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Recently an Activity Professionals posted the following on her Facebook page; “One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you are going through now, and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide.”  I thought about how this ties in with the theme for the 2020 VAAP Conference, “Ordinary Heroes.”  Often when we are going through something, perspective is hard to find, yet once we overcome it, then we can see things much more clearly and we can share the result with others to assist them in their journey.  This also coincides with the idea of having those that have been in the field for quite some time, the “seasoned” activity professionals if you will, to lend advice to those activity directors that are newer in the profession and could benefit from the advice and wisdom. Someone once told me to place the “issue” I might be having in the palm of my hand and stick my hand on the end of my nose.  No matter which way I turned my head, that “issue” was still right in front of me.  Then I was instructed to stretch out my arm in front of my body and then look around, and what do you know, things were much clearer.   The more we can share and network with each other, the stronger we become as a profession and as individuals.  My mother always said “there is strength in numbers,” I encourage you to become that guidance to another peer and see the difference you will make in both their personal and professional lives.

Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting some truly dedicated individuals that work/worked in the activity profession.  This past week was no exception.  I presented/attended several district meetings in Virginia, and when the participants went around the table to introduce themselves, they also shared how long they had been in the field.  In one of the meetings there was over 500 years of experience in the room.  In many cases throughout the country the same selfless volunteers, serve as the board/committee members as well as work their full-time jobs.  While touring facilities in the different areas, one gal made me smile with this comment, “Oh my Goodness, I have only been in the field for 4 years, I can’t imagine being in this job 25 years from now, how do you do it, better yet, WHY?”  The seasoned activity professional I was with, responded to her without hesitation.  She shared with her that for those that have been around for numerous years, it is” Passion versus a Paycheck.”  Sure, while we need income to pay bills and such, nothing compares to the hands-on experiences that you can bring to your residents, and that they reciprocate so willingly back to you.   My hats off to those of you who are making a difference in the lives of your residents, who are laying the foundation for the next generation of activity professionals.  Thank you to those that paved the way for the current generation of activity professionals.  The contributions, wisdom  and sacrifices you made to elevate the profession to where it is, will forever be appreciated.

I recently saw a sign hanging in a diner in Birmingham, MI that read “If you are GROUCHY, IRRITABLE, or just PLAIN MEAN; there will be a $10.00 charge for putting up with you.”  It made me laugh right out loud.  As with most things, I analyzed this statement afterward and thought it was such a GREAT mindset, even though it was said in jest.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could all place something similar on our office walls?  Something that says, “Hey we all have bad days, suck it up butter cup?” Or, “Take your silly problems down the hall” and so forth.  I was consulting in a facility one time, when they were trying to resolve “conflict” among the employees.  The issue was between the maintenance guy and the nursing staff.  When asked, the maintenance man stated, “I really do not mind doing anything for anyone, it’s simply the attitude that goes with the request”.  He went on to discuss that most days the nursing staff didn’t even say hello before they would begin “barking orders” at him.  John do this, John do that, John why didn’t you do the thing we asked you to do yet? Etc.  All this gentleman wanted was a simple greeting, and a pleasant disposition from others at the beginning of each day.  Seems like a simple resolution, wouldn’t you agree?

Ordinary Heroes

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A HERO by definition is “a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities. A person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.

A brave person, champion, courageous, victor, winner, conqueror, survivor, lionheart, warrior, knight, are all listed as synonyms for the word “hero”. These typically apply to war heroes, first responders and other such remarkable individuals who risk their lives to save others.

There are also “Ordinary Heroes.” To many, an Ordinary Hero is an individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. People that may have dealt with hate, racial slurs, cancer or other diseases, inequality, ageism and the list goes on and on.  People that mustered their own “inner hero”, are survivors.  A hero can be an ordinary person in regular clothes possessing no special super powers like Batman, Wonder Woman and so forth, yet that have the characteristics to prevail in a time of need for themselves or others.  We celebrate the HEROES!

Artwork by Kelly Bradshaw Hoyle

God Bless America

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Vacations are a wonderful thing for so many reasons.  In addition to the obvious time away from the hustle and bustle of jobs, daily chores and routines, it’s also a time to relax and take a breath.  While everyone enjoys their breaks differently, some completing tasks they have been putting off or simply haven’t had time for like painting, gardening and lawn work; others escape to places away from home.  Places maybe they enjoy each year like a summer home or campground, others to exotic places, different states or even far away countries/islands.  Whatever you choose, one thing is for sure, the time passes way too quickly in most cases.  My Uncle (who coincidently retired from the Automobile Club of America / AAA), taught me years ago, that “getting there” was half the fun.  He suggested that each time you go somewhere you should take a different route.  This allows you to see different sites, enjoy different scenery and maybe if you are lucky, you might learn something new in the process.  Right after I moved to Virginia, I was gifted a book entitled “Beach to Bluegrass” by Tennis.  This book followed US Highway 58 (500 miles) from the beach across the bottom of the state to the Bluegrass trail.  The book named over 100 sites from unique areas to Civil War battlefields to historical buildings and legends, all while only getting off the “beaten path” one mile north or south.  I completed the book, touring all the various sites over a three year period, and to this day continue to travel optional routes to get to the destination.  Last weekend, en route to a county fair, I got off the highway and traveled down a one lane road for several miles and came across stacked bales of hay, that had the words “God Bless America” painted on them.  Being extremely patriotic by nature, I pulled over to “take in” the scene.  This simple message, being displayed in such a manner that made a statement to all who passed by the roadside farm was mesmerizing.  Before I knew it, there were about 6 other vehicles that had pulled over to take it all in.  One of the gentlemen, who was sporting a Vietnam hat, started to sing the song “God Bless America” and before long, all had joined in to finish the verse.  However, you enjoy your road trips, in the future try a different path, perhaps one “less taken”, and remember getting there is half the fun!

