What makes me happy is to be able to see the smile on someone’s face when I give them one of my pieces of rock art OR a blanket I created OR when I have helped them! I retired from the Bureau of Land Management – Department of the Interior where I was an Administrative Assistant and the Federal Woman’s Coordinator. I represented women in government and was tasked with alerting the executives of situations and problems occurring with women working in government service. During my time I was able to help nursing mother get a room with a locking door, comfortable chair and a small refrigerator to aid them in pumping and storing breast milk. I also worked at Area 51 and was the liaison for the F117 pilots and their families while they were deployed during Desert Storm. As a Historian I am a commissioner for the Grand County Historical Preservation Commission and an Author of several historical books as well-as-a children’s series of books based on historical figures of this area ~ taking place in areas that the children already know about or have been too. The kids learn about the history of Moab and how to treat and use public lands. I am an artist ~ I do paintings on rock (a lot of Delicate Arch) ~ some of the small rocks I leave while we are out hiking, for someone to find as a small surprise and most of the larger rock art pieces I donate to organizations for them to generate funds!
My mother is my true inspiration. I call her Little Momma because she’s under 5″, but her personality, heart, soul, and compassion are humongous! My dad died when I was 16. My mom had never worked a day in her life, but she put on her big girl panties and found a job. A job that supported us…kept the roof over our heads, food on the table, maintained her car, kept the utilities on, and still found the money for me to have a wonderful high school experience (you know all the costs with that!). She still lives in the same house my parents bought back in the mid 70s! She was forced to retire at 79 due to health issues, but had been at the same job for 30 years. A job that required her to be there at 3:30 in the morning and no idea when her shift would end, other than when the day’s production of food items had been met. She took pride in the sandwiches she made! As a mom, I thank God every day for her. She has been my rock and her guiding light has helped me throughout my 49 years. She has always been a phone call away and now, she’s two minutes away since we just moved back to the neighborhood. Her love and devotion to my dad gave me a fabulous example of marriage and I’m proud to say my husband and I will celebrate 27 years in December. Some lessons are shown and not spoken! My Little Momma first voted in 2008, for Obama. She voted for him twice. She is voting for Biden/Harris this time because we have to get the current “pissle-prick” (her words!) out of there. I will proudly drive her to the election place in November!
When I was in college a dear friend’s mother suddenly died. I had no idea how to support him so I researched all the death and dying literature I could find and discovered the work by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross “On Death and Dying.” That book and Elisabeth herself who became my mentor, had a profound influence on my life. I learned from reading about death how to live a more meaningful life. She believed that death forces us to recognize what is truly most important in all our lives- unconditional love. To know that one is loved and love able is the essence of being human. Her dying patients taught her this and she passed on this wisdom to myself and many many other of her followers. Elisabeth’s work with dying patients inspired me to found a palliative care/hospice program for children in memory of a dying teen who espoused many of her same ideas. Over ten years Running this program I supported many many families experiencing the most unimaginable pain. Witnessing their grief gave me the skills to now support people facing all levels of loss to learn and grow and transform their lives. As a licensed psychotherapist and Transition focused Life Coach with a Doctorate in Psychology, a Masters in Social Work and extensive training in Pastoral Psychology, I use Elisabeth’s wisdom from dying patients every day to help people live!
Imagine leaving your country, entering a new one, and feeling like you’re in a completely new world without understanding the language. That is what my grandmother, Maria, went through.
On Sunday, May 12, 1968 my grandmother left Cuba with her husband Johnny and her seven-year-old daughter, Ana. At the time, Ana weighed 26 pounds which is extremely underweight for a girl that age. She was malnourished and became very sick because she was allergic to any food that my grandparents could buy since they were extremely poor and could barely afford to put food on the table.
On that very Sunday, they flew on a plane from Havana, Cuba all the way to Miami, Florida. In Miami, they stayed at the Freedom Tower where many Cuban refugees stayed until they were claimed by their family members that lived in the United States. My grandmother said when she visited that tower many years later, that all the memories came flooding back to her. She recalled the cold nights when she was shoved and crowded against strangers, had one suitcase for her entire family, and living with the fear of entering a new country. She, her husband, and her child stayed there for a total of three days. They were claimed by her uncle that lived Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. So off they went to yet a new town, with more strangers, fear, and hopefulness for the opportunities that lied ahead.
Though in Cuba my grandmother was a doctor in philosophy, she wasn’t able to transfer her college credits over to America when she came, so she had to start a completely new life. In Pennsylvania, she got a job in a factory sewing army coats. The only English she understood at the time was, “Mary is a girl and John is a boy”.
She worked in the factory for six months, and one day, she had an interview at a bank, which was a better job opportunity for her. She ended up getting the job and her starting position was a filing clerk. On the last day of her first week there, still only knowing a little bit of English, she was told to operate a ditto machine, except all the instructions were in English. Because of language barrier, when she put the purple ink into the machine, it had spilled on her only white shirt that she had. Her boss told her to go home and come back on Monday. Her head was filled with much uncertainty.
