I spent the first 25 years of my career litigating. Basically, I was arguing about other people’s money — people who should have been able to work it out themselves. It paid the bills, but wasn’t very fulfilling. It was hard to see how what I was doing was making the world a better place. I often said, if all the lawyers found something productive to do, the world could be a better place.
Through the grace of god, I was given the opportunity to pivot, to change course. I was given the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and young adults and I am so thankful for that opportunity.
In 2014 I left my law firm for a new business opportunity. It didn’t work out. So, I had to reinvent myself. It was scary. Throughout the time of reinvention I continued to be involved in other things. I was on the vestry of my church, I was president elect of the Maymont Foundation. Because trying to reclaim my legal career was really hard, I had more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. I was beginning to wonder if all this was going to work out. But then the ED of Maymont resigned and I stepped in to run Maymont while we conducted a search for a new director. I loved it. And I knew that I had to pivot. I had to do something meaningful.
It was then that I learned about Children’s Home Society. They were looking for a new person to raise money because they had just started a new project, The Possibilities Project, to help young people who had aged out of the foster care system. These young people fall off a cliff. They have no where to turn and no support. Half of them wind up homeless or in jail. I fell in love with the project. Now I could do something that would help others who had been less fortunate than me. I could help to change lives. But at they same time they were changing my life. CHS gave me the opportunity to do what it felt like I was meant to do all along.
As I learned more about TPP and the young people we were serving I learned more about myself. Just as the young folks we serve need to discover what their hopes and dreams are and then find a path to pursue them, I found myself needing that same thing. All I needed was the opportunity to do something I love and believe in. And that is what everyone needs —- opportunity.
But opportunity includes the room to fail. The fact that I failed when I left my law firm didn’t look or feel like opportunity at the time. It was hard, I’d never really failed in such a big way before. I was fortunate, because I had resources and family who could support me through that. I had attachment to family, church, Maymont, all which helped me survive what seemed like a horrible time until things got better. But what if I didn’t have those things. What if I didn’t have room to fail?
Kids in foster care and young folks aging out many times don’t have that room to fail. Failure to them means no place to live. Failure to them means jail. Failure to them may mean death, either at their own hands or of others. My mission is to give them the space, stability and attachments that will let them fail, so they can ultimately turn failure into opportunity like I did. While failure was scary for me, I can’t imagine what it must feel like to a young person who has been abused, who got passed from place to place, and who then was told at 18 that they are on their own. The great opportunity I’ve been given is to help them have real opportunity, and the space to take advantage of it.