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Lessons in Happiness: An Interview with Barbara Herrera

By: Danielle Palli 

“We are here to learn certain lessons, and to teach certain lessons,” Barbara Herrera, resident engagement team leader at Westminster Woods of Huntingdon, told me. When I asked her to share one a lesson that she’s learned over the years, she said, “It’s important to take time to get to know yourself and to like yourself, and not be so afraid of sharing personal things. Get out of your shell. Be open, and see what life brings you.” 

Barbara found a unique way to encourage people to connect with others through her “Pizza and a Book” women’s book club. While they may gather to discuss characters from the latest novel they are reading, it quickly turns into an open-sharing support group. “We are able to see ourselves in these characters.” Barbara believes that this is one example of observing our stressful situations from an outside perspective. “Sometimes, the stress we are experiencing is not about us at all … It’s so that we can teach others. It can be painful, but the more we can be honest and open with each other the easier it is to get through.” 

In addition to her book club, Barbara (a former librarian) manages Westminster’s library, and helps organize the Friends of the Woods annual yard sale, which raises money for the special needs of those in skilled nursing. As a resident engagement team leader, she also educates team members at Westminster Woods on Masterpiece Living. 

“My passion is Masterpiece Living,” she said. For Barbara, Westminster Woods is holy ground, and Masterpiece Living supports the spirit of the community. As a Baby Boomer, Barbara felt as if much of her life had been a competition for resources: education, jobs, even social security, and admits to feeling as if the boomer population has overwhelmed the current system. “This is the first time in my life where there is a group of people who want nothing more than to be the wind under our wings and to help us work together to age successfully. It’s a marvelous gift.” 

Spirituality is an integral part of Barbara’s life, and she finds her spiritual center through journaling, spending time in nature, and walking the labyrinth (located on campus). “I always tell people to bring their issue to the labyrinth, and there will be an answer.” 

“What’s your secret for leading a happy life,” I asked. She shared five takeaways… 

1. Live your passion. 

2. Be open to what life brings. 

3. Dump the negativity. (It weighs you down like an oversized backpack.) 

4. Take time for self-reflection. (Ask yourself: “Who am I? How do I make a difference?”) 

5. Recognize that we are all connected.