She’s the type of person that is calling you sister before she’s even met you in person, she’s just that great. She’s full of a desire to assist and provide for those around her, and she’s changing the world – through storytelling. For Sarah Davison-Tracy, her life story starts off with joyful memories of tea parties, family dinners, play dates with her sisters, and her father building a playhouse.
Over the years she may have outgrown the playhouse as well as started a family of her own (Sarah and her husband Brandon have two children, Sophia, 10 and Micah, 6), but these initial years were the starting of a sense of kula, or community and storytelling that has become a major theme and life focus for Sarah. In 1998 she co-founded the organization Reverie alongside her friend Allison Myers. The idea for Reverie came about as Allison and Sarah made a list of what they love and what they thought the world needed. Through Reverie, Sarah and Allison sought to “bring women together to celebrate creativity, culture, and community.” One popular and well-loved event featured by Reverie was the culinary exchange dinner. One woman would be invited to cook a meal from her home country. As the other guests participated in the cooking, this woman would share her story. Storytelling created a sense of connection between the women who realized that they were more similar than they may have previously thought. “When we learn stories of the ‘other’ there is less fear. Reverie showed the belief that human beings love and long to connect,” said Sarah.
After a pause to finish her undergraduate studies and have her first child, Sophia, Sarah shifted her time and efforts into starting the organization Seeds of Exchange (SOE) in 2006. SOE seeks to “build a robust and committed village in order to support the enterprises and well-being of our sisters and brothers globally.” As an organization they work to “foster and ignite connections through: supporting dynamic collaborations locally and globally, creating community events and opportunities for transformative service, promoting engaged travel for social good, and sharing these stories to encourage individual and community compassion, purpose and love.”
Sarah shares, “I am deeply drawn and called to be a storyteller. To tell my story and the stories of those around me in a way that reveals, beckons, calls forth, and encourages you to say ‘Yes’ to your story. I hope that these stories give you the piece of the puzzle, or that the part of you comes alive, saying, ‘Yes, I want to be a part of that’ and ‘That’s me…I see myself in that story.’”
Sarah soon found herself hosting fair trade markets in her home after her friend and mentor Christy Graham shared her desire to provide a market for women in India to sell their artisan crafts. These fair trade markets were positively engaging and they provided a means to foster more community building, celebration, and sharing of stories. “What would make me ecstatic in this work of SOE is to – in word and deed – be energy, inspiration, and a picture of how much purpose and love there is for each and every person,” says Sarah. For the next two years, Sarah hosted these fair trade markets. Still desiring to support the incredible work of people around the world, Sarah now hosts community events or has friends in different partnerships share their stories during SOE events. In effect, SOE is seeking to foster and ignite connection with purpose.
Sarah’s vibrant personality and loving soul shine through each and every word she says. She immediately makes people feel connected and has a comfortable aura. She’s joyful and speaks with passion. Was she always this assured with herself and her life? Actually, her sense of identity and value for herself has been a long and tumultuous journey, but ultimately one that has provided her with gratitude and a deep sense of love for, in her words, “doing what I can to be a part of fostering well-being in people’s lives.”
In her middle and high school years, Sarah struggled with friendships. She constantly compared herself to others, felt shame when she made mistakes, and felt she was not enough. During those times, “God was always central to [her] thinking, musings, questions, pursuit, plans – a source of rest, love, shelter from the storm.”After she finished her two year community college degree, Sarah’s life took a sharp turn. While participating in a six-month stay at a faith-based international service school in Hong Kong, Sarah began a commitment to be healthy. However, this commitment was distorted into a “self-absorbed, debilitating eating disorder.” She loved the travel, exploration, and friends she was making while in Hong Kong, yet her eating disorder created a deep and dark heaviness within her. But by realizing her identity in God, Sarah was able to overcome and break free from her eating disorder.
