Awakin Calls » Edmund Benson » Transcript


Edmund Benson: Making a Difference as Elders

Rish: We know Gandhi didn’t come back to India till he was 40; Dr. V. of the Aravind Eye Hospitals, one of the largest eye care networks in the world didn’t start his work till he was 58. Our speaker today Ed is of similar ilk, he worked 16 hour days on his business till he was 52, but then began pouring this same energy post-retirement into the myriad initiatives that he began, ranging from working with at-risk youth, environmental stewardship, constructive aging curriculums, the list goes on...
I was reflecting on the amount of work that Edmund has done over the course of his life and how he started that work relatively late. And I was thinking about other people who have done that. We know Gandhi didn’t come back to India till he was 40; Dr. V. of the Aravind eye hospitals, one of the largest eye care networks in the world didn’t start his work till he was 58. Our speaker today Ed is of similar ilk, he worked 16 hour days on his business till he was 52, and then poured this same energy post-retirement into the myriad initiatives that he began, ranging from working with at-risk youth, environmental stewardship, constructive aging curriculums, really spanning the spectrum of things one might care about. Thank you Ed for being on the call today.

Ed: Thank you for having me.

Rish: Let's begin at the beginning with your childhood. As a child and this was in the thirties you did not have the benefit of a positive home environment and you shared that you were what they called “bad news.” Tell us a little bit about how that came to be, and in that respect did you view yourself as being an at risk kid?

Ed: Yes I did. I was troubled as they would say. I was a troubled youth. I wasn't able to communicate properly with my parents, they were older and had issues, health issues, financial issues and I was the youngest of four. And I actually grew up to be the black sheep of the family and I think that was all in preparation for the work I was going to do later in life.

Rish: Which of course you didn't know that at the time and when you were 15 you enrolled in the Massachusetts National Guard and then on to the US Merchant marines and then the Army and all these places threw you into the real world where there’s no coddling so to speak. What impact did that have on you? And I ask because sometimes that kind of experience can harden your heart.

Ed: Actually the Merchant Marine taught me a lot. Most of the people at the end of the second World War who were in the merchant marines were not very favorable people as far as their future was concerned, and many of them had received dishonorable discharge from the military and this is the only job that they could get. So I learned a lot and mostly I learned what not to do. And I was very very fortunate as a young person in that drugs hadn't been invented then, so I didn't have to face that horrific situation where drugs are so prevalent today. So I was blessed as far as that was concerned. But I did learn what brought these people down -- alcohol and anger and things of that nature caused their lives to make a U-turn. That was a real learning experience and in the Army I learned lots of good things about regimentation and setting goals. The Army was a really good experience.

Rish: And some of that discipline no doubt help you with your business. You entered business when you were 20 or 21 and then for 30 years you worked 16-hour days 7 days a week. I’m going to fast-forward 30 years to 1982 - you’d put your heart into your business and then after experiencing a lot of success, in 1982 you said, “Okay I'm going to retire,”and now we're really coming to the heart of the conversation here, because instead of doing the things that most people do when they retire, like golfing or gardening or travel, you and your wife Susan decided to spend 100% of your time helping vulnerable children navigate the world a little bit better. Can you tell us why you chose to spend your retirement years in this fashion?

Ed: Well, it wasn't anything I had planned. It was an evolution, actually we had retired in Miami and we had not spent very much time there. We had homes in Texas and another one in Boston and when we finally did retire we found that the county, Miami-Bay County had built the world’s largest incinerator about a mile from our front door. The smell of burning garbage was horrific and white ash covered the neighborhood. One morning Susan, who was at that time much too young to retire, she was teaching school, and she said, “Ed, isn't there anything you can do about this stink?”. And that was a Call to Arms actually and I spent the next seven or eight years maybe a little longer, fighting that garbage incinerator or what I referred to in marketing and public relations material, as the Miami Monster. I've spent a good deal of time taming that monster so that the neighborhood wouldn't have to deal with the problems of toxins and dioxin the deadliest chemical known to humankind, emanating just pouring out of these tall chimneys.

