Am I a Product of My Decisions or Circumstances?

I recently read a quote that said, “I’m not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions.”

That phrase has been like a splinter buried in my skin, constantly irritating and demanding attention. I’ve wrestled with it over and over and tried to figure out why it bothers me. Then, it dawned on me. At the core, this statement is about justice …  and was obviously written by someone with opportunity … someone like me.

I understand the context of taking responsibility for the decisions I make in my life, but I’ve had opportunity. I was born in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, to a financially secure and emotionally stable family, with parents that loved each other and loved me. My parents encouraged me to study hard in school that was easily accessible and free because I lived in the US. I was given fertile soil in which to grow and blessed with freedom to make good decisions. But this is not everyone’s reality.

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A young girl at the Terminal Dump in Guatemala City. Photo by Scott Owen Moore.

For the last five years, I’ve been immersed in stories about the least, last, and lost – people whose circumstances include things like civil war, murdered family members, drug addicted parents, physical and sexual abuse, poverty, prostitution, theft, gang culture, street life … and survival. Are these people also products of their decisions? Yes … but where I had the freedom to make good decisions, they have been forced to decide between bad and worse, just to survive.

Circumstances filter the options from which to decide. But, creativity gives us the power to see beyond our current circumstances and limitations. 

Creativity doesn’t just open existing doors, it creates new structures and frameworks to walk into. Creativity multiplies opportunities for everyone regardless of circumstance because it enables us to dream. Creativity empowers a child born into a slum to escape the cycle of survival and move into a new hope of opportunity like micro-enterprise. Creativity also enables leaders to envision governmental structures built upon justice.

Children Playing at the Terminal Dump in Guatemala City. Photo by Scott Owen Moore.
Children Playing at the Terminal Dump in Guatemala City. Photo by Scott Owen Moore.

Our nation’s forefathers dreamed beyond rule of monarchy when they wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our forefathers collaborated in creativity born from and for justice because the God who created all men equal, also created the creativity which enabled these men to see beyond autocratic rule.

God is the creator of everything … including creativity. Creativity flows from God through us in a spiritual language that shares prophetic vision of who God wants us to be. It’s an opportunity to meditate on truths that we are unable to speak or comprehend on our own. Creativity invites each of us on a shared journey through opportunities that were once invisible. In the midst of fearful survival, creativity illuminates opportunity for justice.

As someone with opportunity, I choose to help others who live without it.

Through creativity, I choose to dream with others to share a story greater than myself. Our story is a beautifully diverse ensemble of broken and lost souls singing songs of grace, mercy, and undeserved forgiveness from a creator who loves us so much that He created a way to redeem us all through his own sacrifice: the ultimate expression of creativity AND justice.

If this resonates with you, we’d love for you to join the community in Athentikos: I Am Art .

Let’s explore creativity and justice together.

I’d love to know your thoughts. What do you think?

Clowning Around

We are well underway in the process of ‘Becoming Fools’!

Clowning is a performance art. It’s experiential. It’s theatre. And … it’s cathartic. Clowning can help these kids process their tragic stories and better understand their wounds. Clowning can also empower these kids to begin to communicate their stories non-verbally – in a way that crosses culture and language – so that we the audience can begin to understand their needs and respond. Both the clown and the audience have the opportunity to heal.

Classes are now in full swing every Tuesday and Thursday.  In these training sessions, kids are learning and perfecting a variety of skills included in clowning and in theatrical performance.  After each class the kids are tasked with specific skills and exercises to continue practicing at home.  How fun it has been to watch the kids being creative, being silly, expressing themselves, and improving their skills!!

At times, it may seem that a theatrical performance at such a big scale may be a goal that is unachievable.  But the kids involved in this project are extremely talented.  And these kids are passionate about influencing people around them in a similar way that Italo inspired them.

“My dream is leaving the streets for good and being able to have myself  a small business to have a training shop – workshops with makeup and stuff like that. And help people that are in need like I am need right now,” Byron says.

“That is part of my dream, to become an artist, a great artist like himself.  I like to bring joy to people’s lives, and I like to see people laughing. My purpose is to bring joy and happiness to people, to bring a moment of joy to others, a moment of entertainment, a moment in which they can clear their minds,” Mefi shares.

