Friday, August 28, 2015

Frances and Joan (Thank God for Life)

Today, two stories about survival, a lighthearted one by Frances, a heavy one by Joan, both reminding us to be grateful for this big, crazy, amazing thing called Life. Speaking of which, happy weekend... live it up!

Frances Bryce
Surviving Early Childhood with Four Brothers

I was born in a home that had four brothers. As was the custom in many black families, the oldest was in charge when the parents were away, and did most or saw that most of the chores were done. The oldest boys were glad when I was born, now a girl would do most of the things they had been doing.

My nemesis was the one that was two years older than me. He was the kid that would brush up against me, because there was no hitting the girl (me) in the family. He teased me when he had the opportunity, which was often. One day, he ran after me with a garden snake on a limb, of course my parents were not home.

The fact was that no one else could do mean things to me at school, playground, or anyplace else. He was very protective. When I was old enough to date, all my older brothers decided who could come to the home to see me.

An incident that was most entertaining was one afternoon a boy was on the way to my home, when one of my protective brothers asked where he was going. When he replied to see me, he (my brother) said, “No you are not,” and sent him on his way.

I did manage to get a stamp of approval of a couple of boys. I learned that the guys that my brother knew often were aware of their character because they had been traveling in the same circle. They taught me what kind of girls that were respectful so I learned a lot about males from them. What enabled me to make decisions about chasing the ones that were character driven, with morals and ethical values.

Joan Bunting
Thank God For Life

Do you ever wonder what happened to people you grew up with or attended school with. I do. Many of the girls I knew (and boys) are gone. And I mean they don’t inhabit this earth any longer.

I am so very grateful that God has kept me here this long.

I often go back into my past and truly realize the things that have caused me not to be here and it’s very scary.

I’ve had a gun pointed at me twice, point blank. God protected me from what could have ended my life.

I came very close to getting hit by a car but God said, it was not my time yet.

When you’re young and have not really come to know fear, you take lots of foolish chances, dangerous things or even fatal outcomes could have overtaken me but God blocked it. That’s why I’m still here.

I thank God everyday and night for keeping me from all hurt, harm and danger. I’ve also learned not to take life for granted.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Elliot (What I Fear)

You know what Elliot’s stories remind me of? The powerful summer sun. Whenever I am looking for a life lesson to illuminate my day, I can always count on my bud Elliot. I love that his stories tell it like it is, shining a light on life’s bumps and twists and complexities. But the real twist is, even when he talks about his fear of the darkest alleys, it’s his bright mind and piercing wisdom that we really see.

Elliot Doomes
What I Fear

I have heard people say
That they fear nothing.
People who fear nothing
Scare the hell out of me.
They disregard danger signals and pay no attention to their senses which often times sends us warnings in times approaching danger.
I fear dark alleys and strange neighborhoods. I tell myself that I'm just being cautious, but I'm really afraid. I fear crowded subways when school lets out. Them teenagers rage in the subway, they have no sense of responsibility. They push and shove, swinging heavy book bags. Once a teen broke a girl's nose by punching her because she kept hitting him with her book bag. I fear big dogs walking without a leash. People will say "Oh, he won't bite" when the dog is bigger than me. I asked a man does his dog eat meat because if so, he needs a leash. I am alright with my fears as long as they remain reasonable.

Elliot Doomes
I Always Had Money

I can remember when I was a child. We lived in a 2 room flat. The kids slept in the kitchen. I remember never having enough to eat or clothes. I worked for a man named Mr. Arder, tying bundles of wood and baskets of wood. I always had money. I would sell wood on 9th St. I would shine shoes on Locust Street and on 8th & South I made a lot of money shining shoes. People said we were poor because of the way we lived. But we didn’t know. Maybe my parents knew, but us kids didn’t. We would collect paper and glass bottles. I always had change in my pocket. There was no allowance, the radio was better than TV, we had nothing, but we were happy. We never complained. People complain too much today. People can get by today on what they make, but they complain anyways. If I came into money, I would not buy property in the South. Definitely not in Philadelphia. Like I said, we never felt poor. We didn’t even know we were poor. We played kick the can, hide and go seek. We made our own fun. We didn’t live with a lot of fear.

Elliot Doomes
Lost Children

When I was a young kid growing up, it was about sports and dancing and school – it was about social activities. There was always something to do. Kids today don’t have those options. Today kids are interested in money and getting it as fast as they can. And the vast majority of them are dropping out of school with no occupational skills. Making an honest living is out of the question for a lot of them. So where do they go? They deal drugs. It’s fast and easy with no labor put into it. They’ve closed down all the social places I used to go. I seriously believe we’ve lost a whole generation of our children, could be two. Instead of institutions of higher learning, their final destination is one of 3 things: jail, mental institutions, or death. But I can say that my grandchildren are all graduates. All of them. Two of them are working and earning a living. The third is looking. And the youngest is in 9th grade, and already had a summer job as a cashier. She wants to go to college. And she’ll go.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Mo (The Most Wonderful Gift in the History of Birthdays)

In my years of working with seniors, I have seen many of them muster up the courage to repair broken relationships with long lost family and friends – those are spectacular, groundbreaking moments. But the quieter moments take my breath away too, like when I realize that they have been slowly and steadily deepening the relationships with these family and friends.

Every first Thursday of the month, our group puts down our pen and paper and get on the computers instead, to recall stories that we, and our friends in satellite groups, have written. Each senior scrolls up and down this blog and our satellite blogs, and takes turns reading a friend’s story out loud. Yesterday, Joe picked out this story from Mo’s from 2010, which got us to go onto Youtube to look at this unforgettable video that the story was referring to. Mo works and has to arrive late some days. He walked in almost right when the story ended, and we thought it was so funny.

But what made us gasp was when he pulled out a book from his tote. The cover has a black and white photo or a child and the words, “A Boy Named Skippy.” Skip is one of his many ;) nicknames. Turns out that his daughter Kathleen, the same daughter who was in the Youtube video that we had just happened to pop open, made him this book recently for his 80th birthday. It contains the stories that he had written in our group, so far ;) Mo had tears of joy in his eyes the whole time when he was showing it to us.

As the story of Mo and Kathleen continues to deepen, I feel like it’d be fun to do a lil’ throwback. Click here to read Mo’s story “Only Child” and my blog post in October 2009 about the Mo I was just getting to know. It’s been six years, but it feels like just yesterday when he told me, "I've never done this before. Writing or anything like that. Not even in school. This is my first time."