten over that thought yet.

Helen H. Lahr
MLK Day           

It was on Martin Luther King Day that I sat in front of my television looking at a large group of junior high school students working together in an apparently closed school.  For some time, they were using either very bright or white paint on the walls.  Others were using hammers and nails on the walls and floors.  It was so interesting to see how conscientious and friendly they were with each other.  For you see, they represented black, white and Asian races.

I neglected to say that there had been a fire in the original school of some of the students.

As I looked through, I thought about how in the past that scene would never have occurred.  What a wonderful world it would be today if people would live together like that.

Beatrice Newkirk
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday

As a tribute to Martin Luther King, our group went to the YMCA on Christian Street. We talked to the younger generation. We enjoyed talking with the kids. We ate lunch with the kids. There were over a hundred kids.

We were given shirts to put on that had Martin Luther King, Jr.’s picture on it. Everyone had a good time.

There were kids there of different races. We talked of lots of things. I spoke to a little girl. Her name was Sayorah. She understood what I was talking about.

Hazel Nurse
Lucille’s Wisdom

It all started several years ago when I received a phone call from my mother inviting me to come to hear a speaker in Atlantic City.

Having just moved into another home a few months earlier and bearing the responsibilities of a wife and working mom, I refused.  She, on the other hand, insisted that I would miss listening to him tell America a few things.  She said “He has something on the ball”.

Out of respect for her, I reluctantly got my pregnant self together, grabbed my seven year old son and boarded a train to meet her. After his speech, we went and shook his hand, at the Atlantic City High School, in 1958.

Little did Mom know that a national holiday would be celebrated in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Loretta Gaither
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

I was 12 years old when I first heard that Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. I was very sad then and I make a point to remember him and always do volunteer work every Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This year, I worked at the YMCA on Christian Street. I enjoyed talking to the young people and I “adopted” a young girl, Denkera, as my granddaughter. She helped me write a card and then gave me a card she had made. The card read, “Ms. Loretta, You inspired me as my grandmother. May God be with you and bless your heart.” She drew two hearts on the card – two hearts beating as one! It really touched me and made me feel good. I donated can goods and enjoyed lunch with the other volunteers and young people.

We have good activities in this senior center (Broad St. & Lombard St.). I enjoyed a class here a little while ago where I decorated dress shoes. I decorated two shoes: a “Cinderella” shoe with blue beads and sequins and a “Wedding” shoe with white flowers. The shoes are going to be in a show at a museum later this year. Yesterday, I enjoyed a concert in the auditorium.  I really enjoy this writing class and helping me write my stories.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dee (Reflections)

If you've been following our Facebook photos, you may have noticed this… our class is ballooning in size! Ever since the holidays, at least a new senior a week has taken the courage to step foot into our rowdy, laugh-out-loud group. We take up more chairs than can fit around a large table - so even with a bigger, brighter room, it still feels as cozy as ever before. And if you've been following along, you may also have noticed something else… there is a beautiful (younger) smile beaming in a lot of the recent photos. Well, it's my honor to officially introduce my writing class co-leader - and now friend - Dee! Dee has been so amazing. She first reached out to me months ago as a blog reader - whom I had never met or conversed with in "real life" by the way - offering to volunteer. With extraordinary enthusiasm, I must add! Having joined our team as a copyeditor (a role she still keeps!), she started coming to our class week after week - it was clear to me that she loves the seniors and the seniors love her. I couldn't have wished for better company - for the seniors, and for me - just having Dee in the room gives me so much moral support. So you see, this project is truly made up of miracles. As the class began to balloon, I never had to go out looking for help, because in walked Dee, the perfect person at the time. Oh yes, you should see us in action. We make quite the pair ;)

(Dee: thank you so, so much, and… see you Thursday!!)

Dee Reichle

For me, the best day of my week is always Thursdays when I am at the Writing & Storytelling class at the Philadelphia Senior Center. Even though it has been only several months since I joined the class, as a volunteer, it feels like I have been with this group for much longer.

They have become a part of my family, as I share the day’s stories with my eager-to-hear family at Thursday night dinner. Whether it’s a story about an eventful bus trip, a long-awaited family reunion, New Year’s family traditions, a hilarious case of mistaken identity, life long ago in a far away land, a rousing rendition of the Irish Parlor Song, or very personal remembrances of a great man, I always have so much to learn from these seniors. They gladly share their lives, their families and their wisdom,
intertwined with humor, grace and humility.

But the unexpected surprise for me was learning that the seniors enjoy being asked for their advice, on a variety of topics, from younger generations – and, that younger generations really want to listen to what the seniors have to say! The topics transcend generational boundaries – how to mend a broken heart, how to survive a loss or how to start a conversation with family elders.

