Being a Street Therapist

Photo by Ben Tuason

In 6th grade, I wanted to be a football player. I went through puberty early and was always heftier than my classmates. I started shaving at 8 years old, hit 6’2″ at 11 years old, and by the time I became a freshman in high school, everyone thought I was a senior transferring from another school.

I then became interested in movies, specifically screenwriting. At the age of 14, I decided that I would make movies as a career. I wanted to go to USC or UCLA to study film, but I went to Stanford at the suggestion of the counselor at my high school. He believed I should apply because of my academic performance, background, and extracurricular activities, saying that I would be able to pursue a screenwriting career afterwards. So I applied to Stanford and was accepted.

After graduating from Stanford, I pursued screenwriting. I wrote, watched movies, and read a screenplay every day. I entered a screenplay into a screenwriting contest and was fortunate enough to make the finalist list. It gained interest by an independent production team, but never found talent or financing. I kept at it for a while, but gradually lost interest.

Then in early 2009, I surrendered to the Universe. On June 3rd, 2009, I began asking people to share their written concept of the word compassion in a notebook, relinquishing all aspirations of being a screenwriter (and an All-Star NFL linebacker).

I really didn’t know what to expect through this calling. I wrote a mission statement before I started, which included building monuments to compassion and traveling worldwide asking people to write about compassion. I was directed to ask people about compassion, putting faith in what would happen, how it would evolve , and how it would turn out. I decided to just keep asking people and see what happens.

I never expected that I would become a sort of “street therapist” for a city. I never expected that people would specifically come up to me seeking advice, or to share their woes, or to simply be in the presence of peace at a corner. It happens to me pretty much where ever I go in Davis — while food shopping, standing waiting for a light to change, or while I’m walking somewhere. Over the weekend a man shared a story of how he was raped by his uncle when he was a child. Just yesterday a tearful woman approached me saying, “Our dog is dying and it’s killing us. That is what compassion is.” Many people come to the corner regularly as part of ongoing sessions seeking spiritual and practical advice.

My B.A. from Stanford is in Urban Studies with a focus on Community Organization. I am without any official background as a therapist, which makes me contemplate why people come up to me and if I’m being effective. I am human like everyone else, have suffered what I consider tremendous tribulations, and have discovered a long-lasting inner peace that people say they see. I believe that qualifies me, to a certain extent, as someone able to provide insight for others. People have commented that they come up to me because they either know what I do with compassion or see me and just know that I’m someone they can talk to. Because of this, I feel very much at home as a street therapist.

Sometimes life shows us who we are in the most unexpected ways. We are given unforeseen circumstances. We can either run away or embrace its fullness. I choose to embrace the beauty of being a street therapist. I choose to embrace being a light of compassion for those in need. I choose to embrace the beautiful elegance of the unexpected. With open arms, I am grateful for being part of the healing process for others. And so, I continue to ask people to share their written concept of compassion and will continue to see what happens.

Originally published at

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