Seth & Lee: Make a Difference Journey Update

August 12th, 2014

Seth was having a challenging day. When Tammy (his program manager) arrived we could hear him shouting, and Lee was patiently standing to the side. ?Give us two minutes,? he said. We stepped outside and Lee joined us a few minutes later. ?We can do this another day if this is a bad time,? I offered. ?No, he?s been looking forward to this all morning. Just let him get himself calmed down,? Lee said. He explained that Seth?s new DVD player had broken and Seth was very upset about it. But he was confident Seth would bring himself under control. ?Five minutes ? he?ll get it together.?

Sure enough, Seth came out with that big grin of his, ran up to shake my hand and gave me a little hug. We all went back into his apartment and the conversation began.

One thing was clear from the beginning. These are two different people from the men I spoke with three months ago. Their relationship is deeper, their view of the world is bigger, and their feelings about the Make a Difference workshop are strong. ?What Seth did to bring himself under control this morning says more about what he?s accomplished through the class than anything,? Lee remarked.

You?ll remember from our first story about Seth and Lee that they began the workshop with Seth already a big part of his community, and they took off with many new adventures through the holidays and beyond. Expecting to hear more of that, I was surprised to learn that they had backed off a bit. ?Seth?s a processor. He let us know pretty clearly that he was doing too much and wasn?t having enough time to process through everything.? Lee went on to tell me how much of their work together has been on fine tuning all the social nuances that Seth has to navigate as he becomes more deeply involved in his community. Seth is learning to feel comfortable staying in a group for longer periods of time, having the confidence to communicate his thoughts in larger groups and understanding how friendships work. It?s clear from both of them that the last few months have been just as dramatic as the first few months, but in small ways that have huge payoffs.

That isn?t to say they don?t have plans! ?We?re getting ready for summer ? Seth loves summer!? Lee chuckles, and Seth?s grin gets even bigger if that?s possible. They?re looking for a new living situation for Seth ? a smaller complex that feels more home-like. And it has to have a pool. Seth loves to swim. His mom has a pool and they spend hours together in the water when he visits. He?s also a regular at the YMCA ? several of them actually!

Seth continues to develop his relationships with the fire fighters he met during the winter. He often sees them when he?s out having a meal or shopping, as well as when he stops by the station. ?Seth enjoys being around active people that are his age,? Lee says. ?He?s made that very clear to us lately.? 

Both men want to continue the friendships they?ve developed in the Make a Difference Workshop. They?ve become particularly close with John and Ramsay, and they both want the group to continue in some fashion. It has become a place of growth and safety and inspiration that they value immensely.

At the time we spoke, the primary focus of their time and effort was geared towards getting prepared for the Community Summit in Wenatchee. They are presenting the video they created about their journey with Make a Difference and they?re both really excited about it. Communicating to a large group, sitting on a panel for an extended time, traveling so far in a car ? all these things are difficult for Seth. They are facing this challenge the way they?ve faced all the others ? with determination and hard work, and lots and lots of patience!

Both Seth and Lee and John and Ramsay were part of the Make a Difference panel at the Community Summit in Wenatchee on June 17th. It was an exciting experience for all of them!

Everyone did an amazing job presenting their journeys to a standing-room-only crowd. The audience enjoyed every minute, and all left feeling inspired and motivated to carry the program forward. What a terrific way to cap off the workshops!

Please watch the video that Seth and Lee produced about their journey. You can find it on YouTube at #http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lbFnPYoaz4 or by searching ?Seth Lee Make a Difference.?

John & Ramsay: Make a Difference Journey Update

August 12th, 2014

It was a beautiful sunny day, so we all sat down in the backyard of the home John lives in. It was clear from the beginning that these two had a lot to share with me about the Make a Difference journey they?ve been on.

John?s persistence is amazing and his positive attitude is inspiring. ?I just keep going,? he says. ?I?ve learned that this journey is like climbing steps? like first you?re in elementary school, then junior high, then high school?then finally the big step out into the world when you graduate.? 

