Category: Faith & Doubt


Belonging

Passing a nursing station, I overheard a nurse say, “He has no one.”

Who?” I inquired.

Startled, she turned, “Oh.” Quizzically, she perused up and down. Whatever she thought, I’m positive an old, bald, fat man was not expected. “Oh,” she murmured again. “409,” her shoulders shrugged. “The guy in 409 has no family. His time nears.”

So, he’s alone?

Yes.

No one?

Nada.”

May I sit with him?”

Her eyebrow raised slightly, “Sure.

I sat with him until near dawn, sometimes in silence, sometimes lightly speaking, letting him know he was not alone. He whispered, “Why?

Standing to stretch my back, I glanced out to the street below. Raindrops angled across the window pane. My breath echoed against the glass as colorful hues light refracted through the early morn by drops darting downward.

Know what?” I said. “Earth is old. The sun is old. But do you know what may be even older than both? Water. It’s a mystery how the world became awash in it. Maybe water originated on our planet from cosmic ice specks. Some claim distant meteorites or comets as they bombarded the earth.

A slight momentary silent filled the room.

Kaboom” and “Smash,” I reemphasized.

A slight smile, “Ha,” he whispered.

The most accurate answer is: I don’t know ‘why?‘ My limited theological training offers little in any way to account for the unexplainable. And after all these years of walking with Christ, then Buddha, questions linger. Regardless of belief, the world reminds me death is not the end, that we carry forward in the glow of love.

Turning from the morning rain, I sat near, “Are you close?

Leaning in, he whispered, “I come and go.”

There was nothing I wanted more than to bring out a suitcase full of proof, saying, “See? You can be confident.” But there is no absolute proof. Heck, some days I have trouble even convincing myself. There’s just us. Instead, I stayed.

In the small moments of life, a bridge of faith is lived in-between the “back and forth” by both believer and witness. God’s faith glides in between moments life and for whatever reason, which remains foreign to most, joins our world through others, and through us.

Glancing at the man, I stroked the soft fragile gray hair, mirrored his peaceful rhythmic breath, and saw myself. While there are stories of miraculous interventions, lightning-bolt moments, and sudden cures, more often than not, in the final moment, the God of unconditional love will arrive in human form – just like his Son.

I whispered, “The ‘Kaboom and the ‘Smash’ were for you. In those very moments He created you. He loved you then. He loves you now. That same love is here for you. The same air that Christ breathed, you breathed. His breath is in you. His love encompasses you just as he encompasses me. And as your friend, I am with you always and will remember you always.

His lips quivered lightly. A tear dotted his eye. I cupped his hand to my heart. He never spoke again.


The real beauty of Christian and Buddhist faith is that faith is lived and experienced moments. As such, in a time of need, God comes to us in physical vessels, where love and grace join to feel His spiritual presence.

Through all my years working in healthcare, I could never explain “why.” Even if I could, it wouldn’t have brought anyone back. Still, even in my own days of difficulty, many have reached out to me to let me know that I was not alone. They were the presence of God to me. They held me up to, guided me to return to this world, brought me back and consoled me. Suffering isolates us. Loving presence brings us back, makes us belong.

Make someone your life know he or she belongs.

covingtonOn January 18, 2019, Covington Catholic High School faced heavy backlash after a group of predominantly white students was filmed harassing and insulting Native Americans participating in an Indigenous Peoples’ March in Washington, D.C. The students were visiting to participate in the simultaneous anti-abortion March for Life, which attracts many Catholic groups. Many of the students wore “Make America Great Again” hats.

In one of several videos of the incident, a student wearing a Covington Catholic sweatshirt is seen smirking and blocking the path of Nathan Phillips, an Omaha elder and Vietnam War veteran who was playing a ceremonial drum. The students reportedly chanted “build that wall“, while others stood in a circle nearby and chanted “CovCath is the best.”

There’s several ironies. First, all of this comes days before Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Second, students attending the anti-abortion March for Life seem to subversively claim, “We march for life, but we impugn the life of anyone notwhite.”

