Braid reaches a milestone this week: our third birthday.
As always, milestones allow us an opportunity to consider the past and lessons learned, as well as to cast our eyes to the future and anticipate what is to come. As Braid now has responsibility for twelve youth, we are engaged in ensuring the sustainability of our mission. We have been truly blessed by the Stearns Family Foundation which has committed to continue to support us all in our work. In addition to their generosity, we have also been in engaged in applying for a number of different grants.
Those of you who have filled out grant applications know that there is always a section where one is asked to document and measure the impact of the organization by using quantifiable metrics. And we have answered that request several times. But every time we do, we are left with a sense of frustration, born of the inability to capture in a mathematical formula the transformational experiences in which you/we/all of us are involved.
How does one convey the trust, the partnership, the faithfulness and love of sponsors who are willing to journey with us all and trust the journey?
How does one capture fully the hope
you have conveyed to your youth when you wrote, called, and visited your youth when she was moved to Sonoma County for several weeks; when you helped your youth pick out a dress for the school dance; when you helped your youth soar above the present condition by making and flying kites at the Presidio?
How does one capture fully the sense of a loving presence
that has been conveyed to your youth when you all sat outside of a tent in the middle of his living room and told him you were there for him whenever he was ready; when you wrote letters to your youth while they were at camp this summer; when you have been on call as a facilitator for mentors when they needed to vent, or express concern, or share joys, or had questions that needed answering?
How does one capture fully the spirit of re-creation
when you sat on the ground with your youth while he cried, believing he couldn’t hike to the top of the mountain, and the triumph when your encouragement and patience empowered him to jump up, dust himself off and climb to the peak; the expression of overwhelming joy on your youth’s face when he walked into AT&T Park to see the Giants for the first time; or the pure silliness when you jumped, ran, crawled, and cheered at our Braid field day?
How does one capture fully the communion we share
with one another when you have coordinated incredible Harry Potter themed birthday celebrations; when you have baked and eaten delicious cupcakes; when you have held one another in a yoga circle?
How does one convey the sense of commitment, faithfulness and love that has been shown by the countless sacrifices made in order to be there on weekly visits with your youth (especially when they cancel!); the thought that has gone into providing food and snacks for our ever-hungry population; your ensuring they are prepared and have the necessary materials for crafts and camp and nail painting and face painting and horseback riding and swimming and school and library visits and music lessons?
In previous lives we have both worked in organizations and corporations where metrics were easy, and there was a service or a product that was manufactured and produced and measured in weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual goals: 5000 car parts shipped, 1000 customers served hamburgers, 20,000 alumni receiving their magazine.
The only metric Braid has is the understanding that an hour a week makes all the difference in the life of a young person.
Yes, we all hope we can someday measure that in higher graduation rates, and in preventing our youth from falling into typical statistics for foster youth around depression, homelessness, and incarceration.
But there is nothing that Braid has manufactured or patented that makes this possible. Rather, what we try to create and sustain is actually something of an emptiness, a sacred space that each of YOU gets to fill with your gifts, experience, and depth of relationship. There is no blueprint for how a team is supposed to form or grow – each of your teams has its own unique community and personality.
And yet, we are all held together in this larger circle by a common commitment to our youth and to each other.
Braid as an organization only exists as all of our collective experiences and frustrations and joys.
Together you all have woven a richer tapestry than we ever could have imagined three years ago. And the more we fill this sacred circle, the larger it becomes to hold more love and commitment and faithfulness and patience, and more youth and more weavers and more gift.
So as we celebrate three years, we celebrate all of us and what we have woven. We have all had a hand in this, pulling a thread and creating community for youth who have spent time in foster care. We have surrounded them and each other with a community that is rich.
It is the greatest birthday gift we could ever hope for.