Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Helen (Chivalry is Still Here)

The only act that can follow the previous “star”-studded blog post is… hmm, a lil’ act of kindness, perhaps ;) ?
Helen H. Lahr
Chivalry is Still Here

Sometimes it seems like this is a very impolite era, but then I look around and I realize that isn’t true.

One day, my daughter had pulled us in front of a restaurant and I opened the car door. I began to get out, and immediately, a lady took my arm and walked me to the door.

Another time, a young couple, who were talking to each other in front of the restaurant stopped and got on each side of me. They escorted me to into the restaurant.

This past Tuesday my daughter got up as usual and started to drive down I-95 at 6:25 A.M. The weather report promised the day would be sunny and beautiful. Before leaving the house, the reporter on KYW stated there had been a traffic accident, but it would soon be cleared. Well, we had been on the road long before there were two other accidents. A back had begun to occur and soon we weren’t even moving. Finally, my daughter called her school and told them of the situation.

Eventually, we reached Philadelphia and turned onto Front and Lombard Streets. We were very late for my daughter’s job so I told her to hail a cab. I didn’t want her to drive me to the Senior Center and make her later still. There are always a lot of taxis in the area.

As the cab pulled over and I bent down to open the cab’s door, I heard a voice say, “Let me do that.” This gentleman reached out and opened the cab door and placed my coat, which was hanging out of the cab window, on the seat and beside me. He said, “Have a nice day,” and closed the door.

This is a beautiful world in which we live in because there are many beautiful people in it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Robert (Wally the Walrus)

Hehe Facebook fans… I teased you with quite the class photos last week, didn’t I? (If you’re reading this blog and not a FB fan, you’re missing out!! That’s where all our goofy photos are. Click Here to see and "like" the page.) Who, you might be wondering, is that very fluorescent pink mystery writing class member? To deserve a seat and notebook and a snack and everything?! Well, who better to introduce Wally – the Walrus – than Robert himself?

Robert Leung

Today is such a beautiful day.  It’s a nice and sunny day.  The sky is clear.  The weather is 80 degrees.  Three of us – Mo, Michael and me - walked all the way from Coffee Cup after our daily lunch, to come to our class.  And here is the most wonderful thing: on my way to our meeting, I bought a wonderful, nice stuffed animal.  It is called Wally the Walrus.  It’s for my grandson Andrew, whom I love very, very much…

I love to carry him and feed him daily milk and most of all carry him and pet him to sleep each and every day.  I just love him to death.  I call him The Cutest.  ½ Chinese, ½ Italian (his father is Italian).  My daughter Dorothy met him at Stanford University.  They both graduated there with honor degrees.  My son-in-law is a doctor at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and my daughter Dorothy works at the School of Medicine.  I’m so proud of her.

I’m very, very happy to come to this writing and reading club.  I have met a lot of wonderful people.  And I’ve learned a lot in the meetings.  All the people are nice and wonderful…I love them all.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nice News - Teacher of the Year Award

I am humbled to share that I was awarded Teacher of the Year by Philadelphia Senior Center last Friday! The best part was having my senior buddies by my side, and seeing how happy they were. Here are a few very kind words from Vicky Lynam, the center's fabulous director. Thank you, Vicky, for letting me to barge into your office that summer day, and for your unending support!

Email received: Fri, April 15, 2011 6:20:16 PM
Subject: For the Blog
From: Lynam, Victoria
To: Cooper, Benita   

I first met Benita Cooper in the doorway of my office in June 2009.  Our then Volunteer Services Coordinator, Helen Sunga, had brought Benita to meet me, the Director of Philadelphia Senior Center (PSC), because she wanted to volunteer.  We proceeded to have an animated conversation in the hall just outside my office because she had come to with an exciting idea for a new class – a writing & storytelling class for the members that would allow them to share some of the hidden treasures of experiences from their pasts.  She shared that one of the writing prompts she would use for the class was “The Best Day of My Life…So Far” – which I thought was great. I loved the positive, upbeat quality of both Benita and the phrase “…So Far.”  And she was willing to volunteer to teach it – even though she is a Harvard trained architect.  Having grown up in Hong Kong, she’s bi-lingual too. Wow!  We stood there throwing out ideas and getting very excited about the prospect of what could happen with this new class.  We decided we’d try it as a 6 or 8 week series in the fall.

