Posts by dawn

Our Frayed Edges Are Showing

By on Dec 14, 2017 in Blog |

Yesterday a shock wave rocked San Francisco with news that Mayor Ed Lee had died suddenly of a heart attack. There was no advance warning, but what happened next was humanity at its best and most beautiful. I began to see posts from people that opposed the mayor politically, filled with nothing but care and concern for his family. This seems to happen. We come together and find compassion and even care when tragedy strikes, but in our day to day interactions, we are content to spew hatred and ugliness. I want to live in a world where we treat people like they have value and we might lose them without warning. This year the word that has been the most prominent in my heart and mind is reconciliation. It feels as if we are coming apart at the seams at times. Our frayed edges show our ugliest truths and our utter lack of compassion for the “other” has felt discouragingly obvious. How do we seek and find reconciliation in the midst of this grimy, slimy, precipice where we find ourselves? Reconciliation resonates deeply within my heart, because I believe that humans desire to be reconciled at their core. We desire reconciliation with God, self and others. When we are isolated and feeling ripped from others, our hearts grieve. True connection requires risk. It costs us. The fear of trusting people with our true selves, with our hearts, is too great at times and keeps us isolated in our dark, cold reality. But sometimes when I most need it I get a glimpse of hope. Last night I watched in awe as a group of 17 parents graduated from our Triple P (Positive Parenting Program). At our first session the mistrust and caution in the room was palpable. As we journeyed together one thing became clear: these parents felt isolated and were deeply lonely in their struggle. Parenting teenagers is a challenging task no matter what the situation. Over 12 weeks I watched a group of strangers become an interconnected web of deeply loving parents. They listened without judging, supported without advising, loved without reservation. Parents who previously felt like failures began to feel supported and understood. Their pride and confidence coupled with newfound hope, was one...

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Comfort in a Sweater

By on Apr 14, 2017 in Blog |

As I sat and listened to the news I had been dreading, I was aware of the softness of the cozy sweater… Two and a half years ago I had the honor of speaking at “Coffee Talk”, a women’s gathering for Cornerstone Church in San Francisco. I shared from my momma heart about the trauma and tragedy that punctuates the lives of so many precious young people we serve. I spoke about how hard it is to get into the lifeboat when you are in the deep sea unable to touch bottom, treading water for as long as you can remember and fighting the strong tow pulling you under. This visual of everyday life for so many is tragic and overwhelming. Two days later I was in my office working on a grant proposal when I heard a loud commotion at the front door. I heard a woman shout, “I was at Coffee Talk on Saturday and I want to talk to Dawn!” My first thought was to shut my door and hide. What in the world did I say that would prompt this? That’s how Karen came into our lives. Karen and her daughter have become part of the Sunset Youth Services family. She often shows up with children’s books for our little library or second hand items she saw somewhere and “knew so and so would love.” She has created beautiful flower arrangements for the center, our gala and weddings of center families. She sees a need and works to fill it if she can. Part of the magic of SYS is there is no line between service providers and clients. This has often confused other organizations and Social Workers, but to us, it feels the most authentic in terms of supporting and helping find stable footing for vulnerable people. Having no line also creates opportunities for everyone to bring what they have to the table to share with others. The goal is to build on each one’s strengths and not have anyone feel like they have nothing to offer. I didn’t grow up with a sister, in fact, I only had one sibling and he was definitely not like a sister. I saw friends with sisters sharing clothes, fighting...

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The Spaces In-Between

By on Dec 14, 2016 in Blog |

Today, I sat in a funeral home, once again choking back tears because another young life was lost to street violence. As I looked around the packed house at all the young faces mourning the loss of their friend, I felt heartsick. Sitting there, I had an overwhelming desire to stand up and take them back with us to the Center so we can love them well and invest in their lives. The minister was thundering from the front for the youngsters to slow down, and my feelings of desperation grew. Is this the future these kids have to look forward to? Lives marked by trauma, violence, and death?   This past week at the Center, a group of kids decorated our Christmas tree, laughing and delighted as they hung beautiful donated ornaments. These are kids we’ve known for years and helped through school and the juvenile justice system––kids who have fought to reclaim their lives and break the cycles of violence and isolation we see on a daily basis. They show up at the Center week after week for connection, dinner, to tell their stories through music and video, and to dream about a different kind of future.   The internet and television have been filled with messages of gloom and despair. Hopelessness is plentiful and yet we have hope because of our work inside of the juvenile lock-up facilities featured in the following video. Creating space to Record, Reconnect and Restore young offenders is breaking the cycle of destruction and devastation.    Another reason we are even more hopeful is displayed in this original work by one of our young artists, Courage, who is sharing about his experience growing up in the city and trying to use art as a weapon against violence.    Good things are happening everyday.  I am trying to stay open to look in the “spaces in-between” for the joy that certainly exists.  Friday night we will be celebrating with over 100 young people who are also looking in the spaces in-between for  joy. They are part of my joy.   This December we invite you to dream with us and our youth for a new year filled with opportunity and hope. Your donation...

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The Place Between Weeping and Wonder

By on Apr 5, 2016 in Blog |

  I find myself living in the place between weeping and wonder these days. This season of political debates and campaigns has been disheartening. The ugliness that has  been displayed and worse, applauded by many is heartbreaking. I find myself watching in open mouthed dismay. I think I was angry once, but the anger has given way to deep sadness. Watching would-be world leaders say cruel and hateful comments and then hearing them defended by people is crushing. On February 29th the KKK held a rally in Anaheim, CA. As I watched the news in shock and horror I began to get text messages from young black people that I love asking me “why?”, “how?” As tears rolled down my cheeks I could only respond with, “I’m sorry.” What else can I say? I was brought into a conversation with  an aggressive and unkind woman on the sidewalk in front of the center one day. This woman was complaining to me about the volume of our music. She had already worked her way through two staff members before she got to me. The first person she spoke to lowered the music volume, but that didn’t seem to satisfy her. As I spoke with this lady I was having a hard time understanding exactly what her problem was because by now the music from the burrito shop next door was louder. After about 15 minutes of trying to unpack the issue, she said, “a youth center like this is ok in the Bayview, but it doesn’t belong in the Sunset.” It took me a few seconds to realize what had just happened. When I told her that I was no longer going to engage in a racist conversation she looked surprised and offended. As she drove away in her Volvo with a DIVERSITY bumper sticker, I stood there while kids asked me why she cared what neighborhood they were in, all I could say was, “I’m sorry.” The weeping has become my companion. It’s like a blanket that I find myself wrapped up in. I find the despair over the issues that are still front and center in our society to be overwhelming at times. Daily I look into faces of stressed out youth and families that...

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