Thursday, November 29, 2012


Appreciation is a judgement,baptized in beauty and adorned with a crown. Its a rebirth of an action, given meaning by those who witnessed it; appreciation implies community...

Appreciation is a choice, an intentional framing bent on love and uplifting the other. Its an offering that's hard to reject because the act of appreciating is self-less; fulfillment of the giver is equal and dependent upon the delight of the recipient...

In appreciation there is no competition, only celebration and connection... 

Appreciation requires you to stop and truly see the people around you; to consider their works and to value them...

Appreciation does not focus on deficiencies and failures, but rather praises the labor offered and act of attempting...

Appreciation is a practice. In the same way Doctors practice medication and Lawyers practice law, we can practice appreciation in our everyday lives.

So, back to the beginning - appreciation is a judgment. 

Judging others, in and of itself, is inherently neither bad nor good. Judging is the act of evaluating, and through evaluation one forms a conclusion, i.e. the judgment. With that said, it seems to me the biggest determining factor of ones' conclusion are the tools of evaluation.

Evaluation can be swift...a sideways glance at a homeless person outside the grocery store selling newspapers or asking for a split second one can decide -I'm going to ignore this 'problem'- or -this person is an alcoholic/drug addict and therefore unworthy of my hard earned money.The question is, what are the values here? If one chooses to ignore, maybe the value is peace of mind? Maybe the value is money? Sobriety? Whatever the values may be, it is clear that the individual is not among them.

I've learned for my evaluation to end in appreciation, I need to focus on the individual and work my way out, not the other way around. To start with the surface and work your way in, is to value the works of an individual over the individual themselves, and it ignores the intentions of the individual while lacking insight on exactly what it took for the individual to produce the surface outcomes. This type of evaluation  seems to end in a judgement -be it good or bad- that is incomplete, inaccurate, and less humane than possible.

Powerful Voices has taught me a lot about the value of appreciation. The imprint this ever-present practice leaves on people who come in and out of this office is undeniable. From the young people we serve, to employees and volunteers- no one is left out of this showering of love.

It fills my core with light and warmth when I am able to be a part of uplifting and bringing joy to someone through simple words and thoughtful gifts! And when I'm on the other end, well, it makes me feel valued, capable, and special. It gives me energy and drive to continue on, and it makes me want to do better!

I swear, appreciation is the most simple, basic, healing, and trans-formative medicine freely available to us all!

An Example of Powerful Voices' Practice of Appreciation and Gratitude

Monday, November 5, 2012

Speak It Out Loud.

At the Powerful Voice's annual luncheon last month PV alumna, CurDesia' Hudson, spoke about her experiences with Powerful Voices and read an original poem entitled I Found It. "CurDesia' (fondly known as Deezy) spoke eloquently about her search for self: "when I finally did find her," she writes, "she was in a dark corner all alone." What makes Deezy's poetry beautiful, what makes Deezy beautiful, is her ability to identify her own strengths and her own vulnerabilities--and to celebrate both, by speaking her truth out loud.  

Charhys Bailey (previous Powerful Choices Coordinator), is someone who, as those of you who know her can attest to, drops wisdom on the daily. "Art," she once told me, "is a way of seeing into the core of someone where no judgment exists."  It gives us a window into our authentic selves. I blame a couple of decades of traditional schooling in successfully cementing my doubt in my own creative power. I love to write. And write often. But I write as documentation, quietly observing and noticing my life as it happens. But I have secret dreams of writing more publicly, like Deezy--writing to speak truth, to imagine possibilities, and to simply and powerfully claim my own space in the world.  

And so I am writing to you about risk: the risk of speaking authentically.  The risk we take every time embrace and act on our own creativity and trust that our voice matters. 

Weekly, I have the privilege of facilitating a girls group at Asa Mercer and Denny International Middle School in collaboration with my co-facilitator, Shavon Hayes. Every week, we ask girls to take risks. One week, we might ask them to introduce themselves and to act out something they like to do or to make the craziest sound they can think of. Every week, we ask them to question and challenge us and each other when we are not holding ourselves accountable to our collective community agreements.These risks may seem small--but they're not. Because what we are asking is for girls to let go of how they think they should act, and to let themselves be goofy, creative, and to share a piece of themselves with a group of people that is neither their family nor necessarily their friends. Even at 26, when I stand in a group, in this case a group of 8th grade girls, I still feel painfully aware parts of myself that I think are "cool" and the parts I think are best kept under wraps. We are all capable of dividing ourselves up into parts--some we consider worthy, some worth hiding. So, each week, the risk we take and that we ask girls to take is profoundly challenging:  to be our authentic selves and to trust that that person will be accepted and celebrated. 

"When I found her," Deezy writes, "she was lonely the pain reflected in the mirror shook her to her core, knocked her off her feet and forced her to love herself." Taking creative risks has the power to  knock us off our feet and off of whatever preconceptions we have over what we think we should be and how we should act. Whether the risk you take is reading a poem in front of a group of people, or writing your first blog post, or singing along to your iPod and acknowledging that you definitely sound a little like Whitney Houston. 

So here's a shoutout: to Deezy, to Charbaby, to Molly, and to all the girls in our girls group, who remind me of the power of not just loving yourself, of knowing "you are enough," but of sharing that authentic self with your family, your friends, everyone whose life you touch, however briefly. Because that risk you take, makes it a little easier for the rest of us to do the same.

Several weeks ago I had a friend ask me, "what would you do today if you could not fail?"

I told her I would write something. And share it with someone I didn't know. 

What would you do?