Join The Magnificent Journey

Will You Be an Ambassador of Hope?

I’d already heard Liz Huntley speak two times earlier, plus bought/consumed her book More than a Bird and bought copies for others.

So, I was quite familiar with her inspiring story when I decided to stick around for the last session at the Junior League of Montgomery Women’s Leadership Summit this past Friday. And I listened again to how Huntley overcame harrowing childhood experiences as God used one person after another to love her and save her.

Huntley credits many people, going back to the group of individuals who decided on their own to begin a free pre-K classroom so that, during these early days of integration, African-American children in her community would be ready to go to school across town.

She remembers the man who greeted her at the pre-K door that day – Mr. Willie – and the extraordinary words he said to her as she stepped into this terrifying new territory:

“Well, hello young lady. Welcome.”

That’s it.

That’s what she remembers for more than 40 years.

Mr. Willie said, “Well, hello young lady. Welcome.”

In the eyes of a vulnerable child, that’s what it takes to be “an ambassador of hope” – a friendly, warm and respectful greeting unlike any she had ever received.

Mr. Willie was nice, and it broke the ice. Which was very important, because that pre-K room was a game changer.

In that room, the ladies put their arms around Huntley and said, “Come on in here, baby.”

In that room, they hugged her, loved on her and praised her whenever she did something smart. She liked that kind of praise, so she kept doing smart things.

Just as importantly, without the pre-K room, Huntley wouldn’t have known how to look for the words “first grade” or find her name on the homeroom list when she went to her first day of school on her own. And when she found her way to that particular classroom, on that first day, it was there that she met her first-grade teacher – someone who has remained her friend ever since.

Thousands of people have heard Huntley tell of that extraordinary exchange between her and her first-grade teacher. If you’d like to hear more, here’s a 4-minute clip that sets up the words Ms. Pam Jones said to her that day:  (Or get the book.)

Their experience has been a game-changer for countless other lives (whose names we may never know) because Huntley has become a passionate advocate for school readiness. “I hope you learn from my story the impact of a child being school ready,” she said.

Yet she also wanted to remind us: “You can do a small thing that can be a game changer for someone else.” Huntley said, “We all have an opportunity to be ambassadors of hope. It’s something we have the opportunity every day to give to someone.”

Whether it takes 100 or 1000 small things to change a life, you don’t want to miss your chance to do one of those small things. Even if it’s saying “Well, hello young lady. Welcome” in the doorway of a room someone needs to enter.

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 3, Issue 6

Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and developer of the creative encouragement platform, Story Shaping.

What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?

I remember a scene from the movie What’s Up, Doc? where the Ryan O’Neal character says to the Barbra Streisand character, “I like you, Judy. You’re just different.” She says, “I know I’m different, Steve, but from now on I’ll try to be the same.” He asks, “The same as what?” She says, “The same as people who aren’t different.”

Well, there you have it … my life story summed up in movie dialogue.

There’s a general principle in marketing that you are your ideal client. Most of the people I know, however, aren’t really like I am. So, I’d been wondering, what type of person would benefit from the lessons I’ve learned over my long journey?

Probably someone younger. Probably someone like I was when I was younger.

Basically: my younger self. That’s who I’m writing to.

I had a chance to write to the “younger me” over the last few weeks.

I got an email from a friend who wanted to use the videos in Your Story Shaping Blueprint, if appropriate, for a youth group she leads. I checked the videos for appropriateness. There were a couple of things I needed to pull out – such as any reference to “When I look back over the last 20 years, I …”

My younger me doesn’t want to hear about something I learned “over the last 20 years.” People under 20 years old do not understand how to view a 20-year-old memory the same as someone much older does, and my younger me is going to find that phrase distracting.

You know how I know this? There was a time when I was 20 years old. I was at a dinner recognizing my sorority’s Founders’ Day. Our guest speaker was elderly; she had known the founders. After the sisters put on a skit that involved a roller coaster, I asked the speaker, “Have you ever ridden a roller coaster?”

The speaker said, “Yes, I have, and it wasn’t too long ago. About 10 years.” I was astonished that she could say “about 10 years,” half my age, was not too long ago. I was distracted. That’s the only part of the night I remember. I told that story at different times in my 20s. And now I’ve told it again as a cautionary tale.

So, as I looked at the videos, I cut out the parts that said “20 years ago” plus other things that I didn’t think would resonate with my younger me. Each week I sent a new link to my friend, who has returned the favor by providing valuable feedback after presenting each video. It’s been like our own little test kitchen. And something’s been stirring for how to go forward.   

If you had a chance, what would you want to say to your younger me?

