Category Archives: Character Building
As we welcomed sweet November last week, we were reminded of how blessed we are to see another month, holiday season and our 5th year of public service as Maximizing Character in the coming year. We decided to celebrate gratitude throughout the month. Gratitude, from the Latin gratus, meaning pleasing or thankful, is a feeling of appreciation. It is often shown through kindness, gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity.
During the first six days of our Gratitude celebration we were grateful for life, family, opportunities to achieve our goals, our supporters, good teachers and the ability to help others. Imagine life without these things.
As we move forward through the month of November we hope that you will check back and join us as we reflect upon the many wonderful blessings we have to be grateful for. Obviously gratitude is not just a once a month or time of year observation. It is a daily habit that, if exercised, has the potential to bring so much joy into one’s life. So, until we blog again, here’s to Maximizing Character and Gratitude!
Families were also afforded the chance to tour the entire museum at no cost that evening. According to Ms. Epps, Title I Coordinator – Family Engagement, many of the families had never visited the museum or other community attractions possibly due to a lack of funds or knowledge of such places. Hosting the educational event at this popular area attraction was deemed a success according to the post-surveys that were completed by the participants.
Maximizing Character leaders and Character (Youth) Ambassadors attended the event, providing information about character education, life skills and community service opportunities with the program. The leaders and Youth Ambassadors greeted the children and their families, shared information, answered questions about Maximizing Character services and engaged the youth in an activity called “Know Your Character, Show Your Character”. Youth participants also had a chance to engage in coloring their own “All About Character” poster or take it with them. The children and families were encouraged to “Do the Right Thing, All Day… Every Day!”
The event proved to be a success and Maximizing Character was proud to be a part of the school system’s efforts to promote parent and community engagement! In a statement made during the event summary, Coordinator Ms. Epps said,
“Thank you all for another successful Title I Family Learning Project Event (this was our 8th year!) as we took over the Air & Space Center! The families were engaged with wonderful activities and resources and were VERY excited about exploring the exhibits. We had 739 participants! We also had 26 community vendors! Thank you again for all that you did to make this event a success.”
This past school year Maximizing Character had the opportunity to help establish a Girls Group with a group of energetic middle school girls. It was a pleasure to work with them as they were transitioning from childhood into adolescence. These young ladies were selected for the group based upon academic and behavioral challenges they had experienced. The objective of the girls group was to empower these future leaders, helping to keep them from “falling through the cracks” academically and socially. I had the opportunity to share my passion for character building while also teaching the girls to love themselves, enjoy their youth and invest in their education and future success.
Each Monday afternoon I would travel to the school, greet the girls who were usually finishing up their tutoring with college students from the local university, and begin our group session together. During G.I.R.L.S. Group, we engaged in activities and discussions about character development, boys, effective communication, self-esteem and other topics critical to this age group. I was truly “in my element” during those sessions. The girls asked questions about relationships with peers, boys, how to communicate with fussy parents and how to envision a successful and fulfilling life. Maximizing Character G.I.R.L.S. Group projects and activities included developing a “vision board”, role playing scenarios about bullying, communicating with peers and adults, drama-free living and open discussions about self-worth and how to interact appropriately with boys.
The program started off slowly, canceling a few of the first meetings due to low attendance and attempting to build new relationships with the diverse group of girls. However, after the Christmas break, the program seemed to take off, allowing me to interact more often with the girls and build camaraderie with school staff and the girls. By the end of the ten weeks, the girls appeared to be more comfortable with initiating discussions and activities with me, had improved their grades and behaviors and were eager to exchange social media information in order to keep in touch with me and the Maximizing Character Ambassadors.
On April 30, 2014, Maximizing Character graduated its first G.I.R.L.S. Group! The group had a small ceremony in one of the classrooms at the school where Mrs. Manning, the Student Advancement Coach, who implemented this program, the boys’ group, parents and volunteers joined together for a light dinner and awards ceremony. The Maximizing Character G.I.R.L.S. Group graduates were presented with a certificate of participation, a “Character Couture” bracelet and a bag of goodies. It was a great school year and I wished the girls well as most of them would advance to high school. As a result of the success of the M.C. G.I.R.L.S. Group, we were asked to facilitate the program again during the 2014-2015 school year! I am so excited about the opportunity to mentor a new group of girls!
I believe that our words frame our world. We should be careful about what we say about ourselves and to others because those words will produce a positive or negative product. If a parent tells a child that they are worthless long enough the child may begin to first think and then believe that they are worthless. If you confess that you are sick all of the time or constantly tell yourself that you don’t have what it takes to accomplish your goals, 9 times out of 10 you are a sickly person or you are not satisfied with your life. Remember, if you don’t want it, don’t say it. Commit to changing your language and speak life into the atmosphere. Speak positively over your life and over those lives that you have been fortunate enough to connect with.
I’ve had to learn this valuable lesson the hard way. Growing up I did not understand this principle so I said whatever came to mind, good or bad: “I’m broke,” “There is no way that I can accomplish that!” “I’ll never finish school, this is taking too long!” And so…I was broke, had low self-esteem for a period in my life, causing me to stop pursuing my goals and I had mismanaged my time and resources in my early years of college because I was focusing on the wrong things. While the situations in my life may have been true at that point in time, it did not mean that they had to be that way forever. I had the power to change my life with my words – spoken as well as written…I just didn’t know it.
