Making it All Worthwhile

We’re in the midst of making our fall grants. During my six-plus years as granting coordinator this was both a favorite and difficult time of the year. I enjoyed hearing from the families we support, especially since many of them include updates about both their situations and their children with their requests for funding. But it’s also difficult to read the stories of hardship and on going trauma to children and families.

Every now and then, we receive an email, letter or phone call which makes us stop in our tracks and appreciate what we do and the families who are part of our community. We received such a message last week, which, with permission, I’m excepting below. It’s longer than a usual blog, but I think you’ll agree it’s worth the extra words:

Dear friends at the Rosenberg Fund for Children,

We are writing to express are heartfelt gratitude for your years of support for our family, after our home was raided by the FBI, and we became targets of a grand jury investigation for our anti-war and international solidarity activism.  Our daughter, Sara [not her real name]was at home with us when a dozen FBI agents came to our door, armed with a battering ram, a search warrant, and two subpoenas. At that time she was six years old and she was already struggling to come to terms with the brain hemorrhage that had nearly killed me just a few months before. The shock of the raid, the fear of possibly losing both of her mothers to jail, and the pressure of being in a family at the center of a massive defense campaign were all more than any child should have to bear.

The year following the raids was tough for her. As much strength as she had within her, it was vital to have a broader community of friends and family rally around us. The Rosenberg Fund has been part of that community. Martial arts [funded by an RFC grant] gave her a place to be centered, and feel strong in her own body. I remember watching one exercise, where she was paired with a tall 15-year old girl who had several years of training under her belt. Sara looked at the sensei and asked how she could possibly stop this much-stronger girl from pinning her to the mat. The sensei said, “She might be bigger and stronger, but you’re feisty. Don’t give up.” That statement bolstered her, and she flipped and flopped and squirmed to the end, refusing to get pinned down. I go back to that day again and again, as a metaphor for the life we’ve been living since the thought police barged through our front door in 2010. And for the perseverance that has characterized her response to every challenge that she has faced.

Once a friend was targeted in 2011, the stress became more intense. Like all of us who are a part of this case, Sara experienced the attack on [him] as another attack on all of us…. With your support, Sara was able to leave some of that stress and worry behind, and participate in several summer camp experiences, beginning in summer 2011. She needed not only the strength and centering experience of martial arts, but also the joyfulness of summer camp in the woods. Thank you for making that possible.

[The next year] continued to be hard for Sara. She still struggled emotionally, and weekly martial arts classes continued to be a place where she felt strong and safe. I don’t want to overstate things here. She was not a mess. But political repression was taking its toll on her. This is something we could see at home, and that her teachers saw in her classroom. It was also [this year] that Sara really started to come into her own as a political person. She was inspired by Occupy – she’s the one that got her moms sleeping on concrete plazas! She even gave her first speech that year, which she wrote herself, and delivered at the Occupy Women’s Rights rally in March 2012… That was a proud day for her two mamas! I know that we’ve nurtured her sense of justice, and her desire to help bring it into this world. At the same time, I know that in the face of political repression, those lessons could have turned sour. Support from you was part of what put her in a strong position to embrace her political self, rather than run away in fear or resentment.

It was sometime late in third grade, I can’t say exactly when, I could see that Sara had turned a corner. And now, a few weeks into fourth grade, I am truly amazed at how tall she stands. I can’t remember the last time I looked in her eyes and saw the fear or depression that dogged all of us since September 2010. This year, at the protest that marked that grim anniversary, she did not look worried, there was no invisible burden on her shoulders. We talked about what she remembered from the day of the raids, and it’s not too much. I asked her if she thinks about the grand jury much, and she says she doesn’t.

I am so thankful to see her in this new space. Sara is a beautiful girl with a beautiful future ahead of her. She knows the world can be a “whacked up” place (her words), but she also knows that we can – and should – be a part of changing that. All of this is to say thank you for your years of support. It has proved invaluable to our family.

We know that political repression has been on a steady rise since we were targeted three years ago, and that every grant cycle you have applications from new families affected by the chilling political climate we organize under. Your support has made such a difference for us, and we want to make sure it is there for others who need it.  Because we want to make sure you can be there for them, and because we know you are still here for us today, we have chosen not to re-apply for funding this cycle.

I hope you will continue to consider us as part of your community, and that you will call on us if ever there is something we can do to assist you in your important work.

I don’t think I can add anything to this except to thank you all for making it possible for us to be there for this family and others like them.

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