Thanks Giving

Thanks Giving

It always feels nice to do something for someone else, but it seems to be a special lasting memory when you do it for someone you’ve never met!  I had that experience this past Sunday when ladies from our fitness/Zumba studio went and decorated the outside of someone’s house for Christmas.  The wife and husband had gone on a motorcycle ride right before the 4th of July.  She hated motorcycles but they decided to go on a couples ride with their friends.  On the way back from lunch, their motorcycle was involved in an accident.  He died instantly at the scene, she was thrown 90 feet and it was unknown if she would survive.

After month of hospitalizations and surgeries she was released.  It took many sessions of physical therapy for her to learn how to walk again. One of the most difficult things about the entire incident is that they have two sons (now ages 8 and 10).  The Anderson family’s life has been turned upside – just like that.  This holiday season will not be as joyful as usual.  The family wasn’t sure if they were going to decorate inside the house and knew they weren’t going to decorate the outside (because that’s what dad did and it was too much physically for the mom to do solo).

So, while the family was away, we snuck over to their house and started decorating the outside of the house.  We used some of their decorations, but also added some new items.  It was cold.  It was rainy. It was nasty.  I would have much rather been in bed, HOWEVER, I knew that my little inconvenience was nothing compared to all the struggles they’d been through.  My entire body warmed as I saw the family pull up and the smile on the mother’s face.  After hearing her story and how hard these past five months have been, I knew we helped bring them a little joy this holiday season.

The horrible ironic part of the entire situation is that while I was helping a complete stranger, around the same time, a high school cheerleading friend of mine drove up on the scene over her husband’s overturned car and now her family is struggling as he fights for his life.  Unfortunately for Helen’s situation, the main thing they need now is prayer is hopes that Chris will wake up and be able to celebrate their first Christmas with their four month old son.  So if you’re prayerful, please say a special prayer for the Vaughan family and all those struggling with family loses this year.

December 2011

It All Starts with One Person Who Believes

It Starts With One Person Who Believes

Mar09-4I was sitting in a meeting with a principal and a teacher and they were both saying praises about a guy named Al Northington.  At the time, he had led the Iroquois girls’ basketball team to the Sweet 16.  They said, if anyone deserved to win the title, he was the man.  About a week later, I received a call from George, the OnyxLouisville photographer, bragging about this same coach and how he just became the first African-American to win a state girls basketball title.

I had to find out who this man was and hear about his accomplishment.  I talked to him at 7:00pm on a Thursday night.  The night before the school’s big celebration for the win that would include the Mayor and everyone from the community.   He was still at the school hanging up banners and doing all the last minute details (alone).  He told me about a high school, Iroquois, that for several years didn’t have a girl’s basketball team due to lack of interest.  At the time, he taught basketball camps at Brandeis Elementary School and saw a fourth grader that he felt was skilled enough to play high school varsity ball.  Her name was Adia Mathies.  When she and several other females entered middle school, he placed them on Iroquois HIGH SCHOOL’s varsity team.   Yes, sixth graders playing against the big girls.

And slowly but surely, he changed the program around.  One win at a time, they made believers out of doubters and winners out of girls who often only felt loss.  But it wasn’t easy. He had to beg some of the girls just to come to school.  Many had problems with their grades.  Some had attitudes and trouble with their teachers.  Several would have been kicked off the team if they went to other schools.  But, Coach Northington refused to give up on them.  He altered his coaching style to try to reach them and stay motivated.

Coach is proud of what he has accomplished, but feels this is only the beginning.  He feels that six of his girls have potential to play at a Division 1 school.  Unfortunately, due to grades and other circumstances, only one of them will be playing at a D One school next year.  As much as he tries to do it himself, he still feels that these ladies need mentors, especially females, to help them change their ways.  He wants them to have mentors that will stress the importance of college.

It was interesting to me because the day before I spoke with Coach, I wrote as my facebook status ‘Michelle wants to be more involved with a community organization- especially the youth’.  Who would have known that God would have answered my request just a day later with a simple phone call?

OnyxLouisville readers, here is where you come in.  Coach Northington and I are going to put together some type of program for these women to meet and talk with other urban professionals (especially women) in the community to tell them that not only are we proud of them, but we want to help them continue to be a difference and make the difference.  The details of the program have not yet been worked out and the time commitment will be minimal.  The ladies cannot strive for a better life if they are not exposed to people that have struggled, yet continued to seek success.  Please email me if you can be a part of this project.  While a state basketball title can be sweet, we all know high school only lasts so long – and then the real world begins!

Email me if you’re willing to help!

Congratulations also to Adia who was also named Miss KY Basketball 2009!  She will wear the #1 jersey in the all star game this summer!!

M.Y. March 2009

Readers Are Leaders

“Readers are Leaders”

Salvation Dec 08How do you deal with tragedy during a season that is supposed to be joyous?  I thought of this recently as I watched the father of the three Claybrooks’ brothers talk about losing his three son in a car accident.  He was a single father trying to raise his three boys to be strong men.  He got them involved with great programs like Youth Alive, led by passionate mentors like Kenny Boyd.  His loss, is our community’s loss.

