Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Get Messy – It’s Worth It.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view- until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Harper Lee (Author), To Kill a Mockingbird.

Okay, I’m going to be honest from the outset, I am the Not For Profit Queen (if ever there was one!) What nails it for me is seeing those that are vulnerable thrive, and showing others a pathway to social responsibility. One of my earliest memories is from when I was six years old, and a boy in a wheelchair enrolled at our school. I was deeply troubled after his first day, my childish brain wondering how he’d navigate all the stairs. I mentally put on these boys shoes as a 6 year old, walked around in them and decided to act. I spoke with my teacher, demanding reassurance that this new student would be given the same access to the buildings in the school as anyone else.  Back then I thought it was just about access to buildings – now I know it’s access to opportunities, regardless of the opposing giant.

My journey to the world of charities has not been traditional. I’m a registered nurse, and my husband and I have our own business. I’ve ran as a candidate in the last Federal election, I’m a local councilor in my municipality and, at the time of writing this article, I am the Tasmanian State Manager for Special Olympics, Founding Director of Brave Foundation and ambassador for the Small Steps program (accommodation and support for teen parents), past Mother of the Year for Australia among many other philanthropic ventures.

We have all heard the saying ‘talk is cheap’, and in regards to social responsibility it is. It’s one thing to think about helping someone, or talk about doing good, but it doesn’t make any difference until we do something about it. And putting talk into action makes you feel better too! Your heart will be moved. You may feel awkward, but alive, and you’ll feel better for it.

2014 is a time of social revolution in our communities and it starts in you and your workplace.

Earlier this year I met with our lawyer for Brave Foundation. We have gone over and above our fundraising goals for the past year and I was telling him about the growth of our charity. It was a great meeting.

My lawyer said to me that this is why he chose to practice law with NFPs, sure he could earn more money elsewhere, but this is changing lives.

He then shared a story about a client of his who owned a pizza shop in suburban Melbourne. A homeless man used to spend his time out the front of the shop.

On this particular day the shop owner knew he couldn’t just ignore this homeless man again. He did something new, put an action to his thoughts and made this gentleman a healthy pizza. The homeless man was incredibly grateful and said didn’t know the last time he’d had a hot meal in a clean container. Imagine that: the simple gift of a hot, clean meal.

The following day, the pizza shop owner was out the back of his shop. He heard the tingle of his tip jar out the front of his shop. His immediate thought was that someone was stealing his tips. He went to the front of he store and saw the homeless man emptying a pocket full of change that he had collected from people or found into the shop’s tip jar.

The pizza man got onto our lawyer and is now starting up a charity – making homeless people healthy pizzas.

Sir Winston Churchill said, “we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”.

So back to my classmate in preps, yes the school did make plans to help him and added ramps. I knew right then and there in my heart that I wanted to help people.

Action it. You are creating the world I want to live in. Go get messy – it’s worth it.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Scissors for my hands?

What a couple of weeks it has been in the Black Family. We have celebrated Damien's 18th birthday....yes we survived the party, (so well in fact, that the parents lasted longer than the18 yr old's by out dancing the teens), we helped the new adult obtain his provisional license, buy his first car, and in the early May we also threw a 7 year old party to celebrate Flynn's birthday and it went off with a bang - all Nerf guns a blazing! Throw into this mix a bunch of media interviews, 12 added people staying in our house (welcome, wanted and beautiful ), serious ground work for Brave and interstate speaking gigs... it is any wonder you may be asking; why, oh why has she titled this blog, 'Scissors for my Hands'?

Good point.

At the beginning of the month, I was driving in my car- a 2002 Ford Falcon station wagon- all class, with the dickie seats in the back  (I know some of you love detail, nod nod- I can see you! ), that  I heard the song 'Hands' by Jewel.  After my dad passed away 11 years ago,  this song became somewhat reminiscent of that moment in my life. The words are "My hands are small I know, but they're not yours, they are my own and they're not yours they are my own and I am never broken. Poverty stole your golden shoes, but it couldn't steal your laughter. When heartache came to visit me- I knew it wasn't ever after. We'd fight not out of spite, but someone must stand up for what's right, because where there's a man who has no voice, there ours shall go singing....."

Anyone over 30 and female, should be singing with tears welling up now. Boys- yes, blonde, country gal with the guitar. The funny thing is, that not only did I hear this tune once, but three times on different radio stations this month, hence I had a feeling there could be something new I might learn from this little ditty. So I set off in thought about my hands, what they do in the day, how they do things.... the growing number of wrinkles and how when I pinch my skin it doesn't bounce back into like it used to any-more ( anyone else with me on this?) So I started daily moisturising and thinking about what my hands deliver each day- what is in my hand anyway? A not for profit, no time, busy house, speaking business... not much room for anything else. Or is there?

It strikes me often (almost in sink as the turgor lessens in my 34 year old skin!)  that the most pivotal moments in life are the simplest, so simple that you could almost overlook them. STOP- don't get the violins out now, get out Marshall Amplifier, what I was about to learn now was going to be very loud and clear.