Rish: Yes I was reading about this Miami monster work and when I first read about it I thought surely you must have been politically connected to affect that level of change. Because reading about it in retrospect it seems like a lot had gotten done since you first started. But it turns out that you were actually not at all politically connected in any way. You worked from the ground up at the Grassroots level without the benefit of any connections or special access. I think large-scale garbage disposal involves political actors -- so how did you mobilize? What did that actually look like when you're starting with a mob of one?
Ed: I come from a marketing background in business and I created marketing tools, postcards, posters and titled this environmental disaster as the Miami monster, and what it was doing to the neighborhood and what was pouring out of the Smoke Stacks. I didn't do any of this work in a confrontational fashion. We did picket the facility, and some of the state representatives elected officials were part of that picket. It seemed as though I came at the right time, and I rented a helicopter and an aerial photographer and we took pictures of what a horrendous mess the company who had built and designed that facility had made of the environment. And using those pictures that I had blown up to a huge size, where it took two people to carry them, we made presentations and so forth and convinced not only the neighbors but also the country government and the State of Florida to sue the county to refit the facility and the county spent what was over a hundred million dollars retrofitting the facility, and I was named to the task force to oversee this and sent to Canada to look at a replacement. It was a real honor, it was a wonderful experience.

Rish: That strikes me that your style was non-confrontational. Today we see people, myself included displaying this righteous, I want to say, justified anger in the face of injustice. How did you come to channel your anger, your ire or whatever you want to call it in this productive and non-confrontational way where you're not demeaning or ridiculing people? And you mentioned that yourself, you tackle away at the problem till it goes away, kind of like Socrates who saw in Gadfly stinging the political machine of Rome. Well, so what brings you to a non-confrontational view, tell me more about that.

Ed: Well, I wasn't that type of person growing up certainly. And, getting along in the Merchant Marine and in the Army, you certainly couldn't step backwards all the time. And I think you say it perfectly on your publication "By changing yourself you can change the world". I realize that people don't want to listen to people that I see yelling in their face and calling them names and demeaning them. So I actually changed myself on a gradual basis so that I was a more pleasant person, I was someone you could speak to rationally. And things sort of began moving the way I wanted them to.

Rish: And then how did this work? You retire, you get involved in an environmental issue, this large environment issue, largely based on a call to arms from your wife who is a lovely person. I'm going to get more into your relationships with your beautiful work. How did that work than the need to work with at risk youth? You said that it all kind of happened organically, evolved...What was the evolution there?

Ed: Well, hear this. Susan was teaching school. I was convinced that bringing recycling to Dade county would reduce the amount of garbage that was going to the incinerator. So, Susan again being the engine of this team, we decided to or actually, Susan decided to begin an environmental group in her classroom. What happened is that the teachers observed what Susan was doing and said it was a great idea. After a while most of the teachers in the school were teaching environmental issues. And really we began with that and then Susan said after a period of time, “ I'm concerned these kids are really at risk if they bring their recyclables” and we were just teaching them what a recyclable was back in that day. If they bring them to the curb, they could get shot. So we we thought, what can we do about that. Knowing and again .. Susan has been the most motivating force for me in every step. It's that she gives me the marching orders, not intentionally but more like that.
We work together. So, what we decided is that we needed to help these at risk kids. Well, most of the kids... I could relate to this population obviously because I was one of them. So we were able because of the contacts that I had developed in the county by then. I was able to go behind bars into the prisons and the juvenile facilities and ask the kids and adults, how could we help you not make the same mistake again. So that brings you back because historically, once kids and adults get into the system, they keep repeating and repeating until maybe that their mid 20’s. So I use their answers to create the original lessons. Most of them were about anger primarily. So that is how we first started and that sort of grew until we had programs and training for staff. First, we created the curriculum and then we said how are we going to get the curricula to the kids behind bars. So we said well, I guess we have to train the guards in the juvenile facilities and then the adult facilities how to teach the materials. So we came up with a really interesting training program. I guess we had trained probably close to 5,000 life skill instructors.

Rish: Cool. I read about that. I also read that, just in Florida alone you had upwards of four million documented hours of life skill lessons.

Ed: Yeah. That's so good.

Rish: That's not even a dated number, that was in 2010 and just the curriculums, I just want to know for our listeners who might not have a sense of the amount of work you and Susan had done. You have written a hundred books teaching life skills to at risk people, care givers in the community. I would like to read out some of the titles of the books and curriculums to give people a sense of the top of the range. You know we had "Prenatal Care, Delivery, and Mental Development" as one of the curriculums. So you are thinking of copying other schools, "Substance Abuse and Guns". With an instruction manual titled: Violence and Conflict, Creating a Positive Outlook, Being Safe, Secrets of Success, Self Esteem, Anger Management for Adults, not just for you and even Health & Hygiene. The thing that I was really struck by that I want to mention is that, this curriculum not just in the U.S. but has been sourced into Canada, Australia, England, Jamaica, New Zealand, Bahamas, Mexico, the list goes on... So you and Susan pour your heart into this endeavor. Then you do something I think is fascinating. Suddenly, on your eightieth birthday you say, okay, this curriculum looks pretty comprehensive and so now I'm going to give this all away. On your eightieth birthday, as a gift to yourself you make this entire curriculum open source and make it part of the Creative Commons of Hundred+ Life Skill curriculum.

