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deeper IMPACT

I'm just a little bit sore and a little bit tired, but I feel GOOD.

I blogged in May about spending an intensive weekend learning self-defense, assertiveness, and a whole lot more with IMPACT, formerly known as "model mugging," where women, men, teens, and kids learn to use their voice and body to set boundaries and protect themselves. The training is astonishingly effective, and I definitely felt that I learned well what they taught in just a weekend. But it was such a powerful and empowering experience -- both in what it did for me and in getting to witness and encourage the healing and empowering work that others did in the course -- that I decided to take the class again, this time in a weekly course that met for five sessions.

Tonight was graduation from that course.

Every description I try to come up with for what it's like falls short of the reality. I work hard at preaching, at lectionary blogging, at ministry, and I have been privileged to witness some moments of transformation that just might have been as much of a blessing to me as they were to the people experiencing them firsthand. Still, I don't think I've ever seen such powerful and positive change so consistently in so many different ages and kinds of people over so short a time as I see in what IMPACT does. People who before felt paralyzed by fear and hurts stand tall, say clearly, calmly, and strongly what they need, and when it's necessary, respond to an assault from a MUCH larger and physically stronger attacker ("model mugger") in a way that would incapacitate him were it not for his protective gear. There are tears and shouts and hugs and not a little laughter, and there is amazing healing and growth.

It's a sad reality in lots of ways in our society and our world that the most help is available to those who have the most resources, and are therefore in some ways least in need. That's not at all how it is with IMPACT in Boston, though. IMPACT gives scholarships, including full scholarships, to people who want to take their courses in the community and are in financial need. They also go to shelters for the homeless and for those who have experienced domestic violence, where they teach not just self-defense and assertiveness, but life skills that will help people get jobs, find homes, and build a life that's safe and rewarding for themselves and their families. And IMPACT provides paid internships to people transitioning from those shelters that help them build their skills further and gain experience and references to get a better job, all while earning a wage that will help now.

IMPACT Boston is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. True to form, they're not celebrating it with a black-tie dinner-dance at a swanky hotel or on a harbor cruise. They're celebrating it at their decidedly modest offices -- a couple of alcoves, really, where the air conditioning mostly works off of a good-sized room where the mats get set out for classes. They're celebrating it with a day of one-hour classes -- reviews and advanced skills for graduates, and introductory classes for those who haven't yet experienced an IMPACT class for themselves. And they're celebrating by honoring people who have worked hard for years to empower women as IMPACT does -- not just those who have a lot of money to give and give it, but who pour out heart and soul and hours of time volunteering for classes, being the first ones to experience every new situation the class addresses and being there for those who need extra support or a quiet word to face a particularly strong fear or painful memory. This is a celebration in which the "red carpet" that covers the industrial linoleum will be gym mats on which we'll do what IMPACT does: learn some new skills and rediscover what we already know and can do to thwart violence and be safe and whole.

I've been making calls this week encouraging graduates to come to the 20th anniversary celebration on September 29th. It's a pleasure making calls asking for support when so many of those I talk with brighten up immediately when they hear I'm calling from IMPACT and pour out their stories -- how they took the class years ago and have walked taller ever since, how IMPACT helped them to connect with the strength they didn't know they had to get their life back after trauma, how a loved one who took the course has always been grateful for it. And this evening as I drove home from my IMPACT class' graduation, I thought to myself that I share my thoughts and my time and quite a lot about my life with y'all at SarahLaughed.net, and I would share this too.

So I'm doing something unusual for SarahLaughed. I've done it before when there were hurricanes, floods and tsunamis, and I thought I'd try it to respond to a different kind of tide: cycles of violence and poverty (these so often go together and fuel one another) that IMPACT addresses directly and powerfully. In celebration of their 20th anniversary, IMPACT Boston wants to raise $20,000 for community programs, scholarships, and new initiatives such as I've described (though not doing the power of their work justice; I'm still at a loss as to how to do that). They're inviting graduates to bring $200 or more when we come onto the mats on September 29th. I'm going to share that opportunity with you.

If you think what I do at SarahLaughed.net is empowering others, and if IMPACT sounds like something you'd like to support, I invite you to stop by this web page, donate as you feel moved -- $20, $200, or whatever you think best -- and if you'd like me to know that you did this in some way because of SarahLaughed.net, let IMPACT know by entering 'SarahLaughed.net' or my name in the box asking whom you're sponsoring. I count what you do for IMPACT as done for me and then some; SarahLaughed.net, after all, is where I use my voice to try to inspire others who want to engage God's mission of justice for those most vulnerable, and as much as I hope to grow continually more effective in that role, I think it's fair to say that IMPACT accomplishes more and more immediately in any given week than I do to empower people in a way that changes lives for the better.

If you want more information about IMPACT's 20th anniversary celebration, there's some here, on what may be the world's most basic web page (they spend their resources on programs, not web designers!), and you can find our a bit more about IMPACT in Boston here. And if you'd like to see some clips of what IMPACT self-defense looks like if a graduate is physically attacked (IMPACT strongly emphasizes that it's only appropriate to hit or kick when one is physically attacked, and that "a fight avoided is a fight won"), the IMPACT chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area made a remarkably effective commercial on a shoestring budget, which you can download in something approaching its full glory here if you have a broadband Internet connection, or here as a smaller file for slower connections.

And here endeth the IMPACT plug -- for now, at least. With what I've seen so far, I suspect that I'm going to be following their work, participating where I can, and becoming increasingly impressed with them in the process, so you just might hear more about it another day. Thanks for listening -- and thanks, as ever, for all of the ways you encourage me to use my voice.

August 8, 2007 in Life and Whatnot | Permalink


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Thanks for the testimony - sounds like we need this program in the churches.

Posted by: Ann | Aug 15, 2007 11:41:32 AM

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