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!
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!
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”.
This weekend I will be participating in a Walk-for-Life with a non-profit called Mothers Against Violence. As I prepare for the event as one of the vendors for their block party, I thought about the message that I want to share with the parents and their children. This event will be taking place in an urban community where violence is commonplace. While this event seeks to bring awareness to the violence that is rampant in our local community and all over neighborhoods in the country, I want to bring a message of hope.
Violence is such a general word with so many meanings. In this day and time violence is everywhere. It is evident within private homes, in our schools, the workplace and of course, the media (you didn’t think I’d leave them out did you?). Violence equates to murder, abuse whether physical, emotional or verbal. It can be domestic or international. And by the way, yes, bullying is considered a form of violence. I’m not only referring to the nationally recognized issue that schools and communities are so diligently fighting to end, I’m also referring to the type of bullying that takes place daily among adults in the form of domestic violence or other forms such as intimidation in the workplace.
Since my passion is to make a difference in the lives of youth and families, I’ll stay in my lane and focus on the connection between character and violent behaviors. I believe that character begins in the home with the primary caregivers. Whatever you are doing and saying, trust, that if there are children in the midst, they are watching and learning. With that being said, the example has to start with the adults. We all know this, but how many of us pay close attention to our response when someone treats us unfairly in the checkout line, cuts us off on the highway or inflicts some type of injustice upon us? Our precious resources, youngest citizens and future leaders and caregivers behave based upon what they have seen and know from their day to day experiences. If hitting, yelling and cursing are behaviors that they see and hear regularly, chances are they are going to do the same thing. I’m amazed at parents who behave this way at home and then act amazed, even dumbfounded when their children begin school and in a matter of days they get a call from the teacher reporting poor behavior. This behavior did not just show up at school. In most cases, the behavior was already going on or manifested as a result of what the child learned from the only examples they have ever known.
During this upcoming event my goal is to remind parents and children that violence is real and that the different forms of violence can be reduced by making positive changes in their daily behaviors and attitudes. Establishing values in the home, teaching and modeling respect, responsibility, honesty and fairness and other values are ways to start helping children develop character. Spending time with the family conversing about potential dangers and exploring solutions, engaging in necessary safety drills or role playing in order to learn conflict resolution skills are other ways that youth and families can reduce violence. And might I add that sometimes it’s the caregiver who needs to be taught or re-taught some basic character virtues in order to produce a non-violent, compassionate, intelligent, talented and productive life that influences their children. As I join Mothers Against Violence in the Walk-for-Life this weekend, share information and have a little fun in the process, I hope that families will leave with a sense of empowerment to take back their homes, communities and schools.