The Ups and Downs of Non-Profit Work

Today, I found out that one of my favorite women from N Street left the recovery program.  She had been there for several months and had been quite active in

Bethany's Women of Praise performing at Luther Place

Bethany’s Women of Praise – the choir I lead.  Every time I saw her, she greeted me with honest emotions… sometimes a huge smile and a hug, sometimes a whine and an “I don’t want to be here today.”  But her negative moments were always washed out by the positive ones.  She wouldn’t hesitate to say things like, “Miss Amanda, this choir outing has been the best day of my life.  I am so lucky.  Thank you!”  I was always in awe of her strength.  I don’t know why she left.  I may not ever know.  She was the second of my strongest choir members to leave within a couple weeks, and it has left me in tears!  I shake my head in wonder, my thoughts and questions bouncing from ear to ear.  I thought they were doing so well!  Why did they give up?  There are some things about the struggle of addiction and recovery that I will never understand.

A few weeks ago, I had the great honor of being the photographer for the Acadamy of Hope’s graduation ceremony.  Academy of Hope is a nonprofit that helps adults get their GED.  One of my housemates from LVC worked there last year, so I was

Academy of Hope Graduation

asked to photograph graduation then, in June 2009.  I loved it so much that I begged them to ask me back!  I am lucky they did.  They gave me the opportunity to be a behind-the-scenes participant in their Big Day.  Some people don’t like photographing events because you don’t really get to enjoy them.  I understand that sentiment, but I tell you what…I got to zoom in and focus on the graduates enjoying the celebration.  And the art of capturing what that day meant to them was beyond meaningful for me…it was a priceless thrill.  Because here’s the thing- I attended my high school and college graduations like I attend dentist appointments.  It’s just something you have to do to move on to the next stepping stone.  In general, I like having clean teeth, and when you go to the dentist, you know the discomfort will be short-lived enough and the motivational posters on the ceiling distracting enough that the appointment (in the end) is worth it.  Same with graduation.  There’s usually enough mildly interesting information in the unnecessarily thick program to keep you busy, and before you know it, the worst part’s over and you can walk away with that slip of paper…what do you call it?  Oh yeah, a diploma.  (Or the promise that one is coming!)  Well it turns out that not everyone has the privilege of graduating high school (or going to the dentist, for that matter).  Who knew?  I mean, I sort of did, but until you attend an adult graduation ceremony, you won’t really know.  So I watched very attentively that evening, through the lens on my camera, as about 20 adults received their graduation certificates.  And I heard story after story as their teachers shared all they had done to get there.  I thought high school during teenage years was bad…until I heard from the grandmother whose grandkids inspired her to go back to school so she could help them with their homework.  Or the mother who attained her GED while raising EIGHT children, ages 1 through 11!  So shame on all of us who took the privilege of education for granted.  Our schooling has not made us any better or stronger or smarter than the next person.

I told my two music classes today that I’ll be gone until mid-August.  As some of you know, I’ll be studying conducting in Paris, France for the month of July!  This program is run through an organization called the European-American Musical Alliance.  There are 55 people in three programs – conducting, composition, and chamber orchestra.  Eight of us are conductors.  I wasn’t sure how my music classes would react; I was actually quite nervous to share the news…didn’t want to flaunt my power and privilege to people that are struggling just to secure a job and find housing.  But they all clapped and clapped for me and told me how proud they are of me.  Honestly, I’m excited to leave.  With all these last few months have brought, I really feel like I need to get out of here for awhile.  And at the same time, I’m anxious about whatever lies ahead.  But as usual, when I am in search of comfort and inspiration, my music class usually provides.  Today, they pushed for me to listen to a song they like.  They couldn’t remember the title, but they remembered these lyrics:

I don’t feel no ways tired,
I’ve come too far from where I started from.
Nobody told me that the road would be easy,
I don’t believe He brought me this far to leave me.

That was enough to spark my interest.  Turns out it’s a song called I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired by Rev. James Cleveland.  Have a listen!  It may inspire you, too.

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