So, for me, that is the magic of this class – generations actively engaged in each other’s lives – and why Thursdays are the “Best Day” of the week … by far!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Today's class was one of the best EVER. Everything just felt great. Everyone was happy. The mood was amazing. After writing, telling and listening to stories, no one wanted to leave, so we stuck around for, oh, about a million photos. And so, as a counterpoint to the previous post, which zoomed way out to contain our giant dream, I just want to take a second to zoom all the way back in: no matter how much this project grows, its essence will always, always be the spirit of this very class. The feeling in the room today was exactly what this project is about. I just wanted to jot down a few words here as a permanent reminder of that.

Time to check out some photos now, don't you agree? You know the drill, below are a few teasers. Click Here to see "a million" more on Facebook!

Monday, January 17, 2011

We Have a Dream

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I hope this is not too bold to say:

We have a dream.

That’s right. We.

We share that dream.

Because there is no dream without you. There is no project without you. Our seniors have been talking; you’ve been listening – you are an entire half of the whole conversation.

We have a dream that this very conversation will go on and on. Well beyond all of our lifetimes. Past the lifetimes of our kids, our grandkids, and theirs.

Story by story, photo by photo, we have seen how strong the seniors in our group have become. We have a dream that they will become even more empowered as our blog readership continues to expand and we find more ways to communicate back and forth.

We have a dream that this conversation will travel from downtown Philadelphia via cyberspace to your neighborhood. We have a dream that we will launch a civic engagement campaign to empower you to start multi-generational conversations and storytelling groups of your own.

We have a dream that our civic engagement campaign will train teens, regardless of background or means, to one day take our baton, and prove to the world how much they have always cared.

In one and a half young years, this project has become a global storytelling network spanning 30 countries with 9000+ blog hits, 500+ Youtube hits, 400+ podcast hits, 300+ Facebook and Twitter fans, 200+ event audience members, and most importantly, a unified group of 90 participating seniors, teens and volunteers. And we’re just getting started.

We are actively seeking funding to strengthen our current class, build a healthy 501(c)(3) organization, and launch our ambitious civic engagement campaign. Groundwork for the campaign includes a high-capacity website, a video documentary, and focus groups in a number of test venues.

Please consider clicking Here to contribute to our project fund. Your tax-deductible donations will have direct impact on how much we are able to achieve.

Thank you for being a very big part of our very big dream.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bernice (On the Bus)

What’s better than a superhero? An undercover one!

I’ve been saving up a lil’ something for you guys… a mini story series!! So basically, around September, Bernice started telling our group all these things that would happen to her on the way to the senior center. We’d go crazy over her stories and keep requesting more. I mean, here Bernice is, with her cane – she cannot walk long distances and needs help going up and down the stairs – and we’d hear about her fighting crime and helping crying women on a regular basis on the bus. And she doesn’t tell these stories with a bragging tone or anything like that. She tells these with real innocence. Kind of like, people need help, she’s helping – why not?

Plus, (in case you are newer to the blog and haven’t read her previous stories) Bernice is hilarious. She is hands-down the funniest person I know. So you gotta imagine this, while she’s reading these stories (which carry giant morals about justice and community, you know), she’d start laughing at herself between sentences!

What’s better than an undercover superwoman? One who is SUPER-fun to be around!

Bernice Moore
On the Bus       

Today, coming down on the bus, I saw a lady get sick.  She was taken to the hospital.  I hope she is alright.  Some people helped her until help arrived.  I sure hope she is alright.  When I was walking down 11th and Market Streets, a little boy came out of the store.  His mother was still in the store. I told him he was with the wrong mother – my baby boy is 60 year old. I was just passing through. So I stopped and looked into the store.  His mother was glad to see that he was alright.  Sometimes children get away, and their mother and father don’t see it.  I was glad everything was ok.

Bernice Moore
On the Bus

I was on the No. 15 bus this morning. Some people speak and some don’t.  A lady left her purse on the bus.  I see her all the time, and I told her about it.  She was glad I gave it to her.  One lady said I should have kept it.  I don’t believe in keeping something that ain’t mine.  It is so good to be honest. 

Another lady fell asleep on the bus.  A man tried to take her purse.  I woke her up.  He was mad at me.  I did not care about that.  It is good to help people.  There are some very mean people.  I am glad I am not one of them. 

The older we get, the more we see new things.  Everything has changed.  There are a lot of new people here.  We have to get used to them.  I love to see new people and make things change for the best. 

Bernice Moore
Meeting People on the Bus

I ride the bus everyday.  A lady on the bus gave me a dollar for a cup of coffee.  I thanked her but I told her I did not need it.  She said I was a nice person and she sees me all the time.  A lot of new people ride the No. 5 bus, all going different places.  Some people are very mean.  A lady on the bus was praying.  Three school kids was making fun of her.  I told them it was not nice to act like that.  They said they was sorry and went on their way. 

It is nice to see children act in a nice way.