Ed: I'm sorry I missed the last words or two that you said.

Rish: I was just saying that on your eightieth birthday you gave away the entire curriculum, that you made it open source. Yet.....

Ed: Let me move you to do that for a second. Ok. What I did of the material that we have in Arise Foundation, which is the name of our non profit foundation. We had it translated into Spanish and on my 80th birthday, I made it open source for any language that someone wanted to translate the material into other than Spanish. They had our permission to do this. It was to translate the material into another language primarily.

Rish: What moved you to do that?

Ed: The goal of everything that we do is to share it. Is to put the material, the thoughts, the lessons in the hands, hearts, and heads of as many people as possible. That's the goal.

Rish: Thank you. One of the articles I was reading mentioned that you don't really have a reverse gear. You said that yourself in a conversation on Wednesday that you either go through something fully or not at all. And looking at the work you have done. I look at this and I think, well yes. There is a drive behind that and that there is also an immense clarity of purpose. Something that I think a lot of us struggle with, given competing priorities, nuance, fears. So how do you learn, at a personal level, where do you get your clarity from?

Ed: Well, I think and really in the simplest terms I think I just let God work his good will in me, through me, and enable me to do what I'm supposed to be doing during this time on earth. So I'm just following directions.

Rish: Ok. And then do you find that the direction comes clearer when you put yourself in certain environments or in a certain mindset. You know, I think some of us can wait all we want and we're not getting any directions from anybody.

Ed: Well, I don't have a particular place that I would go to meditate. Although I do meditate occasionally, Just, I sort of.tuned myself in to be available for directions. I think that's really what people say, well they have a muse and I'm a messenger, which I am. I just sort of tuned myself and as a matter of fact, I have a little tuning knob that I have on my desk. I don't have it here now but it's very close. And that's really what I came to do is to tune in when I'm looking for an answer in particular. I'm just tuned in and I know that I will receive the answer. Most often I think the roadblock is not trusting your own instinct and I am one hundred percent in sync with my instinct (and that rhymes too!) I am in tune with my instinct. And I just know that if I wake up in the middle of the night with a thought, I know where it came from, it didn't come from me. It came from out there and I pay very close attention.Recently it's been mostly the topics for the positivity cards which we happen to love and share on a regular basis.

Rish: Can you share more about the positivity cards? I think it's a beautiful concept that we'd love for folks to hear about it.

Ed: Sure. Let me tell you where it originated because that's a fun story. Susan and I were married then almost fifty years ago. Just soon after we were married, we attended a conference in Carmel, California. It was the second day of the conference, they were men and women, which I guess is pretty normal. We were sitting around a table on Day 2. Susan was sitting next to me. There was a break and a woman came, leaned over the table, and handed me a card. This card said ... (I get the shivers every time I relate this story.) The card said that she is a member of the "Man Watchers Association of America". And then on the back she wrote, I find you a very attractive man and she walked away. That card lived with me for forty years anyway.
We were in the juvenile justice prisons and I hope you will never be in one. But the guards are tough and they can be very nasty. And they're always looking to find fault with the kids. So I said wouldn't it be great, let's create a card that says you been noticed doing something good and we began handing the card out to the guards and to the kids. Kids weren't allowed to keep them, they could take them with them when they were released. Understand this, that as a kid I never ever received a compliment, lots of criticism, but never ever a compliment.

Rish: Wow...

Ed: So that is how Card #1 still resonates with me. I still hand them out on a regular basis and they had the same effect. But in behind bars, with kids who were like me that you were noticed doing something good and there's was a quote on the reverse side. That quote takes no more time to see the good side of life than it takes to see the bad and this was a quote by Jimmy Buffett. Well sometimes, I think people liked the Jimmy Buffett quote better than they like the sidewalk, but in any case it works like a charm. People love it. People hold on to them and they tell me when I see people " I still have that card"

Rish: That's amazing...

Ed: That's Card#1. Understand we now have 264 cards. We have a cards for every program and these are all available at the most recent card that I created, the front side shows beautiful fireworks and underneath that it says Living the Dream. That's Side 1, Side 2 Living the Dream basically means waking up, doing exactly what you want to do, living the type of life you want to live. Believe me it's pretty awesome.

Rish: That's beautiful. Yeah and still you're living the dream. Let's talk about your wife Susan who I think is nice, (I had the pleasure of speaking with her on Wednesday) and your relationship is so special. You always maintained that she was your greatest inspiration and also critical collaborator in all of your work. In fact you were telling me how some of your environmental stewardship work in someway has been inspired by Susan. Can you tell us more about the ways in which you were nurtured and you thrived as a result of this relationship and how your relationship cemented your common purpose and then the tracks on it.

