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?

Wrestling With Thanksgiving

I’m wrestling with Thanksgiving.

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I’m not wearing a Lucha Libre mask, leaping high off the ropes to grapple a turkey (although that would be epic). I’m talking about being honest with myself about what I’m thankful for.

I’m typically thankful for the good things in my life:

God, Family, Food, Shelter, Health, Education, Friends, Travel … things that warm my heart and put a smile on my face.

But what about the other stuff?

What about the stuff that has angered me, saddened me, or hurt me? What about the things that have really been a struggle? Am I thankful for those things? What things fit into that category? Depending on my perspective (or lack of one) … anything can.

I’ve been immersed in Becoming Fools for the last three years. It has been a stressful journey and I have found myself growing more and more exhausted … and less and less thankful for the opportunity to be involved with the project. I used to feel the same way about Reparando. But that changed over time, after we released the film.

Like most humans, I forget too easily.

During my Becoming Fools scouting trip in 2011, Tita asked me to personally attend a screening of Reparando. I was honored for the invite, but was exhausted from two weeks of 16 hour days interviewing people and capturing footage in Guatemala City. Part of me wanted to just go back to my room and go to sleep. I couldn’t understand why it made a difference if I was there. I thought, “I am just a silly Gringo. They won’t care. And besides … I’m in Guatemala for Becoming Fools, not Reparando.” But Tita was persistent. She said she really wanted me to come. So, we drove straight from our production across the city to a church near La Limonada. Tita met us outside the church with hugs and we watched the film from the back of the room.

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After the film ended, Tita called Shorty and I to come up in front. She hugged me, and while everyone was clapping, they presented a gift from the people of La Limonada: A T-shirt covered with signatures of people who live in La Limonada … People who were very thankful we made the film. I could not have been more wrong about … everything.

My perspective was renewed.

Reparando brought me closer to many things in the list I made above – God, family, friends, education, and travel. On a personal level, it helped me understand my sons’ stories in a way that I could never grasp otherwise. On a broader level, Reparando has inspired countless resources given to mission that have blessed people with much more struggle than I could ever image – people who are very thankful.

I believe that Becoming Fools will do the same eventually. So why am I wrestling with thanksgiving over Becoming Fools? I’m human. I forget. That’s why we’re called to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (continually refocusing our perspective on truth). We forget. That’s one of the reasons we celebrate Thanksgiving: to remember. I am personally challenged to remember things that might not seem to easily fit into a warm and fuzzy Thanksgiving box. Because most of the time, I’m just trying to put these things in the box from the wrong angle.

Here’s the right angle:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Everything fits in the Thanksgiving box with the right angle.

It’s not easy, but hopefully if I continue to wrestle, Thanksgiving will eventually win with a knockout.

What Thanksgiving do you wrestle with?

Homeless Youth Aren’t Always Orphans

Homeless youth aren’t always orphans.

Becoming Fools documents the intriguing story of homeless youth in Guatemala learning to heal through the art of clowning. During production, we developed friendships with youth who began living on the streets when they were 7 years old – and we learned a lot about the issue. One of the most profound revelations is that a great number of these youth living in the streets actually have family that they could return to. But these youth choose to remain in the streets.

Some children lose their families. But many other youth CHOOSE to live in the streets – sleep in the rain, eat scraps from a dumpster, disengage from society, constantly “exist” in the threat of harm, and fall into the trap of drug addiction or prostitution …  etc … rather than return home to a roof and company of a family? Why? Often, it’s because violent city streets are actually more peaceful than the homes they left behind. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around that fact. But, I grew up in a healthy family.

Many of these youth were born into extreme conditions that will continue to incubate drug addiction, child labor, violence, and abuse … unless something changes the paradigm and endless cycle.

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Becoming Fools features stories from youth who fled to the streets for different reasons – but in a way, are exactly the same. Mefi lost both of his parents when he was 7 years old and moved in with a family member who abused him. Sandy was sent to the streets at an early age to sell candy to help provide income for her family. She was beaten when she didn’t return home with her quota. Raul lost his mother at an early age and lived with his alcoholic father who repeatedly abused him. They all have family … but their family members are abusive. They are guaranteed to be abused at home. At least there is a small chance of peace in the streets.

