“So…do you wanna go to a party with a bunch of college kids?” she asked. “I say yes to every opportunity,” I replied. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

I spent the previous night in the middle of nowhere, well, at a church in the middle of nowhere. A friend gave me a mosquito net to sleep under and I am extremely thankful for her kindness…the bugs are big here in East Texas. When I woke in the morning, it was already 88 degrees and 60% humidity at 6:30am. I found a hose and gave myself a bath. The road radiated heat, but my thoughts weren’t upon the miles or the temp as much as all the servicemen and women who are experiencing the same weather half a world away. And yet those poor souls are busy dodging bullets as often as mosquitoes. If they are willing to serve me and endure that, the least I can manage is to do what I can to end war and bring them home.

As the sun began to reach it’s apex, I began to embrace the idea of waiting out the heat of the day under the shade of a tree, but I had this nagging feeling that I should sally forth, the unmistakable feeling that fate was waiting just another mile down the road. Just as my resolve began to wane, I spotted a Texaco sign far in the distance, an oasis in the Sahara. I entered and asked if I might cool my feet and my dripping brow in the climate controlled sanctuary. I poured myself into the bench and considered myself lucky for such a propitiousness bastion of retreat.

I painted a work for Amy, the matron of the ward, and she squealed with delight. She told me that she does portraits as well, and I asked her if she wanted to do each others portraits between customers. Soon I found myself sitting across from Amy, then Stevie, and then Kirstie. An hour respite turned into 6, and the ladies became determined to take me home with them and invite me to a party.

So there I was surrounded by rooms of 20 somethings, home from college, and beginning summer break. All were kind and willing to listen to my trek of peace. I was honored by their generosity, trust, and frank discussions. In private conversations I was told about the many pains that these wonderful young people are bearing. Many expressed dismay at not having a way deal with their pain, but they found that they could take solace in my message of compassion applied. I was told of deaths, rapes, abuses, sexual identity successes and failings, infidelities, and a whole host of other issues that they were dealing with. Needless to say, I got to give a lot of hugs, cried a few tears, and love on all.

This is not to say we didn’t have fun. We played beer pong until 3am and shared many many a laugh. In the morning, I was able to make pancakes, bacon, and eggs for all those that stayed over, and shared my stash of tea with the hungover many. The afternoon was whiled away at the lake and pool where people happily swam next to signs stating, “Warning: Alligator Natural Habitat”.

Had I not listened to the universe to keep walking despite the heat, but stopped instead when I wanted, I would not have happened upon the service station/convenience store. I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of painting and drawing all the portraits. I wouldn’t have given a young woman a painting to make her day. I wouldn’t have been invited to this party…I wouldn’t have made such good friends, and been loved upon by so many.

Love, Art, & Peace to All.