I'm hopefully working on a great comedy piece that you will probably either absolute love or despise profusely. I will try to get it up either tonight or early tomorrowm however, it is using a technology and the aid of a website that I have never used before on this computer, so if I can't get that to work, then all my work would have been in vain. No big deal about that though, I've had a blast writing it.
Anyways, this post is something much more serious than that. Today, as maybe some of you may but most of you probably don't know, is TWLOHA day. TWLOHA (pronounced like "aloha" only with a TW in front of it) stands for To Write Love On Her Arms and is a chartiy and a non-profit movement "dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery". I found out about the group earlier this year from someone I went to high school with. She is actually the one responsible for getting a TWLOHA chapter at Bloom and is thus the current president. But anyways, she kept putting links up about it on Facebook, and having never heard of it before, I checked all them out and found myself enthralled with the idea and concept of the group. While luckily, neither I nor my family nor my circuit of really close friends have ever been affected by depression, self-injury, addiction, and suicide, there are people who have and as a future educator, I am (sadly) probably going to encounter a few who have and (even more sadly) a few who themselves suffer from it. I joined the group with the most sincere intentions of educating myself in helping others as I have no course in college that deals with helping people get help who have these kinds of problems. I'm not a therapist and I will never claim to be, however if I can be around and establish a support system in which I can send my future students to that need help, it will make all the difference in the world to me.
I am typing it now, because as mentioned in the title, today is TWLOHA Day. While I wish I could give you an explanation as to why thbat day is November 13, frankly, I can't. It is not something that the group itself came up with, according to the founder in a blog post today, but rather, just one of those things that just happened. I wish I could give you more, but frankly, I can't and I'm not sure if there is anyone out there who can.
Regardless, tomorrow the BU Chapter of TWLOHA is hosting a benefit show that I will proudly be working from 3:30 to midnight. We have a bunch of local bands coming to play. The concert itself is designed to raise awareness about the aforementioned issues that TWLOHA promotes. I am greatly looking forward to it and will probably be having a great time.
I have posted below the story of the founding of TWLOHA as told by the founder of the group, himself.
(Warning: there is some explicit content in here as well as some strong religious references. These are not my words nor do they necessarily represent my religious views and beliefs).
Renee is 19. When I meet her, cocaine is fresh in her system. She hasn't slept in 36 hours and she won't for another 24. It is a familiar blur of coke, pot, pills and alcohol. She has agreed to meet us, to listen and to let us pray. We ask Renee to come with us, to leave this broken night. She says she'll go to rehab tomorrow, but she isn't ready now. It is too great a change. We pray and say goodbye and it is hard to leave without her.This story occured a few years. Renee is still sober.
She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has felt the touch of awful naked men, battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades, fifty scars that speak of self-inflicted wounds. Six hours after I meet her, she is feeling trapped, two groups of "friends" offering opposite ideas. Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the blade to write "FUCK UP" large across her left forearm.
The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a risk, and does not accept her. For the next five days, she is ours to love. We become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life. It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.
She is full of contrast, more alive and closer to death than anyone I've known, like a Johnny Cash song or some theatre star. She owns attitude and humor beyond her 19 years, and when she tells me her story, she is humble and quiet and kind, shaped by the pain of a hundred lifetimes. I sit privileged but breaking as she shares. Her life has been so dark yet there is some soft hope in her words, and on consecutive evenings, I watch the prettiest girls in the room tell her that she's beautiful. I think it's God reminding her.
I've never walked this road, but I decide that if we're going to run a five-day rehab, it is going to be the coolest in the country. It is going to be rock and roll. We start with the basics; lots of fun, too much Starbucks and way too many cigarettes
Thursday night she is in the balcony for Band Marino, Orlando's finest. They are indie-folk-fabulous, a movement disguised as a circus. She loves them and she smiles when I point out the A&R man from Atlantic Europe, in town from London just to catch this show.
She is in good seats when the Magic beat the Sonics the next night, screaming like a lifelong fan with every Dwight Howard dunk. On the way home, we stop for more coffee and books, Blue Like Jazz and (Anne Lamott's) Travelling Mercies.
On Saturday, the Taste of Chaos tour is in town and I'm not even sure we can get in, but doors do open and minutes after parking, we are on stage for Thrice, one of her favorite bands. She stands ten feet from the drummer, smiling constantly. It is a bright moment there in the music, as light and rain collide above the stage. It feels like healing. It is certainly hope.
Sunday night is church and many gather after the service to pray for Renee, this her last night before entering rehab. Some are strangers but all are friends tonight. The prayers move from broken to bold, all encouraging. We're talking to God but I think as much, we're talking to her, telling her she's loved, saying she does not go alone. One among us knows her best. Ryan sits in the corner strumming an acoustic guitar, singing songs she's inspired.
After church our house fills with friends, there for a few more moments before goodbye. Everyone has some gift for her, some note or hug or piece of encouragement. She pulls me aside and tells me she would like to give me something. I smile surprised, wondering what it could be. We walk through the crowded living room, to the garage and her stuff.
She hands me her last razor blade, tells me it is the one she used to cut her arm and her last lines of cocaine five nights before. She's had it with her ever since, shares that tonight will be the hardest night and she shouldn't have it. I hold it carefully, thank her and know instantly that this moment, this gift, will stay with me. It hits me to wonder if this great feeling is what Christ knows when we surrender our broken hearts, when we trade death for life.
As we arrive at the treatment center, she finishes: "The stars are always there but we miss them in the dirt and clouds. We miss them in the storms. Tell them to remember hope. We have hope."
Rescue is possible. Love is the movement.