The Monday that she came back to work, she found a gift box on her desk. She then questioned the gift and went to her boss to ask who had left it there. Her boss said that she had placed the gift on her desk for her. My grandmother opened the box and found a new white shirt. Her boss then said that she really appreciated everything that my grandmother was doing and if anyone laughed at her English, she could tell them that she knew two languages because she tried her hardest to learn English.
Times were hard for her and she went through ten different positions at the same bank in one year and her last position at the bank after seven years was a human resource supervisor. Her resilience spoke volumes and paved the way for her new life in America. After her seven years in Philadelphia, she moved to Tampa, Florida with my mother, who at the time was only six days old.
My grandmother then got a job working as an insurance rater and soon became an underwriter and retired after 32 years. She has been the rock for her entire family and has passed down so much knowledge and love throughout the years. She has never forgotten where she came from and her journey to get to where she is today. She is the strongest woman I have ever met, and I am eternally grateful to have someone like her by my side each and every day.
Mary Harris ‘Mother’ Jones
Mary Harris Jones was born into a poor family of tenant farmers in Ireland. Her father and grandfather rebelled against injustices imposed by their British overlords. Her grandfather was hanged; her father was about to be hanged, before he made his escape to America.
In school, Mary an exceptional student, and had hoped to become a school teacher. But she was disillusioned by the low pay and terrible teaching conditions. Instead, Mary took up dressmaking and settled in Memphis, Tennessee. She met her husband, George, and started a family.
George, like his father and grandfather in-law, before him, spoke-out against the social injustices of the day. Within seven years after arriving in Memphis, all four of Mary’s young children had died of yellow fever, and George had died a tragic industrial accident. At 37 years old, a devastated Mary Jones was all alone. Her salvation was her ability to look outside of herself, and see the needs of others around her. Before long, Mary Harris Jones was taking care of yellow fever victims around Memphis.
Mary Jones moved to Chicago and used her sewing and dressmaking skills. She fumed when she saw that her well-to-do dressing-making clients, living on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, couldn’t care in the least about those living and dying, in hovels right beneath their noses. In 1871, tragedy struck Mary Jones again. Four years after moving to Chicago, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed her home, her shop, and all of her worldly possessions. Once again, amidst her great personal pain, Mary Jones was able to look outside of herself. She organized soup kitchens and found shelters for the so many left homeless.
One day, in the basement of the homeless shelter, where she herself was living, some garment workers were holding a meeting. Mary Jones attended. Their message on the plight of the workers resonated, to such an extent that Mary spent the next 50 years travelling across America speaking-out for abused laborers. In doing so, she never had a permanent home. Her heart was too busy promoting the needs of the dispossessed and the many mistreated working poor, especially the children.
In her time, it was estimated two million children were working in mines, mills, and factories. Destitute children as young as six years old were working 16-hour days, and in miserable conditions. Besides exploited children, Mother Jones spoke out on behalf of miners, textile and railroad workers, as well as many others. Mother Jones also was a strong advocate of a woman’s right to vote in America.
Conservatively-dressed Mother Jones, often wearing a bonnet, was no pushover. She spoke the language of the streets. And she could swear with the best of them.
During her lifetime, Mother Jones was labeled ‘the most dangerous woman in America.’ As a result of her tireless efforts, federal and state laws were passed. And laws already on the books were finally enforced.
When Mother Jones died in 1930, she wished to be buried in a miner’s cemetery next to those coal miners who died in a mine riot 32 years earlier.
To learn more, read Rick’s tenth nonfiction book: “THEY Made America Great–31 Endearing Legacies Worth Heeding Today.” Visit www.rickrhodes.com.
In the Fall of 2008, Leigh Clark lost her high profile job as a Director of Marketing for a New York-based Software Company. Suddenly she found herself with a lot of time to self reflect and a deep realization that she was lacking purpose outside her profession. In the years that followed she would return to work, but she now was acutely aware that she needed to find something that gave her fulfillment aside from her job alone.
One Holiday Season, in 2012, everything would change for her. She was overweight and underwhelmed and decided to embark on a personal mission of finding balance for her mind, body, and soul. She challenged herself to doing Yoga, Juicing and one act of kindness each day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Her life was transformed and her purpose was discovered.
The euphoria she discovered from carrying out Random Acts of Kindness sparked an idea. She decided she would work to form a nonprofit to impact people across the country, and later across the world, through these kind acts. With very little funding, Clark began to sell artwork she had painted through local farmers markets, and social media. With every piece she sold, she would use the profits to fund a variety of good deeds for strangers.
Her acts of kindness ranged from paying off layaways at the holidays for strangers to gathering school supplies for foster children in need. She appointed fellow Kindness Ambassadors to help carry out programs across the country as well. Through that program, her organization would give out crucial supplies to those facing homelessness, help women and children who were victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, and even paint and donate murals to fellow nonprofits.
In the years that followed, her work would be featured on The Today Show and The Rachael Ray Show. Additionally, she formed an online community on Facebook called The Kindness Community which now has over 15,000 members worldwide. Additionally, the organization has recently launched The Kindness Mall which is a place to shop online where a portion of all proceeds go toward Random Acts of Kindness.
