Becoming Uncivilized

animals of costa rica

I grew up in the shiny years of American life. Cut my teeth on James Dean movies, the Mouseketeers and a boat load of pie in the sky thinking. I was there when the indoor shopping mall was a concept that would define Americans. I was there when I Love Lucy started being broadcast in color and the fable of Cinderella started dictating the entire value system for girls growing into women. Consumerism, telecommunications, fast food, stress and Starbucks became a definition for living the American dream.

And, admittedly, I went after the picket fence, higher education, financial success and bought the whole nine yards of civilized American life, hook line and sinker. But what I did not know when I became one of the sheep, following the herd, was this: There are profound tradeoffs for having a platinum Visa. Following the norm, the subliminal and not so subtle dictates of a society means that you do not follow other things, namely; intuition, spiritual values, living in the rhythm of nature and following the heart. The two value systems are like oil and water.

But I hear you say: “That’s not true at all! You can rack up credit card debt, climb the ladder of success, shop till you drop and watch reality TV till your eyeballs fall out but you still can be living a passionate, joyful, stress-free and creative spiritual life”. Not.

And although I opted out of the normal American life decades ago, downsized, chose art over money, valued my spiritual beliefs over collective thinking, I still had no idea what tradeoffs my soul was really making to live inside of a culture that is so mesmerizing.   I had no idea what an illusion it all is.

When I came to Costa Rica I arrived as an observer. An observer of a culture not my own. An observer of nature and how subservient to the natural environment we all are. But what I did not know is how the constant presence of nature and beauty can change how you vibrate, think, feel and act. In the USA I was cut off from my natural rhythm, I was a late to sleep and late to rise person, jolting myself into a day with coffee. I was bombarded 24/7 by cell phone towers, electromagnetic overload, unnatural light, traffic, stress and the power coursing through city life left me sleepless all too often. Take all that out of my equation here in a third world country and what’s left is…space. Energetic space. Room for the heart to breath.

So the observer in me watched people living an unhurried life, eat large meals in the morning, take naps in the afternoon. Indigenous people here are never, ever in a hurry and where I am on the Pacific coast there are no traffic lights and simply no traffic. You have to go to bed with sundown and get up at sunrise. Nature gives you no choice. The animals are all living their true nature. Just watch the iguana, the parrot, the cicadas, monkey or jaguar to know that they are true to what makes them unique. Simplicity is Costa Rica. A downsized, small footprint is all there is room for in the jungle and if you listen, watch, feel and smell the reality all around there is no choice but to adapt, flow and merge with the pace and the values inherent in the natural environment.

So people ask why I am still here in Costa Rica, why I stay, why there is nothing about the civilized world I miss (except ice cream). My answer is that living a more uncivilized life has returned me to myself.

sloth

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No Hair, No Clothes, No Shopping?

farmers market

What’s a girl to do in Costa Rica?

Ok, admittedly I cannot tell you a thing about much of any of this but to say, forget hair, forget clothes and forget shopping. Costa Rica brings you back to the basics of just about everything. Sure you can get an $8 haircut but don’t expect to want to leave the house anytime soon. Hair color? Lemon juice and the brilliant sun. You can find clothes but sarongs suffice and as for what Americans call shopping, the local Feria (outdoor market) is the only place to find organic food, local jewelry, an imported bra or two, (no kidding) and biodegradable detergent. When in Costa Rica it is all about local.

dominical market

And unless you live on a huge pension or have a trust fund forget about anything imported like, anything in a box, wine, liquor or shampoo. Quinoa for the healthy is $12 a box, cheaper American shampoo is $25 and a bottle of imported Milagro Tequila can run you upwards of $80. So I get to put my money into the local economy and eat, dress and look like someone who cares about the land, the people and the economy here. I have learned about odd vegetables I have no idea what the names are, I get to help support a family who picks lychee nuts from nearby trees and sells them outside of the bank and I have the opportunity to simplify my life, my diet, my expectations and my life in general. As a result I am simply happier.

lychee

Living in a third world country is good for the soul if you leave American standards where they belong.

