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

Clarify

Clarify

CLARIFY

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,

“Sleep.”

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.

Volunteer

Volunteer

VOLUNTEER

 

By Bob Mueller, Vice President of Development at Hosparus www.bobmueller.org

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.
Annie’s Inspiring Song

Annie’s Inspiring Song

Annie’s Inspiring Song

Written by Sharon Cecil

hopewritingsongWith aspirations of being a singer/songwriter Annie Grace, wrote and performed a song on Saturday, November 8, 2014 at We Survive’s LIGHTFEST Station in Louisville, KY.

Annie dedicated the song LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited and the mission of bringing awareness to issues faced by those dealing with poverty, susceptible to poverty, hunger and homelessness.

Annie‘s song addresses homelessness.  Her sweet angelic voice and the insightful words she had written brought tears to the audience.

We want to thank Annie once again for dedicating and performing her song.  LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited inspires Hopes and Dreams.  Annie fulfilled a dream in Louisville, KY, November 8, 2014.  Our THANKS to Dave Hufana and Long Island Records for the opportunity to once again share Annie’s song.

“See Me” Written by Annie Grace

 Lost and alone

Sinking like a stone

Oh I don’t know where to go oh

I cried the tears that you never saw me cry, why can’t you hear my call….

Chorus: why can’t you see me ‘cause I’m on my knees

As I’m crying out for help from you

Why can can’t you save me ‘cause its all I need

Why can can’t you see me Just wanted to make sure it is can’t instead of or can

Verse: and I know life is unfair but nobody seems to care about me

These lonely streets through the cold and heat

The wind chill to my bones

Chorus

But now I’m OK, Now I’m alright.

Only ‘cause someone saved me when they heard me plead

Revised Chorus:  They saw me when I was on my knees

As I was crying out for help from them

Now I know what to do:

I’m gonna save you, and I hope you do too.

Cause now I’m fine, cause someone saw me.

Can you see somebody?

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Written by Sharon Cecil

hearthandcrystalballIn July 2012 I wrote, “Are You Part of a Sandwich Family,” discussing the complexity of the family unit due to the fact that multi-generations live under the same roof, often referred to as the “Sandwich Generation.”  We are like a sandwich.  The top and bottom pieces of bread representing birth and death.  In the middle you find the Heart of the Matter…LIFE.

With the proper plan, materials and tools we build a house or construct a highway.  When it comes to a better life, there are no blueprints or guarantees to pave the way to a perfect life.

We have health problems, financial issues, difficult relationships and much more that will crop up.  It is important that we learn from our past, experience today so we can dream for a better future.

Are You Part of a Sandwich Family,” talks about,   “As we age, family becomes more important.  We want to spend more time with our children.  For some, we find it feasible to join resources and move in together so that life can be simpler—parents helping out with the grandchildren, expenses, etc.”

If you watch or listen to the news, you are hearing about jobs that are going unfilled because of the lack of qualified people.  They say that this is because of a “shortage on tech talent.”  Then a few days ago, ITT Technical Institute’s closed all of their schools.

Before you know it, the “Sandwich Generation” becomes more complex.  It can make it even more complicated to deal with your life journey if your family doesn’t get along or there are complex issues.  Those of you who are old enough may remember the Walton’s, a long running TV Series about a family that worked together, worked things out and they thrived.

Due to not being able to find employees for skilled jobs, we will be seeing more and more “Sandwich Generation” households.  Filling healthcare positions is a huge concern, especially nursing.  In Louisville, Kentucky, on August 24, 2016, WHAS TV reported 2,000 nurses needed as shortage hits Kentuckiana,  “Nationwide there is a nursing shortage and KentuckianaWorks estimates there are more than 2,000 nurses needed in Kentuckiana alone.”

Growing up, I lived within a family unit that was continually disrupted.  There was continual drama and trauma.  By the time I graduated from high school, I didn’t feel very hopeful about life or the future.  Then, a minister said to me, that I had two choices, continue the turmoil or find peace in my life.  I decided that I wanted to find peace.  It sounded so easy.  Although I tried to keep my eye on the target, I can say that I missed the mark more than a few times.

Deciding to work with children and families was a lifetime commitment for my husband and I after we got married.  In 1994, we started working with families dealing with poverty, hunger and homelessness.

My husband had a vision and wanted to share it with everyone along with his belief that “nurturance in nature” is healing.  Not to say that there weren’t rough patches along the way, the path we took has been most rewarding.  People of all ages have been given the opportunity to share their stories of inspiration and hope.

As our journey winds down, I have been given the honor to share precious inspirational moments everyday with my husband as we travel our journey with dementia.

