Your Soul Will Sing
by Jan Thrope
Recently someone described me as a “treasure hunter.” I wander down streets in Cleveland and East Cleveland discovering people who have dreams for improving the community. After meeting so many powerful people I decided to start a program to support these visions. It is called Inner Visions of Cleveland. Our motto is: “The visions within us can change the sites around us.” The mission is to create thriving neighborhoods where inequities are eliminated. We form relationships of mutual benefit across neighborhood boundaries. Diverse groups of people share talents and resources to accomplish grassroots projects that are initiated and led by citizens of Cleveland and East Cleveland. We hold giving circles and provide micro-loans to support these endeavors.
Before Inner Visions of Cleveland was founded, I was working at a homeless shelter and my husband Geoff, wanted to start his own business. We had two young boys at the time and my salary didn’t cover our monthly expenses. Yet, we were both confident in Geoff’s ability, so he quit his job to form his own company. Each month we had to dip into our savings to pay the bills. We’d say to each other, if things get really bad we know a great shelter to go to.
Then Cleveland was designated the poorest big city in the nation. It hurt me to the core to realize that we were loosing the fight to end poverty. Each morning as I meditated I heard a still small voice suggesting that I quit my job. I fantasized about writing a photo journal from the perspective of people who not only faced the greatest challenges brought on by poverty, but who also had inspiring ideas about solutions.
There was also a nagging negative voice that said, “Don’t you dare quit your job. You can’t earn money writing a book and Geoff’s business just started making some money. “ We were cautious because we knew things could spiral down quickly. I told myself I was crazy to think I could write a photo book about poverty. I’m not a photographer or a writer. In fact, I believe I have undiagnosed dyslexia. Words are like origami to me, I see them twisted on the page and in my mind. Before I can decipher content on a page or even try to write I have to untangle them. Every sentence has to be written multiple times and in the process my original thought often gets lost. But that whispering voice continued to nudge me to make injustices visible. The whisper became a roar that I couldn’t ignore. With Geoff’s loving support I quit my job at the shelter to write a book entitled: Inner Visions; Grassroots Stories of Truth and Hope.
The process of writing the book was fraught with equal doses of insatiable desire to tell the story and an overwhelming fear of failure. I worried that my inadequacy as a writer and photographer would cause me to misrepresent the very people I wanted to promote. I kept these two quotes from“ The Artists Way” on my desk.
1. “You take care of the quantity; God will take care of the quality.”
2. “The more I step out in the service of my vision, the less and less important it is that I am afraid.”
The book was published in 2011. It won the Grand Prize at the Frist Generation Indy Book Awards in New York and received awards from the Nautilus and National Indie Excellence awards. Since it’s publication, improvements have been made at all the places where negative photos were taken for the book. It bares proof that hope is happening in Cleveland.
Through this process I have learned to not let fear restrict me from pursuing my passions. Fear kept me contained in a protective box. I felt safe yet unfulfilled. So when I dared to move through the walls of fear, the world opened up to me. I met people who have allowed me into their lives and expanded the places that I now call home. They have filled the empty places in me. And I have had experiences that would never have been possible if I had let fear limit me. It is not that I no longer feel fear. It is just that people have showed me how to embrace faith and spirituality, which are infinitely more powerful.
When you listen to your dreams that you once silenced, your soul will sing.
Click here for more information about Inner Visions of Cleveland.