Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Revolution of Small Kindness

©Linda Goodman, May 16, 2017

Just when I had decided that the world was going to hell in a hand basket, a flock of earth angels convinced me that there was still hope. A few days ago, I threw on a tee shirt and a pair of  jeans and went to the Belk in Lancaster, South Carolina to exchange am ill-fitting bathing suit.

Once the transaction was complete I walked out to my car, only to find that my car key was missing. I went back inside and starting rummaging through my purse, but no luck.

A woman nearby noticed me and asked, "Is everything okay?"

I shared my dilemma with her, and she began helping me look for my key. Others saw us and joined in the hunt. There were about six ladies checking every nook and cranny in the store. Still no luck.

 Finally, one woman said, "Empty your purse."

"I have already done that three times," I told her.

"Do it again," she insisted.

In this case, the fourth time was the charm. I found the key hiding behind my checkbook.

I thanked everyone profusely, and they all said they were glad to have been of help. The woman who told me to check my purse again recommended that I get a bigger key fob.

As I walked to my car with my key, I noticed a policeman approaching me. "Uh-oh," I said to myself. "What did I do now?"

The smiling policeman said to me, "Are you the lady who lost her keys?"

I confessed that I was.

"My wife called me on the phone and told me to get over here and help you out," he announced.

"Voila!" I exclaimed as I showed him my key."But thank you so much for coming to my rescue."

As he walked away, he hollered back to me, "Great tee shirt!"

I looked down at my lime green tee shirt, which I had thrown on without taking notice of the message on the front, and read, "I am a volunteer in a revolution of small kindness," followed by a quote from Stephen Grelet, "I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; Let me do it now."
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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Reading Lesson

© Linda Goodman, April 2017

                In 2012, my friend Les and I, under the auspices of the Virginia Storytelling Alliance (VASA), started a story club for kids at a downtown branch of the Richmond Public Library.

We had about eight storytellers in the group, ages two through fourteen.  Les was truly gifted when it came to keeping the attention of this diverse group. The toddlers enjoyed him as much as the teens did. Surprisingly, they all wanted to tell stories.

Of course, it took a few warm up exercises to get the kids loose enough to share with abandon each week. Les had a multitude of such exercises in his belt.

One afternoon, Les told me that he had a reading exercise for them. Each child would be given a piece of paper with a sentence or two written on it.  Each sentence was another step into the main event, a story. 

“Wait a minute, Les,” I warned him. “Joey (not his real name) doesn’t know how to read.”

“I will take that into consideration,” he replied. I breathed a sigh of relief.

The strips of paper were distributed. The exercise began. Students were eager to see how their sentences connected with others. One by one the sentences were eagerly read, until, finally, it was Joey’s turn.

Joey glanced quickly from side to side, and then focused on Les, who was not being sympathetic as he stood waiting for Joey’s contribution to the story. “Well, Joey?” he inquired as he patiently waited. “Go on.”

The look of shame on Joey’s face was heartbreaking. “I don’t read,” he said.

“Joey, you can do it. I know you can. Now read the sentence.”  Les gently insisted

Joey held the paper closer to his eyes and read, “Out ….in….the…barn….” It took him two minutes to read a sentence that should have taken no more than 30 seconds. Les did nothing to hurry him along, just continued to patiently wait until the entire sentence had been read.  Watching this ordeal was agonizing. Joey’s shame and discomfort were palpable. After finally getting the job done, he crumpled up his slip of paper and tossed it into the garbage can.

“Oh, Les,” I thought to myself. “How could you? This was a child who worked hard each and every day just to keep his head above water. Why would you subject him to this humiliation?”

Les stood up from his chair, walked over to Joey, and shook his hand.

“Joey, you are my hero,” he said. “This was an easy exercise for most of the class, but it was hard for you. But you stuck it out in front of everyone until you got the job done. You are the bravest boy I know.”

How beautiful to see the various emotions parade across Joey’s face: confusion, anxiety, relief, happiness, and pride.

I learned three things from Les that day: (1) do not excuse a child from a difficult task. The world is a hard taskmaster that does not cut breaks. A child must be taught to accept challenges. (2) The child who makes the attempt to succeed in spite of possible humiliation deserves to be acknowledged for his courage in trying. (3) Children don’t want to be treated like babies. They want to be taught how to gain confidence.

I left Richmond at the end of 2012. Les and the story club, now called the Story Warriors, continue to work on stories and have been included in numerous conferences and festivals. I hear they are looking for some new members. If you live in the Richmond area, you might want to check them out.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Do Something

March's blog was written by my daughter, Melanie, and addresses the needs of  "functioning" sick people. Melanie has chronic neurological Lyme disease and knows where of she speaks. Melanie presented this as a speech for Toastmasters and won 3rd place in their International Speaking Contest.

