“Action expresses priorities.” -Mohandas Gandhi

The beginning of this journey was a test of faith. Could one trust the maxim: “Don’t worry. The universe will take care of you.” The first month was a test of whether I would eat, whether I could sleep “safe”, and whether people were good. Could I trust in the universe to be adequately supplied, fed, and “safe”?

The second stage of this journey was been to break my body and convince me that “not by my power”. Given the hills, the miles, the the wear and tear on the body, how committed was I to the path…the vision. Would my ambition and pride ruin my body because of a set goal? Or would I be present and take every moment as given?

The third scrutinization was as to my commitment to being “out there”. Given the opportunities available to me like a warm house, food, comfortable job coaching nice boys, and ease of living. The question became, would I choose to my own comfort?  Would I be easily cast about by the wind, floating from one preoccupation to another fixation with no engagement or devotion?

I also had to overcome my misconceptions.

I thought that I had learned so much, and that I had so much to share.

I was quickly humbled. There are so many people doing compassionate and kind things all around me. I began to see that my purpose was not to “tell” everyone how much I’ve discovered, but to be a witness of their demonstrations of compassion, their winsome confirmations of kindness, and their daily expositions and embodiments of love.

My job was to witness to the beauty all about us.

My métier was to be the notary of the divine amongst us.

In my naivete, I thought I was doing something very novel. I thought I was doing something “no one else” was doing. I thought it was me and Scaughdt.

I have met so many people roaming the nation. I’ve met cyclists from Quebec, Portland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Bob from Cincinnati, and most recently this amazing couple from San Diego who are nearly done with riding through every state in the US. You can find Adam and Christy’s journey at: www.giveabike.com

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” -Mohandas Gandhi

So the new test(s) arrived yesterday. As I entered Brookings, Oregon I met a woman wrapped in a blanket sitting on the side of the road. “Feed the poor.” I offered her some of my food. “If you have two tunics, give one to he who has none.” So, I gave her half of the few dollars I had. She then asked me to go and get her some hot water. “If asked to walk a mile, walk two.” When I returned with the water, came the new test.

All the above I had already done. I had given away my possession, money, done acts of service, this was easy. When I returned she began “testing” me. Was I really loving, was I really who I claimed to be. She asked to see all my art supplies. Then she asked for them; so I gave her some. When she asked for this and then that, she was asking for frivolous stuff  just to see if I really would. But I did give all that was asked. Then she began to make fun of me. She said that I wasn’t on a pilgrimage because I had such “nice” shoes. I told her that they were nice, and they were a gift from a dear supporter of what I’m doing. Then she began insulting me, using playground tactics, she began breaking up Peace Artist into “Pee Ace”. “You are an artist of pee.”

She wasn’t insane, no rather she was very sane. She was testing me to see if I really “walk” my talk. I was starving after doing 20 miles of some serious hills and I was out of food. I really wanted to get on to the store with the few dollars I had left. But, I offered to draw her portrait if she wanted, but after talking a bit more, I moved on.

This test was a two-parter. 1. Do I still love when the object of your love gives you the opposite back? “Turn the other cheek.” This was the external test. The internal test was one that I hadn’t ever anticipated. Test number 2 was MY reaction. I’ve felt very blessed by all the kindnesses handed down to me, and I think/hope that I have been very grateful to all the compassionate souls who have seen fit to take care of me. But now, I’d been generous, and I didn’t receive the “usual” reaction in return. The question was, “Would I regret being kind when I didn’t receive a thank you, but rather received an insult?” This had nothing to do with her. This had all to do with me, my expectations, and who I am. What are my expectations form this life of service? What do I expect to receive as “payment” for my pilgrimage? Do I expect to be loved all the time?

Did I wish that I had given the said money, service, and supplies to another person who would have “appreciated” it more? Did I regret loving this person? Would I, could I have loved another “better” with the time and possessions?

She only provided the impetus, I supplied the expectations…and therefore the questions. I’m not sure if I did or didn’t pass this test. I’m pretty sure that I did, but it provided for me questions about my own intentions and mental paradigm that had before this moment been left unknown un-addressed.

When the Romans decreed that teaching Torah was a crime punishable by death, Rabbi Akiva’s reaction was not surprising. The pre-eminent scholar, who had supported Bar Kochba in his revolt against Rome, gathered people together and gave public Torah lectures.

Before long, Rabbi Akiva was charged and convicted. When the rabbi was taken out for public execution, the executioners flayed his skin with iron combs, Rabbi Akiva recited the Shema, concentrating on fulfilling its words: to love God “with all your heart, soul, and might.”

He then smiled at the executioner and said thank you. The executioner replied that no one had ever smiled and said thank you. Akiva replied: “All my life I have been troubled by this verse, ‘You shall love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.’  I have always wondered: will I ever have the privilege of fulfilling this mitzvah, or will I fail at the last moment? And now that the opportunity has finally arrived — shall I not seize it?”

So yesterday my opportunity arrived…will I not seize it?

Love, Art, and Peace to all.