It’s approaching 3:00 PM, and our second-ever RoundABLE discussion panel is coming to a close. I twirl a simple acorn in my hand as I listen to the panelists and a few audience members talk through the topics that mean the most to them; we have definitely gone overtime. But, despite other LSG team members packing up booths and signs and supplies right outside the door, the conversation has been so engaging to where it kept persisting. That is why I’m confident this RoundABLE was a firm success like the previous one: It was a very worthy cap-off for the day’s activities at our “Growing Our Future” storytelling event. The discussion centered on subjects like mental health, legal cases, organizations and their diverseABILITY services, and more. One of the panelists, Anthony Harkness, program manager at the South Valley DVR office, reflected on what he and his many colleagues do on a daily basis and said something that will keep resonating with me: “I pick up my hammer every day and bang on the wall; one day it will break.”
To me, that metaphor speaks powerfully on the work many organizations like DVR and LSG do—it's an intricate series of steps, some of them huge and others tinier than we expected, but nonetheless it all contributes to us breaking down the barriers preventing diverseABLED individuals from living their lives. And all of this connects neatly to the overall theme of the storytelling event itself: growth. We identify the obstacles on the way for these individuals to grow into their truest selves and do what we can to be guides along those paths. Sometimes, that means we must plant an acorn and let a glorious tree bloom from it, and other times we need to take up our hammers and swing vigorously at the brick walls restraining us.
An event like “Growing Our Future” is so suitable for Earth Day because it is not only about the blossoming and thriving of plant life, but of human beings as well. Every guest at the event was involved in the act of nurturing our planet, but they also had the chance to feel that nurturing in their bones:
- The day began with an Aztec dance group, Los Compadritos de Ollin Xochipilli, performing an earth-blessing ceremony—a truly mesmerizing experience in every respect.
- Father Milton from St. Augustine Catholic Church at Isleta Pueblo followed up on this performance by leading staff and guests in a prayer for Creation, next to the spot where we would later plant a Chisos red oak tree.
- At that point, the storytelling presentations began with Bob Kanegis and Liz Mangual regaling several kids and adults with tales about a hungry, mean-spirited giant and a hummingbird forming its colors.
- Theresa Lucero, our engagement coordinator, followed Bob and Liz with a reading of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.
- LaRoy Moore, one of LSG’s school psychologists, then guided some of our young guests through a workshop all around planting seeds and nurturing them into glorious trees.
- And, of course, we had several booths set up for organizations like Explora and Red Root and activities like a “Spin to Win” wheel and creating your own Earth Day jewelry.
Finally, the RoundABLE panel concluded the event with one more opportunity to share personal, incredibly meaningful stories. We had excellent contributions from all our panelists: DVR program manager Anthony Harkness, parent Leslea Lehoucq, attorney Holly Mell, and epidemiologist Dylan Pell. The newest member of the LSG crew, business liaison Nathan Winham, also joined in! The discussion continued well beyond the expected end time, with fruitful exchanges between the panelists and audience members. As the conversation expanded and expanded, I gently spun that acorn in my fingers—earlier on, Theresa had bequeathed each attendee with their own, so we could easily plant our own Chisos red oak tree should we wish it. Looking on at the proceedings of the RoundABLE, and recalling all the tale-telling and the ceremony and the nourishment of the Earth that led us to that point, I knew a healthy acorn had already been planted. I am looking forward to planting many more, very soon.
[all photos by La Dawna Pea]
Until the next story,
Aaron Kelly Anderson
a.k.a. “A PhD on the Spectrum”