Saturday, April 18, 2009

One Enchanted Evening

If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney
Last night, Mikaela and another Grade 12 classmate put on a benefit show on behalf of the DI. The evening included artworks by Mikaela and her co-organizer, Amelia, as well as guest artists and performers.

When Mikaela, a Grade 12 student at Ernest Manning High School, first approached me with her idea to hold an evening of music, art and poetry on behalf of the DI, I suggested using the multi-purpose room at the shelter, a large airy and bright room on our sixth floor. The view is inspiring, the space lofty. The windows over-look the valley where the Bow River serpentines through the city. Houses step up the hillside on the other side of the river and trees promenade along the skyline amidst lush and verdant parkland.

When Mikaela first suggested the show, I thought, "What a lovely idea."

What I didn't have was an idea of how beautiful an evening she would create.

At 1pm, when Mikaela and her friends arrived to set-up, the room was open and bare. By the time they finished mounting their artworks, along with pieces from the artists of the Wild Rose Studio at the DI, the room was filled with spirit, with imagination, with dreams spilling out into the hallway where the client artists filled the space with vibrant paintings and photos, pen and ink drawings and soapstone sculptures.

It was One enchanted evening.

There is something heartfelt and touching about a young woman who has a vision and then sets out to make it happen without any muss or fuss. Without long, drawn out committee meetings where agendas are set and Visio charts constructed to ensure fiscal and corporate accountability are measured against clearly defined outcomes and expectations.

There is something refreshing in having no expectations other than to open a space for someone to create one enchanted evening.

For Mikaela and her co-host, the evening was an adjudicated event they needed to create to complete their Fine and Performing Arts Certification before graduating high school. They could have simply put on a show at school and called it done.

Instead, Mikaela wanted to make a difference. She wanted to be the change she wants to see in the world.

And she was.

The guests mostly included friends and families of the students involved as well as some staff and volunteers.

For many, when they arrived at the shelter, most of them were surprised to find themselves in a place they never imagined they would be.

"Our clients are the same," I told one woman who mentioned she was taken aback when she walked through our front doors. "Being in a homeless shelter is never something they dreamed would ever happen to them."

"My daughters got a different perspective on life this evening," she said.

"It's the same for our clients," I replied. "The first time they come here, they are in shock. Frightened. Confused. Their lives are crumbling around them. Their hopes are dashed. They don't want to be in a shelter, yet, here they are."

Here they are. Struggling to find themselves. Searching for answers. Hungering for a way out of despair back to hope, to possibility, to dreams unfolding.

Last night, Mikaela brought hope alive with her heartfelt desire to make change happen. She raised some money, brought in some clothing and food donations. At one point, the musicians who are part of our recording of Stand by Me, performed and one of Mikaela's friends, a saxophone player, joined them on stage. They'd never rehearsed together, and yet, with the fluidness of water flowing in the river below, they joined together to create beauty in the notes they played. There was no us and them. No my side of the street is different than yours. There was simply the joining together to create something of value, of worth. Something different.

Some of the client artists sold art pieces, some made connections, chatted and talked about their lives and dreams and hopes. Some simply stood back and enjoyed the happenings going on. No matter where they were in the room, where they stood or watched and listened, no one was unchanged by what was going on. No one was untouched by the enchantment of the evening.

It doesn't take much to start change happening in the world. In Mikaela's open and honest sharing of her talents, her gifts and beauty, the world became a better place last night.

As Mahatma Gandhi implored many years ago, may we all become the change we want to see in the world.

Thank you Mikaela, Amelia, all the guest artists, the performers and guests who came out to support In Chorus. You created a changed world at the DI.

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