JoyBinge Podcast Ep. 9: Moving Forward with Victories
Hi and welcome to JoyBinge, a podcast where we re-learn that good things are happening in the world and celebrate those good things because we are tired of only hearing about the bad crap. My name is Kimmy Mauldin and I am not a journalist or a professional of any sort in the news industry. I’m just a Texas girl in need of some happy news and want to share what I find. Let’s binge on some joy!
“Victims don’t have to be victimized,” Avery G. Wilks quoted Jordan Dinsmore, a survivor of a traumatizing attack, in his powerful article for The State Newspaper on Oct 23rd. Dinsmore goes on to say, “You can do everything in your power to take control of the situation.”
Let’s go over what happened to Dinsmore that horrible night in July 2017 to give you some context. Dinsmore was in the parking lot of the apartment complex where she lived in Columbia, South Carolina. Three teenagers attacked her at gunpoint and made her drive her car to an ATM for money. While she was driving, they told her how they would rape her after she got the money for them.
But Dinsmore wasn’t about to let that happen. After she got them the money they wanted, she made sure her seat belt was not fastened. The gunmen told her to make a turn, which she purposely did not do, put the car in neutral, opened the car door and threw herself out onto the road while the car, full of attackers, drifted at 35 miles per hour off the road. This act of bravery saved her life.
Since then, Dinsmore has conducted many interviews, given speeches, and according to the article, “received the Bobby Tucker Courage Award from the S.C. Black Belt Hall of Fame.” But most importantly, she “says the attack showed she can handle life-or-death situations and made her even more resolved to enter law enforcement.”
Even though she has grown quite a bit since the attack, Dinsmore still suffers from paranoia and nightmares. Thankfully she has figured out ways to deal with the trauma positively like getting a boxer/pitbull mix dog companion named Bandit who brings her a lot of comfort. She also makes sure to utilize the security at her apartment complex if she ever has to walk to or from her car at night. She was even invited to participate in a self-defense class from Surviving Assault Standing Strong or SASS in a nearby town of Irmo. Alex Duncan instructed the class Dinsmore attended saying, “She came to class within a very short time after the incident. She came in with such a positive attitude. She had a huge smile on her face. She was really happy to work with the other girls in her class.” The chief executive of the SASS, Shannon Henry called Dinsmore “a warrior.”
Graduating from the University of South Carolina in May 2019, Dinsmore has and is working hard to earn her degree in criminal justice. She is considering interning with a local law enforcement agency and thinking about being involved in victims advocacy as well. But the biggest dream is to be a detective.
Dinsmore has received a lot of public support. The FBI invited her to take a tour at their Columbia field office where she got a pretty sweet cup of which she is quite protective. And Lt. Chris Lindler of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department is quoted as saying, “There is a spot for her no matter when she wants it. I’d take her with me in a minute. She could work in our victim services unit.”
People reach out to her after hearing or reading her story when her story rises to public attention once more. But Wilks reports her saying that, “...the most important messages come from fathers who promise to prepare their daughters by telling them her experience.”
What Dinsmore’s story teaches us is that we can let experiences, no matter how awful, either drown us or fuel us. She has used this attack to fuel her further, to follow her dreams, and continue with her life stronger than she was before. May we follow her example and find ways to live life as warriors!
As we know, warriors come in many shapes and sizes. And some of the most powerful stories we know have a warrior hero come from a most unlikely person or place imaginable. Today, I want to tell you about some heroes we love but don’t necessarily expect: our dogs. Stuart Heritage wrote this article for The Guardian on Oct 30th.
Dogs are known for many things, namely their loyalty, cuddliness, strong desire to play, and extraordinary olfactory talents. That is, their uncanny ability to identify various scents. According to the article, dogs have “220m olfactory receptors in their noses.” That means they can smell things with a superhero like ability.
Heritage reports that recently the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in New Orleans had an annual meeting where they “revealed that a labrador and a labrador-retriever cross were recently trained to detect malaria in children by sniffing nylon socks in a jar.” We knew dogs could sniff for bombs, drugs, and treats but malaria? What else can they smell?