Ed: Well, again, I was a negative person and even back in my Thirties when I met Susan. It was miraculous to me what someone would find attractive in this negative person but Susan somehow found this personality attractive and never once, never once did she ever attempt to change me. I just ..... I smile at it. I just learned to emulate her behavior which is sweet from early morning till late at night. She just has a wonderful personality, a wonderful way about her, and the fact that she never ever tried to change me is the reason that I was able to change radically. None of us like having anybody tell us what to do and that sort of sent the fireworks exploding and it was never, "Why don't you do this or why don't you to that... never, never.... Never.

Rish: Beautiful. Yeah I was struck about how deeply you appreciate each other even in our last talk. It's truly wonderful. You do have another you know earlier caller that would mentioning our new data go not spanning you know what your work goes for OK let's start with you who are at risk and who have been making the collateral to now wait until. Now, recently you have moved to actually engaging the elderly. If I understand correctly, with a program called The Constructive Aging program and at the moment is dear to your heart. Could you tell us about the new initiative and what facilitated that?

Ed: First of all, it's my pleasure to do that. And, I retired at age of 85 years of age and attended a men's group. First, I've never ever attended any groups, but figured I would try something new. So I attended a men's group and I came to the revelation. First of all, I pity the poor wives who put up with these guys. They were universal, unhappy, and negative and I said oh my goodness! They did not have any of the skills one needed. I mean, some would be happy spending the whole day playing some version of Poker, or whatever, gambling, or whatever. They didn't have the skills that were necessary to make themselves happy and let alone the poor suffering woman that was sharing every time. So I came very interested in what people were doing in this last stage of their life and I found out that it was dismal. There is only so much golf and so much bridge that people can involve themselves in. So I began looking into what about creating a life skills program for At Risk Adults. People 60 and over. I spent a little over two years, analyzing and amassing material. We now have over a thousand topics that can be targeted with group sessions, the topics such as Happiness, Gratitude, Memory improvement, Positive steps for dealing with worry, importance of napping. Napping is really an issue and such a delight. How people lose balance and break a hip but whenever it is so, Balancing club, conquering stress, prevention of isolation, staying relevant. Here's what happens. Grandparents primarily these are people sixty and above, they lose touch with their grandchildren because they look at them as archaic, because they're out of touch and what I've put together is material that brings them in contact with the younger family members which makes them relevant instead of a relic. The groups, the people in the group sixty and above, they want to talk and they don't want to text. So we have created ninety-minute guided group discussions and we have them broken down, it just been wonderful. Susan, again as the person in the forefront, has been doing these programs and it's been just great. What we do is to include music, some of the songs you beautiful younger people will never remember, Doris Day, "Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think, and Live on the Sunny Side of the Street", The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive", Willie Nelson, "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" and Ethel Merman’s "Everything's Coming Up Roses", and all positive things. So we did that and then....
Of all of the older people, there was a man that came to this men's group that I attended, he was a Marine Captain in the First World War. He was hard of hearing and came to the group and was pretty much ignored. And I thought oh my goodness, we need to create something where we capture these wonderful stories that everybody has. So we created an inter-generational life stories program where high school seniors and college students can go into Nursing Homes or Assisted Living and capture those stories that these older adults have that are so beautiful, not to lose when they pass on.

Rish: That's beautiful.

Ed: It is beautiful. We actually did this for Susan's dad. We sat with him, created, printed it out, and made a catalog of it and gave it to all the children and grandchildren of Susan's dad's life story. Then we also created the 1440 Club.

Rish: What is that?

Ed: That was a program for people who are undergoing therapy, are incapacitated, and can't move easily. So we've created something that they can do while this sitting in a wheelchair, bed-bound, or whatever. The reason I call it the 1440 Club is because there are fourteen hundred forty minutes a day and the goal is to give thanks every minute for the wonderful blessings we live.

Rish: Well, that's amazing....

Ed: Well, also 54% of older Americans lack sufficient retirement funds, 20% have tapped into their 401K's already. So they're also carrying the burden of student loans for their children and grandchildren and often the retirees are still caring for their parents. So running out of my R.V. is a huge and in and personal health issues are also a major concern. So people need a place where they can come and talk and complain because everyone is going through the same issues. Some are better off than others financially, but we all get older, we all at some time or other need medical help and what worries me is - who is going to care for these people when they need this long term care service? And this ties in again to to at risk populations, because the people who care for the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and so forth, their earning seven dollars and fifty cents an hour, working part time, they're lifting people and hurting themselves so that population is not the jobs in those facilities are not desirable but necessary for many people with limited education. So we have a program which is quite similar to what we've done in Arise, in training people to train the patients to be less rude, more civil, and why rudeness stops people from working together. So these are some of the things that we are working on.

