Throughout this past month, I had the song “We are the World” stuck in my head. Although I was young when this charity song first came out, it left an everlasting impression in my soul. At that age, I never understood the depth of this song or the lyric, “There is a choice we are making, we are saving our own lives,” in response to helping end the famine in Ethiopia.
Many years later, I understood this more intimately when Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk wrote, “We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others.”
Today, everywhere we look, there is a needed and worthy cause to give our attention to. The needs and suffering of our world and in our own individual lives can sometimes feel overwhelming to respond to in a loving way. The good news is that we don’t have to respond to the world from a “save the day heroism.” We can start where we are, stretching ourselves in small ways that inspire us to be more compassionate with ourselves and with others in ways that help kindle the flame in our hearts.
One of my favorite ways to support good works is the annual “Shine a Light” yoga fundraising event. Shine a Light raises funds for nonprofit organizations that are working tirelessly to put an end to sexual abuse and sex trafficking. This year’s yoga event begins at 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Ashland Hills Hotel.
One of Shine a Light’s partner organizations is the Maslow Project. The Maslow Project is a nationally recognized grassroots organization that provides amazing programs and resources for homeless youth in the Rogue Valley and Josephine County. Mary Ferrell, the founder and executive director of Maslow, recently shared a heartbreaking story that fuels her inspiration for the Maslow Project.
She shared, “Homeless youth face a disproportionately high risk of being sex trafficked. A teenage homeless woman once shared that in order to protect herself from being raped multiple times during the night, she had to have sex with one man who would then protect her from others raping her. The services we are able to provide with the help of Shine a Light not only help our youth build life skills and resiliency, they also give our young clients — who spend much of their lives dealing with adult concerns like how to stay safe, where they’re going to sleep that night, and whether or not they have anything to eat — an opportunity to just focus on ‘normal’ adolescent activities for a few hours.”
Another partner organization, Jackson County SART (Sexual Assault Response Team), offers a compassionately inspired network of supportive services, so that survivors of sexual abuse can receive care, support, connection and healing after the isolating experience of sexual abuse. Survivors have access to a wide array of free services including free exams and medical care after an assault, free support groups, counseling and trauma informed bodywork and help connecting to other services, all funded and coordinated by SART’s Resource Specialist.
A survivor shared her experience after receiving assistance from the resource specialist, who was also able to help pay her electric bill. “I am speechless for the financial assistance. The stress from basic survival needs is an underpinning of massive stress and sets off PTSD, making it harder to care for myself and make decisions. You are a shining star in a sea of cold and indifference. (The resource specialist) called today and it made me feel so loved and cared for.”
Shine a Light arose out of the desire to help raise funds, so our partner nonprofits can focus more of their energy on providing resources, healing and prevention for those who have been sexually abused or trafficked. Every donation counts. No one can do it alone. Together, we can all make a difference and reweave this world with kindness.
Each participant commits to raising $108 in order to attend the event. We have online giving options for those who would like to donate without attending the event. Visit www.iwillshinealight.org.
Courtney Dukelow is a healer, writer and activist. For more information, go to www.courtneydukelow.com.