Thursday, February 9, 2017

Coming Together As One


Coming Together as ONE

In our adult forum Sunday school class, we've been experiencing a series called Servant Leadership. Each week, members and friends of Christ Church Episcopal share how they express their spirituality in everyday life.

This past Sunday, a cool and brilliant man named Ted presented. He said that he'd been feeling a tad old and irrelevant and needed to find more meaning and purpose for his life. Ted signed up to help the relocated refugees who recently arrived here in Savannah from Aleppo.

Ted shared some of their stories. They were tragic, but they were also very, very hopeful.

Ted told us that he'd be going to Ecuador in a few weeks to teach those who teach English. He was sad to leave and wanted to make sure someone else picked up where he left off.

He told us about a refugee family whose father was traveling two and a half hours each way for his job at a car wash. Still, he was very grateful for the work and even more grateful to be here with his wife and two young daughters.

Then Ted shared the father's real work, his passion and calling. Before this beautiful man came to the U.S he was a clothing designer. He made amazing wedding gowns with custom embroidery. He tailored immaculate men's suits and also did upholstery.

Ted said if we knew anyone who could hire him in his line of work, it would be great. He also asked if we knew anyone who had a TV.

I started calling folks right then and there. I contacted my friend Linda, of Linda Porter Designs who makes amazing clothing and interiors. Linda told me that she would love to hire him but business had been a little slow.

Then she said, "Wait, someone helped me." She said that if she couldn't make clothes, she didn't know what she'd do. Linda said that she would step out in faith and I told her that I would walk with her. I contacted friends who said they would take business to her and that they would also spread the word.

Then it happened, we all met up and the amazing tailor brought his wife and a friend along.

This story is already long so let me get right to the good---a few doors down from Linda's shop is my favorite upholsterer, Hai of Savannah Quality Upholstery. He desperately needed help and said he would hire the father while Linda hired the mom. (Yes, I know they have names, I'm leaving their names out deliberately folks.)

Anyway, Hai and his team also offered transportation since he knew how difficult our bus system can be.

"Someone helped me too," Hai, who is from Vietnam said.

We chatted through Google translate and thanked God/Allah and we thanked each other.

I remembered the TV that was in the back of my car and then we thanked our ancestors.

Here's the thing, we all need somebody to lean on. We can wallow in the madness of the day, or we can do as Ted did and seek our place and purpose in it.

Here in Savannah there were 30 more families scheduled to come. They have been blocked but I will continue to pray for them and for refugees everywhere.
And I will work until there is no more work to be done.

Be You, Be well, Be Doing Something

Monday, February 6, 2017

When Purpose Collides with Destiny


Okay boys and girls I am often moved by life and God's love; yesterday, I was blown away.

In our adult forum at Christ Church Episcopal, one of our members shared how he applies spirituality in his everyday life.

The series is on Servant Leadership and Ted Eldridge surely fits the bill.

Ted started by saying that he was getting older and had begun to feel irrelevant. So he began to seek Purpose.

There is a beautiful Arabic proverb that says, “When a person seeks their purpose, the Universe conspires to answer.”
Ted called and got an answer. He volunteers with refugee families here in Savannah but will soon be leaving for Ecuador to teach those who teach English through a program with Harvard University.

Ted wanted to share his work, with the hopes that others would join in.

He had me at Servant Leadership.

He shared stories of several families; their challenges and joys. Then he told us about a recent refugee family whose father travels for two and a half hours every day to work at a car wash. Ted said this father is very grateful for the work and so happy to be here.

Then Ted shared pictures of his real work and my heart ached.

This man who washes cars is a master tailor and embroidery genius.

Before his life and country were ripped apart, he created beautiful wedding gowns and made exquisite men’s suits.

Still, he is very grateful to be here.

 So right there in the class, I contacted my friend Linda Porter of Linda Porter Designs and Interiors. When I told her the story, Linda asked what she could do. She said that if she couldn't make clothes she wouldn't be able to breathe.

Long story short, Linda said that even though business was a little slow, she would act in faith and love and hire him.

I cried then and am crying now.

Lately, for some reason, folks are falling into two camps; there are those who will do, and then there are others who wait until the doing is done so they have something to critique.

Which are you?

I’ve reached out to other friends here in Savannah and asked if they would take their design and tailoring needs to Linda and they have responded beautifully.
One friend even offered to create a much needed web site.

