People Make The World Go ‘Round!

Colors of Peeps
Yes, it’s Friday . . . and I’m going out on a limb with this one … T.G.I.F.!

Have you ever faced a time in your life when you didn’t want to say thank you for a situation that you had no control over? And, it turned out alright anyway?! My parents used to call that “faith”. I am sure that for them, like many African Americans who made it through the era of lynchings and bombs being placed in churches, not to mention crosses being burned on a front lawn, faith was an important part of life. Now, there are other ethnic groups – like the Jews, if you will; better still Native Americans – who experienced extermination type activities against their “people”, if you will, again. I remember when I attended Christian Life Center regularly and Pastor Max Yeary, an older gent firmly trained in the Pentecostal faith often used a phrase, ” … for such a time as this!”

Well, us humans are still at it. We come in all forms, shapes, sizes, hues of the rainbow … and various attitudes, too! Have you ever wondered why you feel a certain way about certain things? Do you think it was our upbringing and the values we were taught … if any?! I think of rappers like Jay Z or Eminem … Dr. Dre even. Their situations drove them to accomplish things in their lives! I am sure we each know someone like that. “Yes, indeedy!”, as my friend Petey used to say. People do make the world go ’round!

Two such examples outside of my own . . . Did you know that the Super Bowl was the best time of year … for prostitution?! Now, I can’t say that I’ve rubbed shoulders with the populace surrounding that age old profession. But, I had no idea that business was best for them during the Super Bowl. As I watched the news last night, there was a story on about how many prostitutes had already been arrested for solicitation in the New York and New Jersey area. The governor and another gent spoke about how they would be sure to burst anyone’s fantasy of prostitution at the Super Bowl with specially ordered handcuffs!! Of course, then there was a brief interview that followed with an experienced madam, if you will, who said when asked if prostitution could be stopped during the Super Bowl, “No!”, and shook her head as if the politicians had no clue how extensive the network is at an event like the Super Bowl.

On another note, I must say there were refreshing stories of how “people help people”, strangers even, during the confusion on that highway going in and out of Atlanta this past week with the snow and frozen rain covered roads! The one I liked the most was the story of the African American woman who was stuck in her car with a toddler girl, her daughter, and she couldn’t reach her husband because his phone had died … Okay, so, there was a page created on Facebook by a white woman for people stuck on that road. This woman tried to send out “feelers” for those in the most need. Her husband, a white gent, got home through the freezing rain and dangerous roads and saw on that Facebook page that a woman with her baby was stuck on the road with few diapers and less food for the baby and none for herself! So, he turned around after taking hours getting home to his wife, went back out on that treacherous road, found the woman and her child and guided them between tractor trailers and cars, spin outs and crashes, back to his car … and home! He never knew the woman but considered this his “human” duty to help them out … out of the hundreds, probably thousands of people stranded on that same road for approximately 24 hours! Teachers entertained kids stuck at school and many many others toughed out their situations. That’s a lesson for me, too!

Enjoy your weekends, including the Super Bowl, which is considered to be the biggest event on Earth, and be kind to one another.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

The State of “OUR” Union . . .

The POTUS Speaks
Howdy, All!

Yes, it is Wednesday … and it has been Hump Day seemingly forever! As is customary around here, we look for things to be positive about, though at times, it gets difficult.

How many of “us” watched the POTUS’s “State of the Union Address” last night? I mean, if we can watch an awards ceremony, don’t you think we’d want to know what’s going on in our government? Do you think most kids know that Speaker of the House John Boehner’s father was a bartender? Now some might say, “I don’t care?” That’s okay, too … for “you!” But maybe we ALL ought to care about how someone like that rises to a pretty high position in national government, and then seeks to nearly stop the SAME progress for other Americans who are struggling to keep a job, a roof over ones head, and food on the table … not to mention medical coverage for their family members and opportunites for higher education.

These are the realities in this country, which I think the POTUS did a good job of showing Americans the “faces” of people who have struggled, stared death in the face as the young soldier who was rescued by fellow soldiers in Afghanistan as he lay face down in the mud! He even mentioned how the “bi-racial” son of a single mother had experienced enough support, fought hard against all odds, stared racism in the face, and still became president of one of the most powerful countries on Earth so far! “I don’t care!” is the catch phrase that people use when they don’t want to look at the issues at hand. Of course we care! It’s just a bit much to fathom at the time the often ironic situation presents itself … So, we are more comfortable saying “I don’t care!”

