Years ago when I was going through a rough time, a dear friend of mine told me a story that helped me a lot. I hope it helps you, too.
There was a seven year old girl playing on the porch in her backyard. She was playing with a beautiful, porcelain doll that her grandfather had given her. As she was playing with her doll, she dropped it and the doll broke in many pieces.
She fell to her knees, picked up all of the broken pieces, and in despair she wept uncontrollably. She looked up at the sky and cried out, “Why, God? Why did you let this happen? Fix this. Please, God, fix this.”
From behind the clouds, the girl heard God’s voice. “I know you’re hurting, my darling daughter.”
“God, of course I’m hurting. You know how much this doll means to me.”
“Of course I know. I Am God.”
“And You know it’s the only thing in my life that makes sense. My grandfather, who was my world and passed away last year, gave me this doll.”
“Of course I know that, my darling daughter. I Am God.”
“And You know how much I need You to fix this because it hurts so bad. It hurts so bad, God. Please fix this.”
“I know you’re hurting. And yes, I can fix this. I know all and can do all things. I Am God.”
The girl became furious. “You just keep letting me know You’re here! You keep telling me that You know how I feel, and that You can do all things, but You’re not fixing anything!”
“My darling daughter, I Am God. I love you more than you know. I can do all things. I Am here with you. And I can fix this, but you have to give Me the pieces.”
My dad would say, “Don’t fight the wind, son,” whenever he saw war brewing in my eyes
Wars fought long ago
that woke me up
crying, punching, kicking,
reaching for a horizon
Walking in a daze
that was nowhere
A place I couldn’t reach
because I was trying,
desperately trying to find
the twelve year old me
to let him know
we’re going to make it
beyond that moment
and something miraculous
will manifest from it all
Time won’t tell us
than we tell time
Yet, when that moment
arrives, it arises and raises
a sun that beams
upon all survivors
melting the tears
to rainbows that arch
from our heads
back to our hearts
Under which we find
the solace of the miracle
that the wounded child
within us has longed for
It is there, here, now
in a holy instant
we no longer
fight the wind,
but allow it to carry
the unnecessary away
and breathe us
back to life
After more than a few injuries and too many 15-20 hour work days to count facilitating interventions in my full time job as street outreach crisis counselor, someone asked me why I put all of myself into the full time work we do with the youth and young adults we serve. Well …
Because it’s not work or a job, it’s a calling. Truly a calling from God. There were many situations that called me to this work, most of them were extremely challenging situations that God used to cultivate deeper love, respect, honor and compassion. One of many experiences was when I was homeless and walking through a neighborhood during the Christmas holidays in Michigan.
I was wandering around with no particular destination other than wanting to get to a 24 hour store or restaurant where I could warm up and take a nap. It was snowing and as I was walking through a neighborhood I looked across the street and saw a house with a huge window, and through that window I saw a family eating dinner. They were passing food around the table, eating, laughing and talking. I remember sitting down by a tree in the snow just staring across the street, watching the family enjoying life and each other’s company. I don’t know how long I was there, but I remember what I was thinking. I was thinking, how the fuck did I wind up in this situation? I’m not stupid. I have talents and abilities. I know my life is supposed to be more than this. I feel so lonely. So lonely.
That feeling of loneliness was so intense that for a little while I forgot about the cold. Loneliness can make us numb. When our needs are frozen, literally frozen, we become numb to so many things. And when God sends someone into our lives to bring God’s warm light to thaw our needs, meet our needs, and show us a better way to think and live, it is a miracle so intense that all you want to do is be a vessel through which that miracle is delivered to others.
If it’s partial or conditional, it’s not love. And if it’s not love, then I wouldn’t dare refer to it as a calling.