One of the ways to help people deal with their loss is to help them when they are down.  Myself and about twenty other OnyxLouisville readers did just this on Saturday at the Salvation Army Distribution Center.  I was worried when I arrived at 8:30am.  Orientation had just started and none of my volunteers were present.  I remembered “CP time” and realized I probably should have told people 8:00am instead of 8:30.  But then I saw a face.  Ben Ruiz walked through the doors with a smile and I knew it would be a great day.
The warehouse was lined with rows upon rows blue plastic bags.  Each bag represented a child that would have a wonderful holiday present of both clothes and toys.  Most of us served as Runners.  We were given a piece of paper with a family’s name.  Our task was to rapidly go through the warehouse (sometimes with a shopping cart if there were multiple kids) to find the bags with each child’s name.   Others of us worked at the front table.  As the runners brought that families items, the front people called out the parent’s name and presented them the Christmas gifts.
It was amazing to see the look on some of their faces.  Although they’d waited out in the cold (some for a long time), there were all very gracious.  The thing I noticed that made a major difference was looking in their eyes to tell them “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”.  It’s almost as if they realized that I didn’t think they were just a number, and actually saw them as a person that deserved respect.
And let me tell you, OnyxLouisville readers represented.   Whether it was married couples, families or groups of friends – our presence was recognized.  Two mothers brought their sons.  The sons ended up knowing each other.  At first they seemed upset to be dragged out there.  Once I suggested they pair up, they put a pep in their step and enjoyed the task.  I thought it was equally great to see the male OnyxLouisville readers out there as well.  Not only did it show the families that Black men can make a positive difference, it also showed those two boys that it is ‘cool’ to volunteer.  By the end of the afternoon, people were asking what exactly OnyxLouisville stood for.  Several volunteers asked me if they could all have a shirt.  While some other volunteer groups quit a little early, the faces of the OnyxLouisville readers were the last ones on the scene.
I wish you all a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and/or Happy Kwanzaa.  For those that don’t celebrate any of these holidays, I hope you will still realize that it is a time of giving.  It’s not always about financial donations – often the gift of time can be just as meaningful!

I left on Saturday barely unable to move. My knees hurt from 8 hours of moving on concrete.  My fingertips were black from the floor surface.  My back needed a good pillow.  But, my heart was full of joy!  I received the best Christmas gift I’ll receive this season – seeing my vision of OnyxLouisville come together for the good of the community!

M.Y.  December 2008

Tis the Season 2007

“Tis the Season”

This year I learned that Christmas is much more than just December 25.  It’s a season.  My Christmas started on Friday, December 14 with our annual office party.  Each year, my 12 co-workers and myself make homemade presents for each person.  Although we cringe at the thought of making something, we are always touched by the creativity and thought put into each present.

On Friday, December 21 I went to the Home of the Innocents.  The Pediatric Convalescent Center children had a Christmas pageant.  This wasn’t your ordinary performance.  These kids are all medically fragile.  The majority were in wheelchairs and depend on skilled nurses for eating, movement and all daily activities.  Although these kids will never be fully independent, it was wonderful to see the smiles on their faces as they heard the bells jingle or became excited at the music playing in the background.  I looked around at the Home’s cafeteria workers, employee and parents and saw that they were touched.

Sunday, December 23 I went to the Christ Mass at St. Stephen Church across the bridge.  All of the choirs performed along with the liturgical dancers.  One of my joys of the holiday season has always been Christmas hymns.  I was blessed for two hours to hear the sounds of hundreds of voices singing songs of both old and new.  As I walked out the church door, I knew Christmas was right around the corner.

Monday, December 24 I went to the pageant at the church where I grew up.  At the very end of the service as we sang the closing hymn, the people in the pew in front of my scurried around.  The majority of the church members are over the age of 60 so I thought something happened to one of them.  Instead, it was a young adult, Katie, that I grew up with, that had fainted.  Our rector stopped the service as she asked if there was a doctor in the house.  The person that rushed across the sanctuary was Doug, another person I grew up with in this church.  Although it was an unfortunate incident, it was amazing to watch the former youth of the church now serving as young adults.  You never know when you’ll be called to give back.

Then Christmas Day arrived.  My morning began with volunteering at Wayside Christian  Mission to serve lunch at the men’s center.  As the men strolled in to be fed, the choir in the background started singing the following words, “Thank you Lord. I just want to thank you Lord.”  These words resonated as I went through the line to get a plate to serve for someone.  I stopped and paused as tears filled my eyes and became so thankful for all the things in my life.  As I placed the plate in front of someone while saying “Merry Christmas”, he turned to me with a smile and said “God Bless You”.

The rest of my holiday was spent with friends, food and fun.  It ended at five the next morning.  It truly was a wonderful holiday season and I don’t believe it is over. Blessings exist is all shapes and sizes.  If you think yours are low, just look around and see the small fortunes that we often take for granted.

M.Y.  December 2007