Last weekend, I spent some time hanging out in a downtown back alley painting (I might have indulged my inner Banksy as well). I painted 3 huge panels. The canvasses (3/4 inch MDF board unprimed) were ridiculously fun. Probably because I had zero plan other than the end goal: these pieces were for a collective energy art project that would be worked on at the Raising the Bar event to combat homeslessness. This event brings services under one roof to support our city's homeless. I was asked to participate and I had a bit of an idea to create a large art project and get people to contribute their own words, dreams and goals - hoping the collective energy would create something magical.
I wanted to create something authentic. I wanted people to feel included and important. BECAUSE THEY ARE.
The three panels represented three things: THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY PASSION, THIS IS MY DREAM. During the Raise the Bar Event and also during the CEO Sleepout (this thursday!) I would be asking people from all walks of life to contribute. I've done this before and it's not easy to get people to access their vulnerability. I assumed that this event would be MORE DIFFICULT. Because the people I was going be asking were homeless.
I was not prepared for the response.
Almost every single person participated. I asked and they shared. They shared their stories with me. They shared their pasts. They shared some heartache. They shared frustrations. They shared their passions. They shared joy. They shared their dreams. They wrote things themselves and if they couldn't write - they dictated them to me and let me share their stories. I felt trememndously honoured. It was pretty unforgettable. Hearing the comteplation in their thoughts about their stories... Watching peoples eyes light up when they talk of their passions... Seeing DREAMS. Some as simple as "find a home" and some as heart wrenching as "see my family again".
[ I didn't take many photos because it didn't feel right taking pictures of people sharing their hearts. Their courage, vulnerability and willingness to be part of something like this - was magical. And humbling. ]
And so inspiring.
The man in this photo isn't homeless (he's an elected official named Kevin Chief).
It became obvious early on in the event that this should not just be a collective art project for people without homes. We are not and should never be defined that way. This project is about PEOPLE. EVERYONE MATTERS. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a passion. Everyone has a dream. I asked volunteers and organizers to participate and share and the experience only became richer. PEOPLE matter. WE matter. We all want to be included. We are all capable of greatness. And love. And BELONGING.
This photo is from part way through the day and this is only one panel. I am very grateful to have been included and accepted. I shared, I listened, I hugged and I cried. To the people at the event: THANK YOU for indulging me and trusting me. Thank you for the smiles and the laughter. Thank you for the collective energy - it was SO GOOD.
It is a powerful thing to open your heart to people.