Go figure.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:

I’m concerned about a better World. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood and sisterhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. […] and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.

Love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. Unfortunately, love requires effort.

Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh ~

Flipping through channels late afternoon, I caught the ending scene of Cast Away.

Cast Away tells the story of a FedEx executive who must transform himself physically and emotionally to survive a plane crash and being washed upon a deserted island. In the years of survival, he saves one Federal Express package.

The ending sequence finds Chuck delivering that package to Ms. Bettina Peterson (played by the late Lari White).  In the end Chuck stands at an intersection – of his life. With map in hand, Chuck must decide which direction the rest of his life will travel and has no idea where the roads will lead. A woman who stops and gives directions is the addressee of the package just delivered.

Like Chuck at the film’s beginning, My life was mapped. I had places to go, people to see, work to do, limited time to spend on anything. Yeah, I was very good at my job.

Everything crashed in April 2010. The identity I created died. Meaning, I crashed. Lost job. Lost love. Lost home. Lost reputation.

Like Chuck, I was limited to few choices. I adapted and survived. My first six weeks comprised of long walks and filing unemployment. I was 50. And the chances for good employment like the one I was fired from would not come again.

May 2010 was filled with day-after-day of job applications. I was completing my customary job application quota when I clicked on a Career Builder ad for a job in Albany, New York. I sent my completed resume, printed the receipt, attached the acknowledgement for unemployment compensation evidence. Then, I moved on.

After working several gigs just to bring in a paycheck, I realized I had so soured my life in the city that it would be unlikely to get any decent job offer. Strangely enough, Albany called. A few interviews later, I landed in Albany, NY with two suit cases and a heart of hope. I found a small apartment in Cohoes, NY, adjacent to the banks of the Hudson River.

Metaphorically speaking, my world was exactly like Chuck Noland as Albany would become my small island. Prior to landing on my island, I painstakingly created an identity, but I didn’t live it. I called myself a chameleon, for I embellished so much I could easily adapt and fit in almost any situation.

That’s a key statement. I lived a created identity and remained unable to fully understand just how lucky I was.

In the end, God’s quest for accountability and the events of prior months broke me from my obdurate foolishness. My overall lack of concern for the threats to my life and to those I loved were disastrous.

As such, when walking along the Hudson River at night, each river tide brought peace and tranquility. Even though I lost Karen (Noland’s Kelly), I remain grateful that she remained in my heart – at every step in New York.

Eight years later, I’m an experienced valuing person. I learned to appreciate life and others. Decreased workload allowed me to think about other people and respect them for who they are. God had to cast away Chuck (to throw) Noland (no land). I, wandered and moved onward, albeit slower and hard.

As a Buddhist, I want to say to everyone experiencing deep anguish, it’s normal to consider quitting. Don’t. When we are in the midst of a season of suffering our decision is either to lay down and quit or to keep breathing and trust God will bring what we need during life’s tide.  For me it has brought real peace to my soul.

My dream job before 2010 was illusion.

Last year, The New York Times (NYT) chose Jada Yuan from 13,000 applicants to travel as a journalist to go to each and every place on the NYT’s 52 Places to Go in 2018. In her January 4th, NYT article 1 Woman, 12 Months, 52 Places, Jada Yuan summarized lessons learned. The key lesson applies to everyone.

“Trust in myself, trust in the fundamental goodness of people, trust that as a traveler, I could watch my back without walling myself off from experiences,“ and that “… the center of my life isn’t there [New York City] for me anymore. It’s with me and it’s mobile.

Same lessons applies for me. Of all my experiences since 2010, I too have learned to trust myself – that the center of my life isn’t in any one particular place. It’s within me and within my ability to love.

Given the fact that on any given day I could die, someone asked how I keep going. I remember Chuck Noland:

“… keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise, and you never know what the tide will bring.”

I awoke to stifling lower back pain. A quick glance of the clock, ‘1:46 AM,’ Christmas Day.

