“Starfire tells you: ‘You can do this.’ There’s a big difference between cannot do and can.”
One of the privileges I have as a researcher storyteller is listening to others tell their story. The only thing to do is listen. If the story is authentic, if it comes from the heart, it bubbles out like a spring and happily offers itself.
Starfire’s story plays out in different ways, and there are various sides of the story to be told. But the humble truth is that when people speak about their story of Starfire, it is with a common, binding sincerity, albeit heated, elated or some combination of both.
Perhaps it’s because we’re talking about people’s lives. That’s about as sincere as it gets. Maybe too because we’re talking about something that a lot of people don’t talk about: inclusion, in the real sense of the word. It’s not a facade, used to lure funders and supporters. It’s a constant and sincere effort, felt by many people for the first time.
One of my most recent conversations was with mother and sculptor, Leslie Daly, whose art will be featured at our annual fundraiser ArtAbility (coming up in next week, December 7th!) She spoke to the experience her daughter, Katie, has had this year as a first year Starfire U member, and what she has always hoped for her daughter. What she said was beautiful.
First, a few things about Katie. She loves music and acting. This year she is trying a lot of other pursuits in the Arts, including glass making and sewing. Said of her seamstress skills by Jessica, who teaches sewing at Starfire U:
“Katie’s so stylish. She is a bit of a Victorian, I love her. She has a lot of courage in sewing. She’s conquering a big mountain with the project she is working on now.”
“I came here (Starfire) during the summer. My brother is in university, and I wanted to do the same, so that I can be an independent woman. I just want to learn how to get a job in something I love to do, like music and acting… It’s my dream to prove myself to my parents… I love Starfire, I pick my goals, make friends. It’s really fun here. Everyone loves when they come here, so it makes me want to be here too… I want to become a woman, take responsibility and care of myself, focus on my goals, get married, have kids. It’s important to focus on goals, when you’re done you might have a job doing your hobbies.”
And her mother told me:
“This is what we have wanted for Katie from the very beginning. We have tried to make it so that she was given the same things her brothers and sister were, as far as discipline and praise go. We want her to have that as an adult as well, so she can live independently, have a job, be social, be part of her community….It’s important to work with young people and have them become part of bigger community in which they’re going to live. It’s that full inclusion and immersion into community and society that makes for happier individuals… I think it’s really important that she’s going to that world outside of herself, we all need to be looking at what else is out there, connecting with people outside of our comfort zone… In the education system, there were so many years where people tell you all the things you cannot do. But Starfire tells you: ‘You can do this.’ There’s a big difference between cannot do and can.”
Have you heard a story told with conviction lately? What was it? Who told you?