“The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere, they’re in each other all along”. Rumi
Love has many faces. I think there are nine faces of love. Love for the beloved, your lover or spouse. Love for your precious child. Love for a special pet that is an essential part of your life. Love for family, for a mother and a father, a sibling and home. Love for a friend. Love for God. Love of Self. The Universal love of life itself and the world we live in. And then there is unconditional love, which can be part of every one of our love stories, and when present, transforms love into something far more spiritual and far less personal. Unconditional love is all about giving.
If you think about these nine faces of love and feel into the nature of those love stories, you can feel that each love is slightly different. The love of a child feels very different or at least should, from the love of a spouse or lover. The love of God feels decidedly different than the love of our pet, who brings joy to our lives. Love is vast and has so many colors and forms that there is no end to discovering the territory of the heart. And without an open heart, there is no love.
We each have a love story. Or many love stories. I have had the privilege of loving often, loving deeply and loving without borders. I have had three husbands, two daughters, countless people who have sought out my advice and are now part of my heart for life. I have had family, friends, teachers, gurus, dogs, cats, horses to love. Some of these relationships gave me ample opportunity to learn about love and forgiveness, about letting go and taught me the difference between love and possession. And my experience of unconditional love usually was born from having so much heartbreak, that my capacity for loving grew exponentially.
Katherine Hepburn is my Hero. She said, “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get, but what you are expecting to give”. It took me quite a long time to find that the giving of love was far more important and joyful than being loved. That is a big statement for me to make in a culture that is all about being loved and getting love. But, the distinction makes all the difference to the quality of true happiness.
Last year I had the opportunity to open my heart just a little wider and let in the world. It was not a choice. It was an unexpected moment when my heart was blown open by a new experience of love. Most of my love affairs have been with a person. Sometimes my love has been far more universal, but this past year I fell in love with the world around me. I fell deeply in love with the children of our planet, the people who are just like me but who have very little opportunity to be loved, yet who possess a depth of spiritual awareness, loving kindness and joy that defies my comprehension.
I fell headlong into this central love story for my life when I heard the voices of AOMusic. And then I felt the beauty of their vision for creating unity between those
who have resources and those who do not, creating connection of heart and cause, money and magic, and I was encouraged to participate in a process of personally embracing my own power, in order to encourage more power for those who are powerless.
Children are such a gift and they are the seeds of our future and possess the innate spark of ‘source’. Each child is a walking love story. So, I would like to share a few stories with you that touched me, generated a life long commitment to partner with AOMusic and Richard Gannaway, its founder, who endeavors to marry music with charity and to write songs that change our own cellular nature. Music wakes the heart and the children of AO bring each and every one of us closer to the source of who we are.
Richard has been traveling the world to remote areas, which suffer from natural disaster, poverty and alienation. He has been recording children in these areas for over a decade. He finds groups of children who learn one of his songs and then sing with Richard, who then records them for becoming the voices at the center of the music. Then the financial profits from these songs go back to the children and their villages. Here are some of the children of AO and their amazing stories.
A Love Story from Johannesburg, South Africa:
It is not unusual for the bush mothers in the squatter villages around Johannesburg to leave their newborns by the side of the road. They are from families who are too large with not enough food. They are young girls who have been raped with no means of caring for a child. Mothers die from malnutrition and fathers are overwhelmed. It happens all the time. A mother, an aunt or a sister will come in the night and leave newborns at the crossroads for someone to find and hopefully bring the baby to an orphanage or take the child into their own homes. That is the hope. It does not always happen.
A little newborn baby girl was left in the night on the side of the road in a basket. Imagine in Africa, in the bush, a baby crying in the darkness. But, this night, a stranger did not pick the little new born up. No one came for her, or heard her cries. Except for a pack of wild dogs.
