Hope & Gratitude – 2007

December 15, 2009

2007 | Read more...

Written responses may have been edited for clarity or brevity.

Dave Burgess People with mental illness teach the professionals who help them.

Suzanne Carter An essay on charting a new direction after a loss.

Roger Cawthon Helping a child see well made all the difference.

Jeff Cole Following a good example.

Jennie Creasey A father's gift, the triumph of love over fear.

Julie Driscall Colleagues came to the rescue when child-care fell through.

Gloria Garcia Hope Persists After Daughter's Disappearance.

Brian Fiore The Colorado AIDS Project steps in.

Saul Garlick A student's visit to Africa inspires an international organization.

Lisa M. Gillespie An essay on a death, a young life and the Christmas spirit.

Karel Horney A son's illness helps a family refocus.

Seth Masia A teacher with military expertise makes a big difference.

Joan Ringel Remembering Miss Barclay.

Connie Robbins-Brady A chance meeting, a big lesson in balance and happiness.

Heather Schichtel An essay on a bowl, lovingly filled with blessings.

Petra Spiess A friendly neighborhood restores faith in community.

 

Read 2008 Stories of Hope & Gratitude


Dave Burgess, Denver
People with mental illness teach the professionals who help them

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
I am the director of a mental health organization in Denver named CHARG Resource Center, an unusual legal partnership between people who live with mental illnesses and their supporters. One of our long-term clients is a man I will call Vern Jones. Vern came to us in the throes of major depression and found a community here. He has served as co-president of our consumer Board of Directors and has become an articulate spokesperson for people with mental illnesses, homeless people, and people with AIDS -- in spite of, or perhaps because of, his own struggles with mental illness, blindness and AIDS. He is now the co-chair of  Denver's HIV Planning Council. He has a number of inspiring stories, such as his successful appeal to UMB Bank to recover money he lost when someone stole his checkbook and forged his signature on a check. 

Specifically, how did that event or person change your outlook?
He taught me (and many others here) how to count our blessings through his example of someone living with mental illness, blindness, AIDS and pretty constant pain, but who always has time to help others and to inspire all of us with his articulate intelligence and his generosity to all.

Is there something about today's times that makes this change especially relevant now? Tell us about that here.
In a time when many are using their "victimhood" to claim special privileges and to avoid responsibility, Vern shows us what true generosity of spirit is all about -- especially pertinent during the holidays.

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Suzanne Carter, Morrison
An essay on charting a new direction after a loss

Essay (27kb pdf - requires Adobe Acrobat)

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Roger Cawthon, Denver
Helping a child see well made all the difference

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
I provide eye care to the needy for the Lions Club of Denver and through Lions KidSight program we discovered that a 4-year-old boy needed glasses extremely badly. They had no means to purchase the glasses so the Lions Club provided the glasses at no charge. From the moment the boy put on the glasses he could see clearly and for the first time in his young life he could see his grandmother and the TV from a normal distance instead of pressing his nose to the screen. His life changed. He was able to see his school work and immediately improve his ability to learn and interact with his classmates to the extent that he socialized normally and was not disruptive and annoying to his teachers. He gained control of his surroundings for the first time in his life and can see how to make a difference in our society.

Specifically, how did that event or person change your outlook?
After 48 years in the optical business I see clearly that if we can make one person's life change for the better it's worth volunteering time, money and my own life's skills to make a life-changing difference in a 4-year-old boy that would have fallen through the cracks and would be seen in his formative years as a misfit. All he needed was to see properly and the Lions Club of Denver helped him do just that.

Is there something about today's times that makes this change especially relevant now? Tell us about that here.
Most of his learning difficulty was from birth. Mother was a cocaine and crack addict who remains in prison today. He is lucky to have a wonderful grandmother and to have the good fortune and luck to have been screened in pre-school by the Lions KidSight program that discovered his basic problem. He will have the opportunity to grow up normally and enter adult life as a good person and not a burden to our society.

What other stories would you like to see KCFR report on in connection with the holidays?
This one was enough. To see him when he first put the glasses on and he looked around and saw his granny for the very first time-WOW-not a dry eye in the house!!!

