Cancer Can Add Years to your Life

I recently had the delightful opportunity to meet with an amazing 94-year-old man who is sharp as a tack with a quick wit and dry sense of humor that belies his age. This extraordinary man has been, and still is, a practicing psychologist. He has specialized in working with terminally ill cancer patients since shortly after World War II. Imagine nearly 70 years of working with people who were expected to die. Especially when your approach is to truly care about, and even love, your patients.

blogDr. Larry LeShan speaks to therapists in one of his 18 books about the importance of truly caring about his patients. He admonishes therapists and caregivers NOT to compartmentalize feelings of grief and loss as they grieve with and about dying patients who become friends. With this approach and with this demographic of patients, it would seem that Larry LeShan would be grieving continuously. He says that the feelings of grief and loss are what drove him to what turned out to be a revolutionary approach to therapy.

LeShan found that doing traditional therapy with dying people wasn’t helping them enjoy their last days. He said that asking a dying person what was wrong with his life felt absurd. So, he began to ask what was right and good and significant about his patient’s lives. He said that the shift in the patient’s mindset was immediately obvious—facial expressions and body language spoke loudly that for those moments together life wasn’t dominated by cancer, but by what was good and significant in life.

Just weeks after throwing the book of traditional therapeutic methods out the proverbial window, Dr. Larry LeShan noticed that his patients were living beyond their dismal prognosis!

Dr. LeShan began to follow his patients’medical progress, and what he found was remarkable. Cancer cells halted growth, some tumors shrank, and some patients went into remission. Over 50% of his patients, diagnosed as terminally ill, lived at least ten years beyond their prognosis!

So what was his secret?

Dr. LeShan believes that when we focus on what’s good in our lives, find our passion, and live in it as best we can, we “unlock”our immune systems. He believes that focusing on our significance and our passion gives our bodies a reason to fight.

In his book, Cancer As A Turning Point, LeShan tells stories of people who made minor tweaks and of those who made major changes in their lives to focus on the things that were significant to them—the things about which they were passionate, who went on to live for years beyond the cancer that had threatened to kill them. He also tells of those who, for one reason or another, chose not to go in the direction of their dreams, who succumbed to the cancer.

Cancer_as_a_turning_pointHaving read some of his books and after the pleasure of spending several hours with him, I’m fully convinced that one could put almost anything in the place of “cancer,”and use any milestone or game changer as a turning point toward finding one’s passion in life. In fact, why wait for some life-threatening diagnosis or life altering game-changer? Why not find our passion and begin to live in that now? Dr. LeShan, himself, is a perfect example of how living out one’s passion contributes to a long, healthy, productive life. At 94, he still lights up when a patient finds her passion and makes the decision to dramatically alter her life to pursue it.

As I left Dr. LeShan’s little apartment in New York, I decided that I didn’t need a cancer diagnosis to change my life. I dug out the files full of notes I’ve made for a step-by-step program for finding the intersection of passion and expertise, and I began to create the YOUR REAL SUCCESS program. Watch for it in 2015.

RhondaSciortinoHeadshotRhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to start her own business and develop it, along with her other investments, into a multi-million dollar balance sheet. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to a great future.  

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Before you do something drastic ….

Women make dramatic changes in hairstyle. Or they bad hair stylego splurge on something they probably shouldn’t buy—like a car. Or they get a tattoo, or quit their job, or move out of state. Why do we do these dramatic things?

When we feel that our circumstances are out of control, we often DO SOMETHING, almost anything, to feel that we have some control.

bad tattooUnfortunately, in our effort to gain control over our circumstances, we sometimes do things that negatively affect the trajectory of our lives.

