I met Betty Hooper at a craft show in Russell, New Zealand. I was naturally attracted to this women and her handwritten “these beads were NOT made in Africa” sign. I soon discovered Betty is one passionate, young-hearted person: She makes jewelry from old newspaper scraps, paints on silk, gets tattoos, and is a former special needs teacher. Not to mention this lively woman is 95 years old.
I sat with Betty talking about her art and craft, addictive in food, and her research surrounding ADHD medicine while she continually offered me homemade cookies from a tin Christmas can. After 5 cookies, I realized I wandered away from my friends over an hour ago. Our time winding down, I asked Betty for some advice: “Betty, you’re a spunky 95 year old. What’s your secret? What can you pass on to me? Any valuable advice you’d like to share?” These were her answers…
1. Always question.
“Question everything,” she said. “Question people, the government, the media, food, all things. You never know the truth so always look into it further”.
2. Be careful what you eat.
Betty gave me a book with a list of the sneaky chemicals, additives, and dyes you see on ingredient labels. The book explained what each ingredient really was and it’s side effects. She told me she tries to avoid all processed foods and uses her handbook when eating something new.
3. Be passionate, don’t let anyone hold you back.
Betty’s small, fragile size did not match the passion she held for her research and beliefs. She told me to ignore the critics and the doubters, to dive deep into whatever I held important, and to believe in myself.
4. If you have time, go to Cuba.
Mrs. Hooper spent substantial time in Cuba conducting research on junk-free diets and ADHD in children. She marveled at it’s name and spoke highly about the bright colored houses, old cars, and nice people. “Once your country let’s you in, you have to go,” she exclaimed, “Cuba is like no where I’ve been before.”
5. Don’t let anyone put you off.
Basically, don’t take shit from no one. Do you and stand strong.
Betty and I had to go our separate ways. I thanked her as she leaned back in her chair and went back to rolling newspaper beads with her sticky, experienced hands. She offered me a cookie for the road and I left, enlightened, to find my friends and share the beautiful story and advice I somehow stumbled upon. What started off as a trip down the street to find a bathroom led me to an incredible stranger with an incredible story (and cookies). If you’re reading this Betty, thank you, you’ve done more than you know. Just another reason why I approach strangers, escape my comfort zone, and ask questions.