I listened to a podcast recently from one of my favorite authors that started with a provocative question, "Do you have the courage to bring forth a new creative work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you say yes." For me, starting Lift Literature is taking a terrifying step to say "YES" to a creative work that has been brooding in my soul.
This journey began when my workplace took an innovative step during last fall's election season: On election day, they gave us the day off of work to perform a Random Act of Kindness. Our Executive Director said that it is indisputable that Kindness as a human virtue is in too short supply and too little used these days, and she wondered how we can counter the rise in the worst of ourselves and our politics to heal the divides? Her answer: Kindness.
I was utterly blown away and deeply moved by her words. I felt ragged and worn thin by the divides of 2020 in my own life and wondered if kindness would not only benefit my own mental state, but if there was something that I could do to really be kind to those who are hurting right now. She argued that oftentimes an act of kindness does more for us than anyone else...and boy I have found that to be true!
One saving grace of 2020 was a local women's book club that I've been a part of for many years. When I shared with them the Random Act of Kindness challenge, they wholeheartedly hopped on board with me: all I knew is that I wanted to do something around books and kids. We came up with the idea to sponsor book clubs in a local elementary school. Together we purchased 54 books that a few of the teachers needed to start book clubs in their classrooms.
After completing this project, I felt like I had taken shower after weeks of camping! It was like all of the yuck of 2020 washed off of me and I could see a new passion growing inside me for kids and literacy, and that the need in our community is absolutely tremendous. I felt myself coming alive again with creativity and I felt kindness flooding through my soul. Let me tell you, there is no better feeling than kindness flooding through your soul!!
So friends, that is the backstory to Lift Literature! Our next project is well underway called "Lifting Spirits through Literature." The goal of which is to purchase 240 books requested specifically by South Tahoe Middle School teachers to build out their classroom libraries. This project is so exiting and will impact all 900 of our middle school students. Soroptimist has stepped up to meet a large portion of that need and I'm totally blown away.
I believe that this is just the start of the journey for me. The more that I talk to teachers and understand our specific needs in Tahoe, which have only been augmented by the pandemic, the more I feel a calling to do something even bigger with this and to have a longstanding impact on kids in this community. Many families in Tahoe are truly struggling financially and with their children's education. We have no idea what the impact of this year will have on both students and teachers, but I believe that we can band together as a community and lift students, teachers, and families up during this time.
I'm hoping that what started as a random act of kindness will turn into a tidal wave of kindness for the kids and families who need it most. Want to join me?
~ Melissa Uppendahl