I thank the universe everyday that I have had the honor to coach and teach a bunch of wonderful children over the last 20 years. I’ve coached in Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Canada. I’ve even had the chance to teach in nearly every state from Alaska to Hawaii.

Since I’ve been on this pilgrimage, I’ve missed that contact with children. I’ve longed for that endless search for adventure that boys exude, the desire to make everything pretty the girls bring, and the ability to make the most boring moments into a game of joy that all children possess.

Having been immersed in “their” world for so many years, I didn’t realize how much I would miss it until it wasn’t part of my daily ritual. The only thing that could keep me from going back to a life devoted to helping children—is this pilgrimage; that is how much they both mean to me. How nice that some of former students recognize both of these loves, and most honor both. I was deeply touched by a poem written for me and somewhat inspired by my pilgrimage by a former student.

A Poem By Justin Forde (age 8), 2011

Peace, looks like the swaying trees in the wind.

It looks like pigeons flying away.

Like buzzing bees.

Peace sounds like my cat, Tiger, purring.

Like water washing away.

Peace smells like my cat’s catnip.

It smells like vanilla ice cream.

Like chalk at gymnastics.

Peace feels like my soft pillow.

It feels like bumpy bark on a tree.

Like my stuffy Waco.

Peace tastes like warm eggs.

Like cool apple juice.

Peace feels like being in this world.

How great then the honor to meet a bunch of children tonight at the Library in Aguila, AZ. I walked in the door and was swamped by them. Most of them only coming up to my navel and swarming like curious tigers around their prey, this weird guy with a cart and blue tunic was sport.

All were Hispanic, and all were trying to make heads or tales of this pilgrim. They volleyed questions faster than I could return their salvo and cannonade. When they found I could draw, there became an immediate jostling to be first in line for a portrait.

The very kind (and extremely patient) librarian Brian came over to make sure that the young ones weren’t bothering me, and curious with his own questions. Being resourceful, he scanned the internet finding my website in hopes of ascertaining a way to help me if he could. He offered me canvas boards, paints, and paper—so kind. I wish I could have honored his generosity, but as it is, I have more supplies than I am using currently. Taking more would just load me down. But again, what a sweet man.

So many kids were clamoring to get their portrait drawn, I decided, since the sun was soon to dip below the horizon, to draw them all in a group portrait. (Which I forgot to photograph!!! Drats.) They sat still impressively long enough for children. The only girl, Azalea happy that someone noticed her beauty. Jesus gave his best pensive look, Ronnie look relaxed, and Carlo’s flawless skin glistened like brown marble in the sun.

They were sweet, so happy to have someone pay attention to them. You could really tell that they were just this side of going stir crazy in a town of one market, library, and motel. Brian really provides such a wonderful service for these Ninas and Ninos. He could have enacted a no children policy, or run a very strict ship, but he loves on these children as best he can.

In every group of children, especially a group in the lower socio-economic strata, there always seems to be one very bright young kid that comes off as a sort of punk. “J” was like that. The moment I walked in the door, he started to slyly try to make fun of me. Smart enough to realize what my name means, I suppose in a way he was trying to see if I really was a man of “peace”.

He teased me about my name, my legs, and my things. It is easy to loose your temper with this kind of a kid. But, I took “J” aside when no one else was listening and complimented him on his intelligence. I spoke to him saying, “I know that when you are as smart as you are, you can sometimes use it as a defense or as an offensive weapon. I want you to know that I love you. I won’t hurt you. I know I look different, talk different, and as you will see, I act different. I love you no matter what.” At that I literally saw his shoulders relax, and he let down his guard…a little, and I was able to love him if only for a minute.

I spoke to him and all the children about my pilgrimage I told them how I found peace. I encouraged all the children to love anyone in their path, even the bullies. Not to blame others, but just love. They all aired their grievances to me about the other, how this or that kid, “punched me in the ding-a-ling,”. I offered them a different approach. I offered the idea to do something kind for someone else or that person if you are able despite what they have done to you..

They having so little, wanted anything that I could offer. They wanted pieces of my eraser, some of the Nutter Butter cookies in my cart, to use my computer, and anything else their prying eyes could perceive in my cart. I tried to give them anything they asked for except something that would keep me from continuing my pilgrimage, but even then I was open to their needs and wants. It that sense it was a test for me too. To give past the point of comfort, but it isn’t hard to love children.

I was reminded that we are all children. We all just want to be loved. We are all so afraid of being hurt, of being vulnerable, of taken advantage of. But, we all want to be above all that. Not that we won’t feel those pangs, but that we would continue to love despite them. We all secretly want to be the who we really are in our heart of hearts.

WE are the music-makers,     

  And we are the dreamers of dreams,           

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,      

  And sitting by desolate streams;      

World-losers and world-forsakers,            

  On whom the pale moon gleams:    

Yet we are the movers and shakers   

  Of the world for ever, it seems.        

           

With wonderful deathless ditties         

We build up the world’s great cities,    

  And out of a fabulous story  

  We fashion an empire’s glory:         

One man with a dream, at pleasure,  

  Shall go forth and conquer a crown;           

And three with a new song’s measure  

  Can trample an empire down.         

           

We, in the ages lying  

  In the buried past of the earth,         

Built Nineveh with our sighing,          

  And Babel itself with our mirth;         

And o’erthrew them with prophesying           

  To the old of the new world’s worth;           

For each age is a dream that is dying,           

  Or one that is coming to birth.

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