Move It and Groove It

Move It and Groove It!

2018.09.10

The Creative Soul

 

Located on a part of real estate in New York City that either affords one a landscape of New Jersey or Manhattan, Naomi Goldberg Haas offers free dance classes to older adults.  The Founder of Dances for a Variable Population has two rules for the creativity of dance:  “Have fun and don’t do anything beyond your limits.”  Haas and her students offer the top three advantages of not only the movement of dance but also learning to appreciate personal beauty and one’s own body.

 

1.                   ‘You Recognize the Difference It Makes’.

 

Haas explained her philosophy of teaching dance: “There’s so much we can learn from dancing with each other. Also, by dance-making with each other, we gain an appreciation of our own body and beauty.”  Some students come for the exercise benefits. “Once you pass a certain age, you realize you have to be in a physical program,” Haas observed. “You recognize the difference it makes. On a larger social level, the lack of movement is killing us.”  DVP, which Haas founded in 2008, works with more than 45 senior centers and institutions. Movement Speaks, one of its programs, offers older adults and low-income communities free dance instruction.  They also perform a public show of an original work created by class participants.

 

2. ‘Touch Is Life-giving’

While dance has health benefits for the body and mind, Haas emphasized that her goal is to inspire participants to move creatively and feel empowered by that movement.  DVP classes also incorporate some partner work where people might briefly hold hands as they circle around each other on the floor. “Touch with someone else is life-giving,” Haas explained.  At the end of class, the dancers divided themselves into groups of four. Each participant would lead a few times, and then pass the torch to the next person, so everyone got a chance to create a movement and follow their partners.

 

3.    You Can Rediscover Dance

Students who had previously studied dance might find the class more doable than a class they would find in a traditional studio because DVP’s emphasis is on what you can do, not insisting that people attempt choreography that would be beyond their limits.  Karen Beja, a 59-year-old school psychologist, began dancing with the group about three years ago. “I did a lot of dance as a young adult and I stopped in my late 30s and I miss it,” she explained. “Naomi has given me back movement.”  In addition to keeping her mobile and flexible, Beja said, “It makes me feel joyful.”

 

Other advantages discovered by the class include the mental advantages of learning to improvise and memorize.  Traditional dances often included improvisation but then remembering desired combinations of steps exercises brain muscles as well as leg and foot muscles.  The diversity often found in the classes is also a huge social benefit.  Not only is there a difference in gender and age but in culture and ethnicities.  New relationships are made and friendships formed.  Social interaction is a necessary part of living and the connections made through classes that encourage one’s creativity are paramount to good health. 

 

UC-Berkley reported in 2014 that many studies have found dancing can improve balance, even in frail elderly people. Some have shown improvements in gait, walking speed, and reaction time, as well as cognitive and fine motor performance. Dance studies have included jazz, ballroom, tango, folk, and a series of slow, low-impact dance movements—though any kind of dancing would likely be beneficial.  Interestingly, according to a review in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine in 2009, dancing may help people with Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by rigid muscles, slowed movement, and impaired balance.

 

Dancing may also be good for your mood. It has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, and stress and boost self-esteem, body image, coping ability, and overall sense of well-being, with the benefits lasting over time. In one study, it even helped control “emotional eating” in obese women who eat as a response to stress.  The authors of a meta-analysis of 27 studies on the effectiveness of dance movement therapy, published in Arts in Psychotherapy this year, concluded that dancing should be encouraged as part of treatment for people with depression and anxiety.

 

If you can move, you can dance and you should.  Let your creative spirit move and feel the benefits that dancing can bring to your life.  There are dancing apps, some specially designed for older people of the informed, to assist you in being creative with dance.  There’s no downside to incorporating dance into your regular physical activity routine, and it could help motivate you to get moving if you find other types of workouts, like treadmill walking or cycling, a little boring.  You will not only get creatyive, you might even get healthier!

 

My Neighbor’s Faith

My Neighbor’s Faith – A Collection of Essays on Diversity

2018.08.26

Literature and Life

 

We live in a diverse world.  That is a statement no one can refute.  It is a fact.  What is also true, sadly, is that many fear diversity.  Almost every single minute part of creation, of our world, is unique.  Diversity is not just a trendy term used about by politicians.  It is a fact.  No two snowflakes are exactly alike, no two roses, people, etc.  Recently I saw the word diversity explained this way:

Diversity means:

D – ifferent

I – ndividuals

V – aluing

E – achother

R – egardless of

S – kin

I – ntellect

T – alents or

Y – ears

 

Diversity leads to growth and a better world.  Instead, history has shown that it often leads to hatred and violence.  Writer and television executive Gene Roddenberry once said ““If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.”

