Monthly Archives: October 2013

Got Character?

205_fairness-stickerDeveloping character can be a challenging process. It is not always easy to do the right thing when everyone else is “doing it”. As I mentioned last month, since I have started the Maximizing Character youth program, my own integrity has been challenged. I have been confronted relationally, professionally, spiritually, financially and physically to consistently do the right thing. Don’t worry. It’s a good thing. I’m up for the challenge.

There are times when we all want to fit in and not necessarily stand up or stand out. In most cases, we want to blend in with the crowd at the sporting event by wearing casual apparel as opposed to a tuxedo or ball gown. Ok, that wasn’t a good example, but hopefully you get the point. Kids, for example, want to fit in by wearing the latest designer clothes and shoes or they don’t want to be the snitch that tells the school administrator what they know about the latest school crime. For me, starting a program focusing on people’s character has been a challenge in and of itself. I’m challenging myself and others to do a self-evaluation of the behaviors and motives that cause us to do what we do. This is not always a popular topic in society. People actually want to hear about the latest “dirt”, scandal, celebrity gossip or breakup. Stories that involve a lack of character seem to hold the spotlight more than the good news that peers through the rubbish.

As I watch the news and observe the lack of character in politics, business and entertainment as well as the increase in violent acts—increased bullying, children killing their peers and adults, acts of suicide as a result of being bullied, youth acting out dangerous and even life-threatening scenes from the latest video games or movies, I have to ask myself, what can I do to help reduce the occurrence of these events? Obviously I can’t help everyone, but I can create positive change in my sphere of influence. In the past few months I’ve learned that it is fulfilling to be able to take a stand for what I believe in. I believe it takes a resolute mind and steadfast determination to do what is right, walking in integrity.

As I encourage myself, I also encourage my readers to continue to do the right thing. Don’t quit. Don’t forfeit the intrinsic benefits that come with possessing good character. Commit to developing a better you, not only the external you that we as a society tend to focus on, but also the internal you, the essence of who you are and want to be in order to make a positive impact in the world. It starts with one. Got character?

Flowers for Causes

Happy Character Counts Week! In honor of this special week I spent some time with some special girls to make Flowers for the Causes. My friend Shawnie invited me back to another Girl Talk session to create paper flowers in honor of National Bullying Prevention and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I jumped at the opportunity to share with her cheerleaders again because not only did I have a blast during last month’s visit, but we had the opportunity to also celebrate Character Counts Week!

I was amazed at the fact that the girls had never made such flowers before. Some had never heard of or seen this particular craft before. I learned how to create these little flowers as a young girl with my mother and during a few activities in school. I had to quickly remember that the times have changed and that arts and crafts are not necessarily at the top of a teenager’s list of things to do these days. After briefly providing directions and showing the girls an example of a flower I had previously created, the girls began to delve into the project.

The girls kept me busy, distributing tissue paper, ribbons and scissors and helping them fold their paper, accordion style, in order to get the flower to “blossom” just right. As I assisted the girls with their project, I listened to their responses. Some of them were frustrated about how their flower was evolving, while others were excited about their creation. I made sure to provide extra care and assistance to the girls who were having difficulty creating their work of art. By the end of the Girl Talk session, most of the girls were amazed  at how a few pieces of paper could be transformed into such a beautiful creation.

Blue, Green and Pink were our colors for last night’s activity. Blue represented the Pillar of Character for the Day: Trustworthiness- meaning reliable, dependable, and deserving of trust or confidence. As my friends at Character Counts would say, “think true blue”. Blue and Green represented Anti-Bullying and of course, pink represented Breast Cancer Awareness. The flower making event was a fun and creative way to acknowledge and celebrate the causes. It was also a great opportunity to remind the girls that as growing flowers they must carry themselves with honor and worth, take care of their bodies and blossom in their various gifts and abilities. PhotoGrid_1382399130630

I Want To Celebrate With You, Not Be Shamed By You

Aim for Camaraderie Versus Competition

The Goddess Weighs In

A bit of a storm blew up recently regarding this woman and a pic that she posted on her website showing her posing with her kids.  The point of the photo is to show off her great body, especially her abs and that she has accomplished this level of fitness despite having three children, the oldest being three, the youngest eight months  when the photo was taken.  People have reacted badly to the photo and this has forced her to post what she calls her first and last apology where she apologizes for the hurt she’s caused.  She goes on to say “I’m sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way.”

