by Mara Robbins, Springhouse Adult Programming Participant

In 2013, I was invited to participate in TEDXFloyd. This was my introduction to Jenny Finn. Afterwards, I said often: “Oh my GOODNESS she is Floyd’s Brene Brown.” I was so grateful that she and her family were moving to the high plateau of the Blue Ridge, my natural habitat since 8 years old. She’s not Brene, though. She’s Floyd’s Jenny Finn. And we are so, so blessed to be in this beloved community with her.

My own experience of TEDX was influenced deeply by an almost-shooting at the satellite classroom at New River Community College. I thought I had an idea of “The Importance of Story” and yet as I rehearsed what I had prepared after “the story in my head wrote itself for 17 hours,” I knew I could not perform the talk I had planned. Jenny’s talk empowered me to show up raw, authentic and willing to be vulnerable in a way that I hadn’t risked before then.

I was nervous and I was still in a state of acute trauma. Possibly still in a state of shock – it had not been long since the crisis happened. Jenny assured me that day that: “Many of us are taught to live from the places where we shine. Where we really shine and where we really feel put together, where we get a lot of praise and affirmation.” And yet she also made sure we knew that:

“it’s equally important to share with the world the places where we are raw. Where we even are broken. Where we don’t feel so put together. It’s just as important to live from those places.”

Without those words to bolster me, I am not sure I could have demonstrated the vulnerability that my talk demanded of me. Jenny has taught me – and is still teaching me – “to live radically wholehearted. Radical meaning rooted; wholehearted meaning healthy courage. To live with rooted healthy courage? Means to live from the whole of who we are. Means to face and explore and even embrace the more difficult and awkward experiences of our lives.”

Not long after that, I was honored to be a part of some of the early discussions regarding the genesis of Springhouse and the model of project-based learning. As someone who longed for a good alternative high school in my own adolescence, I showed up with great anticipation and left with so much hope. 

Though personal circumstances and a 42 inch fracked gas pipeline prevented me from being robustly involved in the early stages of the school’s inception, I’ve been so fortunate to attend a handful of presentations, dance retreats and most recently was a guest in Alan Graf’s Radical Civics class. What’s been truly life changing, though, similarly to that TEDXFloyd talk seven years ago, is the nurturing, challenging and essential course: “Empowerment in the Modern Moment” which is truly helping me to survive the COVID-19 crisis.

We learned the new terrain together through myth, story, modern “issues” and deep questions as we also figured out the best way to utilize the zoom platform that’s become so crucial to the way we engage in this modern age. And in the process, the Springhouse community and Jenny herself reminded me of something important that she taught me in 2013: “Transformation happens in the moment. It happens now. Not yesterday or tomorrow. When I’m creating something I am here and I am now and I am present to the magic of the moment where I can heal and I have healed and I am healing.” Whatever happens next.

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