I Share Hope

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Story. Action. Hope.

Stories about hope and ways to share hope

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Shirley Mae Springer Staten

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“The best way to share hope that I know of is through music because music is the 18 inches from the head to the heart and music goes directly to the heart. I’m Shirley Mae Springer Staten in Anchorage, Alaska and I Share Hope.” – Shirley Mae Springer Staten

Shirley Mae Springer Staten, international keynoter, singer and workshop facilitator, moves people forward beyond their limiting ideas. A born storyteller and dynamic accapella vocalist, she brings an unrivaled blend of vision, passion and sheer virtuosity to her work.

From the age of five, Shirley Mae picked cotton in the fields of Georgia. Her transformation came with many challenges. A daydreamer and dyslexic, she graduated from high school not knowing how to read. By the early 1990’s she had managed to work her way through college and earn her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Shirley Mae, like no one else, can weave words and music to empower her audience. She is a multi-talented performing artist who motivates people to recognize and break through their self-imposed limitations. She can hold a group spellbound with stories of her struggles against the obstacles of the world. Her message of hope will show you how to “keep movin’ forward”.



39: Shirley Mae Springer Staten – Unstoppable #hope from the cotton fields of Georgia #isharehope

“The best way to share hope that I know of is through music because music is the 18 inches from the head to the heart and music goes directly to the heart. I’m Shirley Mae Springer Staten in Anchorage, Alaska and I Share Hope.” – Shirley Mae Springer Staten

Intro:

Welcome to I Share Hope! The podcast where world leaders share their real stories of hope and how you can use actionable hope to start changing your life today and now here’s your host, Chris Williams.

Chris Williams:

So, Shirley Mae Springer Staten from, well not from Alaska, you’re a transplant. So, where are you from originally and what are you doing in Alaska now?

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

I was born in New York, in Harlem. I was raised by my grandmother in rural Georgia. I started coming to Alaska in 1979, I was living in Los Angeles at the time and I would come to Fairbanks in the summer. I would come to Fairbanks, go back to LA, come to Fairbanks – I did that twice. In 1981, I decided to come to Anchorage and I actually fell in love flying over the mountains and I knew that I wanted to be here. So, I’ve been here in Anchorage since 1979.

Chris Williams:

I just flew over those mountains a few hour ago and it’s unbelievable.

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

It’s gorgeous. I know.

Chris Williams:

If you’ve never seen snowy mountains, it’s like what you see in a movie and it’s just perfect and white and black little spots all over and there’s white and black. Perfect. It is beautiful blue skies up here and the clouds – mean it’s perfect and cold. Actually, it’s warm right now, it’s spring time. It’s cold in Fairbanks.

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

It’s not cold. Yes. It gets cold.

Chris Williams:

All right. Thank you.

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

You’re welcome.

Chris Williams:

Question 1: Give me a definition of hope. How would you define hope or what is your understanding of hope in your life?

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

Hope is feeling joyful about your life. Hope is feeling inspired and encouraged about your life and not only my life but the people who are in my life. When I wake up in the morning and I am able to take breath, I am joyful because the other option is not taking breath. I feel joyous about that, about having that experience and certainly over the years I have not felt that always so there is a greater appreciation for feeling encouraged and blissful about my life. When I’m in a place when things are happening to me that things are happening around me, it feels good just to be alive.

I remember watching something about a group of people that were in a camp in Africa and they were so despaired about their life. There was no hope at all and then Samite, who is a musician, just brought his African piano and that brought hope to people’s lives. When you can sing a song, it changes the energy of who you are and that is hopeful.

Chris Williams:

Beautiful. It really is. It really is. I didn’t sing or have a song in my heart for – I really say a couple of decades until early last year. Maybe six months ago, eight months ago. But then also, it started happening and then you feel it, you know?

Question 2: Who’s shared the most hope with you? Who’s given you a lot of hope in your life and really given you a path to run on?

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

When I think about hope and the answer that I gave before, those answers have been manifested by me. In my family, I grew up with my grandparents in rural Georgia in a time that we were separated by railroad tracks – whites on one side and blacks on the other. So, I don’t know if I saw a lot of hope growing up because people were struggling to survive. We had to pick cotton, we had to work in tobacco and it was intense and it was hard to make ends meet.

If I look at my life after that period, I would say teachers, Ms. Harding who was my professor at Anchorage Community College in – not Anchorage, it was San Diego, who said “This is possible for you…” When I joined VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America in 1965, I was one of the first volunteers – that was 20 that were sent out. This Jewish man, Mr. Rubenstein said “You have something to give” and he gave me this application to complete and I ended up in Mt. Angel, Oregon. I was only 19 working with migrant workers and then ended up in New Mexico working in community development.

So, Mr. Rubenstein would be one of those individuals that said this is what life can be for you and in a way, when I think about it in retrospect, this is what hope looks like. Those benchmarks of individuals along the way, mostly teachers and some friends that said here, this is a key for you .They have been the foundation to open up that window and I’m using hope now paralleling with possibilities for my life.