Next time you feel tempted to do something dramatic, consider this:

  1. Give yourself 24+ hours. If after that cool-off period, you still feel strongly, and then consider the change.
  2. Find alternatives that are less dramatic and aren’t irreparable like doing something outside your normal routine. For example, take a different way home from work. Get up an hour early and pray, meditate, or read something you wouldn’t ordinarily read. Or try some ethnicity of food you’ve never eaten before.
  3. Make a life plan, complete with bucket list of what you’d like to do with the rest of your life.
  4. Make a two-columned list with one column being those things that need to change but are outside of your control, and the other column being those things you can influence. Decide to “delegate to God” those things outside your control and take specific steps to change those areas you can influence.

Once you’ve identified those things you can and should change that are within your ability to influence, and will favorably change the trajectory of your life, confidently go for it!

 

Rhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve BeenRhonda Pic New Through, is the National Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance Company. Rhonda is a foster alum who chairs the Successful Survivors Foundation and serves as a spokesperson for Foster Care Alumni of America. Her weekly radio show can be heard at www.rhondasradioshow.com.

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Why Do You Share Your Beliefs?

Have you ever known anyone who managed to work into nearly every conversation a suggestion that you should believe the way they do? Or the person who feels compelled to quote Scripture in even the most mundane of situations, like while ordering off the menu in a restaurant?

I respect people who are passionate about their faith. And I appreciate people who are bold enough to share it with others. But I think what turns many people off when the subject of God, religion, or faith comes up are people who are perceived as “shoving religion down their throats.”

I’m intimately aware of this because I used to be one of those people!  When you find “medicine”that heals your wounds, you want to share it with others. When your broken, bleeding heart is restored and life is good, you want everyone to know about the source of the amazing restoration. The problem is that there is a time and a place for everything. And faith that is authentically lived out is attractive rather than repulsive, and it is far more lastingly persuasive than faith that is perceived to be obnoxious.

When Christians first turn their lives over to Jesus and begin to see amazing changes in their lives, they’re often apt to put the Jesus fish on their bumper and the “He Is Risen”sign on their front door. There is no problem with either of those actions UNLESS you’re not yet fully submitted to doing your best to live the life Jesus would have you live. When others see Christians who are doing the same things non-Christians do and making the same kinds of decisions that non-Christians do, the lives of those new Christians or “so-called”Christians speak much louder than do their words or the Jesus fish on the back of their car.

How do I know all this?  Well, naturally, I had the Jesus fish on my bumper, the “He Is Risen”sign on my office cubicle, and the cross around my neck—all while I still let the rage inside me (rage that was the residual of abandonment and abuse) rule my behavior. I meant well, but any mention of Jesus likely drove people further away rather than drew them in for a closer look.

It’s been many years since I made the leap from “believing in Jesus”to giving Him my life and promising to cooperate with Him to do something good with it. Since then, I have learned to unapologetically share my faith while doing my best to live a life consistent with my words. (Until I was sure that I could do that reasonably well, I refused to wear a cross or have any other Christian identifiers.)

Until yesterday, it had been years since I grimaced about my behavior as an immature Christian. It all came back to me yesterday while I was attending a meeting that a dear friend asked me to join wherein she was going to make a big announcement to her family.

My friend had flown 3,000 miles to speak to her family. She wanted (maybe needed) their support. While she was speaking to the group of about 18 family members, laying the foundation for her announcement and building up to her big news, one of the family members decided that it would be a good time to focus on one sentence—six words to be exact—that my friend spoke. The one sentence was peripheral to the point of the meeting.  But this family member stopped my friend and put her on the spot about that one inconsequential thing she’d said. The family member pulled out a Bible and began to quote Scripture and give a contextual lesson about the prophet who spoke those words some 4,000 years ago.

Meantime, some were clearly uncomfortable with the insertion of a Bible lesson. A couple of the family members had to get going, but they were eager to hear the big announcement. It appeared that some were unwilling to make waves by standing up to this very aggressive Christian; however, a couple of family members finally did intervene and the meeting went on, allowing my friend to make her announcement. As I was leaving, several family members shared their discomfort and even disdain for the one family member who probably perceived herself as boldly making a stand for Christ. As I drove away, I wondered how much damage well-meaning Christians do by failing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit on what to say and when to say it.

