Elvis has left the building. Ego, self, and the desire to see one’s “Name in Lights” thankfully has not raised it’s ugly head. The message of peace, compassion, and care for others is the only thing of importance.

 I met with Tom, the reporter from the U of O newspaper, again today to shoot more footage of the Peace Artist “in action” for a documentary about peace. Doing so forced me to battle the question…Self or Selfless; Me or Message. Meekness is not one my stronger character attributes, but today I think and hope that the message of peace, love, and compassion were what were tapped and taped.

Having no clue what “in action” means, I just ended up doing what I always do…I drew a flower, and I let Tom do the magic.

Afterward, I went to an art supply store to get some pastel colors that I was missing in my kit. Once there, the girls working, Hana, Laura, and Mindy discussed with me the finer merits of pastels and peace. I had given Laura a painting a couple of weeks past, and she conveyed to me her gratitude at the gift, and how it had lifted her spirits.

Humbled.

It seems so odd that the powers we have at our fingertips can so easily change another’s day with such simple kindness. It was nice to know that the intent of the pilgrimage is reaching its intended goal; to make others feel loved.

Leaving there I headed for the center of town, and to a park where the “hoodlums” hang out. I set up my easel in their midst, and began to paint a fountain. After a while they warmed up to me, asking about my tunic, and in the end one girl, Megan, and I struck a conversation. She had traveled the US with her truck driving father, and having been to all the 48 contiguous states, I asked her for tips on my trip and which state was the best. Bring lots of clothes was her advice, and Montana was the best. After I finished with the fountain, I asked her if she would like it. She seemed somewhat unsure how to answer, perhaps worried there was some string attached. But want it she did, and as I ran on I saw her intently looking at it…and smiling.

Most of the kids I met today are, in all likelihood, teen runaways. Oregon doesn’t have a runaway law, and Eugene is a very compassionate and philanthropic city where help and shelters are in abundance. Couple that with a pleasant environment to live 9 months out of the year either by sofa surfing or camping, and you have a nucleus for teens. Some would say that the programs designed to help these kids further perpetuate the problem. That is as if to say, that kids who have loving parents, warm beds, and houses to call home are the runaways. Who would leave a home of love to sleep in the streets, trade sex for favors, and wonder where your next meal is coming from? However, some have ignored the naysayers statements for the words of Rabi Hillel, “If not you than who, and if not now, then when?”

One man who has answered that call is Ken Harvey. An old mentor of mine that has been more than guide or a role model, he has been a friend. Next to my father, he has had the most profound effect on me and unwittingly been responsible for several of my better qualities. He was also the first person to show me personally what it means to be selfless. Ken is the kind of a man that you can call at 4am, and he will answer the phone as if he has been just waiting for your call. He started a shelter home for wayward youth after just getting married to his young wife of 18. In the first 3 years of their marriage, they took in and became the legal guardians for over 800 youths. Baptism by fire.

He continued to serve kids in ways never before thought possible, and for over 30 years was a youth minister. In 20 of those years he took groups of 100-300 kids to Mexico where they would build houses, frame buildings, dig wells, pour foundations, and till fields for planting. All this for love. The kids paid to give up their spring vacation, and give to those less fortunate. However the gifts that they received in return were priceless. I know…I was one of them.

Over the years, Ken often passed up offers for jobs and higher paying gigs, things that might have provided for his family a more comfortable lifestyle, in order to spread love. He now heads Hosea Youth Services who caters to kids that are homeless, disenfranchised, and ostracized. Ken is the closest person I’ve known to a saint.

The fact is though, that we all have that within us. Ken is no better or worse than any of us, he has simply chosen to care. Ken said that his turning point came when he realized that our job as lovers of humanity was to “… not break off a bent reed or snuff out the wick of a flickering candle…”. In other words, it is our job to discern how best to empathize and care for those less fortunate. As true  ‘servants’ toward the vulnerable and weak, not to kick them when they are down, but help them stand up. I couldn’t think of a better role model and mentor to consult with before beginning this trip in earnest.

 

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