Monday, September 30, 2013

The Astonishing Power of Smiling

The Astonishing Power of Smiling

Recently, I watched a presentation on the hidden power of smiling. In it Ron Gutman, the Founder of Healthtap, a research group focused on ways to increase health engagement and well-being of people and patients, presented findings that suggest that smiling, just smiling does amazing things.

Gutman, cited research which found that smiling is related to life span, happiness, well-being and even length of marriage. I don’t know how spurious these findings may be---and yes I was smiling when I wrote the word spurious, but last week, I put this smiling thing to a test.

Now, you should know that I smile big on a regular basis and in some circles I’m even known for my big toothy smile.

 A stranger once told me that he believed that God lived in my smile and I believed that God lived in that stranger.

Anyway, I was telling you about my smiling experiment. I thought it would come naturally, since I already smile more than average, but when I deliberately smiled, I soon realized that I could smile even more; much, much more.

At first I smiled at all children, and then at anything beautiful. Then I took it up a notch and smiled whenever I was frustrated or stressed. I smiled at negative thoughts and then whenever someone was frowning.

This is what I found:

With a smile on my face I could change my own mind and attitude.

With a smile on my face I could change the face of another.

With a smile on my face I could remind a child that this was their more natural way of being.

With a smile on my face, I could not judge another.

With a smile on my face I am much happier.

Don’t just take my word for it; try it yourself.

Watch the video I told you about and share it with someone else.

Then smile and share that too.

Be you, be well, be smiling.

Bertice Berry, PhD.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Leaving a Legacy: What Are You Waiting For?

Fritzi Woods
Love Never Leaves

What Are You Waiting For?

I'm a firm believer that everyone leaves a legacy; not when you die, but when you leave a room.
My sister/friend Fritzi Woods was an advocate for women everywhere but her primary focus was for women in the food service industry.

Fritzi was the President and CEO of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, an association dedicated to developing the talents and abilities of women in all foodservice companies.

WFF works to get women at the table, on the job and in charge of their own lives.

I first met Fritzi with the association, but soon came to know her as a friend.

We all have or should have folks in our lives that we are connected to in spirit. Whether we see them or not, the connection is real and strong. Fritzi was/is one of those friends for me.

Every week, Fritzi would read or see something that made her need to reach out. We laughed about the similarities of life and how I had “touched a nerve that she didn’t want to remember.”

We laughed and compared stories of punishments our children had to endure because of things that became really small the next day. (Fritzi’s was “who opened the new bar of soap and mine was “why can’t anybody fill up the water jug.”)

When I cut my hair off after a head injury, we laughed about how fortunate we were to “have the face to carry it off.”

About a month ago, Anna, another of our sister/friends decided that we all needed to get together for a sleep over. We were waiting for the right time in our busy lives to do it.

Don’t wait to call, get together, show love, write a note, to extend forgiveness or show support for someone else’s dreams.

Do it now.

Fritzi allowed me to laugh at myself, love my authenticity, smile while I change the world, and confront my own issues. She did it in life and will continue to do so. 

How will you be remembered?

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How Will You Be Remembered?

How Will You Be Remembered?

Last week, I had the opportunity to hear Vice President Joe Biden speak. He was here in Savannah at the Port in connection with the deepening of the harbor and expansion of the infrastructure.

His speech was rousing and insightful and I marveled at his ability to connect the work of people in Savannah to its importance for the world.

After his speech, he stepped down into the invitation only crowd to take pictures and say hello.

I decided to let him know that Delaware was there.

He turned towards me and I thanked him and told him I was from Delaware and he asked where. I told him Wilmington, and again he wanted to know where. I choked a bit and got up the nerve to tell him that I was from Gordon Street.

Gordon Street was more of an alley than a street. It had two houses, rows of lime green storage garages and a notorious motorcycle gang.

When I said Gordon Street, Vice President Biden blinked and squinted his eyes as if trying to remember something. I figured that he was not familiar with the street and so I explained that it was between 22nd and 23rd streets just off of Market.

