The Every Body Is Beautiful Project

To My Daughter Whose Dreams I Get to See Come True

CommunityOphelia's Place1 Comment

I get to.

“You can either be pushed by pain or pulled by power."

— Yolanda King

Tomorrow I get to see my daughter’s dream come true. I get to witness her desire for more come to life. For the last few years, she’s worked non-stop to expand Ophelia’s Place to Arizona. Even when I told her of all the reasons she shouldn’t. Reasons like: nonprofits are hard -- really hard -- and fundraising and events and sustainability are necessary and exhausting. The need is often overwhelming and the burden is felt continuously, even when we sleep. We never put it down, we carry it with us daily. It is the reason we get up and the reason we stay in bed. Basically… it consumes us.

According to The National Center for Charitable Statistics there are 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. In 2010, nonprofits accounted for 9.2 percent of all wages and salaries paid in the United States. In 2013, public charities reported over $1.74 trillion in revenues and $1.6 trillion in expenses. It is serious business. Imagine what would happen to the economy without nonprofits? Would social change happen? Would needs be met? Would compassion be enough to fill the gaps? 25 percent of Americans volunteer. What would they do?  Hmmm… I used to say that I “had” to do this work, that is until a friend of mine said, “MaryEllen what if you shifted that thought from I had to, to I get to?” It changed everything.  My shoulders dropped down and I held my breath less and I exhaled more. There is deep goodness here. Yes, it is overwhelmingly exhausting and my friends and funders no doubt grow weary from my passionate plea for funds (subtlety is not a gift I possess) but it’s what we get to do.

Tomorrow I get to see this warrior of mine share her heart with her community. I get to see her faith in action. Tomorrow is the open house for Ophelia's Place in Gilbert, Arizona. Her husband, Dr. Brad Zehring, with Arizona Restorative Psychiatry (shameless plug here for my son-in-law, the Doctor) is providing space for the office.  They have a deep desire to build upon resources and be part of a community creating change. They get to do this. 

In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.

— Brennan Manning

You see, this is our story. This is our healing gift. It’s what we get to do right? All of us. We get to share our scars because of our fierce compassion for humanity. We get to…

She told me the other day that she didn’t consider herself brave. I told her it’s her vulnerability that makes her brave. The very bravest. It is futile for me to attempt to protect her, her light is too bright. She has never stopped believing that she gets to do this… 

More interesting facts:

  • In 2013, 21 percent of funding for non-profits came from contributions, gifts and grants.
  • 7 percent came from “other” sources including dues, rental income and gains or losses from goods sold.
  • 72 percent came from program service revenues.
  • 65 percent of Ophelia’s Place funding is sustainable. Yep, you heard me. 65 percent. The other 35 percent comes from grants, fundraisers and loose change we find in our friends’ couches. (P.S. if I’ve missed any please feel free to donate here.)

Why does that matter? 

Because our cause is a global issue and the answer is not just financial. It’s finding creative ways to engage and empower others to be part of change. It’s what we’ve done with our café in NY (with a plan to open one in Arizona as well) and our Circles of Change movement.  We have individuals, companies and organizations that are all part of this little nonprofit and contributing in ways that sustain, heal and change the culture. We get to do this work along side of each other. 

So why, with all of this relentless love and support, would I get in the way of this girl and her dreams? Because I want to protect her from the struggle, yet I know it’s the struggle that heals the wounds. It’s the struggle that breaks us open and makes us whole. It’s the struggle that pursues us and takes us deeper into our soul work. It’s the struggle that shapes our faith. It’s the struggle that makes us braver. It's the struggle that says we get to be part of beautiful hope filled change. It's our purpose, our calling, our get to... 

So sweet girl of mine: you got this. You were meant for this work and I get to see your dream come true.   

(Oh and tell your friends you get the loose change in their couches.)  

Photo via Women of Strength Conference

Photo via Women of Strength Conference