September came, then class started…it gradually grew in numbers and intensity.  The seniors attending the class begged Benita to consider doing it as an on-going class instead of a series.  They were having so much fun and the group was developing such a bond with one another, they didn’t want it to end.  Neither did Benita or PSC Main Branch.  The whole phenomena expanded, developed, and grew in ways no one expected at the beginning.  It seemed almost miraculous to me.  The blog that Benita started to link the seniors’ families with the stories they were writing became very popular, and the stories on it never fail to touch me in a very deep way.  The families of some of the class members have expressed their heartfelt appreciation for the blog – and their responses have brought tears to my eyes a few times too. 

The class, the blog, the relationships, the wonderful stories the seniors share, the commitment and enthusiasm of Benita herself – these are all wonderful things.  Things that add depth and meaning to the lives of the people involved.  This is why we decided that Fookling Benita Cooper should win PSC Main Branch’s Volunteer Teacher of the Year award, which she graciously received at a ceremony today. Keep doing what you’re doing, Benita.  We at PSC all appreciate it and you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Beatrice (I Will Keep On Writing)

"Putting it down on paper is like releasing your burden – when you are writing you remember lots of things. It comes to you – that is why I will keep on writing."

Go… Beatrice!!

Beatrice Newkirk
Our Writing Class

Writing from the heart is a good way to start.

We write from within, a lot of joy it brings.

We can write about love.

We can write about hope,

We can write about getting people off dope.

We can hope for the best and God will do the rest.

Everything we do in our class,

We know it will last and last.

We can write about the past.

There are so many things to remember.

Beatrice Newkirk

Writing is putting you words down and experiences on paper. Sometimes writing things of what you feel on paper, it can be about a specific event, it can be about your life, it can be about things that happen during your lifetime, it can be about things related to you. We can write about good times and bad times. Putting it down on paper is like releasing your burden – when you are writing you remember lots of things. It comes to you—that is why I will keep on writing.

Beatrice Newkirk
Fun in Our Writing Class

We had a good time last Thursday.  We did not write anything.  We just listened to Benita’s interviews and looked at our videos on the computer.  We all looked nice.  We talked about what we have done together so far. 

We have many new members in the writing class.  We welcome them with open arms.

Steve’s birthday was last Thursday.  We all sang happy birthday to him. (Benita has many volunteers helping her. Steve is one of them. He comes to class and makes very nice videos for us.)

We have lots of fun here in this class, coming together every week.  I look forward to this day. 

Our teacher is the best.  She tells us what to do, then we do the rest.  Benita is her name.  Writing is her game.

Things I Enjoy at the Writing Class
Beatrice Newkirk

The things I like when I come to the class.  I always look forward to coming to the class.   We do things together.  We listen to other people’s stories.  Everyone who reads or tells their stories have everyone in suspense.  Everyone has a story to tell.  You feel something after hearing the stories.  You can picture what they are talking about in your mind. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Where in the World...

In the last blog post, I said hi to the “World” and I realized I owe it to you guys to share how literally I mean that. It’s my honor to share with you a partial (!) list of the countries where YOU are reading from. Thank you so much for being here with us, and please keep telling your friends about our project!

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • India
  • Romania
  • Canada
  • Albania
  • Australia
  • Germany
  • Ukraine
  • Bosnia
  • Herzegovina
  • Japan
  • South Africa
  • Pakistan
  • Mongolia
  • Poland
  • Honduras
  • Israel
  • Malaysia
  • Philippines
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Sri Lanka
  • Gambia
  • Bangladesh
  • Cayman Islands
  • Hong Kong
  • Cambodia
  • Belarus
  • Jordan
  • Hungary
  • Turkey
  • Indonesia
  • Egypt
  • Austria
  • Spain
  • Kuwait
  • South Korea
  • Mexico
  • Kenya
  • France
  • Scotland
  • Denmark

Michael (Soo Chow)

Hi world! Hi Monday! Hi spring! If you are in Philly too, how are you liking this fabulous weather? Finally, a legitimate no-coat-required-iced-coffee-appropriate spring day. Not in Philly? No prob! We’ve got just the story to get you in the mood for spring, wherever you are in the world. Soo Chow may be beautiful, but Michael’s observations are what really take my breath away. Only a man who truly honors life and loves nature can say something so gentle and wise.

Michael Chan Man-Tin
Soo Chow

I was born in the beautiful countryside in Soo Chow, China. The water is running all the year long, but it flows in a different way depending on the season- winter, spring, summer, fall. The trees look different too in each season. Spring is the best season I like. The flowers of different plants together all form one big garden. It’s a beautiful world. I hope one day I can return to my country.

I needed not have a private garden. The whole town is full of flowers and grains growing on the farms.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Joe (Marriage - A State of Mind)

Today, let’s talk – purely and simply and bravely – about true romantic love. I am guaranteeing it right now, this will be one of the most intense love stories you’ll have ever heard.

