Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rachel (Reflections and Stories)

One of the volunteers I get to work with directly is Rachel, and what’s really cool is I get to work with her in more ways than one. Rachel is a pre-med creative writing major at Bryn Mawr College, age 22, and as you may guess from her major, yup it’s true, she is a perfect combo of smart and soulful, she sports a giant thinking cap and carries a giant heart. On Thursdays, I facilitate our group with her (that’s the official way of saying we get to hang out with our lovely senior buds and hear their stories and sometimes join in with our own); on the other days, I email and text with her to plan out our Story Letters, which she coordinates.

Our Story Letters are seasonal emails containing curated stories from our groups nationwide, all sharing an inspirational theme – our way of bringing some sunshine into your inbox! (Rachel and our team are hard at work on the next issue, which is coming out in a few weeks! In case you aren’t signed up yet, you can do it Here.)

As you can imagine, the conversations that I have had with Rachel span the practical (passing out pens and paper and handouts) and the visionary (the universe of Best Day groups that is forming), the silly (Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” videos) and philosophical (isolation being not just a senior problem). Rachel just has a beautiful, soulful, moving way of seeing the world. I think that every time I hear one of her stories, I think that often when I see a text from her, and I definitely thought that when she emailed me her reflections below a few days ago. Thank you Rachel – for being you!!

Rachel Hampton

I've been volunteering with Best Day for six months now. It seems like such a short amount of time - for how comfortable I feel in this community, for how much I care about everyone here, for the deep peace I feel every time I come into class. Through Best Day, I've learned how powerful a connection can become when two people simply decide to listen to each other. For me, that's the lesson of our group - if you go into an interaction with a person committed not only to respecting their story, but also to trusting them with your story, that interaction can always be a beautiful, worthwhile moment. I look forward to staying with Best Day and helping to build a huge network of people who get to create and experience those wonderful moments of trust together - a strong community that helps us all to live our lives fully and bravely.

Rachel Hampton
First Best Day

I just wanted to say that – I am so excited to meet everyone!  I love to write, but I’ve never really written stories with a group of people before.  I’m a little nervous – okay, I’m very nervous which is why I’m wearing my dinosaur sweatshirt that my brother Alex bought me for Christmas – the dinosaur makes feel brave because he’s so funny looking but he’s still roaring loudly.
I hope that we can all have fun writing together and that I can remember everyone’s names – Greta the glamorous singer, Joe who loves Jazz, Norman the one-man publisher, Sylvia who is so elegant and just as new as I am, Hazel with her wonderful smile, Joan who explained the class so well, Hattie who is so quick to marshal us all to help Beatrice, Brenda with her great hat pin, and Benita, Lea and Caitlin, who are so full of love and good ideas – this is all I know about you all right now, but I’m so excited to get to know everyone and listen to everyone’s stories.

Rachel Hampton
Children’s Zoo

I’ve been thinking about my birthday – I’m not sure why, it’s still months away – but I’ve been wondering I’m going to do this year. I usually don’t do much. I was very little one time when my mother brought me and some of my friends to the zoo. One of my friends was this boy named Brian, who was smarter than me and so I was always mad at him. But this day he convinced me to run away from everyone else with him and go to the part of the zoo that had a slide.

When my mother finally found us, I remember that she wasn’t very mad at me, which I thought was weird. I was glad she wasn’t mad, but the rest of that birthday was really bad. I thought one of my friends had stolen money from me, and I screamed at her. I was very dramatic. I remember my mother leaning over to one of the other mothers and saying, “Maybe we should have just left them at the zoo.”

Rachel Hampton
Telling Sadness

I really like my poetry class this semester.  We’ve been listening to the blues – to Paul Robeson and Mississippi John Hurt.  My oldest brother loves the blues, but I’ve never really listened to them before.  I’ve never heard anything like them.  Nothing so sad, and nothing that’s so tough beneath all that sadness.  Blues singers are sad, but they’re cheerful beneath it – determined to tell their story.  That’s the best thing for sadness I think – telling it.

I grew up in a family that’s from rural Oklahoma – we don’t really tell our sadness, which is hard sometimes.  But I think we’re getting better at it.  It’s a hard thing to learn.

Rachel Hampton
Fever Days

Yesterday, my poetry class came into Philly to go to a museum, the Barnes. I was starting to get sick, but I wanted to go so I went anyway. At first, this seemed like not my best idea. As I was looking around the museum, I started to get a fever, which was kind of funny because the paintings looked really vivid. But then we were walking around in the cold and my fever got higher and higher. My friends took care of me and got me food and then got me to the train. I felt very loved and also kind of awesome because I realized that even if I was sick I could still get around and have a good day. I feel like people are really afraid of sickness - we feel like if someone’s sick they should hide away and just be completely immobile and medicate themselves until they can’t feel anything - and all of that stuff is definitely necessary and can make us feel better. But, it’s also possible to live with sickness, with pain - and I think that’s something we don’t really like to think about anymore. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because my dad’s sick a lot and I’m sick a lot too, and it’s hard to live with that. But I think we can learn how.

Rachel Hampton
Going Outside

I haven’t been outside for a long time. I mean, I’ve gone outside to get to places, obviously, but I haven’t gone to the beach or to go hiking or anything like that for a while, because I’, usually in school or working. I used to go camping with my dad, when I was little. He likes to camp on this pieces of land in Maine that was very barren, no trees. But near a river and a forest. But one year we hadn’t gone back in a while and we went to visit and it was overgrown with new baby trees. We got there at night and we didn’t even recognize it. I remember feeling my way through the trees, all the sticky pine needles grabbing at me, tripping on roots. I was little and I thought a giant forest had sprung up overnight. In the morning, through, we could see it was all new growth. We went exploring. There were blueberry bushes, emptied of their berries because foxes had found them. Foxes have their very particular wet-fur smell and it was everywhere. They were living right under our noses. There were birds everywhere and all kinds of planes and even some wildcat and deer footprints/ I remember my father was so happy. I couldn’t really understand what was happening and was not impressed that a forest hadn’t just sprung up – but it was moving in. The forest was returning, to a place that humans had made barren with logging and mining. It was really a very beautiful thing. Next time, I’ll write about the day which a tent fell on me.