“I had a moment of ‘aha’… a God nudge that I was made for more than counting calories, exercising, and exhaustion due to being very underweight. Yet, even here, there was a transformative kula connection. While in an eating disorder group, a 45-year old woman shared about her two decade struggle with anorexia. I remember her as severe, hard, broken, beautiful and courageous. I knew I didn’t want two decades of this obsessive disordered life. As I drove home, I committed to eat what my body told me it wanted for 30 days. I gained 30 pounds in 30 days, ate a steady diet of Red Robin French fries and my dad’s oatmeal-raisin cookies. I never returned to my anorexic patterns. I experienced a deep abiding with God during this time and the days after, which has been deepened over the years to a great awareness of the violence and struggle that can be held in women’s bodies, the dangers of perfectionism and control…even in little doses. I love to be a part of championing women’s bodies to be vibrantly well,” recounts Sarah.
A few years after living in Hong Kong Sarah moved to Colorado and began to surround herself in an environment that fostered spiritual meaning and that featured conversations that brought her to life. She met her husband Brandon during this time. Reverie was created; then, Seeds of Exchange.
Last February 26 – March 12, 2015, Sarah and her now ten-year-old daughter, Sophia traveled to India and Nepal to visit the Nepali people and “continue to support the leaders in this community with a strong focus on women’s well-being and identity.” In Kathmandu, they visited with friends who have a children’s home for children who, due to poverty, caste, or gender have no one to care for them. They also spent time at a girl’s home which was located in a part of Nepal where thousands of girls are sold to or abducted by human trafficking rings. Their next stop was in Tikapur, in the southwest of Nepal, where they took part in a 3-day women’s conference with 450 women.
Sarah recounts the conference fondly, “What an amazing opportunity…some of these women left their village for the first time to travel to this conference…two days away from their rigorous work caring for families, farms, grass-cutting. We danced, ate, learned together. The themes of our conference: beloved, belonging, worth. We heard stories of great pain and healing, we prayed for bodies to be made well – the women’s bodies were hurting. What brought hope, healing, and joy to places of brokenness of body, mind, and spirit, were the ways in which these women felt deeply seen, loved, and heard by one another and by God.”
Sarah’s strength appeared to diminish when she caught a sickness during the trip, but not her ability to see and understand the people and events taking place around her. “Being sick gave me a great opportunity to have a deeper connection with, and empathy for, these women. Many of whom had been sick and not well for much of their lives. It gave me an opportunity to let go, dive deeper and say yes to the mystery of God’s deep love, companionship and strengthening of me,” Sarah mentions.
While there, the team was able to launch a women’s business training center focused initially on a 9-month sewing program. They also provided funding for each woman there to receive a “feminine hygiene kit that helps keep girls in school and women’s businesses thriving.” Through her various travels, Sarah has learned immensely about the lives of people in a variety of cultures, but she’s also learned more about herself and her life’s purpose.
Sarah remembers, “I had a very real sense that this is what I’m made for. On a purely physical level, a part of me comes alive when I am in different lands… foods, smells, tastes, learning from, being with. Such a joy. It harkened me back to my teens, my first trip to India when I was 15. Likened it to diving into a deep pool and not knowing I knew how to swim – there was such ease, joy and flow.” Sophia’s presence also created an opportunity for self-exposure for these Nepali women. These women saw Sophia, a ten-year-old, who had made business cards that said “photographer, blogger, traveler,” travel halfway around the world to minister and love them. They were reminded of their own daughters, who they have often overlooked because of the negative views of women in their society.
Soon after Sarah and Sophia returned to the United States, Nepal was hit with a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25, 2015. The earthquake left major loss and destruction, many of the areas Sarah and Sophia traveled to were damaged in the quake. Sarah mentions,“Our friends with the 27 kids in Kathmandu are right now in a tent. There have been more than 250 aftershocks. Recently, the tent in the middle of the night got a hole in it. Many of the temples we visited are completely gone or damaged.”