Do we insert talk about our faith, our experiences, or Scripture into conversations in an effort to help others? Or are there times when we do this to be in control? Or do we quote Scripture to show off our vast knowledge or how smart we are? After what I saw yesterday, I plan to pay more attention to the way I communicate my faith. I’m going to make a greater effort to live in a way that is attractive rather than obnoxious, a way that gives evidence of God in my life, including love, kindness, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, peace, humility, and self-control. If I have to TELL you I’m a Christian rather than this being obvious from the way I live my life, I still have a long way to go

Rhonda Sciortino, author of The Prayer That Covers It All, was raised by atheists and introduced to Jesus by a foster parent when she was a child. Rhonda’s faith journey was influenced by her faith-filled high school typing teacher, the Rhonda Photo Blue ShirtLutheran pastor who baptized her, a Rabbi who taught her, the Baptist minister who invited her to a public profession of faith, a Pentecostal youth pastor whose prayers resulted in miraculous healing, the Church of Christ pastor who helped launch her career, a Norbertine Priest who encouraged her, and myriad friends from various denominations and non-denominational churches all over the US. Rhonda is a fully yielded believer in Christ who focuses on the words of Jesus.

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Five Tips for Getting Through a Crisis

What do you do when your coping mechanisms don’t work? What do you do when the situation is so bad that you have nothing to draw from to get you through it?

  1. Do the mundane. Wash dishes, organize your sock drawer, file that stack of papers that has been sitting around for years, etc.Washing Dishes
  2. DO NOT throw anything out. Don’t make big purchases. Don’t get a dramatically different hair style. Don’t get a tattoo. Don’t quit your job. Don’t walk out on relationships.
  3. Breathe. Really slow down and breathe intentionally so that you’re not taking in shallow breaths that keep you alive but don’t give your brain what it needs to work properly.
  4. Sleep. When things are bad, you need to get the sleep your mind and body need. When you are sleeping, your body restores itself. And your mind needs a break from trying to deal with trauma. So give yourself permission to be idle for longer periods of time, and do everything you can to ensure yourself 8 to 9 hours sleep.Eating Fruit
  5. Eat the right foods. When people feel badly, they tend to go for the foods that they think will make them feel better, like chocolate, potato chips, and ice cream. Those foods may make you feel better emotionally at the moment, but in the long run, they hurt you. Eat fresh vegetables and fruits and drink lots of clean, fresh water. When you eat better, you feel better. Your body needs the right fuel to get you through whatever you’re facing.

Rhonda Pic NewRhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, is the National Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance Company. Rhonda is a foster alum who chairs the Successful Survivors Foundation and serves as a spokesperson for Foster Care Alumni of America. Her weekly radio show can be heard at www.rhondasradioshow.com.

 

 

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Prophecy: Deceit or Self-Motivation

Last week I promised to tell you about my deception of choice. Well, have you ever encountered someone who speaks of something she wishes would happen long before it has? This kind of behavior can look like deceit or outright lunacy. But if you suspend judgment for a moment, you just might find a powerful form of self-motivation–a coping mechanism, if you will, that allows those who are struggling to survive to see a light at the end of their tunnel.

There are people who speak of things that are not as though they already were. They speak of people who are struggling through life-threatening illness as though they’re already healed. They speak of debt as though it’s already paid in full. They speak of what they want to see as though it’s already a reality in their lives.

People who engage in this type of talk would be insulted or hurt at my portrayal of this as deceit, but I’ve done it to try to help others understand this behavior. I am not condoning or dismissing deceit, but I am supportive of this particular type of self-motivation because not only can it get us through tough times, it really can result in self-fulfilled prophecies!