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(c)March 2017 Melanie Goodman Deal

I can change the world, with my own two hands

Make a better place, with my own two hands
Make a kinder place, oh with my, oh with my own two hands
With my own, with my own two hands

~~ from “With My Own Two Hands”, by Ben Harper

Let me ask you something.What does it take before you will do something for someone else? If you knew it didn’t have to be something big, like money, or even a huge amount of your time, would it change your answer in any way? How many of you are thinking, “Well…it depends.”?

A couple of months ago, I was listening to a storytelling podcast called “The Moth” and heard the story “Luminaria” by Denise Scheurmann. This story centers around the time when she was 15 years old. Her dad was terminally ill and in the hospital during the holiday season. As you can probably imagine, she, her mother, and her brother were consumed with everything they were having to deal with. They felt alone, and the holidays were not on their minds AT ALL. As they were coming home from the hospital on Christmas Eve, they noticed as they entered their neighborhood that the luminarias were lit. It was a tradition in their neighborhood to light them each year and place them along their driveways and sidewalks to welcome in Christmas. They thought, “Our house will be the only one not lit up”, and that just got them even more down. But as they drove up to their house, they saw that their luminarias were lit. An anonymous neighbor (or neighbors…they never did find out) had decided to do something for this family to make sure they felt included in the neighborhood tradition.

That may seem like a small thing, but to this family, it meant the world. Denise said it made them realize they were not alone, and that people cared. In fact, she said that years later, when she was going through a divorce, remembering what her neighbors had done all those years ago helped her get through many dark moments.

Denise’s story resonated with me, because it made me think of my own story a bit. For those of you who may not know, I was diagnosed with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease in late 2012. That diagnosis came after more than a year of knowing that SOMETHING was wrong with me, but not knowing exactly what.I spent thousands of dollars on tests that showed nothing definitive. I thought I was crazy because many doctors told me it was all in my head or was just due to “stress”. I lost many important people in my life because they couldn’t deal with me talking about it so much and thought I was just looking for attention. During that time, and many times since, I’ve often felt alone. Lyme Disease has taken over my life.

However, God has amazing timing. He has placed several people in my path who have done for me what Denise’s neighbors did for her on that long ago Christmas Eve. They’ve made my world a better place, and they probably don’t even realize they’ve done anything at all.

I’m what you call a “functioning” sick person. You might be asking, “What does that mean?” Well, I go to my job, and I take care of myself and my family most days. I even exercise pretty regularly.Most people don’t even realize I’m sick. I don’t LOOK sick.Many people think, “If she’s REALLY sick, then shouldn’t she be in a wheelchair or something?” People don’t have a clue how to deal with someone like me. They don’t understand how many things I love that I’ve had to give up in order to “function” and make it through each day without being a burden. It can be pretty lonely.

In hopes of finding anything that could help me make sense of what I was dealing with both physically and emotionally, I stumbled across a blog called My Color is Lyme, written by a woman named Jennifer. Her post, Confessions of a “Functioning Lymie”, brought me to tears. It was like I wrote that post! The whole time I was reading, I was nodding my head in agreement, exclaiming, “Yes…YES! That’s it, exactly!” Like me, Jennifer struggled with various health issues for a long time before finally getting a diagnosis. Like me, she “functions” by being able to continue going to work each day and taking care of herself and her pets. And, like me, many people in her life walked away because they assume she is fine and should stop complaining.

People suffering, but “functioning”, like Jennifer and I, don’t usually feel comfortable putting their stories out there for the world to see, because they’re afraid of backlash and more abandonment. But Jennifer decided to do something, and by sharing her story, she has given me (and I’m sure many others) a bit of hope. She had the courage to put into words what I was unable (or, if I’m being honest, unwilling) to.

You never know who might be going through a tough time.There have been others who, like Jennifer, have made me feel less alone. Sometimes simply asking, “Is there anything I can do?” is enough.

Think back to Denise’s story.It probably took all of 5 minutes to light those luminarias. No big deal. But what WAS a big deal was those neighbors decided to do something; a something that meant the world to this family, giving them a bit of happiness not just for that evening, but for a lifetime. To this day, that small gift is still giving Denise some comfort.

At the end of her story, Denise challenged her audience to write their names and numbers down and give it to someone right then and there, as a reminder that they are never alone. How powerful is THAT? Another example of something that seems like a small thing to do. But imagine how it would feel to someone who is going through a tough time, someone who feels like they’re all alone in the world…imagine how seeing that little note from you might be what is needed to lift them up and remind them that someone cared enough to do something.

