A week ago, I jumped in an iconic Radio Flyer wagon and rode to a local park as I participated in a fundraiser aimed at bringing hope and new life to oppressed people around the world. Ok, I didn’t actually ride in the red wagon; my kids did. But I pulled them up and down steep hills to the park. Okay, I didn’t do most of the pulling, as my big kids thought it was fun to give their little sisters a ride. But the hills were real. And the homemade signs I wore for my ride were amazing.
You see, I couldn’t go to the main event held near Chicago by International Teams. Jessica did and then flew on to Los Angeles for a speaking engagement. I stayed in Portland to be with my kids, get them to dance classes and school (for Lolie), and be a source of stability for them as we’re all fresh from the move. But I really believe in the work of International Teams around the world and their efforts to see entire communities transformed and renewed, where forms of oppression are a way-of-life. So much so, that I co-lead Initiative 31.8 with Jessica, a movement of artists using their voice, artistic expression, and their platform, to speak up for the downtrodden.
How on earth was I going to participate in a bike ride fundraiser as a single dad, looking after a half dozen children, and having given away our bikes before our move?
And involve the kids.
I shared my heart with them, and how overwhelmed I was, and how the only way I would be able to participate in this event was if they helped. And I asked them – I gave them the choice – to help me reach my goal, fully expecting one or two of them to balk, or whine, at the very idea. Instead, I was countered with such enthusiasm that the result completely exceeded my expectations. They supported me as I reached for my goals. They encouraged me, and didn’t once complain that this undertaking was all focused on me; on this “bike ride” that I was participating in. They even made a #1 sign for my shirt, for goodness’ sake! Not one of them whined when I said I wanted pictures taken. With them. Silly pictures of them cheering me on, or celebrating when I crossed a pretend finish line. They were amazing.
Given the chance, children can accomplish surprising and wonderful things; they can help each other, and their parents, reach their goals. Oh the number of times I have shut down one child or another offering to help me with this or that. With preparing a meal. With folding laundry. How often I have denied them help when they have a mess on their hands. When Legos need to be picked up for the umpteenth time. When they spill their snack all over the floor. I could do so much better at encouraging them to learn how to work together. I could do so much better at modeling it.
And yet, I was blown away when I asked for help and was greeted with a resounding “yes! I will help you!” And it was such fun accomplishing this goal together.
I also shared my heart with my community (Facebook, blog, real people), asking them – you – the same question: “I want to do my part to raise funds for the work that ITeams/Initiative 31.8 is doing around the world, speaking up on behalf of the oppressed and changing the very communities where they live; will you help me reach my goal?” I am so grateful that several people said “yes! I will help you!” I didn’t reach my fundraising goal, but I know that the funds I did help raise are helping our efforts to make this a world where no one is invisible.
The Ride for Refuge is now behind us, but the work of Initiative 31.8 continues. If you find yourself wishing that you had made a donation last week, I have another opportunity for you. Initiative 31.8 is organizing an artist trek to India for this coming January. These artists are going to an area populated by the lowest level of the caste system, which is widely neglected and impoverished, without hope of improvement. And yet, hope has come to this community, in the form of a group of local women who decided to use their creativity and ability to sew to create a micro-business whose profits would open a real school for the children of the area in 5 years or so. They accomplished this in one year. This is the kind of thing that International Teams is inspiring communities to do.
Our Initiative 31.8 artists plan to collect stories, glean impressions, take emotional snapshots, notice the neglected, hear the voiceless, see the invisible, and feel the juxtaposition of beauty and oppression. Yes, we will interact with the children in the school, help the teachers practice English, visit local micro businesses, sponsor a new source of water, participate in a support group for victims of AIDS, and more. But the entire time, we are doing so with eyes, ears, and hearts wide open, taking it all in, to wrestle with it, and then, when we’ve shared impressions and ideas, we will dream together and find ways to tell the stories of the oppressed.
Our own daughter, Ophélia (aka: EarthBaby), feels that this trek is an important part of her journey as a dancer, and wants to wrestle with how to use dance as a way to speak up for the oppressed. Each artist is committed to paying their own way, many of them through fundraising. Ophélia is no different. They have a huge deadline this Friday. Would you consider helping her, or helping the trip succeed in general, by making a donation either to her, or to the trip? You can do so by visiting the iteams donation page, choosing the project “India Vision Trip” and leaving a comment to designate that it’s for Ophélia, or for the trip in general.
Your donation brings hope to the hopeless.