John continues to work on his guitar lessons, and has been taking some drama classes as well. He?s learned that practicing, even when he misses lessons, will keep him moving forward. They still attend church every Sunday. ?I?m making lots of new friends at church,? John says. ?I?m learning all about their community and they?re learning about me.? Ramsay adds, ?John is a people person. He makes friends with everyone. He is so outgoing.?

John and Ramsay were in a thoughtful mood the day we spoke. While the purpose of the class was to create ways for them to participate in their community, it seems to have also really sparked some re-thinking about their lives on a deeper level. I asked John where he wanted to go next. He paused for moment and then said, ?You know, I think I should be a leader. Like a big brother. I?ve been through this and it wasn?t easy. I think I could really help people who are just starting out. I think I should be a public speaker. I like to talk to people and I like them to listen to me.? When I asked him what he would talk about, he replied without hesitation, ?Change!?

Both of them want to continue to meet with their friends in the Make a Difference class, and hope to continue to see Joanne (the original workshop facilitator). ?She?s the best teacher I?ve ever had,? John states. They are also committed to bringing more people onto John?s ?team? so that the activities continue even on days Ramsay doesn?t work. ?This should be part of every program,? Ramsay says.

When I ask John what he wanted everyone to know, he says, ?Making progress. Following our journey. Moving on!? Ramsay adds, ?We have to have passion. We have to work from our hearts.?

Ramsay is adamant that the workshop has had just as much impact on his life as it has on John?s. ?I?m rejuvenated. I think direct care staff have so much to do now? The therapist is writing ?A, B, C, D.? The doctor is writing ?A, B, C, D.? The guidelines are saying ?A, B, C, D.? But this is an individual! We are here to support him to have the kind of life he wants. We need to always remember that?the system needs to remember that.?

John wanted to share his growing guitar skills so he hooked up a beauty of a guitar and was soon playing along with some Johnny Cash. He even has a cowboy hat to help him get in the groove. It was a great concert!

?I can learn from Ramsay and Ramsay can learn from me. We can learn from each other,? John sums up. 

Ramsay nods his head in agreement. They have something to say and they?ve found their voices. Pay attention.

Both Seth and Lee and John and Ramsay were part of the Make a Difference panel at the Community Summit in Wenatchee on June 17th. It was an exciting experience for all of them!

 Everyone did an amazing job presenting their journeys to a standing-room-only crowd. The audience enjoyed every minute, and all left feeling inspired and motivated to carry the program forward. What a terrific way to cap off the workshops!

Sandra & Melissa: Make a Difference Journey

August 12th, 2014

I met Sandy and Melissa at the Shoreline Senior Center. It?s a cheerful place filled with friendly, happy people enjoying each other?s company. Folks were just finishing up their lunches, so I grabbed a seat at their table and joined them.

I asked them to start at the beginning ? what brought them to the Make a Difference workshop. Melissa chuckles, ?The office signed us up so we went - and we?re so glad we did! We were excited to get to know each other better.?  What were they hoping to achieve? ?For me,? Melissa shares, ?I wanted Sandy to have a voice, to experience new things and meet new people and to make her own choices.? Sandy just smiled. She has an amazing smile.

Like Seth and Lee, and John and Ramsay, this wasn?t a simple journey for Sandy and Melissa either. ?You think you?re getting somewhere, and then the door closes. So you open another door, and then that one closes. And on and on. The important thing is that we are on this journey together,? Melissa says.

During the first Make a Difference class, participants were asked to make some choices about what their goals would be.. Sandy repeatedly said she wanted red nail polish and to give gifts to kids for Christmas. The red polish was easy. Lizette, another of her support staff, does Sandy?s beautiful nails in some shade of red all the time.

The second goal was far more difficult. Melissa got on the phone and did lots of research trying to find a place they could give gifts to kids, but they hit a dead end everywhere they called. 