I have no problem with the image.  I think most people would be impressed by her physique and how she managed to attain it with three babies in tow.  The same way I don’t…

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Character Counts! Week

This month our nation celebrates a host of nationally recognized causes including Breast Cancer Awareness, Bullying Prevention and … you guessed it…Good Character! October 20-26, 2013 is Character Counts! Week! Only a week…You ask? Yes, only a week, but you can join Maximizing Character EVERY DAY and especially during Character Counts! Week to make YOUR Character Count! You can do something, like volunteer in your community or mentor a young adult or co-worker, in order to continue to develop your character and demonstrate caring and citizenship at the same time. Be sure to include your children or the kids in your life, teaching them about and modeling good character. Maximizing Character will be highlighting the Six Pillars of Character (responsibility, trustworthiness, respect, fairness, caring and citizenship) each day and highlighting good character among our youth in our community during Character Counts! Week. We don’t want you to miss this annual, nationally recognized week, celebrated in over 50 countries around the globe, so FOLLOW US here on wordpress, on Facebook at Maximizing Character (don’t forget to LIKE our page), on Twitter @Character2Max, and on Instagram at characterboss.CCWeek-graphic-2013

Food for Thought

MaxCrest.Green2I launched a character education program this summer called Maximizing Character. The program has gotten off to a great start promoting its services within the community with the help of family, friends and like-minded organizations. I am passionate about promoting values and positive behaviors that help us to maximize our spiritual, social & emotional, physical, academic and professional potential. If you’ve ever wondered why there is so much violence, irresponsibility, disrespect, lack of integrity and self-centeredness in the world, think about people’s character. Consider the values that you were (or were not) taught or developed over the years. Believe it or not, character building is an important aspect of our development and it’s not just a topic for kids. Author and character educator, Michele Borba said it like this, “It is important to remember that the most important measure of a nation is not its gross national product, its technological genius, or its military might. It is the character of its people.” Civil Rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed, “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” Character encompasses the inward “man or woman” including traits such as honesty, responsibility, caring, and trustworthiness which ultimately reveal themselves in one’s actions and behaviors. If a person is truly honest, for example, their honesty will manifest in their relationships, on their job or at school and in how they live their lives. And know for certain, that people will quickly discern your true character no matter how hard you try to mask it. So…what does your character look like? If someone were to describe you, what would they say? How do you model good character to others especially the children in your life? Just a little Food for thought.

Bullying: Our Experience

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. During the course of this month I hope that readers will take this opportunity to participate in the discussion about this nationwide concern. All across the nation schools, organizations and the media are tackling this topic in hopes of making people aware of its prevalence and to provide strategies to reduce the occurrence of bullying behaviors. Although the issue of bullying has become a national issue in recent years, bullying is not a new issue. It has been going on since the beginning of time. However, in this day and age, bullying has evolved into a form of violence that not only plagues youth and young adults, but it occurs among adults in the workplace and other arenas. Additionally, with the evolution of technological advances, cyber bullying has emerged, causing a whirlwind of problems such as suicide, low self-esteem among youth and other forms of violence.

The issue of bullying is one that I know all too well. Not only have I known individuals and groups who have been affected by this issue, but I was a victim of bullying many years ago. My twin sister and I dealt with bullying during the 70’s and 80’s. Although times have changed and we did not have to experience cyber bullying, the effects were still the same. Hurt, fear, lack of confidence and low self-esteem are just some of the feelings that come to mind when I think about being bullied.

My sister and I did not deserve the pushing, shoving, name-calling, lies and rumors that took place in an effort to hurt us or provoke fights. I’ll never understand what went on in the minds of the elementary and middle school aged students who bullied us. I remember asking the loving adults in my life why this was happening and what had we done to deserve the hateful behaviors and comments. We simply wanted to make friends and go to and from school safely.

I’m sure that there are children (and adults) out there today who shared some of the same feelings I did thirty years ago. Last year one of my sons experienced bullying for the first time as he entered middle school. He recalled being fearful of going to the bus stop and to ride the bus. There were all sorts of “initiations” for the new comers and it scared him. Initially I had no idea that there was a problem. The school year got off to a good start. However as we entered the third or fourth week of school, he began to have asthma attacks and spent several days home from school. For the next month or so he would ask to stay home, citing that his stomach hurt or that he was not feeling well. One day it occurred to me that something was wrong. I had gone through a similar situation with my oldest son and it wasn’t until I opened up the lines of communication and asked questions that I was able to find out what was really going on.

My son revealed that kids were hitting others at the bus stop and on the bus. He, and the kids his age, were being told to switch seats and were often being “removed” if they did not get up. My son shared that one of his biggest fears was coming home after school, especially on Fridays, deemed “Freshman Fridays”. He shared that the older kids would chase them off of the bus and hit or beat them up as part of the “initiations”. I was horrified and it broke my heart to know that my son was experiencing this.

My son’s account of what was going on, mainly in my neighborhood at the bus stop, brought back the memories of my own experiences with bullying. I remembered that my mother advocated for my sister and me when we were bullied. She went so far as to go to the police regarding one incident. I truly believe that because of her actions, support, encouragement and positive affirmations, my sister and I are women who are now thriving in life. We have been able to move on, learn from the experiences and help others. That being said, I went straight to the school. We were blessed to receive the prompt support and response of my son’s school administration. When my son experienced another potential incident, this time during school, his sixth grade assistant principle stepped in again to squash the situation.

I hope that the bullying awareness and prevention goes beyond the month of October. In the meantime, I urge you to support the various activities, events and discussions that may take place in your community or online. Most of all, I encourage you to stand up for those who are experiencing bullying or may be potentially targeted.

