Posts tagged ‘healthy life choices’

January 5, 2014

EDDIE BAUER AND THE SWINGING STAR (A short story) – by Jeffrey Hillard

Editor’s note:  “Eddie Bauer and the Swinging Star” is a short story that will be part of a fiction writing workshop to be held in 2014 in an Ohio prison. It is a Young Adult short story

***

The girl behind the stage curtain was not anxious to perform her role tonight. Her name was Genine, and she looked over her shoulder to see if Eddie Bauer was nearby.

He was.

Eddie Bauer stood about ten feet behind Genine, staring into a small oval mirror, combing his thick brown hair. Much of the hair on the back of his head still stood up, as if frozen in place. He didn’t glance at Genine or anyone else. It was a case of Eddie- intent-on-Eddie in that mirror. Eddie played the role of one of the three Wise Men in the church’s performance of “The Christmas Story” for the community.

Genine played the role of Mary. Tonight was the first of three performances. Eddie already knew that he had made a lasting impression on the cast and especially Genine. He’d instilled his strange kind of presence; not only did he continually and jokingly taunt Genine, but he had been reprimanded three times just in the last week. Eddie had taken one of the large foam stars hanging from a thin rope – the largest star, the Star of Bethlehem – aimed it at Genine, and pushed the star into her Mary costume, knocking her slightly off balance.

“I’ll have none of that, Eddie,” said Mr. Stipple, the director. “Sit in that first row and don’t move until I tell you to. Do not look at Genine. Do not look at anyone. Look at me or at the pianist. Do not make faces. And be still. Got it?”

“Just joking, Mr. Stipple,” Eddie said. “It’s only a fake star.”

“It’s not a joke to Genine,” Mr. Stipple said. “It’s also the second time you’ve almost ripped one of the points on the star.”

Eddie looked back at Genine and saw her eyes tearing up. They were fourth-grade students at JohnHookElementary School and, unfortunately, they did sit close to each other in science and math class. Their teacher had warned last week that she would move Genine to another table if Eddie pinched her shoulder one more time on his way to the teacher’s desk.

Tonight, Genine stepped out from behind the curtain and paused. She looked out at the small crowd before sitting next to the manger. She became very confident all of the sudden. She loved the stage and any little acting role her school or church could offer. Then she saw Eddie next to the curtain, pointing upward to the largest foam star, nearly the size of a wide screen television. Eddie smiled at Genine. She did not smile back.

Eddie walked up to one of the other shepherds, Tony Gill. “Genine thinks I’ll pull down the star and toss it during the real performance,” Eddie said. “How funny is that? I can’t believe she thinks that.”

“I’ll give you my five dollars if you do,” Tony whispered.

“I can’t,” Eddie said. “I can’t mess with the star. My family’s here. I’d better not get in trouble.”

“I don’t have five dollars anyway,” Tony said.

In the car on the drive home, Eddie’s father patted him on the knee and complimented his performance. “Those Wise Men were really the stars of the show,” he said. “You guys hardly moved a muscle. The Wise Men were the only company Mary and Joseph had way back in that day, except for the animals. Imagine some Wise Men coming into a stable after all those miles of traveling and smelling those old animals.”

“I only have one line in the play, so I’m bored,” Eddie said.

“But that’s why you Wise Men are the stars,” his father said. “You don’t need to say anything. You just look important. A good actor has presence on stage.”

“I’d rather have stuff to say,” Eddie said.

“You don’t want to take chances,” his father said. “Look at cowboy John Wayne. He just preferred to sit high on his horse’s saddle and tilt his cowboy hat. He looked cool just sitting on a horse. John Wayne didn’t need to say a word.”

Eddie thought more about Genine, who played Mary. She had quite a few memorable lines, and she handled them gracefully, as though she had much acting experience. Genine was the best performer in their class, even though she was shy and polite. She never came off as seeming more important than others. She did not draw attention to herself. She was the vice president of elementary student council and would be president by the sixth grade, Eddie thought.