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Jeff Cole, Denver
Following a good example

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way?
Please describe what happened. My high school sweetheart, Joan, and I dated through our first year of college. Like so many youthful romances, ours had run its course after a year and a half and we parted amicably, knowing we each had to go our separate ways. Joan finished college and went to New York to work in NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group). I just kind of bumbled around from job to job, attending some college classes here and there.

Joan and I stayed in touch over the years and every time we visited one another, I was always impressed by her fire and passion to make the world a better place. She was active in politics, had campaigned for Gary Hart and was almost named a delegate from Colorado for the '84 Democratic National Convention. She was even a personal acquaintance of Ralph Nader.

I hadn't done anything near so exciting or socially responsible. I was a bit timid compared to Joan, even a mite selfish, but she never acted as if I was not pulling my weight as a member of society. Whatever job I had at the time, she made me feel that it was the most important job anyone could do. I wanted to be more like her but I knew that I could never be comfortable with a political kind of life. I was sure that if I had tried to follow her lead I would not have any success.

Joan inspired me nonetheless. Even though I wouldn't fit on the big stage, I knew that I could do my part to help fix my corner of the world. I could try to help people at the most basic level and once I hit upon the idea, I knew in my heart of hearts that I had found my calling. Joan had inspired me to become a firefighter.

Now, after 17 years with the Denver Fire Department, I look back at this kind, caring and courageous woman and I KNOW that it was her launched me into this life of service. I have never once regretted it and whenever I receive a sincere handshake, a blown kiss or a tearful "thank you", I give my own thanks to Joan. She lit the way for me and gave me the opportunity to see that the greatest fulfillment lies in helping others. Joan represents so much of what is good and right about humankind and, amazingly, all she had to do to change my life was simply live her beliefs.

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Jennie Creasey, Englewood
A father's gift, the triumph of love over fear

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
An event / person that changed my life was being a long distance caregiver for my father, Bill. Seven years ago he died at age 73 very early on St Nicholas day (December 6th) in his Florida home with home hospice care after dealing with lung cancer and congestive heart failure. During those six months I made three trips in June, September, and November to spend time with him and support his local caregiver, his wife / my stepmother, Pat. When I was not there I was often in touch via cards, letters, and phone calls. My over two years as a medical social worker with a Denver hospice agency had given me the gift of experiencing many people deal with their loved ones end-of-life. I had a solid sense of how to be both my father's daughter and one of his primary caregivers.

Specifically, how did that event or person change your outlook?
The impact my father had on my outlook was clearly reflected in remarks I made at the celebration we had of his life which took place on Inauguration Day 2001. I shared: “In living life we can choose to have our focus be love or our focus be fear.” This is a theme I've been aware of as I've reflected on some of my experiences with my father. One of my Dad's many gifts to me was, in my thirties, his generous support and interest in my educational pursuits, accomplishments, and the start of my professional career. In graduate school, one of my favorite theorists in the development of personality was Erik Erikson. Erikson believed our personalities developed in eight stages throughout our lives- in having experienced positive development, elders reach the ends of their lives with accomplishment and satisfaction- with integrity and wisdom. Erikson concluded that with the above being true, elders would not fear death and in doing so would give their children the gift of not fearing life. This is a gift Bill passed on to us.

One of my Dad's favorite music groups was the Beach Boys. When I returned home to Denver after my November visit, our oldies station was playing the Beach Boys' song with the lyrics, "Don't worry Baby, everything will be all right." The evening before I returned to Colorado, my Dad said to me, "Everything's going to be OK. I'm going to be your guardian angel- not to worry." And as I said good-bye to him very early the next morning he said to me, "Travel safe".

My wish for us today is that we leave this time together a little more free of fear, a little more connected to love. That would please my Dad. And may we all travel safe.

Is there something about today's times that makes this change especially relevant now? Tell us about that here.

