Welcome to the 3rd annual Artistic and Literary Contest winner page for the people Vinfen serves. This year, we received over 65 submissions and each one captured the individual’s creative spirit. We invite you to view the artistic and literary winning works below. Congratulations to everyone who participated!
AMATEUR LITERARY WINNERS
life went on.
a hero came along,
seven gold medals,
a world champion.
life comes on.
life goes on.
A HYMN IN GOD’S PRAISE
Lord of action, flame never still,
Attitude and depth, majesty and humanity,
Creator and sustainer and renewal:
I praise your patience and wisdom,
For the fullness of time will bring forth
A universe of splendour like the sun’s,
But peopled with your loyal children,
Who are scattered now and hungry for Your love
It is tonight,
Like I’m a star or
Holding a candlestick
Up in the dark
Where you and I
The salt of the earth;
Angels fell to earth
To teach us to
Recognize the True Light, and
Never ever fall
In love again
PROFESSIONAL LITERARY WINNERS
To live in the future
Looking in the past is meaningless
People can be mean
But don’t get sucked in
that’s all in the past
Everything in the past is over
In the past
In the future
For a new life
A new day
A warm day
For your soul
And your body
Because the past is past
But the future
Is now and forever
I have been part of the mental health system since the age of 24 and I am now approaching 58. Growing up oftentimes where I came from you see from an early age problems not only in the home but also in the neighborhood. The neighborhood wasn’t all bad, just that the bad was very bad when people are put in close proximity of one another having poverty, addiction, violence and mental health woes. All have been part of my life both directly and indirectly. Were there good times and triumph in my life? Yes without a doubt so as I write this piece I will only chronicle the time period from the age of my emergence into the therapeutic part of my life to the current state of affairs. It is like a compilation of identities like in the movie, “The Breakfast Club” back in the 80’s where identity comes into play with individuals and the community at large the end of the movie. There is a lot more that I have left out which for all involved suits me just fine and limits any justifiable censorship that could possibly occur during this written text.
Vinfen has been a haven for me for a number of years. The connection that I have with both staff and clients is truly endearing. So much so that in many cases I bless them with nicknames like I have with many of my friends and family. Not that someone has to be endowed with a nickname to be endearing to me as some of my closest friends don’t have a nickname but oftentimes I tell them that I love them like a brother/sister. But nicknames can be truly touching as I have come to find out. For me, usually there is a real link between the name and the recipient. With my own stage names I have done the same: B3 (Bad Boy from Boston); The Teflon Doe; Jungle Geno; and Geno The Jedi in which I recognize part of my persona within a given stage name. A good chunk of my monikers have an edge but also a much lighter fare as well.
Connection is powerful and I have experienced it with both the Vinfen staff and clients especially when you get hit with life’s woes, especially loss. It can serve as a lifeboat when the ship is starting to sink. In my own life since Vinfen came into the picture I have experienced many profound losses. The losses of: sobriety, health, ambition, confidence, health providers (as within just a few short years I have had people sometimes as much as decade or two in my life who have moved on or retired.) That also applies to a horde of Vinfen personnel. The loss of life was especially agonizing among many of my countless acquaintances, relatives and friends that sent me reeling and shook me to my very core. I know the term “empath” is almost a loose term thrown around nowadays but there are people out there that could tell you that I am an “empath on steroids” so whenever I suffer a loss, I suffer in the extreme. Also with the dilemma that I have been dealing with for over three decades there is a key week during the year that can send me plummeting to untold depths in that it reminds me of a very dark time in my life and still is. I could equate that it is perhaps like Memorial Day for a lot of combat veterans in that I am diagnosed with PTSD. I start to get depressed, agitated and angry like I have seen a lot of my combat buddy friends and usually I experience upped alcohol abuse but it is nice in that dark, lonely place to have someone come by and check in on you and in one case bring me food a couple of days later out of their own refrigerator/cupboard because I had none because all I needed at the time was alcohol to sustain me. We all know that isn’t the answer. Alcohol, I always say is a temporary solution to a long term problem and I have to state that Vinfen has been with me over the long haul. I have both gratitude for both the services and staff that Vinfen has put into my life. Whenever a staffer had to depart, it usually made me take a step back emotionally more or less, but as it with Patriots coach Belichick’s motto, “Next man/woman up.” I have seen a number of new people arrive on the scene and it would be a joy to form a connection with new personnel after employees move on.