A beautiful cat was wandering lost in the wilderness on a cold, winter night. Snow covered the ground and the freezing temperatures, slowly but surely, began to disrupt her breathing, heart rate, and instincts. When she first realized she was lost, she panicked and frantically ran in an unknown direction hoping she would find shelter. Out of breath from running, and discouraged from not finding shelter, her emotions began to grow as numb as her frostbitten paws. Her tears of desperation were frozen to her fur, and with each struggling step she took, hopelessness began to fill her. Then, off in the distance she saw a farmhouse. She mustered the last bit of courage and hope she had within her, and moved towards the farmhouse. Both the weight of her despair, as well as the weight of the ice-covered snow sticking to her paws with each step, made her feel as if the weight of the world was upon her. And it was. Her world, seemingly out of nowhere turned from the familiar place where she was born, grew up, loved and knew so well, to an unfamiliar, cold, dark place. With each shaky step, she limped and cried out for someone to help her. And who among us, if we are honest, hasn’t wandered into cold, dark and unfamiliar places, all while never leaving a place we once knew so well?
She wasn’t experiencing a moment of weakness. She had just been strong for as long as she could. And despite all odds she made it close to the farmhouse, where to her pleasant surprise, she saw that the farmer’s truck was just a few more steps from her. With her last bit of strength, she crawled under the truck and felt the warmth emanating from the motor. Warmth, oh, sweet warmth. The warmth gave her hope, and in this hope her heart began to beat strong again. As her blood began to flow strongly through her, she leaped up, crawled onto the warm motor, and as her frozen paws began to thaw, she knew she was safe. She curled up on the motor of that truck and fell into a deep sleep.
As he always did, in the morning the farmer awoke early. After he ate his breakfast and drank his coffee, he went outside, got inside his truck, put the key in the ignition, and started the vehicle. The cat was instantly killed.
We all have needs. Sure, the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are needs. But ask yourself, has your belly ever been full, and yet your heart completely empty? Have you, or someone you know had all the things that brought comfort on the outside, and yet, inside you felt so alone that even in the middle of crowds the loneliness was so intense that it sent shivers up your spine? We have more than the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. We need to be seen, heard, believed, accepted, loved and safe. We as humanity need one another. We are here to meet the needs of each other. It is a blessing and responsibility to thaw out the frozen needs of each other so that we don’t seek temporary warmth by curling up inside a bottle of alcohol, a bottle of pills, with a needle in our arms, or in a lifestyle that is not only destructive, but essentially suicide on an installment plan.
There are many people who are wandering lost in a cold, dark time that just one smile, one word of encouragement, one loving conversation, one afternoon spent with someone who cares – someone like you, would shine a light of warmth and love so bright that their frozen needs would instantly thaw, and you would see it, because all that has been frozen within them would melt, pour out through their eyes, rid them of their pain, and they with you, will take that seventeen inch walk from their head back to their heart. And what greater honor and purpose is there than to be there for one another to call ourselves out of the cold and darkness and back to ourselves and God?
Did the cat commit suicide? You decide.
Throwback pic and lesson. This was part of my team getting me ready for the finals in the Detroit Golden Gloves Tournament in 1990.
It’s been years since I’ve competed in the martial arts, but the martial arts has given me so many gifts that transfer to all aspects of my life, including my full time work in youth development.
One of the many gifts the martial arts has given me is the understanding of how essential a team is. A team of supportive, loving and encouraging mentors and coaches is crucial if we want to actualize the best possible version of ourselves, and help others to do the same.
Yes, as a fighter you’re the one walking into the ring/cage alone and laying it all on the line, but you can’t see everything. Your coaches and mentors – your team has a unique perspective from the outside that has to be trusted and listened to. We all have blind spots and our mentors and coaches will not only point them out, but help us make the necessary adjustments.
In between rounds during a really close fight, I asked my coach, “Am I winning?” He yelled, “Yes, but fight like you’re losing!”
The difference between a win or a loss in the ring and in life often depends upon our ability or our inability to be teachable.
Be teachable. Be humble. Be a lifelong student. And most importantly, be blessed by being a blessing to others.
~ Walk In Beauty,