Strahan TrophyOne very public example involves a former NFL star, Michael Strahan. BEFORE winning the Superbowl, Strahan publicly predicted that the final score of the yet unplayed game would be 17-14. He finished his prediction by saying, “If you believe it, it will be so!” His team did win the Superbowl, and the final score was 17-14! 

In an interview some time later, Strahan was asked what his future would hold. He replied by speaking of his future in the past tense, saying, “Strahan went on to be many times Strahan and Rippamore successful outside the game than he ever was while playing football.”  When asked by Regis Philbin what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, he quickly responded, “Well, who knows, Regis? Maybe one day I’ll be sitting in your chair!”  That comment was made a full two years before it was announced that Regis Philbin would be retiring and a replacement would be sought. And as we all know now, of the 7 billion people on earth, it’s Michael Strahan sitting in the chair Regis used to occupy!

I’ve engaged in this kind of thing all my adult life. In fact, speaking of the way I wanted things to turn out rather than of the way they were got me through some very tough times.

When I was freshly emancipated from foster care with no money, no family, and no resources, I declared out loud that I was (not “would be”) a successful insurance broker and real estate investor. That’s exactly what I became. It was as though the act of telling myself who I was, was reprogramming my mind to believe something other than what I’d been told as a child about being no good and unwanted.

When the doctors told my husband that he was going to die, I told him to think about walks we would take on the beach in our 80’s. Every time he would try to tell me what kind of coffin he wanted, I’d talk to him about walking on the beach. Instead of dying, he made a full recovery. Although doctors said he wouldn’t walk again, he walks 5+ miles on the beach several times every week. I have no doubt that we’ll walk on the beach into our old age.

When my only child was addicted to crystal meth and cigarettes—addictions she acquired after four doctors destroyed her hopes of the one thing she wanted in life, which was to be a mother, I talked about my daughter being an excellent wife and mother and about being a healthy non-smoker. On September 7, 2004, she gave up drugs. Last year she gave up cigarettes. She is now exactly what I declared she would be—an excellent wife to the son who has enriched our family and an amazing mother to the grandchildren I prayed for. 

Lest I leave you with the impression that there is some hocus pocus involved and that all you have to do is speak the words and they become reality, let me hasten to add that my spoken words were accompanied by faith-filled prayers and hard work—both as though my life depended on them.

Since this particular technique or coping mechanism has helped me get through some very rough times, I highly recommend it to those who are willing to do a few simple things.

First, quit talking about the bad situation or poor outcome or prognosis as though it’ll never get better. You may still feel worry and fear, but decide NOT to speak of these things.

Second, learn to speak in hope-filled terms about how you want the situation to turn out. For example, rather than saying, “He’s doing terribly. The doctors say he has less than 3 months to live.” Say, “The doctors are negative, but I will never give up hope of everything working out beautifully!” 

Third, become familiar with the promises God has given YOU. If you’re not familiar with the Bible, there are little books filled with promises of God. Being in the midst of crisis is not the time to start studying theology or biblical exposition or exegesis. So don’t worry about which version, what esteemed professor so-and-so says, or any other philosophizing. There’ll be time for all that later. In the midst of difficulty, simply find a promise in Scripture that speaks to you and internalize it. That means to memorize it and take it as your own—as though God is speaking directly to you. Get it planted so deeply inside of you that you don’t have it, it has you.

Fourth, worry and fear are cousins and their granddaddy is the devil!  When you feel worry, fear, or have thoughts of negative outcomes, literally say, “Jesus, you said that I could cast all my cares on you, so I’m asking you to take this from me.” Refuse to engage in worry because worry is the opposite of faith. Faith can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but so can worry. Don’t.

Take these four steps as though they were the protocol and prescription for complete resolution to whatever you may be going through–because they are. Every crisis is temporary, and in the midst of every difficulty lays opportunity. And one last thought…if you do these four things and nothing changes, repeat the prescription. One aspirin doesn’t cure every headache for the rest of your life. What I’m recommending isn’t just a one-time thing. It’s a life-long mode of operating. And once it becomes a lifestyle, your life will be more peaceful and joyful than you thought it could be.