Many people find opposition to many and any of the POTUS’s words and plans as he seeks to handle issues like immigration reform that plague this nation and divides us like the Red Sea! It’s amazing how folks seek to separate themselves … black men from black men … single parents from those with close knit nuclear families … those with blessings from those without blessings! It seems that we often like to be on opposing teams, just because we can! Why not come together and live up to the American creed of “all ‘people’, though originally men, are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!?”

May we each have a blessed day and be grateful for our lives, grateful for opportunities to help others needing and appreciating the help, and be the best that we can be!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

For The Love of The Universe

Universal Love
It’s Monday, All!

Yes, I am not on my way to work and I have a truck load of errands to run and an interview scheduled for 1PM. So, I am feeling “the love of the universe” today, too! Change has a way of growing on you, provided you see the importance of it in ones life. Things change all around us … so … why not us!? I am one for routine and a regular schedule to follow each day. Occasionally, in my past, I have had the privilege of setting my own hours when I had the support of an employed wife at the time. I worked out in the gym, I worked on my writing as I finished self publishing two books. I also worked on myself at that time, as I was struggling with a couple of demons based in my self doubt.

So, nowadays, I don’t give that notion any “space in my head” and do all I can to schedule it OUT of my life. Today, I know there is no place for that in my life, thank God. It’s a long story that can be called “being at peace with myself.” Now I also know that everybody is different, some of us have skills in business, others in engineering and mathematical concepts, while there may be those like me … a people person/life coach/facilitator type of individual. While most people know that there is diversity amongst humans in general, we occasionally find ourselves judging one another for not having skill or talent in another particular area. This diversity is part of Creation just as those creatures in nature reflect a tremendous illustration of diversity. I remember one sermon that Pastor Bob of Calvary Chapel gave in which he talked about the diversity of people who are believers can be compared to the diversity in individual’s footwear! What a great illustration.

I continue working towards building Educational Excellence though the momentum has been shifted while I seek to fill in some of the “holes” in an already tight personal budget caused by my job loss. Many of you folks remind me of those in a “church” with members helping each other in good times and in bad times. In fact, I believe it was Saturday as I finished yoga and sat in the jacuzzi at the gym to relax from a stressful week when I had this revelation. It was simple, it was sweet … and it was powerful as I felt the love of the universe embrace me and let me know that “it” – the universe – cared and welcomed me along this phase of my journey. Thank you so much, kindred spirits, for your help and support. Fear comes to me when I feel alone while being faced with great challenges, change or tasks. While I am often a loner, I do appreciate and enjoy good, positive peaceful company … even in cyber space!

Keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I continue along this changing road of my life! For the Love of the Universe!

Namaste,

John I. Cook, Director

One Down!

Sun goes down
Happy Friday, All!

It would only be appropriate that those of us who are feeling it join in with a T.G.I.F.!

Just in case you’re wondering what I mean by “one down,” it is like learning to do something all over again … though we’ve had the experience before. Besides, experience is the best teacher! That first step, that first week, that first kiss and the first break up are usually the hardest. That’s what I’m talking about!

Well, I’ve gotten off to a decent start though some of the options, including getting help from some of the agencies like Family Success here, didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped. We live and we learn. A few friends have shown some “love” during the transition from working a regular “9 – 6” to looking for another job. It was maybe seven years ago when I used the unemployment compensation and Work Force One Center to receive funds during this time and locate other job options. It is still a great service, which includes listings of jobs, counselors to help revive ones resume and bring it up to date, and actual “hot jobs” interviews. They also have a Professional Placement Network still offered by the same woman who ran the workshops seven years ago. I met her yesterday and she invited me to the workshop she is offering next week in Ft. Lauderdale.

So, while getting back into the swing of claiming weeks as it is called in the unemployment process, I had to get log ins and passwords reset in the computer system which has pretty much remained the same, too. In the Center, there are computers to search for jobs, computers to claim the weeks of unemployment, as well as computers available to the public to access resources for re-employment. They even have some organizations that help people with rent and utility payments as well as high water bills when caused by an unexpected emergency or lay off. Qualifying for these funds is a tremendous process. It reminds me of the days when I worked with ACORN in the foreclosure prevention workshops I trained for in Orlando’s ACORN office and later presented in Ft. Lauderdale! Working as a community organizer is a tough job which requires tremendous dedication and people skills. I went through one agency, Family Success, for a few days to get help as well, though I didn’t “qualify” for assistance. Thanks for the information, Marie Achille.

