I saw a quote on the internet from Danielle La Porte that made me shout out “Yes!” and give wiggly fingers (a PFO tradition that means we support or are excited by what someone has said or done) to! It so clearly has summed up my first two months with Playing For Others: “The bonus of showing up fully in your life is that you inspire others to do the same – you’re doing all of us a favor. Authenticity is a form of service.” Never have I worked with a group of individuals who strive to pull the best, and only the most authentic best, out of every human that they encounter. As Jen and Kelsey introduced me to PFO, they stressed two questions: “Who am I?” and “How will I give of that?” Those two questions, embedded in PFO’s mission, are a crystal clear way to cut through pretense and ask people to show up and be present. That has stuck with me in every encounter with the teens, my fellow advisors, and people outside of the organization.

On the first day of the full group retreat we were reminded that as adults we set the tone for how open and supportive the environment should be for the kids, so I went full force. I ran around like a tornado in the games, danced my booty off at dance parties, and sat in teen led discussions with a wide open mind and heart. Witnessing the circle of trust and seeing teens rushing to the sides of others who had just admitted something that made them feel vulnerable was breathtaking. Finding commonalities amongst teens and advisors was so very humbling and brave, from both sides of the conversation.

The energy of the organization filters into to each young person, encouraging them to grow, to show us their stuff, and embrace their journey. The fact that PFO is a part of their life shaping is the most exciting and awe inspiring aspect to me. Yes, as adults we are guiding them through various art mediums, committee tasks, and practical life skills such as organization and accountability, but it is in the moments of reassurance that we are in fact present for them that I feel most blessed by this experience. Knowing that many of them have experienced highs and lows of life already, their feelings and ideas are so worthy and valid. My particular committee has embraced photography as a passion, a way to communicate their inner feelings and even to aid them in moments of anxiety. They share their talents and their concerns about how to tackle a problem and all jump in to encourage and lift up. Being exposed to the other non-profits and their missions are an invaluable way to not only cultivate compassion, but to teach the action of kindness.

As an advisor, it is more than a privilege to guide them, for as we work together they in fact are guiding me. I never want to stop growing or learning, reaching deeper into the questions of “Who am I?” and “How will I give of that?”, and luckily, with PFO, I will be expected to keep going further.