Rhonda Pic NewRhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, is the National Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance Company. Rhonda is a foster alum who chairs the Successful Survivors Foundation and serves as a spokesperson for Foster Care Alumni of America. Her weekly radio show can be heard at www.rhondasradioshow.com.

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Why People Lie

Lies, deception, omission, exaggerations… it’s all deceit. Like most people, I can’t stand deceit. No one wants to be lied to. Lies are eventually uncovered, and even “little white lies” can damage relationships. So why do people do it? 

Control
A social worker friend who had lived through a dysfunctional childhood shared that she used to lie all the time. She was a college educated adult in a job that required a high level of integrity, yet she repeatedly told inconsequential lies. Tell TruthShe would lie to her husband about where she’d been. If she went to Target, she’d say that she went to Walmart. She said that she realized that she felt that the only small modicum of control she had in her life was to withhold a tiny bit of insignificant information. She said that she was truthful in her work and in “everything that mattered,” but up until a few years ago, this was the way she clung to a little part of herself that she refused to share.

ShameShame
It comes as no surprise to anyone that people lie about things that could bring them shame. They lie about things they’ve done and about things that have been done to them for which they would be ashamed to reveal. When we hold lies in, they can have the effect of acid or poison in our bodies. Shame and deceit are a toxic combination. Sadly, people who have been victimized by others exacerbate the problem by refusing to expose the wrongdoing.

Self-promotion/Reputation Management
Some people lie to make themselves look better. People “enhance” their Lyingresumes to appear more qualified. They exaggerate their accomplishments to elevate their reputations. They drop names to be accepted and to fit in. Single people post their best photo-shopped picture in the profile of online dating services. Many people lie in their social networking to create the appearance that their life is a magical place of perfection where nothing ever goes wrong.

Avoidance
Kids lie to their parents about who broke Mom’s favorite vase. People lie to the police officer who pulled them over, and give Academy Award worthy performances as they feign ignorance about the speed limit in front of the elementary school they flew past. People lie on their income tax return about a deduction that will likely only save them less than the cost of a few lattes. Spouses lie to each other about things they know won’t sit well with the other. Why? People lie to avoid the consequences of their actions.

Persuasion
Some people will lie to persuade others to act. These lies are often exaggerations designed to sell a product, service, or idea. “Try it; you’ll like it” was a line in an Alka Seltzer commercial in the 1970‘s that went “viral” (as much as anything went “viral” in the 70’s). In the commercial, a very animated man is telling how a waiter in a restaurant kept talking about the special of the day, saying, “Try it; you’ll like it.” PersuasionFinally the man relented and tried the special, and he was miserable afterwards—but was quickly rescued by Alka Seltzer. The popularity of that one commercial was probably because we’ve all had the experience of being pushed into something that we didn’t want to do and that didn’t turn out so well.

Compartmentalization
People omit certain information when talking to or interaction with people with whom they’d prefer not to share that information or for whom the information is not relevant. An example of this is a police officer telling his wife he had a good day–period, when the truth is that he dealt with the worst of humanity for the previous 8 hours. Social workers who looked into the eyes of innocent victims and absorbed some of their pain is another example. Not wanting to re-live what they just experienced, the officer and the social worker put the ugly scenarios into their “work” compartments, shift into “family mode” and leave the ugliness behind.

Mental health professionals can probably give us myriad different explanations for why people do what they do, including engaging in deceit. In the end, the question for us is, “Where do we engage in deceit and why?  Let’s take a look at our own lives. Where are we trying to exercise control and why? What are we ashamed of, and isn’t it time to let that go? How are we exaggerating to enhancing our reputations, and how about just letting our actions and words define us? What consequences would we like to avoid—couldn’t we just face the truth and get it over with? Who are we trying to persuade and why? What are we compartmentalizing, and do we have a healthy outlet for it?

