I was fortunate to attend the annual meeting of the national YWCA organization in Washington, D.C., recently. This opportunity was life changing in many ways. I am sure I will struggle to convey in words the history, richness and sense of inspiration I felt there but will try.
Have you ever been affected by something you felt very personal about, such as cancer, suicide, discrimination, racial injustice? During the meeting, I witnessed courageous women who had felt the effects of such significant issues and found ways to turn their “something” into their “cause.” These women changed our world.
There is something powerful about hearing the stories in person. The speakers were phenomenal: U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., Commander Zoe Dunning (Retired) of the U.S. Navy, and Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley all spoke of barriers they faced and how they advocated for changes that affected so many people.
I was touched by Pressley’s personal life story as the first woman of color to be elected in her city. She overcame the odds not only in her life but also in getting elected.
I was inspired by Dunning, who was the first openly gay individual who was allowed to remain on active duty. She retired after 22 years of service. She was instrumental in getting the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy repealed in 2010.
I had goosebumps all week in D.C., whether I was touring the monuments, memorials, or museums of our great capital, listening to speakers who changed lives, or learned to write grants.
I also discovered how the voices of women are underrepresented in the media. The statistics were alarming; a small percent of written news comes from women. The workshop was packed with women who run YWCAs across the country and the common cry was loud and clear: How do we get heard locally?
I learned so much there, however, what stuck with me was gratitude that I live in a community that cares, stays informed and involved with the organizations that are changing lives here in our community.
I want to leave you with a thought. Thank yourselves for being members in a great community making a difference. Many of you have chosen your “something” and turned it into your “cause.”
Kristina Fry is program manager for Cafe AZ’s at the YWCA in Wenatchee. She writes about how lives of ex-addicts and offenders are transformed. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.