Author Samuel Johnson said, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” I ask you to think about that for a minute. What is the something that YOU can do to make the world a better, kinder place…with your own two hands?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lost Love

(c)Linda Goodman 1981

I thought he was my savior, but his feet were made of clay.
I sacrificed my soul to him, but still he would not stay.
I cried for days unending
(Could it be to drown my loss?)
For my youth had vanished with him.
And my grief had dulled life's gloss.

I healed with time's slow passage. I began to undertake
Life's burdens by myself alone; my own decisions make.
Through lonely days and tear-filled nights
I came to realize
That happiness is not a gift.
It must come from inside.

I see my love at parties now. I can't believe the change,
For though I'm wise and worldly now, he has remained the same.
We say hello. We say goodbye.
We walk our separate paths.
He never was my savior.
My mended heart holds fast.

Note from Linda Goodman: I wrote this poem in 1981, and I have never liked the last line. Can anyone suggest a better one?

Sunday, January 8, 2017


©Linda Goodman 1/8/17

                On January 1, 2000 I decided to make a New Year’s resolution. For the past several years, I had been having a problem with gossip.  I listened to it, I spread it – it was like living in my own personal soap opera. I was addicted to gossip. Once I realized the depravity of my addiction, I decided I needed to take serious action right away or I would be lost in moral turpitude forever.

                Hence the resolution.  I knew, however, that making the resolution, no matter how deep my resolve, would not be enough by itself for me to make this change. I needed reinforcement, and so I decided to pray, “Dear Lord, I don’t want my tongue to continue on its destructive path. I cannot control it alone. Please help me to conquer this problem.”

                It worked. Whenever I started to listen to gossip, something would happen (a call from a potential gig, for instance), and I would have to leave before the gist of the gossip was clear. Whenever I started to spread gossip, the intervention was on a greater scale. I would turn around and the person I was gossiping about would be standing right behind me.  Or I would have a coughing fit before I got to the good stuff.  Once, a fly flew into my mouth.  Sometimes I would forget what I was saying, in the middle of a sentence.

                But the granddaddy of all gossip squashers was an email that I sent to a friend who planned to visit Virginia. She had contacted me to ask if I might be able to help her find some storytelling work in the Richmond area, where I lived at the time.

                I replied that Richmond was not the hotbed of storytelling that New England (my friend lived in Massachusetts) was. “I hear that Richmond storytellers tend to recite more that tell,” I told her. “That is what the local public thinks when it hears the word storytelling. Nobody wants to pay to hear a recitation.”

                How I wish that there had been an intervention to stop me from sending that email!  I think God must have decided that I needed to be put in my place.  Several days after I replied to my friend, I received an email from Pete Houston, president of the Virginia Storytelling Alliance (VASA), saying, “Well, that was some epistle you sent out.  I imagine that you’ve gotten quite a few angry responses to that.”

                I had no idea what he was talking about. He explained that he was talking about my response to my friend from New England.

                “How did you get that,” I asked.

                “Everybody in the storytelling alliance got it,” he answered. “You must have sent it using the reply all key.”  I knew I had not done that. My friend’s email address was the only one to which my reply went. I checked. The email Pete had received, however, showed the email addresses of all the storytellers in VASA in the copy space. Even though I hit reply (not reply all), instead of going to just my friend, it somehow went to every storyteller in central Virginia.

                I did indeed get numerous responses from the recipients of that email. I was so ashamed that I did not open them for several weeks. When I finally did open them, I was dumbstruck. I had sent an email based on something I had heard about, not witnessed.  Not even one of those wonderful storytellers, however, took me to task for my mean sentiments and my carelessness. Instead, they said that I just needed to get to know the Virginia storytelling community better. They invited me to their guild meetings. They called just to chat so that we could get to know one another better. A storytelling theater in Richmond even invited me to become one of its members. I got involved with VASA and heard stories that sent chills up and down my spine, that made me laugh, and that touched my heart. Virginia storytellers are indeed as good as any I have ever heard. What impressed more than that, though, was how they were so willing and quick to forgive me.

                Just before I moved away from Virginia in 2013, I ran across another storyteller who was relocating to the Richmond area. “I am not real happy about this move,” she said.” I hear these Virginia storytellers are not that good.”

                “That is simply not true,” I told her. “You just have not seen enough of them to realize how wonderful they are. They are talented and skilled and delightful. More than that, they are generous, kind, and they cut you some slack when you make a mistake.

                I did not break that resolution again (well, maybe once or twice) for the remainder of that year. In fact, I am making that same resolution again – now.