The list seems to be ever growing but Heritage reported a pretty decent list. He also goes into more detail about each thing but to save on time, just go check out the article and see what he says there. Here is the list:
Feces (we all know this to be true but Heritage goes on to say that dogs have been trained to help the University of Washington’s Conservation Canine program identify the diet and genetic makeup of different wild animal specimen by smelling their poop)
Pirated DVDs (not discerning which DVDs are pirated but rather just smelling for DVDs so people could check to see if they are legal)
Cow ovulation cycles
Ghosts? This last one is more of a joke but as Heritage says, “they still deserve a nice pat on the tummy.”
If only dogs could help us with everything. But alas this just cannot be. Thankfully, there are still plenty of humans out there who want to help people do all sorts of things, even vote when confined to the hospital. Kristen De Groot brings us this story through ABC News on November 2nd.
Many of you have probably and hopefully heard by now, especially those of you living in the United States, that today, November 6th, is Election Day. Hopefully you got your vote in. Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania have employees and volunteers working together to ensure that people who can’t go to the polls themselves still have the chance to submit their vote. They formed an action group called the “Penn Votes Project,” focused on preparing and educating patients who will be in the hospital or unable to go to the polls on Election Day with information of how to cast their vote.
Several other hospitals have been struck by the issue of patient voting, or rather lack of voting opportunities for their patients. Rhode Island Hospital’s own Kelly Wong, an emergency medicine resident there, ran into this back in 2016. Working together with other residents from different hospitals, Wong and colleagues launched Patientvoting.com, a website that in their own words is “a non-partisan effort to heighten awareness of patients’ rights and increase voter turnout. We organize public information and provide free materials so more registered voters can cast their ballots.” The website organizes information by state so patients can work with family members, friends, or volunteers on how to apply for an absentee ballot. Follow them on Twitter at @patientvoting or visit their website at patientvoting.com.
Another example of hospital staff getting involved with patients’ rights to vote lies with Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu and James McKenzie. They are residents at the Cambridge Hospital in Massachusetts for the adult psychiatry unit. In 2016, they also launched their own initiative called the Social Justice Campaign in the article, but is actually called the Social Justice Coalition at the Cambridge Health Alliance. Okwerekwu and McKenzie saw that their patients too needed assistance in actually casting their own ballots to vote. In a blog post on the STAT website written by Okwerekwu in 2016 states, “The Social Justice Coalition at Cambridge Health Alliance is combating this unrecognized and insidious form of voter suppression by educating hospitalized patients about their opportunities to vote.” Visit their Facebook page at Social Justice Coalition Cambridge to learn more about what they do!
De Groot states in her article, “...patients in Massachusetts must appoint someone to serve as proxy to get all the documents in order. Because their operation is small, Okwerekwu said she and McKenzie typically are tapped to be the patients’ proxies, creating a lot of work for them.” She goes on to quote McKenzie as saying, “This should be an active duty of the health care system. You’ve got rights and they don’t go away just because you are sick or injured.”
Voting can be hard enough for many people in this country on a good day. But when something unexpectedly or even expectedly lands you in the hospital, what choices do you have for casting your vote? Well, it depends on which state you live in. De Groot reports in her article, “In Pennsylvania, the patient first needs to apply for an emergency absentee ballot. Then a physician must sign off on the application acknowledging that the patient will be unable to head to the polls. The application must be notarized, taken to City Hall and approved. The patient’s ballot then must be taken back to the hospital, where the patient fills it out. It then gets returned to City Hall to be counted.”
Especially since many hospital visits are last minute, this would be a huge if not impossible feat for many individuals to accomplish by November 6th. Thankfully people are recognizing this issue and are working hard to make voting rights accessible to patients. As the pulmonary medicine specialist who leads the Penn Votes Project, Dr. Judd Flesch, states, “Every citizen of the United States has the right to vote and we think getting ill shouldn’t impair that process.”
Ok, I know I’ve been focused on the United States this entire episode and I hate doing that. So I found this really sweet article about how a community came together to help move a beloved bookstore down the street in Southampton, England. What’s funny is that this article from NPR on October 30th was written by Laurel Wamsley who was the same reporter who brought us the story on Ethiopia’s first female president! This is our first time revisiting a reporter so I got ridiculously excited about that. Anyway, back to the actual story we are looking at today.
Moving is usually a pretty stressful time in anyone’s life, especially for a small business. And especially if you only have 5 employees who can help. And especially if you can’t afford movers or time to close down. So what did October Books do to solve this little riddle? As Wamsley beautifully puts it, “they put out a call for volunteers to act as a human conveyor belt.” And boy did this idea work!
