Family Reunions are Important, Fun

“It’s so nice to come together,” Gamble & Huff (from the O’Jays’ Family Reunion)

I’ve been hanging out at the Dixon-Goodlow family reunion this month and I had a ball! Yes, it is an annual thing but the more we do it, the more I know it’s important. Every year there are more and more children running around and fewer and fewer elders—a category I just realized describes what I am.

Like churches that applaud the sound of crying babies because it means the church has life and will go on, our family celebrated the birth of month-old twins Bentley and London, enough toddlers to make a daycare video, little ones who seemed tiny last year but are now 8 or 9—and electronic device-attached teenagers and pre-teens galore.

We’ve been meeting annually for six or seven years now, at the behest of my now deceased mother-in-law, who insisted that we gather every year. The huge hole her death left is still gaping four years later but we know she’d be tickled to see this tradition go on. Here are this year’s best lessons:

Whether your family meets every year, every two, or every five, it’s worth the effort. When someone dies, we try to attend the funerals but it’s so much more fun to be together for happy times. Plan early and be there to be counted and known. I’ve often explained how this one belongs to that one but my grandchildren still aren’t quite clear how the family tree and branches work until they see the actual people. I make it easy and introduce myself as everybody’s Aunt Cynthia.

Tell all the stories, not just the good ones. As the oldest of the Hopson children, my husband Roger, tells the ancestral stories of the family since hardly anybody else knows or remembers Riggs and Jill Dixon, where it all began, or Uncle Johnny, Granddaddy, or Mama Rena. He loves telling how his grandfather, Isaiah Goodlow, had to flee Alabama in the early 1900s after shooting a few bad men, and how his Uncle James became a hero after he lied about his age to enter World War II.

He tells about the family’s honor and integrity, what we stand for, why the legacies are important, and then challenges and encourages the generations to learn from the mistakes and carry forth the good.

When you volunteer your time and gifts, the time is enjoyable for everyone. Organizing family reunions has been likened to herding cats—lots of moving parts—food, lodging, snacks, travel, facilities, activities—and a million other things make this hard, tedious work. If we’re not careful, the bulk of the load falls on a committed few while everyone else is out having fun. Many hands make light work is what my mother always said so plan to do your part: sign up early for the planning or other committees, cheerfully do your part—no whining please–, send your money early, keep in touch with updates, and take lots of pictures and videos. Oh, and get nametags so next year you can remember which one is Bentley and which one is London!

Share your family reunion stories on Twitter and Facebook at #drbondhopson.

Looking for inspiration, empowerment, uplift, straight talk, an encouraging word to brighten your day? You’ve arrived! Meet Dr. Cynthia Ann Bond Hopson, best-selling author, educator, inspirational speaker, sistergirl–she’s all that and more. All the way from Stanton, TN (you can’t get there from here) to 50 states, six continents and everything in between, she’s wise, witty and altogether wonderful. She enthusiastically invites you to slow down, sit a spell, and share a giggle or two.

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Let’s Celebrate the ‘Good Stuff’

music album

June is African American Music Appreciation Month so before I run out of days, let’s get busy celebrating the “good stuff.” I’m suspecting that folks of a certain age—not old and not young, remember when we watched Soul Train, Ed Sullivan, and American Bandstand, and listened to the radio to hear all our favorite music. We knew the words, sang and danced along, and enjoyed every beat.

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Election 2020 is a Long Way Off

Election 2020

It’s not even July and I’m already sick of the 2020 round the clock “news coverage.” And, if one more person decides they need to run for president, I’m heading to the airport to have a real temper tantrum like the two-year-old I saw last week. Yes, I am going there–kicking, screaming, and crying with all my might (though I never was sure what prompted her misery and outburst).

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Want to Make a Difference, Give Blood

You, too, can be a Lifesaver

donate blood

Rarely ever do I advocate for things I don’t personally do or for actions that I don’t take. Okay, so I encourage folks to eat beets even though I don’t because they taste like dirt smells. And, though I was ticketed once by the Kentucky State Police for speeding, it was the blonde in the BMW who started it! That one time was plenty to slow me and my Mustang down, nevertheless, when Friday, June 14, World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) rolls around, I will enthusiastically pat the backs of those folks who give blood so others may live.

Never heard of World Blood Donor Day? Nor had I, yet when it showed up on my list of important things to do this month, I quickly signed on to do my part—I’ll have to keep my li’l troubled blood to myself but I will encourage donations and applaud donors.

According to the WBDD website, this annual celebration was begun by the World Health Organization and countries around the world celebrate to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products, and to thank blood donors for their voluntary, life-saving gifts of blood. June 14 was chosen because it is the birthday of blood research pioneer and Nobel scientist Karl Landsteiner (1868-1943) who is responsible for the A-B-O blood grouping discovery.

