This was the quote I’ll never forget from my first meeting with Carolyn O. Anderson. She’s on the No More Empty Pots Board and volunteered to help with our CWTP (Culinary Workforce Training Program) graduation ceremony. We met at her office at UNO where I learned about her love for the marginalized, especially those with disabilities. Carolyn started an organization to bring inclusive quality art programming to the underserved. Her organization, Why Arts, is beauty to behold. I accompanied her on visits to two different sites this past fall. Watching singers and guitarists walk around and engage with children with multiple disabilities was stunning. The children responded in joyful ways. It brought tears to my eyes as I observed. Carolyn feels strongly that each individual, no matter their circumstance, has unlimited creative potential. And it shows in her organization.
Now, about that line of Carolyn’s. Our conversation began with my explanation of my role at No More Empty Pots and the experiences I’d had teaching teenagers at NorthStar and Omaha Northwest. Carolyn looked at me squarely and asked, How old are you? When I said, 57, she laid out her line: “You’re too old to teach teenagers”. I was taken aback a bit but too startled to react. Later, I realized that there was truth in her words. No wonder it was so difficult, I was not in my 20s or 30s. Is relating to teenagers easier then? Not sure, but it did form a unique bond with Carolyn. She calls it as she sees it.
When I told her I wanted to start an inclusive farm, told her about the space I was considering on 90th and Center, she asked if it would be wheelchair accessible. To which I affirmed. She looked at me squarely in the eye again and said, “I’ll help you build that farm.”