A Look Back on Prejudice

by Kareen King on February 2, 2016

Happy Groundhog Day! It’s been a whirlwind year so far! The 1993 film, “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, portrays what happens when one gets infinite chances to do it over again. The 2013 film, “About Time,” which I highly recommend, illustrates the same concept. Wouldn’t that be lovely if we all had the magical ability to redo anything we didn’t get right the first time?

So, while facilitating The Martin Luther King Jr. Experience a couple weeks ago, we talked about the definition of prejudice, exploring its meaning – prejudgment without enough facts to draw a fair conclusion. I asked the residents to reminisce about racial inequality. The following are a few of their recollections:

“We moved from Montana to Kansas and bought a service station. It had some cabins and a little restaurant. I was out there one Sunday evening in the kitchen and heard a knock on the door. A young black man wanted to buy some food for his family. I was amazed that he came to the back door, but we fixed him what he wanted and he paid for it. But there was a law in Kansas that black people couldn’t come in the front dining room. And I thought, ‘Isn’t that terrible for that young man to have to come to the back door?’ That was back in World War II, around 1949 or 1950.”

“As a youth, I had eczema which caused me to have a blemish on my face. When I got to school, two colored girls said, ‘Oh, look at that poor white girl’s face.’ I thought, ‘If they showed that much compassion to me, why shouldn’t I show the same compassion to them?’”

“I was traveling for Westinghouse and I had to go down south. At that time we were setting up laundry mats clear across the country. We changed buses in Cincinnati. I got into the bus, walked to the back, and sat down. The driver walked back and said, ‘This is for coloreds back here.’ And I said, ‘I’m gonna sit here anyway.’”

“A guy moved out of my little Kansas town because a farmer was bringing in colored people to work on his farm. ‘Ain’t no colored kids gonna go to school with MY kids!’ They moved to California. He didn’t want any of his kids going to school with any black kids.”

The list could go on, but the point is that it was important for them to tell their stories, to allow them to make amends with the past. They were simply waiting to be asked.

We also shared words and phrases that came to mind as we thought of who Martin Luther King Jr. was. I assembled the words into the following poem:

Martin Luther King Jr. Poem

Admired, black, Reverend, husband, father

Started a movement

Civil rights, march over the bridge, people of color

Equality, inequality

Equality and justice for everyone, no matter the color

Racism, dreams, peace

The bus ride, riots, the flag

Hate, violence, segregation

Fire hoses, dogs, fighting

Speeches, courage, bravery

End of racial discrimination


All people are created equal

It’s a shame we lost him at a young age

A 96-year-old gentleman concluded, “Our president now is half black and half white. We’ve made some progress.”

One other theme of Groundhog Day is the shadow. According to today’s prediction pronounced at Punxsutawney, PA, there was no shadow to be seen. Thus, an early spring is forecast. Speaking of shadow, I now offer shadowing opportunities. If you are interested, or know of someone interested in spending a day or two observing how creative engagement groups work in older adult care communities, let me know. I work with a variety of cognitive abilities and memory challenges, and I’d love to share the magic with you! How delightful it would be to show more and tell less!

For now, don’t cry over the missed opportunities and the blunders. Instead, look for the lesson and the gift in each. And maybe you’ll do just a little better next time around!


Kareen King’s Year 2015 in Review

by Kareen King on December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve - Photo Collage by Kareen King New Year’s Eve – Photo Collage by Kareen King

It’s been a fantastic year. I mean fantastic. I can’t even begin to convey how full of gratitude I am and why. I’m on fire. Yep. A year ago, not so much. A year ago I was contemplating closing shop with The Golden Experience. I was burnt out, disheartened, and stuck in patterns of thinking and acting that weren’t getting me anywhere.

Then in July, a random phone call led me to a Christine Kane Uplevel Your Business Retreat in Atlanta, GA. I took my cynical heart with me and left having made a monumental decision to jump back into relationship with my business. What I’ve gained, however, goes much deeper than nuts and bolts of how to do business better. I’m learning to do life better. And part of the secret to doing life better is to have strong accountability partners and to invest in good coaching. I simply can’t do this thing called life and business alone. It literally does take a village.

Back to The Golden Experience. Over the past 12 months, in addition to presenting concerts and workshops at conferences and retreats, I touched the hearts and minds of countless elders through the facilitation of “Golden” Experiences based on the following topics, themes, or people: Elvis, Martin Luther King Jr, Lewis Carroll, Kansas, Dr. Seuss, St. Patrick’s Day, Maria Von Trapp, Laughter, Boredom, David Cassidy, Glen Campbell, Honesty, Country Music, The Wizard of Oz, Goons, Emily Wilding Davison, Phone, Roger Ebert, Amelia Earhart, Patriotism, Phyllis Diller, Christopher Columbus, Salt, Doc Holliday, Baseball, Lint, 9-11, Cement, Weather, Don McLean, Gene Autry, Pickles, Money, Fear, Black Bart, Can, Thanksgiving, Pollyanna, Disney, Santa, Birds, Mary Poppins, and Nothing. For info on how to facilitate many of these Experiences, click http://www.seniortheatre.com/product/engage-28-creative-enrichment-experiences-older-adults/.

