Monday, September 24, 2012

3 Years, 30 Moments, 1 Story

3 years ago today, this project was born.

It needed a name.

The Best Day of My Life (So Far) were the only words big enough to encompass the positive spirit of my grandma, and the deep joy her stories and friendship make me feel.

What I didn’t know was that these words are even more massive than I realized, stretchier by the day to welcome more stories, more lives, more friendships. I didn’t know how many people this project would soon connect - and I mean truly, emotionally connect - from senior storytellers to volunteers and readers of all ages worldwide. Turns out we were never just collecting stories. Turns out this project is the ultimate intergenerational story, and you and I are all a part of it.

What better time than our shared 3rd birthday, to bring back 30 of the most memorable moments from our shared story… so far? Click to read the original blog post about any of these moments!

1A. When I wrote my first half-a-post about class… haha yes it was only a half, what a way to start…

1B. And then, the second half

2. When the words came tumbling out

3. When Bernice told about war, race and “Black and White Grits”

4. When Hattie told me what she had told her dying grandmom

5. When Big Mo took down his walls

6. When Henrietta made me cry

7. When Mo’s daughter emailed me and made my dream come true

8. When Henrietta thanked the worldwide web

9. When inner city teens started visiting our class with friends and created their own story-reading blog

10. When audience members, including 7-year-old Baye, shared their reactions to our seniors' stories and our project at our first major public event

11. When history came alive –  Helen, Beatrice, Hazel, Loretta all wrote about Martin Luther King

12. When Beatrice said our class is like a rainbow

13. When my grandma wrote our seniors a napkin note

14. When Madi stepped up from a visitor to become a teen intern

15. When a fluorescent pink walrus came to class

16. When Joe wrote about vision and Olivia, a teen, responded

17. When we launched a senior-and-teen satellite class in partnership with AARP and Free Library of Philadelphia

18. When Watson wrote from South Africa after finding Ellis, his favorite middle school teacher, on our blog

19. When Arthur passed away

20. When Arthur’s sister came to class to feel his presence

21. When this class helped Greta start a conversation with her grandson

22. When Isadora told her dying daughter, “You are My Sunshine”

23. When a reader from Canada thanked Isadora for inspiring her to reach out to her mom

24. When we were featured at Online News Association’s Social Media Summit

25. When Wharton students spoke up about our project

26. When Norman talked about how this project changed his pre-judgment towards young people

27. When 10-year-old Jasmine came to class and called it the best day of her life

28. When my senior buds pulled off the surprise of the century - a surprise party for me

29. When we unveiled our vision

30. Every time I get back on that phone with my amazing grandma

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

1 Hour X 1 Table

Want to try something slightly crazy because, well, the week before a 3-year anniversary calls for crazy ;) I’ve never tried this before. A MEGA blog post featuring all the stories our seniors shared in 1 session.

Last Thursday, the spectrum of topics ranged from Brenda's detailed
 observations of a wasp in a car to Loretta's struggles with 
homelessness, to Hazel meeting Muhammed Ali and thinking that he was 
handsome (hehe, oh yeah there was plenty of uncensored verbal commentary there…), to Beatrice saying about our program: This is the beginning, 
not the end.

During class, depending on their mood, not all the seniors write, some listen. But everyone joins in for iphone pics and videos, discussions and snacks. As individuals their voices blow my mind, but together their voices (and listening ears) rock my world.

And so – this makes for an unfashionably long blog post I know, and I am sorry because long things are not “in” or cool these days… but I swear to you, I’ve gotta show you the whole batch of stories just once, just so you know how it feels to be sitting at our story table. The craziest part is how simple the equation is. 1 hour X 1 table.

Beatrice Newkirk
Doing What I Like Best

I like and love coming to the writing class.  We have people from different races.  We learn and hear their stories.  We are of different neighborhoods.
We live in different parts of this city.  Thursdays of every week at 1 o’clock to 2 we are here.  There are lots of things we can write about.  There are stories we never heard before.  When we hear them, it is like I heard it before.  We have come a long ways.  This is the beginning, not the end.  Coming here together is a joyful thing. 
There is so much we have not heard.

Michael Chan Man-Tin
Very Happy

I am very happy to rejoin again after a long summer holiday. I hope all of us had a nice holiday and enjoyed the happiness spent with family members too. Best wishes and happy holidays for members of our families!

Loretta Gaither
My Livelihood

I am an advising counselor at the senior center. We had a meeting today, and I am on the advising board. I am still awaiting to find what position I want to have. I am very proud of myself.

I am still in the process of moving and finding a place to move to. God is on my side, and I won't stop until I get things straightened out. I cannot be taken advantage of, even if I am 70 years old. I have roommates who don't appreciate staff going through my belongings. My roommates are in need of assistance, and I help them with everything.

I am going to get my GED. I am not finished with trying to get where I need to be. I am fighting for my social security. I don't feel it is fair that the city is doing/treating people wrong. For instance, I was the person who exposed the city council people to the news for the drunk driving incident over the weekend.

I'm tired because I feel the city is taking advantage of me and my livelihood. I am fed up because I only get 2, not 3, meals a day. The only thing I got to spend out of my check is $100/mo. How can someone live off that? I just want my livelihood back. I want a home. I don't know how long it will take?

My psychiatrist, not my personal physician, tells me that I'm crazy, to take my money. If anything happens to me, I want someone to go to investigate.

Besides everything, this class is an inspiration for me. God Bless.

Sincerely yours,
Loretta Gaither

Hazel Nurse
A Humanitarian

As Muhammad Ali accepts the prestigious Liberty Medal tonight from the National Constitution Center, let’s roll back the years.

On invitation from our principal, at the Huey School possibly in the early seventies, Muhammad Ali appeared at my classroom. He faced a line of about forty eight and nine year olds and proceeded to lift each child into the air, give a big hug and words of encouragement.