Eddie sensed, of course, that his playing practical jokes on Genine would bring her out of her shyness. Genine’s utter surprise at knowing the star was being flung right toward her made her jerk. When Eddie first tossed the foam star at her two weeks ago at rehearsal and realized that Genine did not see it coming, Eddie thought the sound of her shrieking was beautiful. The star had not been hung on a metal beam yet, although one star point was tied to the rope. Eddie tossed it from behind the stage curtain at a quiet dramatic moment, when the Joseph character was praying next to Mary. Eddie was warned then by Mr. Stipple not to do it again. But Eddie enjoyed hearing Genine’s voice and her shrieking, and he was not a boy to follow directions very carefully.

*  *   *

The morning after the first public performance, when Eddie went downstairs for breakfast, his mother told him to sit down. “I have news for you,” she said to him. Eddie listened to his mother describe an early morning phone call from Mr. Stipple. At first, Eddie thought he might be in trouble, but Mr. Stipple had the matter of a car accident on his mind.

Of course, it had been raining last night and the streets were slick, as Eddie could easily remember. But when his mother said that the car accident involved Genine and her mother, his mind became jammed with images of Genine: the foam star, the string, Genine crouching as the foam star Eddie tossed nicked her head, Genine in her Mary costume, and Mr. Stipple’s knobby finger pointed at him.

“Genine is ok,” his mother said. “She just got bruised up and probably broke her arm.”

“Will she still be Mary?”

“That I don’t know,” his mother said. “I doubt it.”

“Her mother ok?”

“Her mother got pretty banged up. She’s going to be in the hospital a few days. She had severe whiplash.”

“I guess they couldn’t get out of the way of the other car,” Eddie said.

“The other car skidded into them,” his mother said. “The driver ran a stop sign, according to Mr. Stipple.”

After Eddie put his dishes in the sink, a strange moment occurred. He looked up and saw his father in the doorway with his car keys. To Eddie, his father seemed to be reading his mind. Quietly standing there, dangling the keys on his thumbs, his father smiled. Eddie immediately felt as if he knew what his father’s next move would be. He felt drawn toward his father’s calmness and Eddie’s eyes focused on the car keys.

“Let’s go see Genine for five minutes and cheer her up,” his father said.

“I was thinking something like that,” Eddie said. “It’s funny you were sort of thinking the same thing.”

“And then you can say, ‘Sorry about the star tossing, and I hope you get better real fast.’ You got that?” his father said.

“Sure.”

Genine looked groggy when Eddie and his father first walked in the hospital room. Her mother was in the room next to her. She said a polite hello and looked mildly shocked that she had visitors this early in the day. His father had stopped by the grocery store to get her a rose and Eddie placed it in a narrow vase they brought from home.

“It’s pretty, and I’ll take it home,” Genine said.

“Sorry about tossing those stars at you during practice,” Eddie said. He looked over toward the silent television and nearly felt the urge to leave.

“I guess we all did a good job last night,” Genine said. “Did you sign any autographs on the programs?”

“One. It was my mother’s program.”

Eddie’s father brought Genine a glass of water and said he hoped the family could sign her arm cast one day soon. When they left Genine’s room, Eddie and his father looked in to see if Genine’s mother was awake, but she was sleeping.

*   *   *

The small church auditorium was full to capacity for the third night’s performance two days after the car accident. Baby Jesus in the manger tonight was a doll wrapped in a white blanket. Genine shifted the doll a few inches with here her right hand. She was careful not to jostle her left arm which was in a cast and sling. No one had yet signed her cast, as Eddie had detected before the show.

Each of the cast members seemed even more attentive to their roles than the night before. They’d gained energy with this second performance. No one forgot his or her lines. No one stumbled. Joseph’s character did not giggle tonight. One of the shepherds did not sneeze as he had done last night. Their Christmas songs were sung clearly and the carolers stayed in rhythm with the piano melodies.

And as Eddie Bauer, a Wise Man, looked up at the shiny foam star on a rope above the manger, Eddie could see the ten or twelve very large ‘G’s he had inscribed all around the thick side of the star. Eddie had asked his parents to drive him to the church auditorium a half-hour early. He explained that he wanted to write the initial ‘G’ around the side of the star, the same way baseball players write the jersey number of an injured player who’s not playing on their jersey sleeves or ball caps.

“It will be a nice surprise for her,” he had told his parents and Mr. Stipple.

“Here’s a thick black marker,” Mr. Stipple said. “Go to it. But don’t ruin the star’s face, Edward.” Mr. Stipple paced nervously around the stage, adjusting ornaments and the set features, only half-paying attention to Eddie or his parents.

