Showers really are a luxury. Most people in the world don’t wake up daily to a hot shower. Being on the road I’ve learned that food will somehow always be there, water can be harder at times to find, but showers…they are a delight. Being back in “society” hasn’t made me forget how wonderful each one is.

Side-stepping back into a life I left behind so many months ago has been…interesting. To be really honest, I’ve been feeling a bit of culture shock. Being Peace on the road presented its own challenges. Being Peace and peaceful in stressful situations, with people that have known you for years and perhaps expect you to be who you were, has presented me with my next battery of tests.

However, I feel gratitude has remained my focus. Compassion has been the litmus test by which I measure each action and thought. Love has been the motivating force. Peace has been the end goal. That doesn’t mean however that I have not faced tests. But, pass or fail, both have provided lessons.

Through a series of events, Monday found me saddled with the responsibility for the entire program again. That left me a little overwhelmed to be honest. Two days later, I found myself in Reno, Nevada at the Men’s Region 1 Gymnastics Championships with the hopes and dreams of 12 little boys in my pockets.

Reno is not a community that is weathering the economic storm well. There is a lot of stress in this little town. Casinos are populated with people desperately trying to improve their fortunes, better their luck, and generally inundated with stress. Going to a casino always revolves around money, and the hope that perhaps this time fortune will smile upon you. But, as we all know, the game is rigged. And, despite if the slots are loose, life has a way of presenting situations that even money cannot fix.

Each gambler is stressed.

Casinos then seem to provide a perfect storm when coupled with a gymnastics competition. Kids have busted their butt at what could be considered a part time job training 20-30 hours a week. Then the pressure to display it all in less than 5 seconds as they sprint down the vault runway can break down even the toughest 17 year old. The championship serves as a qualifier for the National championships. If you don’t do well on the day of competition, your year is done, and it is a long ride home.

Each kid is stressed.

The coaches arrive all wanting to be the next “it” coach. They want to be the coach that molds a group of rambunctious 6 year olds into Olympic All-Around Champions. Their pride, their ego, and perhaps their bonuses and livelihoods depend upon the children doing well.

Each coach is stressed.

The gym owners are scared. What if the economy gets worse? What if the kids don’t come, leave, or worse—switch gyms? Their very livelihood is dependent upon the caprice of children and their parents. Many feel that the winning, is the only thing that will keep their program alive, and keeps the kids coming and motivated. Who wants to go to the gym that is known for loosing, if the only way you can quantify success is by competition titles?

Each gym owner is stressed.

The parents have taken time off work (often at a monetary loss), driven and flown through snowstorms, and paid for hotels, gas, meals and airfare to get their kid here. The competition is held on the same weekend that taxes are due. The realization too that after this meet, the child’s level as well as tuition will increase. Couple with that the desire for “My Kid” to be the best, presents a conundrum revolving around the validation of the parents ego.

Each parent is stressed.

Finally the boys I was coaching, lost their coach two days before championships…no matter why…that is hard. I didn’t really remember all the rules, the routines, the procedures, and the responsibilities perfectly either. In a sport where knowledge is so crucial, not knowing can be the difference between a good, and well—poor performance.

I didn’t even have clothes. I gave away all my clothes except what I needed for the pilgrimage. My professional membership had expired as well. My body was being shocked by traveling from Texas, SF, and now Reno. I had been talking to about 4-5 people a day during the pilgrimage, and now hundreds surround me. I had to get hotels, rental cars, clothes, registered, up to speed etc. etc. etc.

I the coach was stressed.

But, amidst this tumultuous and stressful environment, I decided, this is my life. Who do I want to be? When you think about it, what an opportunity. All these old friends have been placed before me all of them could be loved upon. I could turn this competition into a “vacation” for my overworked and tired fellow coaches. I could foster an environment that left every child telling me, “This was the most fun I’ve had at a competition all year.”

Every turn could be used to give a kid a pat on the back. Every routine was a chance to give a high five. Every hit set was worthy of a hug. Every missed set was worthy of a hug too. Every verbal exchange was a chance to bolster someone’s flagging self-confidence. Every session was a chance to validate a tired coaches self-worth. Every moment was a chance to love.

I wasn’t given this opportunity to just help 12 boys; I was given this opportunity to love the world. I could be the peace when everyone else around me seemed to be loosing theirs.

Better than being able to love on all these kids and friends, they got to love me back.

And I got to take a shower everyday.