Take a moment and think about it.

Did you come up with something?

Is this something you can tell yourself now?

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 3, Issue 5

What Does Innovation Look Like?

I go to the actual physical bank sometimes. When I get checks in my PO box, I take them to the drive-thru for deposit. 

There’s a pen in the drive-thru canister. This is a newish development. Maybe 10-15 years ago (I can’t remember when), bank tellers got wise to human behavior. They added a pen to the canister. Before that, I used to wonder as I pulled into a line which customers would be in cars without pens.

You may remember how it went. You’d see them pull up to their time in the spotlight. They’d press the button to ask the teller, “Do you have a pen?” The canister would go back and forth. Then the person would fill out the deposit slip or endorse the check or whatever.

So, this was quite a delay for whoever was behind that person without the pen.

Way back when, banks may have been the first type of organization to actually chain their pens to the counters.

I can only imagine the day the meeting took place where someone said, “What if… now hear me out here… we don’t worry so much about protecting our pens but instead think about how we can make our process more efficient?”  

And at some point, someone finally decided to just go ahead and put pens in the canisters. A new way of doing things caught on.

Change doesn’t have to be big. Or expensive. Sometimes you can do this one small thing differently, and it makes a difference. Such as the time I had the really smart idea to store my coffee in the cabinet near my coffee pot – and not across the room.

You could go with human behavior. Like, what if it actually became to rage to store our television remotes in our sofa cushions? What if that wasn’t the place we “found” them when they were lost, but where we “placed” them so they wouldn’t be lost? It could work.

Or just put pens where you know people need them. Whatever it is, you can look at your premise differently. And you might just find innovation.

So how to wrap that up in a story shaping bubble? Innovate your point of view, your perspective. Not hugely. Just slightly. Look for something good, overlook something bad. Let go of a discouraging thought. Pick up an encouraging one. And enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol 3, Issue 4

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

How Will You Spend Your Time?

At the post office the other day I discovered an unexpected package – addressed to me by name and sent to my PO box but in an unrecognized handwriting from an unrecognized return address.

The unexpected doesn’t happen often inside this box. It’s the place where checks for my copywriting services arrive (or don’t). And I’m usually expecting whatever is coming (or disappointed when it doesn’t).

So basically, there’s not a lot of range in my PO box emotions – I’m either glad or sad. Yet this was different. This was curious.   

I saw a name and an Illinois location, but no bells were ringing. Because I’m old enough to remember the Unabomber and the 2001 anthrax attacks, I wondered for a moment if the package was safe to open. But by the time I reached my car in the parking lot, my memory was sufficiently jogged.

I had signed up for an author’s book giveaway. I had won a drawing, and my copy had arrived. 

The book, Moments and Days by Michelle Van Loon, talks about time in relation to feasts of the Old Testament and holidays of the Christian calendar.

Providing context, Van Loon explained how early civilizations had seen time circling without purpose – just going through one revolution then another. She cites writer Thomas Cahill’s insight that genealogies weren’t relevant, personal histories didn’t matter.

“The human race began to talk about time differently when God called Abram to leave Ur by faith and head to an unknown land God would show him,” Van Loon wrote. Now personal experiences and individual memories gained value as we could see that we had entered a journey with an eternal purpose and a destination.

I submit, that’s why our stories matter – the ones we tell ourselves and others. Our journeys are intertwined with divine guidance, and there’s so much beauty and grace to be seen in that recognition.  

I’d thought time was created for accomplishment. I was here to perform, produce, overcome. I’m not saying I knew how to do the things necessary to achieve the aim I was pursuing. I’m just saying I thought that was the purpose: perform, produce, overcome.

Yet I don’t have a full CV where I wiped slates clean, racked up victories or transcended issues. I’m still pretty much like I always was. Just with more experience at it.

I have carried the little girl, the teen, the young adult, and the mid-life struggling optimist into this day. And seeing so much future now as past looks like, “Well, I’m probably going to have to reassess my strategy here.”

For me, that means seeing the good story in the whole journey – a story told with joy, gratitude and appreciation. How about you? Will you tell a good story today about the life you’re living?

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 3, Issue 3

Photo by Jiyeon Park on Unsplash

How Do You Stay in a Good Mood?

In December, when typical stresses of the season were bearing down, I made a commitment to myself to stay in a good mood.

If you’re like me, you can go through an ordinary day and step into various situations that pull your focus this way or that.

It could even be something simple … maybe like picking the wrong vehicle to get behind in the Costco gas line?

