Living in the Light or out over my skis?

Living in the Light or out over my skis? May 8, 2017



Occasionally, the Light shines brightly, and I just stumble forward. For instance, one afternoon I called a potential donor to contribute to bringing therapeutic poetry writing to teens recovering from addiction. It just felt like the right time and the right person. Poetry Heals is a passion for me, and I can usually communicate that passion. I made the call. After a lunch, some emails, and a proposal, the donor said he’d write a check. I proceeded to put into motion the plan I had for classes and an after school program.

Then the check arrived.  It was for one-quarter of the amount that I had asked for. Damn.

Now I had all these plans in place and not enough funding.The plans felt right, the school was excited as were the students. This poetry writing class was on the books. So, I looked into the finances of the nonprofit and decided that if we changed the grand plan to a less grand one, we could do it for a month.

As has consistently been the case with Poetry Heals, the classes and the writers were magical. We had three writing mentors for 10 kids, of whom 5 stuck with the class. This low mentor to writer ratio allowed us to pay personal attention to the writers, their ideas, and where they could take them. When we wrote group poems, the students appreciated each other’s honest expression of difficult issues. And when they decided to write for themselves, you could hear a pin drop. The intensity was palpable.

The school director and I talked about continuing the program until the end of the school year. She was very happy to have Poetry Heals, and the students who chose to be in the class were happy, too. Each week, I checked in with her about the possibility of extending the class. Last week she said that she had the funding for two more weeks. Great! I told the other two mentors that we had two more weeks with the students. We made plans with the students for finishing off the course in style, writing raps and making chap books.

That night I got an email from the school director confirming that she wanted two more weeks of classes, but she would pay for one mentor, not three. See a pattern developing? Once again, I was out over my skis about to tumble down the hill. Damn.

I wrote to the other two mentors, relaying the state of affairs. I thanked them for their work and hoped they would be available for the next Poetry Heals project that comes along. Then one of the mentors wrote back saying, this “triggers my pet peeve – I hate it when adults don’t allow closure for kids. …The kids have been through enough and don’t deserve to be treated that way.  Please give them my love and best wishes.”

Damn. She had shined the Light on what was really important here.  And it wasn’t my budget. It is the kids.  So I prayed about it, and it became completely clear that all three of the mentors had to keep their agreement to show up for two more weeks for us all to complete our plan. The money will be there when we need it.

Twice during one project, I got ahead of myself – or so it seemed.  I had all the pieces in place for a wonderful pilot project in a school for teens in need. The writing mentors brought their smarts and compassion, we found new ways to use our materials, and the students learned to use writing as a tool for processing their traumas. The only wrinkle was that I didn’t have the funding I thought I had.

Perhaps I was doing exactly the right thing, following the Light to the edge of my fears. And then going past them.  If I had seen that I didn’t have the money I thought I had, I am certain that would not have dared to start this project. Not only am I glad that I did start the project, I am beginning to trust the Light.

Photo by Ailura, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT, CC BY-SA 3.0 at,

Browse Our Archives