Welcome to the CATALYST, a Courage & Renewal newsletter for you, our supporters, with true stories of how your gifts make a difference. Read this newsletter in PDF format. Also read the previous issue.
When Kerrie Bourland came to teach at a Texas public school, two teachers had already quit that semester. “I knew I had to find a way to turn things around,” Kerrie said.
Your support for programs like Courage to Teach helped Kerrie and her students love school again. Looking back, Kerrie recalls how her battered portable classroom had a bullet hole in the door and two small windows with rusty iron bars. It foreshadowed what the kids might become. Attendance and participation were dismal.
“It was an uphill battle to do what was right for the kids,” Kerrie said. The principal refused to hear that things needed to change. The trend continued year after year.
“One day I hit a wall,” Kerrie said. “I saw my own apathy, my own complacency, my own status quo, and I hated it! I saw a system of hypocrisy poisoning my passion for teaching.”
“Courage to Teach changed my life,” said Kerrie. “I was so ready to get out of the classroom. Parker Palmer’s philosophies and the Courage & Renewal facilitators changed my perception of teaching.”
Your donations are the reason Kerrie is still in education. And her ‘courage to teach’ is making a difference with her students.
Joshua, one of Kerrie’s 12th grade students, wrote, “You opened my eyes to how I viewed the world. I know now that I can do anything as long as I put forth all my effort.”
A student named Phillip said, “I want all people to experience new things like I have, go on ‘adventures with Ms. B’ and be willing to understand about other cultures and interests like you opened my eyes to.”
“When a student says, ‘I am better for my time spent with you,’ that’s better than any paycheck,” Kerrie professed.
Your support for Courage & Renewal means so much to Kerrie and her students. She said, “Thank you! Because of you I can continue to be challenged while making a difference.”
Because of you, physicians and palliative care practitioners are taking time to listen deeply to their patients.
They’re showing up with open hearts and a different mindset when they meet with patients and families who are facing serious illness or end of life. “Goals of care” patient/family meetings include a doctor with a nurse, social worker and chaplain, creating a small Circle of Trust.
By having a safe space to talk openly, patients feel as though their lives matter beyond their illnesses.
Thanks to your support, a palliative care physician named Woody English helped integrate Courage & Renewal practices into a pilot program for the Supportive Care Coalition and five palliative care organizations across the United States.
Woody taught palliative care teams how to create a safe space for conversations between patients, families and the caregiver team. Courage & Renewal facilitator Caryl Casbon helped Woody base the practices on Parker Palmer’s book A Hidden Wholeness.
“It’s important to create a foundation for trust between the patient, family and the medical team,” said Woody. “Without trust, the conversation will not get to where it should go.”
“Usually a physician tolerates less than 10 seconds of silence. We discovered that the longer we wait for the answer, the more likely it is the patient will tell us what we really need to know,” said Woody.
Family meetings are not just about discussing medical treatment, explained Tom Butler, a Courage & Renewal facilitator and member of the pilot study planning committee. “It’s equally important that patients and families have a safe space to talk about love and loss, anger, regret, sadness, and fear.”
And thanks to you, palliative caregivers find a renewed sense of their personal calling and feel sustained in their work. Woody reported that these medical teams are much less likely to suffer compassion fatigue and job stress.
“I think Courage & Renewal is incredibly valuable,” said Woody. “If you bring it to people, it enhances their quality of life tremendously.”
Because of your gifts to Courage & Renewal, patients and families who are facing serious illness and end-of-life issues received genuine care and real strength. Thank you!
When I was in my twenties and living in New York City, I volunteered at a Catholic Worker house on the Lower East Side.
The Workers at Mary House lived with the poorest of the poor, providing food, shelter, health care and other forms of direct aid, while also working for economic justice.
One of those Workers was Kassie Temple. A brilliant writer with a Ph.D., she could have had a comfortable academic career. Instead, she devoted her life to doing what she could to keep hungry and homeless people from starving or dying of exposure to the elements.
I had never seen poverty of the sort I saw at Mary House. I was overwhelmed by the numbers of people who came through the breadline every day bearing the marks of deep suffering. And every time I returned, a new tidal wave of misery had washed over the place.
One day I asked Kassie the question that had been vexing me: “How do you keep doing this hard, heart-wrenching work when you know you’ll wake up tomorrow to problems that are as bad or worse than the ones you’re dealing with today?”
I’ve never forgotten Kassie’s answer:
What you need to understand is this — just because something’s impossible doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it!
I’m still trying to live into words I heard 50 years ago.
Please take a moment to reflect on those words and ask yourself the two questions I ask myself:
Where would we be if the Kassie Temples of this world hadn’t taken on the impossible time and time again?
What task is calling to you — at home, at work, in the larger world — that you need to embrace even though it’s impossible?
Your generous support gives people the courage to do the hard work that makes our world a better place.
Here’s what that looks like…
It happens when a teacher taps into her heart and inspires students to love learning and be leaders, too.
It happens when a physician gives a patient the safe space and courage to talk about what matters most at the end of her life.
Your gifts transform the lives of teachers, leaders, doctors and others—who in turn touch so many more lives!