Journey Begins with a Journal

Journey Begins with a Journal

Journey Begins with a Journal

Written by Sharon Cecil

A Reflection of Let Hope Win

bookWe Survive, nestled on gentle rolling woodland, is a perfect setting to take a “Journey Through a Forest of Feelings.”   Although, you can journal any place.

A pen and paper will be important tools as you begin your journey through your feelings.  You don’t need a fancy journal.  It can be a notebook or composition book.  Like a painter’s paintbrush to a canvas, your pen will reflect your feelings on a canvas made of paper to learn more about the amazingly complex and fascinating person you see in the mirror.

How many of us were given diaries as children?  A diary is a form of journaling. Writing is a way to process thoughts as you pour out you feelings. Paper is sometimes the only thing that that will be at your disposal 24/7 and you get undivided attention.

Keep in mind that some people may prefer the use of their computer.  You can call me old school, but I feel that you can be more reflective with paper and pen.

It has been said that the hardest thing any person will ever have to do is be honest with him or her self.

As you write in a journal, your own inner truth will emerge.  Writing both hurtful and happy thoughts. Those free thoughts may feel uncomfortable at first.  Once you finally reach that inner truth, denial isn’t an option. This is when healing begins.  Letting go of the pain and moving towards a mental and physical release.

Writing helps with organizing your thoughts and your life. It should be a safe place to express your feelings. Remember, there aren’t any rights or wrongs in keeping a journal.

Some people may say that there isn’t enough time in a day.  But the truth is, time is all you do have.  How you spend it is up to you.

As I said in Let Hope Win, “Where and how we spend our time is the story of our life.”  Once you discover the real you.  Once you decide you need to make a few changes to improve on the already amazing story, “Only you can change the script of the story by ending the old script and creating a hopeful script for your future…Don’t miss out on your story.  Only you can change the script of the story by ending the old script and creating a hopeful script for your future.”

Tap into your strengths and explore…

A Heart that Hears Gives

A Heart that Hears Gives

A Heart that Hears Gives

Written by Sharon Cecil

Having a Heart that Hears

Having a Heart that Hears

Life is about talking and listening.  When talking with a group, many times you tend to be giving information that to some may seem like a lecture.

Working with youth programming for over 40 years, I must say that I have learned a lot about the younger generation and about the diversity in their ways of thoughts and reactions.

Doing a workshop for teens many years ago, a young man (the leader of the group) said to me, “Sharon, you are a wonderful educator, but you need to learn to shut-up and listen.”

My first thought was, “who does he think he is to disrespect an adult in this way.”  But, I didn’t say anything to him at the time.  As, his comment ran through my head repeatedly, I reflected on my style of communication as an educator and a youth provider.

Because of that young man, I truly learned the importance of listening.  I changed my style of teaching, speaking to groups and workshop formats.  By doing more listening, the session become more interactive, the audience was more receptive and we were all able to take away something from the experience.

You will find that by using silence you are doing much more than being silent.  You become an active listener, which means you are giving your audience your undivided attention which allows for more open discussion within the group you are addressing.

Once the participant feels heard, he or she feels more comfortable and gives you a much better position for using your teaching and problem solving techniques.  If you are with a group on a regular basis, you begin to build trust and make goals.

Silent Communication and Body Language

Let’s not forget that there is silent communication through body (non-verbal) language.   In other words, your body can speak!

In my opinion, one of the best non-verbal communicators is a smile.  It shows up on your face and in your eyes.  A reassuring pat on the back to let someone know that you approve doesn’t hurt either.

You may want to ask yourself the following questions when apply the principle of listening.

How does active listening:

  • convey caring
  • provide a comfortable environment
  • create a positive impression?

Because of that young man so many years ago, I learned that when you are an active listener, the lines of communication become more open and trusting.


Let Hope Win

Let Hope Win

Let Hope Win

Written by Sharon Cecil

Growing up in a dysfunctional environment, I would read or write when I had alone time.  Reading would take me into someone else’s reality.  By writing, I was creating my own scenarios.

Once TV became popular, I could watch the kind of show that I once read about—mostly love stories or mysteries.  Who didn’t love Perry Mason!