My GRANDma, My “Shug”

MyShug gmaToday I remember my Grandma, aka, Nana, Mama, Aunt Shug and Mrs. Inez Reeves. She would have been 84 years old today. When I asked her why people called her “Shug” (pronounced sh00g), she told me that it’s because she’s so sweet. Grandma was a woman of faith, an exceptional cook, a Sunday school teacher and superintendent and an avid fisher. Before she retired she had managed restaurants and created recipes used by those establishments all over our region. Grandma taught me so much about how to live by faith, be dependable, how to act like a lady and to be a blessing to others. Her motto was “Lord, bless me so that I may be a blessing to others.” She lived a humble life, giving of her time, talents and treasures to her family, our beloved church and to our community.

My Grandma helped my single mother, and so many others in our “village”, to raise me and my two sisters. We were blessed to have this angel in our lives. When times were hard for us she always stepped in to ensure that we had everything that we needed and more. When I was a young adult, raising my first son as a single parent for five years, my Grandma was by my side to help care for him while I took college courses and began working. She offered wisdom, tough love and much grace as I meandered through my young adult years. Her optimism, faith and wisdom caused me to spend hours at her house, sitting at her feet, listening, and learning, soaking up all the love and life lessons in order to find my way. When I started my career as a behavioral health professional, married and had my second son, Grandma was by my side.  It was second nature for me to call or stop by to just talk, visit, and get a recipe or when I needed an inspirational boost. Grandma continued to be source of strength and encouragement for me.

I am the woman I am today as a result of her love, time shared with me and her wisdom. While Grandma shared numerous milestones with me and my children, she never got to see me fulfill some of my greatest dreams and look forward to the possibilities ahead. Grandma died in 2008, one year before I obtained my bachelor’s degree and two years before I obtained my master’s and my son, her first great-grandchild, graduated from high school. Grandma had watched me toil for years to get a college education. She never got to see me start a business, helping others to maximize their character as she had always taught me to do. Nevertheless, I’m always encouraged by her life. My Grandma continues to live through the lives of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and through all of the lives that she touched while she was with us. I’m convinced that when a person lives their life as My Shug did, their legacy will go on forever.

Restoring Hope for the Living

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This weekend I had the honor of representing Maximizing Character at the Mothers Against Violence Walk for Life. We were one of the vendors sharing and educating the community about the importance of character-building in an effort to reduce the violent culture that exists in the surrounding neighborhoods. The event appeared to be a success although we were delayed in setting up and had to fight the windy conditions.

During the event an enthusiastic group of participants, young and old, met at the starting point, one of the city’s main department buildings and proceeded to embark upon MAVs 2nd annual Walk for Life. With a police escort and water depots situated along the path, manned by high school cheerleaders and other volunteers, the participants walked along some of the toughest streets in the city. Their purpose was to draw attention to the increased violence in the area such as homicide, gun violence and beatings among other crimes and the need to create positive, effective change in the community.

The walkers and volunteers, along with their police escort crossed the finish line donned with an arch of pink and black balloons as the vendors, including Maximizing Character and other community supporters applauded them. The walkers and community members held a brief rally nearby, featuring the founder of Mothers Against Violence and other community leaders who encouraged peace, change and shared stories of the lives lost to violence in this particular community. Pictures and displays of the victims and their stories lined the stage area. It was heartbreaking to see so many young people included in this memorial.

As the rally ended, community leaders and members proceeded to the “block” where the vendors awaited to share vital communication information such as victim and legal services, health and wellness, bullying prevention and educational, insurance and business information. Maximizing Character was among the educational services. We stressed the importance of establishing core values, starting with parents and caregivers teaching these in the homes. Teaching healthy respect and citizenship so that these behaviors spill over into the communities and schools was also encouraged. Our program emphasized that it is imperative that community members “take back their community” by setting expectations and standards in and outside of their homes. The hope is that eventually the incidents of violence in the community will be reduced. Maximizing Character founders and Junior Assistant conversed with community members, listening to stories of those affected by violence and offering a word of encouragement or directing them to helpful resources. We handed out character-building literature to the parents, encouraged good citizenship amongst the children sharing treats and giveaways with them, although most of the adults frequented our table for the treats too.

As the Walk for Life participants, event volunteers and community members circled the block to gather information, the final portion of the event had already begun the block party. People danced in the streets as the DJ entertained them with a mix of top forty, R&B and hip hop music. The food that was being prepared on the grill by MAV volunteers had a savory aroma that drew the crowd to form a line along the block. The people smiled and interacted with one another in a pleasant and neighborly manner. While it was a moving event, remembering the lives that were lost to senseless violence, Maximizing Character came to bring hope to the living. As we prepared to leave the event, I had the opportunity to meet the founder and say goodbye to some new friends. I thought about the vision at my church and smiled. Maximizing Character was fulfilling the mission of “building community, restoring hope and transforming lives”.