Congratulations to our October Member of the Month, Eugene C. Vickerson!

I am Eugene C. Vickerson and attending to stress in my life, at this point, rates a 6 on a scale of 1 – 10. I am concerned with having balance and peace of mind. That entails a lot. Eliminating distractions that create stress comes with the territory of living especially if you are someone who often goes against the grain. Stress comes with how you think, how you deal with the world and accept the reactions to your actions as part of your life and how you deal with reality. In fact, I see stress as the fuel of greatness depending upon how you handle it. Dr. M. L. King and all people who have accomplished greatness had to deal with stress. Sometimes there are negative responses or a lack of responses, even from relatives and society that cause you to go against the grain. I had to deal with social agencies dealing with my mother who had Alzheimer’s and family issues and social agencies that caused me to chose to fight for the right to become the primary custodian of two of my grandchildren.

As I worked intensely on resolving some of those conflicts, I had to be flexible, view things from different angles, workout daily, be outside of the box sometimes while realizing that the more rigid you are, the more complicated things can be. Working on being less stressed means many times approaching things in the right way, reaching out for support and taking in different views. I have been working on consciously relieving stress since I was a teenager, most of my life.

I realize that being less stressed enables you to go to another level and propels you into other situations better grounded and more confident. You are then more empowered to go into the next stressful situation. Many of my friends and family do not deal directly with stress or view it as an issue because they avoid confrontations. My family especially avoids it and takes the position that daddy is going to handle issues. As for my friends and social groups, I recently attended a reunion dinner with 15 people with whom I worked for about 20 years. As we talked about issues, it seemed that the same issues that existed before that dealt with racism and sexism still existed. I got the impression that they were more interested in maintaining the status quo than dealing with the issues that created stress. A kind of Laissez-faire attitude on important issues like equality for women, racial issues and wasted money on projects were lightly addressed. The reunion was good but seeing that was a little disheartening.

I think that my life long way of dealing with stress has developed my sensitivity to issues that create dysfunctional stress. That stress leads people to over indulge in areas like eating, drinking, misappropriate use of our finances and ill-advised shopping/consumerism. Coping behaviors do not change the stressors or address the source of the stress. I, personally, like to work with programs that address the roots of the issues. I am currently involved in a grandparents support group within the DFACs sponsored Grand Parents Empowered Kinship Care Program. There are 35 members with 15-20 active participants from time to time. That core group realizes that a group is only as effective as its members. Sometimes more proactive endeavors are needed. There is a need to provide information, resources, workshops, planning periods, support groups and encourage people to seek out counseling whenever it is necessary. I am an advocate for using that energy of stress to create positive ways to acknowledge the changing roles of grandparents. On September 17, 2001, our group celebrated its annual Grand Parents Appreciation Day. Grandparents comprise a silent but powerful group making a difference in the future of the next generation. Next year we will have two Grand Parent Appreciation Days, one in September and one in February. We may as well celebrate because we don’t know how many more of those days we will have.

Eugene C. Vickerson

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