Rish: That is very very good and comprehensive overview of that program and I really appreciate how your definition “at Risk” is really much broader than one might think it is including these adults as part of “at Risk”. And “at risk” to me means when we're talking merely about the youth, but at the community that's at risk because we are all at risk.Is there more you want to say about that, Ed?

Ed: Well, Let me tell you what I would like to add. I don't want to forget this. We at Arise, created a free app. It contains 55 positivity cards that can be emailed. In the iTunes store and also in the Android store, Positivity Cards. They are fun and they are just able to communicate with people and brighten a person's day. I mean that such just the best.

Rish: That's beautiful....Ed, what would you say to people - you entered your first retirement at 52 really you haven’t retired till 85 and now you’re still working on things. What would you say to people who say “I’m too old,” or, “I’ve done my piece,” or any number of things that imply there’s an expiration date to our contributions?

Ed: Well I guess what I would say, is you can never help another without helping yourself, so if you really want to be good to yourself you’ll find a way to help others. And that has nothing to do with just age, but when you get to be of a certain age where you are not involved in earning daily bread you can begin thinking about how you can help others. And doing the constructive aging program in nursing homes or community centers or VA hospitals there is an unlimited amount of good that people can do if they want to be involved and it doesn’t require very much time -- we’re talking about an hour and a half and it brings such joy into people’s lives to know that they are being considered that someone really has taken the time. Our first lesson, now understand we have 1200 topics, And when we were deciding what topic to do first -- it was happiness. Happiness and the power of a smile. That is the first lesson. That also happens to be card number 123, in fact I gave this card -- Susan and I were out walking early this morning and on one side it says Live Happy. and on the other side it says It’s a scientific fact that the brain can only hold one thought at a time. Replace negative thoughts when you are angry, sad or worried, with a smile. Wow. This is magic! Because it works. So a couple of words. Just unloading the boat from the pickup to go fishing and we happened to walk by and a woman, I just felt she deserved this card. I gave her this card and she said, “How did you know?” And she put her hand over her heart and she said, “This is so so important.” Then I said, “Well, there’s a message in each letter of Live Happy. The L has horseshoes for good fortune, the I has a candle for lots of birthdays and anniversaries and celebrations. The V has an apple in it for good health until the very end, the E in live has an American flag and being grateful for living in this wonderful country. The H in happy has hearts for lots of love in your life, the A in happy has dollar signs for ample supply of money, the P in happy has a star, you are the star of your own movie and the second P in happy has ice cream cone in it and that’s for sweetness for all of your days, and then, and I always pause for this one -- I say - then - the Y is your very own flower garden., And every good gardener knows you need to get rid of the crabby grass and the weeds that could impede your growth. Wow!

Rish: This reminds me -- we were chatting before the call and you talked about how you yourself are planting seeds in a garden that you may never see bloom and i think it’s fair to say that your life has had positivity at the center of it. Also wanted to read something you said earlier which is one of the sayings you live by which is, “When you get, give. And when you learn, teach.” And I feel like this is powerful coming from you because this is really how you’ve lived your life. I’d like to close with my last question before we open it up for questions from the broader audience. Is there something you’d like callers to take away from your life experience? And we often in my culture will ask the elders for advice, ask them to kind of sum up their life experiences and ask how can we benefit from what you’ve learned. Not to put too much pressure on you there!

Ed: Well there’s another good quote and that’s the meaning of life is to find your gift and the purpose of life is to give it away. That’s Shakespeare. And I think we all have a need to give away that which we’ve accumulated. It doesn’t have to be money. It could be good feelings, it could be concern, it could be love, it could be whatever you feel. But give it away and also -- and we use this in the program -- getting rid of negativity - I am totally involved in positivity. I don’t watch programs that are negative. I don’t want to be around people who are swearing or unpleasant and as a matter of fact I have an iwatch that we’ve programmed so every 15 minutes I get a positive affirmation. So if you decide that you want to live a happier life, you can’t do it around negative people and reading negative headlines and emails and all of that. You need to fill up on positivity. So I’m not selling -- I don’t own any apple stock but I think the Apple watch is a wonderful thing to program a watch so that you get a positive message every 15 minutes and the first one at 12 AM is “To thine own self be true and it must follow as day to night, that thou then canst be false to any man.”And that’s again William Shakespeare. It goes on and on. “The only true gift is a portion of yourself.” That’s Emerson. “From the errors of others a wise man corrects his own.” “Listen to your inner guidance system and let it guide you to the path that brings your heart the most joy.” “By three methods we may learn wisdom. First by reflection which is the noblest. Second by imitation which is the easiest. And third by experience, which is the bitterest.” That’s Confucius.