Next week I’ll tell you about one more thing that some people consider deceit. It’s my “deception of choice.” See you next week.

Rhonda Pic NewRhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, is the National Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance Company. Rhonda is a foster alum who chairs the Successful Survivors Foundation and serves as a spokesperson for Foster Care Alumni of America. Her weekly radio show can be heard at www.rhondasradioshow.com.

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How to Keep Your Foster Child Safe Online

by John DeGarmo

Filters and parental control settings can help you keep your foster child safe from many of the online dangers.  Internet filters are designed to prevent users from accessing inappropriate content from certain websites. By using keywords, these programs filter out sites that are defined by the words you determine. When the software locates these key words, the sites are blocked. Net Nanny, CYBERsitter, and CyberPatrol are just three of the many filter-based programs available for foster parents to purchase.

Parental control settings are quite similar to filters as they are another way to manage the child’s online access and use, and they are easy to install. There are also apps and software that allow you to receive an alert or message indicating when someone has tried to tamper with your control settings. These apps and software can be downloaded and installed onto your own online device. A number of these can be purchased at a small fee; others are free. Some of those that are free include Norton Online Family, DNS Angel, Bitdefender Parental Control, and FortiClient, to name a few. Internet ProtectionSeveral offer additional benefits, such as allowing you to see how your foster child displays himself on social networking sites. Another benefit includes allowing you to track your child’s online preferences and searches. Still another offers you the opportunity to choose how long your child spends online and when a device is to shut down. There are also those apps and software that allow you to test their services for a short period of time before purchasing, such as a free trial run.

These sorts of filters will be in place in schools, restricting children’s access to sites that might be considered inappropriate and harmful to them. Indeed, most schools do not permit children to use social network sites; although as one who works in a school system, I assure you that children are finding a way around these restrictions on a regular basis. DeGarmo book image

It is important that you recognize that as a foster parent, you will be a role model for your foster child. Your foster child will not only be watching you, but the child will also be learning from you. After all, you may very likely be the first positive adult role model the child has had, and it is important to embrace this opportunity you have with the child. Therefore, foster parents must appreciate the fact that they are going to be a role model for their foster child in regards to computer use.

If you are going to be in front of your computer for several hours a day while at home, it should then be acceptable for your foster child to do so as well. If you are going to download movies and watch them on your computer, your foster child should be able to do so as well. If you listen to music online, your foster child will wonder why he is not able to do so also. Indeed, whatever you are doing online and with a computer device, your foster child will be watching you and learning your behavior and actions regarding computer use. This is certainly something to bear in mind the next time you sit down at the computer or online device. Foster parents must be a positive role model for all things regarding computers.

For more information, purchase Dr. DeGarmo’s new book, Keeping Foster Children Safe Online: Positive Strategies to Prevent Cyberbullying, Inappropriate Contact, and Other Digital Dangers.

John DeGarmo PhotoDr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 12 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 45 children come through their home.  He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic, and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of several books, including the new book,  Keeping Foster Children Safe Online; his first book, The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home; and the foster care children’s book, A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s Story. Dr. DeGarmo is the host of the weekly radio program Foster Talk with Dr. John, He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at his website, http://drjohndegarmofostercare.weebly.com

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#1 Cause of Death of Children in Country

You can protect the kids in your care if you know what the most likely cause of death is…

Read this Fostering Families Today article written by Rhonda

This article was originally published in the May/June 2014 issue of Fostering Families Today. To subscribe to this magazine, click here.

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Life Is Not a Competition

Life is not a competition, and it’s not a zero-sum game. In other words, if you get something, it doesn’t mean there’s less left for me.

I have a streak of extreme competitiveness in me. It doesn’t rear up often anymore, but when it does, it’s ugly.  A healthy sense of competition is good for athletes and salespeople. But when it’s more than a healthy competitive spirit or it flows over into are as where it doesn’t belong, like relationships, it causes problems.

