Thursday, January 26, 2012

Please imagine. Please help.

Our team has the track record, vision and action plan to create an all-new, interactive website that will provide quality of life and intergenerational relationships to seniors, teens,  families, and readers like you worldwide.

But first, we need to raise $15,000 to get started with the first phase of story content management and web development. We need your help to reach this goal. Please consider donating Here and forwarding this personal letter from Benita to your friends and family.

Dear Readers and Friends of The Best Day of My Life (So Far), 

Imagine a world where storytelling classes like ours sprout up in countless senior centers, and one by one seniors become stronger and happier and begin opening up about their lives and feelings.

Imagine a world where family members spread across cities and continents can get online and search for all the stories that a senior has written about his childhood, to find out things about him and their ancestry that they had never known.

Imagine this family starting to talk – to the senior, and to one another. Imagine family relationships rekindling with each conversation.

Imagine a high school teacher sharing these seniors’ stories with a group of teenagers on a projection screen, and a teenager going home to her laptop to read on. Imagine this teenager listening, really listening, to the life lessons embedded in these stories. Imagine her posting a comment for the senior on the other side of the world who wrote her favorite story, telling the senior that he has inspired her to be a better person.

Imagine people like you and me, no matter our age, ethnicity, occupation, mood of the day, frustrations, inhibitions, popping open an easy-to-use website with all these stories whenever we just need a little more sunshine in our lives.

Imagine this world with me and please help us get there.

Since 2009, I have met every Thursday with a growing group of seniors at Philadelphia Senior Center for our storytelling class, encouraging them to tell their stories with pen and paper – and simultaneously built a digital readership and Facebook and Twitter fanbase to show the seniors that people really do care. In two years, class roster has surpassed 100; attendance has surpassed 2000; readership of has surpassed 16000 hits from over 60 countries.

In addition, our supplementary events and programming have been attended by 900 audience members; our volunteer base is 40-person strong with ages ranging from 16 to 78; and an international wait list of senior centers has formed requesting training and advice to launch similar programs. Our partners include major organizations such as AARP, Free Library of Philadelphia, and The Philadelphia Foundation. Wharton School of Business and University of South Australia are some of the institutions that have researched and documented our project’s unique methods and benefits.

I began this project because my grandma’s stories have given us a deep, life-changing friendship, and I want to share my personal experience with as many people as I can reach.  I believe my team and my work has just begun. I believe that with digital expansion, this project can reach thousands more people in every of the 60 countries where our readers live.

Thank you for reading this letter. Please consider donating using the Donation Button on our website. Any dollar amount would help. And please forward this letter to help us spread the word.


Benita Cooper
Founder and Executive Director
The Best Day of My Life (So Far)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Loretta (Don't Give Up Learning)

An awe-inspiring word of encouragement from Loretta, for anyone who’s ever had a speech problem or has struggled in any way:

Loretta Gaither
Don’t Give Up Learning

I would like to talk to other people about their lives and tell them they can make it, even with stuttering. They can learn and go to school. When I was 5 years old, I stuttered continuously; I am 69 now, and I am going back to school to get my GED.

I started going to a special school when I was 6 years old, where the teachers said I could learn. My mother said I couldn’t learn, but my teacher said I could. Her name was Mrs. Clark.

She sat with me during class and showed me how to break up works into syllables so I could say them slowly. The stuttering got better and better every year. But now sometimes it still comes back when I get upset. And people think I don’t know what I am doing or saying. But I am actually thinking clearly and just having trouble with my speech. They think I am senile, because I don’t sound clear. But I do know what I am saying in my mind.

I come to this class to express myself through written words. This class makes me stronger and want to always learn more. That’s why I am going to keep learning and get my GED. And that’s why I write this essay, to tell other people who stutter (and people who don’t stutter) that they can learn too. Don’t quit. God bless everyone who reads this essay.

When Loretta picked the title, “Don’t Give Up Learning”, she asked me if I remembered the young woman in the audience at our 2010 public event, Seniors’ Storytelling Day, who raised her hand to ask our seniors how she could better express herself.  I did. Very much so. You can click Here for the blog post I wrote about Loretta and the young woman a little more than a year ago, and Loretta’s reflection of their connection. I remember the story but I forgot its title until I reread the blog post. I got chills when I saw the title: "I Don't Give Up." I got chills again just typing that. It's like, back then, for her to say that about herself, was already the strongest I had seen her. And now, she is here to tell the whole world, Hey, don't YOU give up either! Loretta is a true leader now. I am in awe.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Let Freedom Ring On!

