For many years Local 12’s Troubleshooter Howard Ain was the problem solver for thousands – those he assisted first hand and many more who benefited from his advocacy through watching his television segments.
And, as it goes in life, you never know when your role will change from the giver to the recipient. You may have heard by now that Howard was battling a chronic kidney disease, and like millions of others across the United States, he was in need of a kidney transplant. (A close friend of mine is among those millions too, and also received a kidney transnplant.) It was only the end of June when his story became widespread news via his longtime employer and just like that, those people who benefited from his work wanted to help.
Many were tested to see if they were a match. Ultimately, his living donor was a producer whose Local 12 newscasts shared his stories for all those years. I’ve known Anita Bray Farrell for a while through social media. I’ve seen her big heart toward animals. Now her generosity has saved a human life, the life of a respected and dear colleague – and friend.
In a news story on Local 12, I saw this conversation:
“Hard to believe that I could get my life back,” said Howard.
“The more I thought about it, he’s helped a lot of people, for decades, literally I think he’s saved some people from financial ruin, and I wanted to pay it back a little bit,” said Anita.
“My biggest fear is that there would be a complication for Howard, not for me,” said Anita.
“I’ve known Anita for years, she is a woman of uncommon grace,” said Howard.
Howard has a little bit of that fear, too, but what do you say to a person that saves your life? (from Liz Bonis)
“You know what she said to me? Because you know, the producers are always saying ‘can I give it a little bit more time, a little more time, my story is going to run a little long’ while she said it’s the first time a producer has ever given a reporter more time, okay I’ll give you more time and it’s not minutes, it’s years,” said Howard.
There is a lesson in here for all of us.
When I spoke with Anita, this is what she told me, “If you are healthy, I would definitely encourage people to do it. It is some time off work, some pain, the testing process is involved but something to consider. Is well worth it to save a life and give something back.”
To learn more about being a kidney donor, please visit this link for the National Kidney Foundation.
Before Labor Day, my Toast of the Town Toastmasters Club lost one of our dearest members. Several years after her first meeting, after having served as our Club’s VP of Education (the most time intensive of our Board positions), inspiring and uplifting us with her humorous and thoughtful speeches, critiques, and leadership, she gave us her last farewell speech. Margo accepted a dream job for herself, working downtown for Macy’s – which means our Kenwood lunch time meetings no longer fit into her schedule. Margo’s speech was about transitions. As could be expected, it was insightful and powerful. Its messages are ones we all can learn from and live by. I recorded it and am sharing the transcript below.
Transitions by Margo Hess
One of the things that I have taken away from my 2 years at Centennial Inc. is that we are always in a time of transition. Think about that.
You are always either in transition or thinking about what is next. How many of you can say that where I am today is definitely where I will be next year – whether it be personally, professionally or whatever financial goals you have?
It is a big transition for me but it is a time of transition for everyone in this room.
About a year and a half year ago I came to my first Toastmasters meeting at the arm of Becky. She said you are going to go to this meeting and it is going to be good for you. And I sat in the back. She made me put my name in for table topics. I groaned. At the first meeting, guess what happens, I got picked.
Now here we are and it is my 10th speech. That in itself is transition.
Transitions can be bitter sweet. There is the excitement of something new, what is next, who am I going to meet, what am I going to do, what am I going to accomplish. But there is this sad part. The ‘this is my last time I am going to do this or the other. Or the last time I will see this person on a regular basis. The last time I will pull into this parking spot. Even the last time I will likely be at this meeting.’ Those are the sad parts.
Through it all, you have to remember that it is ok to be sad. And it is ok to be glad. Things change for a reason.
So it is during those times of transition when you need to focus on a few simple rules:
Think about what and who got you here. For me personally, there is a long list. My family, my grad school mentor, my college friends who kept a light even when I was unsure. We all need those people. But I think it is not enough to reflect on those people. I think you need to thank those people and let them know they inspired you. And let them know they mattered. And then take it a step further and see if you can inspire them back. Also think about where do you come from, what got you here.
This next opportunity is a passion for me. It is a mix of things. It is everything I have learned at Centennial. It is the start of me as a celebrity at the Old Navy through a weekend sales person at Bath and Body to a manager. The marriage of those things. It is the use of my masters degree.
It seems like it is one big jump but it is made up of a lot of little steps. Transition is just a big goal that is divided into chunks. It is the what and the where and the people that got you there.