It used to be that if someone got a promotion or a raise that I thought I was entitled to, or if someone got an account I was trying to earn, or if someone else’s offer on a piece of property was accepted over mine, the ugly competitive streak would flare up and anger would ensue. Anxiety be goneThe level of angst I felt over fairly inconsequential situations was rooted in my childhood experiences. I grew up with the sense that I deserved nothing and had to fight for the scraps left over by people better than I. When I felt that I’d been wronged in some way, the emotion that inevitably followed was disproportionate to the situation at hand. It was, instead, a culmination of a lifetime of being left behind and left out.  Based on the behavior I’ve seen in others, I suspect I’m not the only one who’s felt this way.

I couldn’t be happy for the person who just got what I wanted. Sometimes I’d move on by assessing the situation, considering what I could’ve done differently, and determining to do better in the future. Other times the anger I felt at losing inverted to depression. “I’m not good enough. I just don’t have what it takes. What’s the use anyway?” These were the tapes that played in my head. But necessity—needing to feed and house my daughter and myself forced me to shrug off the blanket of depression and get back in the game.

As I began to learn about God, I realized that we each have our own customized Life Assignment. They’re all different, with no one person’s Life Assignment better or SN Image Most Determined croppedmore meaningful than another. Our Assignments are accompanied by all the resources and experience we need to fulfill it. I learned, too, that as we begin to fulfill our Assignments, we earn the “perks” that come along with accomplishment. These are blessings that were designed and created with us in mind. These blessings appear differently for each of us because they are perfectly customized. That’s why it’s important for us not to buy into what the culture or society tells us we should want and strive for. One person’s blessing could actually wind up being another person’s curse. But that’s another topic for a different day.

Once I began to understand and believe that God really does have a good plan for me, a plan to prosper and not to harm me, that He knew me before He knitted me together in my mother’s womb, that when my mother and father abandoned me, He took me under His wing, that I am His masterpiece created to do a specific work, that I’m not too broken to be fixed, that Jesus Himself said that I was the salt of the Earth, and that  I should let my light shine in all the world, THEN I knew that another person’s success does not diminish my own. In fact, the opposite is true. All boats rise when the tide rises for one.

There’s a personalized package marked “success” for each of us. For me to force myself into someone else’s Assignment would result in a huge disappointment. successkidI imagine striving and scratching my way to the top and opening the Success Package there, only to find that it didn’t belong to me. A Success Package that was not mine might look like a life filled with lots of social interaction, parties, travel, time spent outdoors (in the sun and in the company of mosquitoes and other insects)… no, that package would definitely NOT be for me. The person for whom that Success Package was prepared would surely love it, but me striving to get to it would steal two people’s destinies.

I’ve learned that doing anything other than my own Life Assignment will not make me joyful, peaceful, healthy, and prosperous. No, it’s better to help others find and fulfill their Life Assignments and to celebrate with genuine gratitude the joy they receive as they achieve their successes. Perhaps the success of others around us is the very thing that unlocks the door to the place where our unique success package is waiting.

Rhonda Sciortino Photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, is the National Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance Company. Sciortino is a foster alum who chairs the Successful Survivors Foundation and serves as a spokesperson for Foster Care Alumni of America. Her weekly radio show can be heard at www.rhondasradioshow.com.

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Be Part of the Solution

There is an old story about villagers who were out having their annual picnic near the river. They were eating and playing and laughing when suddenly one of the villagers looked at the river and exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, there’s a baby floating down the river!”  He quickly waded out into the water and rescued the baby, after which everyone rejoiced. He no sooner handed the baby to his wife to include in their family than another baby came floating down the river, and another, and then two more, and soon many more babies were floating down the river.