Stumbling to the bathroom, located some Extra Strength Excedrin, swallowed three and nursed myself to a rocker overlooking the valley below. “Christmas Day!” I squinted as my eyes adjusted to the sparkling lights from the valley below.

As a kid, there were many times I sat waiting to surprise Santa. Armed with a Pentax K1000 35mm camera, surely Santa would be doomed by my conniving nature, as I would be the first in a couple hundred years to snap artwork of ol’ Santa. And like those days of yesteryear, I sat shrouded in the mystery, briefly revealed by an occasional flicker from below.

In waning decades, not much has changed from such days. Even today, adorned by all our gadgetry, motion detectors, instant photo cams, city web cams, and Ring doorbell systems, Santa remains elusive. Today, I’m armed with the best of smartphones. But age has dulled reaction time as well as my ability to capture the red guy.

Ah,” I smiled. “Christmas Day.”

Looking back at the kid from years gone by, I was merely caught in gifts. Yet, by the age of 9, I started to keep the traditions of ol’ Saint Nick, having unknowingly moved from the spirit of Santa to a spirit of faith. What I had hoped for the world – more specifically, my world – was something bigger than just our world. I wanted to experience the beauty of love, in celebration and embracing one another. It was a world of faith that both Christ and Buddhist would have been proud.

In essence, all the presents in the world mean nothing without a faith for love and a faith for life. As such, the questions I reflect upon include ‘What difference did my faith and love for life make to me yesterday? What effect did my faith in love have on what I did yesterday?’ Much to the disparagement of some traditionalists, my personal faith is genuinely nourished by more than one religious tradition, by more than my home ‘root’ tradition.

One inquisitor queried, “What then, is your great way?

Love,” I replied. “Many people can follow a ‘great way.’ Only a handful understand and follow the small way.

Just as in years before, I fell asleep shortly after my search began. A welfare check from a friend wakened me early morn. Alas, Santa silently sleighed by in the night. There was no Mercedes-Benz in my driveway, no WeatherTech Floor mats, nor any diamonds from whatever jeweler. Just a new day … and new opportunities for love.

What I’ve realized though, is that Santa is bigger than any one person. His life of love has gone longer than any who’ve lived. What he does is simple, but powerful. He teaches how to have belief in something unseen or touched. As such, all of us remain students of the real Santa, the real Christ and the real Buddhist.

And the lesson?

Love.

Last night a friend texted, “Have you seen the moon? Beautiful, isn’t it.”

At the time, I couldn’t see it.

However, pushing and pulling the bed, just past 1:00 AM Christmas Eve, I was able to maneuver near the window. Wow. It was a beauty. Over the years, the moon has been my true companion. It’s always there. Steadfast. Guiding. Loving. I suppose this year be no different. I’ve never heard its rotational voice, but I’ve always understood its imperceptible power.

Christmas Eve. Made nearly another year. Not sure how, but I did. Gazing at the brilliance, I remember astronaut Bill Anders looking out a window of the Apollo 8 spacecraft on Christmas Eve, 1968 and snapping a photo of earth (titled Earthrise)– to which the poet Archibald MacLeish offered:

To see Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence as it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in that eternal cold.”

I thought of MacLeish’s elegy after reflecting upon my last 12 days – 12 days since my last blog. Many remain unaware how difficult the last 12 days have been. A single cell phone calendar note states it all, “Awoke – unable to move.” Cheating life’s natural wavelength, I’ve out-maneuvered spinal and heart problems for three decades. Until December 13.

As the days wore on, I regained use of my body, I remember my father battling like mad to fight from going mad – he never quite recovered from surgeries a year earlier. The anesthesia seems to have spun his brain like an emcee spinning balls on Catholic Bingo night. He never came out quite ‘right.’ Thus, upon discharge, I caught an American Airline flight to Tucson, AZ to visit my father.