I think that is the sad part .It is sad and happy at the same time because you are thinking about the people that matter to you and you are thinking about the sequence of events that got you there, all the random lunches with your work family, all the nights with your friends, and all the work in between.
And that is ok. You are supposed to think about that. Because it matters and you are supposed to feel thankful for that.
But there is the second part to that. It is ok to be sentimental. You should also be really excited. It is ok to move on and it is ok to move forward because it is not like you are just disappearing off the face of the earth. Especially in this day and age. You can communicate with anyone.
Just because you move on, that does not mean that you lose those people. Instead, it is time to connect with the new people whether it be bonding over cooking, couponing or alligators at the zoo, it is connecting.
You are keeping your old friends and making new friends. Connecting over common interests and realizing that the next step is here and you can do it. You have taken all these steps, all these people, these places and you are ready.
Be excited. Be sad. It’s ok.
Finally, it is realizing it will not be your last transition. So be sad. Have your last lunch. Know there will be another last lunch and another first lunch. And then another last and another first. And enjoy all that because that is what is going to make you who you are. If you can take that and share that with others, then maybe transition won’t always be so scary. Maybe transition is a good thing. Maybe it allows other people to step up to the plate and be there best.
I encourage all of you to think about your personal transitions, where you are today, and what got you there; and where you want to be tomorrow and what will get you there. Say thank you to those who helped you, help someone else, and just have fun and laugh a lot because life is too short not too.
And to Margo, I want to say thank YOU for pushing me to keep scheduling my speeches, for your encouraging words and smiles, for your laughter and your insight….for just being you! I, and all of us at Toast of the Town will miss you!
I met Megan Mitchell for the first time one morning when I had stopped by their newsroom earlier this year to talk about the 2017 ReelAbilities Film Festival. I had asked for suggestions of news staff who may be interested in helping to emcee our screenings, and was pointed in the direction of their newest news anchor.
They say first impressions are so telling when it comes to making judgements about people. And I will always remember how that first conversation began Megan and myself. She was sitting at her desk, turning her attention to me as soon as I sat down. She had this incredible enthusiasm about herself that infectiously made my energy soar. As I spoke about the Festival, her eyes seemed to have a sparkle. “Oh, I know her. I LOVE that show! Wow, I saw her on Broadway!,” where among her comments when the names of our VIP guests came up.
Megan not only emceed a screening for us this year, she also co-hosted our Kick Off Party, and arrived early at the Festival to conduct Red Carpet interviews with two of the stars she admired most.
Having her in your presence just makes that moment and that day so much fun. And that attitude about life is so very genuine. Clearly Megan has a huge heart. a huge appreciation for her relationships, and a deep passion for telling the stories of those whose stories need to be told with dignity and respect.
It is all those qualities that have made her a such a popular news anchor. Originally from Brookfield, Connecticut, Megan interned at MSNBC and MTV in New York City during college. She is a proud alum of Emerson College where she received an AP Award for Best Documentary for a half-hour show she executive produced on the Primetime Emmy Awards, and an EVVY Award for Best Television Personality. From there she has gone on to win numerous other awards, and her most recent (and probably most proud) award was First Place our of every local news station in the country (major markets included) by the National Association of LGBTQ journalists for a documentary she made with Cliff Naylor on Two Spirit and/or LGBTQ Native Americans. She and Cliff also received 1st place in the Eric Sevareid Awards and the Associated Press – Great Plains Awards for that documentary, which, is important to mention, they created on their OWN time, without compensation because they felt so strongly that the story needed to be told.
“Two Spirits” is a documentary that examines how a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage did not settle the contentious subject for sovereign nations. Tribal courts are not affected by the ruling. Eleven Native American tribes, including the two largest, the Navajo and Cherokee Nations, still prohibit gay marriage. Only a dozen of the 566 recognized Indian nations recognize same-sex marriage. None of the four tribes in North Dakota issue same-sex marriage licenses. “Two Spirits” examines how Native American attitudes on marriage have evolved, how the topic continues to divide reservations, and the tragic consequences, such as suicide, that result because the issue is still unresolved for Native people.
(You can watch the documentary here: https://youtu.be/eaIWR27sg1c).
When I asked Megan what makes her the most proud of her work on that documentary, she told me, “I feel proud of the Two Spirit documentary because it was a true showcase of why I got into the news business and the work I want to do through storytelling. I always hope I can give a platform to the subjects and allow them to tell their own story, as opposed to me taking their voice from them. And I feel the documentary does that well.”
Let’s get to know a little more about Megan.