Chris Williams:

That’s a powerful story. So, going back to childhood, from Harlem then living in pre-Martin Luther King Jr. Georgia, for a lack of better way to say it. That name is so recognizable around the globe. Just so much division purely based on the color of skin and a lot of horrible past. All of that was based on the color of skin and who the has and the has-nones, you know? So, what a unique perspective. I can’t wait to ask you more of these questions because you got a perspective that few people can have just because you have to live it to know it. Nobody would want to choose to take that book and read it – that life, book off the shelf, but once you have taken that book off the shelf and read it, you have wisdom and things to share with other people that they might not have on their own.

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

Right.

Chris Williams:

Thank you.

Question 3: Take us a back to a time when you have gone through that time – you’ve already hinted that a little bit, but you’ve gone through times when hope has been something hard to find?

Because the days get dark and they get long and you may or may not have the support group behind you that you need, whatever it may be, I don’t know, it’s your story not mine, but help us understand where your life has come from so we can really learn from what’s going on back there.

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

Okay. This year, I will turn 69 and so I have a longer period to reflect upon in terms of challenges that I’ve had over the years. The one that’s present was last year when I turned 68. It probably had been happening for a year, but I couldn’t pinpoint why I was so depressed and why I felt so hopeless about my life. Actually, the day that I turned 68 was – I could name what was happening. For months, I was feeling hopeless about my own life and so what it looked like, I was transitioning into new work, but I didn’t know what it was. I have been single for 35 years. My son is now – he’s going to be 42 this year, I’ve had challenges with reading and dyslexia. All of it was beaming down on me in a concentrated period of time to the point when I would wake up in the morning and I couldn’t breathe because I felt so hopeless about my life.

It was all of those things – I used to say and I still say that when well maybe I don’t say it so much now, but when I get depressed, I put everything in the pot. Every possible mishap, anything anybody said to me, did to me, any acts of unkindness, it all goes in there and I can just obsess about it. This was so intense, January, February, March, April. At some point, I couldn’t get out of the bed. If you had called me and said, “What’s wrong?” I couldn’t name it. I didn’t want to talk to anybody about it because nobody cared that I was feeling this despair about my life and feeling invalidated, not validated and the list went on.

Then finally, a friend came over and we just started talking about it and she was feeling the same. Until this day, I still – it could have been a chemical imbalance but in my 68 years, I have never felt that way about myself and my life even through my divorce and through my divorce, I was pretty hopeless but I managed to spin out of it and come back. This was different. This, I couldn’t get a grip on what was wrong. It’s like I’ve fallen through a crevasse and I couldn’t find a way to pull myself up. So, this friend came over and we talked about it and this is so ironic that I had my birthday and I immediately felt better.

Chris Williams:

Really?

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

Yes. I immediately felt better. I love 60, I love 65, I love all of my ages and I am so grateful for all of them as I said before, but for whatever reason, it was the darkest of the darkest period in my life. It lasted January, February, March, April, May.

Chris Williams:

This friend that came over, how long after you started to talking to the friend was it before you started getting better?

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

Maybe a couple weeks.

Chris Williams:

Okay.

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

I felt isolated in this feeling and not really wanting to reach out because I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t explain it until I turned 68 and I realized I felt hopeless about my own life. When one feels hopeless about their own lives is when they commit suicide. When they feel hopeless. I was so close to – thank God I didn’t have a gun because I was so close. I understood – the people say well, I don’t know why somebody would commit suicide – I do. I do. I understand why people are driven to that place. It’s because they don’t have hope for their own lives.

Chris Williams:

That’s powerful because it catches people off-guard when they have – some people are kind of wired and have an internal hope I guess, but some people are just more optimistic or whatever you want to call it and they don’t naturally get down and depressed or even some people who’ve had some horrible things happen to them, for some reason it doesn’t strike them as a horrible thing. But when it does catch up to you, it turns your world upside down. Again, going and finding somebody and being vulnerable enough to say here’s what I’m feeling, what in the world is this, that’s so scary because you think somebody’s going to say “I think you’re going crazy” or you’re not suited to do your job anymore or you’re not going to be a good neighbor, spouse, whatever relationship. But once you get out there, you’ll realize somebody else can really care for you and help.

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

That’s right.

Chris Williams:

You’re sharing hope with people and you’re growing hope in your own life, so tell me how are you doing that? What’s going on in your life personally or around your community?

Question 4: How are you growing in or sharing hope with others?

I’m going to interrupt you here – on the interview, if you’re listening, you didn’t hear all these backstage comments, but you say you think that saying thank you is super important, you really value that and you’ve learned how to say thank you in a couple of different languages? Maybe more than a couple?

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

Yes.

Chris Williams:

So, I want to hear some of those, but we’ll hit that one in the end. Let’s and answer the question and after the interview, stay tuned and we’ll hear lots of versions of thank you.

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

Thank you. Thank you. For me, working in a collaborative venue is most important and so what I’ve done in this community since I’ve been here is find ways to bring people together to work on different projects. It’s projects that I’m passionate about and it’s projects that I think will make a difference. Not only is it important to bring people together to work collaborative as a group, but reaching across the gender, reaching across the race bias, reaching across the religious, reaching across politics, reaching across various aisles that we use to divide one another because I came from a community that was divided by blacks on one side and whites on the other.