Surf beach

Hopeless in Seattle: A Gypsy Confession

hope

 

I woke up today, a beautiful sparkling day in Costa Rica, mad as a hatter. Then I just found myself crying into my pillow. My heart hurt and I had to wash my face, click on my computer and tell you why.  You read posts about the encounters I have on the road being my own sort of Gypsy.  But sometimes I hit a wall.  Sometimes something gets under my skin and I cannot shake it so I do what is my one great passion.  Write.  And as you know I am a writer, a coach, a ghostwriter and a teacher.  I can take my passion to the four corners of the world if I would like and do my work from anywhere that has a wi-fi cafe.  And I have.  But today the writer in me has a burr under her saddle.

When I started another site I have called Mythotherapy.org nearly a year ago I had three inspirations: To encourage people to tell their stories, to help writers get published and to share what I know about writing, navigating the publishing world and most of all, to honor story as power in the world.  The Gypsy Life blog is a place to tell stories, to share how stories, places and people have changed me entirely.

Most of my clients are first world citizens who enjoy many of the luxuries that most of the planet do not have the opportunity to experience: Clean and free water, electricity, watching a show before bed while eating Ben and Jerry’s, a bed, buying food on every corner, one or two Starbucks coffees in a day and money. I think it’s safe to say that my clients are mostly Caucasian, privileged in my sense of the word and writing is a luxury, sometimes a hobby and most of the time a story that is true in their lives and the telling of it will help others and heal the writer at the same time. All but one storyteller. This is who I want to speak about in this post.

Over the past two years I have been getting to know a young man in his twenties from Zimbabwe. He has a story to tell, passion for his people and his family, a large family that his mother is raising, and he has no vehicle to tell his story other than Facebook.   And in my mind the best writers are those who cannot help themselves and have to write, are roused in the night and must jot down ideas or begin a new chapter, dig into a new flash of insight or who have lived through the unthinkable and still possess a light in them and their story of triumph is the medicine the world needs. A writer who does not write as a hobby or a tangential part of life, but sees writing as their life, like breathing, is a very different animal. Emmanuel is one of those writers and storytellers. And he has gotten under my skin.

I grew up in a black and white world of the 50’s. Yes there were pink poodle skirts, bobby socks, diners, 38 records and then came the Beatles, the Vietnam War and chaos and cover-ups. But there was also growing up in the south where an African-American person was a “nigger”, when Brazil nuts were call “nigger toes” in my family, where I grew up with maids and drivers and black gardeners who pruned our hedges and clipped the grass around a four-foot metal lawn ornament of a black man holding a lantern and wearing a butlers outfit. This was my norm as a child. Then it all changed. I saw more sides of the black and white issue, as I became a teen.

My knees buckled as race riots were out of control in Watts. As front-page news was Selma and countless other towns and cities brutally murdering black citizens. I sat with my parents with our aluminum TV trays and Swanson TV dinners in front of a black and white television as JFK was gunned down and began hysterically crying as my parents sipped a vodka tonic and praised the conservatives and bashed the liberals. I became despondent when our government murdered Martin Luther King, and then the same people assassinated Bobby Kennedy. By 17 I was hopeless.

watts

The black and white issue began to eat away at my soul. Why? Because it was a human story for me. It was about people intentionally killing hope. From those days forward I was all about keeping hope alive. My hope, the hope of people in poverty, people who had so much less than me, people who had no future in our country back then because of the color of their skin. As for me I was lily-white, blonde, blue-eyed and wanting for not one thing in life.