 

The featured book for today is “My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation”, edited by Jennifer Howe Peace, Or N. Rose, and Gregory Mobley.  The book is a collection of fifty-three essays, divided as one might a travelogue.  I think this is fitting since these essays invite us to embark on self-exploration in celebrating diversity and our neighbor.

 

Dr. Thomas Szasz, doctor of psychiatry wrote “The Myth of Mental Illness” and he had some strong words about diversity.  ““The plague of mankind is the fear and rejection of diversity: monotheism, monarchy, monogamy and, in our age, monomedicine. The belief that there is only one right way to live, only one right way to regulate religious, political, sexual, medical affairs is the root cause of the greatest threat to man: members of his own species, bent on ensuring his salvation, security, and sanity. ”

 

I have written about this book over the past four years of this blog and I still read it at least once a year.  It encourages me to continue to encounter a new neighbor, look with fresh eyes upon my own home and those of others,  to consider redrawing the maps of my comfort zone, unpacking and trying on new beliefs and new ways to live my treasured tenets of faith and living, to step across the lines of my comfort zone, to seek out fellow travelers, and do whatever I can to repair the brokenness in our world.

 

At a university commencement speech in June of 1963, then President of the US John F. Kennedy spoke his truths on diversity.  “If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

 

This series has been more for the writer than the reader and how reading can broaden one’s knowledge and talent.  I seriously encourage all to read this book, published in 2012.  Perhaps essays are not quite your cup of tea.  I still encourage you to read this book.  Albert Einstein once remarked:  “Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else.”

 

 

 

 

From Broken to Beauty

From Broken to Beauty

May 23, 2018

Pentecost 2018

 

Often we encounter people who think we are “broken” because we are not exactly like them.  We are different.  No two people are ever exactly alike and yet, we tend to spend a great deal of our life trying to be like each other.  Whether you believe in the happenstance of creation or you believe it to be the orderly work of a deity, one thing is quite true.  Our world, our planet, our universe is quite diverse.  The world does not have just one type of flower or tree, one vegetable, one type of protein, etc. 

 

People tend to fear that which is different and so, in an effort to protect themselves, they treat those who are different as if they were broken.  They bully; they battle; they belittle; they hurt.  Those of us who are different are left feeling broken and worse – we become ashamed of who and what we are.

 

Some of the world’s most beautiful buildings are those with stained glass windows.  The stained glass window would be nothing if it had not started out as broken.  Each window is made up of hundreds of broken pieces of glass made beautiful by an artist.  The times in our lives when we feel broken are just setting the stage for the beauty of living that is to come.

 

During Pentecost this year we will delve into ways to fill the broken places in our lives.  We need to incorporate the Japanese art of Kintsugi into our lives. Rather than disguising the breakage, Kintsugi restores the broken item incorporating the damage into the aesthetic of the restored item, making it part of the object’s history.  A piece of plain pottery suddenly glistened as lacquer and gold dust would be used to fill the broken crevices.   Pottery pieces of Kintsugi were said to have such value that some purposefully broke their pottery so as to have the repair work add value.

 

The world can be a risky place and none of us escapes without bruises and scars.  We need to value these as mementoes of our survival.  Just like the Kintsugi pottery or the stained glass window, our brokenness is the palette for our true beauty to be revealed.

The Reality of Being

The Reality of Being

April 14-15, 2018

 

American author and artist James Thurber once stated:  “Philosophy offers the rather cold consolation that perhaps we and our planet do not actually exist; religion presents the contradictory and scarcely more comforting thought that we exist but that we cannot hope to get anywhere until we cease to exist. Alcohol, in attempting to resolve the contradiction, produces vivid patterns of Truth which vanish like snow in the morning sun and cannot be recalled; the revelations of poetry are as wonderful as a comet in the skies, and as mysterious. Love, which was once believed to contain the Answer, we now know to be nothing more than an inherited behavior pattern.”