As an adult, painful memories became a pathway on a search for ways to heal the pain from childhood.  Writing/journaling became a healing tool.  Then, art became part of the mix.

hopepositiveexpecatationForty plus years ago, teaching an arts and crafts class became a healing avenue on which I began a very exciting journey. This is when I first realized that I could write my own life script.

Everyone has a story and he or she is the star.  Not some actor who is playing a scripted part in some imaginary scene.

How does your story read and how can it inspire others?

When you begin to write your story, there can be a connection to your inner self whereby you learn what has been a bad play, which can inspire the creation of a new script.

You may remember that dream you had as a child, or an experience that turned out to be more helpful instead of being as harmful as you thought.

Time is the most precious gift we have to give and the most valuable asset in our lives.  Where and how we spend our time is the story of our life.

Don’t miss out on your story.  Only you can change the script of the story by ending the old script and creating a hopeful script for your future.

HOPE Wins.  hopewins

Life Can Smother the Light

Life Can Smother the Light

Life Can Smother the Light

Written by Sharon Cecil

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu


handoverballoflightIf you haven’t figured it out, life is not easy.  As you travel the journey of life, there is not anyone that hasn’t faced some dark moments during his or her life.  But we need not let life smother out the light.


When approaching the topic of poverty, we see and hear the feelings of hopelessness. Collective hopelessness is NOT acceptable.

We learn from each other and need to respect each other’s differences.

We all have childhood memories.

I grew up during a time when everyone was like family, whether you were a visitor in their home or they were visiting you, you went outdoors to play, got dirty, drink Kool-Aid and eat ice cream.  You would want to play outside until dark so you could catch lightning bugs.

Neighborhoods were small communities.  Everyone tried to look out for each other.  We knew to respect each other and help one another.


Barbara Anderson

In talking with, Barbara Anderson, who is a LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited Ambassador on the Board of Directors of the National Coalition for the Homeless and the Executive Director of Haven House Services, I learned that,  “Despite five years of economic recovery, poverty is still stubbornly high in America. More than 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans, lived below the poverty line last year,” according to the 2014 Census Bureau

Realizing that we are in a time in history when need to be healing and honoring our differences, I was reminded that I didn’t like having to do memorization assignments for school.  I do remember enjoying memorizing the Gettysburg Address.

The Gettysburg Address started by saying,  “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”   The teacher who had us memorize the Gettysburg Address emphasized the fact that we are all “created equal.”  That statement gave me a feeling of empowerment.

We know that there should not be power over people. Yet, there are situations where that happens.  There are instances such as abuse, abandonment, discrimination, neglect, or war just to name a few that are only part of the multi-situational issues that face those vulnerable to poverty and feelings of hopelessness which makes them feel powerless.

youarenotalonemuralBy letting our neighbors know that “You Are Not Alone,” communities need to come together to use their knowledge to find solutions, share resources and educate on the importance of respecting people’s differences.

Let’s NOT Let Life Smother out the Light!

LIGHTFEST Re-ignited has a de-LIGHT-ful message.

This is a great time to for you to a join the growing list of 2016 LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited communities. Together, we will LIGHT and UNITE to make the world a better place with this simple message of HOPE on November 5, 2016.

As a nation, it is important we end poverty


Life is indeed a pleasant road.

To those whom fortune blesses;

But ’tis a thorny path to those.

Whom poverty oppresses.

~ James Lendall

Portrayal of Hope Tapestry

Portrayal of Hope Tapestry

Portrayal of Hope Tapestry

Portrayal of Hope TapestryOn November 5, 2016, there will be a new activity introduced at LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited–Portrayal of Hope.

We are very excited about our reconnecting with Sunshine Joe Mallard. He has design a commemorative piece for  LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited 2016 LIGHTFEST Station in Louisville, where participants will be provided the opportunity to embroidery their names into the Portrayal of Hope Tapestry.

sunshine-joe-library-pictureSunshine Joe Mallard
is one of American’s premier Creative Embroidery craftsmen. He has been embroidering for more than 40 years.

Portrayal of Hope

As we take the message of HOPE Around the World—We Survive asks that everyone join this journey to create a Portrayal of Hope Project at his or her school, workplace or organization.