Their luck seemed to be turning around when Melissa recalled a sign for a Christmas Bazaar that she had seen while attending one of the early Make a Difference workshops at the Shoreline Community Center. She checked in with them about Sandy volunteering and they were happy to have her participate. They were both so excited!

Unfortunately, when the day arrived, there was a huge windstorm. Melissa called to confirm the event was happening and it was. However, by the time they arrived, the Senior Center had lost all power. The Bazaar continued ? with flashlights. Making the best of it, Sandy became the greeter at the door while Melissa handed out flashlights to the people as they arrived. And they had a great time!

Since they couldn?t find a way to give gifts to children for Christmas, they decided to participate in the Volunteers of America food deliveries during the holidays. After a couple of outings, it became clear that it involved too much walking for Sandy so they decided to stop. At that point, Melissa was so discouraged. She felt like she was failing Sandy, and that nothing they were trying was succeeding. She even began to think maybe she wasn?t the right person to be Sandy?s learning partner. ?Every time we hit a wall I felt like I was letting her down,? Melissa says. ?But I kept seeing that light in her eyes every time we talked about it and I couldn?t give up.?

And they did not give up. Sandy has a busy schedule with outings, classes and swimming every week. She loves meeting people and getting out into her community in many ways. She particularly loves ?girl time? with her housemates at the mall. How could they build on that in ways that let Sandy?s light shine out in her community?

The Shoreline Senior Center had been so welcoming during the holidays that they decided to start having lunch there occasionally. ?We feel comfortable here,? Melissa says with a smile. ?Here, you can tell that she feels comfortable and they feel comfortable with her. It?s a safe place for us to grow.? 

When I joined them today, it was clear that the people there are friendly and warm to friends and strangers alike. 

They check the calendar regularly for activities that they might want to join in. ?I think what we?re going to try next is the Red Hat Society,? Melissa told me. ?They meet regularly, they do interesting things ? last month they went to Azteca and Sandy loves Azteca!? It sounds like a good fit, and I?m looking forward to joining them for a meeting when we do our follow-up interview! 

As we moved from the lunchroom out to a lovely, sun filled sitting area, the conversation moved to what the future holds for them. Sandy loves art and drawing, and they?re looking at getting involved in some art classes soon. Shortly after we sat down outside, Sandy had reached for my notebook and pen. She drew pictures for me during our whole conversation ? all of them with hearts. She handed it back to me occasionally to look at, then took it back to draw more pictures.

Melissa does not want the Make a Difference classes to end. ?We built relationships ? we?re like a family now.? She also wants to get more people involved in her learning partnership with Sandy so that all the staff that support her are part of the team and know what the plans are for any given day.

When I asked Melissa what she wanted to happen going forward, she did not hesitate. ?I want people to know Sandy. She is very loving and giving - she?s just got such a caring heart. She?s always smiling ? always happy. When you walk back into work and you?re feeling, you know, kinda blah, and you walk in and there?s Sandy. And she gives you that smile. And you remember. ?This is what I?m here for.? I want her to have a voice ? to make her own decisions.?

And Sandy gives us both one of those smiles and nods her head.

Seth and Lee: Make a Difference Journey

August 12th, 2014

Seth met me at the door of his apartment with a handshake, and led me to the table where his communication devices were set up. He?s quite the electronics whiz with a great sense of humor. Lee is the site leader for Seth?s program and a dedicated direct support staff. 

They came to the Make a Difference workshop with some doubts. Would Seth be able to sit in a group for long periods of time? Would the workshop really have much benefit to them?  After all, Seth already had a supportive family and many community connections. It didn?t take long to allay their doubts. They jumped in with both feet and their story is one of many accomplishments and many small memorable moments. 

