“A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort.” Phillip Sidney
The holding ponds of poverty possess tons of undiscovered talent. The artist yearning to open our hearts to new insights in mix of color and fantasy lies trapped in a depressive weave of indecisions. A singer capable of wowing our hearts with passionate expression struggles confined to the limitations of societal boundaries. A musician holds back a symphony of untold beauty imprisoned by lack of an instrument.
Fear of rejection stifles. Fear of failure strangles. Fear of success suppresses. Fear and lack of resources to move forward put great immoveable lids over the cooking pots of positive expression. Our world is poorer bound by our own limitations of class and culture.
The snippet of heart represented in this picture talks to me. Ray drew this, when I asked him to describe on a poster what happens in a Life Skills class. There is more to this piece and there is more to Ray. You can view the full piece. VIEW HERE Ray is full of artistic potential waiting to be exposed. He is a compassionate man and a friend from one of our classes. In the picture you see the transformed thoughts of a man creating a beautiful world for his family and friends and himself. That really is what the Life Skills workshop does for those that respond. It opens opportunity.
In a goal setting session, a young woman broke emotionally. She yearns to sing and praise God with her talents, but has been rejected by churches due to her mistakes. Some of the rejection is self imposed, but much of it is imposed by our cultural and class expectation. When she told me how she wanted to use her talent, I challenged her to come sing for our congregation on Sunday. Over the next few minutes, I watched a miracle unfold.
The entire class rallied behind her. One gave witness to the talent she possessed and wanted to listen. One encouraged her to try again. One exchanged phone numbers and said she would play with her. When she went to the piano in the auditorium and began to play and sing, the house came down. It was just us from the class standing in the doorway, but it was the angels and God, Himself, who joined. She was like a skylight covered in darkness and a crack broke through to let out the shine.
After expressing her heart in song, she shared a little more of her story with me and we wept. Then she made a comment I cannot forget. It will define CTI for decades. “I have another friend, xxxxx. She is looking for a safe place to come. I’m going to call her and bring her, too.” Her statement rocked me. Her assessment of churches, community organizations, government institutions and the world rattled me with truth. A crack formed in my skylight.
To many people in the struggle to step up and step out of some pain or poverty, our answers are unsafe. If I open my life and ask for help will you push me down further or listen and lift me? If I expose my pain and passion will you allow me to express it or fasten a lid of limited expectation on my hopes and dreams? Are you safe? Is it safe to connect with you or do I have to conform to all of your ideas immediately? Is it okay to have a relationship with you and your organization without agreeing to all you are? Can I be me as I am today and walk alongside as we change together?
Another quietly pulled me aside. She wants parenting training, but has been unprofessionally treated by a recent encounter. The organization openly exposed her pains in her workplace. Her reputation and job were threatened. She won’t go back there. Would we take care of her? She trusts us to keep her safe and confidential.
These are the sons and daughters of our city. That’s how I view them. They’ve had some mistakes in life. Failure is an event not a person. We refuse to let them be labeled and defined by events along the path to promise and potential. Let’s make it safe.
CTI is a safe place because the people we reach tell us we are a safe place. We are not safe by our definition. No organization or group of people is safe by self definition. We are safe when the ragged and reluctant and rejected tell us we are safe. I am honored to be declared “safe” by those we serve. It is an honored trust and an environment in which talent can blossom and cracks can form that let out undiscovered dignity and talent. Oh, to be safe, that is a worthy goal.
You can support the efforts of Community Transformation Initiative through your giving fund at the National Christian Foundation (nationalchristian.com) or through direct giving (GIVE). Help us provide the safe place for fathers and families and sons and daughters to grow and shine.