Sunday, February 28, 2010

Authentic Refinement

See the piece of silver in the middle of the hot coals....

No doubt it will become a brilliant beautiful piece of jewelry in due time.

I can't imagine reaching in there and pulling it out before it is ready. I am certain the blacksmith in charge is close by monitoring its progress and waiting for the precise moment to pull it out to reveal it's best beauty.

I love silver. You can find me wearing a piece every single day. But I digress.

Tomorrow begins the third month of the great year 2010.

I got to be honest with you - February was brutal. The weather. The climate at my main job. My intense drive that, at times, disrupted our family rhythm.

With 1/6 of the year gone, I could not be happier. Bring on the restoration and renewal that is promised with the month of March.

However, great things were birthed from this brutal month we say goodbye to at midnight...

For one - my idea, - a digital home for relational wellness where we will teach people to pro-actively take care of relationships in their lives, has held it's own in the Pepsi Refresh Everything Project voting. Out of a total 729 ideas - I have remained in the top ten health ideas for my $5,000 funding category throughout the voting period. As of right now - I am in fourth place for health ideas in that category and 27th overall in the $5k competition. That is incredible. I am proud and excited all at once. According to Pepsi Refresh Official Rules - the top 100 ideas that do not get funded in February roll over to March. That is great news and I am poised to keep my idea in the running for funding next month.

Two - an announcement tomorrow will solidify me as a leading marketing specialist in an area that is near and dear to my heart - the protection of Mother Earth. It is not often that you take part in something special at one company but to be able to take part in something special, at two separate companies in two different industries (manufacturing and retail) at two different eras in your career is well... remarkable.

It is very easy for us to focus on what didn't go well at any given time. Tonight, I am reflecting on the month of February that had me exercising diplomatic muscles I had no idea I had; a month that has presented obstacles that stretched my impatient pace into patience to go the extra five miles and converted my passion for "all things right" into a "hands in the air" surrender of all outcomes.

It is with great anticipation that I look to rest of the year. While February has kicked my butt several times and in several fashions - it has also honed me, shaped me and readied me for the next phase.

It is often stated that a blacksmith knows exactly how much time to hold his/her silver in the fire before it shines to its fullest. The process is known as refining. As a lover of silver - I don't question the blacksmith - I know that he/she has it covered. I just have to wait until its ready.

Just as I trust the blacksmith with silver - I trust my Maker with my life and my desires. If He decides that March will be similar to February - so be it- much was accomplished in the winter barren month of February. Like the silver in the picture above - I don't want to MESS with what is going on in my life and in my heart now as I press on toward my goals and objectives for 2010.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Real Life Black History in the Making.

Last Sunday Feb 7, I accepted an invitation to speak at St. James AME in Elgin to kick-off their Black History Month Celebration with a message on Community Advocacy. If I'm honest, it was a casual acceptance based on the fact that I sat next to Dr. Laveta Small at a community leader focus group back in December at Elgin Community College.

We were kindred spirits that night - practically finishing each other's sentences towards the end of the forum, even though we were a generation apart. We connected and vowed to keep in touch but as usual - life gets in the way and almost 7 weeks passed by before we would speak again. Of course, I would speak for Dr. Small. Not a question.

As part of the BHM celebrations - the church was honoring their seniors and hosting a guest speaker each week. I prepared a thoughtful 15 minute talk about how I approach Community Advocacy through my political career as an elected official. I did some online recognizance on the church and was impressed with its 129 year history in Elgin.

Nothing, however, prepared me for the experience I encountered upon entering the church that morning.

Upon entering this tiny church on the east side of Elgin, almost to Rt. 59, I was immediately overwhelmed by the warmth and wisdom of the people inside. The display in the lobby was a basic archive of Black History for our country and for the Elgin area. Then I saw the program for the day and realized - that I was THE speaker, the sermon, the MESSAGE. Before that moment, I was thinking I was just a speaker for the day and not necessarily delivering the message in place of the pastor - Reverend Francis Senyah, who I also met briefly at the ECC event. This terrified me. The sense of responsibility almost swallowed me up right there. Then, I glanced down at my prepared words... a calm overcame me. Instantly.