It doesn’t matter who he is, it matters only how I remember him. Doesn’t matter if I die first or should he. We are unified in love. He is my father, but he is my brother. We are riders on the same earth.

Contemplating Anders’ photograph, noted authors and dignitaries attempted to invoke a similar sense of humankind’s spirituality. Not sure we succeeded. Alas, the Christmas Eve message from 1968 and today remain the same – that Christmas is not solely about a child in the manager. Of course, it is. And it isn’t.

Christmas is about the unity my father and I have – about the unity humankind should have. Millions of people saw Anders image, with Gary Lovell saying, “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” And what we have is awesome. It’s awesome, because you help make it awesome.

During this Christmas (and any other time), let us adopt a similar attitude. Let us follow after real courage and understanding. Lay aside whatever may be disturbing us today and forevermore and attune ourselves to all that the Christ within represents – we are loved. And we are one.

Reaffirm your faith. Remember MacLeish’s “To see Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence as it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in that eternal cold?” There’s a smidgen more, often omitted “… brothers who now know they are truly brothers.”

This Christmas, be the ‘brothers who now know they are truly brothers.

When I started this project (opening all these unread letters from yesteryear), Letter 18 was held for last and remains the last handwritten letter written.

I never heard from her again.

After reading the message, the message remains true. Maybe, I should have posted it sooner. Thematically speaking, it’s a holiday message – God is love. That’s all my letters were about – Love.

Fast forwarding from eight years ago, I happened to catch to what I believe was a 1999 rerun of the cable TV show “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” If you’ve seen it, you know the basic idea: James Lipton invites celebrities to talk about their careers and how they do what they do. He always ended each episode with the same question:

If you believe that God exists, what do you think He will say to you when you finally see Him?

It can make for an interesting examination of conscience.

Lipton asked Spielberg, “What do you hope God will say to you when you finally see Him?

Thinking for a moment, Spielberg replied, “Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening.

So much of the Christmas story is, truly, about two things: listening and loving. In essence, that’s what this blog is about – ‘listening’ to my thoughts and understanding the love I tried to instill.

If any one of the past eighteen letters help any of you, then my words were not for naught. I hope all these letters add some value to your holiday. Each reader, each follower, is important and I honor each one of you so very much.

So, I thank you for listening. And I thank you for all your love and inspiration.


My Dear Love:

When I was younger, I used to be enriched by the holiday spirit. Eyes sparkled with the excitement of the season and as Christmas carols played in the background. I had an overview of Baby Jesus, a lowly manger, and a couple of shepherds. Not sure if the real things were as glorious portrayed.

Let’s face it, I didn’t have great Biblical story role models. Ha. So, I settled upon a vision of God and Christmas Eve drawn from movies. My best all time movie? A classic. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ There’re several lessons I learned many years ago. One. When we are in pain, we tend to feel we are suffering alone. But that’s rarely the case. When someone we love hurts – we hurt. Two. Character speaks louder than cash. Always. Third. There’s always a Mr. Potter. Don’t let the buggar win.

In truth, there’s always someone who’s going to be different. May even put up a sign, “Bah, humbug” or “Go Grinch.” I read of a little girl who climbed onto Santa’s lap. When Santa asked, “And what would you like for Christmas?” the girl looked up and replied, “What do you mean? Did you not get my email?”

I really did envision angels coming to help the average soul. In fact, Christmas Eve 1978, God gave me His greatest gift – himself. I saw his transcendent beauty of faith and love. His purity of light and grace remains amazing. There were, of course, doubters for my experience. However, over the years, I learned to never let another man create your world for he always creates it too small. And neither should we create God’s world, for we always tend to create God’s too narrow.

My vision of God’s world evolved significantly, yet remains absolute. Many years had passed before learning God does not appear in the grand hall of a royal palace, but in the poverty of a stable. Not in power – but simplicity. And maybe as I write this, I just learned that’s the angle portrayed in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Funny how God’s angle is never our angle, nor is God’s angel ever like our angel.