The kids have been practicing skills like improvisation, vocal coordination and projection, facial expressions and exaggeration, stage directions, dramatization, the art of applying make-up and everything in between.  All the while embracing a stronger understanding of self-confidence.

Throughout the process of preparing for the Becoming Fools Live Event, these kids are given a goal to work towards, something to practice and thus a very tangible way to see their skills and themselves grow.

We have a long road ahead of us, but the kids are enjoying the ride and so are we!!

Teatro Abril will host Becoming Fools Live Event

We have secured Teatro Abril as the venue for our live clowning event this June, and we couldn’t be more excited! Teatro Abril is one of the most historic and celebrated theaters in Guatemala City, known for its amazing charm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marble floors, spiraling staircases, ornate European-inspired statues and beautiful chandeliers fill the lobby of Teatro Abril to create a breath-taking entrance. These elements give the theater a sophisticated charm that inspires and represents Guatemalan culture. The exceptional attention to detail in the design of Teatro Abril continues into many salons located throughout the theater. It is estimated that over 50,000 people attend events at Teatro Abril each year.

The theater is located off the lobby through a large, golden curtain. It comfortably seats 700 people on the main level and two balcony level seats. The carpet and seats are a beautiful red fabric that gives the space color and continue the character of Teatro Abril.

Take a min to look at some more pictures at: http://teatroabril.com/. We will keep you updated and look forward to sharing the live event with you in months to come.

Art Camp 2011

Thanks to a grant from LEGO, Athentikos was able to partner with Lemonade International to take children from one of Central America’s largest slum communities to a week long Art Camp on the Guatemalan coast.

WATCH THE HIGHLIGHT VIDEO BELOW.


The camp was appropriately named ‘Emocionarte’, a combination of the Spanish words for emotion and art. Many of the children from Limonada have experienced violence and abuse, so “Emocionarte’ was designed to teach students how to process emotions and communicate them in a healthy way using various art forms. One of our friends suggested that it was a time for the kids to express their emotions and for us to hold ours back.

Our seven hour journey from Guatemala City took us on three school buses through the mountains, desert and jungle of Guatemala to El Faro, an absolutely beautiful retreat center located on the coast of Punta de Palma, Izabal. Most of the children had never left the dangerous red zones of Guatemala City. The wide-open spaces of the camp were a whole new world to these young explorers from the small concrete alleys of La Limonada. Words cannot even begin to express our delight as we watched them run and play in the lush green grass and swim in the ocean for the first time.

Athentikos taught 90 kids and 30 adults in classes involving painting, sculpture, drama, collage and LEGOs. Every night ended with a special event including a costume party, an acoustic concert by Amy Stroup, bonfires on the beach and a movie night. As camp started, the LEGOs were still held up in customs at the Danish Embassy, and we didn’t know if they would be released in time to make it to camp. Miraculously the LEGOs showed up via boat on the second day. We were thrilled to be able to share this incredible gift from LEGO with the children from La Limonada.

The kids were very creative with their LEGO projects even though they had never played with them before. They built houses with meticulous detail, including toilets, TVs, trash cans filled with trash, stoves with propane tanks, lamps and couches. One boy shared that he built his home with red and white bricks to represent the peace and love that he always wanted to fill his house. Another designed his house with a very large kitchen because he wanted to be able to serve food to his surrounding community. These thoughts were so profound coming from children with such painful stories. We constantly had to remind ourselves that these were children from La Limonada.

On the final evening, we screened Reparando, our documentary that features the community where these children live. They were fascinated to see familiar people and places on the big screen. After the film, the Athentikos team gave each child a doll made by Maria (the Doll Lady) and explained the purpose of the story’s metaphor. It was a perfect way to close the emotional week and a very special time for the Athentikos team to share with the kids.

Upon returning to Guatemala City, we hosted an Art Show for the La Limonada community. Families were invited to see the children’s creations and hear firsthand from several of the students about their experience. The energy level was high and applause filled the room as each group shared. We were extremely proud of the kids and honored to partner with the staff of La Limonada in this life-changing camp! Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible!