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red clay ponderings

Hmmm… what shall I ponder on today?

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Atlanta

Aimee 

Have you ever met someone who, without even trying, changed the way you perceived yourself? Until today, I’ve never had such an encounter, not in this profound and positive manner. And to be frank, I’m astounded by the emotional growth I’ve experienced in a mere six hours. I know, I know…such things are bursts of energy, not a lasting, change. 

But I’ve had a mindshift, and it’s everlasting. 

I met Aimee Copeland this afternoon. But can I tell you, I felt her presence before she introduced herself? We had an appointment to meet at the Chattahoochee Nature Center near Atlanta. She was already there, waiting outside, when I arrived. It was as I first walked toward her, that I felt it. “You must be Danita”, she said. Think what you will, but I promise you, a very confident, strong, warm, sincere and sweet spirit greeted me in the space between she and I…in advance of that verbal greeting. My friend Dani was with me, and she experienced the same. 

Perhaps her name is familiar to you. Aimee had a zip-line accident about five years ago, and as a result, lost limbs, and nearly lost her life. Given the same situation, most of us would have succumbed to defeat. But something didn’t allow Aimee to give up. I believe it was that spirit I witnessed today. Inner strength. Faith. Hope. Love of life. 

Aimee has started a foundation, the Aimee Copeland Foundation.  She has a plan to create a nature park accessible to people with disabilities. She understands how difficult, if not impossible, public parks and gyms are for people with disabilities. As a psychologist and athlete, she also understands how detrimental a life lived solely indoors is to our emotional well-being. (Maybe someone will be able to help her out…She’s looking for land on which to build her dream. Donated land would be awesome!). 

What was the purpose of my meeting with Aimee?  Yoga. 

For several years, I’ve been losing the ability to walk unassisted…the residual effects of a battle I had with Goliath. I’ve tried to hide it. It feels like another assault, it feels personal. I’ve been embarrassed by the falls and stumbles. I’ve felt the red hot sting of humiliation in asking a stranger for help out of a chair, or an arm for steadiness…otherwise risk losing my balance and falling like a skidrow drunk. I’ve sat in my car at Dellinger Park, praying, trying to will my legs to have the balance and strength they used to have, to walk the hills and trails. Or make laps around the track. I’ve cried privately to God, knowing that barring a miracle from Him, I’m going to eventually be in a chair. I’ve been able to maintain hope for improvement, but lately I’ve felt a bit defeated. Believing it was time to accept my destiny and give up unrealistic expectations. 

Then today happened. I met this beautiful young woman…Aimee. Beforehand, I knew she was in a chair. But upon meeting her, I did not see her chair. I didn’t see her prosthetics. I saw life. I saw and felt a vibrantly beautiful life. Hope. 

I did yoga with her. Outside. In a public place. On video. And I wasn’t embarrassed. I wasn’t hyper aware of my imperfections. I did not feel inferior.                                                  It felt good to be outside, moving my body again. I left there today feeling like I can conquer the world, as long as I do it in small portions, consistently. 

Thank you, Aimee. That giant has not defeated me after all. 

The Face Of Homeless

face of homeless

Eons ago, when I was still in my teens, a friend and I walked out of the Fulton County Stadium on a sweltering Atlanta night and came face to face with a “begger”. Up to that moment, we had been goofing around: laughing, singing, having fun watching the Braves lose another one. The frivolity of the evening ended when I encountered homelessness for the first time. Prior to that summer night, I had been naive enough to believe everyone went home to a warm dinner and a comfy bed. And then this man approached us, “Excuse me, can you spare some change? I’m homeless. I’m hungry.” The look of him…the painful pleading in his expression, the desperation in his quivering voice, his dirty, wrinkled clothing…stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to make his life better but felt helpless to do so. A lump lodged in my throat as I reached for the fifty cents in my pocket, “This is all I have, I’m sorry”, I said. “Thank you, ma’am. Bless you,” he said.

My friend grabbed my arm and pulled me away. “Why did you do that? Why did you give him your money? I can’t believe you fell for his trick. He’s just here to get people to feel sorry for him. He has the same opportunity everyone else has, all he has to do is get out and get a job but he doesn’t want to work. It’s easier for him to beg than it is for him to go to a job every day”.

On the drive home, my friend and I had a heated discussion about poverty and opportunity. We didn’t see eye to eye on the subjects.

Later than night, cool, dry and tucked safely beneath my covers, I cried for the man we had encountered outside the stadium. I couldn’t get his face out of my mind. His skin had the ashen look of poor nutrition, his eyes were hollow from hunger. I knew he didn’t live that way by choice. No one does.

I’m ashamed to say, I haven’t done much to help the homeless over the years. Donations and food drives have been the extent of my giving and service. But I know someone who has done so much more. Vitelle Webb’s life and work is an inspiration to all who know her. She has written a play about her own personal experience with homelessness. The Face of Homeless will be onstage in Atlanta this coming August 3, 2013. Vitelle is also the founder of the Feed the Homeless Tour. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Vitelle. Here’s what she told me….

The Face of Homeless is my life and experience, portrayed on stage. It is also the stories of a few other lives as well as real life situations that have been experienced by many. The show exposes various circumstances involving homelessness. My hope is the stories of our characters, Gary, Violet, Shelia, Mark and the others will help people to understand that homelessness can happen to anyone. Too many people have a stereotype of what they think homelessness is; a preconceived idea of who the homeless are. People think of the homeless as being an old man digging through a trash can and asking for change to get a beer. Our hope is this stage production will reveal the truth about who the homeless are. With our show, we hope to encourage people who are going through or have gone through similar situations as well as bring awareness to the community of what homelessness really consists of and that it exists in our own backyards.

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The Feed the Homeless Tour is a non-profit organization I founded seven years ago to help meet the basic needs of the homless from state to state. We provide such things as food, clothing and hygiene items. We assist people with finding jobs and housing and connect them with other organizations that may be able to help them based on specific needs. We never turn down someone in need due to a lack of identification or age and gender. We strive to end homelessness and have done so for many people!

Our stage production, The Face of Homeless, is one of many fundraising efforts to support Feed the Homeless Tour goals. It is our first stage production and we anticipate many more. After our Atlanta area premier on August 3, 2013 we will travel the country bringing this production to all fifty states, helping the homeless of each state we visit.

Tickets can be purchased at: http://www.FaceofHomeless.eventbrite.com

Note to Vitelle,

I want to thank you for what you’re doing to help others. God gave you a big heart and a willingness to sacrifice your time for your brothers and sisters. You are living proof that we can take our life experiences, both positive and negative, and use it to benefit others.

I wish you much joy and success as you continue your journey.

Danita

Sweet Daisy Girl

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Daisy became a member of our family in late December 1998. Lindsey wanted a puppy and decided to use her birthday and Christmas money to purchase one….”the perfect one”. For three weeks in December, we pursued puppy perfection and came up short. As Christmas week approached, I suggested we put a hold on our search until the holiday was over. Lindsey reluctantly agreed, and true to her nature, waited patiently through the holiday hoopla. A couple of days after Christmas, Lindsey, Garrett (he was in search of a ferret) and I made the rounds of pet stores and animal shelters in Cartersville, Kennesaw and Marrietta. The Perfect Puppy proved to be more difficult to find than the Perfect Ferret (Garrett had had his eye on Harley, a special silver and black ferrett in the Cartersville Pet Store for several days and without hesitation, proudly adopted Harley with Christmas Dollars).

Lindsey could feel what the Perfect Puppy would be like, but she couldn’t really explain the feeling. “I’ll know when I see it”, she would say. After two full days of our post-Christmas puppy quest, we were still without a cuddly critter. Our third day would include a visit to an animal shelter in Atlanta, but first we would try the Cartersville Shelter one more time.

The shelter clerk greeted us when we entered, “You’re back! I was just thinking of you because someone just brought in a whole litter of puppies. He found them on the side of the road in Rome. We haven’t even bathed them yet. They look to be about four or five weeks old. Go on in and see them, you know the way.”

We entered the holding area, and in a large middle-row-kennel…placed at eye level to Lindsey and Garrett, were seven tired and hungry, wet and muddy, black and white puppies. They shivered pitifully; piled one against the other for warmth and comfort. One of the pups left the pack and walked to the kennel gate, where she was face to face with Lindsey. The little puppy cocked her head to the side, raised one ear and locked blue puppy eyes on my little girl. “This is the one, Mommy. She’s perfect.” And she was.

Our Perfect Puppy grew to be a fierce paintball competitor (she became a living legend in the game)…she was a protective beast where the kids and I were concerned….and a gentle mother to the many stray cats and dogs discarded on Shotgun Road. She was the most beautiful doggie in the world, and I told her so each and every day. And she was brave.

Daisy’s glory days began fading a few years ago, after she was hit by a careless man in our driveway. Paitball games ended, hikes with Garrett in the woods ceased. The cool waters of Two Run Creek no longer lured her. Kicking a soccer ball with Lindsey became a distant memory. Daisy was content to snooze in front of the fire while Lindsey rubbed her ears and scratched her back. We were content to have her there…her soft snoring a sound of comfort.

Today, Lindsey, Garrett and I reluctantly said Farewell to our Brave Girl, the Most Beautiful Doggie in the World. With broken hearts, we kissed our Perfect Puppy one last time and then we allowed her to sleep.

Rest well my Sweet Daisy Girl.

Letters From A Whoremonger’s Wife – the book

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Letters From A Whoremonger’s Wife, a story of abuse and an addiction to adultery, is now available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online retailers as well as www.danitaclark.com.

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