Lisa: That documentary was so important to you, and giving a platform to difference. Why is that important to you?
Megan: It is great to celebrate difference. I love being different, it makes me, me. We don’t all think alike but that is the beauty of it. Being different provides a bit of empathy because you learn that things are not just one way, and your heart grows as you learn you can love and be loves as truly you.
Lisa: And this is what makes you such a real journalist.
Megan: My favorite part of my job is being able to strip away the layers to see everyone as human beings. I feel like the best way to tell a story is by providing a voice for each side. If there is one that is not as heard or not as privileged, it is important to raise those voices and be heard equally. We tend to dehumanize people we see as different from ourselves so that human connection can make you see someone as you see yourself. When I talk to people, I get to hear a side that not everyone does, which is so valuable.
Lisa: You are someone with such a positive outlook. Where does that come from?
Megan: My parents. My mom was literally a cheerleader growing up. All she wants to do is look at everything in the best light. Whenever something bad happened to us, she would tell us, “This too shall pass. We’ll laugh about this someday.” You know, she was right.
My dad too was always like, “keep moving forward.” I look back at baby videos of myself and my parents were so animated. They sounded like they were talking to a baby puppy. That is why I am an animated person because they were so excited they had a kid.
Lisa: I love this photo of you. Please tell me why this is so special to you.
Megan: I was traveling the California coast on the Pacific Coast Highway and was in Big Sur for this photo. I find so much beauty in nature. I think all of us want to feel like we’re a part of something bigger and greater, and I feel at home when I am reminded I am an inhabitant of this Earth. I even believe I said to my best friend in this photo “I feel so comfy and cozy right now.” Beautiful scenes like this remind me how we are all connected to our planet and each other. That’s why I love to travel. To remind myself with all the bad news out there, there is always something greater that connects us all and we’re living in it.
You may find them dancing, sightseeing, hiking, tending to vegetables in a garden, or volunteering their time. One day they may be exploring Fort Ancient, the next they may be touring one of the local waterways on a pontoon boat. One day they may be sorting items at Matthew 25: Ministries, and another day you may find them giving of their time to a different organization. They may be checking out the butterflies at Krohn Convservatory, exploring one of Cincinnati’s parks, or learning about history or art in one of our area museums. Or they may be in the kitchen practicing their cooking skills.
One thing is for certain, the adults who participate in LADD (Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled)’s Community Connections Program are living fuller lives. They are surrounded by friends and a supportive network. They are learning more about this great region that all of us share.
LADD’s Community Connections is the only non-facilities based program of its kind in Cincinnati. In groups of 3 to 5 adults with developmental disabilities, participants choose places in our area to explore with one of LADD’s social guides. The Program reduces isolation and also provides an opportunity for participants to learn and strengthen life and communication skills, build confidence through decision making, and explore their own likes and dislikes.
Melissa Caywood once told me that, “Without it, I would be doing nothing. Community Connections keeps me busy and I like to be busy.”
Faith Maynard is program manager for LADD. “Part of this process of advocacy is taking stock of who they are – and what they want to accomplish by exploring what they like and don’t like in the world,” she explained.
I love that whole idea. In my work with the organization, getting an opportunity to tag along with one of the groups makes my whole week. These adults have become my friends. When they smile, I smile. When they they tell me about how their making a difference makes them feel good, it makes me feel good too. When I see the interaction between staff and participants, I am reminded of what working with heart is all about. When I see them out in the community, doing what all of us have a right to be doing, I think this is just as it should be.
Community Connections is about so much more than just an activity to occupy a day. It is about relationships being built and strengthened. It is about people who deserve to be included and valued, being included and valued.
One of the groups recently gathered at the Contemporary Arts Center to create handmade birthday cards for children at St. Joseph Orphanage. A few visitors of the CAC stopped by to help. Each card was personalized with stickers, drawings and messages.
“Our kids that stay with us love to receive cards to display in their rooms. Oftentimes they are in the custody of children services and the cards received from caring card pals will be the only cards they get. Knowing someone in the community cares enough to make a card helps them feel valued and special. Thank you LADD!,” Lisa Caminiti, community relations/volunteer coordinator for St. Joseph Orphanage told me.
And how did Community Connections participants feel about their gifts?
“I think it is going to make the kids feel good and it makes me feel good to do that,” Trip Huggins told me.
“It makes me happy to make the cards because I know I am helping someone,” Erin McDermott said.
There is something so uplifting about seeing the beautiful heart of a little child who already at a very young age knows and appreciates what it means to be kind to others. And behind that child is very likely adult role models from whom those values have been instilled.
