From the back of the theater, Helice (“Sparky”) Bridges strode briskly down the center aisle to greet Fort Irwin garrison commander Col. Jon Braga.
For the past forty minutes on August 26, Braga had been presenting more than a dozen awards to Fort Irwin garrison employees, sharing friendly stories of each awardee, as they had made their way to the center of the theater stage to be recognized.
“Colonel Braga, I have a Blue Ribbon for you,” Bridges spoke, as she focused all of her five feet two inches into the eyes of the trim, 6 foot, 3- inch Special Forces Soldier.
“It says ‘Who I am makes a difference,’” Bridges said. “And I would like to honor you….You’re a hundred percent with every person. You truly value each and every person. Not only that, but you are super-grounded and fun! And I adore you for that. Will you accept this gift? Can I place it on you?”
After he said yes, she placed the small, five-inch long blue ribbon on his Army battle dress uniform. “It goes above your heart,” Bridges pronounced.
“And where does it go?” Bridges asked the crowd. They chanted back, “It goes above your heart.”
“This is about your greatest dreams coming true,” Bridges said to Braga. “…When you look at this ribbon, know that one of the most inspiring, adorable grandmas on this planet has stopped to honor you… and on this ribbon, there is a community of cheerleaders. In order to get the cheerleaders jumping for your dream and take the spark from my heart and put it in the ribbon by going ‘Bing!’”
“B-I-N-G! Everybody, say it with me. On the count of three,” Bridges asked the audience. “Ready, 1-2-3.”
“BING!” they chimed, laughed, clapped and cheered in appreciation.
Turning to the audience, Bridges declared, “I’m 72 years young.” She paused, then continued, “I’ve learned over the years that every person is valuable. Each of you makes a difference…
“Let me take a moment to look at each of you…”
Bridges gazed silently at the rows of people. The silence grew from seconds into a minute. Some shifted awkwardly in their seats, then relaxed.
“In a minute or less, in a moment, a life can change,” Bridges told the audience.
Bridges recounted how, at 37, she was very successful in business, but had a very controlling, abusive husband. No one really knew her torment.
The Blue Ribbon that Bridges presents to people today captures the moment she realized what she herself was missing, and decided to leave her million-dollar mansion, her Mercedes, and her husband.
In 1980, after working on a kibbutz in Israel for six months, Bridges moved to Haifa to learn Hebrew. After her studies, as she returned home, she would smile and greet everyone she met with “Shalom!” A university professor, impressed with her approach to life, invited her to attend an Arab/Israeli conference, where she impressed the conference director, who appointed her to open and close both days of the conference.
When Bridges returned to San Diego in 1982, she found the work that has consumed the rest of her life. “When I got back, people would stop me in the street and say, ‘You’re that weird lady who gave me that button and told me how I did matter. They told me how that had changed their lives,” said Bridges.
Bridges then asked the audience to do what she had just done with Col. Braga, with the person seated next to them.
“In fifteen seconds, tell your partner how much they matter to you. If you don’t know them, just look in their eyes and tell them whatever comes to your heart that will support and encourage them. You may be thinking about it now, but you really don’t know what you are going to say.
“After fifteen seconds, pause, and switch,” Bridges instructed.
The audience then paired up and went through the simple process but difficult exercise of feeling each other out and learning about their partners. For some, it was a co-worker; for others, it was someone they didn’t know. For the next several minutes, all worked on engaging with each other and then using their fifteen seconds to say a few sentences of heart-felt appreciation for one another. The room buzzed with energy, an energy that stayed with them as they walked into the bright sunshine to go back to work.
“The first time I met Sparky was in 2012,” said Renita Wickes, Fort Irwin’s community relations specialist, who helped arrange Bridges’ visit to Fort Irwin. Because of her volunteer work with breast cancer survivors, Wickes was invited by a good friend to go with her to a Difference Makers International conference in San Diego for confer with hundreds of community leaders, youths and adults, about giving back to the community.
“Not just teens, but adults. It’s just amazing what her program does to people, to their lives,” Wickes said.
Later that afternoon, at Fort Irwin Middle School and Teen Center, Wickes watched how Bridges took on some half-interested youngsters and taught them how to look at their lives differently.
“I thought it was going to be a tough crowd,” Wickes said. “But she moved them. It was very emotional, even for me, because I wasn’t expecting it. At the end of her time with them, it definitely showed that she touched lives very quickly. Those kids who were hurting were definitely connecting to her. In a matter of minutes, you see how they looked at each other. You don’t see that every day.