 

Born in Ohio and raised in both Virginia and Ohio, Thurber had a rather typical early twentieth century American boy’s childhood.  Not so typical was an injury he suffered as a child when an arrow of his brother’s resulted in Thurber being blinded in one eye.  He worked as a journalist in Ohio after attending but not graduating Ohio State University and then moved to New York City where he obtained a position on the staff of ”The New Yorker” magazine.  Thurber become known for his cartoons of animals and his drawings of dogs soon had their own career on pages of periodicals, newspapers and books, often watching strong-willed women and seemingly weak men.

 

Thurber once remarked “The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself, but in so doing, he identifies himself with people–that is, people everywhere, not for the purpose of taking them apart, but simply revealing their true nature.”  Many enjoyed both his drawings and his books, of which there were more than just a few.  Often people saw themselves on the pages of Thurber’s drawings; always they saw their neighbors.  Few took offense, though, knowing that Thurber was pointing his pen not only at them but also himself.

 

“There but for the grace of God go I” is an idiom attributed to Anglican priest James Bradford.  It is also a paraphrase of the scripture found in the New Testament, I Corinthians 15:10.  That the quote in English form is also attributed to a Roman Catholic priest is no surprise and quite fitting given Bradford’s life.  Ordained an Anglican priest shortly before the Roman Catholic Mary Tudor took the throne as reigning monarch of England, he was later imprisoned and hung for his beliefs.  Bradford preached of the connectivity of mankind and saw himself in the face of the lowest of it.  Mostly, Bradford saw each man has a reflection of another except for perhaps life’s circumstances.  He advocated spreading good will not judgment.

 

However you might define reality, we are real.  If you doubt that, get a hammer and bring it down intensely upon your finger.  I really doubt you will question the pain experienced.  Life is transitory but the travails we experience are very real to us.  “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”  Elie Wiesel was referring to events leading up to World War II specifically but his words ring true for everyday living.

 

We are not only real, we are connected one to another.  Three years ago Nepal suffered a terrible earthquake.  About that same time Face Book began running a streamer at the top of personal pages giving ways people could contribute to charities helping the victims of the earthquakes in Nepal.  Some people protested this.  They were good people with no motive for malice but they really did not like the streamer inviting them to help others.  “Wouldn’t it be better to help people in our own country?” was a common response people posted on their own pages.  “Why do we have to see this ticker about giving to Nepal?”  The unspoken meaning here was that one should let the Nepalese help themselves while we help our neighbors closer to home.

 

That is a great thought except for one thing – Nepal was a country in dire straits even before the earthquake.  The victim of countless regimes whose only purpose was personal greed, these “live and let live” people were in abject poverty before nature took its revenge on them.  How can someone with nothing have their lives and homes literally upturned by seismic events then pull wealth out of their empty pockets to “help themselves”?

 

Every country has its poor, its disenfranchised societies.  For many, these populations are simply uneducated, sometimes on purpose based upon gender, and/or the wrong ethnicity, again the victims of deliberate discrimination.  Sometimes these populations suffer from illnesses that are not fully understood or greatly feared.  Do these Face Book subscribers donate to these groups within their own countries?  No one country has enough money given to completely render all needed assistance to these groups.  The reality is that there is always a need for which we could render aid.

 

Reality may be a word that means different things to different people and sadly, many feel they are invisible and that their lives do not matter.  Another thing all countries share is that somewhere today someone will take their own life.  In spite of a number of terminal illnesses, accidents, and crimes that will result in death, people will feel their own personal situation has no meaning and is just a riddle too hard to contemplate resolution except by death.

 

Einstein might have been correct when he said “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”  I prefer to believe that human stupidity is reversible, though.  Another in common is countries where children and adults wear socks is that, at some point, one will end up with a mismatched sock.  Seeming to defeat the laws of physics, one sock will magically disappear.  Once during an epic spring cleaning, my spouse and children put all their mismatched socks into bags.  The final count was an even one hundred pairless socks.  Of course, once the socks were all laid out, pairs were found or someone remembered the puppy tearing a sock up, another was worn outside and holes appeared, etc. 

 

Just as our socks were real, the mystery of the disappearance of their matches had resolution.  For an hour, said spouse and kids enjoyed making up stories about the disappearances.  Their imaginations took flight and they did indeed come up with delightful tales.  In fact, I think at least two children, now adults, still imagine at least two socks are orbiting the earth as I type today!  The reality was far less exciting and entertaining but resolution was found.  We did not find all the socks but those that remained single became adorable little snowman figures sold at a charitable auction.

