Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Wednesday Wish (160); Illuminated Empathy

photo via googleimages

She wasn’t like the rest of her family. They were rushed and tight and talked loudly even when they stood right next to each other. They never noticed flowering weeds or the little critters that liked to sit on the side of the road watching the cars go by. They didn’t quiver when the rain hit the roof making it’s beautiful music, or realize how wonderful the wood floor felt when it baked in the winter sun. And the magical shapes of clouds? To them, just different ways for the annoying buggers to block the sun. 

Her family might’ve appreciated such things if they could first see them. But they didn’t. They didn’t see any of it. None of it at all. 

Now before you wonder why she didn’t show them what they were missing, I’ll tell you, she tried. Many times. Each time though, they’d just chuckle, telling her that she needed to join the real world, recommending such membership sooner than later with a patronizing pat to her messy, long-haired head.

Maybe that’s why she got so good at reading people. Knowing their intent before their action softened their unconscious blows, a honing that grew early on like instinct. Subtle signs, guidance from her gut, a deeper level of empathy, protected her, helped her avoid the hurt that came from being outside the circle of average. 

When a car drove up she knew the driver’s mood and hurried from her basking on the toasty wood floor to the kitchen where she’d make herself busy, armored with to-do’s. When someone walked in, she knew their mood before they spoke. She knew what to do before she could be hurt. And, in time, she was able to help them soften whatever weights they carried, for feeling them herself, she carried them, too.

Her knowing grew so well-honed that some called her psychic. And maybe she was. Or maybe she just walked the same path so many times that its well-worn way became second nature.

Until one day, many years later . . .

. . . when, like too much icing, it all grew too heavy, caving in the beautiful cake underneath it all. Her co-workers called it burn-out. They knew it well, had seen it all too many times before. ‘Harden up’, they said. ‘Yep, block it out. It’s the only way’.

But she just couldn’t join that circle either. It felt as wrong as wool in the summertime.

She thought back to when she was a little girl wishing her family could see and began to wonder if that was what she needed, too. Fresh eyes. So she invited herself to see with new sight, to be present to that which she had not yet seen before.

And soon, with eyes looking outward (not inward), she began to see colors.

He was yellow when he needed more control. She was green when she was centered in her heart. He was blue when his truth was stuck, when he swallowed words that needed to be spoken, and when he was red that told her he'd forgotten his roots, that he felt so very lost. 

She didn’t need her gut, her insides, to understand or to keep her safe anymore for she’d expanded her seeing past her default, past her learned interwoven-ness with others and into seeing those same others with an outward looking heart. She didn’t need to embody to empathize when she could see others where they were, their colors worn like glowing cloaks. 

Such empathy didn’t deplete her. Instead, her fresh sight enhanced both her and those around her in ways that weren’t possible before. With her gut free she had more of herself to solve problems, more of her energy available to love people where they were. Seeing colors, she grew more empowered, empowering then, those around her.

*         *         *

Those who empathize know what it means to feel things in their gut. But fewer know how to see with fresh eyes, eyes of love that reveal the colors people wear. Just as we learn to empathize with our gut, we can also expand that empathy to include new sight. An embodiment of the little things that make life magic, a faith in the ever-present presence of magic, acts as a catalyst, softening us to an even deeper beauty waiting to be revealed, waiting to be seen in all of its magnificent splendor. 

Invite yourself to soften your sight into fresh loving eyes, 
to step beyond the circle of average
into a sea of colorful extraordinary.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Wednesday Wish (159); The Wisdom of Weeds

The path is warm under her feet. Sprinkled with pine needles, rich brown dirt, and a few jagged stones, she walks on it slowly, sensing beyond the obvious—the scent of twilight, the sound of hushed air, the depth of no people. She thinks she’s being drawn deeper into the forest, to a space that’s breathed wisdom into her wandering self so many times before. But as she nears the turn that would take her there, she notices a tug. So she stops. The invitation is gentle, as soundless as a leaf floating down to touch the ground. And even though it’s unfamiliar, still, it resonates with Truth. So she listens. With every fiber of her quietest Self, she listens, hoping to connect to the silent wisdom reaching out to her.

