Friday, November 22, 2013

You Never Know What Will Change Your Life

So... I must say that I don't even know where to begin. As I sit here with my headphones on... piano in my ears I am reflecting on the last two days and I am in awe. I gave up a day of work yesterday to speak at the Great American Teach In at my daughter's school of the Arts located in the inner city of Tampa and although I did it to influence lives, I too was changed; my purpose was defined even clearer than it already was and I am truly speechless tonight, so forgive me if the words do not flow as I hope they will.

For those of you who are not familiar with magnet schools and how they work, it is basically a school that is located in a "bad" area of town that is given a specific category of study such as the arts so that kids from the suburbs will want to attend; therefore giving the inner city kids a better opportunity for getting out of the inner city and to be offered a better education because they will receive more funding from the government. I sent my oldest daughter Cierra to a Magnet middle school as well because I wanted my kids to be diverse... to love all colors, all social economic classes. Yes, I sent them to the "ghetto" to a school that catered to their strengths so they could mingle with kids that did not have what they had ON PURPOSE.

Normally, you go talk to one class... and typically it is your child's class. However, when they found out that I was an inspirational/ motivational writer and speaker they were EXCITED and asked me to stay all day. I happily gave up whatever it was I could have made monetarily to hopefully help a child who needed to hear what I had to say. I spoke to 8 periods of 6th, 7th and 8th graders... 7:40 am-3:30 pm without lunch, or bathroom breaks because I was on a mission to influence troubled youth with my stories of overcoming all that I have endured. I never felt hungry or tired.... it was an amazing day. I brought teachers, principals and many, many students to tears. I brought out emotions that therapists need months to bring out in one single hour with each class, I was blown away more than they were at times. I had never really spoken in this way before... it was kind of my first "formal" gig where I told my story outside of my book signings that were totally off the cuff. I planned... a little but knew I had to cater to each class individually by asking some questions or my message would never be heard.

I brought SO many kids through grief they were dealing with of losing a loved one, I talked to them about bullying... and when I asked every class who had been "the bully" I told them to be honest... I would not judge them; they raised their hands and admitted it. I thanked them for their courage and told them that admitting it was the first step  to ending it; I understand abuse and the steps it takes to stop due to people who have been in my life. I made these bullies want to change. I had one of the "TOUGHEST" kids of the day who was loud and proud about being a bully ask to walk me to my next class. I had asked her why she was mean in front of everyone because she was so proud of it... and gave her permission to hold the answer to herself... that I just wanted her to think about it. When she walked me to my next class she told me she wanted to answer my question. She said people had been mean to her and that she has lost 6 people VERY close to her, one was a brother to cancer in the past 3 years. I hugged her as she cried and told her that she needed to change that anger into love... I told her to become the person who helps someone up who falls down or who is being bullied or being disrespected and had her promise that to me. Today the Vice principal told me that at breakfast this morning when everyone was disrespecting the teachers by not listening that she stood up and said "stop it... be quiet and listen." I felt like a proud mom.

I had another girl who admitted to being a bully tell her story in front of all of her classmates as if it were only she and I in the room. She said that she was once a bully and stopped when her mother lost a baby. She told me that she was so sad and knew that kids killed themselves because of bullying and did not want anyone to feel the sadness that she felt when she lost that possible sibling; she was balling... I called her up and held her as she wept in front of the whole entire class. Another beautiful young man gave me a piece of yarn from his pocket and said maybe I could make something out of it and later brought me a picture that he drew which I will be framing. It was surreal bringing these emotions out... they were so raw and real but I know that by doing this they are on the right path to healing and changing if they stick with it and THAT was my purpose.

Now... I want to share how I was changed. After telling a small portion of my story I showed a slideshow I created that you will see at the end of this post. It was presented to each class. I spoke during certain slides to explain what they were seeing... and afterwards we had a Q&A and a little more of me sharing and caring with and for them. One young man who to me was one of the most courageous of the day, was a seventh grade boy in the front row. After showing the slideshow which includes before and after's of models that I work with as I spoke about true beauty and self image telling the story of how models are every day people who have someone like me make them 'look the part" and that even THEY need to feel beautiful. I told the boys to not expect their future wives to look like that when they wake up and I told the girls that they are only a few brush strokes away from the outside beauty that they don't feel they possess but that all of them needed to focus on the inside instead.  So, this 7th grade boy Xavier Pellot raises his hand and asks me... "Do you ever feel like what you do for a living affects people negatively?" I sat there for a minute and thought... I had already explained that I chose to do what I do to make people feel good about who they were on the outside; so I said, "Honestly, no but I am really curious to hear your process of thought, will you share it?" So he did ... he said, "You make people who are "ordinary" look beautiful and that might make an ordinary person feel ugly." A tear came to my eye as I stood silent... AMAZED at this PROFOUND comment coming from this young man! I said... "Xavier, can I share that YOU just changed MY life? That was amazing, brave and seriously gave me something to think about as I move forward.

All night I thought of what he said and I now have a change in my path... out of this was birthed an idea and a mission and I WILL dedicate my life to as well as this beautiful soul... this amazing young man who kept me from sleeping last night. I will say again, THANK YOU XAVIER! I will NEVER forget you. It's people like you and me who speak their mind and ruffle feathers that change the world... but I already told him that.

Today I went back to that school. It just keeps getting better!!!! I was asked by the assistant principal to come back today to help spearhead a program for a group of girls at the school who call themselves G.A.B. "girls against bullying". I sat with the girls in a conference room for 2 hours; lots of tears hearing their stories and I gave them a lesson on the definition of bullying, how to be a friend and much, much more. I cannot even share what happened in that room due to confidentiality but at the end of my two hours I promised these 7th grade girls to help them take this national... and I will simultaneously create B.A.B. (boys against bullying) so they feel included too. The Vice Principal also wants me to be a speaker for teachers and administration and make my book mandatory reading material in our county and beyond and knows how to make that happen. He said that I touched him with my story and brought back memories he had tucked away and that the feedback from my presentation from the teachers and students was incredible. He told me he believed in what I was trying to do and wanted to help me. As we stood on the fun-day field today three more kids that heard me speak yesterday came up and told me their painful stories and cried with me and thanked me for sharing mine; he witnessed that.

I could keep talking about all that happened as a result of my decision to go speak for two days but you will just have to watch this story unfold; I think that will be way more inspirational and motivational and well... that is why I write. I hope you continue to follow my journey. I am dumbfounded and high on life... even as I still cough like crazy from this cold I cannot kick. I know that the sky is the limit for me; the "Big Guy" has my back because I have truly given Him the wheel. WOW... just WOW! Have an amazing weekend.. and I hope you enjoy this video.



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