Well, quite a few things have happened in the last 24-48 hours.

1. We had a sleepover with all the boys. It was fun, it always is. The best part was that boys from years past came. Boys I hadn’t coached in years. Not everyone was there, but 28 boys ended up spending the night. I felt lucky.

2. We always have little guys, but as the little guys go, we now have a lot more big guys. They are sooooo good with the little ones, and really take care of them. But, as fate would have it, I (being the old…and well biggest guy) got to be taken care of by the little ones. I don’t usually involve myself too much in the games, but I and another coach played our part in “Sharks and Minnows”. We also played hide-and-go-seek in the gym in the dark. It is “The” thing at the gym. It is always the last game, and it is always the thing that the boys talk about…and remember. Once I made sure everything was OK for the first couple of rounds, I decided to hide. Two 7 year-old’s helped me hide. There is giant mat called the whale, I pulled the nearly 200 lbs. mat over the top of me. After everyone had been found, the boys kept chanting, “Where is Coach Neal”. They could have ratted me out, but instead they jumped up and down on the mat (on my head…it only hurt a little) to keep anyone from suspecting that I was under it. I played with them…and they protected me.

All the time that I’ve been coaching them, I’ve been playing with them and protecting them. They give me things food, crayon drawings, pictures, and Starbucks cards to show their appreciation. It is always appreciated especially the photographs of them and their drawings. But, yesterday was interesting here my youngest boys were performing an act of service for me. They protected me. I felt loved.

3. After the sleepover, I gave back my keys to the gym owner. Final.

4. Sunday was Gay Pride. It is a great time in SF. Everyone comes out, and for the most part displays love…and lust. I’ve had such a good time there before, and so I trotted off to catch the parade. In times past this is where I get a number of great photos to draw from. Because it is always nice weather the weekend after the solstice, I knew the lighting would be good as well. As fate would have it, I brought the camera…but forgot the battery. I went all the way back home to get it, and had time to think. Why was I going to pride? Was it like everyone else to oggle at naked men and women, to get drunk or high? Was I supposed to march in the parade as the peace artist? What were my intentions…and were they loving? If I marched in the Parade was it to get noticed? Pride. Would I taking pictures of pretty girls? Lust. Why go if not with a clear understanding of your hearts intention?

5. I became overwhelmed with emotion. I became overwhelmed at the love of my boys and loosing that day to day contact with them. I became overwhelmed with the decisions that I have made to sell or give away all that I own for those in need. I became over come with gratitude. I wept…and wept. Tears of thank you. Weeping with gratefulness. Sobbing with appreciation.

And with that, my mom called. As if the cosmic forces aligned and gave me the person I needed most at that moment. Pure love. Our conversation was lengthy and heartfelt. Perfect.

I determined to go to pride. But this time with the proper intention= to give love. I left the camera behind and brought the sketch pad and the Peace Artist mantle. I would draw who I could to give them love. However, I needed a hat under which I could better draw…and some tea from Starbucks to keep me awake (long night at the sleepover).

6. As I came out of the Starbucks, low and behold, who do I meet: Linda. The woman that my first test led me to. I have shared this story many times and I have written about it here. But to quickly recap, I came out of Walgreen’s one night and felt led to give all the contents of my wallet to a woman asking for spare change. This was the moment that set me upon the path of the Peace Artist. I asked her if she was the “Linda”, and then she recognized me. We both wept tears, and told each other what has happened since. We both were able to tell each other that our lives were changed because of our meeting. Thankful I had my drawing stuff with me, I asked her if I may draw her. It was a bad likeness, but she was happy just the same. We arranged to meet again today, which we did.

I haven’t been the greatest person all my life. None of us have. WE have all done a poor job of doing what we know we ought. But, there have been times when we were beautiful to each other. Those who know and choose to see only the bad things that I have done in my life, find it hard to understand this new journey I’m soon to embark upon. Those who know me for some of my better moments and choices find it understandable if not the logical extension of who I am becoming.

The other night while I was sitting at a bar with one of my students and his dad, when my student asked me an important question. The young man asked me, “Why? Why am are you doing this”? It isn’t by accident or coincidence that just as he asked, I noticed the quote from the Dalai Lama printed on the coaster under his glass, it read:

Live life compassionately. That way when it is all over, you can look back, and live it twice.”

 

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