Kind Kindred : Jen Lemen

Kind Kindred

A beautiful day to each of you lovelies, thank you for joining us today. Let me tell you a little bit about Jen Lemen. I found Jen through Shutter Sisters so many months ago, specifically in Picture Hope. Seeing the photographs, reading Odette & her daughters’ story, I was so hopeful that things would work out. I felt like I knew them because Jen (and her partner in the project Stephanie Roberts), their words brought these people that I’d never meet to life. Jen’s magic is in her words, and her photography, her gift is in telling a story in such a way that you are drawn in, instantly. You care. You dream. You hope. So we are really so happy that she’s become a part of our tribe. Peace to each of you, in abundance. – Jenn

Cell Phone Serenade

A few years ago, I met an amazing and kind-hearted woman named Myriam Joseph. After exchanging one or two emails, we were lucky enough to meet face-to-face and within the first hour, we found ourselves sitting on the floor of someone else’s hotel room, telling each other long tearful stories about our lives from the beginning until our most recent past. Myriam has been one of my dearest friends ever since, and even though we live on separate coasts, we do our best to see each other as often as we can.

During the months when we can’t be together, Myriam introduced me to the Cell Phone Serenade. Every couple of days, I get a message on my machine, and it’s Myriam, singing me a song–the cheesier or the more ridiculous, the better. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been having a day where I’m sure my whole life is shot to hell and then there’s Myriam, singing on my voice mail, reminding me in one kind and simple act, that I’m loved and that someone far away deeply cares.

It took a few months for it to dawn on me that the Cell Phone Serenade could be part of my kindness practice, too. Just yesterday, I sang fifteen cell phone serenades to commenters on my blog, and we were all delighted at how deeply something as simple as a song made us feel connected–and dare I say–complete.

I don’t know why, but there’s something so lovely about the Cell Phone Serenade. I don’t sing the entire song–just a few lines will do–and I almost always don’t sing unless the machine picks up. I always feel a little bit shy and silly, but I know truly, truly that the only time most people are ever sung to is when they are babies, or–if they are very, very lucky–when they are in love. These are too few instances, in my humble opinion. Here are three of my favorite Cell Phone Serenades.

  1. You are so Beautiful to me by Joe Cocker
  2. Without You by Harry Nilson (I like the height of the chorus, “I Can’t Live, if Living is Without You!”)
  3. Climb Every Mountain from the Sound of Music

Part of being kind, I believe, is to make ourselves vulnerable. To show our affection. To reveal the ways our hearts lean in to the other with ridiculous longing and admiration. Sometimes we’re able to do that with a note, but sometimes it requires a more audacious gesture. A song, if you will, sung with abandon. A serenade–because we cannot contain how much we long for the other to know how deeply and irrationally we care.

What do you think? Start with your dearest friend, your sister, your long lost favorite old person. Will you join me for a Cell Phone Serenade?

Jen Lemen uses photography, storytelling and cross-cultural friendship to explore the power of dreams and the essence of hope. Her current projects include Mondo Beyondo, an online class about dreaming big, and Picture HOPE, a global photography assignment that carries her around the world finding stories of radical trust and remarkable courage. A chronic doubter and aspiring mystic, Jen is learning what it means to be vulnerable and brave, fragile and strong — all at the same time.


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