The light in me sees the light in you.

All life is interrelated…We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. —Martin Luther King Jr.

At the Plain Dealer building a week and half ago, we heard from our table members.  Our committed volunteers, who sometimes start as strangers.  They too, take a leap of faith to say, I will join this table, at this time, with these people, and I will see where the journey takes us.  They understand that the young people who have grown up in foster care have not always had people looking for the light in them.  Some have been told they are not worthy, they are not enough, and they won’t amount to much.  So these volunteers come with open hearts, open minds, good humor, and leaning into the lives of others.  They are willing to try, willing to risk, willing to hold loosely to “outcomes”.

 

The weekly work of sitting around the table is well described by my friend, Leslie.  She wrote and read what follows, at our Plain Dealer event a few weeks ago.  She has been on 2 tables, so she knows what she is talking about.

The people who sit on tables are shining their lights on their young sisters and brothers. When we enter into this work, we realize that when we shine light on others, our light grows brighter as well. 

First I MUST say, as others before me did, that you are a spectacular
sight. The kindness and energy in this room make the threatening clouds
overhead defenseless against your sunshine. Whether you serve on a
table now or later or find another outlet for your big heart I commend
you.

I have served on two tables and they were as different as they could be.
But what is the same is that it’s not a whole lot different than meeting
dear friends or your family around your table! We come to enjoy, to
share, to listen, to laugh, to cry, to support. While talking, characters
show up; demand attention, characteristics arise, opinions and passions
get expressed: stories get told. You wait for a chance to understand. It’s
complicated in the way that ANY CLOSE FRIENDSHIP IS. Last year
our sister struggled to make a connection with our Table Family. Then
her young half sister was killed in an automobile accident. We held her
as she sobbed and she shared a picture she had of the two of them. When
we found out about the funeral several of us decided to go and we also
decided, because of something she had said, to make a tee shirt with that
picture on it and take it to her at the service. That gesture, simple to us,
meant the world to her. We made a connection. It did not fix everything.
It wasn’t a game-changer but I would suspect she will remember that
small act of kindness for years to come and enable her to trust just a little
more.

At the end of my favorite yoga class, like most yoga teachers, my teacher
says Namaste and HER particular translation of that word is: may the
light and love in you shine and inspire the light and love in others.

That is how I view serving on a table–we are search lights, flash lights,
laser beams, street lights, night lights, and even neon lights. We meet a
fellow being who like each and every one of us, needs support: unconditional, non-judgmental attention.

The tricky part is that though we and they are in need, accepting that kind of caring is not always easy. I see our role on a Table as shining that light: in daylight or
nightlight, at home or in the street, gently or targeted as a laser. Our job
is to help our sister or brother to find and love the light within them. We
need to believe that it still burns no matter what circumstances have
caused it to flicker or even go out. We sit by their side, we dine, we
struggle with issues, we create new opportunities. We light paths they
have never even considered traveling. We do not impose our ways or
will. We sit at that table with humility holding our flashlight on their
countenance and trying in every way we can to bring forth THEIR
LIGHT, their talents, skills, strengths and dreams and then to hold up a
mirror for them to see what has ever been there.

You all have experienced your own and others in your lives AH HA
moments. There are few greater joys to share. That is what Open Table
is to me: finding those AH HA’s and the joy they generate and knowing
that the love you shared inspired. And then there is the additional joy in
knowing that your understanding and; heart will be paid forward some
time, some place, some where.” (Leslie Kleinman, author, table member, amazing human)

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Amber Donovan