In the workshop, they first had to decide how to focus their energy. It was clear to Seth that he wanted to help people! They started by collecting paper products and household supplies for some of his neighbors on limited incomes. They worked at the local food bank, and adopted a family for Christmas. They experienced great joy by delivering dinner and presents to that family. Seth and Lee were on a roll!

While working at the food bank, they became friends with firefighters from the local station house and those friendships continue to grow. Although Seth has attended the same church for several years, the nature of his relationships began to change. People noticed how much he was doing for others and began to see him differently. Polite hellos changed to welcoming hugs and conversations. He is invited to pot-lucks and parties. ?There is a big difference,?? Lee says, ?between being present in your community and participating in your community. We?re participating now.?

Along the way, Seth overcame a number of personal challenges - being in large groups, learning and using his communication equipment, being patient with people who were struggling to understand and accept him. He built on each success, and marvelous things began happening. 

Being able to communicate within the workshop group was one big accomplishment. As his confidence grew he was able to go out into his community more and more. Lee and Seth are both huge Seahawks fans, and were thrilled when they were able to attend an entire Seahawks game. They even met some of the Sea Gals. ?These are all things Seth did,? Lee says with a grin.

Lee is quick to point out that he?s gained as much from the journey as Seth. For him it is in the tiny moments when something ?clicks? into place. Seth sharing his story with the workshop group ?brought tears to my eyes,? he says. He is so excited that Seth has decided to learn to read. Lee feels more connected to his work and his relationship with Seth has deepened. He?s found that he is also connecting with his community in ways that he hadn?t before.

Seth and Lee have made a video about their journey so far. They shared it with the workshop group a couple of weeks ago - another milestone for Seth. They?ve been asked to present it to the Community Summit later this spring. It will take effort on both their parts for Seth to be ready for that step, but they?re working on it. ?It?s a journey that we?re going on...looking at details, looking for a deeper answer.? Lee remarks.


John and Ramsay: Make a Difference Journey

August 12th, 2014

John and Ramsay were eager to tell me about their experience in the Make a Difference workshop. John wanted to participate as part of his goal to be more independent. Deciding on a single goal to pursue was his biggest challenge. He has many interests and really wanted to follow them all! Finally, he chose drama as a way to meet more people and explore his own talents. They began to research taking some acting classes. 

There were bumps in John?s journey as well. He left his job so finances were tight, there were staff and manager changes, and John became frustrated with what felt like a lack of progress. The realities of life presented barriers. But John and Ramsay took their roles as learning partners seriously. Since there wasn?t enough money for acting classes, they decided instead to pursue John?s interested in music, especially learning to play guitar. 

The cost of lessons became an issue., but they didn?t give up. John had begun attending a new church, and he and Ramsay were meeting people in the congregation. As those relationships grew, so did their connections with the other church members. In conversations with the musicians at the church, Ramsay and John got to know a gentleman who said he?d be happy to teach Ramsay to play at no charge. Again, there have been challenges. The lessons can only be done on Saturdays - a day Ramsay doesn?t work - and John is often unable to go. But they aren?t giving up, and John practices at home even when he can't make it to lessons.

Ramsay is adamant that this process has been transformative for him too. His relationship with John is stronger, and he is interacting with his community in ways he never did before, because of his work with John. ?There are so many talents out there that just need to be discovered,? he says with a smile. ?Even little baby steps help us get out the door!? He is eager to get more staff involved so there is more continuity for John along the journey.

Going forward, John and Ramsay plan to continue with the guitar lessons and practice.  John is considering what type of job he would like to do so that he will have a more secure income. ?I?m really interested in politics and international affairs, too,? he says. ?Maybe I should look into that. But I need to stay focused,? he says with a chuckle.

Both agree that the workshop has made a huge difference in their lives. John talks about his growing confidence and his patience! ?I?m getting to be a lot more sociable with people in church.? He knows this is a journey and that not everything is going to be easy. ?With help from Ramsay and Kim and Joanne and all my new friends in the workshop, I am going to just keep going! I just need to keep a smiley face.?