Just recently they delivered filled boxes to Adopt a Book, a local nonprofit organization run by two teens and their mother, to be given to other young people without the means to buy their own books. It was an incredible gift; but what makes it even more so is the story behind that delivery.
It all began when plans were underway for Eva’s third birthday party. Kristin and Tim came up with the idea of asking guests to each bring a book or two toward the collection. It seemed like a perfect age and a perfect opportunity to be teaching their daughter a lesson in giving back.
Eva and her mom made a banner to hang above the donation spot, and thank you notes for their friends who pitched in. “Our hope was to collect 50 books or so. Given that we only had about a dozen families coming, we thought that was an ambitious but still reasonable goal to achieve,” Kristin told me. “We were blown away by their generosity. We collected nearly 230 books!”
And that wasn’t all. Eva and her mom spent an afternoon painting lots of pieces of card stock, transforming them with brilliant hues into bookmarks that would become part of their donation. “Eva picked her colors carefully and told everyone she talked to for the next week about how she got to make bookmarks for kids who don’t have books,” Kristin said.
Below is more of my conversation with Kristin.
Lisa: What are some of Eva’s qualities that you would like to share with us?
Kristin: Eva is an amazing littler person! She can be shy and slow to warm-up to people, but once you’ve made it into her inner circle, she will do whatever she can to let you know how special you are. She is very smart and stubborn. It amazes me how well she already knows her own mind at only three years old. There are so many things I could tell you about her, but it’s her kind and loving heart that I love most!
Lisa: Explain how this whole idea came about?
Kristin: My husband and I have always hoped to instill a sense of community and a spirit of giving in any children we have. We’ve both always made it a priority in our own lives to give back and serve our community when we can, and have both had wonderful examples of that in our own parents. Eva is at an age where she’s really excited about being “a big helper”. As she develops her own individuality, she is learning to be more independent. That newly discovered independence combined with her big heart make her incredibly eager to help others in whatever small ways she can.
As we are seeing this side of her personality develop, we thought she might be at a good age to show her ways we can be involved in our community and help others, so we decided to invite guests to her birthday party to bring a donation of some sort instead of gifts. We wanted to pick an organization we felt represented Eva’s interests, and something she could be excited about. Since she loves books and reading so much, we started looking for organizations that serve children and somehow foster learning, literacy, and a love of reading.
Lisa: Does Eva understand why she did it?
Kristin: We decided on Adopt a Book a couple months before the party, which gave us lots of time to talk about it and help her understand what we were trying to do. Because she has such a giving spirit, she understood pretty quickly and was excited about the idea of it. When we went shopping for books to donate, she helped pick most of them out. She tried to pick books and characters she knows her friends like because she thought other kids might like them too. When the party came, I heard her telling several people that we were going to take all of the books to kids who don’t have books of their own, which was pretty cool.
Lisa: As a parent, I bet you are very proud of her.
Kristin: Leading up to her party and after we collected all of the books, I was just so amazed by how much Eva understood our goal and how excited she was by it! I really wasn’t sure she would get it, and figured that this year it was more my husband’s and my project, and maybe next year she could be more involved. Boy was I wrong! From choosing the books we donated, to explaining our goal, to making the bookmarks…she was involved every step of the way!
The moment that really got me was after her party. We were opening the handful of gifts she’d gotten, and a few people had gotten her books in addition to the books they donated. As we’re sitting there looking at the books, she picked up a couple of them and took them to table of donated books. When we told her she could keep those books, she said “I know. I have lots of books. Kids who don’t have books can have these.” And they were pretty cool books!
For her to decide, completely on her own, to give away birthday presents she liked and would enjoy simply because she thought other kids needed them more was really amazing to me. It’s a side of her I know we will get to see a lot more of, and I think we have a new birthday tradition!
Last night, I asked Kristin to talk with her daughter about the meaning of their actions. She shared with me how it went.
Eva explained that the reason they collected books was, “because I like reading books and I want them (other kids) to like reading books too.”
The rest of Eva and her mom’s conversation went like this:
Kristin: “Was it nice of us to get the books for kids who don’t have them?”
Eva: “Uh huh!”
Kristin: “And why do we want to do nice things for people?”
Eva: “Because it makes them happy.”
Kristin: “Any other reasons?”
Eva: “Because when we’re nice to people, they get happy and feel good, which makes me feel happy too!”
Such a powerful lesson from an amazing little girl!