Fast forward. I moved from hand writing letters to my congressman on stationary with my embossed initials at the top and mailing it to them by snail mail for eight cents to emailing those letters decades later. The KKK had gone underground and reappeared dressed differently. They were now corporate leaders, governing officials and not very interested in my emails. The Internet opened doors for all of us and there was a new power of the word birthing itself every day in cyberspace. Facebook shattered barriers and became a tool I would come to use religiously. Not because I wanted to simply dazzle the world with photos of my children or inspiring quotes, but because it connected me to stories around the world. I then started a Facebook page called Equilux, all about the dark and the light, all about the not so black and white issues we face. Then I met Emmanuel through Facebook and was instantly transported back to the days of my life at thirteen when life was becoming hopeless.

Emmanuel in his twenties, lives in a country in Africa that is a regime dedicated to keeping people from telling their stories, keeping people in poverty and powerless. Zimbabwe is not necessarily a black and white story though; it is a black and black story that is perpetuated by white values. Emmanuel is one of several children, the oldest, raised with the rest of them by his mother, living a life in a house with dirt floors and tiny brothers and sisters who dream of school and an easier life. Emmanuel is the only one to graduate school and who wants to go to college and follow a dream. His dream is not to get a job in IT and adopt empty western values, his dream is to go to film school so he can tell his story, his mother’s story and the story of his people. Emmanuel knows that is the only power of change for him and for his country; Words, stories and telling his truth.

If you go to Facebook and look Emmanuel Mazivire up, you will see him post photos of his family, his people and say things like “One kind word can change someone’s day” or “Do not judge by appearances, a rich heart may be under a poor coat”. He has not lost hope. So Emmanuel and I started to talk two years ago. He shared some of his writing of a story he wants to submit for a documentary on his mother and all the single mothers raising children in Zimbabwe. I posted about him and tried helping him get a basic video camera, which took six months to reach him because of how they monitor the mail in Africa. He still wishes to find a way to go to film school in the United States, still needs a video camera worthy of a documentary and is working on his writing.

So before the sun came up today I was roused by the part of me who after five decades of watching the black and white story, which is really the privileged and underprivileged story, the money and no money story, the entitled and not very entitled story and the turn a blind eye story because it is too inconvenient to know too many inconvenient truths, my heart hurt. Because Emmanuel is one in a sea of young people with stories to tell, dreams to live, love to share and who has very little means of doing so without help, without compassion, without others sharing the load. And like many I am not one to swoop into Zimbabwe on a plane with great video equipment and shoot a doc on Emmanuel and his life. Why? Because, no one can tell the story better than the person who is living it.

And I am one single mother in the world myself, privileged to live my dream, and not wealthy by a long shot. What I can do for and with Emmanuel is help him tell his story, be a voice along side of his, read his writing, coach him for free, share with people who are touched to help with a camera and support him on Facebook. But he needs more. He needs to have the flames of his hope fanned. What power each of us has to do that. He is pushing against all odds even in circumstances you or I would cry uncle to have to face. He needs a mentor, a documentary camera, a plane ticket, help for his mother, his siblings, his story. He needs to go to school, have a patron, get his video into film festivals. He needs me, he needs, you. I do what I can but as Emmanuel knows first hand…it takes a village. He is one person in a sea of stories. But as he posted last week:

few sincere words

So these are my few sincere words. There is an ocean filled with Emmanuel’s in this world, on every street corner, in Mumbai, Russia and New York City. Story is power. The power I chose to use in my world. We hold it in our hands every day and have a choice what to do with that story, sometimes failing to see that words are one of the most powerful tools we all have and only second to the power of the heart. Put the two together and we would all be unstoppable.

Note: If you are interested in knowing more about Emmanuel, helping in any way, running a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money for him, buy him a plane ticket, give him your video camera that is documentary worthy, or help me to help him please contact me personally at mayachristobel@gmail.com or write to Emmanuel directly at emmanuelmazivire@gmail.com and visit him on Facebook at Emmanuel Mazivire and send him your support. Become part of the global village.

emmanuel in school

 

Emmanuel doing some teaching.