After some time, she finds herself along the edge of the forest, her feet no longer on a path of another’s making, but on one of her own. Weeds lay bent behind her from the weight of her feet, from the push of her toes; weeds stretch out before her, beckoning her ahead. Soon she stands in the middle of a field, her body encircled with weeds. There are shades of green, too many to count, their shapes and flow as playfully varied as rides at a carnival. Wind reveals a hidden few. A butterfly lights up a chosen two. And as the colors soften into golden, so does she, at peace in her place.

She sits down. The weeds tower around her as if she’s shrunken to the size of a field mouse. She breathes in their sweet green scents. She trembles with the tender caress of the wind as if she's already one of them, with the warm encouragement of the sun, as if her feet have suddenly grown tendrils, sinking into the earth. She softens still more, and slowly, with little effort, begins to receive—the wisdom of the weeds. 

*          *          *

You may stomp on us, cut us down as low as you think we can go, you may even try to kill us, but we are resilient and will always find a way to return to our once vibrant, life-loving selves, even if it means planting our seeds elsewhere, in soil that’s more fertile, more welcoming, more open to our gifts.

Others may call you ugly or slimy or creepy, but to us, you are warmth, you are soul, you are beautiful, and you are always welcome here.

Shallow roots in infertile ground keep us thriving longer; this way our thirst is quenched by even the smallest of drops.

Depth comes when we’re planted in rich, fertile soil.

We know the difference between fertile and infertile soil and act accordingly.

We may look happier in rich soil but we're able to find joy in living wherever we’re planted.

We innately know how to infect our surroundings with seeds of hope.

We cannot thrive on sun alone. We also need bouts of rain.

We know we aren’t alone, that we exist not just for our selves, but for one another. We help the birds, the bugs, the critters of all shapes and sizes, and they each and often, in their own time, help us. We are here for one another.

*          *          *

Wisdom finds her through the soundless voice of weeds. She is reminded of her resilience, of her strength even in shallow times, of her capacity to overcome any adversity, and of her natural abilities to grow and even thrive wherever she is, no matter the happenings around her.

She then reminds each one of us that we are never, by nature's design, ever alone. And especially not in a field of all-welcoming weeds.

Listen with me.
Listen to the soundless voice of nature. 
Listen to the wisdom under your feet, 
brewing in your once free, 
untamed soul.
And tell me,
tell me
you don't taste hope.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

A Story for You to Finish . . .

photo found via googleimages

She washed the body as she did all the others, starting at the neck and shoulders and moving down the arms to the fingers. Other than the face, which was always left for last, she spent the most time washing the fingers. If no one else was waiting, she might even massage them a little, taking care to bring any lingering bits of life back into them, and especially for an open casket. It was the last time for the people left behind, the last time for them to see their beloved, and with their beloved’s eyes closed, surely they’d look to the fingers. Didn’t everyone know that the eyes weren’t the only windows to the soul?

The woman’s fingers were well kept, obviously manicured until the very last day of her life and yet there was something unusual about them, something slightly unnerving. It was as if they weren’t quite void of life even before she massaged them. Something still seemed to pulse through them. And even though it was entirely impossible, somehow the fact that they didn’t look dead was irrefutable. As if that wasn’t enough, the first finger on each hand stuck out.

She sat down to collect herself. She was a professional and this was a dead body not a canvas for her imagination. With a deep breath and a few stern words to herself, she was back at the table, continuing her work. And yet there it was again. The nagging sense that this body, these fingers, still had something left to say and she was the only one left to listen.

She shook her head. She opened and closed her eyes. She took another deep breath and begged strength to find her. And then, against all training and in contradiction to all logic, she succumbed. To the returning inevitable truth—the fingers of her deceased client spoke.

She moved the woman forward, as if to help her sit up, resting the deceased’s head upon her shoulder. And when her hands found the woman’s back, she wondered if this was what she was called to witness. For beneath her own fingers, she felt ridges, ridges where smooth skin should be. Gently, and with utmost care, she dared to lift the woman’s shirt and found her entire back covered with small, equally spaced scars. From waist to neck and from side to side, this was a back that had endured unspeakable pain.

