Paula

This post is about our friend and client, Paula Lein, the principal of Archer Street School in Freeport, NY. We recently completed the John Lennon Real Love Project at her school. After viewing the music video we created, Paula sent me this message:

OMG!!! That was fabulous! It practically had me crying! It is REAL LOVE! John Lennon would be proud.

Paula lost her husband, Irwin, a few years ago. Since then, she’s done what she always does – devote herself to the Archer Street community heart and soul. In fact, she told us that people have been asking her, “When are you going to retire?” She always says, “Look outside. When you see a hearse, that’s when I’m done here.” Paula’s house is emptier these days. Her life is this job, these kids, despite the heartache that it causes her. Being a principal isn’t easy and it’s harder in a district where nearly one hundred percent of the families struggle to put food on the table.

When we were doing the Lennon project, Beth invited Paula to come and watch. Knowing that she often gets tied up in the office, Beth went to get Paula between sessions. When Paula came to the room, she sat in the back watching and smiling as the kids struggled at first and then eventually talked about how they felt “surrounded by love” in their school. Paula knows that at least half of her students go home to an empty house, and that Archer Street is a place where they feel seen and heard. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for summer because it meant summer camp was right around the corner. “These kids,” Jenn, the music teacher, told us, “have nothing. They cry when the school year ends.” I think that they have something in common with Paula.

Paula’s reaction to the video, the first one she’s ever written to me in large, red letters, was not usual. She admires what we do and brings us back year after year, but there was something different, more ebullient in her reaction to the video. I think it touched a place in her heart, one that is accustomed to giving to her teachers, students and their parents 24/7. Somehow, I believe, this broke her open bringing her near tears.

Part of the reason we keep going back to Archer Street is that it’s like a second home to us, too. Having spent multiple weeks there writing songs and performing shows, we’ve gotten to know the community and vice versa. We have done our best work there and grown as writers and as people, too. Our connection to the teachers is unique, many of whom we called upon to create a testimonial video early in our careers. Paula has always been the first one we put on any list when someone asks us for references. She loves us and we feel the same way.

Sometimes, I get lost in the details of what we do. A part of me, perhaps the best part of me, turns off when I’m busy working hard on a project. I am so focused on getting things done that I forget what we’re really doing – spreading love and connection through music. It’s an extremely powerful medium that I have often taken for granted in my rush to “get things done.” 

Paula’s note (and writing this down) reconnects me to our inner mission. It helps me to realize that this gift of being a songwriter, a musician, a teacher, a collaborator with Beth and others is a high calling. Where we go, we bring needed, longed-for joy. The world, busy and divided, yearns to reconnect to that joy. And we, along with John Lennon and all the people who directly or indirectly support us, are keeping his music, and his redemptive spirit, alive.

Comments

  1. Lisa D Heintz

    If only every school had a Paula who intentionally invited a Beth & Scott to share joy through music. Lucky you! Lucky Paula! Lucky school!

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