Rish: Thank you so much Ed. Hopefully we’ve done your life and all the things you’ve done a little bit of justice here. Thankfully we have more time with callers and Kozo for them to ask questions.

Kozo: I heard a study that was done recently and what they did is they took two groups and one group had do exercise every day and another group had do volunteer work one time a week. And after I think like six weeks of the study they measured health signs and it turns out that doing volunteer work once a week makes you more healthy than exercising every day. I know you're eighty years old and I'm wondering if all this service and all this creativity, contribution and gifting if you've seen the physical side effects of that and if you felt the health benefits from that if you felt just the ability to live a more healthy and wholesome life and in the elder years.

Ed: Well there is no question that I'm constantly exercising my mind and I think that's very beneficial but I also exercise the rest of me too. So I don't think it's an either or situation. Actually you're being too kind to me. I was 80 about 7 years ago and as a matter of fact, when someone asks my age I say I'm 31 months from being 90.

Kozo: Wow. You are doing more than I am doing at fifty one.

Ed: I understand I understand that this is the lifestyle that I chose really 67 years ago. I chose to work two days a day. For first fifteen years of my married life, I never took a vacation. I am totally, totally dedicated to what I'm doing. Not to say I haven't taken a vacation because I have but I don't want a vacation. There is no place I could be that would be better for me right now than working and creating

Kozo: That is beautiful. My father-in-law is a Qigong master and he told me something a long time ago. He said in America, “Everybody has the goal to retire early and to retire with a lot of money but Kozo, I never want you to retire”, and you know I looked at him like he was crazy. I'm like what is he talking. He never wants me to retire. I want to retire and he said, “Even if you stop working, I want you to have something you wake up every morning and do. I don't want you to sleep in and doing nothing. You need to get up even if it's just get up and walk outside and get the paper and have a routine and go to a coffee shop. I want you to continue to be like a person who has something to do”. He says because he seen he's pushing ninety now. He is a acupuncturist and he has seen so many of his patients, to retire and then they die. They don't have this drive and this purpose. You are living testament to that.

Ed: Well that was very good advice and I couldn't agree more.

Kozo: Yeah I didn't. When I first heard it I said you're crazy old man, but now listening to you and as I get older I see the wisdom behind that and I see a path that can lead to a fulfilling, healthy longevity and so thank you. We’ve got some callers on the line. So I'm going to bow down and let some others share your wisdom. So let's see we’ve got Mich on the call.

Mich: Hi everyone. Edwin, Harvey and I have just been filled with delight. I can't tell you how delighted we are to hear you speak. I've known you and Susan for over 50 years. In fact, I was twelve years old when I first met Susan and I'm 69 now and I had learned so much about the service journey that the two of you have taken that I did not know before. I just want to thank you for agreeing to share your story. I actually I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes, thinking about how you can help people, how you've devoted so much of your life to helping others. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU and a big hug for you and a big hug for Susan.

Ed: Thanks Michelle. We feel blessed that you felt confident enough to recommend us.

Mich: Yes, and you did not embarrass me. You made me laugh. It's been wonderful and I'm just so grateful that you have shared your story with us because it's inspiring and I have deep admiration and that's the end of my tribute. Thank you.

Kozo: Now it's starting to make sense. You are good friends with Mich. Beautiful. We will move on to the next caller.

Jane: Hi This is Jane. I have just had the absolute pleasure of getting to hear my Dad. So I just wanted to say thank you. I guess I got a totally different perspective. I have watched the evolution of my Dad. This is amazing. It's so beautiful and one of the huge takeaways in gifts both my dad and Susan given me many gifts but there's something about being open to inside direction and the willingness to listen to it and letting that be your guide to help direct you to where you give and how you give that. Man, I don't think you need to be 60 to start there. I'm 58 and hopefully I started out doing that and I really do think that is a path all of us can take, no matter what we are faced with because it is so true that in the giving, I mean I have learned this by watching my Dad and Susan then by hopefully doing it to some degree, comes the true joy and happiness. I really just want to say, “Thanks Dad”. Thanks to you guys for hosting him. This is awesome.

Ed: You are a chip off the old block and I can say that with pride that just fills me with joy, Jane. So thank you for coming on and sharing your wisdom.

Kozo: Jane thank you so much. That's so beautiful to share that not only has your father made you proud but also influence how you follow your own guidance and start gifting, contributing back where you're at in your life.

Jane: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you.