You see, I was speaking about how I use the lens of Micah 6:8 in all my political dealings. Paraphrased the best way to remember Micah 6:8 is this...

Act Justly, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly.

As I sat and listened to them talk about the heroes and s'heroes of their church - some of whom had been members for over 70 years. I was so humbled. Then Dr. Small introduced me and it really hit me. In my corner of the world, I am Black History in the making. I don't say that with any airs - I say it because it's true.

Right now, the movement that I am leading in our country (perhaps the world) on relational wellness and relational health will change the lives of many. As I spoke to this audience and literally declared to them that they will see me and this cause in the national health care debate really soon - it was as clear that what I am doing is so much bigger than me. By putting the word out there in the small church in Elgin - I started the public discourse on my desire, to enable all people to pro-actively care for the relationships in their lives.

At the end of the service as I shook hands with every person in attendance that day, I felt an enormous transfer of wisdom and leadership from these stalwarts of the community. Many of these people were pioneers in the Northwest Suburbs and members of families that were among the first blacks to settle in this area. Each one looked me in the eye and encouraged me in my movement. Every ounce of the strength and courage from the battles won before were transferred to me for the battle ahead.

While each person told me about how much I touched them - I was without words for what they had done for me. Even 10 days later, I have trouble pinpointing all the positive ways that experience at St. James AME has changed me.

Dr. Small said something the night we were at ECC to the effect that "we were not trying to make history then (upon describing her experience as the only black child in her elementary school in Elgin in the 1950s), we were just doing what we knew was right."

I know exactly what she means.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Authentically Good Idea - Vote Now!

Hard to believe that one year ago, I was asking the people of Lake in the Hills to vote for me to join the Village Board of Trustees. They heard, voted and I now represent them. Something tells me this time around it will be just a tad bit harder - but not impossible!

Voting opened at midnight at for the Pepsi Refresh Everything Project where Pepsi will award grants of $5 - 250K to bring ideas to life across six areas, health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, neighborhoods and education. Click here to vote for my project.

You've heard me ranting lately about my idea to start a movement to change the way we look at relationships; to enable all people to be relationally healthy. Well - the time has come for your help. My idea - RELATIONSHIPS MATTER NOW is up for vote in the health category and we need to end up in the top ten to secure the $5K grant by the end of February.


Great question, it's simple. We live on this planet interdependent on others. From a brief transactional relationship at the coffee counter to our co-workers where ever we choose to lend out talent to our deep and personal relationships, we all interact and co-habit this planet with others. And from the looks of the way we deal with one another (think current political climate, divorce rates, verbal intimidation in the workplace) - it is time for a change.

Relationships Matter Now will exist (with or without the Pepsi grant) to help people take proactive care of their relationships. We will raise visibility to the need for relational wellness in every one's life. Relational wellness is taking responsibility to proactively care for all relationships in your life. It's a two-fold proposition:

1. Self-awareness - we all need a true understanding of our own relational issues and needs.
2. Relationship skills - we all need to build the skills necessary to function in healthy relationships.

Out of the gate - we want to build the web home for Relationships Matter Now and get 50,000 people to pledge to work on their relationships. Over the next week you will be directed to a new blog to support this effort and it will live at I've got an awesome designer working on a logo and we are getting the pledge document created as we speak.

Clearly with the help from Pepsi - we can get this going sooner rather than later. Long term, Relational Wellness will be in the health care debate - it's not just about reactionary care - proactive care is critical - from all angles - physical, mental, spiritual and now, relational. There is a personal responsibility to this as well as a corporate one. Relationships Matter Now will lead this movement and we need your help.

Join me and vote for this idea to get one of the first Pepsi Refresh Everything Grants. Voting started at midnight and goes until February 28. Winners will be announced on March 1.