Tic-Toc Tico

slow

I have been in Costa Rica for one month and time has evaporated, but my ongoing dewy body has not. When time slips away and you forget what day of the week it is, Costa Ricans call it Tico time, Tico, the name for all the people who are Costa Rican. And I am not Costa Rican, so Tico time is a new concept. I know about Island Time from living in Hawaii; that slow lingering pace that comes from being drunk on the smell of Plumeria. But Tico time is all about “manana, manana and manana”.

For me, it seems to be about putting off till tomorrow what you need done today, but it really amounts to a deeply ingrained feeling that nothing at all is urgent; not leaky pipes, broken air conditioners or in my case, having an order in for internet to be installed filed on April 8 and finally being up and running as of just last week. Tico time is when no one gets the job done till they feel like doing it. “We will be out tomorrow, we have the order I promise you and we will be there” was the mantra for over six weeks.

So this is what I have learned from Tico time: Don’t be an ugly American and intimidate anyone or you will get nothing. And, don’t bribe anyone either (which is a customary expectation for some I am finding out) since word will get around that you use money to get what you want. So, why bother worrying since it doesn’t make anything happen any faster? Get used to standing in line or sitting and waiting for your number to be called if you want to pay the electric bill, for lets say maybe four hours. And most of all, simply do not make plans that you are not willing to adjust, more than once. And let’s not even start talking about people getting anywhere on time for just about anything.

So patience, breathing, laughing, waiting and rejoicing when the air conditioner finally works is a daily prayer. Fifty percent of my day is going to be taken up with things I never spent more than a couple of hours on in the States. But with all the aggravation,  I am learning to appreciate everything that comes with Tico time. There is an upside. I walk slower. I don’t hurry or check my watch ever. I cannot afford to get rattled or scowl or complain or get frustrated. So none of that is part of Tico time. As a result of waiting, and trying to be patient, I simply learn to make do, take in what is going on around me, slow down, do with less, be happy with more, and I am more content all the way around. I think the majority of the world who do not live in first world industrialized countries live this way all of the time.

It is a steep un-learning curve here in Costa Rica. For every miracle and flower, rare bird and magnificent thunderous storm there are trade offs. But the trade offs are things I really have come to understand are not really anything essential about life. I can in fact do without an internet signal…the world does not stop revolving and I can simply go down the hill to the Paradiso Café and meet new people, practice my Spanish and use their internet while sipping Costa Rican coffee as the roosters peck around the table. I can do without packaged food, unless I would like to pay $8 for a small container of almond milk. I can do without Pandora and I can do without electricity when there is a storm.   In fact I can do without a whole lot of things that when living in the States I thought were essential.

But what I get to live without is surprisingly liberating:

  • No traffic of any kind and no rush hour. There is nowhere to rush.
  • Movie Theaters. I read old-fashioned books on my Nook.
  • Electro-magnetic bombardment of my body and soul. None here. No wires.
  • Sleepless nights. Without the EM’s, I sleep like a baby.
  • Pollution both chemical and noise. Now that said the cicadas are deafening.
  • Accumulation of things not needed. It is all about simplicity here.
  • Shopping, more shopping and shopping Malls. Need I say more?
  • Road Rage. But let’s talk about the two lane back roads where you pass down the MIDDLE of an unmarked highway.
  • Cops, rarely see them.
  • Speed limits not sure I even know what it is here.
  • Strip Malls thank god.

What I get to live with has become more than wonderful:

  • Unparalleled beauty out my front door
  • Wild and powerful weather every day
  • The sound of the ocean tides coming in and roaring out
  • Kind smiling people most of the time
  • Mother Nature at her finest and in Technicolor
  • Giant papayas for a dollar
  • Coconuts with straws for a buck
  • Fresh everything, and I mean chickens killed at 8am and cooked by 5pm if you eat chicken
  • No clothes, bare feet, living in the water.
  • Fabulous skin from the humidity.
  • Deserted beaches
  • Going to bed at 8:30pm and parrots rousing me at 5am, not so gently
  • Living inside of natures rhythm from sunrise to sunset
  • Being fully present in my body at all times. Having to watch every step I take
  • Learning to live with the Jungle. The Jungle is alive and has rules.
  • Animals, animals and more animals. Have not met a sloth yet but they are everywhere
  • Fruit falling off trees into my lap while I am walking the dog: Starfruit, Mango, Banana and Coconuts
  • Fresh fish, fresh coffee, clean food everywhere.
  • My list here is far longer, but you get the picture.