I was excited about performing my poetic art in front of Vinfen staff just before the pandemic in one of the conference rooms. The group was led by a couple of the staff and it was something I was really looking forward to. I also loved learning and dialoging with both them and the other clients in the group. At one point a staffer mentioned about a theme song of the presentations for each one of us. She told us of hers as I went home and pondered my own. With my writing I usually attach a mini playlist and poem to whom I am writing about. I came up with my own songs. First one is “God Only Knows” by For King & Country. The resounding theme is an unbearable battle anyone could be fighting and the millstone one has around their neck and yet God and yourself might be the only one who truly knows. Despite this, God never leaves you. The second song was “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” by Sting. He sings that he has just about lost his faith in every segment of society and he, himself is lost but he never loses faith in God. I have two more to add to those songs. “The Motions” by Matthew West in which he proclaims he wants to give his all to God and life also, not just going through the motions or “mailing it in” as they say. To live abundantly rather than just merely existing: to be fervent in our worship and all that we do. The last song is “God’s Not Done With You” by Tauren Wells. The title says it all. But we all know that God also works through people and I have to say there are many from my Vinfen family that saw me through my countless trials amid my ongoing interactions and the connections I have made with them while knowing God has a plan that hasn’t been unveiled to me and everyone else.
My Vinfen staff not only “get” me, they got to know my life & though I would love to divulge more to them like I have with the people at Cambridge Health Alliance but they are not all that far behind. Then again, it is best to know what makes someone tick to be of a great assistance to them. And Vinfen really puts the human in Human Services because those two words are very noble indeed. They familiarize themselves with the clients in such a way that they don’t realize the impact they can have on others like: Just extending a simple “hello” not only to me, personally but also to tell other clients to tell me hello to me after they have moved on to some other endeavor. Seeing a couple of the staff bringing their children along to events or a day of celebration as I joyfully engage them like I used to engage the CHA’s social workers children from time to time (and there was even one time I got down on the floor and played cars with two little boys). There is nothing like the sweet innocence of children to brighten my day. Vinfen staff seems to take all my joking in stride in spite of the seriousness of my situations. Humor can diffuse a lot of tension. They also were the catalyst for my first major publication of my written work via Webster House in a major medical journal as well as accepting my newsletter articles for the Webster House Newsletter. Creating is a good way of coping with life’s problems. Another first in my life was making a short video for Spring Fling/Recovery Day. I love sharing my belief in the supernatural and the spiritual aspects of my life without having someone dropping the hammer on me and in some cases, share their own has had an enormous impact on me thus connecting with me on a much deeper spiritual level.
One of the things I always looked forward to was the Vinfen Celebration of Family Partnerships. Why? Well, let me tell you whenever I heard of the banquet in the past, I just bypassed it. Then one year my outreach worker told me it would have a “Carnival” theme. It had me curious, I went and enjoyed it. Then the next year, the theme would be “We Are The Champions” which was a sports theme. My Vinfen substance abuse counselor encouraged me to get on stage to do my poetry. Now mind you, I had not been on a stage in over 12 years but with a gentle nudge by her I ended up doing it and it became a surge of confidence and joy in spite of weakened legs as the Vinfen PR person commended me on my performance. The following year the theme would be “Superheroes” and with it, I not only wanted to perform a couple of poems but enhance them by working the theme into the presentation. I rehearsed it a number of times a day for 3 weeks but each time I would flub it up and that was without an audience and with a missed line with me; it could lead me to a state of paralysis or stage fright. This went on with me until my very last rehearsal right before I left home for the banquet. When I got to the banquet and it was proceeding as planned, I saw on the itinerary as to when I was to be onstage. Each moment felt like an impending doom like when you hear someone’s heartbeat in a dramatic scene in a movie. Then, I decided that I was going to tell the emcee that I was going to abort the act. God has a funny way of working through people and encouraging them because just when I was ready to tell the emcee of my decision, I was intercepted by a Vinfen PR person and she asked me if she could take my picture. Then we exchanged names and she told me that the PR who was present at the prior year’s banquet told her how talented I was…Oh, oh! But with that compliment and inadvertent nudge I decided to go through with it, and you know what? I “killed it” and it was a thrill of a lifetime, thanks to a little vote of confidence coming from someone. I was on a natural high for three weeks, afterwards. If people only knew of my struggles with oral presentations and public speaking, you would marvel at how far I have come. As there was a time earlier in my life as a child I had to attend speech therapy and remedial reading lessons. I thank Vinfen for the opportunity to maximize my potential.