God does come on Christmas Eve. He’s in that recovering alcoholic who walks by a bar, hears the laughter, but keeps walking. He’s there in the silence, when the one who used to share your life and your home is no longer there, and you find your heart full of sorrow and longing and memory. He whispers “You are not alone. I am with you.”

This Christmas, I am so blessed for you, someone so beautiful, so capable of delivering love without condition. You seem to overcome any obstacles. I meditate and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. When I am with you, I am home, full of humility and gratitude for having shared this life, my life, with you.

This Christmas, regardless what anyone else does, be true to what’s inside – the goodness, kindness, a loving nature and joy. Ultimately, God knows these qualities cement real change. Christmas exists to remind the world of His love. He gives us His love so we can be part of the solution.

You, my love, are my Wonderful Life.

With all my love … W

The fourteenth letter was written in reference to the question, “How will I find you if you’re not here?”

Reading this letter after so many years, I honestly can reinforce that no one can show you one true method. And self-help guru’s offering a technique offer only a program that had somehow worked for them. But watch yourself. When you talk to someone, are you aware of it or are you simply identifying with it?

A key to knowing someone is “watching.” Is that person aware of their anger, happiness or peacefulness? Can they study their own experience and attempt to understand it? Where did it come from? What brought it on? I don’t know of any other way to awareness. I belief one can only change that which is understood. As noted in my letter, one has to get to the middle to ‘know.’ For me, I’ve found that which is not understand is often repressed. But when you understand it, it changes.

I believe the key to finding someone is through that person’s love. Another way of saying it, perfect love casts out fear. In my letter I make a series of statements – a guide if you will – on finding me. In other words, to find me when not physically present is to experience pain yet be able to dream. One can also find me by being foolish for love and shout ‘yes’ (thank you) to God upon the shores of a lake. To find me you must be true to yourself. To find me, regardless of what life throws at your door, get up and help someone in need. Do those things and you will find me?

What I tried to provide was a compass. There were no demands, no expectations, and no dependency. I did not demand that my love make me happy or that my ultimate happiness lay in her. I provided a guide … for her … on how to find me. Maybe, just maybe … such a guide might work for you.


My Dear Love:

You once asked how to find me. In truth, all of us are constantly changing and we continually search, assess and rediscover ourselves. Even though I have a passion for life, for the few close friends who’ll stand beside me, for passions captured and passions missed. Still, does anyone really know me? Do I even know myself? The more I see, the more I believe I’ve remained a mystery, even unto myself.

While we are profoundly emotionally deep and rich in our belief for each other, just how do we attest to knowing? Often, I look upon myself with great curiosity, even wonderment. Robert Frost’s poem The Secret Sits is a simple couplet where its meaning is left unto the mystery of the reader.

“We dance around the ring and suppose,
But the secret sits in the middle and knows.”

All of us have spent our lives dancing in a circle while simultaneously contemplating life. And in the end, maybe the ‘secret’ is God. Only god knows the secret to all which exists. Another interpretation could be that the world we live is often left open to interpretation. We, as stewards, are given the right to interpret the world upon our own experiences.

However, to truly find me, can you understand ache while simultaneously dare to dream? If you wish to find me, will you risk looking like a fool for love for the adventure of being alive? To find me, can you sit in pain without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it? To find me, can you be in joy while dancing under a moonlit, start-filled sky? To find me, is it possible to live momentarily live in the space between disappointing another while remaining true to thy own self? Is it possible not betray your soul? Is it possible to live with failure and while standing at upon a lake’s shore and shout, ‘Yes?’ To find me, can you find grief and despair, experience being weary and bruised, then get up, and do what needs to be done to feed the poor?

In essence, to find me, you must find yourself, for ‘I’ am in the middle.

While deep and rich, I treasure our friendship and love. Our exchanges are extremely important. I suppose one could muster old fashioned boundaries, but that may impede our spiritual growth and love. Whenever the world bogs you down, wherever the compass takes, you can find me in my words, letters and love.

