I wish I could adequately convey just how life changing the past week has been. I also wish I had journaled every night of the week, but by the time we finished up with our day I was so emotionally and mentally spent that I was happy to make it to the bed without collapsing. Starting with day one, we were thrown into the deep end and there was no time for anything but figuring out how to swim. We shared our struggles, broke down barriers, faced our own prejudices, released ourselves and others from guilt, laughed every day, cried every day, bore our souls, and made fast, deep, intense connections with perfect strangers who became family. I shared on Facebook a poem that Rob Unger, our CEO, wrote about our Tribe. It truly is just that. And, if we’re being honest- which we are- I feel excited and alive and full of purpose in a way that I haven’t been in touch with in years.
The work that is being done by Rachel’s Challenge is literally saving the lives of hurting kids all across the country and around the world. We had a trainer in this week from Belgium. He’s spreading the message of kindness and compassion that Rachel championed on the other side of the world. One of our presenters told about a kid who, after the presentation of Rachel’s life and story and challenges, approached him with a hit list that he no longer wished to act on. A kid who literally planned to kill his classmates was empowered to change his life because of this story. This incredible girl who died over a decade ago is still saving lives and changing perspectives. She’s still moving in powerful, powerful ways in our schools. And I tell you what, I felt her spirit in a PALPABLE way last week. As her father spoke about her writings and we watched videos of her life, there was no denying she was with us. It was incredible.
Listening to stories all week, I realized that I hadn’t even noticed myself become hard and closed off and spiritually an emotionally unavailable over the past months and years. There I sat, though, reduced to the ugly cry by this sweet little girl who just treated people the way we all ought to treat one another. I realized that I’ve worked so hard to be so tough that I’ve shut myself down. It’s damaged my relationships, my health, my faith, and my perception of myself. No more. I was literally on the verge of tears for a solid week, and I’ve never felt so free. In moments when I felt all cried out and wanted to hold it together for whatever reason, all it took was one scan of the room to see the eyes of the highest caliber human beings I’ve ever known running with tears of hope and sadness and love and compassion and urgency to break me all over again. I’m done fighting with myself. The stakes are too high for me to be preoccupied with keeping it together. Kids are dying inside, and they’re ruining their own lives because the adults in their lives are too busy keeping it together to listen to them hurt and help them heal. No more. I don’t have many answers, but I can tell this story and cry with them and listen to them and let them know that they are heard and that their thoughts and feelings are valid and that they can change their lives by showing kindness and compassion to the people around them. I can do that much. I can take the long hours and the grueling travel schedule and the emotional, spiritual, and mental drain to listen to them. I can get over my own bullshit (excuse me) so that these kids can work through theirs and have a set of eyes and ears focused on them while they do it. I can do that.
“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion then it will start a chain reaction of the same” – Rachel Scott
Let’s do this.