We are living in a time when it is critical our political, educational, religious, business, and life decisions are made out of love, not fear. And in our personal lives. Throughout history, when times are scary, there are those who choose to not let their lives be bound by fear and live life with courage and joy. These are the people who bring hope to our world.

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Julie Driscall, Lakewood
Colleagues came to the rescue when child-care fell through

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
Yes, I am a new teacher at the Front Range Waldorf School in Lakewood, CO. Last week I had to go to a training conference in New York City and thus needed my mom to come in from out of town to babysit my two children.

Unfortunately, she was hospitalized the day before I had to leave due to a possible heart-attack...

I didn't know what to do and felt the need to ask for help from my very new community. I sent an email that night and by the next day, 7 people emailed me offering help and several others called me that morning asking what they could do.

It was amazing! I was able to leave town for my conference while feeling certain that my mom and my children would be taken care of. My children were driven to and from school each day, so that my mother would not need to tackle the many stairs to my apartment; cooked meals were brought for them, and someone even went shopping for my mother when staples were running low!

Specifically, how did that event or person change your outlook?
My outlook on life has been changed for the better. I can't begin to tell you how much love I have felt from this wonderful group of people. They have restored my faith in community.

Is there something about today's times that makes this change especially relevant now? Tell us about that here.
Yes; in today's culture of email, text messaging, and even internet shopping, there is a growing sense of isolation and lack of personal connections. In addition, the loss for many of the extended family network contributes further to people becoming more and more isolated and cut off from society.

The way the community of the Front Range Waldorf School enveloped me with their love and support, even though I had been there for such a short time, proves to me in a very reassuring way that we have not completely lost the values of community, connection, support, and the value of a village gathering to raise a child...

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Brian Fiore
Denver The Colorado AIDS Project steps in

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
Living with HIV for over 17 years has changed my perspective on life. At first it was a death sentence. I wasn't expected to make it to the turn of the century. I had been raising my 4 children as a single parent and still had 2 at home when I found out I was HIV. In 1997, my T-cells dropped, my viral-load rose, one child was still at home. There were new drugs, but my work wouldn't allow me time off to adjust to them, so I had to quit.

Specifically, how did that event or person change your outlook?
Colorado AIDS Project stepped in and helped me with my mortgage, utilities and food. CAP gave me hope and some stability until I was able to adjust to my drugs, find another job and go back to work. That was over 10 years ago. Now, my children are grown, I have a wonderful life-partner, Gary and I have become somewhat of a spokesperson for CAP and HIV/AIDS. I have spoken in public and raised money in an effort to give back to the community and CAP - while I can. I now feel there is a future.

Is there something about today's times that makes this change especially relevant now? Tell us about that here.
HIV/AIDS has been pushed into the background by other worthwhile causes (Breast cancer, Alzheimer's etc.). There is a mis-conception that HIV/AIDS has been cured. There is no cure. People like me are very fortunate, but my drugs could fail at any time. Every Christmas I celebrate the memories of my 36 friends who have died of AIDS with a tree of red lights and individual ornaments with a floating red ribbon and their name in gold. I don't want Colorado to become apathetic about AIDS and HIV - especially the youth, both men and women. There is no cure. I'm okay - for now.

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Gloria Garcia, Denver
Hope Persists After Daughter's Disappearance

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
December 14th, 2006. My oldest daughter Nicholle Rae Torrez disappeared. She is listed on the national missing persons website. She left our home to go see her youngest son, one of my grandsons, at his dad's house because he took him to the dentist that day. She never returned home and we have had no word, except about five months ago, her white jeep was found in a parking lot of a fairly new apartment complex. No other word.

Specifically, how did that event or person change your outlook?
I have always had faith in God and brought up my children that way. I know that there are hundreds of people who have been praying for our family and I know that God keeps us lifted. As a family our last words to each other whenever we leave each other is always "I love you, God bless you" as it was the last day I saw Nicholle. I believe that God is keeping us strong as a family and I even believe that somehow, someway, my daughter will come back to me, her children and sister.

