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21 / 25
Reports | Spring 2019
Photo: Cynthia Dougherty
Cynthia Dougherty at the Round Robin

Lost and Found

Conference Reflections From a Newcomer

It’s still all very fresh: a myriad of smiling faces, a whirlwind of songs, the stories, forty-dollar bags of cookies (worth every penny, by the way) . . . I could go on. And on. And on. So I will!

I walked into your conference as a stranger. Let me rephrase that: a mildly terrified stranger. As a former music teacher, I spent seventeen years being the energetic one in the room. When I retired for health reasons, I thought my days of extroverting were over. I started blogging. I wrote poetry. Then one day this past winter, I picked up a ukulele and I wrote “Love Is Love.”

And I will never, ever forget what it felt like to sing that song for so many of you on the very first night of the conference.

Here’s a secret: I wasn’t planning to sing “Love Is Love” that night. Ever since I wrote it, I’ve struggled playing the chord progression in that song. I knew that if I played it, I was going to mess up. I wanted to be flawless in that performance, so I had chosen a different song for you to hear. Then something happened.

I met you.

Actually at that point, I had only gotten the chance to really talk to three of you; Margaret Hooton (the best buddy in the world), Lisa Heintz (whom I felt like I knew my entire life), and Tina Stone (the Most Delightful Person in the Universe). Then I walked into Shabbat and was greeted so warmly by everyone there. By the time I went to dinner, I knew that I was in a safe space. I knew that what I was witnessing all around me was a group of people who knew that love is both a noun and a verb. So, I abandoned my plan and switched my song at the last minute.

Suddenly, my world opened up. I can’t count how many people I got to talk with over the course of the weekend; it all felt like a blur. The workshops, the laughing, and oh, the singing! I hadn’t felt that kind of joy from singing since I left the classroom. Prior to coming to the conference, I often questioned why I was even bothering to make an album. Who would care to listen? Will my music even make a difference in this world?

I left on Sunday thinking: Yes. People will care. People will listen. These are my people.

Each and every one of you there that weekend was like this undying beacon of light. As I stood in front of all of you to sing, it was like staring directly into the sun (without all the harmful side effects).

For a moment, for a weekend, I got to be a part of that glow and feel its warmth.

In a cold, conflicted, miserable time, there is light. There is warmth. There is CMN.