Sometimes we don’t know we are embarking on a great adventure until we are well into it. Those simple choices, early decisions, and serendipitous connections send us on our way even before we know something remarkable is coming together. Often it is a matter of just saying “Yes” to the small things, before we realize they have the potential to create connections that change lives.

In 2011, my friend Margaret Bentley met songwriter Darden Smith and remembered that he and I had been classmates in middle school. From that chance meeting, she reconnected us after more than 20 years. Within a month, I traveled across the country to observe and write about Darden writing songs with post 9/11 veterans. I was already deeply involved in research related to happiness, well-being, strengths, and the life-saving importance of community. Our backgrounds and experiences led us to the audacious decision to put our skills into practice and that practice became SongwritingWith:Soldiers.

Sometimes, with little consideration, we let an opportunity for connection slip by. What if Margaret hadn’t put two old friends back in touch? What if I hadn’t caught a plane to observe Darden writing a song? What if we hadn’t decided to gather friends and colleagues to provide multi-faceted, hands-on support for our first retreat and onward to sustain this important work? (Margaret, a poet, was the first volunteer and went on to become a program advisor and workshop presenter; Gary Leopold, a colleague of Mary’s, has served on the Board of Directors for 8 years, 6 as President!) So many of you reading this have been instrumental in getting us to where we are today — our 10th Anniversary!

Often we choose not to do something because we can’t quickly justify it to ourselves. What if we considered our inklings as sparks or seeds that create opportunities to enrich not only our own lives but also the lives of others? The potential for connection and creating positive change exists infinitely around us. We have seen this firsthand at SongwritingWith:Soldiers. We are continually awed by the power of connections.

If each one of us hadn’t been open to making these connections and the possibilities they represented, SongwritingWith:Soldiers never would have existed. The stories that follow in this book — stories of hope, bravery, compassion, selflessness, lives changed, even saved — would never have happened.

We hope this book helps you become ever more aware of your own connection to SongwritingWith:Soldiers and that it provides personal inspiration, too. Take time to connect to your heart, to your creativity, to play, in ways that delight you — find ways to share it with others. The possibilities are limitless. And, oh, the rewards!

Closing circle at the first SongwritingWith:Soldiers retreat in Belton, TX in October 2012. Photo: Andy Dunaway