I am truly humbled. The last two days were spent working our conference. Monday was all day. I mean all day – 8am to 11pm. I knew as soon as people started arriving and registering, the tenseness I was feeling would turn to joy. I melted once I started seeing people I met at last year’s conference and throughout the year as I was going around the state teaching. Their smiles and excitement were what the last few months of stress and preparation were all about. Many of the people who come to the conference don’t have much in the way of material possessions and can barely afford the $40 we charge. What they lack in tangibles, they more than overflow in heart and spirit.
I was blessed with all kinds of hugs, waves, and smiles as people arrived. I asked in earnest how they were doing. I know I could have received all manner of complaints and even a seemingly never-ending monologue about everything wrong in their life. What I got in return was enthusiasm. These are people that could easily complain about how they don’t have the money to pay for their medications and bills. How they not only have mental health problems, but physical ones as well. How life keeps hitting them with one problem after another and won’t let up. I got to spend a day and half with all these people that emanated positivity in the face of negativity.
One of the highlights was seeing a “kid” that I used to work with, who is no longer a kid. He’s an adult living on his own, working, and acknowledging what his limits are. I think we were both seeking each other out during some down time to catch up with each other. It’s amazing that after all the years that have passed, we fell into the same rapport and banter we had way back when.
I was reminded about gratitude during the Anger Management workshop I was teaching Monday afternoon. We were discussing positive self-talk ideas and one young man who came in late spoke up and said, “I think about everything I have that I’m grateful for.” How many of us can say we do that? How many of us can say we even think about that when we’re angry? I’ve been focusing on gratitude for the last year or so. I have so much that I’m grateful for. I’m thankful that I have what I have in order to be content and not desire more. What I have is so much more compared to many. But how many of you with money and material items can say you possess the heart and spirit of the people I was surrounded with? What would you do if you had to give up things you are used to in order to get by?
Our first Keynote Speaker regaled us with the tales of her cat in order to convey the message of the power of reframing. Reframing is an awesome tool. I find myself reframing all the time for myself and for others. I have quite a few friends and family who post “FML” statuses. I can understand venting and I’ve done it once or twice. However, some of these people do it repeatedly. One right after another. I don’t get it. I can’t wallow in self pity or whatever you want to call it. I just can’t spend my energy on that. I’d rather spend my time enjoying my life no matter what I’m faced with. Things that go wrong in my world become learning experiences, even if I don’t see what I’m learning in the moment. Reframing helps me focus on positives when I’m faced with negatives.
Our second Keynote Speaker was amazing. He spoke about achieving our dreams no matter where we are in our lives or what we have. I’m probably going to ruin this quote, but he kept saying, “Don’t let what others think of you determine your future.” He showed slides of people who started with nothing but a dream, and went on to succeed. He also reinforced the need to be around people who will support you in your dreams. This is something I’ve been doing the last few years. Not just for dreams, but for focusing on the positives. I want to be surrounded by people who are going to be positive, support me, and lift me up. In turn, I want to be the friend or family member that does the same for others.
We had a dance Monday night. I didn’t stay for the whole dance last year, but was ordered to stay until 11pm this year. Okay, maybe not order. It was important for my boss to have my face out there for everyone to get to know. At first I was at the door helping make sure people were getting tickets for the door prizes. Then, I was called to the dance floor by The Electric Slide. Yes. It called to me. It’s something that’s played back home at pretty much every wedding and major party that has a deejay. Imagine my horror when I was out there and couldn’t do it if you paid me. I knew I was doing it wrong and I had no one else to follow because they were doing it wrong, too! So what did I do? I stayed out there and kept going. I stayed on the floor for a few songs before sitting down and taking a breather. Before I knew it, one of the women, 53 years old, beckoned me to the dance floor. God love her. She was out there all night long and loving every minute of it! I had to keep taking breaks. Nothing like being out danced by a woman 15 years older than me.
Later, after calling my husband, the “Kid” literally took my hand and dragged me out. This was 10:30pm. He worked that floor and made me work it with him. I asked him where he learned to dance like that. His response, “Two years of ballroom dance.” I was blown away. The song turned out to be a nearly 30 minute mash-up remix and he told me when it was over, I was off the hook. Off the hook is what it was. I couldn’t believe all the dancing I had done on top of all the running around and taking the stairs I had done all day.
I went to bed that night the sorest ever. In fact, I think the pain was keeping me from sleep. My feet and legs were hurting! I wouldn’t have had it any other way though.
Tuesday was more running around and standing on my feet. I was trying to get a fork for a sweet woman I met back in January while we had another speaker at the end of breakfast. While I was making my way through the ballroom to find one of the serving staff, I kept getting stopped by people wanting hugs and to take pictures of me and with me. I could have easily blown them off, but I knew that it was important to them. Who am I to be that important to people who only see me a few times a year? I know I’m called to this work to serve not only the very people I spent the last 2 days with, but God, as well. So, getting recognition of any sort is just odd to me. I’m just doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing. Yet, I know these people don’t always have the supports in their lives.
I will go to bed tonight with memories of the last 2 days in my head, love in my heart, and dreams of how the world could be if we were all like these new friends of mine.