In every community I’ve lived in there were neighbors and friends who joyfully, religiously, generously and voluntarily gave blood as a natural outgrowth of living in community with their loved ones and friends. What a precious gift!

Researchers say safe, clean blood supplies are critical for transfusions, pregnant women pre and post-delivery, as well as for treatment of leukemia, anemia, hemophilia, other blood diseases, and life-threatening conditions during medical and surgical procedures.

The website goes on to say that this day is also celebrated to reduce death rates because of insufficient blood supply. Approximately 800 women are dying annually due to childbirth-related complications, or severe bleeding during or after delivery.

The demand for safe blood transfusions is increasing day by day in spite of the blood donation by almost 92 million people every year worldwide. “Adequate supply of blood and its products can only be fulfilled by the regular and safe donations by the self-motivated, voluntary and unpaid blood donors,” the site said.

Friday is the day of celebration but every day there’s a need for self-motivated, voluntary, and unpaid donors to offer themselves. Only you can decide what role you can and will play—donor, cheerleader, or prayer partner for a recipient, or supporting someone else whose health is failing. Here’s what I know:

Not everyone who wants to give blood will be able. When/if you can, please do, so there’ll be adequate supplies when the need arises. Encourage and cheer those who make this sacrifice joyfully and often.

Take care of your own health. You are absolutely what you eat (and drink) so don’t even think of having that fourth donut, that second ice cream sandwich (ok, this one is to Cynthia Ann, the speeder who believes ice cream sandwiches are best when eaten in pairs), and leave that bag of Archway iced oatmeal cookies down there on the  shelf no matter how loudly they call your name. Your health is a special treasure and it is much easier to keep good health than it is to try and regain it.

As we age, choose to live triumphantly — the life you save just may be your own.

Looking for inspiration, empowerment, uplift, straight talk, an encouraging word to brighten your day? You’ve arrived! Meet Dr. Cynthia Ann Bond Hopson, best-selling author, educator, inspirational speaker, sistergirl–she’s all that and more. All the way from Stanton, TN (you can’t get there from here) to 50 states, six continents and everything in between, she’s wise, witty and altogether wonderful. She enthusiastically invites you to slow down, sit a spell, and share a giggle or two.

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Denver, Cleveland, Just Get There

missed flight

I am headed to Denver this morning and no, that’s not where I meant to/was supposed to go today.  I was headed to Baltimore then Cleveland before I arrived at the airport five minutes after they closed the boarding door and my plane left without me.

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Share Time, Bless a Heart

Clarissa and Cynthia

I am a mentor and I am much richer because of it. For as long as I can remember, someone has mentored me, or “took up time with me,” as my great-aunt called it. We call it “mentoring” nowadays but it simply means investing love, wisdom, patience, and time with others. I am of the mindset that mentoring is almost as important as food, breathing, water, exercise, and sending notes (and you know how I love mushy notes).

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A Salute to Those Who Served

A salute to those who served, died

Memorial Day

Every time I hear the mournful tribute Taps played, or see soldiers fold the American flag, kneel, and place it in the hands of a widow, parent, or family, I stand a little taller, a little prouder because I love the words that come next.  “On behalf of the president of the United States, the United States Army and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

A grateful nation, appreciative of honorable and faithful service–that is what we are and what we must continue to show and be this Memorial Day and every day as we pause to reflect on the enormous sacrifice of those who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces.

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Let the Fourth Graders Be In Charge

Fourth Graders

Leave Fourth Graders in Charge

I was born in 1955, 10 days before Rosa Parks took her historic seat in Montgomery and catapulted events into a new and unfamiliar place in the South. I share this because our place in and perspectives about history are shaped by pivotal events and experiences—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I lived through segregated-then-desegregated schools and facilities, discrimination, and the Civil Rights Movement, but I don’t often have to describe or explain that to 75 fourth graders. I write about my childhood and historical events. I listen to the voices of the elders and I write about that too, but putting myself in fourth-grade shoes recently was life-changing. I learned more than I taught. Here are the lessons:

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Pay Attention, Strokes Are Preventable

stroke

Filmmaker and academy award nominee John Singleton’s death at 51 years old last week from a stroke hit me right between the eyes. Perhaps it was because he was so young (when you’re over 60, everyone under that age is “young”) or maybe it was because his death so closely followed that of actor Luke Perry, who died in March at 52.

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Appreciate the Work

Appreciate the work, workers this month

workers

“And when it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May…” Songwriters Ronald White and William “Smokey” Robinson probably had no clue all the images these few words would conjure up when they wrote this classic love song, My Girl.

There’s absolutely something special about May—spring is in full bloom, end of school parties—darned near everything makes me smile. As a child, May Day was always May 1 and we got on the bus and went to school but we didn’t do school work. We got to run and play, eat junk food, and skip math– it was a beautiful day.

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