Monthly Archives: November 2013
As I reflect upon this season of Thanksgiving, I am reminded that we should be thankful for our many blessings and freedoms daily. Over the course of this year I have had many conversations with my sons, in particular my youngest son, about being thankful for the things and blessings he has. I’ve also been challenged to be, not only grateful for what I have, but to be content.
Society bombards us with advertisements that lure us into the stores and online to buy things that we do not really need but often desire in order to make our lives more comfortable and pleasing. We watch the lives of celebrities in the media and attempt to imitate their lifestyles by adorning ourselves with the clothing, jewelry and the hairstyles they showcase. We seek after the cars, gadgets and homes that we see broadcasted each day and go to great lengths sometimes to obtain them. I’m not exempt. I too, have to be careful not to get caught up in the “hype.”
My husband and I have worked hard to provide a comfortable home and lifestyle for our children. Because we know what it’s like to want nice things or to be able to participate in certain events but not be able to afford them as youth, we have tried to provide our sons with some of the opportunities that we were not always privileged to receive. However, I find myself having multiple discussions with my sons about being grateful for their blessings because they often want more and more “stuff”…more video games, more snacks, more expensive sneakers and clothes, more money…more, more, more. As I get a little older I’m realizing that giving my children everything that I didn’t have is not what is best for them, hence my conversations and lessons about being gratefulness.
These discussions involve learning to be considerate of others, learning to be content with the life they have and refraining from coveting someone else’s lifestyle. I’ve become mindful of how much we already have…a loving family and a host of friends, good jobs and schools, a home, food, clothes and a variety of “toys” and I’m learning to be content. This perspective of life, I’ve found, has brought me so much peace and is allowing me to focus more on others.
While I believe it is okay to want the best for ourselves and our loved ones, we must have balance. I’ve had to teach my sons that everything is not necessarily going to be given to them so they are going to have to develop a sense of responsibility and learn to work for some things. I’ve also taught my children to consider other people’s needs and help them whenever possible. Ambition is a good thing…in the right perspective. We must balance those desires to aim for the best in life with an attitude of gratitude.
Fear is a distressing emotion that can hinder the best of us. Fear not only causes a person to procrastinate regarding the things that need and desire to be done, but it paralyzes the greatest exploits. I know this all too well…I struggled with this kind of fear for many years. Fear of failure, fear of what other people would think of me and the decisions that I made and fear of rejection were some of the issues that stunted my personal and professional growth. On the other hand, courage is the ability to overcome fear. While courage can mean facing physical dangers it can also mean standing up for beliefs and making hard decisions on the basis of evidence rather than what is popular. In my case, courage meant overcoming fear and taking responsibility for my life. It took faith, action and a positive support system to help me to overcome my fears and realize the unlimited courage within me to do anything I desired.
I have always been a dreamer, envisioning my goals and making an impact on the world. However, for some reason I had a hard time making those dreams come true. I allowed fear to creep in. I don’t recall my issue with fear being something that happened overnight. What I do know is that little by little this debilitating emotion began to consume me. I saw my self-confidence waste away; my courage to “launch out into the deep” began to wane. Maybe it was something someone said or how they made me feel or maybe it was my own lack of self-worth at the time. One thing that I learned was that when you allow circumstances and other people to dictate your life, you fall into a terrible trap that only leads to frustration and regrets.
My faith in God was a lifeline. I had always trusted God to guide my life through prayer, studying the Bible and attempting to live out the principles of Christianity. Some might say that was courage in and of itself…but while I could memorize and quote biblical scriptures that declared that I was “more than a conqueror” and that “God has not given us a spirit of fear but Power, Love and a Sound Mind,” I had not yet internalized those transformational words. It took years of frustration, several life changing events and some good teaching, mentoring and gleaning from spiritual leaders to help me to develop into the woman I am today.
I’m reminded of the song by Casting Crowns called Courageous. It declares that “We were made to be Courageous!” The song is an amazing declaration of the warrior inside of us all. Life comes with challenges that we were meant to overcome if we would just tackle them courageously. I realized that my true self-worth was not wrapped up in the opinions of others. I decided to take action and create the life that I wanted. I relied on the motto “faith in action” to fulfill my dreams. From being a good wife and mother (teaching my sons and the kids in my youth program to be courageous) to re-entering college and obtaining my degrees to launching a business I had envisioned over 10 years ago, I am still tapping into the unlimited courage that is within me to do great things. I’ve learned not to measure my success by other people’s standards, but by the peace and joy that I possess in knowing that I am fulfilling my purpose and impacting the world through courage.
Today I shared a special occasion with one of my niece’s. Today she signed her National Letter of Intent to receive an athletic scholarship! I was a proud aunt and family member. The informal ceremony brought me to tears. This was my “baby” sister’s daughter and it was such a blessing to see my sister reap the rewards of her good parenting, mentoring and support. As I engaged with the family, taking pictures, videos, sharing hugs and congratulations, I realized that this occasion did not happen by chance. It took a lot of years of preparation and dedication to get to this day and this is just the beginning.