Kozo: I want to follow up on that a bit. I have two young children. They are 9 and one just turned 7 and I would love for them to have that service mentality and to follow their inner guidance. Do you have any parenting tips for us on how to? I think it takes a lot of faith and trust to raise your child to follow their inner guidance and for them to trust themselves but also for us to trust them. Do you have any stories or experiences or guidance along those lines?

Ed: I had two daughters, one was older than Jane and she passed away. She did her M.B.A and she was going to be a psychiatric social worker and Jane is now has an M.B.A. and she is a coach among many other things and I think that it all results from watching and listening to what the Dad and the Mom are doing. We all have what we call mirror neurons. We basically learn by copying other people and if that's really where it comes from and if you exemplify what you want your children to be like, all they have to do is mirror you. It works like that. If you want to learn more about mirror neurons, there's a wonderful, wonderful youtube video on the topic but we are all learning from one another. When you yawn, if I am around you I will probably yawn. If you scratch your head, I'll probably do the same and we do things like that by watching. There is a wonderful quote about emulating parents, I was trying to get to recall which I'm not going to be able to.

Kozo: Beautiful. Jane, you are online. Can you share with us any time where you you watched your father and Susan and mirrored that in your own are or were inspired by that?

Jane: yeah, yeah. I was thinking about what my dad was referring to but the willingness to be transparent about things that you believe and not just that you say but you walk and and letting your kids understand that, not assume that they will but you know the willingness to involve them. I mean I think seeing, doing, experiencing for kids in order to really get it; It is one thing to may be understand in your head and is another to really get it in your heart to experience the things with your parents. I used to go to school with Susan and see her work with kids who were deaf. I certainly got a very strong work ethics from working for my Dad as a young kid for I really wanted a great camera and he said, “You need to get a job”, sort of instilling these things not just by talking it but by living it, seeing them live that but also then living it yourself. I mean these are all great ways of doing that and willing to be transparent about those things.

Kozo: Beautiful Jane. I didn’t mean to put you on spot, but thank you. We have another caller.

Lenny: Hi Mr Benson, this is one of your good friends Lenny. Ruth and I have been listening for the past one hour. Just like when we all get together socially, it's always a wonderful experience hearing about you and talking about you and Susan. We've talked about this before and you know of course that I practice all the law and I deal with a lot of senior clients. You talked a little bit earlier about clients, or people staying well relevant when they get to be a certain age. I discuss that with clients, but expand on that a little bit more because I want to be able to talk with my clients about what I consider to be one of the most important issues as people get older staying relevant. You've done that but explain your philosophy.

Ed: Well, actually it involves getting out of the daily routine that we've all accustomed ourselves to. For instance, when we're working that whole system of going to work and coming home and doing whatever but those days when you retire and have free time, it's time to change, it's time to move in another direction and if you want to stay and in contact with the younger members of your family you do that because they will find nothing to speak to you about. They just look at elders as being totally out of touch and exactly that mainly is another reason why we developed this program with twelve hundred lessons. The material is focused on driverless cars, focusing on communicating today as opposed to not waiting for the telephone to ring because your kids and grandkids are not using the phone. They text. We want to talk. They want to text. So if you want to communicate, you need to do what they're doing. I don't know that we're going to jump on to snapchat but Facebook certainly you must keep in touch and as the kids understand that you're anxious to be in touch with them and you look forward to it and you're amazed at what they are doing and how you'd love to learn how to do those things yourself and they probably would be willing to help. And if you'll make notes while they're helping you so that you're not constantly bugging them for additional information or “Oh I forgot, would you tell me how to do this again”, that doesn't work so I would think being able to communicate on the same level as as your kids and grand kids makes you more relevant and again attending the group sessions and learning about all the different topics that we offer and they're all relevant. There isn't anything that is historical. Did I answer your question?

Lenny: You always answer my question that is exactly the information that I needed and something that I can pass on to my clients and also sometimes I will take to heart with my grandchildren also.

Ed: I am looking at the positivity card. Well I should say two things. One thing is that as we grow older, our skin gets thinner not only physically but mentally and I think that as we grow older, it's really really important to forgive those members of the family that have made mistakes, that have caused you grief, that is essential for peace of mind.

Lenny: Forgiving. I would totally agree with that. One last thing and I just pulled this out of my wallet. It's a positivity card you gave me and I keep it with me always because it says on the first side: “I can and I will, no excuses” and on the back it says: “If you want something you've never had then you've got to do something you've never done”.

