Who Is Salley Gibney?
Like so many women, Salley Gibney has worn many hats as a wife, mother, “Grammy”, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, nurse, entrepreneur, volunteer and a TV host at two local cable TV stations.
WHEW!!! Throughout my life, I have realized the importance of a personal, caring connection, of knowing someone cares and the hope that comes with each caring connection we make. I believe this is where we find our common ground.
I grew up on Long Island, New York, one of six children. Although my father died when I was 12 years old, my family and extended family of many aunts, uncles and cousins have always been very close, spending holidays and summers together. This has reinforced my love of and belief in the importance of family.
As a young girl, I wanted to be a lawyer, especially after watching Bobby Kennedy as he investigated Jimmy Hoffa during the Rackets Committee Hearings. (this really ages me doesn’t it?) Growing up in the 50s/60s the three options for a girl were to become a nurse, a teacher or a secretary. Even my uncle who was a lawyer told me it wasn’t yet the time for a woman to be a lawyer. So, I became a nurse. Now I loved being a nurse, but in my heart, I always wished I had at least given becoming a lawyer a shot. That is why today I always advise young people to follow their dreams. You can always try something else if it doesn’t work out!
I went to St Vincent’s Hospital School of Nursing in Greenwich Village, New York in the early 60s, an amazing time to be in NYC with the politics, civil rights movement, riots, folk music etc. “It was an education in itself…As an ER Nurse in Greenwich Village, I saw everything from a cut finger to stabbings, gunshot wounds, overdoses… You name it, we saw it. We were a group of doctors, nurses, aides, ambulance drivers and attendants, male, female, all colors, all backgrounds and we were a family, we had each other’s back, which opened my eyes to the concept of common ground. It was like on the TV shows except, we didn’t have all that romance…St Vincent’s was a Catholic Hospital and the good sisters were always watching.
Nursing is an amazing career offering many different experiences. For me, that included working in pediatrics, hospice, rehabilitation and medical case management where I coordinated care for catastrophically ill patients, negotiating costs and pricing for care and drugs. This experience gave me a bird’s eye view of medical costs and the struggles people face with medical bills.
I married Bob, the love of my life and we were blessed with two wonderful children. I retired my nurse’s cap and started a Color Analysis Business called “Colors By Salley” followed by a Costume Jewelry Business with two friends called “Gem Dandies”. We were in 67 stores around the country but never made a dime. But we did have fun and remained good friends. We donated our jewelry supplies to a camp for underprivileged girls who created their own gems. I then tried my hand at selling real estate which I loved.
In 1998, we moved to Vermont where a whole new chapter began. It was a huge change for our whole family. We were in a new place, trying to fit in, make new friends when Bob’s job was eliminated. He was offered a job in Brooklyn which meant that he was commuting every week leaving me alone on a mountain road in Vermont during the week which was a very difficult time for me.
It was then that one night I had a dream so powerfully vivid it changed my life. In the dream, I was holding a wooden coin with the image of an angel, and a simple message “You are never alone.” I woke from the dream with a start, and looked for the coin. I flipped over the covers and patted the sheets and it was not there. As I sat there on my bed, thinking about the coin with the angel and the message “You are never alone”, I realized that I was feeling very alone. I also thought that I probably was not the only person feeling alone. I tried to forget the dream but it kept coming back. “You have to share this coin and this message…”
The dream helped me realize how alone I was feeling, and that I needed to ask for help, which I did. After going through this difficult and “scary” time, I realized the importance of taking care of myself. I also realized that I probably wasn’t alone in feeling alone. I then created a program called “Celebrate Ourselves and Each Other”, a program that focused on taking care of ourselves and then each other. It also focused on the importance of gratitude and making the most of each day. It was initially for women but I soon realized it was equally important for men.
Sharing “Celebrate Ourselves and Each Other” with my women friends led to my first TV Show which wasn’t great but wasn’t awful. I continue to enjoy hosting TV shows today.
Much water has gone under the bridge since that time. Vermont became “home” with all sorts of amazing things happening. The dream led to crafting the Caring Coins, the formation the of YANAF, the “You Are Never Alone Foundation” a Vermont non-profit organization and also to “Worldwide I Matter, You Matter Day” on March 28th. Over 150,000 Caring Coins which are crafted in Vermont have been shared around the world as reminders of caring, connection, and hope. You can see more about the Caring Coins at www.thecaringcoins.com
Sadly, Bob was diagnosed with ALS in 2016, at which time I dissolved YANAF to care for him. When he died in 2017, my whole world was turned upside down. As one friend said, Bob was the “locomotor to my engine.” And he was. Life does go on, and we have a choice as to how we live it. We can dwell on the negative, close ourselves off or we can choose to be grateful for what we have, the people in our lives and keep going.
In 2018, I moved from Vermont to Rhode Island to be closer to my children and grandchildren. When COVID hit, I became the “Uber” driver for my grandchildren driving them to and from school, with masks of course, but grateful for that time together. Needless to say, I stopped sharing the Caring Coins when COVID was at its peak, but I do share them now.
COVID has turned everyone’s life upside down. Going through Bob’s loss and starting over in a new place re-enforced for me the importance of connection in my life. Someone once told me “You are the only person you will spend your whole life with! Others come and go for one reason or another but you will always be there”. As I thought about that, I realized that through all the changes going on in my life, I had been on “automatic pilot”. I was in a sense disconnected. I realized that I needed to “re-enforce” my connection with myself and with the people in my life while also making new connections. I have resurrected “Celebrate Ourselves and Each Other” and updated it to “Connecting with Ourselves and Each Other”
This is a very challenging time. Everyone is dealing with something. We are all feeling disconnected in one way or another. There seems to be a straight line that is dividing families, friends, co-workers and strangers which concerns us all. But there is always hope because every straight line can become a circle which can bring us together. This can happen if we loosen the grip on where we stand, think beyond our box, and try to put ourselves in someone else’s place. If we can listen to and hear each other, we can find our common ground. Common ground is where we can connect with each other. I invite you to join me in finding our common ground!
We are all in this together!!!
To see more about “Connecting with Ourselves and Each Other” click here.