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Do you believe in GHOST?

I know what you were thinking. You were thinking this post was going to be about life-after-death-spirits. Maybe it is in a way. But not in THAT way.

Last week, my post was about TEDx Hilliard. I didn’t talk about one of the speakers: Matthew Carter. I purposely left him off the list of 5 +1 Amazing Things I learned.

The tone of that blog post wasn’t right for how Matthew made me feel. You see, he was sort of a ghost to me before he took the stage.

Oh, I’ve never met him, but I saw him milling around the Bradley High School commons before the event began. We were all filling eco-unfriendly black plastic plates with diet-unfriendly appetizers! Delicious appetizers.

My eyes scanned him but my brain didn’t register him. He’s a normal-looking black guy. My eyes never stopped.

Now the woman standing beside him? She made my gaze falter. You know that women wear make-up, dress, and accessorize for other women, don’t you? This young black woman succeeded!

I didn’t put her with him until he took the stage and pointed her out. What? She’s with him?

So, see? He should have been the inspiration behind the main character in Jason Reynolds’ novel Ghost! And he was…is.

He introduces himself as a superhero. By this time it didn’t surprise me. Clark Kent was a normal looking guy; so was Batman until George Clooney stepped in as the lead; so was Iron Man, the Hulk, the Arrow…I don’t need to go on.

And then Matthew Carter began talking about the trauma that turned him into this superhero. I won’t share the details. I’ll just tell you that it was shocking and I don’t know why.

I know at this stage of my life that black people in this country have never had it easy. NEVER. And STILL.

I know that single mothers have never had it easy. NEVER. And STILL.

I thought it had changed. I was under a delusional illusion that we had overcome our puritanical, racist background, thrown our arms wide open, trashed the judgmental bullshit with our Marlboro’s and DDT. But, you see, that was never true. Just because I can eat in a restaurant now without swallowing second-hand smoke does not mean there aren’t a dozen smokers in the back parking lot filling their bodies with carcinogens.

But I naively thought it did.

Naive isn’t the right word…stupid…that’s the right word.

Matthew Carter introduced himself as a superhero and made me believe that his was going to be a light-hearted story of self-actualization. It was…and it wasn’t. He, somehow…miraculously can make you smile but his story brought me to tears. There were times I’m sure my heart stopped, then skipped, then raced.

There was trauma all right…and drama…and maybe some dharma too. I think he’d agree with that last…because I think he’s found his purpose visiting schools and students and teachers and starring on TEDx stages.

He made a few good points, but the ones that transformed me on August 9, 2019 are these:

  • it’s important to share our discomfort with young people so that they understand it’s okay for them to share theirs with us.
  • it’s important to be ostentatious listeners because when we aren’t, we silence somebody’s truth.
  • it’s important to see the superhero in everyone, especially the person who hasn’t yet seen it in their own mirror.
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5 + 1 Amazing Things I learned at TEDx Hilliard

I learned 5 AMAZING Concepts at the Hilliard TEDx event on August 9, 2019:

  1. Social Media is like going on 50 First Dates. Not the movie, but actual first dates. Remember those? You kept your conversations to positive, superficial topics even though just that afternoon a colleague stole your biggest client which sent you down a deep, deep well of self-doubt! You wore Spanx under a dress that you bought at Saks 5th, because heaven-forbid anyone would discover you’re a REAL person.  Stefanie Jackson tells us in her refreshingly honest style how the never-ending first dates of social media are killing our FLOW! DO NOT MISS IT! Watch this TEDx talk AS SOON AS it’s posted online! (In 5 weeks.)
  2. Around-the-House Football is a thing! Maybe that wasn’t the big idea Brent Wise wanted me to come away with, but once you put your ideas out there, you no longer control them! What is around-the-house football? Instead of playing backyard football between the trees, young Brent and his friends incorporated the front AND backyard for their games which included over-the-roof passes and circular yardage. Get it? You don’t have to stick by any arbitrary rules of the game if they don’t fit your purpose. It’s just slightly possible I got stuck on the ‘around-the-house-football’ thing and missed the major point…you be the judge when you watch Brent Wise’s TEDx Hilliard talk online. It should be posted tomorrow next week in 5 weeks! 
  3. Data solves a lot of not-problems. Bill Balderaz listed a number of them: getting the make-up you ordered on-line quicker than driving to the store; finding website suggestions on your smartphone; seeing Facebook ads that fit the exact thing you were looking for next! These are fixes for not-problems, but Bill says the same data and algorithms can be used to predict and prevent urban blight, hunger all over the world, and the addiction crisis. How? you ask. Bill will tell you when you watch his TEDx talk …Statistics are showing that people want to see that now, but that 95% will wait the entire five weeks until it’s posted. 
  4. I should take an Improv Class! Again, that’s not the message that Mihaela Jekic was trying to send, but once your message is out there…  Mihaela’s message had more to do with using our humiliating experiences to transform ourselves into fearless critters who will try anything at least once. What does that have to do with Improv? Well, you’ll have to find out when Hilliard TEDx hits the web. And when will that be, you ask. IN ABOUT 5 WEEKS!
  5. Talent’s just another word for ‘work’. That’s what I learned from the youngest speaker on the TEDx stage, Elise Byard. That girl can sing! But beyond that…she can play piano while she’s singing! And beyond that…she can do both while remaining on tune, in rhythm, and error-free! And she says it’s because she doesn’t quit when it’s hard. Pshaw! She got ALL the talent, that’s all! You be the Idol Judge when you watch Elise on the TEDx Hilliard stage…when? IN FIVE MORE WEEKS! 

