Archive for John Petropoulos Memorial Fund Posts

published in Failure, John Petropoulos Memorial Fund, Public Speaking, Workplace Safety by Maryanne | January 15, 2019 | 14 Comments

The Bigger the Failure the Better the Lesson

 

Last week, I found myself delivering a safety presentation to a gymnasium filled with two hundred Junior High School students. The kids were great. Rambunctious yes…but for the most part, attentive and well-behaved.

The presenter, on the other hand, well…she had a few things to learn. And what better way to teach an old dog a few new tricks than by placing her so far outside her comfort zone that she has no choice but to learn them. For in terms of what I consider to be enjoyable activities, public speaking to teenagers ranks slightly below having a triple root canal.

Admittedly, thanks in part to my current Bohemian writer lifestyle, my public speaking skills are a bit rusty. But I certainly know the story (the circumstances that led to John’s death) and the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund’s (JPMF) workplace safety messages inside out and backwards. I’ve delivered our safety presentation dozens of times to a variety of different audiences over the years…but never to a gym full of 14-year-olds. In the past, other JPMF speakers have done the school presentations.

In other words, I didn’t know my audience and I hadn’t bothered to do the research to tweak my presentation accordingly. But (for a variety of reasons) since it was ME standing in front of those kids, it was me who had to deliver the presentation…so I did the best I could.

And it’s fairly safe to say I was a resounding failure.

But that’s okay because while I was flailing about at the front of the gym, focusing on the wrong elements of the story, failing to make our safety messages relevant to that particular audience, causing the microphone to make that horrific screeching sound (I think I actually heard some boos from the crowd on that…can’t blame them) and struggling with the damn audio/visual system, I was also learning.

I had no choice. My contact person at the school (also responsible for crowd control) just happened to be a very switched-on, take-no-guff Vice Principal who knew how to handle the students AND, I soon learned, how to make our safety messages relevant to them.

Since the kind soul  had to keep coming up to help me with the A/V anyway, at one point she started taking the microphone and explaining to the students the points I (in an ideal world) should have been making.

Here’s a brilliant example of the Vice Principal in action:

She took the mike, looked at the gymnasium full of kids, paused a moment for effect (which really works by the way…the crowd hushed immediately), then pointed at them and said: “YOU have a role to play in helping make sure police officers, firefighters and paramedics make it home safely to their families.”

Then she pointed to the overhead screen behind her where an image from one of the JPMF’s videos was paused on the screen, then resumed addressing the students: “Those first responders come into YOUR school, YOUR homes and YOUR future workplaces to keep YOU safe! They are extremely well-trained but they are coming into an unfamiliar place and cannot possibly know all the hidden dangers…which is why you have to help make wherever you are as safe as possible.”

Then she handed the mike back to me. Wow. A little later, she did the same thing with our traffic safety messages.

Afterwards, I confessed to her that I had gone into the presentation not really convinced that young people – many of whom don’t yet have part-time jobs or their driver’s license – would find the presentation of interest or relevance.

To this she looked at me, crossed her arms (she is a Vice Principal after all) and said: “Do you have any idea how incredibly important the Memorial Fund’s safety messages are for kids this age?”

Obviously not…but I was certainly starting to figure it out.

“They are certainly old enough,” she said, “to understand that what happened to John was not only preventable it was completely unacceptable. The Memorial Fund’s safety messages and videos are powerful and effective…you just have to tweak the presentation so that you make it relevant to their age group.”

We’re not supposed to be good at everything

The very next day, wouldn’t you know it – but I was having coffee with a JPMF Board member. He, too, has delivered many safety presentations over the years but, like me, had been hesitant about the relevance of our safety presentation to Junior High students.

I told him all about the presentation and what the Vice Principal had said, including her specific examples of how to make the safety messages relevant to teens.

After I finished speaking, he leaned back, nodded and said, “Yup…got it. After hearing that feedback, I’ll do those presentations from here on in.”

And there you have it…we aren’t supposed to be good at every single task. If public speaking was where I wanted to direct my energy, then yes, of course I’d learn from my mistakes and tweak accordingly moving forward. But sometimes it’s okay to fail at a task for the purpose of learning and sharing what we’ve learned, so that someone else can pick up the ball and run with it.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

A Widow’s Awakening Novel is Now Available!

 

“I fear acceptance of his death because I know that will lead to apathy. Somehow positive change has to come out of this.”

– Maryanne Pope, A Widow’s Awakening

100% of proceeds from first 1000 copies sold goes to JPMF

On September 29th, 2000, Cst John Petropoulos of the Calgary Police Service fell to his death during the investigation of a break and enter complaint at a warehouse. John was searching the mezzanine level when he stepped through an unmarked false ceiling, fell nine feet into the lunchroom below and died of brain injuries.

There was no safety railing in place to warn him – or anyone else – of the danger. There ended up being no intruder in the building; it was a false alarm.

John was 32. We both were. So began my journey as a young widow.

About the JPMF

Shortly after John’s death, several of his police recruit classmates started the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF). 18 years later the JPMF is still going strong. The Fund is a registered Canadian charity that raises public awareness about why and how to ensure workplaces are safe for everyone, including emergency responders.

For further information and/or to view the JPMF’s safety videos and public service announcements, please visit the JPMF website.

Since John’s death in 2000, thousands and thousands of people have died at work or as the result of an occupational-related illness. Thousands more have been seriously impacted by life-altering injuries.