I customized monthly birthday parties for countless residents and shared music weekly with six dear ladies who live in a memory care home. I also facilitated a weekly devotional group that has grown exponentially. Why the growth? I shifted from reading conventional devotional material, toward facilitating experiences which invite the participants to think critically and to explore biblical topics organically and improvisationally.

My boss once stepped into one of our devotional groups and asked why everyone attends. Answers included: “To get inspired.” “To learn something.” “To start the day right.” “It’s educational and fun.” “We have fun.” “To see Emilou.” “To see Kareen.” “I like to be here.” “It’s a good way to start the day.” My favorite answers were, “Kareen is full of surprises,” and “My heart wants to be here.”

What I’m seeing is that people attend my Experiences because they tap into one of the primary desires that drive all human behavior. According to philosopher and Nobel Prize winner, Bertrand Russell, all human activity is prompted by desire, four of which can never satisfied: acquisitiveness, rivalry, vanity, and love of power. There is a secondary motive, however, that Russell maintains is one of the really powerful desires of almost all human beings. That is, the escape from boredom or the love of excitement. Yes, we will always have Bingo in the world of long-term care, and it does provide an escape from boredom for many. But, I’m not here to provide just an escape. I’m here to open a window to inspiration, fun, discovery, surprise, education, story, self expression, curiosity, happiness, and human connection.

But, there’s one thing Bertrand didn’t include in the desires that drive us. Though he is quoted as saying “the good life is inspired by love,” he doesn’t mention love as one of the unquenchable desires. I believe that people join in on what I provide, because they also feel loved. Oh, yes, they do. Love is calling them by name, looking them in the eyes, shaking their hands, hugging them, asking them what they think, learning their stories, telling them how brilliant they are, letting them know how glad you are that they took the time to be with you, and simply saying, “I love you.” Again, and again.

May your 2016 be the best year ever.



“The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.” – Bertrand Russell


Mini Documentary of Kareen King by KU Students

December 15, 2015

Am proud of my baby daughter Kat’s musical and artistic endeavors. Besides being a singer-songwriter and recording artist who recently released her third album at age 21, she is also dabbling in film. Here’s a short documentary she and a few of her classmates created of my unconventional life.

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Are You Afraid to Talk About Fear With Your Elders?

October 31, 2015

I took the above photo, assuming the black snake was dead. Had I known he was only playing possum because of his terror of me, I would never have gotten down on my hands and knees and inched my face so closely toward his to get this shot. Of what are you terrified? Are you […]

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How to Transform a Dull Topic into a Dazzling Experience!

September 29, 2015

I love challenges. I especially love creating something amazing and relatable from an otherwise dull and seemingly irrelevant topic. I recently asked one of my favorite and dedicated groups of residents to think of such a topic. They chose cement. Two weeks later, I facilitated “The Cement Event.” In one magical hour we pantomimed tossing […]

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The Beauty or Cruelty of a Name

August 31, 2015

The above photo was taken at the Chicago Airport while on the way home from presenting at the MidAmerica Institute on Aging. Though I’m sure the people behind the campaign depicted in the poster were well intended, I’ve pondered its message: “We’ve changed enough diapers to last a lifetime. We don’t want our kids doing […]

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How to Animate a Roomful of Strangers

June 29, 2015

So, what happens when you add water to a garden of human beings? This metaphor was introduced to me via Michael Verde, the compassionate genius behind Memory Bridge, an organization whose mission is to seek “people who share our dedication to ending the social isolation of people with dementia through learning how to be with […]

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What Individuals With Dementia Say About Their Brains

May 31, 2015

The above photo depicts for me the essence of loneliness. I spotted him out in a field in the rain. It’s my intention to bridge the gap between loneliness and friendship through creative engagement combined with love and belonging. Last week, I used Wizard of Oz topics, including the brain, as conversation starters. Amazingly, no matter […]

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What Makes an Activity Engaging?

April 30, 2015

If you’re curious about what makes or doesn’t make an experience engaging, read the following true story: Many years ago in a land far away, I visited an Alzheimer’s/Dementia Assisted Living community designed to “give life” to all residents. I sat in on one of many activities of the day and observed “Mary,” a Life […]

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What Causes Pains and Aches to Disappear?

March 28, 2015

It’s been awhile since my last blog post because I took a month off for some personal time.  I found that allowing extra space to step away from my “normal” routine was very useful. It gave me pause to reconsider “normal.” What I needed to see was that my brain needs more breathing room to […]

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