It has taken me my entire life to allow myself to leap into a new way of living that is not “American” at it’s core ( I will be writing about the extensive ex-pat community later). I have finally given myself the opportunity to learn a new language, to pare down everything I thought I needed in life and make room for what is essential; Sun, surf and the pulsating organism that is a jungle. The jungle is prana, it is the life force of Costa Rica. It is the breath of life and like Eden, it is pure and balanced. I think I didn’t really know that my life in the American fast lane was far too hard for me to achieve balance and equanimity. Peace is much more available here in the rainforest that is Costa Rica.

So, I am ready to tell some tales that will make you laugh and hopefully encourage you to take off your shoes and step out of your life for a while. There is a new you outside your box just waiting for a chance to explore our beautiful world which will simply …rewire you and help you to remember who you are.

sloth

 

 

The Gypsy off Road

gypsy wagon home

 

My Gypsy Blog was started nearly four years ago when I took a leap out of my life as a therapist (and a closet writer), and decided to discover the story of my life…on the road.

 

But one thing I was not prepared for was that if you pack up your life in one tiny car, put your cat on the front seat and open your map and go east, there is no guarantee of getting there. Not when you are open to what happens when you are on the road. There is no promise that you will end up where you think you are going. That seems to be not only true about life in about every way, but true about writing a story. You may decide to go in one direction and end up with a totally different story…writing your life.

 

I have been in almost every state in the U.S. and have wandered my way back to one of my favorite places of all: Colorado. I was on my way north one time and ended up in Oklahoma, I was on my way to NYC and stayed in Asheville NC for a year, I went to visit someone up on the border of Canada and didn’t leave for a year. I decided to settle in Seattle and promptly was called to leave and go back east. I flew to Africa swearing I would never ever leave and landed back in Oklahoma a far cry from Africa. I have set out on so many journeys that my mind had constructed, but in the end, my heart took me places that were unexpected, serendipitous and magical.

 

And then there are the times that are not so magical. Or at least in that sparkly happy-to-be-there kind of way. Travel strips you. It makes it near impossible to be your limited self, to be afraid or get lost. But, in the end, you still get do get afraid and lost and more often than you would like. You run out of money and have to take a job you don’t love. You meet people who are not kind or generous, you make decisions that turn out to be bogus or you stand still at a hundred different crossroads and don’t have one clue which way to go.

That is the story for a writer as well.

 

A good story has all those elements in it: You get lost in the weeds of your own story, you stare at the blank page and have no clue which way to go, you run out of money to pay the electric bill since you never leave your computer long enough to know what time of the month it is, you let someone read your writing and they trash it and you give up at least once a week and you then read the chapter you just wrote and are bored to tears. These are NOT the magical moments for a writer.

 

And I decided to take a new road in my life where that is all I am now doing…I write. I have one magical, fluid, simple ten page day. Then I reread what I wrote and cringe. Rewrite it and smile. I set out to finish some research on a project and it leads me down a new path of thinking. I read a bestseller at noon for a break and realize I am not as good as the author. Then I stumble upon a poem just itching to get out onto the paper and I am hooked on it, I swallow it whole and by 2am I have the making of a great screenplay. This is a writer’s life.

You put all these inevitable experiences for a writer together like a well woven tapestry and you have the landscape that a writer lives in day in and day out. It is just as exciting as going off-road in a four-wheel and getting high into the back-country.

 

I have a new map. It is not the well-worn Road Atlas I have come to depend on when I am on some one lane road in a January snowstorm in North Dakota while I look for Devil’s Tower, it is a map that is born in my heart. I love storytelling and have so many to tell. I love to help others write the story that has been simmering in their psyche for a long time. Writing is just as spectacular an adventure as travel.