I had an incredible encounter with a person this week, I was busy as a bee, trying to get a document for Brave to be completed by a deadline. As I was pushing the document up hill  my computer crashed, and I was franticly trying to work the auto-recovery tool,  I was greeted by a visitor who wanted to chat. Shock, horror 5 minutes of my time NOW. I remembered thinking- I wont get this in on time, I can't talk now, and almost gave the polite nod and smile, but then I looked at my hands and thought, OK- my call: what have I got to offer about this person? Surely a part of my day? The internal dialogue continued...what made my life so precious that I couldn't down-tool's for another? The mirror was critical of my behaviour. I went with the truthful reflection, looked at my hands and turned from my desk for ten minutes and made the mental adjustment to be available and there. I liked it, it was good.  Those 5 minutes out of my life made my week and showed me what I do have in my hands at every moment, and the fact that I completely overlooked what other's have in theirs... how big did I think my hands were? A little big for their boots, or gloves!!

In 5 minutes of time, I felt the genuine interest and mate-ship of another human. This person was not too busy and they had this feeling about them.... I think its called space. The said person came to ask if they could help me in anyway, the foundation, my family. Now here is the clincher; this person said they had little to offer, but what they did have is some window cleaning stuff and would love to help with our windows in our home!

Light Bulb moment for Bern, here I was thinking (as in the Jewel song) that I was the someone who must stand up for what's right pioneering a Foundation, but no-  here in my hands at this moment with this visitor- I    nearly forgot the whole point, its never about the big things...but about the many times in life we can often overlook and see how we can use our hands best, even in the smallest encounters. 'My hands are small I know,  they're not yours they are my own'... it's somewhat humbling and refreshing to know, that our hands don't have to be big or hold too much, but they are enough just as they are.

So in closing, as if hands haven't featured enough for me this month, my kids chose the movie for tonight: Edward Scissor hands. Now there is a story about the power of what's in our hands.....

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Where do you fall in line?

Lines...., is it just me or do you find yourself in numerous lines throughout your life,  pushing you onwards to the carrots of shopping, Medicare reimbursements, Santa photos with the kiddies (love that one),  luggage collection, lavatories (ladies sigh :)), city peak hour and the 2011 necessity of the quest for liquid gold, especially before 9am?

Allow me to push you a little more in line;  where is your place in the temporary waiting world... are you a pusher-inner, a where you land or 'no, you go first' type of line rider?  Ladies and Gentlemen step right up, move forward and stake your claim,  take your place in line.

I was in McDonald's on the weekend, and proudly in line.  On this day I noticed it was incredibly territorial,  I began my journey at the front, waiting to be served. Being front of line  is a rare occurrence for me as Ive now hit my stride in being comfortably happy to choose the long line, after many years of deliberating which length of line is best.  After waiting one minute I was alerted to the fact that I was not in a line at all, by my fellow waiters who formed behind me.  Tell that to my stomach I thought, yup- I was hungry, as were my kids- although I figured out that it would only be a 5 minute wait and the food wasn't going to go any where.

So onwards was my journey to overtake and join another line.  Others that had followed suit in my phantom line behind me began bagging out Golden Arches by the bucket-load, stating 'surely it was a line', 'now I have to wait'. Poor us, we were hard pressed.  Now really, looking back its quite funny as I watched new line territories being marked (or as good as) and  heaven forbid anyone that would cross the invisible line of personal space that separated consumers of their impending quarter and cheese! Momentum gathered and I almost imagined a race gun firing as we each inched toward the counter millimeter by millimeter to stake our Macca's.

This got me thinking..where do I fall in the line? Until the last couple of months *blush* I  have to confess I used to be a line pusher-inner. My push in days go back years, I remember being at a music festival in Victoria and the car line up to enter was 3 hours long. So with a little bit of encouragement from my friends on the inside, I talked my husband into driving up the opposite side of the road..., (head looking down now), past kilometers of cars and  turned into the entrance right on time! Yes...I am quite embarrassed now, and promised my husband we would never push in like that again.

Was this push-in worth it?  No- not really, my poor husband  was so embarrassed (as was I) when we later heard the multitudes of carnival players saying 'did you see that  car??...I cant believe they did that!' So it is safe to say I have never encouraged such line stealing since. Other than that,  I now practice 'legal' push ins; to get up close at a concert or when boarding planes late, all the while asking permission and being very grateful  to my fellow line neighbors.

In my later days of my mid thirties, I now hang back a bit in line ...it is more reflective as opposed to my 20 something bustle. Being a specialist in line queuing I now ponder, who is really leading in these lines anyway? I have confirmed on the whole it comes down to two types.  1. The type that busts through on the shortest line  for the prize of  a grease filled burger or 2. Those that smile and just go about their line, ambiguous to territory or length.

Actually there is a third type, and I love them. Some line goers are so generous that they even let others in front of them and by choice- yes!  Its true, they are out there. We all know the type, when you only have two items to purchase and the person in front of you has twelve. Now...that is line sacrifice, and for me it goes a long way- such a long way that its caught on,  I'm even caught offering my spot in line on the odd occasions :)

So right here is the conundrum, who is leading who and how are we leading in line? If it were up to me I'd suggest the hang backers could be the true leaders- poise, calm, patience, grace. And probably the people Id be happy to follow.

