I tend to view all of my teaching as an act of service, even when I get paid to do it. I believe that learning to make anything with one's own hands brings joy and a sense of satisfaction into the creator's life. Seeing and wearing a beautiful piece of jewelry that you made yourself, or giving it as a gift, adds even more enjoyment and pride to the experience.
I've taught jewelry-making and fiber crafts to students of all ages - literally from 5-year-olds to 95-year-olds (and even some 100+ year olds!) - and I can't tell you how many times people have thanked me for bringing the new dimension of artisanship to their lives. I teach many retired people at Emeritus/Santa Monica College and elsewhere, and I've heard numerous times that the skills I teach have saved someone from depression or a feeling of meaninglessness. I treasure these responses because I've always wanted to make my life's work something that adds value to the world. A quote from one student: "I don't miss your class if I can help it.... your class is way up there as a provider of regular, local and healthy joy in my life! Thank you for providing the excellent teaching, the beautiful artistry, and the fun atmosphere that make the class so special."
In addition to the pleasure my students get from learning to make things, I've also been able to serve them at times by being available to listen and be supportive. I develop very personal relationships with many people who come to trust me and often share their personal stories with me that they may never have been able to talk to anyone about before. In large part, I credit the skills I learned from studying Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica (USM). I deeply thank my teachers Drs. Ron & Mary Hulnick for their amazing seminars.
As an outgrowth of my studies at USM, I have been participating in a project called Freedom to Choose, which brings volunteers into California prisons to teach life skills learned at USM. I've had amazing experiences working with inmates at Valley State Prison and others. Along the way, I met author Kenneth Hartman, who wrote a fascinating book about his prison experience and his transformation, which I highly recommend: Mother California.
Finally, I spent a little more than a year teaching jewelry-making to homeless youth in Venice, CA at a wonderful program called Safe Place for Youth (SPY). This program provides a sanctuary for young people living on the streets, where they can learn skills, receive medical attention, get legal advice, and get help with finding housing, among other services.