Tears, laughter abound at 11th annual Women’s Event

Abbi Overfelt

February 1, 2014

LAURINBURG — Willie Mae Bines, raised on fatback and ham hocks, was schooled on methods of healthy cooking.

Shirley Locklear and Sandra Dial, sisters by marriage, learned how to better manage diabetes — and Edna Grant found new ways to handle her stress.

For the four women, the food and the guest speaker were just an added bonus of the 11th annual Women’s Health Event, held Saturday at First United Methodist Church.

“Seems like every year it just keeps getting better and better,” said Bines, who was raised to clean her plate, and is just now realizing that choosing a smaller plate to begin with will help her cut back on portions.

“That’s how I was brought up, using ham hocks to cook all my vegetables and everything else,” she said. “I’m trying to get away from that now.”

Bines was one of nearly 200 who attended the event presented by Scotland Memorial Foundation and sponsored by a host of others. A $25 ticket included health screenings, refreshments, a lunch of soup, salad and dessert, giveaways and door prizes, as well as breakout sessions beginning at 9 a.m. that addressed various women’s health issues. The event also offered a speech by a longtime mental health professional-turned-motivational speaker Alyce Dewitt.

Nearly every table in the church’s fellowship hall was full when Dewitt took the stage. By the middle of her presentation on how to seek the rewards, or “desserts,” of stressful situations, the room was ringing with the sound of laughter.

By the end of her talk, most were wiping away tears.

Dewitt shared her own stressful experiences — a divorce following a 30-year marriage, the untimely death of her son, and her own brutal assault late one night in a parking lot — to convince the audience that if she could escape those situations by finding a silver lining, anyone could.

She began by ripping off her neat, well-tailored blazer and skirt to reveal the tattered blouse and skirt it concealed, saying many spend hundreds of dollars on their appearance while neglecting their emotional well-being.

Dewitt shared four key ways to overcome stressful situations: motivation to overcome, humor, tears and communication.

“You have to look for humor in everyday life,” she said, adding anecdotes such as seeing a sign for a convenience store that says “eat here, get gas.”

“How can you not laugh at that?” she said.

Dewitt said another major key to happiness was positive communication — because 50 percent of people who hear other people’s problems don’t care and the other half think they are deserved.

Hearing whining during her speech, Dewitt produced a small, crocheted bag and unzipped it to reveal a small, fluffy white dog named Zoe, who she introduced as her assistant. Zoe spent the rest of her speech in the arms of an audience member who had jumped at the chance to hold her.

With a tone that was often mischievous but sometimes wavered with emotion, Dewitt said that she cries so often some of her friends have joked that her tear ducts were connected to her bladder. Tears, she said, are as important as laughter and provide a needed cleanse for many.

“Do your grieving, do it your way, but then find the desserts,” she said.

As several in the audience teared up, Dewitt said the death of her son caused her more pain than she ever thought possible, but that his 23 years of life gave her more joy than she could ever imagine. It’s both the ups and downs of life, she said, that make it a beautiful experience.

“We’re too blessed to be stressed,” she said.

Dewitt has presented the same speech several times at Scotland Health Care events. Saturday’s speech, according to Becca Hughes, a Foundation board member who served as the emcee, would be Dewitt’s last speaking engagement. The 78-year-old South Carolina resident has retired but made a special exception this year for Scotland County.

“I think stress is everywhere, and you can always turn it into desserts,” Dewitt said before she took the stage. “You can’t control what happens in your life, but you can control the way you react to it.”

Abbi Overfelt can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 12. Follow her on Twitter @aoinscotco.