After the performance, Genine handed the star to her father who waited for her by the stage. “Let’s go take this to mom,” she said. “Eddie said his father will make a new star for the last show tomorrow.”

“We can hang it above your mother’s bed,” her father said. “It’s a pretty big one.”

The star was so awkward that Genine’s father needed two hands to carry it. Eddie followed them out to the car and helped Genine’s father maneuver the foam star neatly into the trunk.

“We’ll sign your cast tomorrow, right?” Eddie said.

“Right. But don’t forget to bring that new star,” Genine said. “Try to make it as big as this one in the trunk.”

Copyright © 2009 by Jeffrey Hillard

____________

Jeffrey Hillard’s new book is ICE SCULPTURE IN THE DESERT: Short Stories to Enrich Your Prayer Life.  It is available at http://www.amazon.com

He has also recently published STORY’S TRIUMPH: Mining Your Creative Writing for Its Deepest Riches.  It is also available at http://www.amazon.com

 

July 20, 2013

WOOF! – Part 2 (by Patricia N. Wernert)

The “big house,” “stir,” “crossbar hotel,” “slammer,” and “joint” are a few of the names one hears in movies, on t.v., and in books when a person goes to prison.

Such adjectives are colorful and likely can cause those of a curious nature to pause a moment and say, “Hmmm.”

From my perspective and too close for comfort in personal experience, such adjectives are so many smoke and mirrors. Let’s just be honest and say “prison.”

Society generally prefers to view those inside prison as less than human. There is a bit of a “silver lining” in that dark cloud and that happens to be people who decide to think for themselves. These kind and independent individuals chose to look beyond the prisoner title and see a human being.

Positive thinking led me to the unique opportunity to train dogs while in prison. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

I grew up with cats, dogs, bunnies, horses, and a variety of “rescued wildlife” much to the dismay of my mother. “A garden snake…good grief, get it out of here, now!” she’d say. It seems like only yesterday that I heard those words. I feel that my childhood growing up in a rural setting set me on the path to wanting to train and care for animals.

Prior to coming to prison, I worked in veterinarian offices and learned firsthand what is involved in treating small animals. A lot of caring for pets is good old common sense. When a person takes on the responsibility of a pet, he or she should be willing to provide for all of the animal’s needs.

Fast forwarding to approximately 18 years into my incarceration: I was given the chance to raise and train puppies for Pilot. In my last essay, “Woof [part 1],” you met “Wells,” my first puppy. I felt I had a real purpose and was doing something positive and productive with my time.

Training dogs in a prison setting throws a few unexpected twists into one’s routine. In prison, there are set times a prisoner must adhere to or face disciplinary consequences. Specific times are mandated when an inmate must be in her room/cell to be counted, go to meals, or go without eating, room clean, shower, do activities, and take on many other aspects of day-to-day living.

Add a six-to-eight-week old puppy into those activities, a puppy that has no real control over bodily functions, wants to cry and bark in the middle of the night when your roommate wants to sleep. Imagine that I have to navigate long corridors to get the little bundle of fur to the yard to go to the bathroom. It can make for some interesting adventures.

Puppies and adult dogs all need four things: fair, firmness, consistency, and love should be shown in all aspects of their training and life.

April 12, 2013

Charity Miles: Interview with William Lambers

The following is an interview with William Lambers, whose vigorous work with addressing global hunger has now reached international proportions.  RED! contributing writer, Le’Erin Watts, conducted the interview.

RED!: What is it about The College of Mount St. Joseph that interests you and why are you so connected?

W.L.: I went to school at the college as an undergraduate and also for my master’s degree. Over that time, I have gotten to know teachers on campus, many of who are also authors or journalists. That personal interaction you have at the Mount with the teachers keeps you connected.

RED!: People around the country know you for your fight against and work to address hunger, especially hunger around the world. How are you able to involve the younger students at Mount St. Joseph in the work you do?

W.L.: I get the opportunity to speak at Mount classes and also take part in some events on campus. This gives me the chance to talk to the students about global hunger and ways they can get involved, including one way I will talk about in the next answer.

 

RED!: What interested you about Charity Miles?