 

So I am currently off-road. For the time being the gypsy in me is hunkered down in the snowy mountains of Colorado and I am navigating a new territory. I am mapping my own life in words….I am excited to see where this new road will lead.  Please check often since I will post stories, and gypsy adventures. And hear more about my writing adventures at www.mythotherapy.org.

 

A River Of Change and You are Part of It

Christmas image

 

We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.”
― C. JoyBell C.

I ventured out of my pond over a year ago.  I put my tiny boat in a new river and made a commitment to stay in and see every inch of where this river was taking me. I have lived on the road for now over 14 months and have loved every minute.   And from that deep commitment, that letting go of everything that was familiar, I not only discovered a passion in this life, but a purpose that uses every part of who I am. A discovery about my work in the world that looked nothing like I had imagined yet embodied everything I love: Children, Giving, Film, Music, Travel and Collaboration.

My partnership with Richard Gannaway, AOMusic and Arcturian Gate has not only “re-seeded” my life with a new kind of hope, a bigger version of myself and a certainty that love is why we are all here, but it has allowed me to meet people all over the world, reach out to children in need and enroll countless others in expressing their own talents and gifts in aligning with us on the journey of Music married to Cause.

This year we established our non-profit agency, AO Foundation International.  Through our music, our connection with children and their families who live in hardship around the world, we are giving back to these children who make our music what it is and we are aligning with several other non-profits who give generously to helping those in need.  As AO becomes the only group to give 100% of our profits to helping the world, we embark on an entirely new paradigm.

This Christmas season is amplified by the ending of the Mayan Calendar.  This is a time which increases the potential for love and unity around the world.  I have been watching and posting on Facebook this week and see a surge of hope, love and gratitude flowing far more freely today.  Each of us are being called to use our energy with intention and focus on giving, gratitude and love.  And energy can be working with your hands, making music, feeding people who need our help and giving of our financial resources.

We are establishing and developing all the channels for giving with our new 501c3.   And now we can offer all of you who give to AO through our foundation, a tax deduction that can benefit you as your generous support financially will launch rockets of love into the lives of so many.  We are rapidly building a financial village who make our work happen.

And AO Foundation International is needing to create an impeccable infrastructure and needs financial help to put this vessel of love into the ocean of causes to make sharing and giving the reason our music exists.  Please help us during this amazing time by donating to our new endeavor.   Not only will you receive a useful tax deduction, but we will send you our new album just about to be released in 2013.

Simply contact us through our website www.aofi.org and use the “Donate Button”.  Or contact me at mayachristobel@gmail.com. Your financial support is greatly needed and appreciated.

AO starts the new year with a brand new album that is destined for another Grammy Nomination and beginning a fully funded Documentary series and live performance in Italy.  We are eager for you to join our family, follow us on this amazing journey and participate in ways you are inspired.  Look for updates as all our work of love manifests.  What a time we live in!

Hugging the world

 

Who is your Neighbor?

WHO IS YOUR NEIGHBOR?

NOV 23, 2012


heart world

I was rushing to a meeting with a new strategic planner and felt a little unprepared.  I’m a bit of a stickler for getting places on time.  I threw my briefcase into the car with some bottled water and tried to stay under the speed limit, since here in Point Roberts, Washington there is one policeman, known as Officer Slick, who has little to do but give tickets for tiny offenses.  He is Point Roberts onlypoliceman.

I pulled up to the four-way and turned onto Gulf Road, making sure I came to my full stops at every stop sign, one of Officer Slick’s pet peeves. It was raining cats and dogs as it frequently does here in the Pacific Northwest.  I glanced at the clock.  I was just going to make it to my meeting.