We may not always comprehend that poverty can be an entanglement of multiple circumstances. As we send messages of inspiration and hope around the world, We Survive and “Sunshine Joe” would like to see you incorporate HOPE into your daily lives and reach out to your community, city and the world at large bringing awareness to the issues of poverty, those susceptible to poverty, hunger and homelessness.


Portrayal of Hope

Hope Through the Eyes of a Child

Hope Through the Eyes of a Child

Hope through the eyes of a child

Written by Sharon Cecil

hopechildrenOnce you have experienced hope through the eyes of a child who lives in poverty or a homeless shelter, you will never think of hope with the same perspective.


When attending a Day of Hope, parents prepare by hearing stories of past Day of Hope adventures or struggle with the thought of being taken to the country and being uneasy about the unknown that is facing them.


A child on the other hand, if left to their own volition, might conjure up the wonder and magical mystery of going to the country and what might be lurking in the woods.  Children can create images that are unique and out of nowhere their inborn natural relationship with nature evolves.


It is such a joyful time seeing the children arrive with a bit of apprehension as they transform into the world of nature with such ease.  While the older youth and adults are much more apprehensive, their transformation is not quite as quick.  But, everyone seems to find his or her place in nature before the day is done.


wideeyedinnocenceYou may have heard the term “wide-eyed innocence” when it comes to a child or childish behavior.  I personally find this behavior refreshing to see and experience.  For a day, those who attend a Day of Hope are able to put their cares behind them and just be free to be.


As a volunteer expresses in Day of Hope Inspires,  “Seeing the children and families being able to enjoy their day with playing games and being out in nature and being able to forget about life for a while was a great opportunity for me as well.”


When visiting We Survive’s Haven of Hope, a Day of Hope offers nurturance in nature providing supportive surroundings cultivating a safe environment for participants and the wildlife


At the end of the day, the participants talk about hope around a symbolic lighthouse and each participant is given a Key of Hope as a reminder that “THE KEY—Open Hearts 2 HOPE.”  Having been fortunate enough to see the children and families after Day of Hope events, many are still wearing their key around their neck with pride.




“You + Youth = Today’s Hope”


It is our HOPE that LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited will be world-changing!!





by: Annie T.

Recently I wrote a blog entry about how people get on my nerves. They don’t just get on my nerves; they get on every single nerve and do the cha-cha barefoot!

My frustration and impatience leaked over into the realm of addiction, and I got some flak for that. I got one message which stated that unless I had ever been there, I had no idea how hard it is to overcome addiction and etcetera, et cetera…

I want to tell you why my perception is what it is.

In 1996, there was this girl living on the streets. She had gotten there through a series of bad choices. She had been through physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, and she lost her mind. This is not a made-up story. This is not “based on true events” or “inspired by actual events.” This really happened. Let’s call her Jane Doe, and let’s remember that she is a real person that really exists.

Jane Doe was not a drug addict. She smoked cigarettes and she drank sometimes, but early schooling had drilled it into her brain for years that “CRACK KILLS” and “JUST SAY NO” and all of those and other early campaigns actually worked on her. She never really thought about doing drugs. So, she didn’t.

Through a series of choices, Jane Doe found herself homeless and roaming the streets of a mid-size city. She was 132 pounds, her head was shaved, and she had lost her glasses, so she couldn’t really see very well.

close-up-bare-feet-dirty-foot-to-illustrate-hazardous-area-unsafe-44637197It was December, and it was extremely cold. Jane Doe was out in this cold and her days were spent migrating with other vagrants from one soup kitchen to the next. Her mind was gone. She eventually tried to go to a hospital and tell them she was going to kill herself. While she had no intention of actually doing this, her logic was that if she was suicidal, they would lock her in the hospital for a week or so and she wouldn’t be out in the cold for a little while. It was sound logic, but it didn’t work. The hospital wasn’t interested in keeping her. They held her for 12 hours, took her shoes, then released her, apathetic to the fact that now she was free to leave but had no shoes on her feet.

Jane Doe wandered into the projects, her feet covered in two pairs of socks and a set of blue hospital booties. At this point you could have told her the moon was made of cheese and she would have asked you for a slice on crackers.