He smiled and said, “I know exactly where that is, I was a life guard at Prices’ Run pool and I was the only white kid there.” I laughed and told him that we thought of him as the marshmallow in the chocolate.”

I knew that he had no way of knowing that I learned to swim at that pool when I was thrown in the deep end, but I wondered if he knew that Prices’ run pool was named by the community that lived there.
We all grew up hearing stories that the park was the place where a man named Mr. Price had run from a lynching mob. The area of the pool was where Mr. Price had been killed.

I didn’t say any of this to the Vice President. Instead, I told him about another old person who was gone but not forgotten.
 I told the Vice President of the United States of America that my mother was looking out for him from heaven. He asked me her name and I smiled and said Beatrice Berry.

 His face actually lit up as he proclaimed “Ms. B, I know her. She was an amazing woman.”

People in the crowd were transfixed as he recalled my mother. They wanted to know me, because of who she was.

My mom worked hard every day. She never made much money. She raised 7 children on her own, volunteered to help other seniors and did her best to make a difference.

When she died, she left no money or property, but the mention of her name made the Vice President of The United States smile brightly.

How will you be remembered?

Tomorrow and the rest of this week, I will share with you the legacy of dear friends and loved ones who have left a legacy.

Mom, take care of Fritzi.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Art of Living Week 37: Know Yourself

Know Yourself

Yesterday, I heard so many wonderful stories. Sierra Wilkinson Reyes told the story of the hidden spaces in her life. She pointed out that when we understand those hidden spaces, we come to understand our own self.

Michael White told the story of John Wesley the third Bishop of Christ Church in Savannah and also the founder of Sunday school throughout the world. When he began teaching his first class, Wesley noticed that three boys were missing from the class. He was told that the boys were embarrassed by the fact that they did not have any shoes. Wesley went to get the boys, but he took off his shoes first. From then on, he taught Sunday school without shoes.

I heard the story of how my friend Brynn met her husband and then I heard the story of how my friend Bernita drove from Lodowici, Georgia to Kent Ohio for graduate school.

In each of these stories, I could hear something of my own self. In each life, I found that I reclaimed a piece of my own; I had discovered one of my own hidden spaces.

Here’s the thing, we need to hear more stories. Within them lies the connection to our own path. We are wired for narrative and yet we spend so much time with sound bites and pieces.

We are in too much of a rush to listen to the whole story; we just want the facts; even if they are not true.

Yesterday, I was also reminded that within each life lies the entire cosmos. What if we listened long enough to see it? What if we cared enough to truly know.

In the Gospel of Thomas, (yes, another Gnostic Gospel) you will find this passage:

Jesus said, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty."

Be you, be well, be known

Bertice Berry, PhD.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Angels Among Us

Angels Among Us

I told myself that I wouldn’t write about this. This thing was to be kept to myself, for my own joy and inspiration.

There is a joy so profound that must be shared and this week I experienced it.

I had gone to Emmaus House to help feed hungry people. Emmaus House serves breakfast every weekday morning in the Parish House of Christ Church.

 I was told to come on Wednesday as the teams were already tight every other day.

“Knock on the side door and Ms. Frieda will let you in. She’ll give you an apron and put you to work.” I was told.

Once inside, Ms. Frieda flashed a smile that lit up the room. She moved rapidly and appeared to be floating to some music that I could not hear.

Others were introduced and everyone was warm but there was no chit-chat; polite or otherwise. There was only a focused drive to get food cooked and the tables set up and dressed.

Mr. Steve conducted in the dining room. He moved like a man in his twenties, though I knew he had to be older than me. He was fast and thorough and seemed to have been listening to the same frequency Ms. Frieda was tuned into.

I’m a vegetarian but the smells in that kitchen made me want to eat meat.

Once we had everything in place, the prep and cook teams came together to pray. I heard the prayer, but I felt the meaning even more.

 The prayer went forth for the hungry, the mentally ill and the drug addicts. It went forth for those who were hated and forgotten. We were reminded that we were to be the love of Christ in our actions and deeds. And I stood corrected knowing that I was a servant and those coming in were the royal guests.