And so, inspired by Joe’s story, is it ok with you guys if I say something to my own husband here? Jason, you’re my “Something Good”. Thank you for making me the absolute luckiest girl in the world.
Joe Garrison
Marriage – A State of Mind

Debra was my favorite girl but she reasoned, cared and thought like a wife.

Four years ago I had a heart attack and Debra was the one who told my sister, and was by my side the whole time during my recovery.

I met her at work 20 years ago. We were first office mates and we became friends, and one thing led to another.

It was in ’06, when we found out that we had been in love with each other all these years. Well, through the years we kept growing our friendship. I couldn’t start my work day without saying good morning to her.

This relationship was based on true friendship. We became a sounding board for each other’s problems, or struggles.

I can write a whole book about Debra.

Because of who she was, her sweetness radiated through the whole agency where we worked.

Everyone liked her, and the few people who didn’t—I felt that they were just jealous of her.
This girl was the love of my life and she passed away 2 years ago. She found out she had cancer in ’08.

Even though she is not here, I still feel as though she is here with me.
Believe it or not, sometimes when the wind is right, I still smell the fragrance of her hair. That’s how much I loved her.

When I found out that she had passed away, I literally lost it. It took me 6, 7 months to accept the fact that she has passed. That’s how much I loved her. 

Debra was the sweetest girl I ever knew. If a person can find someone like that once in their life, there’re fortunate, they have something good.  True romantic love is the perfume of life.

P.S. We had a special way of expressing our love to each other. We’d say Debra-Forevera, and that means she is mine forever.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ronald (The Family)

After reading out loud her story “The Big Earthquake” about Japan’s tsunami (check out the previous blog post), Beatrice pulled out the poem below, written by her son Ronald a few years ago. I remembered it right away. That familiar page of lines loaded up so much wisdom, so much reality, so much love. I remembered it because Beatrice had actually brought this poem to class back in 2009 or early 2010 when our class was still tiny, maybe with four or five regular members. I feel like back then, she brought it in to show us what a beautiful poem her son wrote, as a way to introduce us to her very family. But this time around, she requested that I make a copy for everyone in our class – which now has a roster of over 50 seniors and 20 teens – she didn’t have to say why. Because WE are a family now.

Ronald Newkirk (Beatrice’s son)
Shared in class 3/17/2011
The Family

When it’s family,
you forgive them for they know not what they do

When it’s family,
you accept them, ‘cause you have no choice but to.

When it’s family,
they’re a mirror of the worst and best in you.

And when they always put you to the test and
you always do you best, and just pray for GOD to
do the rest.

When it’s family,
some are preachers, some are gays, some are addicts,
drunks and strays, but none are turned away.

When it’s family,
some are lucky, others ain’t, some are fighters,
others faint, winners, losers, sinners, saints.

It’s all about family.

And when it’s family, you trust
them and your heart’s an open door.

And when it’s family,
you tolerate what you’d kill others for.

When it’s family,
you love and hate and take, then give some more.

Somehow you justify mistakes, try to find some better way
to solve the problems day to day in the family.

You take the trouble as it comes and love them more
than anyone, good or bad or indifferent it’s still family.

You choose your lover, pick your friends,
not the family that you’re in, they’ll be with you
‘til the end cause it’s family.

And when it’s family,
you forgive them for they know not what they do.

When it’s family,
they’re a mirror of the worst and best in you.

When it’s family,
let me be all I should be to
The Family. . .

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hazel and Beatrice (The Big Earthquake)

Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to our readers in Japan, and readers with family and friends there.

Hazel Nurse
Scary Reflections

After several days of terrifying news from Japan, memories returned of steps we Americans took years ago in case of an atomic attack.  Air raid shelters, air raid drills, and blackouts were part of any day.  Gas rationing and food rationing also existed.  In fact, my Dad wore a white cape and carried a huge flashlight along with other air raid wardens until the “All Clear” was sounded.

I retrieved this little ditty that I wrote during this era:

"Baby Atom"
Baby atom drives so fast
In the fields of science
If we do not guide his steps
We’ll leave this world behind us.

Beatrice Newkirk
The Big Earthquake

It was a very sad thing that happened in Japan. It was a big storm. It was so sad to see how the water could destroy so much and so many people died.

How lucky we are to be alive.

It happened so fast. There are still so many people unaccounted for. Generations washed away. All we can do is pray for everyone.

You never know when something is going happen. That’s why we have to love and help one another.