It is time to break the cycle. It is time to listen, it is time to change.
For the past 3 years I have been trying to figure things out in life. Trying to understand why things were happening the way they were. Let me try to quickly fill you in, in as an open and transparent way as possible.
I have been very blessed in my entrepreneurial career in the art of making money. In the past 8 months that has been challenged like never before. From a car wreck that slowed me down, to hernias and other odd health issues to an internal dissatisfaction with myself and the direction of my business life. It began to become very difficult for me to see the point in what I was doing. The joy. Now please do not get me wrong there are MANY amazing and talented people in the business world making a true difference and many of them are my friends and clients, but for me I did not fill fulfilled. I felt something massive missing.
Yet on another side of my life, a side that was costing me money not bringing me money, things were completely different. I felt at home, something I had been searching for, for a very long time. This side was children. Helping them see there is a hope, seeing them take the hope by the hand and walking into a new life. Being able to become as a child with them and share from a part of me that rarely gets to speak. A side where I belong. Not for me, for them.
Yesterday I was blessed to be able to speak to over 1400+ ears, 700+ minds and 700+ hearts. When I started to speak the children were noisy, restless and uninterested. I began to tell my story and was mocked. Each word I said was thrown back at me, I was terrified. Let me give you some quick stats about this school. Located in beautiful California, not in an “inner-city location” yet, 39 suicide attempts this year alone, gang bullying, children getting beaten by razor scooters in the face, teachers and principles quitting in the middle of the year and children fearing for their own lives as they walk around the closed campus. The age of these children? 6th and 7th graders. As the children began to get more and more restless I had to make a choice, call it a lost cause ( I mean look at those stats how could I help? ) OR hit them hard with words.
I said a very short and powerful cry to God and then opened my mouth. Silence. You could hear a pin drop. The words were not the power, the essence was the power. I continued to speak, I continued to share. Some of their eyes began to light up, others seemed to look at me with a plea for love and yet others released pain as tears fell quietly off their cheeks. The most terrifying speaking engagement I had ever done, quickly became the most rewarding moment of my life. As I ended I left them with a very simple message, “I don’t care about your mom, your dad or where you have come from. I don’t care about your excuses, your reasons for why you can’t. YOU control your dreams. You control your future. You CAN be whatever you want to be and do whatever you want to do. YOU are not your mom or your dad, you are YOU!”
I turned the mic over and sat down. Feeling hopeful I had reached at least one child, yet feeling I had not done all I could to reach them. I had failed them due to my own issues of fear and self doubt. Then texts started to pour in from my sweetheart and others, “You did amazing, you did it!”, “WOW they were so quiet, how did that just happen? GREAT WORK!”. I smiled. Not for me, for them. Maybe the 2 hour drive, giving up the day and feeling some terror was all worth it.
The assembly ended with an EPIC performance from my friend Cody Lovaas and the children began to rush the stage for a meet and greet with Cody. I began to grab a few of my things and head for the door, then something amazing happened. One by one children started coming up to me telling me how inspired they were, telling their dreams and then… opening up to me. Rolling up their shirts and showing me scars, bruises and telling me stories of being raped, beaten and left for dead. My heart did not fill with sorrow or pain, it filled with love and hope. I felt something come over me like I have never felt in my life. An energy that seemed to pick me up, that seemed to give me the words and one by one I listened to these beautiful children. One by one I answered their questions, gave them tools to help carry forward them and one by one they smiled.
For 3 hours I could not leave the school. My last child I was able to sit with changed my life forever. She will forever be the one that started it all. For her protection I will call her, Brooklyn. Brooklyn was sitting in a circle with other amazing volunteers, I was asked to speak with her and so I made way to her. She was sitting on the stage, quiet, shielded and cocooned in her own fear. The auditorium emptied and I just sat and listened as the other volunteers spoke with her and then I looked at her arms. They looked like a hundred razor blades had driven over them. I calmly asked her her name and a few other simple questions and then I looked her in her eyes and said, “Tell me about your arms.” She put her head down and said, “Nothing.” As she pulled her sleeves down her arms. I reached for my shirt sleeves and pulled them up, “I am getting old and my scars are going away, but here is one for you to see… and here is another one. I know how it feels, in-fact I know it FEELS and makes you feel alive.” She looked at me, looked into my eyes and began to tell me all she wanted to feel was alive. She just wanted to be happy, she just wanted to not feel numb anymore.
I listened and the circle around us began to disappear to both her and I. As I would glance at the faces of those in the circle each person had tears falling off their faces as Brooklyn told her story, her pain and her dreams. Brooklyn and I connected and through a power that was not mine, she smiled. She began to see things. I told her that her happiness was now up to her, not her parents, not her sisters or brothers, but her. I told her that she must do WHATEVER IT TAKES to be happy in her own life. Then like a scene out of a movie Brooklyn’s mom came into the auditorium. “Oh shiz” I thought, how much trouble is she in now? Then her mother sat in the chairs off to the side of the stage. “She doesn’t speak any english.” Brooklyn said to me. I waved her mother over. I asked Brooklyn to translate for me and I began to tell her mother that all Brooklyn wanted was to be happy and that as a mother it was time to get Brooklyn help and not feel as a failed mother, but as a loving mom. Her mother broke down in tears and I wrapped my arms around her mother. Suddenly her mother spoke english, “Happy, happy, happy…” she said it over and over again as I held her in my arms. I pulled her out of my arms looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Happy is all, happy.” Tears ran down her face and Brooklyn her mother spoke about happiness and love. It was a moment that has forever changed me, a moment that now I know; it is not for me, but for them I must live. Now is the time, now is the place, now the cycle must end.
I could go on for hours about Brooklyn and her true journey is just beginning, but Jodie, the volunteers with us that day and I, will be there for Brooklyn as she walks into hope. As Jodie and I drove home we were flooded with emails and texts from Brooklyn and other students from the school. My words can not do this day justice nor can the photos. Here is a sample of the texts Brooklyn sent us:
1/4) Yea you made me feel beyond Better with trying to get help I told my mom If she would take me to the hospital in riverside on (2/4) Sunday or somewhere next week. I do see that I need help it’s not going to go away like I though it would so I need to take a break
(3/4) from all this and go away for a while I wanna be happy again I really miss being happy today’s my first time being actually happy In
(4/4) a while. Thank you guys so much for coming to my school
(1/3) Thanks I’ll find you (: you really made me happy ha I just can’t stop smiling this ment the world to me you opened my
(2/3) eyes and to realize I do need help or it could lead to me suicide thanks so so so much I’m crying from joy an happiness thanks so
(3/3) much again
As if all of this is not enough, Brooklyn shared with us that on 4/8/2014 she was not planning on coming to school and had felt it was time to finally make good on her suicide attempts. She said that for some reason she came to school and felt numb and wished she had not come, then the assembly started. If you don’t think everything in life happens for a reason, just ask Brooklyn. Everything happens for a reason even it takes years to understand why.
So why did I start this all off with talking about business and the last 8 months? Simple. I have been hit by a bolt of lightning. My calling is no longer to be focused so heavily on myself and my entrepreneurial success, it is to be focused on the above. Clients will come and they will be clients that will “fit in” to the above. Projects will be put in my path that can and will help spread the message. A movement has started and it is time to do WHATEVER IT TAKES.
This is home and now I am final where I belong, ya this is home and I have been searching for a place of my own and NOW I have found it and NOW I know, this is home.
- Switch Foot