Here’s the thing, we are all connected. We need each other.

Ted needed these families and this work and I needed Ted. The beautiful family needed Linda and Linda needed all of those new customers.

Faith does not wait until the way is seen, it creates the way.

Be you, be love, be Faith.
Bertice Berry, PhD.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The People You Meet

The People We Meet

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Bertice. I'm a sociologist, author, lecturer, mother and grandmother. I am a woman of science and faith. I believe that we are all a product of everyone and everything we come in contact with. The more folks we come in contact with, the more we evolve.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to share what I’ll be calling, The People We Meet.

Throughout this journey called life, I have met some rather amazing folks. I may have just seen them once, but their words and ways have touched me deeply and have helped to remind me of who I am and who I want to be.

Yesterday, I met one of them. Her name was Ellen. I’d gone to the local Westin to celebrate my sister/friend Brynn’s birthday.

Ellen was assigned to give me the world’s best manipedi, but I believe that she was really there to be a light on my pathway.

We talked about the waste of water and how as a girl in China, she and her sister had to haul buckets of water uphill. She told me that even now, she can’t stand to see water run without a purpose. I laughed because my children refer to water that’s been running over 3 seconds as “Mom’s precious water.”

She and her family have done very well and I learned that she is also a rather brilliant and self-taught artist.

She made me feel welcomed and beautiful and strong and I felt connected to her.

Here’s the thing, Purpose connects you at the soul level, so much so that you can feel like you’ve known a stranger, your entire life.

Take note of the folks you meet.

What can you learn?
What can you remember?
How do you connect?
Be you, be well, be connected.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Standing up to Injustice


Standing Up to Injustice

Just two days ago, I was stunned when someone shared a video of a local Council Woman being up-skirted by fellow councilmen.

Hold on because this is going to make you mad, but take heart because it gets much better.

Councilwoman Debbie Johnson of Port Wentworth, Georgia is a beautiful and courageous woman. She does her job with dignity and pride. Everyone loves her and folks who are not even in her district seek her counsel.

The men who serve with her decided that enough was enough so when she wasn't looking they took pictures UP HER SKIRT and then passed them around at a local restaurant during happy hour and even posted them on line.

For months Councilwoman Johnson was attending meetings with these same men; the ones who were smiling in her face and laughing behind her back.

When one man was sent the picture, he stood up and reported the behavior, but nothing was done.

If you go to Youtube and search for Debbie Johnson, Port Wentworth, you will see the actual interrogation video of council members and the mayor laughing and saying,
"She must have wanted us to take the picture, she didn't have on no underwear," and "I think that's how she must get off."

What was done to her was despicable, but it got worse; Councilwoman Johnson was accused of harassing the men.

SHE was investigated.

When we spoke to Debbie, she said that her self-esteem was destroyed.

My daughter Fatima, my sisters Erika Harnett, Kelly Stelle, Linda Wilder Bryan and a group of friends and folks from our local Pant Suit Nation watched this in tears and outrage and decided something needed to be done.

We started on line with a private group called Solidarity with Debbie Johnson to discuss what we should do and quickly determined that we needed to let her know that she was not alone.

We are all busy with preparing for Washington and someone said it was inconvenient, that maybe we should wait until we got back.

Someone else---maybe it was me, said "This crap ain't convenient for her, but she keeps doing her job. So everyone stopped what they were doing and said, "Okay, what do I need to do, I'm there."

We met with her that same day---y'all, we tracked her down-- and greeted her with a bouquet of roses and other gifts.

We told her that we were proud of her and grateful for her courage in the face of such indignity.

Councilwoman Johnson melted in our arms. She cried and said she'd felt so alone.
She'd been harassed and humiliated and she said "They wanted to take my power away and they knew how to hurt me."

She said she'd been body shamed, called every fat and ugly name you could imagine and she had to continue to face these people who were allowed to get off because up-skirting wasn't illegal here.

The men had claimed that she wasn't wearing underwear. So when Debbie said, of course she was the prosecutor, a woman, told her nothing could be done because she was wearing them.
NO, I'm not making this up.

We got on the phone with our Atlanta sisters to see what could be done.
They researched and worked and long story short we got action.
We all met for a catered meal, met with Debbie and were interviewed by our local press---y'all know we called them. Then we discussed what we'd do that night at the city council meeting.