So now its over to you...  where are you in the line? 

Love Bern x

Thursday, 28 April 2011

I can hear you smile.

I love this. Last year I was so blessed by an organization that part sponsored the second reprint of my book, Brave Little Bear. The CEO of the organization rang to tell me over the telephone, and upon my response said, 'I can hear you smiling!'

This has never left me, and since this call I have pondered that my voice, both verbal and written is something people do see and hear with their hearts.  My voice is heard on  face book, twitter, radio, media, yelling (asking!?!? :)) to the kids to feed the dog/cats/fish/...  and telephone ( being a professional speaker I love to talk..wink, grin!.. )  but above all of these outlets, is the glimpse for the many recipients of my voice, that mirrors the reality of my personality and what shines on the inside of me. Voice is amazing, its like a string to  our mind, thoughts and actions. It often goes before what is hiding on the inside of each of us.

Only a couple of years ago, a voice significantly impacted me on the other end of the phone line. Our family were on summer holiday and we were all playing in the back yard (it was actually the same day I had a phone chat from Barnardos about my suitability for mother of the year) and I heard my husband, Steve, also an RN yell 'Quick Bern, call an ambulance!!' next, I saw Flynn our 5 year old at the time, laying in my husbands arms, unconscious with blood coming from his eye.

Being a nurse, one may think I would be cool, calm and collected- in this instance I was anything but. Flynn was playing cricket with Steve in the back yard and went to collect the ball from under an agapanthas plant, when he leaned to pick it up and a large rigid  stick from the plant penetrated his right eye, displacing his eye in its socket so it looked sunken. He had a small amount of bloody goop on his face and lay unconscious.

After Steve's yelling instruction to call an ambulance, I found my phone and called 000. The lady on the receiving end was like a family member I hadn't met yet- we were in a rural area, 100k from a nearest hospital and she talked me through what we needed to do, where I could get help, and helped me find out where a helicopter could land. Through this whole conversation, and seeing the reality in front of me, all I could think about (strangely enough) was that I needed to get changed! Shock...the things it does to you. The lady continued to calm me down, convincing me that I didn't need to worry about my clothes and together (with Steve nursing an unconscious Flynn) we manged the event, well...she managed the event and Steve did the nursing.

We were reached by helicopter some 25 minutes later, all the while talking intermittently to this woman from the ambulance service. Now, I think about the impact this had on me....we were airlifted to the hospital (and yes, I think I managed to wear the right clothes!! :)) and Flynn was miraculously fine. He ended up having a small scratch on the inside of his eye and went home within a couple of hours- it was a hugely emotional and uplifting experience- all in one afternoon, we saw our little boy go from unconscious to opening his eye and totally fine two hours later. I don't care to ever repeat the event, but am so thankful he was okay.

Even today, I still think about the lady's voice that helped me through this on the flip-side of 000. It was everything that I needed, her voice gave me hope, calm, control in the situation and ability to function, I felt her personality, truth and care from her voice.

I know this is an extreme example of communication, but for me I don't often realize just how 'Bernie' my voice is, my shine from the inside (some day's a little brighter than others!) when I go about the many interactions that I do in a day: - its all an overflow of what shines from the inside of me.

I had another encounter with a tele-marketer this year, a man from India. He had such a gentle voice. I explained to him, thanks and that I wasn't interested, asked his name and went on to wish him a great day. You know what his reply was? 'Thanks for not hanging up on me!'  I called back and told the organization what a great employee this fellow was. I wouldn't do this for any tele-marketer, but in this instance, I could hear this man smile. Another example is my Auntie Marg on facebook- I can read her hugs in her words!

I love the saying:  'from the overflow of the heart, the mouth will speak.' I believe that the best of me - the best of all of us, can shine from the inside no matter what our communication style or social media preference.

So...in communication to you over this blog, here is smiling at you kid!!! Can you hear it??!!!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


To those of you that know me...all things green are pretty high on my scale of priorities! For those of you that don't, here is a closer glimpse into my world of all things green...

Green started for me as an inheritance from my dad, Clive Bernard Kennedy. This is the man that loved green, all things green. This is also the man that infamously yelled out to the whole of our neighborhood that his 16 year old daughter had sex and now she is pregnant, on the main road of our Melbourne suburb, some 17 years ago! He was my hero my dad,   yes- even at this scary time so many years ago, but all in all he was a trooper for the faith, and an inspiration to those around him and above all things he believed in me. I hope he looks down from heaven and is happy with what he sees in his family that are here.

It is quite ironic now but this man told me in his final years, that he thought I might even talk to the Prime Minister one day, and somewhere and somehow these beautiful blessings with amazing meetings have happened in my life. My dad means alot to me, his life is part of my inheritance.

Cant wait to share many joys, parenting tribulations, wondrous advice, and of course all things green over the course of time.

Look forward to your company on the way..!!! xx
My VISION : A stronger, more vibrant Australia, resounding with the spirit and voice of support for one another, our community and our nation.

My MISSION: feel the heartbeat of this nation, lift the bar for all Australians, lead people into a victorious life

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