Yet, I do have an interview set up for Monday through a wonderful employment coach/counselor – Mrs. Kathia! She was helping me reset my passwords for the Employ Florida website and asked me what type of work I was looking for. So, I told her, something in administration or education. She gave me an application for a job and told me to fill it out. She also asked for my e-mail address and handed me a template for my resume and e-mailed me the same one so I could breathe life back into it. Just to let you know, it was a few days of running around from office to office, then home to re-do my resume several times, and then back to Work Force Once Center here in Ft. Lauderdale. Like I said, “One Down!” meaning one week of this and hopefully we’re off to a good start, thank God … and others who’ve been so supportive, including my landlord “Mitch” and my good friend “Bobby”. Thanks, Burke for your encouragement and support as well. A special thanks, too, for the supportive and encouraging e-mails I’ve received as well …

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

A Blessing In Disguise

Move Forward
Happy Hump Day, y’all!

While I’ve been having a somewhat interesting week, I am also embracing the opportunities to feel, to write and to share my thoughts with each of you. In this somewhat challenging time of dealing with a layoff, I am carefully considering each and every option. Before I go further, I wanted to thank an “ole” college guy, Lloyd Lawrence, Esq., who reminded me that my reference in the e-mail about Imamu Amiri Baraka to the Civil Rights Act of 1954 was erroneous by 10 years! In 1954, Lloyd reminded me, the Brown vs. Board of Education case was the event that occurred prohibiting segregation in schools. It too was a huge landmark in the Civil Rights Movement which caught Dr. King up and carried him to the front and center of the Movement! What a sacrifice for a cause … and quite a critical cause, as well.

Sometimes things happen to us that are beyond our immediate control. Yet, if we learn how to detach from a situation like this, and not allow our ego to get involved … as if it is a reflection of ourselves, we will fare much better and gain much from the experience when viewed in this manner. I am sure that many of us have experienced situations where you worked at a place and saw many inconsistencies … that were beyond your control. Humility teaches one to deal with such situations not having to “win” and appear that you’ve come out on top. What is the top? Is it a power trip or one where each of us are faced with exhibiting self control? I could go on and on about why, for example, the closing of the company I worked for is a blessing in disguise. I could complain about how things went. Yet, I choose to be grateful for having been able to work at a place for over three years and gained some valuable job related skills as well as even more valuable self preservation skills.

I have gotten many messages from friends and concerned others. This means a lot to me. It is when times are toughest that you get to see who your “real” friends are, right?! It is not the first time you’ve heard that either. How about “If it doesn’t kill you, it will only make you stronger!” That’s another one my parents used to tell me. It is times like these when we can look at the lives of people like Dr. King, Muhammad Ali … shucks, even my own parents who overcame greater obstacles as they came face to face with them daily, often, multiple times daily! Well, now I am faced with constructing a new plan for continuing on my journey and many of you are here with “me,” so to speak. Meaning simply, you know the experience of working hard on something and having dedicated yourself tremendously and the reward was not comparable to the service you provided. Here is where the lessons one can learn are from volunteering and doing good things just because you can do them – NOT because you will get a certain reward, which can sometimes be ones motivation or reason for doing something! This was the message that was sent out by Dr. King and many many organizations that celebrated the “Legacy of A Hero” who showed that being willing to help others is probably the most important thing one can do as a human!

Well, I am up early as I have some steps to take towards stabilizing my situation in the aftermath of this change … for that is all it really is! Keep your eyes open for the blessing in disguise, as it may be your turn to help someone, or take advantage of an opportunity to continue along a wonderful journey. Be well, namaste!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Legacy of “A Hero”

What Are You Doing For Others
It’s Monday, yes!

Another opportunity to “do what you do!” I hope it’s something good and growth producing. Yet, I know there are those who thrive on out doing the next person, maybe even trying to sabotage the next person … if possible! That’s the interesting thing, because I am not suggesting that competition does not have the elements of bringing out the best in people, as long as it is done with good intentions, and tastefully. That, too, should include being competitive and “winning” for the betterment of many … not just oneself.

Having always been intrigued more with sociology and the social sciences, as well as various types of psychology, be it educational or developmental, I tend to pay more attention to human interaction rather than human acquisitions. Apparently, one is not more important than the other, but it is the true protean “person,” if you will, who knows how to balance the two in a positive way. I do know many people like this, too! I can see them now … but I do not need to say their names here. Besides, they are usually “humble” folks disguised as over achievers and don’t need to be mentioned because they “know themselves.”

