When I wrote Paying It Backward, I’m not sure I really expected some of the results I’ve experienced. Of course my hope was two-fold. First, I hoped that some descendants of a man who greatly impacted my life would know about it. Second, I wished that the story might inspire readers to consider how small actions can have big impacts.
I’m happy to report that I’ve heard from my bus driver friend’s son and some grandchildren and great-grandchildren! I’ve learned that Otis was born in 1899 in New Hampshire and moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1924. He operated trolley cars long before driving busses. It has been great fun to compare impressions and memories of him. The word “kindly” seems to be used often.
It seemed a bit odd to learn that Otis’s son is now 84 years old! Time does march on, I guess. And even stranger to realize that if he was still alive, Otis would now be 117.
One result of writing about the experience I didn’t expect is that the “Otis story” would become the apex of a presentation I would develop entitled, “Finding Dead Rainbows–where you stand makes a difference.” Initially, I was thinking that finding hope is often a matter of perspective–where we stand can make a difference in what we see. It was later that I realized Otis not only rescued me by letting me stand in front of the line; he also gave me hope.
Offering hope need not be complicated. I recently taught a class of adults and discovered one student who was my rainbow. Every time I looked her way, she was looking at me with a slight smile, clearly engaged and enjoying the learning experience. Anyone who has taught or spoke to groups knows how easy it is to focus on the person who has dozed off or is clearly not paying attention. But who can resist a rainbow?
After once telling the Otis story in a presentation, one listener approached me, admitting he almost cried. “Do you realize how different your life might have been if it were not for Otis?” he asked. I thought I did until he speculated, “You might have become a very different person… or in jail or maybe even dead.” My first reaction was that he was being a bit dramatic, but later I thought perhaps not.
A bully hurts. A bus driver helps. A smile makes a difference. We can decide what shapes our future. We can also help shape the future of others.
Spring’s just started, but the learning opportunities continue!
I’ve conducted my newest course offering on Suicide Awareness and Preventiontwice and the results have been rewarding and exciting! Not only have educational professionals attended, but students have included church employees, agency employees, and several who simply wanted the information for their own use—one attendee came all the way from Hermon!
My ego enjoys the ratings of the instructor and positive comments, but there are a couple of observations that are far more important. As a result of attending these two classes:
85% of participants either agreed or strongly agreed they feel more comfortable talking about suicide.
93% of participants either agreed or strongly agreed they feel more confident in their ability to recognize suicide warning signs and risk factors.
85% of participants feel better equipped to help someone who might seem suicidal.
Currently, there are two more classes scheduled:
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at the Penquis Higher Education Center in Dover Foxcroft, sponsored by PVAEC, 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Call 564-6525 for information and to register.
Thursday, April 14, 2016 at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, sponsored by RSU 19 Adult Education, 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. Call 368-3290 for information and to register.
Due to increasing requests for learning opportunities, RSU 19 Adult Education is adding a second wave of classes in late spring and this summer this year. By request, I’ll be developing and offering an overview course, The Why’s and Where’s of Blogging. The course is scheduled for Thursday, May 19 at Nokomis High school in Newport. We’ll also be offering the Substitute Teacher Course late in the summer.
Like it or not, texting has become a huge part of many people’s lives. At least one estimate I saw recently suggested that the average high school student sends about 300 texts in the course of a day! While some of us haven’t adjusted to this way of communicating, it is growing by leaps and bounds. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover an amazing person and an amazing resource that’s all about texting. The amazing person is Nancy Lubin. The amazing resource is the Crisis Text Line.
There are some similarities to the traditional Crisis Phone Lines, but there are also some amazing differences. The program has already handled nearly ten million text messages ranging from addiction to sexual abuse to suicidal thoughts. Anyone can send the simple message “go” (or “Hello” or “start”) to 741-741. It’s confidential, anonymous, and free. An automated response will ask about the crisis… and here’s where this gets really amazing. Thanks to data and algorithms, the response to the question will ensure that the text goes to a counselor trained to handle that specific type of crisis.
I discovered the Crisis Text Line while preparing for the upcoming classes I’ll be teaching. I also just learned that an agency in the area is sending some of their employees to one of those Suicide Awareness Classes and that’s encouraging! These classes are not just for school employees, nor do they demand or expect more than you can give. Just helping make information like the crisis text line available can be effect support to someone who’s troubled. (Information will be distributed during the class, but you can also access it at http://www.crisistextline.org/. There’s even a flyer you can post with the number to text as a tear off portion.)
Someone who may not want to talk may be very willing to text. Let’s get this number out and available: 741-741.
You can learn more about this incredible program and the woman who started it by watching her ten minute TED Talk. I’m comfortable guaranteeing you’ll be impressed!
Yes, this is about suicide prevention… but it’s also about mental health! Learn some of the signs that a person is troubled and how you can make a difference. You’ll also receive resources available and materials produced by the Maine Suicide Prevention Program. (Click the image to see a larger size.)
I’ve recently found myself referring people to this video, so I decided to make it easy to find by embedding it here! Please note I do not see this as a political issue–I see it as a social, and in many cases, personal issue. Bear in mind also, any attempt to summarize a complex issue in a five-minute video is going to suffer from over-simplification and omission. The point is not to convince; the point is to get you thinking! (I’m not sure I agree with everything presented, but we’ll leave that for another day!)
Walter Boomsma (“Mr. Boomsma”) writes on a wide array of topics including personal development, teaching and learning. Course information is also available here!