Originally the bookstore employees expected and hoped for about 100 people to assist them in moving books to the new location, but to their surprise, over 200 people showed up! They even got people who were waiting at bus stops and just walking by to join them. Even surrounding cafes brought tea to the people passing books along the line. And in just one hour, over 2,000 books had been moved to the new location.
October Books is having a great experience in crowdfunding! They raised enough money to buy an old bank building just 500 ft away from their original location. Donations and “loanstocks” were also utilized to help fund the new location. A “loanstock” basically means anyone can loan them a certain amount of money with a contract stating terms and when the bookstore will pay them back. Then of course the “human conveyor belt” is the one of the best crowdfunding options I’ve ever seen, “funds” being time in this instance. There is a video and pictures in the Huffington Post article written by Lee Moren on Oct 30th that shows the entire line of people as well as a glimpse into the new shop. Lots of renovation is still happening but they would have already had their grand opening event on Saturday, Nov 3rd by the time you hear this episode. They might even be celebrating as I am recording now!
Moren quotes Clare Diaper, an employee of the bookstore as saying, “It was a tremendous show of support and community and we’re moved and incredibly touched by it. We are of, and for our community an it is truly heartening to see that reciprocated.” Another team member, Amy Brown, told NPR, “It was really sort of surprising and positive, and just a really moving experience to see people chipping in because they wanted to help. And they wanted to be part of something bigger.”
October Books has been in business since 1977 and has worked hard to be “more than just a bookstore,” according to their website. They call themselves a “not-for-profit co-operative radical neighbourhood bookshop” that “trades independently from any political organisation, and seek[s] to promote a fair and equal society.” They support diversity, eco-positive practices, and community involvement. They are a fascinating bookshop definitely worth checking out! Go to their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts or website to see what else they are up to!
Slice of Texas
In today’s slice of Texas, we have a new interview from the Texas Optimism Project brought to us by TexasMonthly and Frost Bank. We’ve been covering the interviews from this project to look for different perspectives and to glean inspiration. Today, we get to peek inside the conversation between Wes Hurt, an entrepreneur who started Clean Cause and Courtney Cobb, our Optimism Correspondent.
Addiction is something most of us encounter either in ourselves or in people we know and love. It’s never easy facing this beast but Courtney and Wes shared their experiences in overcoming and living with substance abuse. In the beginning of the interview, Courtney recounts her experience of stepping down as a Marketing Director of a brewing company to check into a rehabilitation center. She tells Wes, “I can truly say that if someone would’ve told me that within a year of working the 12 steps of recovery I would think that my alcoholism is a gift, I would’ve thought they were crazy. But that is the case. As a recovering alcoholic, I have regained my integrity, healed the wounded relationships with my friends, family, and boyfriend, started a new career working for J.Forks Designs, and am following my dream of launching my own brand activation company. How do you feel about being an addict?”
Wes responds beautifully as well, “For my whole life, I searched for purpose. Even as a kid, I always asked, ‘Why?’ What I realized when I got older—and sober—was that ‘why?,’ for me, actually meant ‘purpose:’ Why do I do what I do? Similar to what you said, my addiction and my recovery helped me find my purpose, my calling. Not that I’m necessarily at that final destination, but I know finding my purpose is my North Star. I’m able to use my entrepreneurial gifts to do something meaningful! That helped me find my purpose. So it’s kind of ironic. The only thing that I regret about my addiction, the only thing I regret, are the people I have hurt. That is it. Everything else was beautiful, beautiful chaos.”
They go on to discuss their journey before their addictions, during and after entering recovery. Wes discusses his insecurities, of needing validation and acceptance. While he was leaping from high to high, he was lonely, hurting, and looking for fulfillment and joy. During this journey, he started a company called Hey Cupcake! and got fired from it because he needed to focus on getting sober. Since then, he started another company called Clean Cause, a beverage company that focuses on what they call “clean energy” through the form of Yerba Mate tea. Fifty percent of profits go to their giving initiative called “CLEAN Kickstarts” which are scholarships for people who will go through a 30-day sober living home to start getting their lives back on track. Wes discusses the model of his business with Courtney and tells her, “The give-back portion really needed to be something significant, especially in the field of addiction where medicine and doctors are involved. It’s expensive. So, from a practical standpoint, if you want to create an impact, you need to produce funding. Giving less than 50 percent [of profits] back would’ve made it difficult to produce a meaningful amount of money. The reason we don’t give 100 percent back, and we are not a non-profit, is that it needs to be sustainable.