W.L.: I used to see these tweets from the World Food Programme about Charity Miles so I asked what was this about? The World Food Programme office in New York filled me on the details, which I could use in a story. Charity Miles is a free app that you just download onto your cell phone. For every mile you walk, run, or bike you can raise money for a charity like the World Food Programme or Feeding America. Since I also walked and since I am a former runner, I thought I could maybe get involved myself. I just needed to get the cell phone, which I did.

RED!: Have you started the program? How many miles have you logged?

W.L: I announced to Jeffrey Hillard’s Cincinnati Authors class in late 2012 that I would attempt to start Charity Miles. I started it almost right after that class and have logged well over 100 miles mostly running and some walking. I was around 100 miles when I tried to count them in early December and have logged many miles since. I was told I am the 4th ranked runner in terms of miles for the World Food Programme.

RED!: Are there any other charities or organizations out there that are using creative ways to raise money?

W.L.: The World Food Programme has an online game called FreeRice which I talk a lot about in classes and speaking engagements. I even wrote a few of the questions for the game. Every time you get a correct answer ten grains of rice are donated to the World Food Programme. Some charities like the Feed Project sell merchandise to raise funds. There are creative ways that come right from the College of Mount St. Joseph, too. A student, Elizabeth Paff, who was recently in the Cincinnati Authors class, has started hunger fighting initiatives including launching a FreeRice team and collecting funds for life-saving Plumpy’nut food, which treats malnutrition, and gradually I believe she also plans to help faciliated a hunger walk to raise awareness to helping provide food to those in great need.

William Lambers is an author and historian. Visit his sites: http://www.williamlambers.com  Author page at Amazon.com http://www.twitter.com/williamlambers

February 11, 2013

WOOF! (by Patricia N. Wernert)

“How would you like a puppy?” I was asked. Sounds like a pretty straightforward question that is posed everywhere. I would like to share why that very question was anything but ordinary when I was asked it in the early 1990s.

In 1993, I had been incarcerated 18 years and certainly had not experienced the touch of silky ears or big brown eyes looking at me during this time. I was being offered the unique opportunity of helping to start a prison program of raising puppies for “Pilot Dog.” As puppy raisers, we receive eight-week-old to raise as potential service dogs for visually impaired individuals. In my mind, gosh, what a great opportunity to give back to others.

Puppies require care, love, and gentle direction in learning basic commands. Prison rules put a good deal of added structure into what is usually easy. My puppy may need to “go potty,” but if it is “count time” the puppy has to wait. Try explaining that to an eight-week-old puppy in the middle of the night.

The upside of doing something like this is watching and guiding the tiny puppy as it grows into a beautiful dog. Your time and hard work develop before your eyes. No matter how bad a day you may have, you have to smile at the antics of a puppy. You start smiling, your mood improves, and you respond in a positive manner with other inmates or staff.

One of the few things a person in prison has any control over is how she or he reacts to any situation. Inmates are told when to go to bed, to get up, to perform bodily functions, to go eat, what to eat, what to wear, and what to do in about all aspects of life. I have found that keeping a positive mindset, even when adversity abounds makes a situation easier to get through. Having that puppy trip over its feet or run up to you makes you smile and it defuses whatever negative event that may have transpired earlier.

I am still training dogs in 2012 and 2013, and no one could have told me that I would still be doing it in prison. The incarceration sentence of 20-years-to-life is now approaching 38-to-life. Yeah, that is pretty depressing if I dwell on the negative aspect of this time. I look down on the nine-week-old black Lab I named “Cricket” curled up at my feet and see the positive. I am privileged to raise this puppy and she will eventually give a person freedom.

When a dog is partnered, we see the letter that Pilot Dog sends to the institution, and I feel a ssense of helping another person. We never know the actual name of the person, only if it is a man or woman.

I have worked with training other service disciplines in another prison-based program. This is very worthwhile, too.

Dogs are so much more than pets and capable of doing a wide variety of tasts to help humans live a fuller and safer life. If you happen to see a service dog guiding its person along, it just might be a dog that began its service in a prison. People in prison can begin to their future, too. We just need a chance.

 

 

Editor’s Note:  Patricia N. Wernert is incarcerated at Dayton Correctional Institution. She is one of the leaders in a special program that helps raise dogs that provide future assistance to visually impaired individuals.

