Creativity: The use of imagination or original ideas to create something. —Oxford Dictionary
This past summer when I was in Europe, I got to see so many beautiful, ancient buildings. The creativity of people who lived hundreds of years ago still stands strong in many places. The cathedral in Milan, Italy was one of the most incredible sights I have seen. I stood beside it and ran my hand over the solid marble walls, marveling at the details. I thought of the 600 years it took artists to create this masterpiece, which now stands tall in the very center of Milan.
I looked around the square at all the other buildings and thought of the last world war when Milan was bombed repeatedly. Every night, all the windows in Milan were blacked out to not draw attention to the bombers. But every night, the priests would light candles and leave them burning in every window of the Cathedral, hoping and praying that it would be enough to save the creativity of so many artists and designers.
And today, in 2018, the cathedral still stands. I walked across the square and looked back at it again, awed beyond words by the sight of it. I felt the years of history under my feet, the changes that had come through this square while the cathedral stood, a silent witness to war and the beauty of creativity.
WAR VS. CREATIVITY
We hear stories about war all the time, unfortunately, and it’s always heartbreaking. War destroys. It shatters so much beauty that was created by men into dust and rubble along with human dreams and possibilities. It takes homes, cities, communities from people who are then left with so few resources.
• 68.5 Million forcibly displaced people worldwide.
• 25 million refugees, over half of which are under 18 years old.
• 57% of refugees worldwide come from three countries – Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.
• 85% of the worlds displaced people are in developing countries. UNHCR
The fallout from war is even more distressing, with its effects being felt across the world weeks, months, and years later. One of the most horrifying is human trafficking. Women and children are major victims in wars which are fought over power, money, and greed.
“The United Nations Children’s Fund reports children are the main victims of war, with many suffering mental stress that will last a lifetime. Children worldwide are subjected to multiple forms of abuse on a daily basis, but the U.N. Children’s Fund says these forms of physical and psychological violence pale in comparison to what children are forced to endure in situations of conflict.” —UNICEF
The problem is staggering, and it won’t end when the war ends, either.
“As long as wars and conflicts rage, “Trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation, forced labor, and similar crimes will continue to flourish… Wars and violent conflicts have become the biggest driving force of forced human displacement. This situation is an enabling environment for human traffickers, who increasingly exploit this tragic humanitarian situation to target refugees, forced migrants and internally displaced persons themselves in their criminal enterprises.” —NCRONLINE
But what can we do? What does creativity have to do with war?
A YEAR OF CREATIVITY
Our word for this year has been creativity. What this has meant is that when we have a new campaign, a new project, a new idea we want to try, we always ask ourselves: “How can we get more creative with this? How can we go outside of the norms and create something even more unique? How can we present this more creatively?” This year of creativity has brought so many opportunities to stretch our creative ideas even more than we thought possible.
Isn’t it beautiful that we can bring even more beauty into our world just by trusting ourselves to share our unique gift of creating?
EQUIPPING SURVIVORS WITH CREATIVITY
A few weeks ago, we were given the opportunity to equip others for creativity.
I found out through a mutual friend, about a safe house in Greece who cares for girls who have been rescued from human trafficking. There are several truly amazing ladies there who spend all their time serving these lovely girls who have been through more horrific trauma than anyone should have to endure.
They want to give these talented girls practical skills they can use in the future — learning employable skills to support themselves. However, this Grecian, non-profit organization is still in the beginning stages, and they don’t have many resources.
For them to teach these girls, many of them African, Syrian, or Hispanic, how to cook, they also need to show them how to use a mixer or a blender. The little kitchen in their safe house does not have bowls and pans and spatulas.
Immediately my heart responded, “Yes!” As much as I love to be creative with food, love to share my creativity with others, I couldn’t imagine not having the tools it takes to create food. I couldn’t imagine not being able to cook different kinds of food for my children. I couldn’t imagine not being able to create a celebration of food for my friends.
I knew this is a way we could all change the world for even just one person, or ten. We could come together and share our artistic gifts and equip others to share theirs.
TOGETHER, WE EQUIP HER
So, this is what we are doing. From October 15th to October 29th, 25% of all sales from Urban Southern will be given directly to Damaris House to buy measuring cups, spoons, mixer, a blender, mixing bowls and baking pans, so our friend and her co-workers can hold cooking and baking classes for the girls.
War takes away. It takes away opportunities, it takes away life and personhood and leaves people nothing. It takes away dignity which robs humans of hope and drains their creativity.
But war can’t take community from us. It can’t take our love away unless we let it. Let’s not let this war win.
Marie couldn’t even go in the kitchen and create food that would remind her of her homeland. Let’s give that personhood back to her. Let’s equip her with the dignity of preparing food for herself and her child; let’s give her a way to share her culture with her new friends. Let’s give her a way to show the world her own creativity. Let’s give back a little of what the war has taken from her; let’s give her community and care. We can’t all go to Syria, Iraq, and Yemen; but we can show up in this way by giving her personhood and equipping her to share her creativity with the world.
Meet Community House Damaris
“The logo of Community House Damaris shows the Greek letter “delta” interrupted with a flourishing floral vine, inspired by the infamous Greek olive trees. The delta has long been a symbol of Damaris since the organization was established, as it represents the name Damaris – the first woman converted in Athens, Greece as recorded in the Book of Acts. As a recovery program for women who have survived trafficking and exploitation, Damaris House serves as a place for recovery and growth. As these survivors come to heal and eventually to expand out of the corners of Damaris House, they can continue to flourish and change as depicted in the curvature of the vine.” —Damaris House
LET’S CANCEL WAR WITH LOVE AND CREATIVITY
“The opposite of war is not peace. Instead…the opposite of war is creation. Creation & War are nouns. Fear is the driving force of war. Love is the driving force of creating. War = destruction. Creation = bringing something into existence. Art of any kind is creating. We are all artists. We are all expressions of the divine artist. Let’s create together! Let’s put away competing for our place in the world and start creating out of love.” —Mary June Miller
Thank you all for being here. Thank you for creating a community with us — a community that comes together and shows up for each other. Thank you for giving these girls personhood, for equipping their creativity. Thank you for showing up in Greece.