What an honor it was to greet this world famous Olympic Medal Winner, Heavy Weight Boxing Champion, but most of all, a fighter for religious and civil rights.

Joe Garrison

I met my first radio personality when I was 6 years old, believe it or not.  She was a lady who did a morning show weekdays from 9 to 9:30 right after the wake up show on KVW.  Her name was Ruth Wells.  She used to give home-making advice:  home decorating, ways to save money on food shopping, every day she would talk about a few days.  I guess you could say she was the Martha Stewart of her day, but she was local.  I believe this took place in 1948 – I was in 1st grade and Ms. Wells came to visit.  After she read us a Christmas story, we sang a few Christmas songs and had refreshments.  She was a guest to our class.  I was in awe.  I was in the same room as a local celebrity?!  I was star struck.  She sounded just the way she did in person as she did on air.  I met other local celebrities after that but Ms. Wells was my first.  I never forgot her.  I felt special that I had something to brag about to my friends in other classes and to my family. 

Isadora Fields


The Best Day of My Life So Far

The best day of my life so far is today.  This sun is shining brightly.  I had a rough time getting here today.  There was an accident and the bus was detoured.  I had to walk back several blocks.  I really got my exercise today.

Henrietta Faust
Sweeter!  That’s My Battle Plan

To be sweet, and get sweeter and sweeter day by day!
Sweeter and sweeter day by day!  Hey!
I am sweeter and sweeter, I’m talkin’ sticky syrupy sweeter no matter what.
It’s my cure for insanity, I’m believing it baby! 
I’m a shelter for the truth! 
Spending my life crossing people at the church and the steeple!
I will be sweeter.
That’s my battle plan!  Sweeter and sweeter!
I know, I love this! 

Henrietta Faust
His Image on Earth

Healing is an everyday thing.
That was close
To hate his image I almost was provide
It was so fast, I almost sinned by last
And I would’ve been out of the game.
And the game would’ve been over!
If I had fallen for the trick and game would’ve been over
And I would have failed the test of temptation
So I glorify God
I praise God for stopping strong illusions
And I passed a test
One’s own belief and hunger test
And you can’t live by bread alone
Only God’s image I must not hate.
But I almost hated God’s image on earth
Do not hate God’s Image on Earth
Be careful not to hate God’s people on earth.

Greta Adams
I’m Glad God Made Me

This is something I read somewhere that I would like to quote and share:
I accept the fact that God made me.  I am therefore my desire, continuously to seek His will, to walk in His way, to glorify Him both night and day.  Even when life’s lessons cause me to endure moments of disappointment, I yet know for sure that God has a plan, heavenly designed and because of this, I can always find joy! And an eagerness to wait and see just how He will work things out for me!

Time and time again like He said He would, He has worked “all things” together for my good.

Glory, Hallelujah, my heart doth sing.  I would rather have Jesus than anything.

Brenda Scantelbury
The Bug Who Cried Out Loud

One evening as I and some of my friends got into their van, we saw a large sized (something) insect on the dashboard. We didn’t quite know what it was, but at closer inspection we thought it maybe be a wasp. When we closed the doors, windows and the air conditioning was turned on; the something started moving and trying to use its wings. One of the friends opened the van door on the driver’s side and I opened the door next to where I was sitting. The winged creature tried to rise up and all of us either ducked down or attempted to leave the van! The friend who was in the driver’s seat grabbed a newspaper and tried to get it out of the van and when that happened, we had a large sound that sounded like a screech. We all gasped, screamed and burst out with laughter at ourselves, how we behaved. I had never in my heard such a thing. I had heard recently that everything has a voice, well that insect or wasp, whatever it was – screeched as to say: Leave me alone. I came into this van just like you; to get out of the rain!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Unveiling... Our Vision Video!

Our Vision Video - please enjoy and share!

Just for fun... thought you might want to see our seniors react to the video ;)
Our 3-year anniversary is just around the corner… so readers, for just a few blog posts, we’re taking a quick break from sharing stories from our class to talking about a bigger story: Ours.

Facebook and Twitter fans got a sneak peek, and now, hello World, I am thrilled to officially unveil our Vision Video.

If you like what you see, please Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter, and post the video on your Facebook or Twitter pages!

You are part of our story now, and your friends and family are our next chapter - please keep our story rocking and rolling!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We're Turning 3 Years Old - Help Us Celebrate!

Hello, September!!! You guys… I am so excited I can barely contain myself… on 9/24 Best Day turns 3 years old, and here are 3 ways you can help us celebrate:


On 9/24, recordings of our seniors’ stories will be transformed into giant light beams all night long across the city’s skyline! Best Day is the Featured Group at “Open Air”, a spectacular light show co-hosted by Association for Public Art, Philadelphia Live Arts, Philly Fringe Festival and Design Philadelphia.


Our 9/24 blog post will be a compilation of 30 special stories and moments from the project’s history (so far) – and I’d love your suggestions on what to include! Simply scroll back through 3 years of stories (on the blog sidebar) and tell me which blog posts you like, and why, at or on Our Facebook Page!


Best Day’s stories and photos are featured at Philadelphia Art Alliance’s exhibition “Philadelphia Qualities of Life”, in a 3D installation about grandmothers by artists Eliza Stamps and Amy LinsenMayer. The show showcases problem-solving ideas to improve life, and runs Thursday 9/6-Sunday 11/25.


*Thank you to filmmaker Andrea Mack with the support of Larissa Mogano - you two are so superfly and it's been such an honor to have you on the team.

**Thank you to web whiz Tracy Levesque and her team at Yikes, Inc. especially Jodie Saueraker and Carlos Zuniga for all your web support… and 24/7 moral support ;)