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It’s an extreme issue in Guatemala that doesn’t have an easy solution. For many reasons, there isn’t yet a strong culture of adoption and foster care in Guatemala, but that wouldn’t matter anyway. These children aren’t orphans. There isn’t a strong social services program with funding and resources to intervene. Unfortunately, Guatemala is riddled with violence and many people confuse homeless youth with violent delinquents (gang members, drug traffickers, organized crime) and ignore opportunities to make a difference. As result, these youth slip under the radar as they wander the streets trying to survive.

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But all is not lost. There are organizations responding to the issue, developing relationships with these youth and working with them day to day, in the hopes that their lives will be healed and transformed. During Becoming Fools production, we saw first hand how these “fools” pour their passion into the uphill battle of rescuing and rehabilitating homeless youth. On one occasion, a couple organizations partnered together so street youth from Guatemala City could share their clown performance with orphans outside of Antigua. Part of this event ended up in the final cut of the film and the symbolic significance of the event still echoes in my mind: homeless youth clowning for orphans, organizations partnering together, and joy conquering tragedy.

Help us conquer tragedy with joy by giving a tax deductible donation to the Becoming Fools Screening Tour.

Casa Bernabé Gives Hope To At-Risk Children in Guatemala

Casa Bernabé gives hope to at-risk children in Guatemala though orphan care, a community medical center, family counseling and in-country adoption awareness programs.

Casa Bernabé gives hopes to at-risk youth

An estimated 5,000 youth live in the streets of Guatemala City. Each of them has their own unique story, but all of them struggle with wounded hearts. Abuse and neglect have made it difficult for there children to integrate into society, but hope is rising. Individuals and organizations are investing in at-risk youth to prevent them from going to the street by restoring broken families and helping children in the street find their way back into loving homes.

Casa Bernabé has a long history of investing in at-risk youth. Located on 13 acres outside of Guatemala City, Casa Bernabé is home to more than 150 children that have come from at-risk living situations. Their unique approach to orphan care includes homes with family groups. Each child belongs to a loving, nurturing family made up of house parents and their own children. They live together in individual homes large enough for 15-20 children of the same age group. As a family unit they eat, pray, play and work together.

In this video, Lili shares how her life was rescued and healed through the community at Casa Bernabé.

2012 was a year of adventure and blessing for Athentikos

2012 Athentikos Collage

We are grateful to be able to share the journey of 2012 with you:

  • Athentikos took a risk and began production
    on the Becoming Fools documentary without full funding, believing God
    would provide. As of December 2012, the film is 75% complete.
  • Athentikos was blessed with our first production intern, Brandon Rojano.
  • In June, Athentikos partnered with Guatemalan Churches, NGO’s, Local and Federal Government in a consultation event to explore homelessness and present an official report to the Guatemalan Government.
  • In June, homeless youth shared their story through a theatrical performance in front of over 400 people in Guatemala’s historic Teatro Abril.
  • Athentikos served on a leadership team with Lemonade International & Vidas Plenas to host an annual Art Camp
    for 100 at-risk kids in the community of La Limonada. Guatemala.
    Athentikos provided over 70% of the funding through individual donations
    and a grant given by LEGO.

Stories inspire change and hope. We are thankful to be
able to share these incredible blessings from 2012! They would not be
possible without you! Please help Athentikos continue to inspire through
the art of story by giving a tax-deductible gift of $50, $100, $200 or
more. Your investment will be exponentially returned as it inspires through the art of story throughout 2013 and years to come!

Thank you for believing with us and generously sharing your time, talent
and treasure! We are all part of this story to inspire together!

Help us inspire hope by giving a tax-deductible donation.

Please give online today or send a check to:

Athentikos PO Box 1902 Springhill, TN 37174

Thank you,

Scott & Amelia Moore

www.athentikos.com