So, it is what can I do to bring people together to work for a common good that reaches across those aisles. If you look at the last 35 years that I’ve been here, I have been extremely – I don’t use the word ‘blessed’ that often, but I’ll use the world blessed. I have been extremely blessed in terms of people saying yes when asked to come and participate in a small idea that I have. By engaging and asking people to come and participate, it becomes a great idea because then you have all of these marvelous thinkers around the idea.

They vary, they vary from organizing the Martin Luther King celebration which I did for years, they vary from working with the humanities form which is what I do now, sending teachers to rural Alaska to learn about Alaska native culture, so they can take what they learn and bring it back into the classroom and certainly help with that urban-rural divide because we have that here in Alaska. People who live in urban Alaska have their ideas about people who live in rural Alaska and so this program helps us to come together as a state but as a community.

The projects include working with kids in thinking about what’s possible for their lives. We have an area here called Fairview and it is rich because may not have as much money as those people who live in other more prosperous parts of the city, but they’re rich because they have parents who have hopes and dreams and aspirations for their children’s lives as well as their lives. Taking kids who live in that community and opening up possibilities for them and when they are inspired, I am inspired. When they are encouraged, I am encouraged. When they see hope for their lives, then I see hope for their lives. It is work that not me, Shirley Mae, but is me Shirley Mae with an extended community coming to work together.

Chris Williams:

That’s good. Really good points. Really good points. I love that diversity connection. I really do. It depends on where you’re from in the world, diversity means something different to you. It could be a religious diversity, it could be racial, it could be socio-economic, like more of a financial issue. It could be gender, it could be handicap. Whatever it is for you, it’s diversity and about a third of the way into that answer you said something about just the wisdom that we gain from having a group of people around who are from crazy opposite spectrums and very different places.

I heard somebody say recently we’re on a big rock flying through space and we’re in this thing together. I think there’s a lot of people volunteering to get off right now and go on to space explorations and live in Mars, but other than that there is not many ways to get out so you might as well learn how to do it together. Great example. Thank you.

Question 5: How would you tell me to begin sharing hope and learning how to share hope with my neighborhood, my community or myself if I just need it. What are the simple steps I need to start taking?

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

I think you start with the hello. It’s that simple. You know, I see people whether they make eye contact with me and don’t make eye contact with me, I often say hello. The best way to share hope that I know of is through music because music is the 18 inches from the head to the heart and music goes directly to the heart and we are all connected with the sound, the vibration that comes from my body to your body and yours to mine when we’re sharing music.

The other way I think – and we are so removed from this, is by reaching out and touching somebody. A simple handshake, a simple pat on the back, a simple – some kind of human connection. I was in a school, I think it was a couple of weeks ago I was recruiting and the principal was doing an in-service on how not to touch the kids because if you touch the kids, you’re going to get in trouble. Today, I was in school working with little kindergartens and I needed them to move in this formation and so I just touched and they were going “Oh-oh-oh-oh”. I’m thinking, that’s such a basic need that we all have. It’s to be touched, to be recognized through touch, to be recognized through a glance, to be recognized through – just reaching out to each other. I said music, I said hello and I said touch.

Chris Williams:

Great answer. Excellent answer. You know there is a lot of research that I keep seeing if you bring into about how important that touch for kids is and adults. But the difference is in elderly, in nursing facilities who receive touch and have family around versus the ones that are all by themselves on their depression and the pattern of their illnesses and even in infants and young children, obviously we’ve all heard those stories and seen the research there about how many more end up in tragic lifestyles when there is no touch or they’ve been in an orphanage for the first years of their life and never really handled. Great advice.
So Shirley, how can we get in touch with you if people want to know more about what you’re doing and have a question or two for you, how do they find you?

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

They can find me on my Facebook and it’s Shirley Mae Staten.

Chris Williams:

Excellent. That’s great. We’ll definitely be in touch.

You’ve just listened to I Share Hope. If you’re ready to make a change, head to our website at isharehope.com and claim your free copy of the Top Ten Actions of Hope from World Leaders to use hope in your own life. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next time.

Chris Williams:

Shirley, tell us thank you in a bunch of different languages. That’s an important thing to use, so rattle off. Tell us what language it is and fire away.

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

Okay.

In Guinean it is [unclear 00:29:15 madasi papapapa?]
In Vietnamese it is Cám ơn
In Russian it is spasibo bolshoe
In Spanish it is Gracias
In German it is Danke schön
In French it is merci beaucoup
I’m trying to think of some of the other countries I’ve been to that I…Oh, I know again, Samoan, but I can’t remember.

Chris Williams:

You’ve been to all those countries?

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

Yes.

Chris Williams:

What’s the next country?

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

For my 70th birthday we’re going to Italy.

Chris Williams:

No kidding. Italy. Favorite piece of music if you want to feel more hopeful, what is it?

Shirley Mae Springer Staten:

My favorite piece of music, it’s something from my mother and it would be [sings] “I’ve found the answer. I’ve learned to pray. With faith to guide me, I found my way. The sun is shining on me each day. I found the answer. I’ve learned to pray.”

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