Last week I had a day of meetings in San Diego organized by a dear, dear friend and a great supporter of my work.
I woke up at the crack of dawn, got in my car and started my drive.
I love early morning road trips; they are so quiet and mystical.
I find these drives give me incredible focus.
Listening to NPR, I found out that on that day in 1787 gold was discovered.
As I was driving in the darkness watching the sunrise, I thought, what an amazing moment that must have been for whoever was digging to see this rock and understand it was golden.
I wonder if they immediately knew that they found something special.
I wonder if, upon finding the gold, they realized life was going to change dramatically for them. I wonder if they had to take the rocks to someone else, only to have the other person tell them that this was incredible.
We are looking to expand the programs of the Advot Project.
I have been going on site visits in different locations, locations where our work is needed, locations filled with people who I truly believe are golden.
One of the sites is a continuation school. This is a school for kids that missed a part of high school and now want to continue their education.
If I have learned anything about incarceration, it is that finding your way back into society can be extremely difficult.
You need tremendous perseverance, immense self-discipline, and as studies have shown, in general in order to succeed, you need someone to believe that you are gold.
Because if not, you’re just another rock and that is so incredibly difficult for us all.
If we do anything at the Advot Project, it is to make our participants feel golden.
I walked in, talked to some brilliant educators, and discussed some options.
I looked at the classrooms and we made a plan of action.
The principal and I embraced in a long hug goodbye. We know how hard we each work and appreciate our shared desire to do good.
I admire this woman so. She has been in the field for decades.
As I was walking out to my car, I heard someone yelling,
“Ms., Ms., Ms.” I look up and there is a girl running toward me.
She looks vaguely familiar.
“Hey, You,” she said. “I know you. You did the show at the probation camp I was locked up in,” she says.
“Well, I didn’t do the show. The participants did it. You did not participate in Relationships 101, did you?” I ask.
I panicked a little thinking that perhaps I had forgotten her. Then I felt horrible that I did not say that in a better way.
“Nope, Ma’am,” she said with a big smile.
I sigh in relief.
“But I really wanted to. I saw the final presentation. I really wanted to be in the program, but I got out early.
“That’s good,” I said. “That is so good!”
“And you came here. That is even better,” I add.
“What was the song the girls sang, Ms.? ‘The Golden One’? Remember that? Ms., you know what song I am talking about???”
“Living Your Life Like It’s Golden?” I ask.
“Yeah. Yeah. That’s the one,” she says.
God was good. I happened NOT to be in a hurry that day. I pulled out my phone and played the song for her.
I'm taking my freedom, pulling it off the shelf
Putting it on my chain, wearing it around my neck
I'm taking my freedom, putting it in my car
Wherever I choose to go it will take me far
I'm living my life like its golden
Livin' my life like its golden
I'm taking my own freedom, putting it in my song
Singing loud and strong, groovin’ all day long
I'm taking my own freedom, putting it in my stroll
I'll be high stepping y'all, letting the joy unfold
She is singing out loud and dancing. “Yeah! Yeah! That’s the one. That’s the song. Fucking inspirational!” she says.
I am flabbergasted.
When my amazing board member, who is also a music maven, suggested the song, I was skeptical. It seemed kind of out of date, but I trust this woman with my being, so I said, “Okay. I’ll try it.”
When I presented it to the girls who were performing, they were not happy.
“This is shit, Ms.”
“Where did you find this song? On 94.7? The Wave?”
“No,” I say. “My very cool friend suggested it.” (It helped that she really IS cool and they knew her.)
“What the fuck!” everyone says.
What I learned about these girls is that they push back, but they also lean in.
Eventually, they all loved the song and they belted it out.
My board member was right. The words where important. I didn’t realize how impactful the words could and would be.
“Ms.,” the girl on the street said to me.
“I was really sad that I didn’t get to do your program. I was so happy to see you walk by my class today, because what I learned at the presentation that day in the camp was that I gotta’ live my life like it’s golden, ‘cause if I don’t, it never will be!”
If I was flabbergasted before, now I am simply speechless.
I don’t know this kid’s name. She wasn’t even in my program.
The ripple effect of a moment in time, of a lyric from a song, of the experience of a performance is an affirmation of all I know to be true.
Sometimes it’s one ‘aha’ moment that can give you the understanding that life can be golden; no, that life should be golden. And from that moment, change starts to happen.
“I’m so happy you came to tell me all this,” I say.
I am searching for something meaningful to say.
“I’m even happier that you’re living your life like it’s golden!” I add.
She looks at me and smiles an absolutely stunning smile.
I think to myself, there is so much gold in all of us just waiting to be discovered.
“Ms., I ain’t living my life like it is golden. I AM golden!”
“Yes, you are!” I say.
“Yes, you are.”
I get into the car and listen to the song in a loop on my drive home.