My favorite community outreach program at Union is the Naked Stage. My current obsession is anything related to mindset. Enter the “Mental Toughness” Naked Stage night hosted by Dallas’ Bridge Lacrosse. Match. Made. In heaven.
As per usual, the Naked Stage featured stories from a variety of different voices.
A man shared the incredible story of how he went from losing his mother to cancer at the age of thirteen to immediately moving to Central America and living life as if both her passing and the new culture around him were everyday changes. His family was held hostage by the Honduran government, and they later ended up driving off an unfinished bridge as they made their escape. In those moments he remained remarkably, unwaveringly calm, just as his father had done for him so many times before, in order to be an example for his younger brother and sister.
A hilarious young lacrosse player told us stories from “the most painful year of his life” as goalie. (A goalie’s life is tough, y’all, though it beats all the running you have to do on the field. That makes for the most tiring year of life.) But, at the end of the day, he said that he looked up to his coach and another lacrosse player, both male, because he never had a father figure. That revelation was shared so innocently and matter-of-factly that it took the whole room by surprise. He didn’t have a dad. Period. Yet because of his aunts and the men he’s met through lacrosse, he’s ok. Children make the most wonderful things so simple.
Finally, a coach shared her story of being the child of teenage parents. How they told her they wish they hadn’t had her, and her grandparents had to raise her. How she had to figure out how to get to the camps and programs she wanted to go to on her own. Learning to take care of herself without the help of her parents made her tenacious. It made her meticulous, confident. And she grew up to be a role model of courage and strength for other young girls. Her story didn’t have to happen. It wasn’t supposed to. But it did. She made it so.
As I left this beautiful night, I realized that we often become mentally tough either for the sake of someone else or in spite of them. We may take different paths - a stoic will to move forward, a healthy dose of humor, a voracious commitment to write your own story when others fail you - but at some point we all learn that to make it in this world, mental toughness is not an option. It’s a requirement.
If you’ve never been to the Naked Stage at Union Coffee, I highly recommend it. The storytelling series will go dark for the summer, but it returns in the fall with more windows into the human experience and more opportunities to connect to the Dallas community. Hope to see you there.