Monday, July 7, 2008

Letter to Clearwater

Here is a copy of a message I sent to Clearwater today, inspired by my experience volunteering at the Clearwater festival a few weeks ago, as well as previous experiences:

I first met Clearwater around 1989 when I spent a week on the boat as a volunteer crew member. What struck me then was Clearwater's welcoming attitude. At the time, I was also involved with another organization which was trying to do good things in the world. However, the attitude of that organization toward its supporters and potential supporters seemed to be, "We want your money, but we don't want you to get involved because our work is so important that we can't afford to have amateurs like you messing it up." It was so refreshing to see how Clearwater welcomed people. I especially remember that when we docked, we'd invite anyone who was on the dock at the time onto the boat for a tour.

After that experience on the boat, I dropped out of touch with Clearwater for about 15 years. I had been drawn in 1989 by an interest in boats. I was drawn again 15 years later by folk music. I had been volunteering at folk concerts for a few years and I felt the next step would be to volunteer at a festival. I read on the internet about all the festivals in my region and decided Clearwater was the one for me. Not only did it have music, it also had a soul, a larger purpose. Moreover, I still liked boats.

I've volunteered at the festival four times now, and have felt the same open, welcoming attitude that I noticed when I first crewed on the boat. Clearwater actively tries to draw in people of different ages, races, and abilities. I volunteered alongside a 13-year-old this year. Too often, people that age are told they are too young to be useful, but Clearwater welcomed her contributions.

There are performers of different cultures, races, and musical styles. There is music I don't like, and that's good because it means there's a place for people whose musical tastes are different from mine.

Sometimes I feel that organizations which embrace diversity don't want me. I'm white, heterosexual, able-bodied, and not young enough to count as youth. Because I'm less experienced than the baby boomers, but don't help with diversity, I feel some organizations don't want me. However, I feel that Clearwater welcomes everyone, including people like me.

At this year's revival, Magpie sang, "Give light, and the people will find the way." That captures what Clearwater is about. It's not an elite group that thinks the masses are too ignorant to do anything of value. Instead it's a group that gives light to the masses, because it believes in our ability to find the way.

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