Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Honoring Lea

True, I founded Best Day, but in the bigger scheme of things, it’s more like Best Day found me. This project reminds me every day how well it fits its name: the best day of MY life so far.

One of these living reminders is my volunteer team, and today I'd like to honor a special member of that group, Lea Peterson. If you’re a Facebook fan of ours, you have probably been seeing her in our class pictures. (If not, ahh! - let’s get connected HERE so you don’t miss out on more pics!) An avid runner and basketball player, she is the one who exudes athleticism and energy in person and pics – perfect match for the skyhigh energy of our seniors… and me!

This year, Lea will be completing her degree in Therapeutic Recreation at Temple University. As you read below, we met through a mass email of all "places". I noticed the spunk and confidence in her voice right away and took her under my wing.

Among many hats (including Tweeting – connect with us on Twitter too if you haven’t yet!), Lea co-facilitates my beloved senior class with me. Because I saw how thoroughly she “gets” Best Day’s spirit and methodology, I offered her one of the most important jobs I have ever offered anyone: co-authoring Best Day’s long awaited Facilitator Training Guide. Many of you have written in over the years, asking me to spill my “secrets” of how to start a Best Day group. The Training Guide is my answer, and I can’t be happier to be mentoring Lea and getting her spunk and confidence infused into my message to you.

And now, meet Lea, my friend, co-facilitator, co-author, and shining mentee. Check back soon – in the next blog post, we will feature four senior stories that has especially inspired Lea.

(Want to nominate your local senior center to receive an advance copy of our training guide? Email us at or message us on Facebook!)

Lea Peterson

Being a part of The Best Day Of My Life So Far has been an honor, to say the least. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many great souls! The volunteers and seniors are truly some of the best people. I felt like a part of the family immediately.

Every week as I go to the Senior Center, do tasks behind the scenes, or tell someone about where I go each Thursday at 1pm, I think to myself, “I am so so so glad that I emailed a professional listserv in search of an internship – Benita personally replied to my mass-email, we spoke with on the phone (I still remember that first conversation!), and I got started doing my part for TBDOMLSF. I began with helping in the social media department’s Twitter account.

My role quickly grew to so much more. The first session I attended really hit home. Everything I was doing behind the scenes came full circle. I have definitely found something that is totally “me”. Since the first time I attended class on February 28, 2013, I have heard amazing stories. I would like to highlight 4 in particular.

Beatrice Newkirk’s stories are always heartfelt, mostly quick and to the point but say so much. She wrote one titled, “Living Life to the Fullest”. I remember this story because I was fairly new to class and this was the first story I heard that sent such a strong message. It was surprising to me that her story was so open and deep, I really just thought, “Wow, this is a great group. They really trust one another and feel comfortable being themselves.” After hearing her story, I wanted to bring everyone from my own generation to listen. Everyone needs to hear these stories.

Hattie Lee Ellerbe’s “A Day To Remember When I Was Four” sent laughs throughout the room. I recall her tone and voice while she was reading, watching her face as she ended the story. It was a priceless moment. Another short story, but it was very impressing that she remembered this day. I barely remember my first two years of high school, and I was 14 and 15 years old! Not 4! After class this day I left thinking, I cannot wait for next week to hear more stories about their younger years. To hear more about how they grew up in the city that I live in today is so eye-opening.

“The Thing That I Miss” by Joe Garrison was a favorite by the group that day. As he read about the trolley, I looked around the table and saw remembrance and recognition that took each senior back to the days of the trolley vibrations. It was like they all related about the Philadelphia trolley. At that moment, I was in love with the friendships they have formed from Best Day.

Gogo Jenny Williams’s “My Best Days Are Now” has been my favorite title so far. To me the impact this group has made in her life shines with this title. This story was an “aha” moment for me that Thursday. She wrote about ants and purpose, and how each day is a mystery. Before I came to class that day I had been eating outside on my stoop. I had dropped some crumbs and noticed a tiny ant grab the huge (in comparison) crumb! I thought how remarkable that they can carry so much weight – what a strong creature. It was coincidental that she wrote about ants that day. I related to her story very well.

As the substitute facilitator for Benita this fall while she is on maternity leave, I will have many more stories to hear and friendships to make. I was more than honored when she felt I would be a good fit to fill in for her with this original group of amazing seniors – which has become the inspiration and model for additional groups worldwide. Little did I know when I first began in January as a social media officer that this huge, exciting responsibility would offer itself to me.

In order for me to be prepared and comfortable as a facilitator, Benita has been sharing her secrets with me. I journaled, we talked, and she told me all about how her mind works and why she does or doesn't do certain things as a facilitator.

I was again honored when Benita asked me to take on a related role that both lead to and result from my own "facilitator training" – the making of our Training Guide book. Being a part of something so life-changing and now being able to put it into words on paper for others to read and implement is, again, something I could have never imagined happening when I sent that first mass-email.

To sum it all up, I can't wait for the seniors to teach me even more every week this fall. I cannot thank Benita and the seniors and other volunteers enough for my experiences so far and my experiences to come!