A few weeks ago I witnessed some of the most powerful women I’d ever seen on stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Along with 350 others, I had the honor to watch souls heal in front of my eyes, all through the personal power of their voice.
The event was sparked by an unusual collaboration of arts and social service nonprofits creating the opportunity for fifteen women recovering from abuse, addiction and poverty that so many of us can’t even imagine. Clients of N Street Village, the Theater Lab and the Kennedy Center came together to produce 90 minutes of soul-wrenching monologues woven together with short plays that, together, told the hopeful story of recovery and strength.
These were not professional actresses. Some were hard to understand and many moved awkwardly across the stage, their bodies hurt and warped by a hard life. But their laughter was infectious, their tears genuine and their stories riveting. Many spoke of finding their calling to help others only one breath after talking about lying in pools of blood, pain and despair.
Everyone in the audience was moved and many of these ladies’ family members came forward to congratulate them, honor them and forgive them as the rest of us witnessed these strong bonds being reformed.
As I watched and noticed how moved I was, along with the sea of people around me, I was struck once more by how powerful our voices are to create power and healing. How many times have I found my own power in finally speaking some deep dark truth I feared would alienate my friends and colleagues, only to find that I was not alone and gained more respect because of my bold act? How often have I seen clients and friends speak words they’d been afraid of, only to find new power by letting them into the world? Not all words are equal and speaking the right ones at the right time bring us power of all kinds. Sometimes we’re tempted to keep the power of speech confined to our private lives, thinking for some reason the dynamic works differently at the office, but finding my voice has helped me take back power I’d unwittingly given to bosses and colleagues – or simply not claimed as my own – building my professional stature over time in subtle and real ways.
For the N Street Village women, there was nothing subtle about their power. Their voices cracked with emotion, reliving fears and pains the rest of us could only guess at. And yet, it was the power of their voice healing them, and all who listened. The ability to use words to express thoughts and feelings into the world and release them from places that have grown toxic with their presence is universal and available to us all.
If you are moved to help these women, and many more please consider joining the InPower Women’s Philanthropy Circle and donating to N Street Village and the Theatre Lab today.
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Photo Credit: Deitmar Temps