Thursday, July 26, 2012

Small, But Valuable

To steal a line from Nora Ephron, "I lead a small life.  Valuable, but small."  This seems to sum up my life pretty well.  I don't do big important things, I don't make scientific discoveries.  I have lived in the same ten mile radius pretty much my entire life.  On the whole, my life is simple, and if were no longer to be around, it would not make the news, nor would it be a loss felt by a great many.  That is not said in self pity, it is just a reality that I think most people live with but don't care to admit.  It is not to say that my life does not have value.  I've spent a huge portion of my life working toward the greater good. I have been a part of protests and union rallies, I have been a voice to speak out against injustice, I have donated large portions of my life and my time to volunteer work.  I was raised in the belief that there is always a greater good, and that we all need to strive toward it.  When injustice happens to one, we all need to fight against it until it no longer exists.  That has been my entire life.  It is why I am quick to jump to the defense of people who have been somehow wronged, even if it is not my battle to fight.

Now, as an adult I have dedicated my life to helping out in a field I know, so I've spent six years volunteering my time and money with the theatre department at my old high school.  Not because I got anything out of it, because I've never been paid, and the tireless hours often go unnoticed, but because it was needed.  They had almost no parents to volunteer, they had no help, and they had more than enough work to go around.  So, I jumped in with both feet.  Jason was right there next to me, working just as hard and being just as dedicated.  We coached actors, we made costumes, we made and purchased props, we worked concessions, we worked every fundraiser, we chaperoned field trips, we organized transportation, we managed meals for the students.  There were very few areas of that department that we did not touch and try to improve.  When Jason took over as Booster President, the boosters went from doing nothing more than paying for scholarships each year to offering group sales, paying for free workshops, subsidizing the expenses of field trips, providing larger and more meaningful college scholarships, offering hardship scholarships so underprivileged kids could attend events they would not otherwise be able to afford, and creating a summer Shakespeare program to allow students an opportunity to expand their on-stage experience.  We have had big dreams.  We had plans of doing more, and growing more.  Offering workshops for elementary and middle school students, college audition guidance, financially supporting programs in the elementary school, donating to other arts departments in the district, organizing larger and more exciting field trips.  You name it, we wanted to do it.  It never happened, and probably never will.  Somehow my small, charitable life became the source of some sort of scandal.  The good intentions and hours of dedication that Jason and I have had all along are now somehow under accusation of "creating drama".  Our forward thinking is now a problem.  We have been falsely accused, we have been disrespected, we have had our names dragged through the mud, our reputations have been damaged, our work has been taken for granted and we are now being barred entirely from making any more progress.    I will never understand why hard work gets rewarded with jealousy and spite.  And what's worse, we have lost the ability to know who can or cannot be trusted.  People we have considered friends, or at least colleagues have turned on us due to rumor and conjecture that has no place in our lives.  Each time I hear someone else say they are tired of this drama, I wonder why they believe that we are not tired of it ourselves.  It's exhausting, and we never wanted any part of it.  But we will not go quietly when injustice exists in our lives.  It is not in our nature.

I think what makes me the most sad is that there has been nothing more rewarding over the past six years than working with the amazing group of young people we have been privileged to know.  They have truly been the highlight of my life, and they will never know how much they have taught me about reality while I was teaching them how to pretend.  I have opened my home to students in need, not because it was easy, but because it was right.  Some people would say Jason and I are crazy to spend so much time focused on improving the lives of these teens, even outside of the confines of theatre, but there has been nothing in my life that has felt so right.  When a student came to us in need of a home, we didn't think twice before offering ours.  It is an act of love I will never regret.  To think that because of a handful of small, petty people, I will lose the privilege of meeting more of these amazing young people makes me so sad.  Especially when those small, petty people take those same young people for granted and cannot recognize how special and valuable each of them is.  They will never know what a privilege they have.  I would never dream of taking it for granted.  It has made my life so much more rich, and so much more colorful.  If I am to lose this opportunity, I will remain grateful that I had it for as long as I have.  I will never apologize for the work we have done, regardless of how much "drama" others might accuse me of creating.  I have no regrets.  I have touched lives.  There is nothing more valuable than that.

I have kept my life small.  Those kids have given it value.  They will probably never know, but I could never thank them enough.

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