As I stood in a room of hundreds of engaged diverse people rapt in spoken word performances from the PFO teens, I was struck with the awe of what can happen when a group decides to become a team. No longer a collection of individuals, a team unites for a common purpose, which is usually to kick major butt in whatever contest they have entered.

The Connecting Charlotte event was a contest of who could bring the largest, most wonderful gathering of minds together. How can we win over their hearts for social justice, topics that are more than headlines in Facebook feeds, but living breathing populations affected by injustice in our very own neighborhoods? Who will celebrate the most that there are so many worthy and awesome non-profits gathering steam in our city that is busting at the seams? Standing at a pause during one of the most eloquent poems of the evening, I could feel the room breathing in a fresh energy that whispered to all who listened, “thank you”. This energy of gratitude is the spine of Playing For Others and from where all things radiate. Perhaps it is why the teens and advisors from PFO all seem like the most beautiful creatures to me, because their gratitude and joy shines from their faces.

Walking into a room with members of Playing For Others is like no other room you will enter. It’s part Rainbow Bright dance party and hot stone massage. It is a yoga studio where safety and reflection are cultivated through massive hugs and spirit fingers. A space where the welcome isn’t on the door mat, but in the eyes of the person greeting you. And the next thing you will register upon welcome is thank you! Thank you is not because you arrived, but because you have showed up. Passivity is not encouraged, reflection is. Action is demanded along with total intention. Even the randomness at times is purposeful. Playing For Others is gratitude.

Embodying the tenets of gratitude through time and treasure, we who choose to get involved are automatically enrolled in a process of betterment. Get your hands dirty betterment, play in the sandbox betterment, imagine everyone better betterment…EVERYONE! The playing field is leveled and every walk of life interacts and appreciates one another, even if only for one evening. Yet so many are inspired to stick around, to get involved, to lend their unique gifts of self to become part of the team. There is no I in team, but lots of me! PFO dares you to be yourself so that you will no longer hide parts that can serve the world. Fanning the flames of your true identity so that all who work with you are sharpened by the tools that they lack and only you possess. When you give of your talents you are simultaneously receiving the benefits of your team’s gifts and energy.

And the team keeps growing, gratefully. For as long as there are communities to be served, populations who feel bothered, organizations who need someone to support them, and teens who need an adult to look them in the eyes with total wonderment, we have not won the final championship. I would not change one moment of the time that I have thus invested in Playing For Others. My heart overflows with gratitude over their scandalous investment in time, treasure and talent in me. As this week heads into Thanksgiving and holiday shopping, I will be looking at celebration very differently. I will loudly celebrate all of my blessings through the lens of how they not only benefit me and my family, but how they consciously spill out ripples of joy and love to my community and the world. Thank you, so deeply, to PFO for opening the door and saying welcome.

Much love,
Drea