I took advantage of my summer or, rather, Summer had its way with me. After the thrilling launch of the video we produced for the OHSU Foundation and the Knight Cancer Challenge, our production schedule loosened its white-knuckled grip on Studio Kate’s calendar. My home schedule also lightened up; for the first time in 21 years, this momma found herself alone. By mid-June, my husband and three kids had scattered to the winds on various adventures in Montana, Los Angeles, and Africa. Me and the dog? We stayed home. You never know what kind of trouble you'll get into -- and what kind of blessings will come your way -- when gifted three weeks alone.
Trouble came in the form of a music festival here (photo above), a camping trip there, and wanting to go see Magic Mike XXL with my sister-in-law (she said no). Another kind of trouble played out daily on the front page. One photo is permanently imprinted: two men standing knee deep in the water, backs pressed against the hull of a wooden boat, fellow migrants overflowing above their heads. Each man’s dark brown eyes looked straight at me. They looked terrified. This was the summer of the migrant crisis, and there is no end in sight. And so I seek out blessings.
My clients are a blessing. I partnered for the third year in a row with the effervescent Marcie Willms and our refreshingly progressive local United Way chapter to produce their annual fundraising campaign video. Every year, we celebrate the power of your investments in our community. We found and filmed high school graduates who are exceeding their parents’ — and their own — expectations. I’ll never forget sitting in the Picture This Productions studio listening to Petrona’s story; it was a blessing. Each child and young adult we interviewed were blessings. (The video follows this post; I hope you'll watch it and hear their voices firsthand.)
On July 2, facing the prospect of spending July 4th alone -- family still gone -- with a quivering, diarrhea-prone dog, I signed up for a yoga retreat at Breitenbush, led by Sarahjoy Marsh and her husband Jay Gregory. I dropped the dog off at the home of my long-suffering in-laws, and drove toward another blessing.
On the drive out, I realized I had wanted to meet Sarahjoy for seven years, since I first heard about her work in the prisons. Sarahjoy founded a program teaching yoga to inmates. Supporting marginalized communities has always called to me, quietly and persistently. What a lovely coincidence.
By the end of the weekend, Sarahjoy and I had birthed a plan to film the DAYA Foundation’s new yoga and meditation program starting August, 2015, at an Oregon prison.
It did not take long for me to convince Sarahjoy of my passion. As a filmmaker, I tell stories about individuals who find hope and light in the midst of darkness. Inmates are as deserving of this as each of us. If there is anything I have learned from my yoga and meditation practice, it is that we are all the same: we all seek joy, love, health, acceptance and peace. These are elusive, so thank goodness we have others to help us get there. Sarahjoy's yoga instruction for inmates is one example of such a program. I realize some believe inmates either (a) don't deserve it, or (b) are incapable of change. This may be true for some, but not all. I make films because stories about real humans -- with all of our frailties and our strengths -- is the best way I have found so far to break up the icebergs of sweeping generalizations and vaguely informed preconceptions we carry about each other. I tell stories that ask us to feel emotion and a common humanity. Finally, my work broadcasts the nonnegotiable role of the organizations and people who bring light to us when we need it the most.
I don't know exactly when we will get to tell this particular story. We don’t yet have permission to film. I will volunteer in the meantime, supporting the yoga teachers and the students. I completed my training for new prison volunteers last Thursday. I am putting my crew together; each of us have experience filming in challenging, sensitive settings, and each of us understand the power of personal change firsthand. Members of my crew are also blessings to me, and further proof that life is much more fun when you have great partners along the way.
Perhaps you are blessed by a story that offers light? If you are engaged in an organization that offers meaningful change, I would love to hear about it. I’d be honored if you’d pass my name along. My crew and I have found and told these stories for foundations and organizations here and around the world. Each story is a blessing to us. Thank you!
Send me your thoughts here.
Learn more about the DAYA Foundation here.
Learn more about volunteering in Oregon's prisons here.
Learn more about Breitenbush Retreat & Conference Center here.
Learn more about Mindfulness Meditation here.