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.
My gift as a teacher is helping kids become their best selves,” said middle school music teacher Ryan Murtfeldt, “but I wasn’t getting to share that gift as much as I wanted to.”
“I wondered how I could combine my passion for helping kids grow with my responsibility to teach the subject matter.”
Ryan knew he could do better, but wasn’t sure how to get there.
Then, thanks to you, he went to his first Courage to Teach retreat series in Portland. He volunteered to be the focus person in a Clearness Committee so he could wrestle with his questions.
“More than anything, the retreats gave me an opportunity to explore my own inner life as
a teacher in the company of other teachers,” he said.
Ryan found his answers and returned to the classroom feeling reinvigorated. “I’m happier in my job, and I’m definitely doing a better job teaching!” said Ryan.
Ryan remembers a time when the courage to be real made a big difference with a student who was struggling.
“Thomas, a choir student, was being a total pain, texting on his phone, ignoring my class. I sent him to the office, but he came back and continued to grumble at me from the back row. So, at the end of class I took him aside and asked, ‘What’s going on? This is miserable for me, and probably for you too. What’s the story?’
“And to my surprise Thomas opened up and said, ‘I feel totally disrespected by you!’ I replied calmly, ‘I feel disrespected too. I’m willing do better if you are.’ I offered my hand and we shook on it.
“After that we got along and he stayed engaged in the class. It’s all because I had the courage to be vulnerable with Thomas, instead of trying to correct the behavior.”
You’re helping Ryan be truly present for his students. Not every teacher has the resilience to stay in the game when there are pressures from every direction.
“Teaching is hard. Really, really hard,” said Ryan. “And to be a sustainable teacher, one who sticks with it for many years, is even harder. We need support, encouragement, tools and resources to help us be our best selves—and Courage to Teach gave me that.”
Thanks for giving Ryan the courage to teach so that he can go on to inspire thousands of students!
“As parent of a child with special needs,” said Cristin Lind, “You get the message to be a mama bear, to be fierce and not back down.”
Cristin’s son, Gabe, has multiple chronic health conditions. After years of challenges to coordinate Gabe’s care, Cristin felt called to advocate for other families. But she didn’t understand why advocacy had to feel like a fight.
“Most of the people teaching me about advocacy had an Us vs. Them mentality,” Cristin said. “But I felt that fighting can’t be the way to improve healthcare.”
Thanks to you, Cristin found her heart’s truth after attending the Courage to Lead for Young Leaders & Activists retreat. There, Parker talked about wholeness of the heart. It inspired Cristin to see that what she wanted for Gabe—and for everyone— was wholeness.
“It was powerful to let go of the idea of my advocacy work being a struggle. I thought to myself, I’ve been given this amazing opportunity as Gabe’s mom to understand the need for wholeness. I could bring wholeness instead of trying to fight.”
Cristin is now serving as co-chair of a leadership team for a nationwide initiative called 100 Million Healthier Lives.
“Before the retreat,” she said, “I would have tried to imitate the way that other people lead. But I’m a mom—I’m not a doctor or a systems expert or a policymaker.
“My expertise comes from my experience. I now have the courage to accept that being myself is more than enough.”
“To be given the opportunity to get really clear on your own truth – that’s such a gift! That’s what the Center offers,” Cristin said. “I hope as many people as possible get the same opportunity I had.”
Cristin was able to go on that life-changing retreat in part because of your gift. Thank you for helping Cristin, her son Gabe, and the thousands of families she’s helping.
Lennon Flowers had a lot on her plate. She is co-founder and Executive Director of The Dinner Party, a new national organization forging community using potluck dinner parties among people in their 20s and 30s who’ve each experienced significant loss.
She felt the burden of heavy demands and an urgency to make a difference.
“This startup year was a challenging one,” Lennon said. “I felt consumed by endless to-do lists, worries about money, and the gnawing sensation that whatever I was doing wasn’t enough. I was perilously close to burnout.”
Lennon hadn’t made space for her own renewal. Instead she was questioning her every move.
Thanks to you, Lennon attended the Courage to Lead for Young Leaders & Activists retreat.
“Courage to Lead gave me renewed faith in my own inner voice and a chance to silence the noise,” Lennon said. “It was deeply reassuring to be among people whose interest was in asking better questions and equipping participants with the space and tools to find their own answers.
Lennon is weaving Courage & Renewal practices into the very fabric of her organization—thanks to advice from previous Courage to Lead participants and monthly mentoring calls with C&R Executive Director, Terry Chadsey.
She also engaged Courage & Renewal facilitators to lead retreats for The Dinner Party hosts to learn about creating safe space and asking open, honest questions.
“Courage & Renewal has had a catalytic impact on our work,” Lennon said. “The Courage & Renewal Touch- stones reflect the kind of spaces we want to grow in the world, and its practical techniques have been deeply instructive.
“But from a personal standpoint, the retreat was renewing in the truest sense of the word for me.”
“Courage to Lead shouldn’t be just a once-a-year or once-in-a lifetime experience,” said Lennon.
Lennon has continued to meet monthly with several Courage to Lead participants. They talk on Skype video chat.
“It’s helpful to have an open space where we can be sounding boards and question-askers and space- holders for each other.”
Through your gifts, you’re helping Lennon and The Dinner Party team create community where young people can share their experiences of loss and vulnerability. Thank you!
Looking back, I realize that I was blessed with mentors at every crucial stage of my young life, at every point where my identity needed to grow: in adolescence, in college, in graduate school, and early in my professional career. But a funny thing happened on the way to full adulthood: the mentors stopped coming. For several years I waited for the next one in vain, and for several years my own growth was on hold.
Then I realized what was happening. I was no longer an apprentice, so I no longer needed mentors. It was my turn to become a mentor to someone else. I needed to turn around and look for the new life emerging behind me, to offer to younger people the gift that had been given to me when I was young. As I did, my identity and integrity had new chances to evolve in each new encounter with my students’ lives.
Mentors and apprentices are partners in an ancient human dance, and one of teaching’s great rewards is the daily chance it gives us to get back on the dance floor. It is the dance of the spiraling generations, in which the old empower the young with their experience and the young empower the old with new life, reweaving the fabric of the human community as they touch and turn.
—from The Courage to Teach
How might you engage in a life-giving “dance” with someone of a different generation?
Your generous gifts are supporting courageous young leaders like these, as well as hundreds of people you can’t see on these pages.
What does courageous leadership look like?
It’s when a teacher trusts he can be authentic in the classroom and helps his students become their best selves.
It’s when a mother finds her own way to advocate so she can help improve the lives of other families and children.
It’s when a nonprofit leader can sustain her passion for helping other young people who’ve lost loved ones.
Your gifts transform the lives of young leaders — who in turn help so many people!