Interesting Boomers: Bernadette “Bunny” Spencer
In our travels, we meet so many interesting Boomers and love to hear about their “second acts” (or third or fourth…). Bernadette recently shared with us a great life story and inspired us with her message.
One thing became immediately apparent as Bernadette spoke, and that was her strong faith, which has directed her life and career. As we shared greeting and pleasantries her first response to the simple “How are you?” was the uplifting “I am better than good, praise the Lord.”
Bernadette began her life story telling us about her early career as a Corrections Officer in a maximum security, all male prison–the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore. It is hard to imagine how stressful and difficult and intimidating such a job would be day-to-day, especially for a woman. Yet her take on it was so practical and matter of fact, reflecting one of the traits that makes Bernadette such an Interesting Boomer.
As a Corrections Officer, Bernadette worked throughout the prison—the yards, the cell houses, the cafeteria—everywhere except solitary. She recalls her first day on the job at the prison, as a 24-year-old newlywed:
My first day I was assigned to the top tier, in the most active cell house and the roughest. These were the murderers, rapists, child molesters, drug dealers. The inmates decided to test me and refused to “lock in.” I walked down the cell block and simply asked each of them to lock in. Mace and a nightstick were my only means of defense. When they started to make trouble, I calmly called downstairs for all available officers. They thought I was going to lose my cool and I did not. The next time they cooperated.
Question: Did you ever feel you were in danger?
I grew up in Newark; that was tough too. Don’t mess with Jersey! I couldn’t walk around there acting like I was afraid. But I had a hedge of protection around me, a praying mother and father. I never had any problems with the inmates. The Lord didn’t allow them to process anything. I always carried the energy. I didn’t judge them on their offenses. I looked at them as people, didn’t look down on them. I respected them, and they respected me.
Both her children were born during the four years Bernadette worked in the prison, a son in 1982 and a daughter in 1984. When her husband’s job required a move out of state, Bernadette became a stay at home mom for a while and loved it. She was a volunteer at the Chesterfield County schools where her kids attended and were soon asked to apply to work there, which she did in various administrative capacities.
Bernadette went back to school herself, got her Master’s degree, and then worked for 21 years as a special education teacher. Again, rising to a challenge, as she worked with children with emotional, behavioral and learning disabilities.
During her teaching career, Bernadette also became a Mary Kay representative, and this decision had a major impact on her life. Her goal was to earn extra income, but the personal development that came along with it was a game changer. Bernadette’s Mary Kay director was a positive influence: “She didn’t just teach us to sell but helped us understand leaders are learners, continual learners.” This mentor recommended the book Failing Forward by John Maxwell. “which gave me an entirely different perspective on life and success,” she says.
Bernadette retired from teaching 6 years ago. “I received a rocking chair as a gift after I retired. I put it away in a storage facility. I am not ready for a rocking chair!”
Her love of teaching, combined with the lessons she learned developing her own business, led to her latest endeavor. Bernadette has incorporated the John C. Maxwell success principals into a new career as a speaker, coach, and trainer. She recently started her own consulting agency, Destiny Designed Unlimited LLC:
She works with leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners, and people in general, to grow their businesses, companies, careers, relationship and life—by growing themselves to increase productivity and get results.
I applied what I was learning to myself. I knew God had blessed me with certain gifts. I have a heart for people. That’s what I saw. Currently, I am a Success Principles Coach. I focus on personal and professional growth—not just having the knowledge, but how to apply it. The guiding principle is opening your mind to change and growth. I teach The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, based on John C. Maxwell’s book of the same name.
We have JOBS that many of us find to be a grind. But when you discover your gifts, your potential and your purpose, it is not a grind anymore. You never get tired. You enter into a place of joy, that energizes you. We need more joy in the world and in the workplace. We can all have that, but it takes some work and some thought and some help.
On how to go about finding your purpose:
Observe and ask questions of yourself. Seek out people who are doing what you want to do and learn more from them. Read. Research. Once you open your mind, you start to see patterns, you start to notice the signs. For example, what do people compliment you for?
Million-dollar ideas are a dime a dozen. Ask HOW? You need to work it. The Universe likes for things to be specific. What is the value you want to bring? Once you have an idea of what you want to do, who you want to serve, and your target market, you can take action. Narrow down and focus. When you have a focus, your vision can expand. And we are meant to expand and grow and seek. God intended us to live with joy. I want to be the catalyst for others to find that joy, to help others discover their potential and determine their purpose.
As for Baby Boomers, Bernadette describes our life experiences as nuggets of gold that need to be mined and shared with each other and with those in the next generation. “When we are gone that gold goes with us. When an old man dies a library burns to the ground.” Knowing that, she says of conversations with her dad: “I checked out the books and my children are checking them out, they are circulating. We transferred those to our libraries. That what I want Boomers to do.”
I love this description.
Part of my mission is to help people our age realize how much they have to offer the world. I believe God has given us at least one gift to share with the world. These gifts are seeds that have to be planted, cultivated and nurtured to grow and then be harvested.”
You can find Bernadette online at:
on Facebook @ Destiny Designed Unlimited
LinkedIn @Bernadette Spencer