Tears streamed down my face as I was reminded of something my mother would say; that those who walk by the hungry are guilty of stealing bread.

As folks came in to eat, I witnessed a miracle. Food had run out, but Ms. Frieda kept serving. She made sure that every plate had been wiped of any spills and the food was hot and plentiful.

When one pan was empty, she floated to the next. If something was gone, she added something else. She went out to greet the folks she called “our clients” and I was humbled and honored to be in her presence.

“She won’t turn anyone away.” Someone whispered. I followed her as she told me to pass out the cheese sandwiches she made from the morning’s left overs. “No one should be hungry in this great country,” she said.

As we cleaned up and prepped for the next serving, I realized that my foot that had been in pain the week before had not bothered me once. My worries for my children had gone and I knew that I had been touched by these beautiful folks.

I left with the understanding that we are all in this together. In fact, I felt that I had been the one who was hungry and in need.

I didn’t want to share this joy, but I am compelled to share whatever brings hope.

What can you do to meet an angel?

Be you, be well, be the love,

Bertice Berry, PhD.


Monday, September 9, 2013

The Art of Living Week 36: Embracing Change

Embracing Change

The only constant is change. We know this, we say it, we may even believe it, but we act as if we really can have our cake and eat it too. (The cake can’t exist and be eaten at the same time; or can it?)

What I’m trying to say is this; change is a fact of your life and if you want to enjoy this ride, you must embrace then change that comes with it.

Last week, I noticed that movies now advertise for television. I mentioned it to my children and they asked what I meant. I told them that not too long ago, you could find out about a new movie while watching TV. Now you find out about a new television show while at the movies.

This change was gradual but is now just one of the givens.

I began to wonder about the big shifts in my own life that have happened suddenly and unnoticed. I wondered about areas where the tables had been turned.

As if on cue, my daughter walked into my bedroom and looked around at the mess my suitcase had made when it popped itself open and dumped its contents all over my room.

“I raised you better than this,” she said mocking me. “We don’t live like this kid. I know you’re tired because I’m tired of saying it, but get up and get this mess up. An organized life is an organized mind.”

I told her that if I had a pebble she could take it and go. She looked at me in confusion and I tried to explain the TV show Kung Fu that starred David Carradine playing in the role of an Asian martial artist.

She laughed and told me to stop trying to make her laugh.

Big change is happening right under our very noses. Whether you see it or not, it’s happening.

Embrace the change because change has already embraced you.

Be you, be well, be changing.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Week 35 of The Art of Living: When Loved Ones Hurt and Hurt You

When Loved Ones Hurt and Hurt You

When I was growing up, my mother told me that if I did wrong, I would bring shame on the entire family. I tried my best to do the best that I could; to bring no shame to the Berry name.

I’ve told my children the same thing; that their missteps become those of our entire community, but I also tell them that their light becomes a light for the world.

This week, my son made a bad choice; I don’t need to go into the details of his story, suffice it to say it was hard, but could have been much worse.

I tried to do my best as a mother and guide. My son was born with fetal alcohol and crack addiction. His disabilities are not visible, but they are real. He has been with me since he was almost 2, but by then so much damage had been done.

I’ve never made excuses for my children, in fact, I hold them to rather high standards and for the most part, they have exceeded them.

Sometimes, they do not. This week, was one of those weeks.

I sat waiting in a situation I had not created and thought about parents and loved ones who are forced to do the same. I knew long ago that what you wear is not on me and yet I felt the pain of the situation too.

I centered myself and stepped away from the guilt that I tried to take on. As soon as I did, someone contacted me to point out how terrible this must have been.

“Not until you said so,” I told them.

We can’t just love our loved ones when it’s easy. We must love beyond. And yet when we do, we are often judged, for loving and caring too much and for letting someone get away with something.

When you love someone in trouble, still your heart and don’t be bothered by those who judge you. Still your heart again and remain loveable. Because those who have judged you will find themselves in need and you will be the one they have to call.

Be you, be well, be strong.

Bertice Berry, PhD.