About A Widow’s Awakening

September 29th, 2000 was the worst day of my life…and to be perfectly honest, things got a lot worse before they began to get better. When John died, I lost my husband, best friend, lover, soul mate and my biggest fan. I was beyond devastated; something deep inside me had broken and I didn’t know how to fix it.

A Widow’s Awakening captures the tumultuous first year of my grief. It is a candid story about my search to find meaning in John’s death while learning how to accept the unacceptable and transform loss into positive change – both through the workplace safety educational initiatives of the JPMF as well as through my own life and my writing.

To become a writer was my life long dream. John’s dream had been to become a police officer. Paradoxically, his line of duty death gave me the financial freedom to write…and the kick in the ass I needed to do the work.

A bit of background about the book

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may be aware that A Widow’s Awakening was originally self-published as a creative non-fiction book in 2008. Over the next decade, it sold 2000 copies. In 2017, the publisher BHC Press picked it up for publication and is releasing it on September 13th, 2018 as a fictional novel based on a true story.

The novel is very similar in style and content to the creative non-fiction edition. There have been a few editorial changes plus a new afterword and, of course, a beautiful new cover!

To order the book

A Widow’s Awakening is available in print (softcover) and as an e-book. For a list of on-line retailers where the book is available, please visit the A Widow’s Awakening page at BHC Press.

If you would like to purchase a signed copy of the print book ($19.95 plus $5 shipping), you can order it through the Pink Gazelle store or the JPMF storeAll proceeds from the first 1000 copies sold goes to JPMF.

What readers are saying

Over the years, I am honoured to have heard back from dozens of readers with their thoughts on the book. Please click here to read some of the testimonials.

Here are a few reviews from the advance reading copy of the novel:

“As a safety professional and a Threads of Life volunteer, I recommend reading “A Widow’s Awakening.” It provides a vivid, heartbreaking reality of the consequences of an unsafe workplace and the personal costs of a workplace fatality. It brings home the message that we must ensure our workplaces are safe, not only for the workers, managers and public on a daily basis but also the Emergency First Responders who may be called there to help. One life lost is one too many.” 

– Laura Synyard

“Based on a true story, A Widow’s Awakening, is a hauntingly beautiful story of enduring love, overwhelming heartache and discovering resiliency.  With descriptions that are heartfelt, painful and often humorous, author Maryanne Pope artfully paints a picture of what it is like to have your entire world pulled out from under you.” 

– Sharon Ehlers, Grief Reiki

“A Widow’s Awakening expresses the gripping pain of losing someone you love, tragically and unexpectedly. Yes, it’s a novel….but the candid truth of this widow’s suffering is real. It’s Maryanne’s personal story, but it’s more than her story. It’s for anyone who has suffered a tragic loss…she captures the essence of a grieving soul. In a strange way you may feel relief because you’ve had some of those same feelings as she did that others often judge. You realize you are not alone.”

– Robin Chodak, Grief Coach

For further information

For further details about the book, including a list of niche markets, please visit the A Widow’s Awakening home page on the Pink Gazelle site.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. She is the executive producer of the documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here. Maryanne lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

 

Map of Heartbreak – Loss as a Catalyst for Change

 

“What breaks your heart? The warrior knows that her heartbreak is her map. It will lead her toward her purpose, her tribe.”

– Glennon Doyle Melton, “Hurts So Good” article, O Magazine, Feb 2017

Pain as Fuel

In her article, “Hurts so Good,” author Glennon Doyle Melton wrote about a group of women in Iowa who had all lost an infant – and started an organization called “Healthy Birth Day,” with the goal of lowering the stillbirth rate in their state.

“Instead of withdrawing after their losses,” explained Melton, “or finding ways to disconnect from the magnitude of their suffering, they ran straight toward it. Their pain became their fuel. Their courage saved others from the misery they’d experienced.”

This is similar to how we chose to proceed in the aftermath of my husband, John’s, death as the result of a preventable fall at unsafe workplace. By “we,” I am referring to the police officers who started the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund and all the people who have (and/or still do) work for, volunteer with, or lend support to the Fund in some way.

In the early years, pain and anger certainly fueled our passion and guided our purpose. Nothing we did could bring John back but we all agreed that the workplace safety campaigns were better than doing nothing at all. We will never know the number of lives we have saved, or the injuries we’ve prevented…and we’re okay with that.

Would I recommend this path to others in a similar situation?

Hmmm…

Working closely with the JPMF to help raise public awareness about why and how to ensure workplaces – and the roads – are safer for everyone, including emergency responders has been my path, yes. I knew in my heart and soul, very early on, that workplace safety was an issue that I would need to tackle.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

But being a workplace safety advocate did not come without sacrifice in other areas of my life. The time, money, effort, love, and attention I put into the JPMF meant there were other areas of my life that didn’t get that. And that’s okay. I chose the path I did…every moment of every day. I have no regrets.

However, now that I have 17 years of experience behind me, I can safely say that trying to transform a tragedy into positive change so that others don’t have to experience similar suffering comes at a cost. We cannot do it all.

“Pleasant experiences make life delightful. Painful experiences lead to growth.”

– Anthony de Mello, Awareness

Thankfully, we get to choose how to respond to whatever loss we have experienced…and forge our own way forward. So regardless of whether we allow loss to be a catalyst for growth and change for ourselves and/or for others, just remember:

“Allow heartbreak to guide you at every turn.”

– Glennon Doyle Melton

When the love in your heart is your road map, you cannot go wrong.

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Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life