When I started this book / speaking program I was told to be ready for the good and the bad. Dr. Lucile told me that once you open your heart and soul to the public there will be critics (right or wrong) and I needed to understand this. She was not trying to pursued me away from opening up my life to others because she believes (as I do) that it can (and will) be a gift that influences and changes lives. I have been told that my books and time spent with others have stopped at least one suicide. I had students tell me that they understood they are bullies but are now going to choose to no longer be that away. The letters and stories that I receive from students, teachers and parents have a profound impact on my life. I have reached well over 100,000 students and when you start to add in families and school staff that number reached is hard to imagine. The best thing that I can say is out of all those people reached I have never had a negative comment or review and I am extremely proud of that. I take what I do very seriously and give 100% of my self when speaking and spending time with our students. I do my best to give every student that same true experience, whether it is a first hug in the morning starting my assemblies or the last hug after six assemblies and two lunches, working with kids on the playground in the hot summer. One of the most important lessons I have learned is, that you never know who, how or when you will affect another person. I have been contacted years after a specific assembly or book signing and told that my life and time spent had changed their life in a way that was never expected. One story that had an impact on me was when a 6th grader came to me after school (I had done multiple assemblies over 2 days) and asked me not to leave. He said that he was going to ride his bike home and get his mom, so that she could meet me. I told this student that I would not leave. He asked me to promise and of course I did. Mom shared not only did this boy ride home, but when mom was not there he rode his bike to her work and came in sweating. The mom said that her son talked with so much love in his voice about what I shared over two days that she had no choice but to leave his bike in her office and drive them back to school, where I was just as promised. The mom pulled me aside and gave me a hug with tears and shared that this boy did not have a dad. He told her that when I gave him a hug I really squeezed him and he knew I that I cared about him! I told the mom that was about the most incredible thing that has been told to me. Our kids need to know that there is love out there for them and they will get what they give. I have so many meaningful and tear jerking stories. There is a certain power that comes with giving 100% of your heart and soul. Is it draining? Yes, especially when you have hundreds of students and multiple assemblies, but I would not change this. There are many times that I just find a local park and tilt my seat back and crash after my programs. These schools, parents and students probably do not realize that they impact me as much as I impact them. When a kid reaches out to me and squeezes tight saying thanks for sharing my life ... it changes me.
The only negative feedback or messages that I get are always from people who have never had me at their kids school or have been a part of my assemblies. On Facebook I do not respond to their negativity on my wall, but I always respond privately. I am never afraid to respond to negativity. First, I know that I will make mistakes and I am ok with that because I know where my heart is. I know that I would never intentionally hurt a student's feelings or anyone else's for that matter. I have been criticized for charging people (even old friends) for my books, while giving others away for free. I have had negative feedback saying that I embellish my school programs (again from people who have never been a part of my assemblies), saying that there is no way that I would do 6 assemblies in one day, stay after school to sign books and play with the kids at their lunches and not charge a higher price. My only response is to have me come and present at your school (if you are a teacher) or your kids school and judge me first hand. This is usually where the correspondence stops. I have offered to meet people in person who have negative remarks about me. I am ok with critics. I ask teachers, parents and staff to let me know what can be changed or tweaked to give the students a more meaningful experience. Mistakes will continue to happen but all I can say is that they will happen honestly and without malice. Not every teacher has agreed with how long my assemblies are. In my assemblies students come first and sometimes this interrupts teachers recess and lunch times. I totally get it. Teachers work hard and deserve their time, but for the day (s) that I am presenting there may be unplanned conflicts. I do my very best to make sure all students feel important and that they matter to me because they do!
I understand that my life's journey is a powerful tool that can have a heartfelt and meaningful influence on others. The most important messages that I try and share with others are that "the hardest things you work for in life will mean the most" and "that even in the darkest and scariest times of their lives there is HOPE." I have hit rock bottom (multiple times) and managed with love and support to overcome and achieve greatness. The truth that I live by is stated in the last sentence of my autobiography, saying "I am now at a place higher than from which I fell." Thanks for all the love and support. It allows me to do what I do best. All the trust, compassion, help and hugs are appreciated. Just so there is no "gray" area, the positive out weighs the negative 95% to 5%. I will continue to share my life on this blog. I will try and share more regularly. If you have feedback please feel free to share. Please share a hug and make a difference in someone's life. Peace:)