SaveDate Samara Stories (3)

Fear Less

-A Reflection from Julia Sleeper-Whiting, Founder Executive Director-

Tree Street’s vision is to cultivate leaders who fear less, love more, dream big, who boldly shape communities united across lines of difference. You’d be surprised to learn that the phrase of the vision statement that gets questioned the most is not the ability to create communities united across lines of difference, which one would think would be the most daunting challenge, but rather uncertainty more often than not revolves around the concept of “fear less.”


Many people have tried to make the argument that by saying “fear less,” we are suggesting people should hold fear or are functioning in fear and that is not something we should envision for our organization and community. However, when I reflect deeply on where this part of our vision stems from, I think it is grounded in the reality that at Tree Street, we consistently observe people in fear. From the child who fears they are letting their parents down by not making it to college, to the hesitant volunteer who isn’t sure how best to engage in the chaos of after school, to the parent who fears their child won’t have enough food or for their teenager who didn’t come home the night before, to families who are unsure if they will be able to remain in the country due to new immigration laws, to the staff who fear they did not do enough to support a student, to an Executive Director who questions daily if the organization’s direction is truly honoring our youth and staff’s voice. Fear is all around us. 


Fortunately, we can combat the power of this reality with compassion, forgiveness and most of all through fostering trust. At Tree, our we strive desperately to create an environment where we can all trust just enough to share these innermost thoughts with each other. It is in this sharing, healing is found. To me, sharing one’s fears is truly one of the most bold approaches to healing one’s heart.


In the latest series of Samara stories we heard powerful reflections from Prosper, Ronnie, and Kay about fear.

Prosper’s sharing brings home the importance of having spaces to air and honor each other’s fears, thereby ensuring “othering” isn’t able to happen and capitalized on by opportunists in society. So many atrocities throughout history have been grounded in this basic principle of building on people’s fears without truly giving space for people to air them in safe environments where they can be honored, dissected, challenged, and traced back to their origins held within ourselves.

Prosper Photo

If one believes facing one’s fear is truly grounded in healing oneself, Ronnie’s message of Tikun Olam, meaning “repair the world” was a call to action. To think about the pain in the world as grounded in fear challenges all of us to reflect on the ways we handle one another, even those creating some of the greatest harm. I often reflect on the ways one might respond to a child in fear; we don’t ignore them or return the anger;  we create safety and tell them the truth. I think at times it can feel impossible to create safety for those around us who know that safety will lead to a new truth, but I think that is the power of Ronnie’s challenge. Find your role in it, find a way…and heal the world. 

Lastly, I was greatly moved by Kay’s practical charge to continuously challenge ourselves to face our fears. I think perhaps what resonated with me the most however, was her statement that there may be times where we have to face these fears alone. That in itself (at least for me!) is fear inducing, but it’s also a powerful truth that I think is not emphasized enough. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe in the importance of community, support, and teamwork to reaching our goals and solving the complex challenges in our world, but I also challenge us to look deep inside of ourselves to find even just one area where we could do some work, facing our fears, healing ourselves, and ultimately seeing the power this could have on the world around us. 


I have the privilege to see what a world looks like when people choose to do this each and every day. I see it when I walk into the doors of Tree Street. I am so grateful to the brave members of our community, especially our youth, who model this behavior each day. I challenge you all to follow their lead today and each day.


Acknowledge the fear, Heal yourself, Hear more truth, Fear less!