I secretly suspect I deserve better than that, considering how well I follow the procedures myself. I have my member card and my payment card ready before I exit the vehicle. I make quick swiping motions at the equipment, and because I never let my tank get down to fumes, my fill-up is pretty quick. And I’m gone.

I’m proud of how well I do this, and everyone should want to be behind me in line. But sometimes I’ll be behind the person who doesn’t start to look for the member card until standing in front of the pump – then realizes it’s in the car and has to go back. Or some such.

But basically there’s a delay, and I can feel time ticking away as I look longingly at the moving lane next to me.

I’m just saying, things like that could be an irritant unless perhaps you’re committed to stay in a good mood. And I’d made that commitment. Sort of like an arm-wrestling match, I could feel that pull from time to time… but the commitment kept the mood upright.

I’d told my best buddy Jan that I was making this good-mood commitment, so I was able to report in to her at various points in the week the times I’d stayed in a good mood during irritating moments.

I liked how recognizing this as a goal and realizing that I could choose a response helped me get past minor irritants or uncertain situations. It was also helpful in releasing things over which I have no control.

Basically, it’s like this: various irritations, pressures and misunderstandings can influence a mood. And you could go from upbeat to beat-up really quickly.

Yet if this commitment is in your head, maybe you’ll look for a reason that you’re actually grateful, or why this small thing doesn’t really matter, or that this situation can ultimately be to your advantage – or whatever it takes to see your situation from a new, more encouraging perspective.

Why not see how it goes?

Enjoy your magnificent journey, whatever lines you’re in today.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 3, Issue 2

P.S. Last week I uploaded a video for my home page. Take a look if you didn’t see it on Facebook. It’s 1 minute, 15 seconds, and Trixie makes a “cameow.”

Image from Pixabay

Is There a Small Step You Can Take?

One time I wanted to make some improvements to my kitchen, so I bought a loaf of bread. It added quite a lot to the space, especially in my ability to make sandwiches.

I’ve been making improvements like that lately. Small steps to a better place.

I started the year with the purchase of a new welcome mat. This was a hard one because when I was reviewing my options in the store, all the choices had words like “Welcome.”

I guess that makes sense, but the writer in me wanted a message with more nuance, especially in case the person ringing the bell was selling something I wasn’t buying. I didn’t want to make a false promise that they would actually be welcome.

The other options were “hello” or some other friendly greeting that didn’t seem much better. So here I am, stuck with the word “welcome” on my front porch and anticipating the day someone I don’t know takes me up on my offer. So far, so good.

Working at home brings interruptions on occasion, where someone wants to tell me about a different security plan, a lower cost cable opportunity, or pine straw availability. There was a time when I got up from a copywriting project just long enough to say, “Yes, I do have a church home.”

My reluctance to usher in sales people and proselytizers aside, it did seem that a new welcome mat was a good way to start the year at my door. I’m ready for 2019. Ready to turn the corner. To move forward. To expand my work as a copywriter. To package my story shaping ideas in words and videos.

Are you ready for something too?

The other home improvement I made was changing light bulbs in the great room ceiling fan. I couldn’t do this without assistance, though. I needed to bring out my step ladder. Then just a couple of small steps up, and I was there. Done. Now I can see things so much more clearly.

Small steps make a difference. If you want to do something better this year, you don’t have to get it done today. Just start with a small step.

Over the fall, I updated the videos in Your Story Shaping Blueprint. In doing so, I made one more small change: I started calling the series a “mini-course.” The more I thought about it, “course” sounded too big. People might think, “I don’t have time for a course. But a mini-course… oh, that’s different.”

Taking a small step is easier than making a big change. That’s why I kept the videos to around 7 minutes. Sitting down for 30 minutes sounds like a big deal, but 7 minutes? That’s doable. So, if you want to take this kind of small step, take a look.

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 3, Issue 1

Photo by Patrick Miyaoka on Unsplash

Do you see the light?

One of the research studies of my childhood concerned the source of the light inside the refrigerator. I don’t know if other kids did this too, but I cannot tell you how many times I stood at the refrigerator door trying to figure out when the light turned on and when the light turned off.

I didn’t just want to know the “sort of moment” but the precise moment, and I found it in this little button on the side of the door. When the door closed to the point where it reached that button, the light turned off.

So that’s my research, freely given. You’re welcome.

My mother would tell me to close the refrigerator door and keep it closed. She didn’t understand that I was in search of the meaning behind a mystery. She thought I was interfering with the refrigeration process.

The refrigeration process, however, was really not my deal. As far as I was concerned, the condiments and dairy products could fend for themselves. I wanted to know what was happening with that light.