A woman stood looking out the doorway of her apartment, there, in the projects, and saw Jane Doe shuffling past.

“White girl! Hey, what the heck you doin’?”

Jane Doe looked in the woman’s direction, stopped and shrugged.

“I don’t know.”

“Get in here, you gon’ lose your feet out in this weather!”

Jane Doe complied.

The apartment was warm, filled with the smell of frying pork chops, and Jane Doe was very hungry, but the woman pointed at the overstuffed fake-leather sofa and simply said,


Jane Doe complied.

She slept for several hours, and at some point someone threw a blanket over her, and she burrowed down into the sofa and slept another few hours. When she finally opened her eyes, there were more people in the apartment, in the next room, talking and laughing and eating.

They offered her no food. She stayed on the sofa and waited. The woman eventually came back to her with a pair of black lace up shoes and directed her to try them on. She did. They were a little big but they stayed on her feet.

Jane Doe found herself seated at the kitchen table, long after the meal was over, looking across the table at a young man who was smoking crack. She didn’t know it was crack, only that the sweet chemical smell was disturbing. She watched his transition from twitchy to calm and glassy-eyed. She finally asked him,

“Why do you smoke that? What does it make you feel?”

And he replied,

“I like it…because for just a few minutes, everything is okay.”

She thought about that. For a few minutes, everything is okay. That seemed like a huge trade-off. The young man did not offer her any of the drugs, and she did not ask for any.

Soon after she left the warmth of the apartment, clad in her ragged oversized pants, wearing two tshirts and an old blue patterned winter-themed fleece, with an army fatigue coat over that. Her slightly too-large shoes were preferable to no shoes at all, as the snow had started in earnest.

Jane Doe had several other adventures that winter, including two trips to jail for no reason at all. Sure, you might be thinking that she had to have done *something* to wind up in jail, but no. Once she got smart with a police officer who promptly arrested her for “resisting arrest” and that weekend was a warm one, spent in a largish cell with 7 other women because the courts were closed. Another time, she wandered into an extremely classy building downtown to ask for directions, and the smartly dressed, perfectly coiffed woman behind the desk summoned the police before Jane Doe had even reached the counter. She was arrested for criminal trespassing, and another warm weekend happened that winter.

Finally, in mid-January of 1997, Jane Doe stood outside the double doors of the Early Dawn Ministry Shelter. She was tired of walking every day with no destination. She had just recently healed from a severe case of boot rot (for those of you who don’t know what this is, it is a condition where your feet have been damp inside your shoes for too long, and the soles of your feet begin to “rot” and you could lose both feet or die of blood poisoning if not treated.) She had shown up to the homeless health clinic every day where a gorgeous young black man named Roger dressed in pristine blue scrubs had removed her shoes and socks, removed the bandages from her feet, cleaning the deep injuries. He applied ointment and fresh bandages, and replaced her socks with a new pair – every day he did this for two weeks and every day she said to him, “Thank you,” very quietly before leaving, because when you are to the point where you cannot even remove your own socks without experiencing pain, you had better find the humility to allow another human being to help you.

So, after all of that she stood – squinting up at the homeless shelter sign and wondering if they would let her stay here – and finally she went in.

It was loud, and chaotic, with crazy old ladies mumbling in the corner and a couple of girls over in the far end of the day room styling each other’s hair and laughing hysterically at something.

The shelter let her stay there. The counselors there didn’t know what to make of Jane Doe. They knew she had lost her mind, but the hospitals were inundated with a heavier than usual winter indigent population, not able to handle any more people, and Jane Doe wasn’t a threat. She had been exposed to the elements for a long time and it had rattled her brain.

The shelter did not have a program for crazy people. They had outreach programs that would show up once a week and chat up the loony old ladies in the corner, but somehow the counselors didn’t think this would do much for
Jane Doe.

They decided to put her in The Program.  It was an alcohol and drug recovery program and the majority of the people living in this shelter were in it already.