Find me and I shall find you.

Love … W

The eleventh letter focuses upon the beauty of reflection. One day prior to New Year’s Eve, my love and I sipped Starbucks coffee and discussed the past year. In discussing self-reflection, I realized that one’s internal reflection process is extremely important. Rarely is it performed properly, for authenticity is quite difficult.

The reality is that all of us will face many different risks throughout our life, and the process of identifying them can sometimes be critical and yet complex.  Emerging risks are ever present, and much like my generation, the situations faced by parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles may not have even comprehended what we face today.

So, just as you see a changing world, the importance of reflection is critical. Yet, many of use are bogged in the quagmire between arrogance and confidence. I have learned more from times of failure versus success.  My hope for you is that you take time to learn the importance of reflection how this one skill will assist you in triumphing more than falling.  Recognize failure, however so slight, and learn from it.

Moments of self-reflection is both dynamic and powerful. Self-reflection is how we can transform society. Transforming society happens one person at a time, by our willingness to be kind to ourselves, and our willingness to be kind to one another. Please self-reflect. Learn to feel worthy and to connect with human goodness.


My Dear Friend:

Self-reflection, in and of itself, can be extremely difficult. Spending time self-reflecting can allow self-efficacy (belief in our abilities) to blossom. The point of self-reflection is to see progression in your thinking and understanding of what you’ve learned – either about yourself or something else. Make changes accordingly.

However, over time, you will grow to be your own best friend and your biggest enemy, but I know you will balance it out as you go. Your face will change and it won’t be as soft. I want you to know you’ll only get more beautiful as time passes, and I’ll need you to believe it, for every day, a new world awaits, filled with new people, waiting for just you.

Some days, it feels as if time passes. Comes and goes. As Heinrich Harrer wrote:

“… even in a world in which time stands still, everything moves.

I don’t know where I’m going nor if my bad deeds can be purified. There are so many things I have done that I regret. But when I come to a full stop I hope you understand that the distance between us is not as great as it seems.”

Some claim my best work is accomplished alone. As I move across the country to work with the best, I am seen by many as having a good amount of success. The importance is that being alone doesn’t stop the tasks at hand. And constant reflection is the compass by which I move. I am connected and interconnected with a higher truth of guidance.

Reflect. Crave change. Nothing is perfect and no timing is never right. So, act anyway. When crap hits the fan, remember reflection and compassion is the Kevlar that will ensure your life. Therefore, be fearless in your pursuit of your life, your love, your truth, and purpose. There’s no harm in not knowing it all. You never will. So, trust me, it’ll change anyway.

Reflect my love. Reflect – for the distance between is not that great.

This letter was about transcending people and events to live boldly – to transcend the common. While this letter was written years ago, it could have been addressed to anyone living boldly, without having known.

Tamara Ferguson is such a person. The LA Times byline is as follows: As deadly flames approached, a mother called her daughters to say goodbye. The story is a great read.

Dalai Lama described himself as a “simple Buddhist monk.” And it is in that simplicity that his lessons emerge. As a Buddhist, being kind and compassionate is at the core of all spiritual teachings and path. The commonality is compassion. It’s something that everyone can cultivate by choice. Instead of criticizing others, transcend the common. Remain compassionate.

We forget that life is beautiful. We overlook the joy of the ordinary, that little things can be worth celebrating. There’s always something beautiful worthy of discovery and you don’t need to go anywhere to find it. It’s not what we see that matters—it’s how we see that makes all the difference. We’re not even responsible for what we see. We are called to transcend the common, to be responsible for how we choose to perceive what’s seen.


My Dear Friend:

When telling complicated stories like yours and mine, one needs clarity. There is always the fundamental human need for beauty, and likewise, resisting through beauty. Our interactions must never become just another event among other common life events. As such, solving disparity and misunderstanding requires imprinting and living in anew.

In today’s world, everybody seems to have developed armor for the secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world. That’s what you and I often meet. That armor has never been exposed to living. It’s never participated in life.