Paying it Forward

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Have you ever been somewhere and the person standing in front of you in line paid for your meal, coffee, gas etc. without your knowledge?  Remember that feeling you had?  How nice it was for a total stranger to be nice to you for whatever reason?  At Easter time I was standing at a food kiosk at the mall, and this younger guy was paying for his food.  Close behind him was a young girl, which I had assumed was his significant other.  When he went to pay, I jokingly said “hey you making your woman pay her own way today?”  He smiled and threw down a $20.00 bill which more than paid for BOTH of their items and went his merry way.  When he walked away the young lady was still standing there and tried to hand me money.  It was then that I realized the young man didn’t know her yet paid for her item anyway because the situation had made her smile.  The girl started to cry, as she was only in line to buy the nurse at the hospital, where her Grandmother had passed a “thank you gift.”  Just such a great act of kindness to witness.  I myself once went through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge toll, and when I got to the toll booth, the lady told me the person in front of me had paid my way, and asked that I KEEP it going, because it just “Makes everyone feel good.”  The concept of “paying it forward” doesn’t have to involve money, as there are so many other ways in which to treat people with kindness.  A simple smile, a hug, holding a door for someone, baking cookies, offering to do yard work and so forth.  In our various associations the same concept applies.  When’s the last time you offered to have lunch with a fellow activity professional, or called and invited them to attend a meeting with you, or even just called to share a special idea that you recently came across?  I challenge you to seek out someone to be kind to this week, and write and share the positive outcome with us.

International Day of Friendship is an International holiday which has been celebrated annually on July 30th since 2011. The General Assembly of the United Nations declared 30th of July as “official” International Friendship Day on 27th April 2018. It was created in the hopes that the fostering of friendship between different peoples, cultures, and countries will inspire peace throughout the world.  Several countries including the United States have celebrated a day of friendship, as early as 1958.  I really appreciate the intent of declaring an “international” day of friendship, to inspire peace and acceptance within the world.  I recently was asked “Why I rushed to help someone that was involved in a car accident, when I didn’t even know them?”  The question caught me by surprise, as whether I knew the person or not, they needed assistance, help which I was able to give them.  Many of us feel quite the same, regardless of race, creed, religion, sexuality, gender etc.  While we may have numerous differences, we certainly have one thing in common…we are ALL humans!  I’m thankful to live in a country that celebrates individuality, friendship and fosters INTERNATIONAL rapport!  Happy INTERNATIONAL friendship day. (www.friendshipday.org)

Indivisible

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Our Pledge to the Allegiance includes “One Nation, Under God, Indivisible.,,,”  What does that word indivisible mean? indivisible. Something indivisible cannot be broken up or divided: it’s rock solid. The most common use of the word indivisible is in the Pledge of Allegiance, where it is used to show how our country is united and can’t be broken up. But you can use this word for any group or organization that seems indestructible.” (Merriam-Webster).  That is powerful language that our founding fathers utilized in that Pledge, which many organizations, schools and churches still recite daily.  Let’s think about that in terms of associations such as our local activity districts, and VAAP our state activity association.  At the district level, educational opportunities are provided, often a meal and best of all support from our peers that can understand the budget cuts, low staffing ratios, challenging clients and other such commonalities.  The state level is much the same, yet provides additional opportunities for resources from others around the entire state and not just in our local areas, as well as additional educational opportunities i.e. webinars, newsletters and direct access to activity professionals that can assist with questions and information.  So, IF we know that there is “power in numbers” as my Mom used to say to me, then this can also be applied to our activity associations.  TOGETHER we are stronger that we are as individuals.  We should NOT forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:25), as it gives us strength, INDIVISIBLE!  Invest in your association, invest in your profession, invest in YOU!

A teacher friend of mine had this posted on her social media page. “You are part of a puzzle in someone else’s life.  You may never know where you fit.  But someone’s life may never be complete without you in it.” (Bonnie Arbor)  I often reflect on those that come in and out of our lives, and to what extent they were involved in certain situations or time frames throughout our lifetime.  Some memories make us smile, others we learn lessons from, yet each person we encounter has left some sort of mark.  On the other hand, we too are those puzzle pieces that help form the existence of others.  I’m sure we all can think of a time when we have run into a person on the street or in a supermarket, at the gas station and such, where we have an almost “déjà vu” moment.  That feeling that we have met them some other time or place in our past.  Or we have been told we look “just like” another individual, our “twin” if you will.  Those little things that you do for others, the selfless acts of kindness, the random good deeds without giving it a second thought, may have created moments of joy for others and in turn, have given them a sense of completeness.  We may never know where we fit, but each and every one of us brings special meaning to life.

Having just celebrated Father’s Day this past weekend, I wanted to share a few things that I had come across through signs and postings.  The first read “Anyone can be a father; it takes a lot more to be a Daddy.”  Then it continued by listing several things involved Dads could participate in including; riding a bike, flying a kite, praying and other such activities to do with your children.  Another item I read, said “Hug your Dad today, as mine is gone, so appreciate them while you still have them.”  Lastly, I ran into a girl who was trying to choose a “proper” card for her mom, who served as both her mother and her father when she was growing up.  We discussed how we all have biological families, yet as adults we can choose our own circle of family/friends.  We often serve in the role of surrogate family members for our residents.  Maybe their loved one’s have passed on, or do not live in the area, and we at times become “family” to our clients.  Do you realize just how special that makes each one of you?  Knowing that you have the unique privilege to be a blessing to others, not ONLY on a designated holiday but on a day to day basis!