I have some really amazing friends. The kind of friends that you just want to share stories about because they know their gifts, and use them to love and empower others. They have a real joy about doing difficult things, and they value people deeply. Their lives demonstrate their faith and makes you want to know more about it. They bring glory to God and just inspire you.
My friend Stephanie Snell is one of those ladies. Stephanie and I have forged a friendship as we both walked a difficult path and I am so grateful for her.
Stephanie is an amazing actress. I love that she knows what makes her heart sing, and she shares it with others. A few years ago she founded Girl Talk Theatre with the mission to use the art of theatre as a tool for empowering homeless, poor and marginalized women. Her theatre group gives these women a safe place to tell their stories and helps to show these women that their past, present and future are valuable and should be shared.
When she asked me if I would be willing to photograph this year's production by Girl Talk Theatre, at the Central Square Theater, I jumped at the opportunity.
I had the opportunity to watch as Stephanie and her co-director Mimi Huntington walked the ladies through the cue-to-cue, and the dress rehearsals. I had the opportunity to have dinner with the ladies and then to watch their performance. In the down time, we even had a little fun with my instant camera. It was really so wonderful to be a part of their day.
In the weeks since their performance, these are the things I keep coming back to:
- The ladies of Girl Talk are ladies I would like to be friends with. They are brave, poised, joyful, resourceful and beautiful.
- Through their performance, I learned about the "bed lottery" at homeless shelters. I had assumed that there were enough places for everyone who wanted to stay at a shelter. I was surprised, and discouraged to find out that this isn't true and instead beds are awarded by lottery. If you are homeless and looking for a place in a shelter you must get there early to be entered into the lottery and hope that you get lucky enough to win a bed. If you don't, you need to find some place to spend the night. I have since found a website created as a resource for those who are homeless that suggests that one of the train stations, an emergency room or as a last resort the police station might be safe for a night. I have been haunted by this idea of really having no guaranteed safe place to sleep.
- It is complicated to be without a home to say the least. Just one of the places you can see the complexity is in the diversity of rules at shelters. Each shelter has different rules. They are valuable, and keep the ladies safe but sometimes it feels arbitrary and is hard to keep track of all the rules. I've thought about how disorienting it would be to find yourself looking to stay at a shelter, and to not understand the rules. This is even more complex if speaking and understanding English is a challenge for you.
- Stories are so important. There is such value in sharing our stories both for those sharing and for those that listen. It gives importance to your experience, it helps us to value one another, it makes us feel human. I would like to be a better listener when others share their stories, and I would like to be brave enough to tell some of mine.
- There is such power in knowing your gift, and using it to serve others. The ladies who are members of Girl Talk theater are deeply impacted because Stephanie and Mimi know that acting, and teaching the art of theatre is one of their gifts. I aspire to know my giftedness in that way, and to be brave enough to share it.
- I hope I get to spend more time with these ladies soon.