Kozo: Right. That is a good one. It's amazing to watch all the ripples that you've created come flowing back to you just on this call like many people just showing appreciation, gratitude and wisdom that you shared with them throughout your life. That is beautiful. I had a follow up question on something you were talking about replacing the negativity with positivity, just from your conversation with Jane, you had a child die and they say for a parent that's one of the hardest things in life is if your child dies before you and so obvious that was a hard thing for you got there. How did you maintain your positivity in such an event that could drive a lot of people into really serious negativity or depression?

Ed: Well, first of all I had Susan to share all of that unpleasantness with and that made all a difference. That would be number one and Ellen was a diabetic and she never paid much attention to her health issues and as a result she shortened her life. While she was here she was just a wonderful person and I was proud of her and we had a lot in common and I just know that the time she spent here was wonderful and that was all she was supposed to have. You mentioned you have two children and I pulled up a positivity card on the one side it says, “Children need patience, guidance and positive role models”, which is probably pretty much what we're talking about, and side two says “They are children, if the right, they always knew, they'd be about as old as you”.

Kozo: Thank you. I'll hold that card with me. I will make my own here and hold it as my children get older. Thank you so much.

Ed: Just send me your e-mail and I will send the card.

Kozo: Yeah for sure, no problem. We are going to share your email if it is ok with you. There is another caller online.

Eileen: Hello. This is Eileen. I want to say I came in a little late. Unfortunately but what I have heard from you, I thought I knew you. I'm just overwhelmed with pride to have an association with you and I want to say that the overriding theme that kind of came in my mind was, you are working so hard to leave this planet a better place than when you experienced when you came into it and it's for people that you don't know for people whose life you may never touch but that you're so interested in sharing the gratitude you have and the wisdom. I want to see that one thing I really like it that you don't just practice it for other people you practice it close to home. You know it obviously showed in Jane in what she's gotten, you shared that with my husband your nephew. And what I really like is that your vulnerability. You have so much knowledge and yet so much experience and yet you allow yourself to be open to the fact that maybe distill some learning that you're not perfect and it makes you very genuine, very real and I think that's what contributes to this plethora of ideas that come to you all life long.

Ed: Well, I'm far from perfect. I can tell you and I do have a lot to learn and I'm doing my best to learn as much as I can on a daily basis and it's fun.

Eileen: Yeah. Well you convey that very clearly. You are really enjoying what you're doing. Yeah. I see your neurons and waitresses neurons going back and forth on a street and a positivity card going back and forth.

Ed: Yeah, it's a blast. Eileen thank you. I just wish that everybody had a collection of positivity cards in their pocket and as they spent a day going from one thing to another that they would run out of positivity cards and the people they handed them to said, “ Oh you made my day”. And I'm going to keep that right here. Waitresses usually keep them in that black folder that they keep the checks in sent. I'm going to keep that here that remind me so that’s a treat. If everybody could do that, we would have a happier planet.

Kozo: Thanks Eileen. Ed, we have a couple comments on the web forms. Harvey says, “Edmund amazing. Last time we spoke you were worried about your memory. Well my friend. We hear quotations across the centuries and you certainly haven't lost a beat! Cheers.”

Ed: Harvey is a special guy.

Kozo: Amina Rodriguez from Clearwater, Florida says, “I'm very interested in starting an intergenerational program for elderly to share their stories with you here in Clearwater, Florida. Where would you suggest I start to begin this project?

Ed: I think that she should e-mail us at and include her phone number and we'll be happy to help. There is no charge and we are not selling anything.
Kozo: Except for positivity love gratitude and well being.

Ed: Free of charge

Kozo: We always end with one final question. It's what can we do as a service to this community? What can we do to aid you in your work or in your mission and I know you are doing so much but the only thing that we can do as a community or as individuals also to aid you in what you and your life's purpose?

Ed: Well, yes I would say to give everybody that’s done something that you are not happy with. Join that 1440 club and spend that 1440 minutes a day that each of us has no more no less, you could be rich or poor you only receive fourteen and forty minutes a day. Spend those minutes giving thanks for all the blessings that you have.
Kozo: Thank you for that invitation.

Ed: Yes, being able to flood yourself with positivity staying away from the negativity throughout the day. It is so much out there today. So much in the way of negative things on television particularly, just avoid it and stay with the positive and this is one last positivity card: “I forgive because it's good for me”. That's a title of one of the books that we've written. “Forgiveness is not something we do for others, we forgive so we can move on with our lives”

Kozo: Thank you Ed.

Rish: Obviously evidence from the outpouring of appreciation during the Q&A clearly you have been making a huge difference in people’s lives and I personally feel blessed to have a chance to connect with you

Ed: Thank you. It's been a pleasure and we thank each and every one of you, you folks have put together a beautiful program that is so professionally done and I’ve been enamored of it since it was introduced to me. So keep up the good work. Thank you.

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