The counselors knew Jane Doe did not have a drug problem. They knew she didn’t have a drinking issue. What they didn’t know was what exactly to do with her, because Jane Doe need a heavily structured environment in order for her to come back down to Planet Earth and join the rest of us. I’m pretty sure the counselors thought the crazy would wash off after a while.

They were right. The crazy washed off because they did the exact thing they were supposed to do. Jane Doe joined the drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, the most heavily structured program in the city, and she attended hundreds of AA meetings and hundreds of NA meetings. She read the Big Book, and she got a sponsor, and she went through hell doing a Fourth Step, where she made a searching and fearless moral inventory of herself, of all the people who had ever hurt her and all the people she had ever hurt and then she sat down with her sponsor and told her every single bit of it and it was, according to Jane Doe, like tearing a gigantic band-aid from the length of her body, a raw pain that was soon over.

Jane Doe spent hours and days and weeks and months joined at the hip with women from all walks of life: farm girls and strippers, nurses and computer technicians, waitresses and hustlers. She learned exactly what drugs and the overuse of alcohol can make a person do. She attended funerals of people who were never ready to stop using and never stopped using and let the dope kill them. She cried a lot.

Jane Doe found her mind.  It had been buried under the layers of exposure to cold weather and colder people. The fog lifted and she was able to become her version of sane again.  She let her hair grow out, allowed her sense of humor to return, and finally went to the ophthalmologist.

She took a friend from the shelter with her when she picked up her glasses. Her vision was bad enough that everything and everyone was blurry. Her friend Bea sat beside Jane Doe when she slid her glasses on her face. Jane Doe looked over at Bea and gasped.
“What?” Bea asked.

“Bea!! I didn’t know you were black!!” They both dissolved in laughter while the ophthalmologist looked on disapprovingly.

A few months later, Jane Doe moved out of the shelter and into her own apartment. She had been homeless for just over eighteen months and she never wanted to return to being homeless again.

This is how I know about addiction. This is why I hate it. This is why people who get addicted make me angry. I know because I am Jane Doe, and I lived through hell – and I didn’t even use drugs. I didn’t need to use drugs in order to make crappy decisions.

We are the sum total of our experiences. We will experience more, therefore we will become more.  This is my mantra, my sole reason for existing. I exist to experience, and those experiences will continue to change me, and make me happy, and sad, and those experiences will make me angry.

I wrote this so that you can see how I put a funny little spin on life. If we don’t laugh, we don’t live.

Firehouse Fest and Chef Jess

Firehouse Fest and Chef Jess

Firehouse Fest and Chef Jess 
LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited activities are geared towards innovative educational experiences while having fun.

The first Firehouse Fest was held on Saturday, May 9, 2015 was a great success! As noted by Sharon Cecil at her “Speaking Intergenerationally” blog site,  “Participants visited an historic firehouse and provided with valuable information for health, wellness and mental well-being.”

chefjessShortly after graduating from high school, Jessica began working with senior adults.  With a quiet demure, her rapport with the participants in the senior program was AMAZING.  She demonstrated a remarkable artistic talent.

With her incredible artistic ability it wasn’t surprising that she wanted to be an artist.  A Culinary Artist that is—something she had aspired to do since she was four years old.

At Firehouse Fest, participants enjoyed working with Chef Jess who volunteered her time decorating cupcakes, cookies and donuts on May 9 with graduation from the Culinary Arts Program on May 12, 2015.

LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited wants every young person to know, “If you can dream it, you can do It.” ~~ Walt Disney

Chef Jess epitomes “The Power of the Dream!”

To read more Portrayals of Hope go here.

Day of Hope Inspires

Day of Hope Inspires

Written by: Ryan Hatfield

mortar and pestalMarch 15, 2016

I first became involved with We Survive and Day of Hope as a first-year pharmacy student. The Day of Hope event was the first service learning project I had undertaken in pharmacy school. I didn’t really know what to expect other than I knew I was going to help provide health education to underprivileged children and their families.

Each of the pharmacy students were paired up with one of the children from the shelter. The child with whom I was paired was one of the older ones there, and he was definitely not thrilled that he had to participate. I tried talking to him and getting him to open up, but all I got was nowhere fast. I get it—we are from two vastly different worlds, and to be completely honest, I probably would have been just as aloof as he was if I was in his shoes.