Before long, all the villagers had formed a production line of sorts, plucking babies out of the river and passing them to people along the line until they were with a family that would include the baby as their own. SN Need a HandThe villagers were working hard to save all the babies when one woman noticed that two of the villagers were walking away. It looked as though they had quit the work of saving babies. Wasn’t it important enough to them? Wasn’t it the noblest work?

The woman continued saving babies while she watched the two villagers getting smaller and smaller as they walked along the banks of the river. Before long, the number of babies floating down the river diminished, and soon there were no more. As the villagers were celebrating their good work and the blessings of their expanded families, the two villagers who had walked away returned. They told of how they had walked up the river until they found the source of the floating babies, and then they helped resolve the issue at its root.

That story, particularly that of the villagers who walked upriver, is symbolic of the work of Sandie Morgan and Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice. Sandie and her students study the issues to identify root causes. She and the GCWJ bring key leaders together to strategize on actions on the pivotal points at which a change can mean everything.

I appreciate the good work of the villagers who give their lives to help rescue children who’ve been abandoned, neglected, and abused. People like Mark Tennant and his team at Arrow Child & Family Ministries who care for kids and families through Arrow programs SN Image Stand Up for Othersand who rescue trafficking victims at Freedom Place, and good people like Dr. Jeremy Kohomban at Children’s Village in New York, Connie Clendenan at Valley Teen Ranch in California, and Amelia Franck Meyer at ANU Family Services in Minnesota and Wisconsin, all who work with kids and families. And I cannot emphasize enough the amazing selflessness of good foster parents like Irene Clements and so many others throughout the US who quietly provide what I call “radical hospitality” to kids who have been abandoned, neglected, and abused.

Let’s walk upstream for a moment to try to connect some additional dots. We know that the majority of rescued domestic minor trafficking victims report having been abused as children. We also know that traffickers look for homeless kids, presumably because they’re the easiest to recruit. So, let’s turn our attention this month to the homeless kids in communities all over the country. Why are they homeless? How can we prevent them from becoming homeless and thereby reduce the chances of them being trafficked?

California Homeless Youth Project[1] reports that homeless kids overwhelmingly cite “family conflict and breakdown, including neglect, alcohol or drug addiction of a family member, pregnancy, and rejection over sexual orientation” as the major reason for their homelessness. They also report that one in four of California’s emancipated former foster youth are homeless,[2] and that 20% or more of foster youth nationally become homeless.[3] Other studies have shown that a far higher percentage of former foster kids become homeless after leaving the system.

Let’s stop right there. Kids in our nation are homeless because of the breakdown of the family. Period. Successful Survivors Foundation Logo

So, if we’re going to go upstream and do something to stop the flow of children onto the streets of our communities, we have to help families.

Some of the most powerful things we can do to help children and families are some of the least celebrated. For example, inviting a working neighbor’s kids to come over after school for homework, snacks, and play rather than stay alone can change the trajectory of the lives of those children. Including other people’s kids in your family’s activities, such as taking them to church, paying for them to play soccer or to belong to a scouting troop, etc., can make an enormous difference. Becoming a Safe Family and taking a child or a family in for a time will help them to get on their feet. All of these are the things that each one of us can do.

I heard the leader of a national church denomination say that if every church just opened its doors to the local kids and provided PB&J sandwiches after school, they would change the world. I agree.

So, what are your ideas for helping families? How can we each be part of the solution?


[1]http://www.cahomelessyouth.library.ca.gov/
[2] Administrative Office of the Courts, Beyond the Bench XVIII: Access and Fairness, 2007, Center for Families, Children & the Courts, Judicial Council of California.
[3] Human Rights Watch, My So-Called Emancipation: From Foster Care to Homelessness for California Youth, May 2010, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/05/12/my-so-called-emancipation-0

Rhonda Sciortino PhotoRhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, is the National Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance Company. Rhonda is a foster alum who chairs the Successful Survivors Foundation and serves as a spokesperson for Foster Care Alumni of America. Her weekly radio show can be heard at www.rhondasradioshow.com.

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