 

Mankind is real.  We have problems but we also solutions if we have faith that we can find them.  It will not be easy but then, most things seldom are.  Pain cannot be seen or even quantified on a scale with weights and balances and yet, pain is all too real for those experiencing it.  We should not share in another’s blame or guilt but we can and should offer to help.  Life is hard but it is not impossible.  All we need to do is believe in ourselves.  Perhaps that is the hardest problem philosophy has to solve.  This weekend I hope you smile more than you cry and, when you pass another, your eyes are opened to not only see the worth of that other person but also your own value.  We are real.  We all matter.  Our lives have purpose and meaning.

Prayer

Prayer

March 9-11

 

This may come as a surprise to some of you who call yourselves atheists but we all pray; yes, even atheists.  Prayer simply means to ask and everyone at some point in their life has asked for the help of another.  We usually think of prayer of invoking a request from a higher spirit, the Creator, the Great Spirit, Allah, or God.  Some pray with chanting; others make their supplications with dancing.  Many say collective prayers and some religions pray several times a day.  Often prayer is done internally, a type of “think talk”.  Regardless of what form or fashion it takes, we all have asked for help.

 

Walter Mueller describes prayer this way:  “Prayer is not merely an occasional impulse to which we respond when we are in trouble; prayer is a life attitude.”  That can seem a bit daunting to many and so, one man set out to make prayer something people understood.  For the recently departed Reverend Billy Graham, his life became dedicated to connecting people, all people of all faiths, with the prayers of their souls and hearts, with the very core of our most basic needs and humanity. 

 

William Graham was born in North Carolina and earned a certificate in Biblical studies from a Bible college in Florida before graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology at the Methodist Wheaton College in Illinois.  He married the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries and for the past thirty years has been an advisor to presidents and world leaders.  For forty-nine consecutive years he was on Gallup’s List of Most Admired Men and Women, something no one else has ever achieved.

 

In 1950, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was formed.  Its mission has been unchanging:  “Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) exists to support and extend the evangelistic calling and ministries of Billy Graham and Franklin Graham by proclaiming the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to all we can by every effective means available to us and by equipping others to do the same. Billy Graham founded BGEA in 1950; BGEA was headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, until relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2003. He conducted his ministry through the BGEA, including: the weekly Hour of Decision radio program broadcast around the world on Sundays for over 50 years; television specials which are broadcast in prime time on an average of 150 stations; a syndicated newspaper column called “My Answer”; Decision magazine, the official publication of the Association; and World Wide Pictures, which has produced and distributed over 125 productions.”

 

That mission statement may sound very preachy but humanitarian aid is also given to nations in crisis.  He also advocated for basic human rights for all people.  After racially-motivated bombings in Birmingham, Alabama, Rev. Graham held memorial services.  He refused to go to South Africa until the government permitted integrated audience to hear him preach.  After the devastating Hurricane Katrina, he held a Festival of Hope in New Orleans and was asked to lead the national memoriam at the National Cathedral, an Episcopal cathedral in Washington, D.C., after the attacks on September 11, 2001 in New York City and Washington, D.C. as well as the plane crash in Pennsylvania due to the work of terrorists.

 

“True prayer is a way of life, not just for use in cases of emergency.”  Billy Graham’s words ring very true for me.   Herman Melville, author of the classic “Moby Dick” once said that “Prayer draws us near to our own souls.”  I would venture that he/she who claims not to have ever prayed is in doubt of who he/she is.

 

Prayer is not a sign of weakness but of being alive.  Chiang Kai-shek explained:  “Prayer is more than meditation.  In meditation the source of strength is one’s self.  When one prays, he goes to a source of strength greater than his own.”  William Inge agreed:  “Prayer gives a man [woman] the opportunity to know [someone] he hardly ever meets.  I do not mean his maker but himself.”

 

I hope you accept that you have prayed and if you are in need, please feel free to comment a prayer request to me.  My own feeling is that when we pray, we become humanitarians for the world, especially for those for whom we offer prayer.  Mahatma Gandhi truly understood the purpose of prayer and its potential.  “Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement.  Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.”