The day itself had various activities. There was an educational component to it, of course, but the children and families also got to explore nature. For most of them, I’d hedge a bet that it was the first time they’d ever been out of the city. The young man with whom I was partnered started loosening up a little when we went on the hike, but he really came out of his shell when we went down to the creek. He absolutely loved being able to explore the creek. His biggest prize was the frog that he caught. We had to pry him from the creek when it was time for the groups to change activities. He did a 180 from the time he arrived at the farm to the time that he left. Being out at the farm did wonders for him, even if it may have only been for that day.

The children and families that participated in the event were so gracious and so thankful. If not for the Day of Hope, I don’t think a lot of these folks would have the opportunity to get out into the country and experience nature in its true form.

Seeing the children and families being able to enjoy their day with playing games and being out in nature and being able to forget about life for a while was a great opportunity for me as well. I’ve participated in the Day of Hope event each of my 3 years in pharmacy school. I graduate in June, and while I know that I won’t always be able to attend the Day of Hope event every year, it is an organization that I do wish to continue to support.


Ryan Hatfield, PharmD

Sullivan University College of Pharmacy, Class of 2016





By Bob Mueller, Vice President of Development at Hosparus

volunteerDo you hold back from volunteering because you believe your help will not be enough, just a drop in the bucket?  I like the example of Mother Teresa, who committed one small voluntary act of kindness, then another and then another.  Ordinary acts of service accumulate into an inspiring, indelible and loving declaration about the power of helping one another.


The word volunteer originally came from an ancient Latin word, voluntarius, meaning “voluntary.”  To volunteer, then, is to exercise our free choice on behalf of others.  The act of volunteering influences how we design our lives and makes our choices more conscious and meaningful.  Volunteering also signifies generosity, a cherished form of spiritual development and expression in all traditions.  To volunteer is to offer up the fruit of our enlightened intention.  It elevates us and others by both deepening connection and reducing suffering.


We can wait for others to make the world a saner and compassionate place, or we can volunteer to use the upcoming time we have to move in a beneficial direction.  The compassionate action you take does not have to once and for all create world peace, end all injustice or otherwise dramatically alter the world.  It only has to be one action that can serve such ideals.  Many people hold back from helping because they wrongly believe that their actions would be inadequate to make the huge changes that are needed.  They mistakenly judge what they can do as a failure.


Keep a journal about your journey of volunteering.  Look for opportunities to volunteer throughout the day, and keep track of these.  Volunteering opens your heart, so listen to your heart to guide you to those areas where you feel a connection – such as working with children, the sick, the dying, the grieving, the under-privileged, the elderly, the disabled, the animal kingdom, and so forth.  Share your dreams of volunteering with others, and you may gain new insights and extra encouragement.


It goes without saying that harming others does not a friendly community make.  When we volunteer we can begin to refrain from doing harm while cultivating love and good relations.


Here are four ways to plant seeds of friendship which I have observed volunteers do best:


  1. Notice your negative impulses.  This means accepting and recognizing that you can’t force yourself to be kind and loving all of the time.  Even Mother Teresa’s path was filled with doubt.  If you notice a harmful emotion or thought, take a minute to breathe and investigate what caused it.  Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.
  2. Spend a minute saying a prayer for a difficult person or situation in your life.  When we pray for others, we feel compassion for the circumstances that make them who they are.  This may help you gain more understanding and empathy.
  3. Plant seeds of friendship by helping and cherishing others, even in little ways.
    It is the small actions that let others know they are loved and valued, and small actions only take a minute.  Take to heart the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote in a letter, “It is the history of our kindnesses that alone makes this world tolerable.  If it were not for that, for the effect of kind words, kind looks, kind letters. . . I should be inclined to think our life a practical jest in the worst possible spirit.”
  4. Strive to let go of your expectations about the way people should act.  Instead of getting frustrated, accept that all individuals are imperfect and subject to ignorance, confusion and delusion.  Then give as much as you feel capable of giving from your heart, without demanding anything in return.  Give freely to others.  And you never know from what direction friendship may come, so place one-minute seeds of love and kindness wherever you happen to be.