Column: Now is a good time to feel inspired

11/19/2016 9:00 AM |

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Lately, it seems everyone just wants an escape from the election.

Last week, I had been planning a humor column about people posting on Facebook that they couldn’t wait for Election Day to pass so their newsfeeds could return to normal. I was prepared to argue that normal social media isn’t so great either, but realized after the votes were cast that personal political battles hadn’t stopped, and therefore the column idea needed to be scrapped.

It’s true the bitterness felt by everyday people of all beliefs during this campaign has carried over into mid-November, even as the people most directly involved in the race have begun to move on to some extent.

So many people who say they want a break from Washington politics just can’t seem to pull themselves away. Perhaps a few distractions are in order and, peeking at the advance pages of this week’s newspaper, I see a few ways people can be uplifted or do some good in the world without leaving the North Fork.

For example, I reached out to Jo-Ann Wilson in Calverton this week to talk about her play, “Pages from the Diary of an Ex-Slave,” to be performed at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead on Saturday evening. OK, I know what you’re thinking: ‘How can I be uplifted by a play about slavery?’

Ms. Wilson has the perfect answer to that question.

The founder of INSPIRED, a company dedicated to helping at-risk kids and young adults achieve success, Ms. Wilson said she teaches her clients that anyone can overcome adversity.

“What better way to exemplify that than through the story of slaves?” she said. “This play is inspirational.”

A performer since she was a child participating in four different church choirs, the Bronx native is no stranger to the spotlight. However, this is the first time she’ll perform this particular piece, which incorporates characters and dialect inspired by friends and family down south and features tales from the Underground Railroad.

Ms. Wilson is the principal actor in the play, which she wrote over the course of several months this year, but it also features Negro spirituals performed by a diverse group of singers between 8 and 60 years old. Likewise, the performance will appeal to audiences of all ages, races and ethnicities, Ms. Wilson has assured.

“Its goal is to offer a universal message that anyone can attain personal freedom,” she said of the production, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Speaking to her this week, I couldn’t help but feel how kind-hearted this local woman is. I hope her performance brings local residents downtown for a lesson in black history and an escape from the modern history they’ve had enough of.

Of course, kind hearts is also in the name of a charity that will benefit from a performance earlier Saturday evening at the Jamesport Meeting House. Kindest Hearts Foundation is an organization helping to rebuild towns in Haiti.

In response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew, Dr. Bellamy Brook and his wife have worked with Frank DiStefano, owner of Michelangelo’s in Mattituck, and local music producer Stefano DiBenedetto to organize a charity concert set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday (with food and cocktails at 4 p.m.). Local musicians Cass Dillon and Kim Vogels are among those who will perform.

The health clinic Dr. Brook helped build in Haiti is currently being used as a shelter following the latest hurricane to cause mass destruction there.

“People are forced to create their own shelters out of metal, tin, cardboard, sheets — and they make cities out of them,” Dr. Brook said in a statement. “I know poverty here at home can be pretty bad, but what you see in Haiti is something you’ve never seen before.”

Maybe helping out abroad is the perfect way to feel better at home?

If you’re not available Saturday (you can still contribute through http://www.kindesthearts.org) but like the idea of helping others, I’d like to mention one more local charitable effort.

Several people wrote to me this week to say how moved they were by the effort Patty Hocker and Claire Kennedy of Southold have mounted to collect goods for troops overseas. It’s their third straight year organizing the holiday drive and they’ll have drop-off bins at Wendy’s Deli in Mattituck, North Fork Real Estate in Cutchogue and Southold Pharmacy on Main Road through Nov. 26.

Ms. Hocker said it’s important to remember when donating items for troops that the climate overseas is both hot and cold. Among the items recommended are personal hygiene products, hard containers of snacks, batteries and writing materials, and gift cards to companies like Amazon, eBay and Google Play.

I’m sure there are plenty of other great things going on here this week. I just thought these were a few worthy events and causes that might be a simple way to feel a little better and do a little good.

Photo caption: Jo-Ann Wilson in costume for her performance of ‘Pages from the Diary of an Ex-Slave’ at Vaill-Leavitt Music Hall Saturday. (Courtesy photo)

Grant ParpanThe author is the executive editor of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at gparpan@timesreview.com.

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