My work stretches my soul in directions I didn’t know possible.
My work stretches my heart in a way that I couldn’t imagine.
Probation and the system have stretched my patience to no end.
When I think I am done, that there is no more room left, that I am at my stretching capacity and if I try more, I will surly snap, somehow, by the grace of God, I am able to stretch a little more.
The past 2 weeks have been crazy.
I had the culmination presentation of the two groups in the two different facilities Advot works in. I stretched probation by asking, begging, pleading to have the two shows together by bringing one group to the other facility to perform.
I knew it would be a stretch to expect my people to come up to Santa Clarita (where the Juvenile facilities are) twice in the week before Passover.
Shackled in foot cuffs the girls walked, well, actually shuffled their way, from one camp to the other.
I was standing in the office when they were let in.
I felt the sadness stretch from my toes all the way to my head.
My heart hurt to see my vibrant, beautiful girls cuffed that way.
It is a visual I will never get used to .
“This is why you do not want to ever come back here.” I say quietly.
They seemed unmoved. This is the drill. They know it.
Anytime you leave the facility you must have cuffs on your feet and hands.
“Don’t be sad, Ms.” one said. I think she saw how horrified I was.
“They didn’t cuff our hands. It’s okay.”
I smile, thinking, this is so not okay.
The show was wonderful!
The girls exceeded my expectations.
There was no fighting. They worked together.
They filled in for the girl who wasn’t allowed to come and for the girl who got early release.
There was an audience. Thank God for my loyal audience !
We all got to stretch our imaginations.
We were virtually taken out of the camp we were in, and got to see fragile, funny deep and serious. We got to see the girls under the mask.
They all stretched themselves.
They shared their poetry, rap, their songs and they spoke from the heart.
We got to see them unshackled.
How appropriate to have all this the week of Passover.
I am relived that the show went well.
I knew that the theatre aspect would be fine.
I was worried about combining the girls from the two facilities. These kids can snap at a moment’s notice.
If a fight had broken out, it could have been the end of my program. But I chose to believe it would be okay.
I told the probation officers, “It will be okay”
I said it with conviction, even though I was stretching everyone very thin.
I have made believing in these kids my second religion.
I take risks and I pray that I will be all right.
This time it worked.
There have been times when it didn’t and, believe me, I had to deal with incredible repercussions.
But yet, I remain strong in my conviction of trusting and believing in good, as opposed to giving up, and saying it can’t happen because these kids will never change.
I must end my session with the group that just performed and chose a new group.
There is no time off, because the summer break is in exactly 10 weeks, which is the duration of the session.
I meet with the outgoing group and then the new incoming group on the same day. This is a stretch for me.
On my drive home I am a little limp from all the stretching.
I am exhausted, but am in awe of the stretching capacity I have encountered in the last ten days:
My personal stretch;
Probations stretch ;
My Juvie girls;
My beautiful daughters, who have been so patient with my absence, who stepped up helping me clean and get my house ready for the holiday;
My husband who stretched for me time after time when he received my phone calls saying “I will be home late…sorry.” and changed his plans to accommodate my work.
I realize that this stretch I have been thinking about, this stretch I have been feeling, is growth. It is not only me growing. It is everyone around me.
It is the ripple effect, the ADVA that I love so ,happening right in front of my eyes.The stretch to become a believer, To become an actor, To be okay with someone you don’t know or like who is from an enemy gang performing with you. To yet again, let the crazy relationships lady have her way. It is the power of theatre and the simple capacity of human beings to stretch, grow, and change.
As I watch the beautiful sunset from the window of my car,I think how funny it is that day-to-day you don’t see it. You just feel the challenge and the stretch. And then you are there. And it is right in front of you. The change. It isn’t earth shattering. It isn’t heroic. It is simply there because you earned it. You worked for it. You stretched in every direction in order for it to happen.
I sigh a sigh of relief, and am overcome by a great calmness the rest of the drive home.