Several years ago, a precocious 4-year-old homeless girl informed a group of us, “When you have HOPE you’re HAPPY!”

I feel HOPE is the Heart of the Matter.

We would love for you to share a message of inspiration and HOPE.  For more information about Portrayals of Hope contact us at lightfest@wesurvive.org

Louisville African Heritage Festival

Louisville African Heritage Festival

Louisville African Heritage Festival

Written by: Sharon Cecil

With a shared interest in our youth, Sunshine Joe Mallard will once again working with LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited  “to heightened awareness of those who live in poverty, susceptible to poverty, hunger and homelessness and help to Improve Impoverished Lives.”

AHFestivalSupport Sunshine Joe Mallard and please attend the Louisville African Heritage Festival on August 26th & 27th. It will be a celebration of unity, culture, art and history across the African Diaspora.

Opening Ceremonies will be Friday, August 26 from 7-9pm, at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage with a cultural reception featuring the art of quilter Sunshine Joe Mallard, performances by the artists of Roots & Wings, refreshments and more!

To find out more, visit this site.

 

Hope–Spiritual Food and Medicine for the Mind

Hope–Spiritual Food and Medicine for the Mind

Hope–Spiritual Food and Medicine for the Mind

by Sharon Cecil
As a cancer survivor, I had to keep HOPE in my Heart in order to
survive.  I was continually staying busy.  I developed the motto
“Purposeful Living is the Best Preparation for Dying.”

My husband and I were continually looking for projects to be involved
which brought us to co-founding We Survive.  I received a reminder
from Dr. Joe Pecoraro, “Form habits that feed your success and not
your failure.”

Thank you  for this thought provoking message.

MindSuccess (1)

I am a firm believer that HOPE is not only Spiritual Food, but also
medicine for the mind.

Olympic Torch Relay Generates Enthusiasm — Now and Then

Olympic Torch Relay Generates Enthusiasm — Now and Then

Olympic Torch Relay Generates Enthusiasm — Now and Then

Written by Sharon Cecil

 

olympic torch relayThe Olympic Torch Relay is a ceremonial event focused on the Olympic Flame traveling from Olympia, Greece, to the site of the Olympic Games via a torch from person to person until it reaches its destination.

This is the 31st Olympiad. The Torch Relay is coming to an end and the Summer Olympic Games will begin Friday, August 5, in Rio.

A lot of work goes into preparing for the Olympic Games.

For the athletes, it is a daily commitment to a rigid regime. Athletes do everything they can to excel in their field.  Reaching the Olympic Games is every athlete’s dream.  It requires an enormous amount of practice, skill and determination working with coaches and trainers as well as a rigorous schedule. Not to mention the financial investment!  There is no guarantee that any of this will mean they will be an Olympian.

Wherever the Olympic Games are located, there is an inordinate amount of planning, preparation and coordination.

It seems that there has been little coverage for this year’s Olympics in Rio and almost no coverage on the participants. Or it might seem that way because the 1996 Olympics holds a special place in my heart for a multitude of reasons.

20th Anniversary

In a New York Times Magazine article published SUNDAY, July 7, 1996: The Olympics; Atlanta Needs Flame! Notes From a Long Torch Trip “In 60 years of Olympic torch relays, never have so many carried fire so far.”

Being a torchbearer for the 1996 Summer Olympics, my husband and I attended several events before the actual arrival of the flame in Louisville, Kentucky.  At one event, we were able to meet Muhammad Ali.

During its journey, the flame was to cross the bridge from Indiana to Kentucky. The excitement was mounting on the evening of June 5th in Louisville, Kentucky as everyone waited with great anticipation for the arrival of the flame at the Riverfront Plaza-Belvedere.  There were some eventful moments.  But the flame arrived safely.

Muhammad Ali, Louisville native, lit the Cauldron 20 years ago during the opening ceremonies.

In an interview on WSBTV-Atlanta, Billy Payne, who headed Atlanta’s Olympic organizing committee said, “The Olympic movement is the only thing in the world that brings together so many people of diverse races, religions, ethnicities and economic statue. It’s such a celebration of sport. And who better to stand at the top of that mountain than Muhammad Ali, because that’s what he represented throughout his life,” The incredible UNTOLD story of Muhammad Ali and the 1996 Olympic Flame

LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited is born from the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay.  Everyone can help IMPROVE IMPOVERISHED LIVES and provide HOPE to encourage the POWER of Dreams.

WorldIlluminatedStep out to illuminate the world by displaying a Light of Hope wherever you are on November 5, 2016, at 6pm Eastern Time.  It can be a porch light, candle, cell phone, or flashlight. Join others around the world in celebrating the LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited movement!