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Saul Garlick, Washington, D.C.
A student's visit to Africa inspires an international organization

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
In February 2002, I had the privilege of visiting a rural area in South Africa known as Manyeleti, where poverty is extreme and children at the time were learning outside. I was 18, a student at East High School in Denver. Exposure to the human struggle to get a basic education prompted me to pledge $10,000 to build a classroom at the primary school where they had laid four rows of brick without any more resources to complete the job. At that time, I became committed to working in international development to help shape a brighter future for underprivileged children. However, I knew I could not do it alone, and when I began asking my peers to join the effort, the possibilities expanded rapidly. A movement for change, a Student Movement for Real Change was realized. The organization empowers young people to improve health and education in neglected regions of the world.

Specifically, how did that event or person change your outlook?
That visit to South Africa's rural community was the first genuine exposure I had to the disparities of economic development and opportunity I had come directly in contact with. And it struck me that in the United States all of us have ample resources and abilities to improve lives. But I also met the principal of the school, Alec Mnisi, and realized how passionate and committed to his students' success he was, in spite of the obvious challenges. His willingness to work every day to improve the educational opportunities for children in this impoverished community inspired me to return the United States and take action. I realized then that partnership with local community members is essential for meaningful development, and a globally engaged generation of young people who are willing and ready to make a difference can lead the way.

Is there something about today's times that makes this change especially relevant now? Tell us about that here.
We are living in the most global moment in the history of the world, meaning, we rely on our global community for trade, opportunities, and information more than ever before. Because the world is becoming increasingly globalized, it is essential that young people embrace the challenges that impact over 3 billion people living on less than $2 per day. Despite remarkable technology and wealth around the globe, more people than ever before are living in abject poverty, without access to decent health and education. The future of the world depends on closing that gap, and young people have the energy, open-mindedness and resources to take a lead to that end.

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Lisa M. Gillespie, Boulder
An essay on a death, a young life and the Christmas spirit

Essay (34kb pdf - requires Adobe Acrobat)

Story Index

Karel Horney, Centennial
A son's illness helps a family refocus

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
Our 27-year-old son, Adam, has cerebral palsy. He also has a seizure disorder. So you could easily say that he changes our life daily! But what happened this year is that, in the midst of his challenges related to employment and living independently, he developed testicular cancer. Suddenly, the focus on where he would live and what he would do became "will he survive? " We prayed - and he prayed. With everyone and anyone with whom he came into contact. He prayed with the nurses, the doctors, his visitors and us. It's not like he slipped into some sort of protective bubble of peace through his prayer. He cried, and was frustrated and afraid - but he prayed anyway. And others began to pray, and marveled at his faith. And they asked still others to pray. And he began to heal. And the very aggressive chemotherapy he has recently completely was somehow not as traumatic as we had all expected. He may still have to have surgery, but where he will live and what he will do now pales in importance compared to the value of his purpose - to demonstrate the power of his faith.

Specifically, how did that event or person change your outlook?
We see Adam from the standpoint of his greater purpose rather than from the standpoint of his ability to care for himself. Those things are still very important, but regardless of the eventual living and employment circumstances he lives out his life in, he will continue to serve as a touchstone of hope for others who look for hope through a relationship with a higher power.

Is there something about today's times that makes this change especially relevant now? Tell us about that here.
Oh my, yes. No matter how much we embrace the idea that the trappings of success are not the keys to a life of purpose and serenity, our concerns for Adam's life were about just those things. We were immeasurably short sighted in recognizing his greater purpose in the impact he has in the lives of others - not the least of which is his own family. I am not suggesting that illness, disability and disease are necessary to the demonstration of faith and hope to others, but watching Adam continue to walk in faith in spite of those obstacles reminds the rest of us that there really are some things that can't be taken from us. And Adam is living proof of that.

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Seth Masia, Boulder
A teacher with military expertise makes a big difference

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
In 1963, Thomas Sharp taught me world history at Evanston Township High School. A few years earlier, Sharp had been a US Army interrogator in the Korean War. He spoke fluent Japanese, Korean and Mandarin. Sharp was convinced that the Vietnam War was a terrible blunder. Sharp’s perception that the war was unwinnable, at this relatively early stage, could be called prescient.