She moved the woman back down, laying her head with great care and as she did, noticed that one of the hand’s fingers rested together but the fingers of the other hand still did not. Was there more?

Did she dare?

Could she dare?

How could she not?

Another deep breath and the pearl buttons at the old woman’s belly opened up to reveal a second shocking discovery. Around her naval, as realistic and intricate as the living creature itself, was one of the most beautiful butterflies she had ever seen. It looked as if it were flying and yet there it was, a part of her skin. Was it a tattoo? But she had never seen a tattoo that fine before, the attention to detail something that belonged in a museum or at least somewhere it could be admired and shared.

She swallowed hard as she buttoned the old woman’s shirt, her heart beating out of her chest. Who was this old woman and what had she been through? Did anyone know her story? Or was she, the no-name hired to prepare the body for its final viewing, the last living soul to witness this old woman’s lifetime of secrets?

She looked down at the woman’s fingers and noticed, all at once, that each one rested as a unified whole, the last bits of life present only minutes before, now entirely gone. . .

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Wednesday Wish (158); Dreams Come True

photo by katerina plotnikova via google images

I live in a world where stories float like formless spirits waiting for me to pluck them from the sky. Unlike many, I’m at peace with undefined edges and ethereal urgings. I don’t need to nail them down or to make them fit. I don’t even need them to clarify themselves. At least not at first. At first the thrill of merely sensing them is enough, of tasting something I barely recognize, of breathing in the scent of an unfamiliar emotion. For me it’s ecstasy born of boundless possibility. 

There’ve been so many of those stories tempting me over the years, but one in particular grew legs only to walk all over my heart until I agreed to listen. Intently. It begged me to define its ethereal edges, to give it weight, to transform a once dream into raw reality.

It took me years. Of writing. Of polishing. Of throwing out and birthing. Of fighting through doubt as if it were a pile of mucky quicksand threatening to devour me alive. Somehow though, I didn’t give up. Nay, I couldn’t give up. It meant too much to me. Even when no one else listened. Even when no one else cared. And worst of all, even when the path of my dream was blasted and criticized.

Then one day, like a sunrise after a heavy rain, I found her. I found the kindred spirit who would champion my dream. She tapped me on the shoulder and asked to hold my umbrella. She picked up a sword and told all the nay say-ers they were wrong. And she smiled and laughed and clutched her heart when I told her about all the formless spirits who begged to be plucked from the sky.

            “Write about it,” she said.

            So I stopped planting flowers to pick up a pen.

*          *          *

You may think I speak in code. But really it’s just those sensory treats, those formless spirits masquerading themselves into words so that you can feel them, too. I try to get them down on paper as kindly as I can, without squelching their ethereal gifts, without hardening their edges more than I need to. But I have to a bit, just enough so that you can see them, too. Is it working? I hope so.

*          *          *

Just last week I signed with an agent. Her name is Annie and she is lovely. Anyone who knows me, knows I dream. A lot. And truthfully, Annie is beyond what I ever dreamt I could find in an agent. She understands my words and my heart. She values connection and growth. And most of all, she’s an advocate of the formless spirits, inviting me to pluck still more from the vast ocean sky, reminding me, and now maybe you, that dreams really can come true.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Wednesday Wish (157); People Watch

photo by video blocks via google images

It was mid morning in February on the outskirts of a suburban town. Fast food lines tapered out, gas stations only had a few cars, and traffic hummed along at a smooth and steady pace. Even though the rush had passed, there was still a palpable air of purpose, of intent. It was a town, after all, a well-oiled machine.

He gripped his shopping cart with chapped red fingers, his head low and tired. He dragged his feet in heavy, untied boots, one slow step at a time. He took no notice of the icicles forming on his dirty grey beard or the hitch in his wheel that bumped with a loud click every time it came around. He didn’t have the energy for it. Not a lick of anything happened for him these days beyond what was necessary. And not much was necessary.

As he passed McDonalds he didn’t even raise his head to catch the scent of hash browns mixed with hamburgers. Didn’t matter how much he loved that scent or that hardly anyone would notice if he gulped up that rare and delicious gift, he just didn’t care quite enough. The cost in energy was just too high. So he kept on trudging along as if it was the most natural thing in the world, to push a broken shopping cart on the side of the road on a freezing cold day in February.