 

 

February 11, 2013

ENCOUNTERING THE OTHER (story by Jessica Baltzersen)

“In our society, we don’t know what to do with people that become other,” says Dr. Kate Lassiter, assistant professor of Religious and Pastoral Studies at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The “other” she is referring to are the men and women incarcerated whose voices go unheard and who, as some people perceive, become permanently identified as a delinquent or criminal. When she was 21-years old, Lassiter found herself working with inmates inside a correctional institution. She did not commit a crime, nor was she incarcerated. Instead, she spent her time inside prison walls dedicating her summer to prison ministry work.

It was the summer of 2000, in Hagerstown, Maryland. Lassiter divided her time working at Roxbury Correctional Institution, Maryland Correctional Institution, and Maryland Correctional Training Center. She entered the facilities not knowing what experiences she would encounter.

Lassiter never expected to be working in prison ministry. “It was just something I stumbled into,” she said.

She worked with a Catholic nun in a male correctional facility where she was known as “Sister Kate,” and for three days a week she performed counseling sessions, organized prayer and worship groups, and led church services. The other two days a week she spent in after-prison ministry at a social service agency that helped those individuals who were no longer incarcerated. This service provided basic needs, food, and also housing referrals.

“Prisons were originally religious institutions intended for solitude and reflection,” says Lassiter. Through counseling inmates, she was able to witness the metanoia or spiritual transformation of men who wanted to turn their lives around for the better.

“It was hard, though, because I was never there 24/7,” she says. “There’s no way I could fully grasp or understand what it would be like to be in solitude all of the time.” She came to this realization on July 4, 2000. As she was walking out of the prison she glanced back at the barbed wire surrounding the facility and then looked up at the dark night sky being lit up with fireworks. Seeing the two elements, one symbolizing freedom and the other oppression, she realized how contrary the two were and how she was simply an outsider trying to understand what the people inside the walls were going through.

“Religion sets up guidelines for our lives,” says Lassiter, “and religion has an ability to empower one person.”

She remembered one man in particular, who at the time weighed over 400 pounds. After he began to accept Jesus into his life, he was inspired to not only turn his life around spiritually, but mentally and physically as well. He taught himself to run and lost nearly 200 pounds. He also went back and pursued his GED. After he allowed God into his life it inspired him to change his entire self.

The justice system uses incarceration to keep people oppressed. But to some of those who are incarcerated it is a “community to call home, where they encourage each other,” says Lassiter. In experiencing incarceration, an inmate can view it as a punishment or it can be viewed as a second chance to look within oneself and realize that through spirituality one has the ability to change his or her life.

Twelve years ago, Lassiter worked with what she describes as “people on the edge.” Now, as an assistant professor in the Department of Religious and Pastoral Studies, she still keeps in touch with her mentor and continues research around social justice issues to “support, guide and  nourish those who find themselves incarcerated.

Lassiter believes that she positively influenced men’s lives through her ministry work and counseling.

Humbly, she says, “I don’t want to claim that I changed anyone’s life. It is just something I was called to do.”

July 30, 2012

HEARTBEAT

Something awesome happened to me very recently.

It began with this remark: “Karyn, I could feel your heart beating so fast!”

What a comment!  How many of us are close enough to someone who could have that said?

How many of us can feel another person’s heartbeat?

If given the chance, who would you choose to  “feel” your heartbeat?

I was at dance class.  I agreed to do a spotlight with my teacher. A spotlight is when the entire studio stops dancing, everyone sits down, and only you, the dancer, are on stage.

Gulp!  For a chicken like me, this is a big deal.

My teacher led me to the floor. All eyes were on us. My heart began to beat quickly. My mind was racing. I was thinking about the potential for dance calamity.

Jeff offered his left hand. I took it. We entered our “frame.”  Arms wide, chest meeting chest, my hips joined to his thigh.

Tango! Off we went, around the floor.

“Huh!”  It’s a loud grunt Jeff makes to punctuate the staccato of the move. Heads tilted back, angled body movements, we made it.  No calamity.  Applause from the crowd; we bowed and gracefully moved from the floor.

Jeff hugged me and said, “Karyn, I could feel your heart beating so fast.”

I got home and thought it so remarkable that we were close enough in movement to feel one another’s heartbeat.
I thought about the Bible scripture in Psalm 37: 4 in which God tells us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your “heart.” It seemed awesome that, if God offers this great gift, He must know what is beating in our hearts.  I thought it beautiful, just like the dance, that our God would hold me close enough to feel and understand my heart beat.