 

 

 

 

Four letter Words and Questions

Four Letter Words and Questions

January 6-7

 

Action determines everything.  Even the quality of being inactive, the perceived opposite of action, has consequences.  Last year about this time four young people were indicted for kidnapping and brutally beating a classmate of one of the four.  The criminal actions took place a week ago and were seen by thousands since the perpetrators filmed themselves and streamed online.  Those that watched, however, were inactive in their watching because that’s all they did… watch.  No one in the audience immediately contacted the police. Their inactivity made them accessories during and after the fact though none will ever be charged. What would you have done?

 

Yesterday began the season of Epiphany, an often confused season of the liturgical calendar.  It might be easiest explained with the graphic of a lightbulb, although generally a star is used.  Liturgically, the Epiphany was that time when wise men traveling from far off reached the baby they believed would be a savior for their world and its peoples.  It is the actual beginning of the religion known as Christianity since these were the men who proclaimed the baby to be the Christ-child.  The child would grow up and become known as Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem.  By birth he was of the Jewish faith and yet in the end, his own rejected him.  He came, he said, for all and vetoed notions that some were better than others, that some might be “chosen” and others could be ignored.

 

Last year, at this time, we discussed actions and verbs, seeking to discover how to be the light of our own lives and hopefully, a light for others.  We asked ourselves just how brave we are, just how narcissistic we are in our everyday living.  It was not about whether you believe one way or another.  It was about the fact that we are all living here together.  If we are honest with ourselves, we make resolutions at this time each year for pretty much the same reasons.

 

Chaos theory helps not only define many of our lives, it gives credence to the fact that we are all in this thing called life together and are affected by each other.  In 1960 Edward Lorenz, a professor at MIT, constructed a weather model.  Weather is the total behavior of all the molecules that make up earth’s atmosphere and Lorenz’s model uncovered patterns from seemingly unrelated instances that aided in predicting the weather. 

 

A snow flake is an object composed of water molecules. These molecules do not have a common nerve system, DNA or a chief molecule that calls the shots.  How do they stay together?  What attraction keeps them together?  How does one molecule in one leg of the flake know which private design the rest of the gang is cruising for, in other legs of the flake, for the tiny molecule a million miles away?  This year much of the United States is covered in snow and ice with record-breaking low temperatures as far south as Florida and Texas. 

 

At a time when clearly the populace is not united, the particles of frozen water we call snow have found a unity in staying together.  They have found a common direction despite the chaos theory.  Chaos theory when applied to humans uncovered the cycle patterns of life.  There is much still to be discovered, more epiphanies of mankind to unearth and yet, we do know some things.  Brutality is not kind.  Criminal actions can be considered evil.  Gangs provide a sense of family but not in a positive way.  What actions provide for a better world?  What verbs might be used to describe your day?  What actions and verbs can combine in helping us make and keep resolutions that will provide for a better tomorrow and year?

 

Deed… Gang… Evil… Kind… Look…Turn… Snow……..Self…. and the biggest four letter word of all……Life.  I sincerely appreciate all of you and your following this blog.  That involves the four letter word…Read.  As with everything, my intention is to offer something for your mind, another four letter word, to ponder.  Most of all, during this year, my wish (yes, also a four letter word) is that you find the best four letter word of all… Hope.

Embrace the Forgotten

Embrace the Forgotten

Advent 13

Year in Review 2017

 

What about Hale County, Alabama?  Football is big business, not just a popular sport and it is one of the things for which the state of Alabama is known.  This week’s election to complete the remainder of an open Senate term has become another.  Few people know anything about Hale County, even those living in the state.

 

The University of Alabama, a major university whose football team claims sixteen national championship titles will once again compete for the national number one slot in collegiate football on January 1st.  It is only forty-nine minutes away and the bustling metropolis of Birmingham is only one hundred miles away from Hale County, Alabama.  Yet, for the children of Hale County, Alabama, they might as well live on the other side of the country.  They live in one of the most rural and impoverished areas of Alabama in what is known as the Blackbelt region of the state. Residents of this are at an economic disadvantage with very limited resources. The high school graduation rate is only 34% with 74% of households earning less than $30,000 per year. Almost 200 families live without plumbing and healthcare is nonexistent for most.

 

According to the United Way of West Alabama, one in every four Alabamians is functionally illiterate, unable to read, write, or use basic math skills and technology in everyday life.   According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 60% of K-12 school children read below the level needed to proficiently process the written materials used in their grade levels.  Children who have not already developed basic literacy practices when they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out of school.