When suddenly he saw an orange construction sign.

Would he stop in for hamburger now? Would he avoid the snarl of traffic, take it as an invitation to turn the other way? Or would he push forward, his purposeful intent as important to him as the man in the Mercedes who raced up to his own stop ahead?

I watched and wondered as he kept walking, one slow heavy step at a time.

And then, like a rocket kept hidden in the barn out back, he rose his foot and in one of the swiftest moves I’ve ever seen from even the most practiced of martial artists, he side-kicked that orange construction sign with a loud Bang! 

And in a millisecond, the barn door slammed shut again. He was back to himself—his cumbersome, raggedy, heavy, old Self.

I, on the other hand, was forever changed. 

Maybe because he fooled me with his unpredictable spirit. Maybe because I wrongly assumed he was as thoroughly sad as he looked. Or maybe because this man in torn, tattered clothing that hung off his body like rags had reminded me of the sheer childlike fun aching to be set free in each one of us no matter how heavy our lives seem to be. 

The finer things in life aren’t just free, his actions said to me, they’re actually inviting us outside to play, to be the wise playful children we were born to be.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Wednesday Wish (156); Return to the Unfathomable

photo by varun singh bhati/eyeem/getty images via google images 

Do you ever sense the unfathomable that lives in trees, or swims in the sea, or rustles in the wind as it trills and twirls and races overhead? Do you ever wonder at the rippling clouds, at the crumbling waves, at the trees who reach and rise? Are you touched by these silent stirrings, by this invisible orchestra? Are you moved by the hidden messages that breathe themselves into exquisitely woven tapestries? For you do know, don’t you . . .? They’re meant for you.

I’ve met the underground tributary that flows between souls, that connects not just you and me, but all of us to each other. It doesn’t leave anything out. Not that rock. Not that seed. Not that branch that’s broken and blowing in the breeze. It's the essence of what is, of what we all are, the shiver up your spine, the song at the end of the movie that makes you weep. It’s the unfathomable that we all feel.

Some days, the days that I’m Essence more than I’m human, I see these things more clearly. Yesterday was one of those days, a day when I was no different than a tree, and the sky was pulsing with soft rounded gifts. My skin trilled like music as my mind forfeited to my deeply contented soul—the soul that I share with you, and you with me. It was here that my friends who recently left their bodies came to my side as wispy shapes of mist and steam, their messages spoken without sound but somehow I still heard. Bill laughed with Christian. Marion hugged her children. And they smiled at my softening, a softening that brought us all together. Like trees breathing as one unified forest.

Dwelling in Essence, there’s no reason to strive. There’s no reason to worry or anger or fear. There’s just reason to Be. To be in our being, our centermost Selves where the soft golden glow permeates everything into deep, loving contentedness. 

The unfathomable pulses for all of us, we just need to open to it. It already flows through each of us, we just need to remember how to tap in. It silently beckons us to come home to the gifts that have always been there, to the beauty of what is, where the unfathomable reveals itself as the only real reality.

*.         *.         *.  

Soften your edges.
Mute the noise.
Float back into who you are
At your core.
Then look with soulful eyes
Upon the trees
And into the sea
And with the wind. 
For there is the golden hue,
The soft contented glow 
That breathes the soul,

*.         *.         *.     

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Wednesday Wish (154); My Eyes Hold Your Soul

photo via googleimages 

Light trickles into my bedroom; my body is warm. 

I open my eyes and see . . . painful things. I see angry attitudes, hateful words and hurtful thoughts, off-center people who keep on walking, walking into walls and blaming the walls for being there. I’m standing among the angry and my warm bubble is porous. Soon I’m infected with their cold. I begin to hobble, to unconsciously speak the language of my surroundings. I breathe it all in and breathe it all out with yes, spices of my own. I'm a member now. We fan one another’s flames, honoring our painful, off-centered Selves. And together we blame, deflect, simmer and spew . . . feeling as if we do it because that's just the way it's done. We survive. Is this how it really is, I lament to the sky through tears, is this how life is meant to be? I crawl back in bed and cover my head, anything to get warm.