When I ponder transcendence, I think of Ted Hughes:

“The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.”

My dear love, you’ve always given your best. You’ve strived quite well to rectify the wrong. Yes, we should strive for an ideal, ideally pure thoughts and actions, but is an ideal possible in real life? So, is a pound of gold really a ’pure’ pound of gold? Quite honestly, I say, is there not hundredths, thousandths of impurities inevitably present? There is no pure, there’s only us.

You’ve always believed that a commitment to the common good requires both benefits and burdens, that gains and sacrifices be shared equitably. But this call is not unto you alone. All are charged to safeguard the vitality of the common good, the protection of our poorest, the vulnerable, and our solidarity with each other. Our social and moral teaching requires we never turn our eyes from the hurting, those, as I would say, who live on the margins.

In your own way, you’ve always reached out. Scripture tells us in Matthew 25 that what matters in the end is our ability to answer the question “When did we see you Lord?”:

For I was hungry and you gave me food.
I was thirsty and you gave me drink.
A stranger and you welcomed me.
Naked and you clothed me.
Ill and you cared for me.
In prison and you visited me.

I was me hungry and gave me drink. You shed my armor and welcomed me. You clothed me in love. And when I was down, you visited me. I am so proud of you. You have lived boldly.

You have transcended the common. You live a beautiful life.

This letter was written during a moment of doubt.

Like many, my friend struggled with achievement on occasion. Or, as the question was often phrased, “Do I do enough?” The crux of the concern was ‘achievement‘ –  how one defines it and how hard it is for a female to achieve anything recognizable in the business world.

Throughout the years, I recall all of those key mentors who just happened to appear in my life, as required. Still, reflecting back through the years, one key mentor after another passed on, as had many other heroes in my life. Skiver, Vogel, Navarro, Huff, Robinson and so many others. Gone. From their eyes, each expected more of me than what was seen. Each gave their best, freely admitted to my worst, often put me in my place, then rehabilitated me, and forgave for things I either said, did or did not do.

Still, my lover was also a wonderful mentor. After all these years apart, she remains unforgotten.

If she had read this letter, she would have learned a little of smidgen of Buddhist philosophy. The chief lesson being that life has taught that there’s a significant difference between well-known and known well.  To say someone is well-known merely places an external label connoting some level of notoriety.  This could be attached to someone popular, maybe well-skilled at something, or just notable for something that draws the attention of many. Known well, however, is a whole other story.

Read on.


My Dear Friend:

Over the years, almost all look upon our mentors in awe. Yet, for many, achieving one’s pinnacle is filled with exhaustion and, at times, desperation. In truth, you’ve wondered whether you’ve made a difference, gave something back to the community you’ve long served.

In truth, you’ve delivered more than most ever expected.  And regardless of the darker days of self-doubt, you’ve pushed harder than others. Passion for those whom you’ve led flows through your veins.

Of course, times of momentary fear, the fear of losing control, the fear of losing commitment and the fear of rejection has crossed your path. As such, we too, have had our ups and downs. Still, I thank you for all the moments we’ve been together. Because of you I gathered the courage to open my soul, to find the strength to get involved for the community members, to join action for that which is important to the next generation. I learned to stand up, for to have stood up and get shouted down is far better than never having stood at all.

Your biggest achievement? Me. You have instructed well. You have brought the very presence of spirituality to my life. I know God has touched your soul in many special ways, in ways that you are able to deliver His presence to others. I know this to be true, because I have experienced every time we’ve talked.

As you taught, genuine relationships involve being well-known and known well.  Quality relationships with colleagues, friends, customers and business associates go beyond what just being well-known can bring. Yet, you taught me the spiritual – the desire to find common ground for personal, professional, and maybe even a deeper level of connection with others. Thus, the lesson? Seek to know others well and allow yourself to become known well.

Thank you for all of the important lessons you taught me. Thank you for loving me, even when I failed. Most of all, thank you for being the female mentor I always needed.

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