Today I am thrilled to share my blog with author Jackie Cangro. I first found Jackie through a mutual blogger and started to follow her posts. She has a huge heart and I believe we share a lot of the same values and ideals which makes her the perfect person to guest post on It’s Just Life. Did I mention she is an author? Jackie’s book The Subway Chronicles: More Scenes from Life in New York had me enthralled and hoping I would run into some of the characters she has met on the New York subway. Today I am thrilled to have her share one of her new features on her blog with us—SHINE. I think you will agree it is a perfect fit for It’s Just Life.
Joy Southard is one of my favorite people on the planet. True, I haven’t met all of the people on the planet, but if even if I had, I assure you, Joy would still be at the top of the list. We met a few years ago when I interviewed her for an article I was writing about the program she runs in Texas. Through her example, I uncovered one of the most valuable life lessons I would ever learn.
Joy walks into the school auditorium and approaches the front of the room. The students, mostly fourth graders, chatter excitedly and fidget in their seats. Joy has brought a special guest with her today. His name is Quincy.
Quincy has salt-and-pepper, curly hair that sticks out in all directions, not unlike Albert Einstein. He is short and sturdy with caramel-colored eyes that seem to know what you’re thinking. As soon as the kids see Quincy, they shout with glee. He is used to this kind of adoration. Quincy travels around Texas teaching lessons about compassion and self-esteem. And he does it without uttering a word. That’s because Quincy is a dog.
Joy is the director of Healing Species of Texas, a compassion education program taught with the assistance of rescue dogs like Quincy. The dogs in the program have lived through abuse or neglect. They are examples to children about how to approach life issues with courage, empathy, integrity, and self worth. Joy doesn’t shy away from the dogs’ sad stories. By honestly telling what happened to the dogs, the kids can find understanding, respect, and, most of all, hope. The dogs made it through, and they can too.
One of the school programs Joy organizes is called Dogs of Character. It’s an assembly presentation of three dogs and parallels their stories to a child’s experience. “We compare the feelings of a new dog at the dog park to that of a new kid on the playground. We bring dogs who have amazing loyalty to each other, yet are characteristically very different, to teach diversity and tolerance,” Joy says.
Joy has many great stories from her work so I asked her to share one.
“One of my favorite stories was a class of kids in a juvenile detention center. We teach the quote by Albert Schweitzer, ‘Until man extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, he himself will not find peace.’ In this lesson a young boy went up to our board and drew a stick figure with a sad face inside a circle. He explained that he is putting this boy, who he had bullied for most of the year, in his circle of compassion. His sad face indicated his tears. He told us he was going to apologize to this boy and keep him safe from others who would bully him. That was pretty meaningful to us because we later learned how our student kept his word and was ridiculed for sticking up for the kid who was a target.
“We teach that strength comes from advocacy. When our students finish Healing Species, they know they have the tools to practice being important to someone or something. We work very hard to give these kids chances to feel needed. They are definitely needed to help us change how animals are treated! They are also needed to change how we treat each other.”
Because of Joy and the work she does, I am absolutely sure of one thing: compassion is key. To be able to look at another living being and think “you matter” is one of the most important life lessons of all.
Jackie Cangro is a writer, fiction editor, and blogger. She writes a series called SHINE about people like Joy doing great things in their communities. If you or someone you know has a SHINE story to share, please let her know.
Thanks, Jackie, for the great post today and for sharing Joy with us. Please let Jackie know how much you liked this post by leaving a comment for her in the comment section. You can visit her blog by clicking here.