Or is their another way to see, another way to wake up to the world?

Light trickles into my bedroom; my body is warm. 

I open my eyes and see . . . beautiful struggling people. I see hurting hearts, misguided minds and lost bodies searching for something they cannot name. I am soft and sensitive, awake to subtleties and focused on soul. Still, people stare at me with hackles up, prepared for a tough response. But without a word, I put out their cold flames. My eyes aren’t mirrors anymore, but windows. Windows to what was, to what still lives deep within, to what will be once again. I am warm and centered and I can’t help but interest you. For you see, my eyes hold your soul. You breathe me in and breathe it all out with yes, spices of your own. You may not be a full member yet, maybe there's just a new tickle on your toe, but one day, one day when you forget to fan those off-center embers, the other way will seep in again, the other way you once forgot. The other way that is just as much mine as it’s always been yours. The soulful way.

*         *          *

For the last long while I’ve been working to realign with my soul more than ever before. Instead of reaching out, I’ve been reaching in. I’ve given myself more time, more love, more attention than ever before and the funny thing is, I’ve been able to infect those I do touch, more deeply. I see things more clearly. I sense subtleties more easily. And the colors, ohhh the colors . . . they flow from you as if you’re singing. And the state of the world? A space of transformation, of beautiful souls struggling to right themselves, struggling to align with their ultimate authenticity, beautiful souls falling again and again but getting up with greater resolve every time. Even sometimes, when they don't realize it.

I clutch my heart with warm, honest faith in the power of soul. To soften. Every. Last. Bit.

When the world feels hurtful, when you’re infected with ugly or hobbling with hurt or anger, you’re seeing with eyes other than your soul’s. You’re off-center and need righting. You’re cold and need warmth. You’ve forgotten and need reminding.

Go within. Answers to everything lie deep within. When we love our beautiful Selves, when we give time to our deepest Selves, we unlock secret compartments that ache to be seen, that ache to be heard, that ache to speak to us in a language of riches. Your soul’s riches.

Riches that naturally, beautifully, infect the world.

Go within.
Go within to realign with your authentic Self.
Your eyes won’t just hold your own soul’s purpose then, but mine, too.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday Wish (153); The Lone Donkey

It was just last week, the end of summer in the South, so the temperature was still in the 80’s. My car was filled with groceries that needed to be refrigerated and frozen and I was still a good ten minutes from home. I was singing. Of course. The landscape here invites song. I know you’d agree with me if you knew the Mountain as I do. But you don’t. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

So, I’m driving along on a spirited mission when suddenly I look out across a field to see something I’ve never seen before. Google tells me that a group of goats is called a ‘tribe’ or a ‘trip’. In this case, they were a tribe on a trip, a group of about 20 goats with an imaginary, albeit sloppy, circle around them. Two or three were looking out of their circle as if they had spotted an intruder. They looked rigid. Alert. As if they were standing guard, not wanting their circle to be soiled or broken. And do you know what stood outside that circle with his head facing toward them but his eyes and nose turned down? A lone donkey.

I drove by like a buzzing bee in my own little world. But the farther I drove past this scene, past this event in the life of a tribe and their donkey intruder, the closer I came to another world. It was a world where no one was excluded based on the shape of their body, the color of their fur or the noises that came from their mouths. It was a world where fields had no imaginary fences, where goat food was donkey food and donkey food was goat food and where all animals knew they were an important and even necessary part of the farm.

I turned off my music and made a u-turn.

I pulled into the high grass that bordered the field.

And I got out to give that tribe of goats a talking to. Maybe I even yelled at them a little bit, too—to be sure they heard me.

They looked at me. They stared me. And call me dreamy-eyed, but I’m pretty sure one or two of the older goats sitting down even nodded at me, together with me.

And the donkey? He looked up, his ears for a second there, perked and hopeful. And then, like a real life Eeyore, he turned his head back down again. But that’s why I had come. To give him even a small bit of hope when he seemed to have none himself. And to remind those goats that their tribe was bigger and kinder than they were letting it be.

*          *          *

That’s what we do. That’s what people who care, do. We live in our own little words, singing our own little happy tunes but when something comes along that needs us, that begs us to make a difference, we don’t shirk that opportunity, we take it.