Take a dance lesson with the Lord. Do a spotlight and allow Him to feel your heartbeat.

Tango!

Karyn Alexander
Executive Director, Winfield House
Winfieldhouse.org
Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, giving hope to God’s people.
Voice of the Nations:  Rev.5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, people, language and nation.”

July 5, 2012

Carriers of Hope: Ohio Justice & Policy Center (by Jennifer Von Gries)

 

What is unique about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati: current Vice President of Recruitment, Lynn Cameron, at this point in his life had once been a juvenile probation officer for eight years. He was working with a few kids on probation and there was boy, 13-years old, who seemed bright, but he had a chip on his shoulder and was in trouble.

Since Cameron, at that time, was a volunteer at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati and knew about the organization, he told the boy that he could sign him up. This young man didn’t believe that it would work out for him; he came to tears and told Cameron that if they would have met a couple years ago it might have worked. But, to the young man, it was too late now. 

Two years later, this 13-year old boy died from an overdose by mixing the wrong combination of illegal substances. “If we could only work with kids to help prevent this kind of situation from happening. If these kids don’t find a role model who is positive and appropriate, they could find them anywhere, such as with a gang member or someone off the streets, and potentially get them into trouble. I feel like we need these positive volunteers be role models,” says Cameron.  

When you walk into the offices of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati, the first feeling you experience is that of compassion and at home. In the hallways of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati you can observe pictures of organizations best matches. “These photos help represent who we are as an organization,” says Cameron.

His journey for the last 23-plus years explains why the impact from positive figures has an effect on teenagers. Cameron, immediately out of college, started working for the Juvenile Probation Department where a co-worker mentioned the Big Brothers Big Sisters program to him in 1988.

According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters website, each time Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs a child with a role model, they start something incredible: a one-to-one relationship built on trust and friendship that can blossom into a future of unlimited potential. And thanks to the first-ever nationwide impact study of a mentoring organization, they have the facts to prove it.

Corey Strauss, a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph, says, “I got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters because a friend had mentioned it to me. I have always been interested in working with young children as a future career. Having been with my little brother made me a better mentor and a better person because I know I am helping him follow the right path. I want to be the role model that he can look up to by graduating from college and staying off the streets. I can give him the advice that he needs.”

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati there are core programs and special programs.  The special programs include the Amachi program, which, in the West African tradition means, “Who knows but what God has brought us through the child.” 

Statistics say that, currently, there are approximately 2.4 million children that have one or more incarcerated parents in the United States. This statistic puts the child in an overwhelming state of mind and with that Big Brothers Big Sisters committed themselves to identify and help the children of incarcerated parents with one-to-one mentoring that will match the child with volunteers from the community. 

Cameron states that 30 to 40 percent of the children involved at Big Brothers Big Sisters are in the Amachi program. In his words, this saying means, “Look at the gift that God has given us through this child.”  Cameron says that the children do not know that they are in the Amachi program. Parents will put their child in this program to give the child a positive role model.

Cameron has been the Vice President of Recruitment for the past five years; however, he has been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters for well over 10 years now as a case manager who interviews volunteers and matches them up with youths. 

“A very recent year was the toughest with our being short of our goal of matches of about 18 matches out of 500,” he says. In the first half of 2010, on the other hand, 110-plus individuals applied for goal matching in terms of fundraising.

Cameron says eighty percent of mentors have had good experiences. Twenty percent of the mentors will be lost in the first six months because of connection and pair-up issues. “This is something worthwhile. I want the recruiters to know that it is worthwhile, a good experience, and that they will enjoy being a Big Brother or Big Sister. They will build a good relationship and attachment,” he says.

“The reason why some pair-ups don’t click is because parents aren’t communicating. Some may feel like their mentors are upper class; however, our goal is to tell the parents and volunteers to not focus on materialistic things but on being a role model for the child.” 

Parents need to give permission to each activity that the mentor plans for their little brother or sister. That includes taking them to sports games or going to a salon to get nails done. Parents are always involved.

Some children are struggling with grades in school; however, every year a survey is conducted and the results come in stating that about 75 to 80 percent of the children have improved their grades. There are a variety of surveys conducted that focus on several different components of a person’s life including school, personal and relationships with others especially with self-confident and social skills.