 

According to the 2014 Alabama Kids Count Data Book, compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 26% of Alabama children are living in poverty; 9.7% of Alabama teens are not in school and not employed; 25.8% of Alabama children are food insecure; 40.1% of Alabama fourth graders are not proficient in reading; 20% of Alabama’s students do not graduate from high school.

 

The Sawyerville Work Project is, on paper, a day camp. It is an outreach project sponsored by the Youth Department of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama & local community volunteers.  It takes place in the summer for just a few weeks, and for that camp session, the children that attend the camp are not framed in the light of the region’s poverty.  They are simply kids, having fun, in a place created solely for them.

 

The Sawyerville Day Camp’s location originated at the Head Start Center in the small town of Sawyerville, hence the name. Within a few years of hosting the camp, the Center could no longer accommodate the increased numbers of campers and staff volunteers. The elementary school in nearby Greensboro welcomed this project and the partnership has continued for a successful thirteen years.

 

Sawyerville Day Camp ministry began in 1993.  The Blackbelt Convocation knew they needed to embrace the residents of the area, not just those in their church pews and the Diocese of Alabama Youth Department needed an outreach program for senior high students.  The answer to both problems became the Sawyerville Work Project, now known as the Sawyerville Day Camp.  It is supported by many people.

 

People serve as prayer partners, staff members, organize book drives, gather paper products, provide meals and make financial gifts.  The Episcopal Diocese has committed substantial funds to this ministry.  The generous people of the Black Belt have opened up their homes and churches for staff housing and meals.  Volunteers from within and outside of the Episcopal circle lend time and talent.  High school, college, and adult staff come from all over the state to serve as counselors.  The Hale County School Board permits use of school facilities and buses.  This project is woven together by hundreds of different supporters, all working together to form the Sawyerville experience.

 

The mission of the Yellowhammer Literacy Project, born out of the Sawyerville Day Camp, is to help close the achievement gap and prevent summer learning loss in Greensboro, Alabama. The YLP works toward this mission by hosting a multi-week summer academic program in which students will participate in reading intervention, engage in creative writing, and strengthen their literacy skills. Additionally, the YLP is invested in helping students grow as scholars and citizens through participation in academic field trips, community engagement, and other enrichment opportunities.

 

Summer 2015 was a huge success for the Yellowhammer Literacy Project! When first assessed the students in April, 58% were performing below grade level. By the end of this program, 88% of students grew by at least one reading level. Of that 88%, 66% grew by at least two levels. Nine students saw growth by three to five levels in a mere three weeks!
Not only did these students grow academically, but what cannot be tested or shown through the results is that these kids were encouraged to enjoy reading, were praised for their efforts, and became more confident in their own abilities by the end of the program. One child said it best in his final reflection, “I really am smart.”

 

The Humanitarian efforts of the Sawyerville Day Camp are led by Leslie Manning but she would be the first to acknowledge the help of hundreds, both volunteer staff and interns as well as the volunteers who fed, donate, and serve as prayer partners.  Each child received a swimsuit, towel, and book as well as a backpack.  For many this is the first time they have owned any of these items which serve as outward, visible signs of the larger community of caring that supports them and embraces them.

 

Now over twenty years old, this day camp has counselors who were once campers.  They believed in the promise shown by the Sawyerville Day Camp of a brighter future and by those who embraced them and they have succeeded.  Kids who once had never heard of a college are now college graduates, having learned to believe in themselves to make a better world for themselves.  People of all ages, races, and stages of life create the humanitarian efforts that result in Sawyerville Day Camp.  They come together and embrace each other.

 

We can each make our own little reflection of this wonderful camp by embracing the forgotten in our own communities.  We all become champions when we do that.  I hope you are able to be a part of something like Sawyerville Day Camp.  Contact your local YMCA or YWCA or Salvation Army, Easter Seals, or local religious groups.  All will be able to put you in touch with a program that you can give aid to with your time and talents and, if possible, monetary assistance.

 

As we live these last days of 2017, we need to commit to make 2018 better.  When we embrace each other and ourselves, when we live out the true meaning of the word “cherish” which is the them for this blog series, we make the world a better place.  Sawyerville Day Camp is but one example.  For more information, they can be reached at www.sawyervilledaycamp.org.