I've been thinking about costumes this week. Not so much deciding what to wear this Hallow's Eve, but what costumes are about, from a slightly deeper dig.
Ritual costumes help represent or manifest large forces and beings that can't or don't exist in everyday life. I'm dressed as one version of the Green Man in the first photo. When we dress like him, or like a wild animal, or ghost, we call up those non-human beings or concepts and invite them into our family or community for a few hours. These non-human visitors always have something to teach us, like a famous guest lecturer in an otherwise quotidian class.
Costumes also help draw out big forces or archetypes from within. In another photo in this post, I'm dressed as Odyssyus, the Greek hero. When we dress as a superhero or famous celebrity, we get to spend time with bigger, bolder, more powerful aspects of ourselves. Our relationship to these aspects is complicated. We crave the power and agency that these heroes have but part of us knows we already have those qualities. Wearing the costume can be a way to simultaneously manifest and celebrate the presence of the powerful qualities.
The other photos in this post show me wearing the costume of the Fundraiser, the TEDx Speaker, the Adventurer. Each represent a slightly more integrated and everyday part of me. Despite being more common, I still work to consciously to put on the right costume and persona for each occasion. Each costume comes with the appropriate super powers!
So... I encourage everyone to allow the donning of a costume this week to be a fun, intentional act of embodiment and actualization. But remember that your newly acknowledged superpowers are symbolic not literal. Maybe don't try to fly off the 3rd floor. AND know that you can fly.
Just last night, I saw my neighbor, Seth, through the fence. He looks like a scary teenage boy with baggy pants and tough-looking body language. But last night I took a risk and said hello. To my surprise, Seth greeted me warmly (although I don’t think he remembers my name). Emboldened, I asked Seth about school and any activities he was planning. We ended up talking for several minutes about baseball, the difficulty of hitting a fastball, and the challenge of entering high school. We both went back to our houses with smiles on our faces. My smile was especially broad because of what I know about teens and what they need to succeed.
Seth notwithstanding, teens in America are in crisis. One third are growing up without their biological dad. Half report being disengaged in school. And the rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide continue to rise. The suicide statistics particularly bother me.
Why are kids struggling? It would be easy to put the blame on families or schools. It is true that more and more kids are growing up in single parent homes and receive less parenting. It is true that schools are underfunded and that class sizes are growing. These trends do indeed, put stress on kids and may cause them to disconnect or drop out. Unfortunately, a single adult’s ability to affect these trends is limited. We cannot intercede in individual families nor can we provide a quick fix to the schools.
However, it turns out is actually easy for an individual to positively affect a kid’s life. It doesn’t take a budget resolution or a parenting intervention. Sometimes it just means saying, “Hello!” over the fence. That “hello” means a lot to a teen who might feel isolated or disconnected. If a community member has time, he or she can provide an even bigger impact by becoming a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters or Boys to Men. We can come together as individuals and a community in support of our kids, our future. We can provide them with the assets that might make a difference between success and failure. We can reclaim our responsibility and effectiveness as neighbors and as potential role models. Even just smiling at teenager makes the community stronger. Try it out this week, won’t you?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard nonprofit professionals bemoan the process of grant writing. (I can’t tell you because I didn’t keep track, really. But I heard it a lot.) It’s true - writing grants takes lots of time - researching foundations, gathering program information, tracking deadlines, etc. And grant applications involve the process of persuasive writing, which can be challenging for some. Grant writing also creates a kind of vulnerability. Here you are, exposing your best hopes and dreams for the change you want to see in your community and showing it, boldly and brazenly to a group of strangers on a grant review board. Terrifying.
Despite all that, I, apparently, am an odd duck, an outlier, a weirdo. I love Grant Writing. I see grant writing as a concrete process whereby dreams are made into reality. We get to start with the question: What would we do if we had the money? What innovative program can we create to solve a problem? What program that is working well needs ongoing support? Those questions are fundamental optimistic and forward looking, which is where I like to be.
I am also intrigued by the foundation research process. Having access to a comprehensive grants database opens up a world of connections, abundance, and possibilities. Searching through the database to find the foundation with the right fit feels like a treasure hunt. (Or a like a good session at a thrift store.) I never know what I’m going to find but I’m sure there’s something good there.
When I’ve found a fit between a program and a few foundations, the actual application process begins. And while it can take lots of effort and editing (especially when the form only allows a limited word count), I love this process, too. I really enjoy the logic puzzle of putting together the elements of the program with the funder’s goals. I like matching our dream to theirs and making it look like a clear win/win.
There, I’m exposed now. I love grant writing.