Sitting unassuming on a little table in the lobby of FiftyForward Knowles is a *basket. Should you happen to reach into this basket, you will find a hidden treasure trove. Inside are words of wisdom, painstakingly collected from many different sources, hand-designed, and printed by FiftyForward Knowles member Ossie Jefferson-Corley. Ossie has been providing these quotes of hope, encouragement, and humor that she affectionally calls the “Thought for the Day” or “Thought for the Week” at FiftyForward since she became a center member in 2010.
Born the oldest of eight to a family of farmers, Ossie loved to read as a child. This love of reading instilled a more general love of words, which would eventually lead to her idea to launch the “Thought for the Day” to inspire and motivate others. Early in her career, she worked as a nurse first in Detroit, and then at a local hospice when she moved to Nashville. This is where she began offering her Thought for the Day. Ossie shared, “I just wanted to spread some cheer and wisdom. I try to do a variety of them: funny things, common sense stuff, and things that make you say ‘hmm.’”
While at the hospice, she started her “Thought for the Day” daily to inspire and lift up those she was with every day. Now she provides a new quote once a week and loves spreading them around to members and visitors to the center. Having been an avid and longtime reader, whenever she reads a quote she likes, she writes it down on an index card to later be turned into a small colorful slip of paper. She then prints them out and hand-decorates each of them with stamps and stickers. Ossie says her collection of quotes is now up to thousands. Since she has earned a reputation for motivational sayings, her friends and family like to send her quotes, too.
Ossie first learned about FiftyForward after reading an article about former FiftyForward Executive Director Janet Jernigan and then went online to learn more about the organization. “I wanted something to do. I didn’t want to be bored,” she explains. Ossie says her passion is being around people. She enjoys interacting with others the best and loves the programming offered at the center, even though her declining health doesn’t allow her to always participate. Still, she likes to learn new things, and she especially appreciates the computer-literacy classes offered.
When asked about which person from her “Thought for the Day” she admires the most, she opened up about a most special relationship. Ossie, said, “February 4 was Ms. Rosa Parks’ birthday, and she was a good friend of mine. We lived together for seven years.” She continues, “We were both very like-minded,” and, although Parks was Methodist and Ossie was Buddhist, they still got along well and would attend each other’s religious events. Parks even flew all the way from California to Nashville for Ossie’s fiftieth birthday. She says she and Parks learned a lot from each other, traveling quite a bit together including to see Harry Belafonte perform. Of the concert, she beamed when sharing a photo of their group including the fact that she not only got a hug from Belafonte but also a peck on the cheek. Ossie says she considers Rosa Parks to have been a mentor as well as a friend. Her “Thought for the Day” efforts are in part one way to carry forth Parks’ legacy of being kind and loving to others. “I was very happy to have been [her] friend.”
Ossie’s story is just one example of how our FiftyForward members are working in so many little ways to change the lives of those around them for the better.
*Note this story was written before our centers were closed due to COVID. We are working on our reopening plan now and hope to safely reopen for members as soon as we can.