Some days we’re the lone donkey, other days we’re a part of a tribe on a trip. It’s consciousness that separates the two, consciousness and a daring to stay centered in the goodness of ourselves and not the angry, rushed, self-centeredness of ourselves. And when one of us forgets, forgets to stay centered in the place where good things happen and kind things unfold, it’s up to the rest of us to stop what we are doing, to step up and forward. To make a difference.

Even in the life of a donkey.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Wednesday Wish (152); The Road Home

photo via freerepublic.com

When you experience it for the first time, you can’t help but wonder why. Not why your life hasn’t ever taken you that way before, but why the feelings it evokes haven’t found you before. At once new and then again strangely familiar, they sink into you as if they’ve always belonged to you, sailing through your veins like someone returning home after a long trip abroad. You have unknowingly carved out a space inside yourself, left it open all these years and now, like a dream, the feelings have begun their delightful, welcome infection of your soul.

It begins at the base of the mountain just as the road starts to bend. From the ground, it narrows. From the sides, it tightens. And from above, the sky starts to disappear, swashes of blue only seen now through the rare parting of leaves. You don’t realize you are holding your breath. You don’t notice your speed or even if any other cars are behind you. All you care about is the unfolding before you.

Your body leans with the car, to the left and to the right and back again. You feel as if you are somehow dancing. In your seat. Inside yourself. Outside all you have ever known. You breathe in tropical, humid, big-leaf flavors. The wind from your open windows helping you gulp up as much as you can, inviting you to let the forest tickle your skin, tempt your senses, tantalize your imagination with secrets.

Secrets that only hint of themselves.
Of their wisdom
And endurance--
Their ability to hold their truths high
In spite of so many closed ears, and eyes
And souls.

The vines of the invading kudzu cover acres of the mountainside creating elaborate topiaries on the skeletons of bushes and trees. Branches drip with strangulation. But leaves open up into fresh hope. Life and death move forward, together.

The incline increases. Your ears fog and pop. Is this mist or a cloud? The forest must be breathing. You think you may even hear it. Can one hear the outside from within? For that’s exactly how it feels—as if you are as much a part of this wild amalgam of mystery and beauty as that tree there, its spindly trunk wrapping itself like an octopus up and around, further, higher, not just on, but above the stone cliff. Beyond all that is stationary.

And now you become the water trickling down the slippery, moss-covered stone, your spirit suddenly fluid. You refresh. You convey. You nourish and hydrate. You are life and give life—You breathe it all in and feel. You feel water’s truths and know they are also your own.

*          *          *

All the beauty that was once yours wants to find you again. Not by taking you somewhere new or showing you something previously unknown but by opening you up, back up to your deep feeling Self where the old is once again new, and the worn finally dares to reveal its quiet wisdom.

That place where a vine or a tree or a trickle of nearly invisible water suddenly becomes a metaphor transforming you as it transforms itself.

That place where we remember we are brave enough, even in the face of all the cruelty and pain of life, to stay open, to choose vulnerability over ‘tough guy’, rawness over scarring, and feeling over denial.

That place where the richest treasures of life, the little things that make life magic, reveal themselves, again, for the very first time.

Even on your road home . . . 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wednesday Wish (151); Listen for Gold

photo by sophia nahli allison via google images

He stubbed out his cigarette and watched me approach with clear intent.

‘It’s right here,’ he said, his prison scrubs hanging like curtains on his slender frame. ‘See this . . .?’ he stretched open the side of his mouth with a finger then abruptly shut it again.

I just saw a shadow of tongue and teeth. ‘I’m not sure I know what I’m looking for Ed.’

He half-smiled and did one of those quick shy nods. ‘You don’t believe me, do you, Miss Brynne?’ He cocked his head, eyeing me now suspiciously. ‘You’re just like the rest of them, aren’t you?’

‘I don’t think you see many other staff standing outside on a chilly day, do you? I stopped to talk to you because I care and I think you can tell if you try really hard, that that’s nothing but the truth.’ I rubbed my arms up and down a bit because truthfully, it was even colder while standing still. I was deep in the North Carolina countryside, this particular prison surrounded on all sides by acres of woods and farm fields.