My sister and her family have spent many years playing sports, mainly basketball and football. There were other sports in the past…soccer, t-ball and baseball, but my niece, who stands at 5’10 ½ according to my sister, was drawn to the game of basketball. My sister played the sport during middle school and continued throughout her college days at the shipyard apprentice school. I guess you could say that my niece decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She was awkward for many years on the court, learning the rules of the game and how to maneuver her body at the same time. She played each season faithfully while keeping her grades up…at least until mid-high school when, one day she woke up and her friends, boys and “all things teenager” finally sparked her attention. Despite a few setbacks, my niece got her grades back up and continued to play the game and pursue her goal of playing college ball.
Just like many parents whose day is encompassed with school activities and sports, dance lessons, music lessons and other extra-curricular activities, my sister, her husband and their children successfully managed to participate in sports and other activities while maintaining good grades and still find time for family and friends. Sometimes I wonder how they do it, but over the years I watched my sister and her husband effectively and lovingly communicate and organize their schedules so that their children could get to and from practices, get dinner, homework, attend church and other daily events and keep their sanity.
One of the other things I noticed about my sister and her husband is that they are not overly obsessed with winning or their children’s performance. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely encouraged competiveness and they keep note of their children’s stats, but there is a balance of good sportsmanship and personal drive in their children. As parents they never yell at the referees, coaches or their children. I’ve watched them display patience with my niece, in particular, when others around them suggested that she be more aggressive on the court. My sister continued to encourage her to play her best and to be herself. I watched my niece play her favorite sport with passion, without the aggressiveness that sort of comes with the territory. My mother deemed my niece the “Gentle Giant” as a result of her laid-back attitude on the court.
This family, my family has truly demonstrated dedication, discipline, sportsmanship, patience, encouragement and support and faith. This day didn’t just happen because of talent and being in the right place at the right time, it is a culmination of years of hard work, sacrifice, practices and games, meetings, crazy schedules, fundraisers, volunteer work and travel. My sister and her husband have invested and sacrificed much time and money to enjoy the benefits of this blessing. I was honored to share it with them.
Has it ever occurred to you that you may be focusing more on your future than you are on the present moment and the events of the day? I’ve often heard people, including celebrities like television mogul, Oprah Winfrey say, “live in the now”,” live in the moment”. I’ve been guilty of basking in my dreams and future goals so much so that I forget to stop and take in the events of the here and now — answering that life-changing question posed by my preteen or young adult son, initiating that hug or call to say “I Love You” or “Hello” to a relative or friend I haven’t spoken to in a while but who lives only ten minutes away. While I know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming and aspiring to fulfill one’s purpose in life… it is actually wise to plan ahead, I realize that one must exercise balance and remember to live in the now.
As I continue to mature and take inventory of my life, I am beginning to understand the philosophies of the older men and women in my life more and more. They said what was on their mind freely, they did not yield to other people’s opinions and they basked in the glory of the day, enjoying their lives as it was at that moment…content. These elders, in particular the women, did this with such grace, unmoved by all the chaos going on around them. They seemed to have such peace. I desire that peace, that feeling of tranquility and security that comes from embracing and engaging in the events of the day, confident that my future is already fulfilled and blessed. I get it…now that’s good living.
October was a busy month for many of us including myself. As a nation was celebrated and promoted many important causes including breast cancer awareness, bullying prevention, Character Counts week, Ministers appreciation and a host of other holidays and causes. Maximizing Character participated and supported several events during the month. In addition to supporting other organizations, we engaged in a few activities of our own, in particular, during Character Counts Week (October 20-26, 2013). We had to be creative in our efforts to be actively involved in our community considering the fact that we are a new organization with no budget…yet.
During Character Counts Week we featured the Six Pillars of Character, created by Character Counts founder, Michael Josephson (www.charactercounts.org). Each day Maximizing Character highlighted a pillar of character, its meaning and its designated color on our Facebook and Twitter pages in order to encourage good character among all people. Members of Maximizing Character also wore the designated colors on several days in honor of the week. We participated in our second Girl Talk session and made Flowers for the Causes (check out the blog from earlier this month).
Maximizing Character also celebrated good character throughout the week on social media by featuring individuals and groups in the community that were making their Character Count. My son and Junior Executive Assistant joined The Young Men of Distinction group at his school during Character Counts Week. The program is a mentoring program for boys. Although he is already a kid who possesses good character…okay, I know I’m biased, my son reports that he is committed to the group’s principles including Academics, Discipline, Self-control, Perseverance and Uplift. We also featured my co-worker and her husband who had one of his trucks from his small business painted pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness! Individuals had an opportunity to purchase magnets in honor of someone affected by breast cancer to place on the truck, too cool!
Maximizing Character participated in a breast cancer awareness seminar hosted by Sentara Healthcare, a nonprofit healthcare organization, in order to promote early detection and intervention. And finally, we featured and supported our dear friends, Parents Against Bullying of VA who hosted two major events this month, a Skate-A-Thon and their historic, 1st Annual 1000 Kid March Against Bullying at Hampton University. These events put the icing on the cake for a busy but productive month! Maximizing Character was honored to support and participate in the activities and events with organizations and people of like-minded spirits. We hope that next year, as we grow in membership and stature that we can continue to support these important and nationally recognized organizations as well as host a few events to promote good character and ethics, health and wellness and help reduce the incidents of violence such as bullying in our schools and communities.