Chaos brings clarity!

You know the feeling that you have when you planned everything as much as you possibly could and everything goes opposite of what you had expected? The feeling of crazymaking that comes when everyone seems to be doing their own thing and nothing seems to be flowing together? The feeling of being run down with total disorganization? The feeling of utter chaos?

I know this feeling a little too well. I have to admit I hate chaos. The word itself just makes me a little anxious. Every time I am planning a big event, like my 100 person bus coordinator training next Saturday, I hope and pray that chaos stays away. However, one thing is true about chaos and that is that it has happened and it will continue to happen. It is up to us to determine how we are going to deal with it when its unpredictable head decides to surface.

It took me a while to learn this lesson. I used to judge my performance based on how well everything went detail by detail even if the details were outside of my control. If I was doing a presentation to a large group, did it start and end on time? Did anyone’s phone go off during it? Was there an impromptu fire drill? If I answered yes to any of these questions, I left in defeat. Thinking like this, I became aware that I was disappointed almost always, which is no way to lead your life.

So when did I turn over my new leaf? It has been a gradual change, but working for Get On The Bus has fast tracked this. You see, when you work inside a dysfunctional system, it breeds chaos. I remember last year I was heading out to go to California Institute for Women CIW in Corona, CA to meet with all of our potential mothers who were signed up for our program. My agenda was simple: I was to go in introduce myself, give a little background on the program, give the program details to the moms as no one at the prison will tell them anything, have the women share in a small circle with one of our GOTB volunteers about what made them sign up, answer a couple of questions and play our DVD. I had envisioned this going so smoothly that in my mind I actually got a standing ovation at the end!

When I arrived at the prison, I was greeted and told that they forgot to tell the women about the meeting. It was now 10 minutes before it was supposed to start and no one was in the auditorium except for me and a few of my volunteers (the vast majority didn’t show up). I had also asked the prison to do the seating by region where the women’s families lived, well that never happened. So just as Karen and I were trying to arrange chairs and organize our volunteers (about 10 minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start), women started pouring in. We tried our best to arrange everyone how we had envisioned them but the combination of a lack of volunteers, disorganization with the seating and people just going in every direction definitely put a damper on things.

To make matters worse, now I had a line out the door of people who wanted to see me. Since this is the only time the moms get to see their kids each year, every person wanted confirmation that I had their family’s info and that the kids were coming. I told every woman that there would be time at the end for me to meet with them and asked them to sit down so we could get started as we were now almost 30 minutes late in doing so. Most of the women complied; however, there was one woman who kept coming up to talk with me. After about the third time, frustrated as anything, I said, “What can I help you with?”

She then handed me a medical ducat and explained to me that she had to leave early because she was receiving treatments for ovarian cancer. She told me that the doctors gave her only 6 months to live (at the time GOTB was about 2 months away). She said that her children lived in the Bay Area and this would be the last opportunity she would get to spend time with them. In tears, she told me how important it would be for her to be able to tell her children how much she loved them and give them one more hug and kiss. She pleaded with me and said that this was her last wish and asked me if I may be able to help her?

It was at this second that I totally forgot about all the chaos around me. We both started to cry and I reached out and hugged her, which is something that you aren’t allowed to do in the prison. However, at that moment, I didn’t care. I stopped seeing this presentation as a personal show for me and started to see it as a conversation with others. A conversation that this woman needed so much. I started to get clarity on my purpose and learned that if nothing else, I was able to make a difference for one person and one family today.

With my new attitude, the rest of the presentation flowed with ease. I can’t tell you what we talked about or how closely we stuck to the agenda; however, I can tell you that everyone in that room experienced something much more powerful than information overload. Everyone got a chance to experience someone else’s humanity. There was no dry eye in the room and at the end, I got the standing ovation that I was hoping, it just happened inside my heart.

I am happy to say that this woman did receive her wish. All four of her children got to fly down to CIW and she got the visit that she was hoping for. Again, I wanted to thank all of you for your support. In just two weeks, we will be underway with a new GOTB year and Joe will receive all of his family applications. In addition to your generous giving, Joe will also be in need of some volunteers. Please read the blurb on the right side of this page to find out how you can help.  There are options for locals as well as for those of you who live far away.  I will leave you with this thought…Walter Cronkite was a huge Grateful Dead fan and right before he died, he had been taking drumming lessons from their drummer Mickey Hart. He posed a question to Mickey one day asking, “How will I know if I am doing it right?” Mickey’s answer was simple, “You just keep doing it and doing it and then you will start to feel it and start to be it.” This is what GOTB has been for me and this is what it could be for you. I challenge you all to make a difference.  In the words of Jerry Maguire, “Who’s coming with me?”

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