2010 Well Wishes Update
A note from Eagle Vision Founder/President Ruth Mendelson:
We often hear of that a single idea has the capacity to truly change the world. But how do we approach finding- and living- such an idea? In a world brimming with such overwhelming problems, is this really possible?
As producer, creative director and chief editor of the WELL WISHES PROJECT, I have learned first hand how a single idea-- when adhered to with conviction, passion and fortitude-- can, by its very nature, become a generator of inspiration and life-changing motivation for many. Never before have I personally witnessed the profound value of the pure spoken word, and the impact of music created and shared from the heart with no other agenda than to express love.
A spoken-word/music audio initiative, the intent of the WELL WISHES PROJECT, first and foremost, is to be a platform for children and youth to be honored for their innate wisdom and creativity. My initial plan for WELL WISHES PART 1 was simple: to travel across the country and record any and all kids (ages 3-20) who wanted to share their hopes, dreams, and original music with kids in war torn Iraq in the spirit of goodwill and connection. I’d then create an audio CD weaving these messages into a mosaic of spontaneous interviews and music. The final step was to send the CD - somehow- to kids and youth in Iraq.
I had no idea that the CD would ultimately save lives and become popular in so many countries. If anything, while getting started, most people tried to discourage me from embarking upon such an endeavor, saying it would be utterly impossible.
The Iraq war was in full swing and at the height of its popularity in the US when I began. At the time, I knew no Iraqis and I had no idea how I’d get such a CD delivered and distributed to the children and youth there (especially as a US civilian). Regardless, I did have two things:
1) The knowledge that I’m fortunate to have a lot of talent and
2) The need to use it to serve others.
It’s important to note here that the WELL WISHES PROJECT is not, and never has been, intended to be an anti-war effort. Rather, the project operates beyond definitions of current problems or conditions. In this day and age, the belief in one’s innate goodness can seem like a naïve premise. But, in truth, it is this very goodness that makes children and youth remarkable teachers at this time. Without agenda, honest/pure communication can touch and transform even the hardest of hearts.
What inspired this idea?
When the Iraq war broke out, I was deeply concerned about the ramifications of the escalating violence on future generations—both here and abroad. An Elder in my family often told me, “With heart-to-heart communication, problems always decrease. And without it, problems always increase.” I was pondering the inner meaning of this when the Iraq war first broke out. That’s when the idea came: If heart-to-heart communication results in decreased problems, then a CD dedicated to such communication could only help. That was my thinking at the time.
I sent out e-mails to a few people around the country letting them know what I wanted to do: give children and youth the platform to talk about what is important to them in life and to ask their views of love, friendship, forgiveness, etc. Word spread among families and the project became national in three weeks. I hit the road with a few small checks given to me by elementary school teachers who immediately grasped the need for such a project. From South Central LA, to New York City, I recorded inner city, rural, suburban, Native American, white, black, yellow, red kids. Just kids. Real people who truly are the fabric of this country.
In the process of sitting with and recording so many individuals, I realized that being truly present to one another is perhaps one the greatest gifts we can offer. In simply listening and being present, I witnessed gang members break down into tears during their interviews and write raps about love. I listened to Native American kids share ancient songs in their Native Language (this is very uncommon), bringing pride and hope to their Grandparents. Many youth heard about the project and asked to be interviewed. Kids in kindergarten used their recess time to make up songs. Gospel choirs made up songs. Everywhere I went, the kids spoke for hours. Several teens told me that no one had ever asked them these types of questions before (questions as simple as, “What does it mean to be a friend?” and “How does it feel to be a youth these days? Are you OK?”). I recorded kids in living rooms, community centers, schools and hospitals. I often felt like I was sitting across from world leaders. Such was the insight and wisdom being spontaneously offered.
There are literally countless stories of small and large miracles that have assisted in the ongoing success of the project thus far. Initially, the CD was smuggled into Iraq during the height of the Iraq war by some extraordinarily brave school teachers in Baghdad (I only heard about this later, I had no idea that 121 Contact and Peaceful tomorrows were working quietly to get the CD overseas). Later that year, the CD connected medical communities in Iraq and India—resulting in infants being airlifted out of Baghdad for successful medical treatment in Cochin, India. In 2008, the CD became very popular in Kenya (a huge surprise) and actually prevented murder there during the uprisings in the spring of that year.
What I have realized is that, truly, anything is possible. But the realization of ideals must be fueled by discerning conviction, hard work and adherence to the purest of intentions. While working on WELL WISHES PART 1, there were many times I wanted to quit. I was confronted by many—many—challenges at the time, despite the joy of the interviewing process. What is perhaps most humbling to me now is the knowledge that if the CD had never been completed, there are several people who I know of personally who would have died (including infants), or committed murder. And those are only the people who I know of. Youth leaders in various countries have told me that the CD is transforming entire populations of people.
How often do we start out doing things and then just give up, or get distracted and simply forget altogether? What does the world miss as a result?
One of the most powerful lessons for me in witnessing the extraordinary consequences of this project thus far is the importance of following through on ideas- especially those designed to help others. There truly is a transformation power available to us when we set out to accomplish what we know secretly in our hearts is “the right thing” to do.
As artists, we have a responsibility to care for and develop our talents. As human beings, I personally believe that we have a responsibility to grow—and act—beyond the hypnosis of any culture that insists on fear.
Artistic vision is immeasurably important in this day and age. The arts have an expansive, as well as exacting, capacity to create connection when all other modalities have failed. The WELL WISHES PROJECT continues to demonstrate this phenomenon again and again.
And so, to say this project has been life changing (and life affirming) for me personally would be a mild understatement. I am utterly humbled and transformed by it’s success thus far.
It’s also worth noting that the project has, and continues to be, of great benefit to many of my students. Several students have told me how inspired they are when they hear about it or read about it on-line. I often refer to the project as an example of what can be accomplished when a creative dream is upheld with hard work, determination and perseverance.
Several students have been involved with the project at this point. One of my former students played a vitally important role in postproduction for WELL WISHES PART 1, by recording Arabic translations of the text (the first edition of the CD is provided in both English and Arabic). Over time, I’ve hired my more advanced students as interns to assist in archiving interviews, transcribing audio text (for translation into nine other languages), composing segue tracks (music transitions), providing interviews, assisting with CD duplication, and assembling CD packages for international shipping. I recently hired two more students as interns for WELL WISHES PART 2.
I look forward to expanding the project to include more and more students. At a practical level, there’s no shortage of tasks to accomplish in a production this vast and layered. At an educational level, every aspect of the work offers opportunity for personal empowerment.
I haven’t met a single student who doesn’t relish in being reminded that their life has meaning, and that they can use their talent as a pivot point into themselves to discover creative contribution.
The talent is here and the time is now. With focus, compassion and fervent commitment, truly anything is possible. The WELL WISHES PROJECT continues to teach me these lessons again and again. These are lessons well worth passing on- especially at this time.
Blessings and Peace to you and ALL,
- Ruth Mendelson
In response to refugee comps throughout the Congo, Ruth has decided to create/produce a WELL WISHES PART 2 CD. This CD will include an expansion of topics including:
What kids say about how to stay out of gangs and away from drugs
Fun topics like “If you could invent anything, what would it be and do?”
LOTS of original music, raps and instrumentals all created and played by the kids and youth themselves.