Suddenly there he was.  Al, a very old man in a green wool sweater shuffling down the road.  He seemed to barely move and was soaked by the driving rain.  “Should I stop?”  I glanced at the clock and kept driving, seeing that it was straight up 11am.  But, there was that feeling in my heart that I have often, making it impossible for me to continue.  I spun around doing an illegal U-Turn, hoping that officer Slick was nowhere in sight.  I pulled up next the man who had not even made it three feet since I past him.  I rolled down the window and asked if I could take him somewhere.  He was disoriented.  Maybe he couldn’t hear me correctly or maybe he was not used to being helped.  I pushed open the door and asked him to get in out of the rain.

He could barely close the front door behind him and sat slumped in the passenger seat.  His wool sweater smelled of a dog or maybe a wet horse. “Where are you going on a day like this?” I said, smiling.  He took a moment to look over my car and then answered, “Food for Isabella?”  Was she his wife?  His friend, I wondered.  He was shivering as I pulled back into the street.  “Are you going to the Marketplace?”  “Yep, she woke me up this morning and said she was hungry”.  How could that be? I thought.  “Is Isabella you wife?”  Al turned and smiled.  “No, miss, she’s my cat.”

This man looked in his late eighties or early nineties, worn out by a life I knew nothing about.  He then started to talk about what a friend she was to him and the best cat he had ever had. I pulled up to the Marketplace and said I would wait for him and then take him home.  I called my strategic planner and said I would be…quite late.  So much for strategically planning my day down to the hour.

Twenty minutes later there was no Al I sight.  I got out and dashed into the store only to find that he was lost somewhere between the cat food and the Skippy peanut butter.  I helped him find the last item on his list:  Gator Aid.  Checkout took forever since in this man’s life everything moves at a snails pace.  I taped into my deep reservoir of patience and finally got him in the car with packages and all.

He talked of his cat and then tried to remember what street he lived on.  We had to backtrack a little and then he pointed to his house.  The classic home of a recluse, a person who barely subsists, even though when you look at the house you know it used to be something special at one time.  There was a broken down truck in the driveway since they took away his drivers license he said.  An old skiff for fishing in the front yard that looked like it had been there since I was born.  All the drapes were pulled tight and held in place at the windowsill with pieces of firewood.  I worried that he heated with wood.

We got him out of the car with my umbrella, packages almost too heavy for him, yet he insisted on carrying them himself.  Then a thank you.  Then a sideways smile.  Then he disappeared to the back of the house and was gone.

I sat in my car for a moment nearly having forgotten I had an agenda.  All I could think of was Al.  His life.  His devotion to walking in the rain for cat food and his love of his dear Isabella.  All I could think of was his living alone and in dire need of what most of us take for granted.  I was no longer in a hurry.

This past year I have aligned my life with a cause to help children in crisis situations who have no parent, no food, and no shelter. Children who have lived through the unthinkable like the earthquake in Haiti or the Tsunami in Japan.  I left thirty years as a psychologist to pursue a larger passion.  It is very important to me to be living from the center of what I believe I was called here to do.  Helping children have their basic needs met and helping others open their hearts to people they may not know is now my work.  And, yet, Al lives right down the street and he is in dire need too.  Al needs food and help.  Al needs love.  All is my neighbor.

I don’t need to go to Haiti or Osaka to look right outside my window to see loneliness or need.  In fact I wonder if the nightly news of chronic devastation, war and poverty desensitizes us to recognizing who lives on our own street when we watch nightly crisis and dramas around the globe?  How many houses do we pass with overgrown yards, drapes pulled and old people shuffling out to try to bend down to pick up a newspaper?  How many homeless people could have a square meal and tell me their story, if I were to simply stop ‘strategically planning’ my day and take the time to take them for a lunch?

If I woke up every day expecting to witness something around me, some person, some animal, some situation that could use my attention, my dollar, my car, my excess and be better for it…I would be better for it. Our world would be better for it is we each committed to this action of love.  Millions of people would be helped in a single day.   My question to every human and to myself is this:  Why don’t we all live like this all the time?  What will it take for all of us to start?  Who is the Al in your life?