Last night saw the completion of the 3rd annual Transformation, Love and Connection (TLC) Dance and, as usual, it was an experience full of gratitude and heart that is worth sharing.
Last year I helped to organize the event and it contributed to my life greatly because it gave me the confidence that I could literally achieve anything by taking action. This year I played a more supportive role and helped our beneficiary organization, Florence Crittenton, take on the event as their own and begin the journey towards making this one of their most successful endeavors as well as, what I see possible, a national-level event.
As an idea TLC is not necessarily unique these days, but it is unique in the non-profit industry of fundraising events. Taking girls in the care of the organization and putting on a ballroom show like Dancing With the Stars in full makeup, rhinestone dresses and dance shoes - this is something very different. It's different because these girls would have never had this opportunity otherwise, and yet they needed it the most. It's different because we, the instructors, volunteer our time and, ultimately, have really nothing to gain from it outside the difference we make for another person. It's different because, unlike most fundraisers you will go to, the real-life product of what you are giving your money to is right there in front of you and you get to witness transformation in its raw and real state. These girls just weeks ago would barely say hello or touch anyone, and here they were just a little while later having fun, self-expressed and confident and on top of the world.
At the end when it was time for them to go, one of my girls hugged me crying and expressing her thanks for everything. Looking into her eyes I knew I had made a difference. It was hard not to match her emotions, my throat started to tense and my eyes did get a little watery. These moments were never easy, but a big part of transformation is also learning to let go. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her and to never forget these moments. It reminded me of the very first year when we put this project on and my student, Brianna, did the same thing. Up until that point I was a bit reserved about the whole project and honestly had my foot half out the door. I was a very different person then. Brianna was one of the "toughest cookies" in the class, and just like her instructor somewhat resistant to the whole TLC thing. Yet when it came down to that fateful moment when the reality of time settled in, Brianna let the waterworks out and showed everyone how much she actually cared. In the process of her transformation, I too, felt something and that moment right there was what motivated me to take on the responsibility of organizing the event the year after.
Looking into my student's eyes this year reminded me of why I do what I do and those kinds of things make it all worth it. It's not easy, and in many ways the volunteering we do for this event is much more of a challenge and commitment than other things. It's one thing to give your time at a soup kitchen once a week, and certainly those acts of generosity are always needed, but in this case the instructors commit to several weeks with a person (or sometimes two) and on top of that there is a result at the end that has to be produced which is the girl performing in front two hundred people or more. You are taking someone with no dance experience, several personal obstacles, limited time and making them into a superstar performer all for free and without anything in return.
It's pretty awesome.
TLC is a great event and it will grow over the years to be something I think the community will treasure and talk about more and more. The values and the experience are real and connect us to where life really is - in acts of kindness, generosity, love and connection. Transformation is something that happens every day, sometimes in large doses and sometimes in the little things. I was asked once, "Well, what do you get out of this and why are you doing it??" "Nothing," I replied, "and that's the whole point." We generally live our lives to acquire and get certain things - money, recognition, success, love, whatever. The problem with that modern mentality is that life doesn't exist in getting anything, it exists in giving. While there is nothing wrong with growth and achievement and a good life strikes a balance between getting and giving, it is often in our contribution to others where we find the greatest rewards because, ultimately, we do not live in a vacuum and our lives are interdependent with others around us.
I am very grateful to be part of the TLC project because having an opportunity to contribute and make a difference for others is so valuable. In a world driven by action and "getting it done," it is also easy to get out of touch with gratitude, patience, humility and service. I am very lucky to have access to these experiences through the place I work and through our partnership with such a beautiful organization and community of people.
I am also excited to see where it will go next. We have some good ideas, good values, great people in the community and all of that makes for a formula where success is inevitable. If you didn't attend this year, make sure to check it out on Facebook and plan for it next time because I promise you that it will be something you won't forget. If I saw you there then thank you again for taking a stand for someone else and contributing to a worthy cause, your presence alone
was of utmost value.
Life is good.
PS: You can support this event by checking the bottom of my "About" page.