One of my close friend’s daughters is celebrating a Bat Mitzvah.

This past Sunday the women close to her gathered to have a ceremony connected to the prayer shawl she will be wearing at her Bat Mitzvah in two weeks. The afternoon was everything it should have been and beyond— moving, touching, sweet, warm, yummy and filled with wisdom and a complete abundance of love.

As we sat and blessed this sweet, sweet girl, I looked at her glowing; my friend, her mom, was emotional. They sat close to each other in bliss. It was extraordinary. How lucky I am, I thought.

This was the first of two times this week that I was in a room filled with raw, deep and complete emotion.

My new group of Juvie girls are a brilliant group. They are intense and broken, but wise, deep and intelligent. I am still learning them, actually we are learning each other. What is brilliant about this group, is that they care for each other. I do not have opposing gang members and I am sure the fact that my main instigator keeps getting sent to solitude helps keep the group peaceful.

Because this group is mature, I dove into a writing exercise, from a silly little on-the-edge, playful drama exercise. The mood in the room changed. The girls were pouring themselves into their writing. It was instantly deep and to be honest, a little scary.

Not scary because I thought something bad would happen, scary to see how much darkness, my God, how much darkness…

“Write who you are in 5 sentences,” I ask of them.

“I am a drug addict.”
“I am alone.”
“I am lost.”
“I am beautiful.”
“I am misunderstood.”
“I am strong”
“I am a funny girl.”
“I am the girl that still wants her dreams to come true.”
“I am a broken heart with a beautiful soul. I raised myself and my older sister, in a dark house with my mother’s ghost and my father’s demons.”

Some groups come to me, others I need to go to them, this group ran into me full speed without warning.

At my friend’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah party each person read a blessing they prepared in advance. For some people, reading the blessing was easy; for others, a little harder, but each person who read out loud oozed emotion.

As my girls read their words they, too, oozed emotion, but as opposed to the heart-opening lovefest evoking emotion at the Bat Mitzvah party, their emotion closed them, agitated them, and caused tension.

Did I push too hard? Was it too soon? What do I do with what they just gave me?

“Ok, leave everything on the table get up come to me, stand in a circle,” I say.

They get up and gather around, they are not happy.

“Take a deep breath and when I count to three let out a big loud sigh,” I ask of them.

One of my more reserved girls, released a loud piercing long scream, she looks at me to see my reaction.

“Good,” I say, feeling my heart crack a little.

I tell them I know I pushed, I explain that we have fun, but we also will touch our pain.

I thank them for what they shared.

I know that it is the days like today, the hard deep days that move the group forward, build the trust, and actually give birth to the possibility of change.

I think, oyy, they are not going to come back. This was too much. And then, I thank God that they hug me as we line up to take them back to the dorm.

And then, one comes up, still in part of the uniform they wear when they are going out of the facility to a different facility, (she had been away testing for her GED’s),

“I am so happy I got back in time, I was worried,” she says. “I really didn’t want to miss the class!”
“Ms.,” she looks at me and smiles a big smile. “I am happy you come here.”

“So am I,” I answer.

The distance between the people and the lives at my friend’s daughter’s party and my girls in Juvie could not be further, but yet I am struck by the honest and deep emotion at both events.

I think of all these girls hearts, the more privileged who are so innocent, fresh and open to life and my girls in Juvie whose hearts have been torn and hurt.

And then I think of the incredible capacity of our hearts to feel, to love, to heal, to live, and I am overwhelmed by my own emotion.

So, I let my heart break, and then I allow it to dance, and then I pray. I pray that God will take care and be kind to all of these girls’ hearts and keep them safe.