Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spirited music

Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. Unknown
It was a powerful moment. Six clients of the shelter where I work, huddled over their instruments, playing together, working together, exploring together the silence between the notes, the beat within the beat.

They sat behind a wall of glass. Headsets perched upon their heads. Instruments coddled against their chests. Lips pressed close to microphones. A drummer. Guitarists. Harmonica. Vocalist.

On the other side of the enormous window, a sound engineer sat in front of a panel of knobs and dials, lights and meters, listening carefully to each note, tuning, and adjusting, beating his foot in time, nodding his head to the beat. We sat behind him, comfortable in our padded chairs, sipping coffee, laughing, talking, listening, watching.

We were at The Beach under the tutelage of Lanny Williams, one of Canada's foremost recording engineers. He's offered up his space, time, talents and staff to help us create a music video, part of which will become a series of TV ads in support of the shelter. As part of the process, we are also doing on camera interviews of everyone involved to create a mini-documentary of the creation behind the creation of the video.

It was powerful stuff. Moving. Inspiring. Humbling.

It was community in motion. A community of sound, of music, of creative spirits soaring.

In the documentary I am the interviewer. I ask the questions. People respond. At one point, I asked one of the musicians, "What does this song, Stand By Me, mean to you."

He swallowed. Paused. Said, "I used to be homeless. Then I came to the shelter. Now I have a place to call home for as long as I need it. It's there that I've met people who are willing to stand by me. To help me out. To help me up. We all gotta stand by each other if we're going to change the world."

When we stand together for what we believe in, we create a world of difference. For me, for the shelter where I work, we believe building kinder communities is integral to changing the face of homelessness and the faces in our communities. We believe that treating everyone with respect, regardless of their socio economic position, makes a difference in each of our lives.

Giving is receiving.

When I treat someone with respect, I give them space to be who they are, where they are, without forcing them to change to fit my ideas of where they should be. In return, I receive the gift of trust.

What we do at the shelter is founded on the belief that building trust with each individual requires time, space and compassion. It requires our actively listening to what someone is saying, and not saying, about where they're at. It actively involves us in holding a 'space' for someone to find themselves without fear that we will condemn them for where they've been, what they've done, how they've fallen.

We may not agree with where someone's at. We don't condemn them for being there. We hold the space open so they can find their balance, their sense of direction to figure out where they want to go, when they're ready.

At the shelter, clients can sleep under our roof when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Regardless of their state, we ask that they follow the rules of conduct. We respect that being inebriated is the choice they are making, at this time. Given the right time and circumstances, they may eventually make a different choice. All we can do is turn up and support them, as best we can, as they work towards finding themselves where ever they're at.

Yesterday in the recording studio, I witnessed six men find themselves in the middle of having fun, of being 'somebodies' in a world where generally they are treated as nobodies. In one of the interviews, one person said, "We're not nobody. We're human beings. Just like the rest of the world."

Each of the musicians who played and sang yesterday have an addiction. Each of them is doing work at either maintaining their sobriety or trying to find it. Each of them turned up sober for the recording, and has turned up sober for every single practice during the past few weeks.

In turning up for the music, they are beginning to treat themselves with respect. Beginning to trust themselves to do the work they need to do to claim their unique gifts.

And in turning up to support each other, they are building friendships. They are building trust. They are building a powerful song that will touch hearts and open minds. They are doing what it takes to make a difference.

It was a powerful afternoon yesterday. Powerful. Inspiring. Humbling.

I am in awe.

The question is: What do you turn up for in your life? The music, or your fears?


Anonymous said...

L, I am in awe!
What a splendid, beautiful, inspiring project! Once again, you amaze me. You're an angel dahling...proud of you and proud of the people at the Beach. You're all amazing, caring, generous people. And, most importantly very very proud of the musicians! Can't wait to see it aired!

Love you,

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see it either!


M.L. Gallagher said...

It's coming along! We were at the studio again this afternoon. Very exciting. Very inspiring.

And I'm so looking forward to seeing you soon BA!

Love hugs to both of you, and everyone too!