Leigh Clark has reminded all of us, that you can start a fire with a spark, and she is using her spark to illuminate the world with kindness. Check out www.kindleigh.org for more info or join the cause on social media.
She is currently doing a Spread Kindness mask fundraiser for charity at kindleigh.org/mask.
In November 2013, after an inspiring magazine interview of the founder of Redefining Refuge, a woman creating Redefining Refuge, a home for rescued, trafficked women and children, I decided that I had to help her. Being involved in theatre, I chose to do a spoken word showcase called Life Amplified to help her fundraise…. two short months later. Understand, I had absolutely no experience, no money, no business plan, no performers, and only determination and the venue willing to donate the space. Lots of people were skeptical and gave excuses for why I should not do this.
But I was stubborn, raised to pay it forward, and that’s why I did it anyway.
I created a website, posted on social media, and waited for poets to volunteer.
By the end of December, I was almost ready to give up, and then a miracle happened. Singers, dancers, poets, and even a mind-reader reached out. I had my lineup mere days before opening.
At the end of the one-time performance fundraiser, someone in the audience stood up and asked a simple question, “when’s the next one?”
Six years and fourteen showcases later, Life Amplified was recognized on Bay News 9’s Everyday Hero, Fox TV’s Hometown Hero, and nominated for activism in Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay multiple times. Life Amplified has highlighted organization platforms ranging from PTSD, military sexual trauma, bully prevention, sexual violence prevention, and veterans’ assistance. We’ve fundraised for a child-founded childhood cancer organization, an inclusive landmark coffee shop, and an animal clinic that lost its home to arson. In 2019, Mayor Castor opened our showcase for the LGBTQ+ charity, Project No Labels. In 2020, we took to Zoom to entertain during the pandemic.
Life Amplified is synonymous with showing kindness to help small, grassroots charities showcase their mission and fundraise with volunteer performers of all ages and talents from the Tampa Bay community. What was supposed to be a single show in January 2013 has birthed the phrase, “in the time it takes to make an excuse, you could be starting a movement.”
Learn more at www.lifeamplifiedshowcase.com.
My Mom will be 91 next month. My Dad died 4 years ago. They were married for over 60 years. My Mom lives independently in the house where I grew up. She is 5’2” with snow white hair and fierce green eyes. She cleans her house every day. Still shampoos the carpet, scrubs down the shower and pulls weeds in the yard. She is a powerhouse.
But sometimes, not very often, she gets tired and goes out of rhythm. And if her trash cans are not out by the street by 7 a.m. on trash day, her neighbor of 60 years, comes over, rings the bell and calls out to her to make sure she is OK. This sweet lady is also in her 90’s. She also notices if Mom does not bring in the trash can and checks in on her again. She and Mom are both widows and look after each other.
Her neighbors to the east of her are newer neighbors, maybe only 10 years there. They are in their 50’s and they love Mom. The husband visits Mom at least 3 to 4 times a week to see how she is doing. Sometimes I think he just needs someone to talk to and Mom is a very good listener. One time he saw her in the yard with her chain saw trying to cut up a limb that had fallen from her big, old oak tree in the back. He came running over, with much concern about her well being and ability to operate a chain saw at 90! He helped her cut it up and cleaned up the pieces.
I tell you this story to let you know about the kindness of her neighbors. I rest easy every day knowing that she has kind, caring neighbors who watch over her.
A few months ago my neighbor texted me that he saw a flower delivery at my front door. It was at the beginning of being sequestered so I carefully opened the door and there was a beautiful vase of flowers. He called later and I realized he was now my amazing florist. When the flowers had wilted I cleaned the glass container and told him that I had placed it by the door. The next day another bouquet rested just on my front doormat along with some home baked cake. Since then my wonderful neighbor Mike has brightened this sequestered life with surprise front door magic! Kindness means so much in these times especially since I am having surgery in the next weeks. When I am up and around I will pass along kindness gestures too.
Call: Acts of Kindness
During the pandemic, my husband and I (both aged and compromised) have been the recipients of a variety of planned and random acts of kindness from friends, neighbors, and family (near and far). One of which I shared in the May 2020 edition of Positively Powerstories. However, what has been missing from our “new normal” are the opportunities to safely donate food items, clothing, and especially schools supplies to local social service agencies (now closed due to COVID-19) as we’ve done faithfully over the last decade. All of this changed today!
Several weeks ago, the Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO; https://echofl.org), with locations in Brandon and Riverview, announced its annual Back to School Outreach. Their clarion call included lists highlighting the specific food items and school supplies needed. In anticipation of serving the surrounding communities and in light COVID-19, ECHO closed its facilities for a week-long deep cleaning. They re-opened today, July 27, 2020.
Masked and standing on a social distancing marker painted on the sidewalk, we were blessed to be among the first at the Riverview location to donate many of the items they needed along with a bag full of clothing. Although the conditions of our act of kindness are different in every way imaginable, the absolute joy found in helping those in need is still a thriving and necessary part of our pre-pandemic selves.
© July 2020 Suzanne S. Austin-Hill