With the event going remotely, I entered the literary contest and was awarded first prize. It wasn’t just “my moment” as I felt it was a T.E.A.M. achievement especially after the first wave of the pandemic when I and others experienced countless losses in so many ways, including the loss of life. “Winning” wasn’t the most important thing but rather more about
“creating”, “participating” and “sharing.” I always liked looking at the T.E.A.M. acronym (Together Everyone Achieves More) hanging on the wall at the old South Street office in Somerville. That one caught my eye because I played football from youth football to high school and though there were some tough times I loved the camaraderie of my teammates and I working together to achieve a common goal. Even though I stopped playing football at age eighteen, those seasons of dedication, direction and discipline over the long hall of a season revisits me often, usually in such a way that it brings back fond memories and now Vinfen has given me a number of memories because of connections that have come both in the difficult and joyful times of my life. There are too many great interactions with staff and clients to list from the mundane to the profound that has given me a surge of confidence and hope.
Now as I often do, I will leave all of you like I usually do by presenting both a playlist and a poem because of that old 80’s movie called “Eddie & The Cruisers” quote, “Word Man, we need each other: words and music.” indicating the intrinsic bond that they shared. This piece is dedicated to all my Vinfen community members and their friends by connecting and bonding with me and countless others over the years. Much gratitude and thanks for you have helped me up whenever I have fallen down and have not given up on me. As usual I have a lot to say but better to say it now than never, a great big thank you!*
We Are The World by U.S.A. For Africa
You’ve Got A Friend by James Taylor
He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother) by The Hollies
What The World Needs Now Is Love by Jackie DeShannon
Everything Is Beautiful by Ray Stevens
Humble & Kind by Tim McGraw
Times Of My Life by Paul Anka
Heal The World by Michael Jackson
Imagine by John Lennon
We Are Family by Sister Sledge
You’re My Best Friend by Queen
What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
Vinfen is a place that I‘ve come to love & adore…cuz it offers so much learning and fun galore…They greet me at the reception desk as I enter the front door with a smile as if I was a friend or welcomed neighbor…Comprised of Teams 1, 2, 3 & 4 whom seem to know my very core and are always ready to assist me whether it is to jump, swim, run or soar… without the slightest inkling that they are “keeping score.”
Mine was without a doubt, a most difficult case…In many ways I was the leather to their lace… because there were people out there saying I was a disgrace to the human race… but that didn’t stop Vinfen from coming to my place…and meeting me face-to-face with a touch of grace… like a beautiful and aromatic bouquet… in an elegant vase!
Vinfen are people who are not afraid let me share or confide… whether I am sober or “pie eyed”… or when my mood swings are going back and forth like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde… and have been “with me” before, during and after I cried…when someone (or something) close to me has unexpectedly died…They stick with me “stride for stride” or until the tears and sorrowful feelings… start to subside
Vinfen supported me when the authorities made the claim that I was the one to blame…and yet they (the authorities) were really the ones out to maim and shame…I thought I’d never be the same… or be able to jump back in the game (of life)…However, it has always been Vinfen’s aim to reignite the ardent flame...and make me feel like… I belong in the Hall of Fame!
July 22, 2022
Imagine a heat wave in July
Not 90 degrees, but 118 degrees
The masses will be sending out real newspapers
It’ll be a few days to go down
They can only be in air-conditioned buildings,
Race to their cars
Eat at home
Take off work
You pray for a rainy day –
A thunderstorm even and for those who don’t like thunderstorms
Anything’s better then too hot
It’s like being a bath of stifling sauna
Get home and be prepared today
It could be climate change
Or, it could be a way of saying
There’s an explanation about it we’ll deal with it