Thursday, September 25, 2014

What Our Story Pop Up Campaign Means to Me

September 2009, in a borrowed room in the basement
Lifelong friends I made along the way, young and old
September 2014, Best Day of My Life So Far groups across the country
And a new storybook and plans for an event series
Exactly 5 years ago yesterday, Best Day started in a basement.

No, not a meeting room or classroom in a basement. Vicky, the director at Philadelphia Senior Center at the time, wanted to give me a chance to try out the idea of "a senior storytelling group with a blog" but told me that there was no room or budget. I told her, "No prob, I don't need a budget, I will bring in pen and paper, and I can just borrow a staff's office for just an hour a week–we can make the group's meeting time lunchtime to make this work." And so, Jay started leaving his office unlocked for me every Thursday 1pm when he stepped out for lunch, and every week between these Thursday sessions I would reflect right here on this blog about the stories I heard and my personal experience.

The office even housed a mechanical closet so you would hear loud mechanical noise throughout the sessions. It wasn't exactly in top condition–since then, the whole basement has been gutted and renovated. But you know what, the seniors and I didn't care about the conditions of the room. We were so happy. The borrowed basement office and this blog were our oasis.

I want to paint a picture of how we started because I want to show you the true measure of what our Story Pop Up Campaign means to me.

If you are a Best Day Facebook and Twitter fan, and a Story Letter subscriber (a) you are the best!!, and (b) you know that yesterday in celebration of our 5th anniversary, we launched our Story Pop Up Campaign. The goal of the campaign is to bring our seniors stories' out in the open, for more people to enjoy. Now that we have groups, venues and volunteers all across the country, we are launching this campaign to print and distribute 100 copies of our brand new storybook for use in 10 unique storytelling events.

Picture A, 5 years ago: just four seniors and me in that noisy basement office.

Picture B, a reality that will happen with your help: armed with storybooks, Best Day seniors all around the country stepping outside traditional settings and into the open, entering with dignity and purpose places where seniors’ voices aren’t typically heard. Passerbys, friends, family, people in the neighborhood like you and me, gathering around, just to listen.

The road that we have been traveling together via this blog, from A to B, is why this campaign means so much to me.

Make a donation and share our campaign page, so we can continue this amazing journey!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mo (The Dragons - A Message for American Women)

“Hopefully this story will kindle a flame in American Women of all ages… to demand that gender should no longer determine the degree of HUMAN RIGHTS and opportunities available to all Americans. Ladies we need your talents.”

From the father of four daughters and one son, Mo delivers a moving tribute to Little League Baseball pitcher Mo’ne Davis and the Taney Dragons, and a passionate manifesto for women all across America. I share Mo’s hope that this story will be read by women everywhere, and I hope a dad or mom may even read this out loud to their little girl, especially that little girl with a fire in her eyes who may be sitting in the bleachers when she should really be on the field–and you know I don’t just mean a baseball field ;) Girls, it’s game time. The world is ready to watch us play ball. I am ready to play, are you?

Mo McCooper
The Dragons

Our grammar school (1st to 8th grades), was Roman Catholic and co-educational. Some of the girls played street baseball with us. A tennis ball and your fist or a broomstick was used. At the town playground and the public school playground some girls played real baseball, basketball and touch football with us. A few could have played on the school teams ahead of some boys but it was never talked about.

Our basketball court in the basement had six feet high baskets, which we practiced on but no league games were allowed. We played our home games at another school in another town. The girls team played league games on our basement stone floors with 6 feet baskets. Girls rules meant some players didn’t play offense and never shot the ball.

Most girls married soon after high school and after they had a kid never worked again. A few went to college and a few became nuns. During World War II many women went to work: the Bell Telephone Company hired many women. After the war we heard many women were told they were taking jobs from men.

The recent success of the Taney Dragons Little League Baseball Team included lots of praise and publicity for Mo’ne Davis who pitched or played first base. As the team won playoff games and traveled to Williamsport, PA, where the better teams in the United States would eventually play those from other countries in the Little League World Series more and more fan support grew in the Philadelphia area. Having a girl starring and mostly pitching brought national publicity and support. The Taney Dragons eventually lost but their multicultural and urban story grew nationally. Mo’ne Davis threw out the first ball at a Los Angeles Badgers major league game.

Hopefully this story will kindle a flame in American Women of all ages, whom I heard possess over 50% of the population and wealth in this country, to vote at the higher percentages and demand that gender should no longer determine the degree of HUMAN RIGHTS and opportunities available to all Americans. Ladies we need your talents.

Hip Hip Hooray to the Taney Dragons, and especially Mo’ne Davis. Thanks to Elaine, Sally, and all the other young ladies from back in the day who were cheering for us during games even though some of them should have been playing.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Powerful Testimonial and a Heartfelt Thankyou

An older adult writes and speaks, and a young person transcribes the heartfelt words into typed text. It’s a beautiful partnership across time.

The words of these stories bring back the past, but more important than that, they fulfill our common human need to be heard, to be listened to, to connect. This inspired program, represented so movingly in this storybook, provides a safe environment for older adults to tell their stories, and the benefits are myriad. Knowing that their memories will live forever means so much to the older participants, and we’ve seen them flourish as a result; and for the young adult scribes, every session is an opportunity that teaches about giving and sharing and connecting, and how being of service is enriching on so many levels.

Long live the words of these Best Day stories, and may the voices represented know that someone out there is listening.

- Lisa Marsh Ryerson, AARP Foundation President

A personal word of encouragement from just the right person can make the earth quiver and make our seniors truly realize the power of their voices. This testimonial, which I just received, from AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson, has done just that. The timing was perfect–my weekly session with my senior buds was the next day. I couldn't wait to surprise them.

"She is what you'd call 'a big deal'," Norman says, nodding with pride. "This is kind of like…" Norman, a veteran, places his hand on his heart, "a giant badge of honor."

On behalf of senior storytellers and young volunteers in growing Best Day groups across the country, some of the original members of our original group made this little video to say thank you. Lisa, a word from you just means so much. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you also to the entire AARP Mentor Up Team, especially Aiyshen and Lina, for connecting us with Lisa.

Readers: if you caught the word, "Storybook," yup, you heard/read right! We will be launching our first ever storybook at the end of this month, on our 5th Anniversary… and that's not the only thing we will be announcing…. Want the scoop? Get it first on Facebook/ Twitter/ our Story Letter. I can't wait to surprise… you :)