AND, (you should be hearing a drumroll) the PLUS ONE AMAZING THING I LEARNED AT TEDx HILLIARD:

Our math teachers lied to us!

Raj Shah’s talk on using video game principles to help children love math made me fall in love with math! If you want to know the secret lies that our math teachers told us…that’s right, you have to wait the requisite...5 weeks! 

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The People You Don’t See at TEDx

Behind the five, six, seven people who make it to a TEDx stage, there are hundreds who don’t. They don’t because they don’t audition…or because their audition wasn’t selected.maria-teneva-mo62s5dp0zg-unsplash

I don’t know all their stories, but I know ONE!

Vicky Harrison is a friend of mine. We have a brief history in the grand scheme of friendship, but one that I cherish. I’m sure I don’t have to say this out loud, but I will anyway. I LOVE TO READ!

So, when I moved 200 miles from my close friends and family to start a new job in the drug-addiction prevention arena, I wanted to make new friends. One of my colleagues gave me someone’s name. This person had a book club and he was sure I’d be welcomed with open arms, but the e-mail I sent her about the referral elicited a rejection e-mail response.

Apparently, this woman whom I had never met said that I wouldn’t feel comfortable and wouldn’t fit in.

In stepped Vicky Harrison, a school psychologist in the district I had just joined. She had only met me in passing but heard my story about looking for a book club where I might begin finding a tribe.

She didn’t hesitate to invite me to join hers.

That’s my friend Vicky. Her arms and her heart are always open. And I did find my tribe through her.

Fast forward 10 years and Vicky’s open heart was shattered by her oldest son’s heroin overdose. After she buried him, she buried herself in her new-found purpose: authoring Release Me, a book about her story, and preventing her son’s killer from murdering other young people.

(This is an affiliate link, so if you click and buy, you’ll be helping a not-starving artist while helping yourself! This won’t cost you any additional money.)

She created MOO: Mothers Opposing Opioids to address the opioid addiction issue in this country today.

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She speaks to addicts to tell them what her son’s addiction did to her life before and after his death.

She speaks to teachers alerting them to the signs of addiction and ways they can intervene.

She speaks to parents assuaging the shame they might feel with the truth about this epidemic: it’s an equal opportunity killer.

And she auditioned to speak to the TED audience through TEDx Hilliard.

She wanted to tell you that you don’t need to feel ashamed if you have a loved one with opioid addiction.

This killer stalks middle class, functional families with the same gusto as it stalks famously rich, quietly wealthy, lovingly pampering, abusively dysfunctional, or single-parent impoverished families. Vicky knows that shame is opioid’s murder accomplice. It prevents parents from getting the help they need for their children.

She felt the shame when Tyler began the spiral into addiction, but she didn’t allow it to stop her husband and her from reaching out to any and all who might help. They turned to professional chemical dependency counselors, to educators, to rehab facilities, and to psychotherapists.

I’m saddened that although some reached Tyler briefly, none were able to wrench him from the terribly sharp claws opioids unsheath to carry our children away from us.

But there ARE things we can do.

I know three families whose children have escaped. They did the same things Vicky and her husband did, yet something shifted for them.

I can’t explain why that is. There is no answer in karma, religion, medical science, or psychology.

Life’s events are inexplicable.

We don’t know why you’re 6’5″ tall and I’m 5″0.

We don’t know why some babies die and others with similar birth defects thrive.

We don’t know if Ayurvedic medicine prevents cancer or acupuncture speeds surgical recovery or mom’s chicken soup cures the common cold. But we throw it all against our health issues to give ourselves the best possible chance, don’t we?

And sometimes, the cold is gone by the next morning; and sometimes the cancer comes back.

Do you know why?  I don’t.

And I think my friend Vicky would say she doesn’t know why some kids beat opioids and some don’t, but she isn’t giving up the fight.

She isn’t giving up on your kid…that’s what her life is about.

And it’s why she auditioned for TEDx Hilliard.

Why wasn’t she chosen?

I don’t know. Maybe she should have had some homemade chicken soup? Gotten acupuncture? Tried an Ayurvedic tincture?

TEDx is wonderful, but sometimes they’re wrong.

So, I choose Vicky. No, this isn’t the TED stage. But it isn’t the stage that’s important…it’s the message. And Vicky’s message is one I choose to promote.

And maybe you will too. Because maybe you know someone who’s felt the impact of this pandemic either through their own struggle or the struggle of someone they love.

Maybe it’s your niece, your nephew, your sister or brother. Maybe it’s you.

Maybe you’ve been looking for someone with open arms and an open heart to join your tribe.

If so, I’d like you to meet my friend, Vicky Harrison.

And if it isn’t you, maybe you’d like to introduce our friend, Vicky Harrison to someone you know would like to meet her.

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