Unexpected Sources of Sunshine and Laughter

Did you know that sunshine can prevent some cancers and lift you out of depression?  And, did you know that a merry heart is health to the bones?

None of the above was likely a motivator for Sean Cononie, founder of the COSAC Foundation, when he decided to lead an aerobics session for the clients at his shelter.  He’s not alone.  Most of us don’t know that laugher boosts our immune system.  Nor do most know that the body produces vitamin D, when we get limited sunlight.

One ray of sunshine, of a different type, is Althea Jones.   Ms. Jones came to the shelter in November 2011.  As Sean observed Althea Jones and how she carried herself they became friends in time.  And one day Althea’s sunshine came through bright and clear!

“Sean has been leading the aerobic class each day since I’ve been here.  He [leads] the sessions three times a day, when he can.   Jokingly I said, ‘I’m going to go do aerobics with Sean.’ And others would say, ‘No you’re not [going] up there!’  And, I’d reply ‘yes I am!’  So every time I’m available, I get up and I do [aerobics].  When I do, I bring a handful of people with me.  Every time he does [aerobics], I’m there!

“One day, I took over Sean’s class.  I think he had to go [somewhere] and he said to me, ‘Okay, Althea, this is your class today!’  I said, “huh?!?”  Sean said, ‘You stand right here.’  So here I am getting into the session [the way] Sean does it.

“Then [Sean] told me to [lead] the exercise session one day.  He left [the shelter].  So, I told the group, ‘Let me show you ‘all how to really do aerobics.  I just acted like a total clown that day!” said Jones, laughing!  “And they were laughing and giggling,” she said.  Later Sean came back and she resumed leading the group in Sean’s style.  But, ever since then everybody asks if Althea will be leading the exercise or not, because Althea’s antics brought laughter to the exercise group.

Studies have proven that laughter boosts the immune system, according a study in 1989 by the Department of Clinical Immunology at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, California.

King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 17:22 (KJV), “A merry heart doeth good like medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

The medicine of laughter combined with the healing properties of sunlight is a two-fold blessing.

In the book “The UV Advantage”, the author indicates exposure to sunlight without sunscreen helps the body produce vitamin D.  For those with light skin tone they need about 10 minutes of exposure time; those with darker skin tones, about thirty-minutes.  Not using sunscreen will enable the sun’s ultraviolet rays to reach the skin.  The UV rays are the catalyst that promotes the formation of vitamin D.  This obscure vitamin has been linked to preventing osteoporosis, depression, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and other ailments.

Each guest has more than one daily opportunity to get some sunlight and exercise.

“Sean leads the [morning] exercise from 7-8 a.m., the afternoon from 3-4 p.m., and then at night from 8-9 p.m.  We’re either in the parking lot [behind the shelter] or on the north side parking lot, and sometimes under the [covered parking] lot.  The sessions are about 30-45 minutes,” said Jones.

“[Before exercising] some people complain about hurting backs pain and after we finish they say they feel much better or that their pain is gone…some say, ‘Oh I lost two or three pounds.’   I say ‘Girl you look so good!’ I always keep them on their toes,” said Jones.

Jones has worked at a local motel as head of housekeeping for the last three years.  Recently she hit hard times and lost her home to foreclosure.

“I have three brothers,” said Jones.  They live in the DC metro area.  And I have a son who just graduated from college, Ohio State.  His major is architecture.  He lives in DC.  I’m going to see him next month when I take vacation.  I’ll spend two weeks [in DC] with him.  Then I’ll come back.”

When asked what keeps her in South Florida, Jones said, “I’m used to this climate. When I go up there [DC Metro area] it’s cold…it doesn’t get that cold down here to me.”

Another reason Jones likes Florida is the warmth of the people that have helped her since her run into hard times.

“Sean has been helping me put my life back together and getting on my feet. He’s not rushing me out or anything like that, as long as I follow the rules,” said Jones.  “He’s become more like a father figure to me.  Because if I have a father, I know I can always talk to him and he’ll talk it out with me.  And I’ll feel much better.

“I like it here!  They don’t give me any problems because I try not to give them any problems and not get on anybody’s nerves,” laughed Althea.

When asked how she is able to overcome her challenges, Jones said, “Because of my self-esteem and how I carry myself, and who I deal with.  When I feel I’m dealing with a negative person, I go the other way and find a positive person and follow them,” said Althea, laughing!

Jones is considering going back to school to become a social worker, and is working with Sean to find her own place when the time and price is right.

Althea Jones outside COSAC Shelter, Jan 2012


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