He studied me for a moment then must’ve decided I meant what I said because he opened his mouth again. ‘See this black spot? Right here . . . on my tooth, on my molar?’

I peered in and sure enough, following his finger, I did. I saw the black spot. ‘I do. I see it, Ed.’

He closed his mouth and nodded. Victory.

‘So what’s it doing there? What’s it about?’

‘It’s not a cavity, if that’s what you mean.’

‘I didn’t say that. I don’t know what it is, Ed.’

‘Ok. I’ll tell you. When I was a kid, about 6 or 7, I was riding my bike and I got hit by a car. In the hospital, men in black suits came to talk to my mama. They told her that I was brain dead but that a simple agreement with them could bring me back to life.’

‘Bring you back from being dead?’ I asked, careful not to shut him down.

‘Yes, ma’am. Back from the dead. But there was a catch. I had to have a chip put into my head. And they would have control over me for the rest of my life.’

‘Wow,’ I said, taking a deep breath. ‘So your mama agreed to it?’

‘Wouldn’t you if your baby was going to die?’

‘I guess so,’ I mumbled, ‘I guess so. And the black spot?’

‘That’s how they communicate with me. That’s the way they remind me of our agreement. That’s the way they remind me of who’s in control.’

*          *          *

Every day we meet people – people with histories, with stories, with experiences that live within their walls.

And every day we have a choice.
To tell the people around us what we believe they need to see or think or do.
Or to meet the people around us where they are.
To stand with them in their world, in their shoes, in their unique Self.

When we meet people where we are, where we want them to be, we stagnate. Like a dog in a kennel, we circle and circle and circle with nothing new to see or feel. Life is predictable and uninspired, many times even boring.

When we meet people where they are instead of where we are, we embark on new adventures, we expand ourselves, we become something we could not be on our own. The people around us become treasure chests filled with riches and we grow in our own richness because of them.

*          *          *

I put my hands over my chest and lowered my head. I took a deep breath. ‘And you couldn’t tell anyone because they would think you were crazy.’

He nodded. Slowly. Silently. His feet now starting to shift.

‘And they talk to you all the time, these men, trying to make you do things even when you don’t want to?’

‘Well, not as much now that I am in prison, but before, yes. It was a lot. Almost every day.’

‘Wow. You have been through a lot, haven’t you, Ed?' I paused. 'I can’t even imagine how much you have held inside and to yourself all these years. That’s gotta be exhausting. You must have felt so alone. For so very long. Maybe even still now.’

And when I said the last words, his eyes filled up with tears.

‘I get it.’ I said nodding. ‘I get it. And I am so very sorry, Ed.’

It was then that the tears finally began to fall and before long, he was sobbing. A great big man who had committed all sorts of crimes, a man who was in prison for most of his adult life, sobbing his heart out like a little boy with a deeply broken heart. All I could do was keep clutching my own heart.

‘You know, you’re the first person other than my mama that’s ever believed me.’

‘I am?’ I shook my head. ‘I am so sorry, Ed.’ And I was.

‘But I’m not,’ he said, now collecting himself, ‘because you’re also the first person I’ve ever shared my tears with. Except my mama. And that there, that means a lot to me.’

I smiled. ‘I’m glad. I’m really glad. That means a lot to me, too.’

‘Have a nice day, Miss Brynne. Thanks for listening. Thanks for talking.’

‘You too, Ed,’ I said. ‘And thank you. Thanks for sharing.’ And as I walked inside I realized I wasn't cold anymore. I was warm. I had struck gold.

*          *          *

Real or imagined doesn’t make a difference. All of the stories of those around us and within us, matter. They matter because they define us. They teach us what we feel and how we perceive, and give us some of the most authentic clues to understanding our deeper Selves.

When we listen, truly listen, and honor what it is that we hear, we free not only ourselves, but we free the storyteller, too.

For the heart is delicate and rarely speaks unless it is first, invited.

*          *          *
Do you want to make the world a better place?
Do you want to be a part of healing the hurt?

Then listen.
Listen with your heart.
And treat whatever it is that you hear,
as if it were gold.
Because it is.