Bernice Moore
On the Bus           

A lady got on the bus.  She could not walk too well.  The bus was packed at the front of the bus.  It is for handicap people but there are people who don’t care.  He had to tell them about it. 

A lady dropped her purse.  It had a lot of money in it.  I picked it up and gave it to her.  She wanted to give me some money.  But, I said no.  I only hope others would do the same. 

There are a lot of street people everywhere.  A lot of them do not know where to go.  I sometimes tell them there is always hope and care.  Sometimes we must give up on ourselves for God is the head doctor as long as we believe in him.  We will always be alright.  It is good to be happy and care about other people.

Bernice Moore
On the Bus

This morning, I was on the number 5 Bus. A lady fell trying to get on the bus, and the bus driver stopped the bus and helped her.

Another lady with a baby got on the bus. She was crying because her husband has left her and a lady on the bus told her where to go for help. I also told her of a place.

It was so sad when you see so many people need help. The way I see it, no one should give up on themselves. There are so many places where you can get help. There are good days and bad days. People should not give up. A lot of people are ashamed to talk about their troubles, but it is good for them to let someone know.

People also should keep up their good work and help others. Don’t forget, the Lord is a head doctor and prayer is the best thing.

Bernice Moore
The Lady on the Bus

On the bus this morning, a lady got sick.  The bus driver had to call another bus.  She was crying. Soon, another bus came and we was on our way.  It is good to help people.  The bus driver was nice. 

Another lady lost her bag .  I told her a lady took it to the bus station.  A man was lost. He was on the wrong bus. The weather was cold.  It is good to get on a warm bus. 

Some buses are cold.  It is good to see smiling faces.  The holidays are here again. Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year will be here soon.  We have lost a lot of friends here.  But it is good to meet new people and it goes on and on.   

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting to Know YOU: A Short Survey

Today’s the gloriously numbered 1-11-11. What better day to refresh our goals? Top of the list: listening to you! It would mean so much to us if you would fill out this very short survey:

Whether you just started reading our blog or have been reading for a while, we value your thoughts tremendously and look forward to hearing them. Thank you in advance for completing our survey and helping us sustain this project!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Joy in the (New!) Room

Like pictures? "Like" us on Facebook to see loads more!

A recent story said it best: “Oh how I miss being in the presence of such wonderful people.”

Our group took a couple weeks off for the holidays, so yesterday was the first time we’d seen one another in a while. And guess what? The senior center surprised us with a new room!! Can you imagine the feeling?  It’s like everyone was already carrying happy-new-year I-miss-you-all smiles. And then those smiles instantly tripled as the seniors came through the doorway in disbelief. The sunlight, the space, those smiles. Everything combined. It just made me feel so totally alive.

Want to hear the rest of the story I quoted from, and find out who wrote such sweet words? Nope, not a senior this time, but a teen. You may remember Tyreek, one of our summer interns. He came back to visit everyone before the holidays and this is what he handwrote and read out loud to the seniors. Yesterday, the seniors were still talking about these very words. (Tyreek: your visit meant so much to the group. I really want you to know that. Thank you.)

Tyreek Malachi

Oh how I miss being in the presence of such wonderful people. Recently I have been going through a lot with my finances and my living situation. And because of that I wasn't able to continue coming. But now I'm back. I am not fully stable but getting there. I realized I been missing out on the smiles, the laughs, the stories being told, the family feeling, the love that fills the air, the joy in the room and the care that the seniors give. I realize that I've been missing out on a lot and I'm glad to be back. Thanks Benita for this wonderful opportunity.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Brenda (Advice for H and H)

Speaking of listening more to you guys, remember how at our 11/14 event a couple of you asked us the question about how to deal with a heartbreak :( ? Well, last month you heard Arthur’s response (click Here to read it again) Here now is Brenda’s take on the timeless question. And now go and do it - EAT up the advice ;) !

Brenda Bailey
Advice for H and H

To expose ourselves to heartache and heartbreak is an emotion we can all identify with – but how we react depends on our life experiences.  When you are young and your heart is broken, you ask yourself; “What did I do?”, “Why me?” And you cry, can’t sleep, can’t eat.  Life seems so dark.  I felt the same, when it happened to me at a young age.  I cried, it seemed, for days.  Couldn’t sleep.  Couldn’t eat.  I thought I would never be the same, and I wasn’t.  I was stronger.  And the day I smelled the bacon cooking, I was so hungry. 

I ate, I was tired and needed to sleep. And the next day, when I awakened, I knew I had made it and I’d be OK.

As we become developed in age (older), we have more heartaches and heartbreaks.  Like when we lose a loved one or a beloved pet or a favorite earring that has sentimental value.   But I know it is only temporary.  I had the power to survive.  Our Creator has given us a resilient spirit, to stand and not fall, to bend and not break.  So, like the song says, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” 

And, when all else fails, have a piece of bacon.