Sweet Success at BHS
By Mary Mitchell
Several years ago a friend shared with us a powerful, lovely event she’d witnessed at a residential program for mothers and children. Simply entitled, “Sweet Success,” the program went something like this: Every few months, the residents would gather amid luscious pastries and pink cupcakes, to celebrate the “sweet successes” of two or three of their housemates. The chosen residents told their stories of goals reached and of long-held dreams becoming realities. Some dreams were big and others small, but all were huge to the person sharing them: An art class at the local adult-ed center. A phone call to an estranged parent or child. A knitting project. Another year of recovery. The presenters talked shyly at first, and then passionately of their hobbies and interests and talents, surprising the group gathered around them, people who were seeing them now in a whole new way. As each sweet secret emerged, listeners were quietly transformed themselves – motivated, uplifted and empowered to take their own first steps. Affirmation for the courage they saw before them surged through the room, more powerful than the sugar surrounding them.
An idea this good was worth replicating, and we soon found ourselves at Bethany Hill School holding our own Sweet Success events, a few times a year. These special evenings come to mind as we ponder the question: How do we share all that has been learned or experienced with the Dear Neighbor? Our own Sweet Success events model the ones described, with lovely pastries served and two brave residents sharing their hearts and dreams and successes with their neighbors. The room is always filled as residents describe their journeys from homelessness, recovery, mental illness and sometimes even prison, to a GED, college, CNA training and nursing school. We listen attentively as secret jewelry-makers and wood workers, singers and writers, budding Audubon naturalists and French-to-English translators disclose their passions and hobbies. Biting into brownies, we learn that residents help their dear neighbors by volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, our own reading club, the Jewish Senior Center, Bethany Health Care Center, the Salvation Army and the senior daycare center on our own property. The hour or so we spend together is precious. None of us will forget the presentation of one resident, George, who has served the homeless for twenty years through his work at the Framingham Street Ministry. (Google “George Dudley Documentary Youtube” for a powerful look at his work.) As George described covering the homeless with blankets on cold winter nights, we all sat riveted, feeling God’s presence in our midst. “I used to be a taker,” George said. “Then God touched me.”
As Mission Effectiveness Facilitators, we are privileged to be a part of these Sweet Success circles. We see the bountiful ways our residents are imbued with the spirit of service for the Dear Neighbor and witness the creativity and hope that is reborn in each of us. As Bethany Hill School awaits the miracle of the Resurrection, we praise the new life that blossoms within us all.