Cameron says that children may not talk at first with their mentor, but after about three weeks they will socially improve for an example while speaking look in the eye of the person they are speaking to.

According to their community-based program, most of the relationships formed and the one-to-one outings and activities include going to parks, museums, listening to one another, and engaging into each other’s interests, and going to sports games. 

“A lot of the children really enjoy going to the Reds’ games. Being able to sit in the ball park and enjoy the game is something they always continue to ask to do in the spring. Sometimes, Big Brothers Big Sisters meets with their little ones on the weekends, and sometimes in the evenings. It is what works with the child and the mentor. Each pair is unique,” says Cameron.

Cameron didn’t receive his love and compassion from recruiting. As stated earlier he joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters when a coworker expressed how it would change his life. During Cameron’s journey he became a mentor for four little brothers. Describing his little brother’s experiences brought joy to his face, because he knows deeply that he made a difference in their lives. 

He has pride in the work which he does. Cameron described his first little brother as a boy who struggled with making friends in school and outside of school, just as he’s overcome the death of his father a year and a half before Cameron came into his life. The young man had suffered from physical and emotional disabilities and had a tough time prior to his adoption with his birth family. This little brother was with Cameron for seven years until he was 18.

“He was difficult to open up at first, but the more he and I got to know one another and hang out, he opened up a lot more,” says Cameron. “After I was done being his big brother I was given another individual whose life situation was different.”

Cameron’s second little brother had no father figure, missed school, and his mom was making excuses. “I got in involved with him in the 7th grade and knew that it wasn’t acceptable for him to be missing a lot of school. I wanted to see him get good grades. He improved his attendance the next year and from 9th through 12th grade he didn’t miss a single day.”

“My third brother also did not have a father figure. He was a good kid but had the lack of opportunity and lived in a rough area neighborhood. We went to Reds’ games and to the parks,” he says.

Cameron is currently still working with his fourth little brother. He describes him as a 15-year old boy in the 9th grade who has suffered from a lot loss.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has several fundraising events that go on each year. They have a Golf Outing, Bowl For Kid’s Sake, 5K Run, and Gold Ball Drop. To gather more information about these events and others, such as the annual Golf Outing and Golf Ball Drop, visit the impressive Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati website.  

“To get involved, you don’t need to be an expert with children,” says Cameron.

July 3, 2012

Justice Advocate Stephen JohnsonGrove Speaking @ Partners with Justice (7-5-12)

May 25, 2011

“How Can a Changed ‘Me’ Help My Family” – by Terrel Dupelay

I am encouraged to write about a changed ‘me’. I can help my family the best possible way I know by showing them that I have actually changed mentally, and for the better, I’ve changed my whole self, first and foremost. I have learned over the years in my life that I cannot help anyone else unless I help myself first. So, by my own changing the way that I think and the way I view a lot of situations I encounter in life into opportunities which will turn my negatives into positives, I can then be of help to them. I truly believe that the “G-Man” up high and my being incarcerated have helped me to do that.

Also, my taking advantage of every opportunity to advance myself and being a leader by example in showing positive actions can be more motivation for them to do the same. Overall, it all starts with me, I believe. As long as I continue to strive to be the best person I can, and continue to grow and expand myself each and every day that I’m blessed to see, then that would be a great help to my family and others around me.

Also, I would like to tell my brothers, Torrin, Damion, and Trovelle to continue to keep ya’ll heads up, because ya’ll ain’t forgot about. To my mother and the rest of my family: I love you all and miss you all a lot. To my ‘patnas’ ‘Gene, Zach, Juan – thank you for the support. Special thanks to Mr. Hook Mitchell for giving me this opportunity to express my thoughts in publication. If I’ve forgotten anyone, my apology, and much love to all ya’ll.

Terrel Dupelay is currently incarcerated in Lewiston, California.

April 6, 2011

Voice of the Nations – A Column by Karyn Alexander

Love and Reckless living: What do they have in common? My Voice of the Nations column addresses this today.

Remember the parable of the prodigal son? He had a good home, good family, impending inheritance, and a future with his father’s business.

He apparently didn’t think it was such a great life, so he demanded that his father give him his full inheritance before his death. Just one day he demanded the money; it seems bold on the son’s part, but the father agreed. He gave him all he desired.