As Bridges had told the garrison audience earlier that day, “As a society, we’ve gone to into outer space…yet the last frontier is inner space—where people acknowledge, encourage and support one another so that children and adults alike may live, love and dream. I believe that we have all been born with a gift that can help create sustainable peace and prosperity for all people and life on our sacred planet.
“My mission is to return to the dream of possibilities and to bring about this inner peace. Not one of us can do it alone. It takes all of us joining together, lifting one another up and reminding each other that who we are does make a difference.”
Power Your Life “WMCN – Philadelphia Talk Show. Hear “IGNITE WHAT’S RIGHT™… Biggest Kept Secret to Creating Dignity & Respect Among Men, Women & Children”
How fortunate to be interviewed for Global Women’s Empowerment Network TV (GWEN) by inside out beautiful, authentic and spiritually evolved host and TED Talk Presenter Jacqueline Hadden. Other women who were interviewed on that day shared their wisdom and empowered me to greater heights. Take a moment to learn more – http://www.gwennetwork.org/
Grammy Award Winner Rihanna & Making Dreams Come True for One Student
Making students’ dreams come true. 14 year-old Max is now being supported by Grammy Award winner Rihanna!
Max wanted to start a T-shirt company to end violence. When he joined the Difference Makers Club at Eastlake High School (Chula Vista, CA) —his classmates heard his dream and cheered him on! That was only two months ago. Now Max has his own T-shirt line and is making a huge difference.
Our programs help teens make their dreams come true, stop bullying and prevent teen suicide.
Please check out this Fundraising Campaign.
Be sure to watch the videos….. TEENS Making a Difference!!!!
U R Connected – Newsletter of the Franciscan Peace Connection
8654 La Mesa Boulevard, Suite A, La Mesa, CA 91942
Another Parish Family Blue Ribbon Exchange
One of the RCIC families that participated in the first Family Blue Ribbon Acknowledgment last November was chosen to be part of the cast for the second presentation. The three siblings are very familiar with the Wolf of Gubbio story. They were excited to join a teenage Francis, a young adult townswoman, and their beloved RCIC teacher, Julie, as the ravenous wolf. Acting out the Franciscan legend always brings home the peacemaking approach that both the Blue Ribbon Ceremony and the followers of St. Francis promote: honor rather than harm those who pose threats and stir up fear; ignite what’s right; accent the positive; awaken the potential to affirm and collaborate.
RCIC and RCIA members pose as the Wolf of Gubbio cast.
Helice “Sparky” Bridges is thrilled to be part of the upcoming TEDx Encinitas event and She is in very good company with Felena Hanson, Dana Bristol-Smith, Skyler McCurineam and two of the cutest young girls you’ll ever see who have BIG things to talk about.
Written by: Sister LaVern Olberdling, Franciscan Peace Connection.
January 2014 – Published in U R Connected Newsletter of the Franciscan Peace Connection, LaMesa CA.
“Difference Makers International, founder and Executive Director, Helice ‘Sparky’ has given us the vision to ‘Ignite What’s Right’™ in our community, country and world…stopping bullying, preventing teen suicide and making dreams come true in a minute or less.
‘Sparky’, our Ignite What’s Right’ guru, alternates as our primary catalyst, an adept sculptress and a stabilizing presence. She challenges our thinking, continually affirms our efforts, suggests how to reframe our approach to violent behavior, and consistently models an ability to vibrate at a frequency far above the mayhem and destructive tendencies that thwart and curtail our efforts to eliminate bullying and teen suicides, parental and societal abuse and diminished self-esteem. Unbeknownst to her, she is teaching us to see with new eyes, hear with new ears, and act with honor and high self-esteem.
Sparky has never officially been in law enforcement, the counseling field, or anger management coaching. However, she has a non-invasive tool and style that saves lives, stops violent behavior and changes lives in one session. Just since we met her September 2013, her ‘Standing Strong Together’™ trainings have deterred a minimum of 5 teenagers from committing suicide; her presentations at school assemblies have the segue for prominent bullies to come to the stage and publically apologize for their inappropriateness…thus changing the overall atmosphere and behavior of the entire school; and, get this, US Army Reserve leaders have come to realize that her approach to peace makes lots of sense…more sense that…well, many other alternatives. Consequently, they placed an order for 5,000 ‘Who I Am Makes A Difference’® Blue Ribbons in Texas, South Carolina, Florida and Michigan.
Sparky’s approach to life and her choice to continue to coach us in our ministry style are indeed the ‘wind beneath our wings’ as we move into the second quarter of our second year as the Franciscan Peace Connection. Sparky, you are a direct gift from God. We thank you for being on our team. Your presence not only empowers us to be more effective and time efficient in our daily encounters, we are now also interfaith.”