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8 Years #InHarmony: by Susan Steinman

By October 5, 2017 Blog

“I could not be more proud of the way Harmony Project has positively impacted the lives of the many individuals we serve in our ongoing programs.”

 

When the first Harmony Project rehearsal was held on October 5, 2009, I was finishing a year of treatment for breast cancer. I was searching for new and different experiences to propel me beyond my old routines and back into the world. When my friend Carol called to invite me to check out “a new choir,” I ventured out, despite my anxiety that I had not sung in a choir since middle school. It took no more than 45 minutes in that first rehearsal to begin to experience the special culture Harmony Project was creating.

The point has never been about hitting the perfect note, but rather opening up to the joy of singing together. Singing has been the vehicle to bind this army of community volunteers together, but it is also the vehicle that has reignited a sense of community service and “giving back.” Over the eight years, Harmony Project has completed countless service projects that have added to the well-being of individuals and neighborhoods in Columbus. But one in particular stands out for me.

In 2013, I had the opportunity to participate in the One Family Project. 10 diverse families spent a week together in discussion and service. The centerpiece of that week was our visit to the Ohio Reformatory for Women to serve and eat dinner with the incarcerated women of the Tapestry program. I had never been to a prison and arrived with a number of assumptions about inmates and the prison culture. I was transfixed by the respectful and therapeutic nature of this special program, by the respectful and compassionate character of the staff. The culmination of this experience was a dinner at The Columbus Foundation in which my family sat with one of the Tapestry women, who had been allowed to participate, as she shared some of her life experiences. A woman sat down next to me, and when we introduced ourselves, I learned she was the Warden at ORW. A natural and seemingly comfortable conversation between inmate and warden ensued. My prejudices and assumptions were left far behind. That week, I dropped many mistaken assumptions about prisoners, prison life, and those who staff these institutions.

I could not be more proud of the way Harmony Project has positively impacted the lives of the many individuals we serve in our ongoing programs. But I have been personally changed – and know I am not alone – by the opportunity to find common ground with people whose backgrounds are different than my own. Harmony Project has expanded my sense of connection to the world.

When I arrive at rehearsal each week, all of our differences melt away.  We are bonded by song into the human family, and for one evening a week we experience what is possible in our community, in our world, if rather than judging we simply embrace.