Flash-forward 20 years and I’m living a Wonder Full life, I’ve accomplished many goals that I had set for myself as a teenager and young adult and I’m on a mission to continue to leave a positive legacy on this planet. My life began to take a positive turn as a result of changing my language about myself and the world. I became more aware of the words that came out of my mouth and the words that I began to write on paper…goals, visions, positive changes that I desired to make in my life. I envisioned the life that I wanted and I began to produce what I saw. No, my life is not perfect and I still have to be mindful of what I think and say. No, it’s not magic but I will declare that it all happened by faith~my unwavering faith in God. A faith that convinced me that God would hear my specific prayers, hear the words that I spoke into existence and see the words that I frequently wrote about the life I desired, and honor them. My Pastor and Teacher taught me that “everything begins with a thought.” When my thoughts changed, then my Words changed and my Life changed. If You Don’t Want It, Don’t Say It, but if you Do Want It…Speak It Into Existence! Speak Life!
Yesterday my co-worker shared a video (see the link above) with me that caused me to truly re-assess the way I spend my time and life energy. At first glance, it just looks like a typical day with people doing typical things, and in fact, it is typical…for this day and age. In each scene of the video there are cell phones actively being used. The video captures the essence of what has happened in our technological world. We are so busy using our phones that we neglect to truly engage in life’s moments.
I’ve heard many people use the term “live in the NOW” and I began to embrace this philosophy when I realized that television, computers and social media were beginning to take over my life. However, I have to consistently remind myself of this mantra because it is so easy to pick up the gadgets or turn on the T.V. to “engage” in the events of the day. The video demonstrates the sad reality that many of us have become disengaged with humanity. Not only have we allowed our phones and cameras to dictate our way of life, but we are missing out on the beauty and joy of engaging in memorable life events.
Remember that couple that got engaged on the beach in the video? At the very moment that his bride-to-be said yes, embraced and attempted to kiss him, the young man was engaged in taking the, oh, so popular “Selfie” pic. The scene with the children at the playground…one little girl was engrossed in some type of activity on her phone while she swung back and forth on the swings. And those two groups of people who were celebrating a birthday and having dinner…most of those folks had their heads down, interacting with their phones or were busy snapping pics and probably uploading them to some social media page. It was appalling to see, but it was so true.
After watching the short video I was ashamed at how many times I had been guilty of some of the same things. In my response to my coworker, I said that it should be everyone’s New Year resolution to put the phone down sometimes, especially during life’s most precious and memorable moments. We must exercise balance when it comes to technology otherwise it will deprive us of a wonderful, full life. Remember to live in the Now and Engage in Life with Humanity. During this New Year, accept the gift of the Present and Live!
The holidays are chock full of activities and events from decorating and shopping to celebrating the season with parties and parades. Some of the most memorable holiday activities, however, are during the times spent with family and friends. Swapping old, embarrassing stories, listening to holiday music, joking around with family members and sharing holiday dinners are some of my favorite things to do with my family. However, for some people the holidays are not necessarily the best times of the year. For some individuals, the holidays may evoke a time of sadness, loneliness, indifference or bitterness due to the loss of a loved one, old family disputes, or growing up without a family to share the holidays with. Holidays may even evoke feelings of anxiety at the thought of dealing with difficult family members, co-workers or acquaintances. Despite these feelings there are some positive ways to handle such circumstances that allow one to enjoy the season and interact with others with an attitude of “peace, good will toward all men.”
There will always be some outspoken, unpredictable member of the family or a colleague who just has to compare the children, make unrestrained comments about someone or some sensitive subject or overindulge on the holiday beverages and pick a fight with someone. And yes, there’s Cousin “so and so” and Uncle “you know who” who just irritates everyone. Don’t shy away from the holiday festivities because of a few unique individuals in your circle. Instead, treat yourself to some good company, food, laughter and great memories. After all, laughter is good medicine and each of us deserves the opportunity to eat, drink and be merry!
There are some positive ways to enjoy oneself during this and all seasons without allowing the past or certain individuals to hinder your joy. The first thing one can do is to take a deep breath and decide that nothing or no one will stop you from experiencing the goodness of life. It is always a person’s choice to not participate in holidays or certain traditions. However if there is a desire to participate but one of the aforementioned reasons has been a hindrance, choose to move past those reasons and enjoy this time making new memories while continuing to cherish the former (good) ones. Prayer, meditation, exercise, listening to music, reciting a special scripture or affirmation or browsing and reminiscing through old pictures of loved ones who have gone on before us are ways to cope with the holiday season. Whatever seems to give you comfort and joy, tap into those resources and celebrate well.
Sometimes spending time with family and friends, even the most difficult ones, is better than isolating oneself and feeling miserable. The shared time with others is great encouragement. If you did not have a family unit to celebrate with while growing up or at some point in your life, consider celebrating the holidays with close, trusted friends or co-workers or if you are old enough and have started your own family, create your own special memories that will be handed down and cherished for generations. And for the family member or co-worker that “plucks your nerves” as some of the older folks would say when I was growing up, greet them with a short salutation, a smile and move on if you can. Avoid getting riled up and jumping to your defenses too quickly…sometimes that’s just what the other person is looking for…some type of response to keep things going. Obviously one must stand up for oneself if, for some reason, something is said or done that clearly is unacceptable and has to be addressed. Remember to guard the Golden Rule and refuse to focus your energy on “foolishness”. If they happen to spark up a conversation with you, listen to what they have to say rather than tune them out but keep your guard up, you don’t want to get caught up in negative talk. Change the conversation or politely move on. When it is all said and done, let Love guide your relationships!
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.