I always enjoy my conversations with Janine LeGal and you will too – she is an insightful and wise women with many gifts to share. Enjoy our Your Life, Unlimited radio show podcast here: Your Life, Unlimited radio – April 6th – with Stephanie Staples and Janine LeGal and the guest post of her Motivational Mondays presentation below.
When I began to think about my presentation, the word helpless came to mind. Now that might seem strange given that we are here to be inspired and motivated. But I wanted to share a little about where I came from before I talked about where I came to be.
As a child I often felt helpless. Unable to change things, to make them better. There was so much going on around me, things that weren’t so great at times, but I was powerless to do anything. All I really wanted was for people around me to get along. To stop the yelling. The screaming. The swearing. The hitting. I wanted peace, more than anything else.
We’ve all been there in one form or another. Times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed, unable to budge, get unstuck, much less do anything to contribute to a better world.
For me, spending much of my childhood living in fear and helplessness lead to my wanting to experience the brightness of this world, the joy, the laughter, the gratitude. I had a hunger for it and I was fortunate enough to know that it existed.
As a young person I witnessed a lot of pain. As a runaway kid, there were days living in poverty, at times desperation. I will never forget the winter without a warm coat, walking down back lanes picking up cigarette butts, stealing toilet paper and napkins from MacDonald’s and cashing in beer bottles to buy ketchup to have something to put on the usual plain macaroni for supper. There were nights doing too many drugs with people so lost in the cycle of abuse and addiction that they had no strength left to even think of moving towards a better place. But I always wanted to move beyond that place, to push forth into a better world, where kindness was bigger than anything else, where hope allowed for giving people a reason to smile no matter how hard life became. I was determined, ferociously determined, to see a better kinder world. My sister had ended her life because hope had left her. But I was going to find that hope. Dammit I was going to find it. And I did. I surrounded myself with artists, poets, musicians, activists and other creators of beauty, people who believe in giving to this world and making it more beautiful.
I was very fortunate to still have something in me, faith maybe, to believe in the goodness of people. A world I longed to see, to know. Because early on I had a hunger for understanding, the need to know that goodness existed in this world. I read books about it, talked to people from all over the world, and became almost addicted to volunteering in the community so I could hear the stories, have the life experience that would show me that people were good, that there was reason to hope. But mostly, that curiosity came from my own selfishness. I needed to experience feeling good, helping others and contributing to something. Creating and building and giving lead to healing.
For almost twenty years now, I’ve been connected to refugees to Winnipeg from war torn countries, and immigrants looking for a brighter future. And my life has changed dramatically because of it. Since that time, I have met and befriended and adopted and learned from and taught and loved people from all over the world, right here in Winnipeg. I’ve heard stories of pain, loss and torture. Up close and personal. I’ve come to know things I wish I didn’t know, facts about the darkest sides of humanity. There was a time where I couldn’t make sense of any of it. The violence, the war, the anguish. But over time in my friendships I began to see and understand and learn of the fierce resilience of people to overcome, to forge ahead and to continue to believe in beauty and peace and love and grace no matter how ugly things might have been.
And something happened in me. That childhood pain that still had a hold on me began to lift. And I let go, and I went into therapy, and I forgave.
So I asked myself what can I do now to build on that beauty, that hope that had saved my life. I didn’t have much money but I had loads of resourcefulness. So that year I started having birthday parties that would contribute to happiness. Not just in others lives but in my own. And since that time, my life has been lived as a gift every single day.
My first fundraiser was in my home, friends brought arts and crafts for kids. Lots of beautiful colourful things for children in need of reasons to smile, there were about 20 or 30 people. I hosted a few more parties in my home but my living room was too small to accommodate too many people, so I moved into restaurants, booking a room with 50 to 100 people.
In the last five years, I’ve held the birthday fundraisers in community centres and other large venues, including the Bulman Centre at University of Winnipeg with just over 300 people.
People want to give, are happy to do so, they want to get involved, be connected, to something bigger than they are. Many of my friends and colleagues help out every year with food and prizes and music and other fun stuff and it becomes a huge reason to celebrate being alive and doing great things in this world. Since I began doing these birthday fundraisers, we’ve collected arts and crafts and toys for inner city kids, put together Christmas baskets for families with very little, raised money for Alzheimer’s research, Amnesty International, Status4 media arts and music programs for inner city kids, newcomer programming and several human rights, social justice and peace events and causes, starting with a few hundred dollars and now reaching almost $4,000.
Now, in much of the work I do, I am thankful for living my lifelong dream, every day, in some form or other. Tonight here in this room we started out as a space full of mostly strangers. There was likely some discomfort, fear perhaps, nervousness about the unknown, it was all very uncertain. Over time, we would find comfort, relief, the beginning of a sense of belonging, acceptance, something we’re all looking for. Soon we may even become friends.
My dream comes true every day when I see and experience moments/events like these where all of us gather together with a shared desire to live in peace and build understanding, all of us under the same sky. Through the sharing of stories, we create connection, break through stereotypes, have birthday parties, and build a better world. We shine more brightly when we light the way for others.
So now the word helpless isn’t really part of my world anymore.
Amen to that – Steph 🙂
Stephanie Staples, CSP* is the author of When Enlightening Strikes – Creating a Mindset for Uncommon Success and an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker. She empowers audiences & clients across North America to bring their ‘A’ game to work and to life. Stephanie has a special interest in working with and empowering nurses and healthcare providers. She happily calls Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada home. You can get loads of complimentary resources to help with issues such as work/life balance, wellness, stress management and happiness in general, as well as find out more information about her coaching and speaking services at http://www.YourLifeUnlimited.ca. * Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), conferred by the National Speakers Association is the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform proficiency. Less than 10 percent of speakers have earned this credential and are recognized as some of the best in their fields. Stephanie was one of only five professional speakers in Canada (and the only woman) to attain this designation in 2013.