Happy Martin Luther King Day, everyone! For me, today used to be the name of just another holiday, until I heard these stories, and saw the passion in my senior buds' eyes as they told them. It took listening to my senior buds' stories for me to really "get" it. It took watching them - many of whom happen to be African American - speak out loud about their personal experiences for me to realize that Dr. King's spirit is alive in all of them. And because of so many reasons - including the fact that I am an Asian American who gets the privilege of hanging out with my senior buds of all races - I too should be grateful for the freedom that this holiday represents.

Click Here to see what today means to Helen, Beatrice, Hazel, and Loretta. I posted this batch of stories one year ago but I thought maybe we can reread them together today ;)

And hey, if you have a younger bud of your own, how about sharing this batch of stories so we can all help freedom ring on?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pat (My Space)

My space? It's right here with you all ;) Yes, it's true! When life gets hectic and I need a quiet moment, I know I can always reread my senior buds' stories, and share one here, and become instantly happy. For that, I thank my senior buds and I thank you. Thanks for letting me dream, travel, gain knowledge, find peace.

Patricia Williams
My Space

Reserved so that I can rid myself
of anxieties frustration wants.
Where I can dream travel gain
knowledge, find peace find peace 
my space.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mr. Robert (Friends No More)

A couple months ago, I posted a couple stories by Mr. Robert about his feelings towards family. You can see that post by clicking Here. I was prompted to write that post because of the latest story that he had just read out loud in class, which was about friendship. I still remember the way his voice cracked at the last sentence, ever so slightly. When I turned to look at him to make sure he was ok, his hand was wiping tears from his eyes. I didn’t actually see any tears, just his hand which covered his face for a minute. These tiny little moments of emotion that Mr. Robert allows into his writing and into our classroom are so precious, because he comes across as a quick joker and tough guy in person. But you know, a truly tough guy is one who is willing to bare his soul. I wrote some version of that in the other blog post, and I am sticking to that here.

Robert Mitchell
Friends No More

In the late 50’s & all of the 60’s until I was drafted into the military in 1969, I grew up as a teenager with about 10 guys & more in which I was around with every day.  These fellows were all my friends, just like family.  Out of the 10 of us, only two of the guys had fathers that were living at home.  All the rest of us were raised by one parent (our mothers).  We did everything together: played sports, chased girls, went to the movies, had house part-tays, when to dances, had our own house parties, went shopping together and hung out in Atlantic City together.  However, once I left the military for 2 yrs and came home my whole lifestyle changed with my friends. I got married 3 times, had kids (five) and became a family man. 15 years of my life will always be special for me cause this was the family I never had (friends).  And now 2011, without them, that’s why I write.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Norman (Mo McCooper)

Happy 2012! And now, a toast to the new year and new friendships!

Norman is a newer member of our class and this is something he wrote about Mo, whom as you know has been a core member of our class for a few years now. The day Norman wrote the story, Mo happened to be absent from class, so Norman reread the story out loud the week later when Mo was back, for the group to hear again, and for Mo to hear for the first time. I squealed when Norman started reading and leaned over the table so I could watch Mo’s expression – he was sitting a few chairs to my right, I can still remember that. It took him a minute to realize the entire story was a dedication to him. He was so surprised. He started smiling, the group cheered, the smiles and cheers spread and grew. At the end of the story, the men exchanged a knowing look across the room. One conversation, one story, one look, and there it is, a friendship that is fresh and new and strong and manly yet delicate and beautiful and ready to take on the world.

Happy new year to everyone of you reading this right now. Thank you for everything. Thank you for lending us your ear and in that way, being very much a true friend.

Norman Cain
Mo McCooper

Last week was the second time that I came to the writer’s group.  I read an excerpt about youth high society in the 50’s.

I heard beautiful stories and poetry.  At the end of the session, I became engrossed in an hour and a half discussion with a veteran member of the writing group: Mo McCooper.

Our conversation started with a discussion on class lines in Phila in the 50’s; but moved quickly to a subject that we both love, the evolution of basketball in Phila.

We were able to identify and tell personal tales about the players from the city during the late 50’s through the 70’s.  At that time, the sport was not as lucrative and popular as it is now.  There were not more than 10 or 12 NBA teams as opposed to the 32 teams that now comprise the NBA.

Million dollar players would not be on strike, as they are during the period of this writing.  These players from yesteryear that Mo and I discussed would have been professionals, not club or semi-pro players; the time was not right.

Mo was an oral history archive on the state of basketball in Phila fifty years ago.  His testimony was appreciated, as I have been researching the subject for some years.  He had personal stories about Wilt Chamberlain, Sonny Hill and a host of other legendary players from the era we’ve been talking about.  There were other players that we discussed that have been lost in time.

I am looking forward to coming back to the writer’s group, speaking with Mo and everyone else present.