The study of light is a biggie. Light illuminates, shines, shares, gives, teaches. Solves mysteries. When light turns off, you stumble, fall or sense fear. When light turns on, you see. You have hope. When light turns off, something has ended. When light turns on, something has begun.

Darkness has a good side, though. In silent nights, there is deep rest and a quiet trust. Further, you can’t really understand light unless you’ve seen darkness. Or vice versa. Contrast and comparison are important in research.

This is the season, of course, where we are reminded that a light shines in the darkness.

Let’s say you rush around in mid-June or the first of March, you might not be not looking for meaning and mystery. But this season, even in the rush, you see the lights of the seasonal décor and notice there’s a message. There’s a difference. These lights aren’t shining in mid-June or the first of March.

Christmas isn’t just a moment in time, but all those moments in time from childhood to today that are wrapped in memory. You never have one Christmas without thinking about other ones.

Some are good memories, some aren’t. A lot of us think about times when the light turned on, or when the light turned off. Or who has newly arrived. Or who is missing.

Maybe there are concerns for the future. If you’re a solar lamp, you can store up light and use it later. But mostly light is for this moment.

I was thinking this morning that it’s a good idea to beware of unwise gifts… like things you bring in from the past or borrow from tomorrow that miss out on the present.

So, I would say, do not worry about the light you missed yesterday or the light you will need in the days to come. Trust the light you see today and enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue #42

Do You Have This Kind of Courage?

I took a quick trip to Memphis a few weekends ago. I was riding with a friend on her way to see her daughter in a senior voice recital at Rhodes College. The recital was magnificent.

I’ve known the daughter, Cameron, since not long after she was born. The photo is a stock photo, but is a perfect fit for who she was.

I remember going to eat dinner with her extended family when she was 3 years old. At daycare, Cameron had learned a piece she wanted to share with the table. Rather spontaneously, she stood in her chair at the Capital City Club, started marching in place, and sang “It’s a Grand Old Flag.” She concluded by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with her hand over her heart.

Her enunciation was off in some of the words, but there was no mistake what she was singing and saying. We were captivated. The protocols of “Don’t sing ‘It’s a Grand Old Flag’ during dinner in a nice restaurant” were suspended due to sheer admiration.

Cameron always liked movie musicals. Old Hollywood musicals. There’s a story that when she was in second grade, she was attending a Brownie Scout meeting and participated in an icebreaker activity that included finding someone who liked the same movie. Cameron was upset that no one knew Brigadoon or Anchors Aweigh (Gene Kelly endeavors), and she also couldn’t figure out why Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Katherine Hepburn or Cary Grant were not recognizable names.

She attended Green Gate in her early years, and when the administrators of the school decided to institute a uniform policy, one student came to mind. They thought about Cameron and how this new rule would affect her. Indeed, when Cameron found out she was going to have to wear shirts with collars, she was devastated. But the administrators had graciously included a provision that would make this change more palatable for her: they allowed three pieces of jewelry. So, each morning Cameron and her mom counted out her bauble choices, and she made it through this period of limited accessories and collared shirts.

When Cameron was 6 years old, I sat next to her while waiting for a performance of Smoke on the Mountain at First United Methodist Church. I had a notebook in my purse, and we played Hangman. Considering her age, I picked a movie clue that I thought she could guess: Ice Age. Then she picked a clue for me to guess. After I selected a few letters, I was surprised to see what she had chosen. “Is it West Side Story?” I asked. Indeed it was.

The point is, Cameron is the evidence to me that we have a purpose interwoven within us at a young age. She really hasn’t changed that much in the last 20 years. She’s just gotten better at being Cameron.

A couple of years ago, I helped a copywriting client write a career parable, The White Shirt, which makes the point that Cameron illustrates. Some of the things you were drawn to when you were very young – if you can remember and tap into that – can help you connect with a peaceful and life-giving career today.

From an early age, I was someone who tried to make sense of things. It’s as if I dropped from heaven into an unfathomable mystery, and I was given a notebook and told, “Go make sense of this.” That’s my life plan in a nutshell. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to be me, but, as far as I know, I’m the best one for the job.

A good bit of the reporting on what I observed I incorporated into Your Story Shaping Blueprint. I’m grateful that I could connect concepts that were not too late to learn with the identity that was mine from the beginning. I’m also thankful to all of you who participated in the beta version. I’ve been making some tweaks and will relaunch the series early next year.

In the meantime, you might like to see this video of Cameron’s last song during her recital:

She’s improved just a wee bit since that time she sang “It’s a Grand Old Flag” while standing in a chair at the Capital City Club. But she still has the courage to be Cameron, and that’s a wonderful thing to see.

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 41