“I believe in the soul of the underdog. The one who has to struggle for the victory, who learns that the challenges she overcomes to achieve it make it all the sweeter.”
I wrote these words fifteen years ago, the opening lines in an essay for NPR’s “This I Believe” series. I was thinking about these words when Rebecca Stapel-Wax accepted the Michael Jay Kinsler Rainmaker Award at this year’s Purim Off Ponce celebration. We were celebrating her milestone anniversary—18 years as Executive Director of SOJOURN—her achievements, her leadership. Rebecca is a true hero and an inspiration to many of us.
I have to admit, I’d been feeling tired, my faith faltering in the face of so many discriminatory, hateful pieces of legislation being passed in Georgia and other southern states. I couldn’t help feeling discouraged that while we laughed and hugged, and raised money to support trans kids who are great risk for depression, self-harm and suicide, the political attacks on them, and their parents and healthcare providers continue to push these vulnerable folks further to the margins.
But as Rebecca spoke with such passion about her belief that we are magic and that together we will overcome challenges, even these most difficult setbacks we are facing in the State Legislature; as she expressed her gratitude to all of us for showing up, standing in solidarity, supporting the work that needs to be done; as she declared the importance of celebrating this moment of being together, my heart swelled with a hope I hadn’t felt in quite some time.
Of course, the theme being XANADU, Rebecca quoted her shero, Olivia Newton-John:
“You have to believe we are magic,
Don’t let your aim ever stray,
And if all your hopes survive,
Destiny will arrive…”
The entire crowd burst into cheers and, for a moment, I felt my faith rekindled.
This I do believe: We are magic. I believe we must remain true to our aims and to ourselves. We must nurture our hopes and dreams, and we must nurture each other.
And this I still believe: Setbacks provide our greatest opportunities for growth. I believe in celebrating the milestones that renew our faith in the strength of the soul of the underdog.