The young man in the story took the money and began to live a degraded life. He spent all his inherited money and lived without standards until he found himself eating with pigs.

At this juncture, the story tells of how the low and reckless living caused him to come back to his right mind. He ran back home to his father in great humility and embarrassment. He asked for forgiveness and received it. The father, in fact, came running out to meet him. The father loved his son so much he was willing to forgive all that had been done.

What did the prodigal do to become reinstated to the father? Just come home and say he was sorry? That seems unlikely. Why in the world did the son make such crazy life choices that led to his estrangement from all he knew? Why would the father forgive him?

We can guess that the son thought there was a better way to live and he was going to find it; of course, with someone else’s money. Live it up…whoopee, life’s a party! He was a prodigal.

It must have caused incredible embarrassment to the father, as I am sure it was rumored all through the town that the son had gone berserk. It caused estrangement between his siblings and even provoked anger and jealousy throughout the family.

Why would a father welcome home, with love, a son like this? The answer is contained in one word: Agape. “Agape” is a Greek word meaning unconditional love. A translation can be: “No matter the condition of the person, I love them.”

It is a different kind of love than you and I know. It is a love without boundaries, even in a situation where a son can live his life recklessly, hurting others, without regard to the father’s rules; A love that accepts a person just for the sake of love.

I had a friend who recently died. He, too, was a prodigal. He initially led an upstanding life, until one day he decided to just throw it all away and live recklessly too.

Why?

I don’t know.

Any of us can choose this at anytime, I guess that is why the prodigal story is an important one. The man in the story came from a wealthy family, one with a business, pride, and the father was an upstanding member of the community. Like the story, my friend came from such a family.

He was married, had fine children, owned his own business, and lived a good life. I think that the syndrome, “the grass is always greener on the other side,” hit him, too.

He began his descent with a slow decline in his relationship with friends and family. Then he simply ran away like the prodigal in the story. He slid into a false belief of, “There are no real life standards.”

As we well know, the universe has its standards. We will all leave this planet at one time or another; so, finding peace with our maker is important. The “Maker” establishes the standards. He is the father in our own life story, and his rules are the law of the land.

In my friend’s life, the reckless living began as he walked away from everything he knew. He walked away from his wife, responsibility, home, kids, and God. He too demanded to use the money given him in life for himself and his pleasures only.

It seemed as though a bit of insanity ran through him as he sought to find a better, more “fun” life somewhere else. He spent all his inheritance on frivolous living. Party on! Just like the young man in the story above, he lived low, thinking it was high, degrading himself, and then out of despair took his own life. Unlike the prodigal, he couldn’t humble himself to his family, so ended “the party,” alone.

What kind of person does this? A prodigal, of course.

You are probably wondering, did my friend, the modern day prodigal, meet the Father? Did the father run to him, too?
I would suppose and hope so. God does judge our actions, and allows the natural consequences of a low life, which could mean self-ruin and despair.  But, in the end, He knows our hearts and rules from there.

My friend left a note saying he was sorry to those he hurt, and he asked for forgiveness, but apparently could not say it in person. He confessed it all to God.

Just like the prodigal in the story, the repentance of the offense was given. Forgiveness and Mercy applied.

It seemed a shame for both men. They each wasted their lives, searching for something they had all along.

The prodigal in the story came back home, realizing that he had a much better life to begin with than what he wasted his money on. In the end, my friend felt the same way, too.

I believe that two things were missing from both men’s lives; perspective and gratefulness. If they had looked around with gratefulness, thanking God for His unconditional love, they could have seen their world in a different way. In doing so, they could have saved themselves and their families a lot of heartache. Instead of running away, they could have been thankful for what they were given. They could have realized before their unnecessary escapades that, “There is no place like home.”

Love and reckless living.

Well, to answer the original question, “What do they have in common?”  Love…God loves us and wants us to live a life of sanity and decency, making moral choices. He wants us to be humble, careful in our decisions and live within his law.

He loves us so much that He will allow consequences for our reckless living, but Loves us enough to bring  us home or at least meet us as we arrive in our regret.

Are you a prodigal? If so, be wise-be grateful- Come home!

Karyn Alexander

Executive Director, Winfield House (Winfieldhouse.org)

KarynBAlexander@aol.com

 Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, giving hope to God’s people.

Voice of the Nations: Rev.5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, people, language and nation.”