Specifically, how did that event or person change your outlook?
He strongly advised those of us who might consider military service that things were going to go very badly in Southeast Asia, in the long run if not in the short. So we read about Asian history, ancient and recent. We paid close attention to the news and were not surprised, as we went through college, that American forces made no progress in support of one side in a bitter civil war. I'm convinced he saved the lives of many students who otherwise might have cheerfully accepted the draft, or even volunteered.

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Joan Ringel, Denver
Remembering Miss Barclay

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
My fifth grade teacher, Miss Barclay, taught me how to write my first short story. She was a "Good Morning Miss Dove" kind of teacher and encouraged me in a consistent, serious way.

Specifically, how did that event or person change your outlook?
As a fifth grader I had no idea what I "wanted to be when I grew up." Yet her encouragement made me believe that I was special and could actually be a writer -- something no one in my family every contemplated. She died the next year -- one of my early experiences with death -- and I felt as though she had made a commitment to me that I had to honor.

Is there something about today's times that makes this change especially relevant now?
After 30 years as a lobbyist in Colorado, I am now finally writing full time. She continues to be my encouragement in a solitary activity where there is very little support.

Story Index

Connie Robbins-Brady, Grand Junction
A chance meeting, a big lesson in balance and happiness

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
Several years ago, I was newly divorced and the mother of two young sons, including a newborn who had a severe disability. Eula Boelke was someone I had known in a professional way but she became a very wonderful resource to me as a mentor. Eula approached me one day while I was taking my baby, Tyler, to one of his many medical appointments. She talked to me and helped me realize the precious gift I'd been given, and the new potential my life would have as a result of being my baby's mom.

Specifically, how did that event or person change your outlook?
Eula was also the mom of a child with a disability, and she'd been involved in helping to carve a positive path for her daughter at school, with doctors, and in the community. Eula is one of the people who helped get the right for children with disabilities to be taught alongside their peers. She helped doctors to see parents as part of the medical team in caring for these fragile children. She ensured that her daughter and the rest of the children in our community were included and welcomed at all events.

Is there something about today's times that makes this change especially relevant now? Tell us about that here.
Most of all, Eula helped me learn how to make sure that my older son, Jared, and I didn't become narrowly focused on the needs and care of Tyler, but also celebrated and developed our own unique lives. I later remarried and adopted my husband's two children. Eula's positive leadership in our lives helped us create a healthy, happy and productive family. I am thankful for Eula's positive leadership in our lives.

Story Index

Heather Schichtel, Loveland
An essay on a bowl, lovingly filled with blessings  

Essay (48kb pdf - requires Adobe Acrobat)

Story Index

Petra Spiess, Westminster
A friendly neighborhood restores faith in community

Did an event or person change your life in a powerful way? Please describe what happened.
When my daughter was born, I lived in a typical beige suburban subdivision far from my family. I felt extremely isolated and lonely as a new stay-at-home mom. I knew almost none of my neighbors. My husband and I decided to move to the new urbanist community of Bradburn Village in Westminster, Colorado, and it completely changed my life.
Within two weeks of moving to Bradburn, I had met at least 30 of my neighbors, many of them with small children like mine. People are always outside: sitting on their porches, in our neighborhood pocket parks, and drinking coffee or eating ice cream at our neighborhood shops. My daughter opens our front door and finds many other kids her age to play with. They just play up and down the street, going from house to house while I chat with their parents. There are at least 30 of my neighbors in Bradburn I could call (and have called) in case of an emergency, or if I just want someone to watch my 5-year-old for an hour so I can get my hair cut.  I know the majority of my neighbors, which can turn a 10-minute walk into two hours from stopping to chat-- but I love it. 

Bradburn Village is designed for people, not cars. It either attracts friendly, social people, or makes people more inclined to be that way; either way it works. Bradburn Village has made the difference for my family between a place to live and a true neighborhood, and it’s given me hope that community isn’t dead in America.

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2008 Stories of Hope & Gratitude

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