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Leaving and a Mission Moment

I type this post as my plane begins its descent into LAX. It’s almost midnight back home; not quite 9:00 in California. Tomorrow morning, I’ll walk out of my hotel and head to the Walt Disney Concert Hall for the opening of the Take A Stand Festival. I know I should be brimming with excitement – and believe me, I can’t wait for the 3 days of music and learning that awaits. But the fact is, leaving home is hard.

My wife, Julia, called me on FaceTime as I waited to board my plane. James was taking his bath, and I was able to say goodnight to him before I had to turn my phone off.

On the flight, I watched an episode of this great Viking/Saxon show I’ve gotten into recently (do yourself a favor and check out The Last Kingdom. You’ll love it, especially if you’re an unabashed Anglophile like me.). I thought the show would take my mind off of leaving. In this episode, the king’s son takes sick; I watched him hold and comfort a coughing infant. Not exactly taking my mind off of being away from my family.

I tried to do some reading, reviewing my notes from the week, but that didn’t much help. And then I remembered a blog post from one of my favorite nonprofit writers and podcasters, Joan Garry, and a strategy she recommends for when the work feels tough. Joan recommends taking a mission moment – a short time to reflect on a recent experience in which the mission of your work and its importance felt front and center.

One mission moment sprang immediately into my mind. This week, a group of our summer camp students was rehearsing the music they will perform as part of Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of The Tempest. By the way, if you don’t have your tickets yet, pick them up! It will be wonderful. Anyway, Shane Dittmar from Raleigh Little Theatre came to rehearse with our kids. Shane is a composer and arranger, and he is legally blind. Our students were amazed by the way Shane led the rehearsal; playing the piano beautifully and paging at breakneck speeds through his massive braille music score.

Thinking about the ways in which our students were both moved by Shane and pushed musically by him was just the mission moment I needed. It reminded me of the power of music to tear down walls and assumptions, to crush perceived limitations, and to put everyone in the same boat in service of a goal greater than themselves. I wish I had a video to share of this rehearsal.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still homesick. In fact, while I started this post on the airplane, I’m finishing it in my hotel room. Late nights alone, far from home, are the worst. But I take some solace in knowing that the mission of our work is important, and that we are so fortunate to have incredible people doing that work every day.

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