Enter one of history’s all time heroes, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! Just his name – if you know much about the development of protestant denominations in European History, the Reformation and the religious figure known as Martin Luther – rings of royalty! For me, Dr. King was a product of the times he lived in. He virtually absorbed the major problems of the people of America from the experience of living as an African American, formerly called “the Negro,” and demonstrated how many of the challenges that people of this ethnic group face are created by the society itself. Then, a masterful social phenomena known as “blaming the victim” is put into motion via this country’s institutions and social fabric. Historically speaking, look at the development of “Jim Crow Laws” as it evolved from the horrors of slavery into the regular practice of racial discrimination in the very country that advocates equality. Dr. King lived this, absorbed the drive for change, as it is an evil practice that seeks to dehumanize a particular race … that racism monster. Consequently, it gives whomever is using that “tactic” in social affairs a false sense of who “they” are as well.

Here in South Florida, there was a huge event held, in Miami to be exact, where Representative Frederica Wilson spoke on the necessity of seeing Dr. King’s “Dream” as an embodiment of keeping the African America youth in school to be equipped with the survival tools of “reading, writing and arithmetic.” In addition, she stated that his legacy of non-violence should further fuel the need for a community, a national, if not international, “Stop the Violence” campaign. I advocate and embrace both here with Educational Excellence. Often, as Dr. King’s “Dream” continues, the walls of discrimination come tumbling down. Yet we know the challenge of being an African American can often be difficult … even with the tools. So, this inequality is indeed, a social illness.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King! Let Freedom Ring!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Just When You Thought It Was Safe . . .

Faith
Happy Friday, All!

I’m going to do it … yes I am … T.G.I.F.!!

It’s has been quite a week … quite a run, in general, with this job I’ve had for a little over three years! The interesting thing is that now, I must put into practice what I’ve been preaching. There’s a story behind all of this …

After working in various capacities from teaching at a career college here in Ft. Lauderdale, having some legal issues, then “starting from the bottom” again, I have experienced some challenging situations. Now I know that there are people who have it worse than I do, and I don’t want to compare myself in order to feel better in anyway … better than anyone. I’ve worked for a car wash, as mentioned in the previous e-mail this week, with the now defunct “Labor Ready” job pool. In addition, I have had numerous assignments with the job pool after spending first 3 months, then a year later after losing my appeal, 7 months in the County Jail here for “violation of probation”. It was a journey, but I managed to find housing, more steady employment in debt settlement, since the public and private schools, and colleges here didn’t want to hire anyone with a criminal background. Soon, I worked for a mortgage and lending company until the owners had crossed the line with calling folks on a “Do Not Call” list to offer refinancing, and was fined, shut down and the owners jailed!

So, a few years ago, I started working as a sales agent for a diabetic supply company in a commission only capacity. It was an up and down experience as I “graduated” from a scooter to a motorcycle for transportation to Boca Raton in Palm Beach County where I found the sales job. Now, I had driven all over Broward County on that scooter, which a good friend – Steve McCrea – had helped me to get, and the motorcycle was next! It was pretty much a gift from Peter Zachary, RIP! So, I worked generating leads for this marketing company in Boca Raton until being “promoted” to quality assurance agent there. And the story unfolds …

So, yesterday, there was a lot of “buzz” going on at the job location in Boca … Sales agents had often seemed to be disappearing from time to time though our assignments in “QA” (quality assurance) continued and became less focused and even duplicated within our team members! Just before Thanksgiving, we had had a meeting with “the owner” who stated that the company was now “under” another company’s structure and the top manager would be taking his place. A “red flag” went up for many of us, but us humans like to keep hoping that things are “gonna be alright!” We were each given a turkey for Thanksgiving by the owners, had the day off, but soon found out there would not be a Christmas party for the employees, which we had experienced in previous years! Just before Christmas, we were told that we would have an “on site” party with sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres in lieu of our regular “off site” extravaganzas. I had learned to be grateful for what I had. So, while the red flag was still up from the marketing company’s being “sold” to a larger conglomerate, we all tried to keep faith alive. Then … BAM!

I got an inbox message from a former trainer at the marketing firm asking me if I was still working there. I replied yes. He then sent me another message asking me if I had heard that our firm’s last day would be tomorrow (today!) and I told him that I had heard that rumor before. He then dropped a few names and it unfolded that indeed, today … the doors will be closed. I am going anyway to receive my final check though no information has come directly from our management team! All information had come from outside, and, I soon had learned that this was a directive from “the owner” – don’t tell anybody!!!!! Just when I thought it was safe, the bottom fell out … of THIS situation! Now in my more than a half century of years on this planet, I have learned that “life goes on!” Yet, for my Broward, Miami Dade and Palm Beach folks, I am sending out a job alert. If you know of anyone hiring, send me an e-mail. My bills still need to be paid, and, while I have a few “commission only” options, as well as unemployment and “food stamps”, I really prefer to work … and continue building Educational Excellence to a non-profit corporate status. It is a tall order, once again, but I am submitting it to the universe!

Have a great day!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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