Fifty of us showed up in matching Solidarity with Debbie Johnson shirts---made overnight, and greeted everyone kindly. When it was time for the pledge of allegiance, the mayor thought we might remain seated so he looked directly at us and informed us that we would need to stand.

We did and yelled out the words with pride reminding them that we wanted JUSTICE FOR ALL.

Several local residents and even a fellow council member spoke insisting that the mayor resign. He said he would not and named names of those who supported him in other districts. One of the speakers informed him that she'd be going after them also.

Then a councilman spoke and said that he knew how she felt. He said that the civil war was fought simply because people couldn't get along and that as an African American man, he knew that if it had been a white woman and black men, those black men would be under the jail. Then he told her to move on and be happy.

Almost simultaneously we began to chant, 
"I't's not about race, it's not about race."

When the meeting was over, the mayor took off and everyone surrounded Councilwoman Johnson and applauded her. Her birthday is this weekend, so we sang "Happy Birthday," as well.

She cried, but this time, the tears were tears of joy.

Together, we cried, we laughed, we ate, we acted and together we changed hearts and minds. Local residents came up to us and thanked us for standing with Debbie and for being so joyful. They thanked us for encouraging her.

As Debbie got in a crowed vehicle for a week long conference with these same men in Atlanta we told her not to fear, because another group of friends would greet her up there.

She laughed and said, "I love y'all."

What was done to her was horrible, but she is not alone and neither are you.

Stand strong, we are connected.

BE you, be well, be knowing that you are loved.

Bertice B. Berry, PhD.

Link to the video

Friday, January 13, 2017

Back to the Beginning

I’m back in the town where I grew up; not my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. That’s where I was born; but I grew up; came of age, became the “me” that I’m still becoming in Jacksonville, Florida.

I came to JU with a prayer and determination.

Jacksonville University was an alignment of the stars. My teacher’s friend applied for me and the school accepted me even though I could not pay. Someone in the music department knew a rich dude who was looking for a student like me.

So, off to college I went. I knew no one and with the exception of choir trips, had not been away from home.

I was greeted by other JU students who introduced me to more. Then I got the magic; I was invited to think critically about everything.

I worked hard and kept dreaming, but this new world with little money was tough, so my senator from Delaware stepped in. 

He called every day for two weeks to let me know that he was proud of me and that he would help my family if I stayed focused on my dream.

Senator Biden came through and I kept going.

I worked hard and harder and graduated with honors; when no one from my family could afford to show up, the entire cleaning and cafeteria staff came to “Represent.”

My world is big because my village is big-hearted.

Being here in this place where I got the notion to have a notion, I am moved, encouraged, uplifted and ready to be the change that enabled me to change.

Be you, be well, be changing.
Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Seeing Your Connections


The brilliant psychologist, Dr. Naim Akbar said that we should ask ourselves on a daily basis, “Why, me, here, now?”

I love this question. It has led me down some rather amazing pathways.

Last week, I used the question to keep me from spiraling into anger, guilt and just plain madness.

I was scheduled to work with the leadership team at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. It is their mission “To restore, sustain and enhance the health and developmental potential of children through excellence in care…”

Their Genomics Institute is running head-long into the future, finding cures and bringing them back. I’d love to tell you more, but I can't; no really, I can't.

What I really want to convey is the fact that life is already connected and it’s our job to find out how.

I am the single mother of five adopted children. They all have differing needs and “specialties” and although they are now adult-ish, they still need me.

My life is hectic and full of surprises, but it also follows a very tight schedule.

I was scheduled to be at Rady this past weekend, but I what I didn’t know was that my daughter would discover that she had enough credits to graduate with her best buddy on the same weekend.

 I needed to be in San Diego on Friday and then again on Monday. To do the job and the graduation,  I would need to fly from Savannah to San Diego on Thursday, then take a red-eye flight back Friday night so I could land just in time for the graduation on Saturday. Then, I’d need to fly right back to San Diego early Sunday morning.

I try my best to be present and in the moment. I don’t think about a flight to leave until I am done doing what I am supposed to do.

We spend so much time thinking about the next thing, that we don’t truly engage with the thing that we are doing.

But, I’m talking about connections, so let me get to it.

On Friday, when I rode up to the campus of Rady Hospital, my mind flashed back to 20 years ago. In that moment, I saw myself rushing from a flight to that same hospital to be with my daughter after an ENT surgery.