Sustainable means we use the vehicle—which is the product—to deliver the message that continues to fuel the mission each time someone buys it. Fifty percent also helps attract investors since they will get a return. They can feel good about investing in something that will make money and also help people. So it was those three things: funding to make impact, sustainability, and financial attractiveness so people would want to fund it and give it the ability to grow. I like to think that Clean Cause is part of a private solution for a public problem.”
One interesting part of the interview was when they discussed their versions of “hitting rock bottom.” Courtney talked about this by saying, “All recovering addicts have a common denominator: they must first admit, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are powerless over drugs and alcohol, and that their lives have become unmanageable. For me to be able to admit this, I had to hit “rock bottom.” I am a firm believer that rock bottoms are unique to each individual, and happen when someone stops digging. What is your definition of rock bottom, and how did you use it to make a change?”
Wes responded, “I’m weird. I don’t like talking about rock bottoms as much in the sense that I do not really believe in them. What I believe in is a place where you are willing to finally make your own decision. But I understand the concept. Rock bottom, to me, is when someone faces their consequences: they get to choose to live or die, to have the people they love in or out of their lives, to go to jail or not go to jail.
For me, one of the biggest things that helped was when everybody withdrew from me; when every single person I loved and cared about finally unified. That is when I had to face my own existence and say, “Okay there is no one else here who I have to drink against because I am mad, there is just me and God. Do I want to live or die?” That removed everything and I had to face my own consequence that I would have to live with forever. For me, it has to do as much with enablement as it does rock bottom—you cannot get to rock bottom if people are enabling you. Does that make sense?”
I think that makes sense. They go on to discuss recovery and how they used optimism to push themselves forward. I really just want to read this entire interview to you, it’s quite the read. But the one thing from this portion about optimism from Wes that I wanted to share with you is when he said, “I think getting support right out of the gate is so critical to those more short-term up and downs. I was pretty volatile at the beginning, but I was hopeful...I will never forget, one day when I was a month sober I pulled up to a stop light, and I looked over at the leaves of a tree...I will never forget that moment because I was present. I was like, ‘What the hell? I haven’t looked at a leaf in the last 10 or 20 years!’
“I know it sounds weird, but my point is that my awareness of the world around me became clear. Then, there were additional little things like that that just kept me going. Little puffs of inspiration, something as small as your parents calling you saying, “I am really proud of you, keep going.” Or looking at the leaves on a tree and recognizing, “Wow, that is pretty cool, I wouldn't have given a rat’s ass about that 31 days ago.” Your eyes just start to open. It is a gradual process, and you keep getting these little victories and little insights of hope and life being good!
“I experience that now, still. It’s sometimes hard to realize how far you've come. It’s the people around you who knew you in your former life that are like, ‘You are a different human being.’”
The last piece of advice that Wes gives to people who are dealing with obtaining sobriety in their lives and for those trying to support someone coming back to sobriety is the following, “For people trying to get sober: All you stand to lose by trying is the misery. Otherwise, you have nothing to lose. Give it a shot.
For people with an addict in their lives: Research credible resources to learn more about what ‘enabling’ is. That way, you’ll understand whether your support is helping lead your loved one to recovery, or whether it’s actually an obstacle to that.”
So for those of you who have been dealing with addiction in yourselves or with someone you love, keep looking for the gradual change, keep moving forward and celebrate each little victory. Those seemingly “little” victories and pieces of hope will eventually unite down the road to paint a beautiful picture of progress for you and your loved ones. Nothing good happens immediately, it’s usually a pretty slow process. And while it may be full of pain and hard obstacles, the joy you experience is sweeter and so much brighter than it would be otherwise. And those are the rays of hope we need to cling to and celebrate every day.
Thanks for listening to some of the joy found in the world this past week. If you have stories of good people doing good things in your neighborhood or anywhere, send them to me! I’ve got an email, firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at me @joybingepodcast. TELL ME THE GOOD STUFF!
The music for this podcast is "Industrious Ferret" by Kevin MacLeod. Thanks for reading and have a great week!