Tonight There is Hope

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Kids dancingHow do you capture a feeling of connection in words? How can simple black and white do justice to the sense of hope, understanding and a realization that each life is a gift? This is what I struggle with as I sit down to get it out.Break Dancing in DenmarkWhile school is still closed in Canada for semester changeover, we have come to Denmark to tour and partner with an organization here to reach Danish students. When I first started coming here, I wondered if it would be possible to feel a connection with students who spoke no English, lived in a country even more prosperous than my own, and who seemingly have it all. Now, I am humbled to say that I have managed to capture a glimpse of how important our message is no matter where we find ourselves.This school is why we came, and these students are why we dream of changing the world one life at a time. This school is a boarding school, hidden in the northern part of the country, and it is exclusively for  kids who fit in nowhere else. They are sponsored to come here, and this is their last hope for an education. Although their stories of abandonment, poverty, abuse, disabilities and self-destructive actions may be common anywhere, like all people each one of them is unique, and each one needs to know to that their voice is heard. As I stood in front of them tonight, I watched their faces and felt their pain. The pain of wondering if anyone notices that you exist, the pain of living with a disability (some of them very severe) in a world designed for those with no physical limitations, the frustration of emotions and feelings you cannot control, and the memories of words and actions that have wounded and scarred you. And tonight, these were the lives who reached out and just wanted to be noticed, to have someone look them in the eye and say to them, “Who you are is enough -you are not a mistake.”There are lineups of students after we are done. Each one eager to be noticed, eager to be heard. One girl touches my arm shyly and asks if she can tell me her story. It is a story of deep hurt, rejection, pain, and self abuse. Tonight, that story begins a new chapter as she tells me that for the first time she feels like someone understands, someone hears her, and someone has held out hope for something more. Another boy, 15, begins to show me his scars from the abuse of an alcoholic father. There is a need in his face for me to acknowledge his hurt, and as I do, I tell him he is worth more than those scars, and that he can grow past this hurt. As he turns to walk away, he hastily shakes my hand, looks me in the eye, and says, “Tonight has made me feel like I matter. Thank you.”Christal SpeakingEach member of our team gives that message through our words, our media, our stories, our music, and even through our conversation every day as we interact with students. There are days when you wake up painfully(!) early, travel crazy distances, fall exhausted into bed after, and as you fall asleep you wonder if you have made a difference. There are days when you feel like the luckiest person on earth to do what you do, and days when you just have to believe it when you can’t yet see it! Perhaps it is partly because we ourselves need to know so that we can keep going every day, or perhaps it is because we have learned the value of our message because we ourselves have been changed by it. Either way, there are many days when you just have to choose to believe that lives are being touched by the sacrifice and commitment of people they may never remember. Tonight, as I write this, I sit at a computer in a teachers’ lounge while the school around me sleeps in peace, and I personally feel the power of change.Girls learning to breakdanceThis change begins when a life is noticed, when a voice is heard, and when you learn that you are not alone in the world. Young faces with tear streaks and smiles, as they realize they are not a mistake – that they are here for a reason, and that they can do something to make the world a better place. Tonight, even in us, there is a renewal of this truth. Tonight, we have been privileged to see a transformation in front of our eyes.Down the hallways of every school in Canada and around the world are lives like those that we have met and talked about. LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) needs to be able to continue to do what we do in the nation. It takes many resources to accomplish this, but together, we can invest in this generation. Please consider partnering with us to continue to see more lives changed and to see hope realized.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 18th, 2009