Back then, I’d felt bad about not being on time and I felt guilty for being at work in the first place. I said this to Autumn, my escort and beautiful conductor for that day’s event. She looked at me in surprise and said, “Do you know the name of the surgeon?”

I told her no, but I’d remembered his kind face.

She smiled and said, “I bet that’s him.” She was pointing to a man who appeared to be gliding across the hospital campus grounds. “That’s Dr. Kearns, he’s now the CEO.”

I thought, this can’t be happening. What are the odds?

For me, they are pretty high. I’m always seeing and finding connections. We all can.

We are so busy focusing on what we have to do next, that we can’t see the life connections that are right in front of us.

I went from being exhausted from just thinking about all of the flying I would have to do, to remembering the day I came rushing in for that surgery.

Then later that afternoon, I really got the magic.

After I spoke to the leadership team, Dr. Kearns came up to talk with me. He’s tall enough for me to need to really look up. He was talking to me and at one point, he looked down into my eyes and touched my shoulders.

I’m crying as I type this, because when he did, I was flooded with the same emotion I had 20 years ago.

Back then I  felt guilty about not being at the surgery and then I felt bad for being late. When I’d got there, my daughter was in recovery. She still had bloody bandages on and she had just woken up. She looked as if she wanted to say, “Why did you let them do this to me?”

I was crying when Dr. Kearns came in. Once he discovered that the new person was actually the mother, he touched my shoulder and told me that everything was fine and she was better than okay.

I told him that I should have been there and he actually said, “Don’t do that to yourself, it’ not good for her or for you.” And then like some kind of surgery ghost he was gone.

Life is full of déjà vu’s and connections. We don’t see them, because we don’t want to.
We spend more time seeing separation than we do connections.

Here’s the thing; life is already connected.

Look and see.
Be you, be well, be why, me, here, now?
Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dealing with Guilt, Shame and the Past

Dreaming and Imagination

New Tools for Dealing with Guilt and Shame

Yesterday, I heard a sermon from the very brilliant Rev. Helen White.

Helen is one of those power-house folks who catches you off guard. She’s small of stature with a beautiful and open kind face. Her voice is soft and soothing and she delivers what appears to some as a small tap but to others the perfect combination of a one-two punch.

Helen weaves story and scripture so well that her listeners are laughing one moment and chastised the next. 

Here’s the thing though, you never ever feel corrected; you only feel loved.

In yesterday’s sermon, Helen crept up on a subject I’ve been dealing with personally and professionally for at least 40 years; how to deal with guilt and shame.

In Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior, David R. Hawkins’ wonderful treatise on emotions and their corresponding vibration/energy, Hawkins points out that the lowest emotional vibrations are those of guilt and shame. They not only add nothing to the world around you, they actually suck the energy from the room while diminishing the energy of the guilty and shameful party.

Helping folks move beyond guilt and shame into a purpose-filled life has become my mission but you can’t get to purpose when you are burdened with the guilt of the past.

Helen, offered a beautiful and unique approach; dream your way to a better outcome.

Instead of wallowing in the past; instead of going around and around the same sin/fault over and over and over again, imagine a better outcome. See yourself going down a different path.

 Imagine what you’d like to do and become. Be as specific as an artist painting and sculpting the smallest detail. Don’t just use your mind to turn another corner, use it to see the entire layout of the city.

Dream of all of the wonderful possibilities you can live.

As I pondered Rev. Helen’s sermon yesterday morning and into the night, I began to think about those who never fall into guilt or shame. They do not possess the over-stimulated conscious. They lack what Freud called the super-ego; that thing that serves to remind us of our moral correctness.

These sociopaths and narcissistic individuals have already imagined themselves to be above it all. They are already perfect in God’s and everyone else’s sight. They see no need for forgiveness, because they believe that they have never, ever done anything wrong.
They are entitled to whatever they take and have created a story befitting of their illusion.

We need to feel guilty when we have wronged ourselves and others, but most of us have wallowed in the guilt for so long that it has gone beyond the job of correction and moved us into a space of mournful regret and depression.

Feel the guilt, ask for forgiveness and then imagine yourself going down a different road. Take time and meditate on another possibility. See the road so clearly that it becomes your choice the next time and the next.

Instead of wallowing in guilt and shame, create new outcomes and opportunities for yourself and forothers.
See your way clear.
Be you, be well, be free.
Bertice Berry, PhD.