With a heart that deeply cares for “all to have enough food, water, shelter…and vitality of life,” Sarah quickly began figuring out what she and SOE could do to provide for her brothers and sisters in Nepal. And as a firm believer that there is a time for charity or giving, Sarah, with SOE, has been raising funds to provide for immediate physical relief in Nepal as well as partnering with trusted organizations to support rebuilding efforts.
She says, “I want to ignite myself and those around me to care for them in ways we would want to be cared for. I also want to provide opportunities for people to help in the short-term, immediate relief effort such as giving money for food and shelter. These people don’t need to have a long-term commitment or plan to be with the Nepalis for many months or years but just be a scaffold of support. A long-term relief effort would be cultivating a community of people who are committed to joining the circle, to partnering with communities who have local leaders with a vision for rebuilding.”
Over the years, SOE has “built in methodologies in which funds that are given involve some combination of the grace of a gift and empowerment of a loan.” The organization has worked to use these funds to bring the community together as well as work to foster and build that community. So far, SOE has partnered with grassroots community leaders in India, Uganda, Nepal, Costa Rica, and Pakistan.
Saying ‘yes’ for Sarah was not always comparable to the ease of hopping across a small stream, but often more like trying to leap across a wide chasm. Fear was inevitable. But overcoming her fears allowed her to fully and deeply pursue her passion of storytelling as well as find her identity in God. She notes, “It’s incredible how our quest for meaningful work can at times terrorize and other times, it can fill us with such energy. My observation in my own life and in the lives of those around me is that there can be such fear in saying yes to our callings. There can be threads of fear with quite a crippling range: that we have nothing at all to do, that our work isn’t significant enough, or that the cost will be too great. Maybe, we fear it will divide me against myself or with those I love in my family or friendships. Which is why I come back to this deep need for deep identity, deep sense of being, and if we are open to it, a deep sense of connection with the One who calls us by name, who will help us to name ourselves and our work. Who loves us. Who will energize and fuel us to do that which seems daunting at times.”
Finding and embracing her identity has led Sarah to tell her story, and ultimately to inspire those around her and throughout the world. She’s a phenomenal woman. A woman who, in Sarah’s own definition of a phenomenal woman, “appears and feels more phenomenal when she sees herself as loved, cherished, unique, when her skin is toughened up to be able to withstand moments of weakness, failure, perceived judgment from herself and others…she is free of even her own expectations of who she “should” be… she says YES over and over to herself, to others, and to God.”
Little pieces of advice for all you beautiful, strong, and dedicated women out there: Love, Sarah Davison-Tracy
- Listen, honor, and respond to the nudges in you that are YOU. May you open to the notion of the most epic love story of all time…that there is a God (or your word for the divine/sacred) who has been chasing and offering you beauty, love, purpose, and belonging since the beginning of time.
- Find, cultivate a circle, a kula, a community, who sees, hears, affirms, knows who you are and who you are becoming.
- Rooted in love and with this kula, go on the treasure hunt every day for ways you can bring to life the gifts you are meant to bring and do in the world. Your work. Do it. It will ignite you from within.
- What would you do if you weren’t led by fear? (Everyone has fear – things that scare a little or terrify greatly.)
- Practice saying yes to deep nudges from today onward, whether they seem small or large. Ask for help when you need it – from others, from God. We each have such a gift to be and do – there is plenty in us, around us.
- Pay attention to the songs, the movies, the books, the food, the conversations you love… consider the ways to spend your evenings, start your days, that feel just right – do more of the stuff that fills you up and lights you up, gently let the rest go. You know what they are.
- Cultivate love and be aware of the ways in which you can foster deep compassion and care for your body. Women’s bodies have been greatly abused and misused over time. There can be great pain held in our bodies. Cultivate practices of love and kindness towards your body. For me, that’s yoga, walking, playing, dancing, cooking, and eating mindfully.
To hear more inspiring stories or to learn more about SOE’s recent work visit the Seeds of Exchange website.
By: Michaela Garretson