Dressember and Starting Where You Are

“The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” -Fredrick Buechner

For much of my life I believed that I must forego my own talents and interests in the interest of altruism. I felt like it was selfish of me to pursue what I liked while there are so many in the world who cannot. I spent most of my undergrad trying to forget the “trivial” interests I had like fine arts, dance, fashion, etc. which were not seen inherently bad, but distractions from what I perceived as the “real work”: advocating for the rights of those who are marginalized.

So when I came across the quote above, it immediately made me uncomfortable. What did gladness have to do with anything? In my mind dance couldn’t change the world; art couldn’t end oppression; fashion doesn’t matter when people are starving to death.

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While the intention is good, and these thoughts are not completely wrong, I’ve realized just how limiting this kind of thinking is. It is the voice of the cynic, creativity’s antithesis.

A better way of looking at it is through the lens of “how?” How can dance change the world? How can art end oppression? How can fashion feed people? How can a beautiful meal end violence? How can running challenge inequality? How can good design make a meaningful impact on people’s lives?

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For many (the cynics), the initial response is: it can’t. For them, life is a zero-sum game, so they hoard, and steal, and blame, and complain -but never do they transcend the binary world they’ve created. They see the world as “us vs. them.” It doesn’t matter which “side” they claim to be on, the projected superiority in their choice is what speaks and contributes to the disconnectedness of the world.

But then there is another group, the creatives, who realize that everything is connected and if one person wins it does not mean everyone else loses. These people and groups are truly open. Love, compassion, and kindness flow out of them. They seek to contribute to the beauty of the world. They do not resent anything or anyone, but recognize the brokenness of the world and, through their own wholeness and joy, seek to change it.

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Currently I am participating in a unique awareness/fundraising event by started by a group of these “creatives.” International Justice Mission (IJM) -a non-profit that rescues victims of human trafficking- has organized a campaign called: Dressember. The premise is that participants wear a dress everyday during the month of December to raise awareness about human trafficking and money for IJM to use for rescuing more victims. (85% of the money IJM receives during the Dressember campaign goes directly helping victims.) The event is the brain-child of Blythe Hill, who started Dressember just for fun/the challenge of wearing a dress everyday for a month because she loved dresses and fashion. It was only recently that she attached it to a greater cause when she and IJM got connected. The event has since taken off, fundraising more than $200K to fight human trafficking.

I believe the order in which this story developed is important. She started where she was, with something she loved, and THEN used it to change the world through her creativity. So often those who want to change the world get too fixated on the problems facing the issue and ignore what brings them joy. They forget that what the world really needs is more joy. That’s what it looks like to “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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If you’d like to contribute to my Dressember campaign, I would love it! Follow the link! support.dressemberfoundation.org/rlcreations

Generation E: Part 1

I found this book in my basement and thought it would be a perfect starting point for my business venture. It is engaging and entertaining and seems to offer some good advice so far.

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In fact, it is already starting to challenge me. One of my biggest issues to overcome is that I have a fear of being seen as a burden or people supporting me because they are “doing me a favor” or taking some pity on me. I felt that way when I was in elementary/middle school and fund raiser time rolled around. They always gave prizes to the kids that sold the most: the highest prize being something like a gaming console, an electric scooter, or the chance get wrapped in tape and to roll around on the floor which was covered in money (I’m not joking). I was that kid that got a chintzy whistle, or even worse, nothing at all because of my fear of asking people to purchase things they probably don’t want or need. I didn’t want people to feel guilty for not buying anything so I didn’t ask them.

I got that same feeling a lot during the job I had between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college where I had to call people I knew, schedule a meeting with them, try to sell them some stuff they probably did not want, and then ask them to inconvenience their friends in the same manor. It was hell. I hated the voices in my head telling me that I was burdening these people by asking for their time and money. Every time I got a “no” I felt frustrated, but also strangely relieved that they wouldn’t resent me quite as much.

So when I came to the part of the book that says: “Next, we’ll talk about resources… Your resources include friends you can impose upon, your ’82 Chevy Impala that barely runs, all the people you know from your AA meetings…” Friends you can impose on? Ugh. That is the last resource I want to use. To me the ultimate measure of success is having complete strangers find me/my work valuable. Friends and family are supposed to be supportive which is maybe why I don’t like starting there first. I value honesty, and although I’m sure these people feel as though they are being honest, to me they are biased.

As with any new venture, there will be challenges and difficulties, but getting through them is what creates personal growth and will eventually lead to prosperity. It is just a matter of convincing myself to get out of my comfort zone and “be a burden” on people and that will take some time as well as quite a bit of effort. I also must constantly remind myself that I am only perceiving these sentiments in them, and they may not feel that way at all. I would like to say that am up for the challenge, but only time will tell for sure. The key to that is remaining passionate about what I am doing and allowing that to propel me through any obstacles I may come to.