For three years, I’ve had the good fortune to bring SongwritingWith to Covenant House in Newark, NJ. Recently, this work was featured by TIME.com.
At Covenant House, I spend my mornings talking about creativity and writing songs with the residents. These young people, ages 17 – 21, formerly homeless all, have taught me a great deal about compassion, understanding, and acceptance, along with some pretty great street lingo. More than anything else, they’ve taught me the value of listening.
Deep down, to judge another person is to strip away their story, their history, their humanity. At Covenant House I’ve written songs with a former Juilliard student, an aspiring law student, poets, singers, writers, fantastic dancers, along with kids who’ve been dealers, gang members, prostitutes and yes, a slave. All of them have stories. Most are hard to hear. Sometimes glimmers of redemption shine through the darkness. At Covenant House I’ve witnessed again and again what happens when someone is seen and heard and valued. As we transform words into songs, their faces open up, they sit straighter, they want to keep going.
We’ve all got stories. And as I’ve learned with projects like SongwritingWith:Soldiers, our stories need to be told and need to be listened to. As you move through your day, slow down, look and listen, and discover the stories that surround you.