Fear, Free Arts AZ, and the Musical Instrument Museum


As many of you know, I don’t understand children. It’s not their fault; it’s the fault of my patience. Children are strange little aliens to me. I don’t know how to talk to them. I don’t understand their needs. (Similar to our new puppy, I’m coming to realize.) So when a couple of you heard I was signed up to volunteer with Free Arts Arizona, you were shocked. But not as shocked as me.

This was all Jake’s idea. He heard about Free Arts through work. They’re a nonprofit organization that brings the healing powers of the creative arts to abused, neglected, and homeless children in Maricopa County. Many of the children they serve have been removed from their families due to abuse or neglect and have been placed by the state into a group home. Some children live in residential treatment centers where they work to conquer painful issues of physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse, and violence.

The theory behind Free Arts is to give children a way to identify their emotions and express them through a positive medium (like music, art, or—my favorite—the written word). According to their website, “The creative arts give children the tools they need to improve self-esteem and social skills. The creative arts give children a voice.”

I’m all about giving hope and inspiration to the next generation. I’ve observed the hopeless ignorance and idiocy of modern-day teens. No offense to them; I was a stupid teenager once, too, but it seems to be getting worse. I once overheard a fifteen-year-old say to her mother, “Why should I have to learn my country’s history? It’s just a bunch of dead guys.” Beyond that, kids don’t READ. And what is life without BOOKS?

Phoenix's Musical Instrument Museum. So cool.

I volunteered for my first Free Arts AZ “Free Arts Day” this past Saturday, and I was scared to death. I don’t know what I expected. Did I think the kids would be wielding switchblades? Did I think they would try to strangle me? I have no idea, but I was terrified on the drive to the Musical Instrument Museum. I should have been excited; the MIM is incredibly awesome, and I do plan to go back and spend more time there with Jake. When I arrived, though, all I could think was “Don’t mess this up. Don’t mess this up.”

Well, I didn’t mess it up. The kids were between the ages of 12 and 17 (known by my parents as “Sara’s bad years”). There was one girl who reminded me a lot of myself at her age: skinny, short, black hair, baggy clothes, silent for the whole day. Yet, she was the girl who later played a musical instrument with me and smiled, for just a second. The kids weren’t scary at all. They were just sort of … lost … and maybe a little angry. We all ignored each other at first while the docents led us around the museum. But once I got the guts to just talk to some of the young women, they immediately talked back and even laughed a little when I said something silly. Amazing.

My favorite part of the day was when we all sat around in a huge circle and played the djembe drums together. We made music as a group, and the kids loved it.

So will I still be nervous before my next Free Arts AZ event? Yeah, probably. I still think I’m terrible with children (and puppies). But all it took was the smile from that one skinny goth girl to make the entire day worthwhile. That’s what Free Arts is all about—putting smiles on faces that haven’t had anything to smile about in years. We can do that for these kids. We can help them express themselves and find healthy, hopeful outlets for their negative energy. We can save them from drugs, gangs, and depression; all it takes is a couple hours of your time and the conquering of your (maybe just my) fear of children.

Get involved at http://www.freeartsaz.org/.

4 thoughts on “Fear, Free Arts AZ, and the Musical Instrument Museum

  1. Oh, Sara, I love this. This is what Gina’s Team does at Mingus, at the prison and the jail. You will never have a more appreciative audience or make such a positive difference in another’s life. Actually, you will never know your impact but I promise it is powerful. And you are perfect for this labor of love. You are joyful, funny, sometimes childlike, and very smart. You are infectious with all that. And you are REAL. The kids pick up very fast on who is real and who isn’t. There are volunteers who come out of love and others who come out of duty. The kids know and the latter doesn’t last long. Thank you for doing this. You are making a difference, for them and for our community.

    • Thanks for your kind words, lady! I’ll keep working through my hesitations and fears. The kids deserve it 🙂

  2. Love this blog Doll! What a great way to share your talents with some very needy children. Looking forward to hearing how Jake’s first time goes. Love you both

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