The next morning the child was found having been fed on by the Dingos in the night, but she was alive. She was taken to the hospital and survived the terror of an experience I cannot imagine. This little girl grew up in an orphanage and in 2010, Richard went to this orphanage in South Africa to meet the children and record music with them. This one little girl stepped forward and her voice was clear and true and her love and joy for life, bright and blazing. This tiny baby left for the dogs was now eleven years old and had one nearly fully amputated arm and one amputated leg from that fateful night.
Her love for life, the joy in her voice was never fully compromised by her brutal beginning. The offering of her light and her voice rang out in the And Love Rages On Album. And she and children all over our planet just like her are at the heart of why
I do what I do with AO. Why I am committed to bring love into the lives of children who need AO, who need our help, who need both you and me. And as Katherine Hepburn said, “love is in the giving”.
A Love Story from Indonesia
AO had an opportunity to record children in Indonesia. There are several Youtube videos of these amazing children as part of stunning songs from AOMusic. But, in this story, more unthinkable experiences for Americans like me, went straight into my heart.
While in Indonesia, Richard was on an island where he met a family on a hillside living in a lean to. This little family was selling crafts, coconuts and mangos in order to feed their family. Their house was a piece of corrugated metal with sticks to hold it up and on a steep volcanic hillside. Numerous families were dispersed in the jungle just like this family, exposed to the elements and making ends meet the only way they could.
There was no TV, or Internet, there were no toys from Toys R Us. The lives of each family member had a singular focus: Survival. And yet the children were the happy children, laughing and playing. The adults were the salt of the earth, generous and giving.
And in Indonesia there were countless children without families living on waste heaps that went on for miles out side the city. These heaps of trash and refuse were two or three stories tall and infested with giant rats. There where herds of rats that would run and stampede and the children would have to hide from the stampedes. These children were living in toxic waste but at sunset Richard would watch them playing with each other and creating games with what they had found that day among the garbage.
A Love Story from Malaysia
In Malaysia, off the tip of another volcanic island, countless five and six year old children were armed with machetes that were taller than they were. Every day these children would hike up the volcanic mountain with their giant machetes and they would pull coconuts off the trees, while welding these massive swords. Then they would sell the coconut juice for money or food. These bands of children lived on the hillside and in the tropical jungle having only a donkey to get them up to the rim of the volcano.
Our constant and never changing experience is of the resilient children who have lived through earthquakes, tsunamis, war, and genocide, orphaned and alone. Their unbeatable spirit and strong hearts, is what AO is about. AO is Polynesian for, Light. These children possess the light even after the unthinkable.
As our planet embarks on our single most historical moment and begins to consciously feel and understand that we are all…connected, our work with and for
children of the light is a monumental need. AOMusic is dedicated to that need and answering the call for responsible action in every way we can. And as for me, I have changed my life, cleaned out the closets of my own resistance, sold everything I own and done so in order to live this journey of unconditional love. And when I meet children like these, it is an easy choice. Because in the end I am the one who is given the gift of love.
And, like in every other remote part of the world, these children that live hand to mouth, possess a kind of joy that stops you in your tracks and allows for the possibility that your heart will expand with love and caring and then move you swiftly into action. Love without action is incomplete. And as just one person I have much of what they need. I have time. I have extra money, I have motivation and baskets full of love to freely offer. What I receive in return is priceless.
Each of these stories are followed by countless others. And there are millions of stories going untold, children going unseen, lives ending before they begin. And there are also countless stories of people around the world who feel uninspired, have resources they could share, are doing a job they hate, feeling alone, lost in the television or isolated. There are people everywhere needing meaning in their lives. We need each other. And like the little girl who was attacked by wild dogs, the triumph of her spirit is a spiritual energy that can create miracles for anyone who is willing to open their eyes and arms to the world around them.
The stories of these children are a call for me to move into action. The way I get to ‘unconditionally love’ is to simply be fully present to the feelings I have when I look into their eyes. To really listen when I hear their voices singing on an AO album, feel the joy every time a donation to AO Foundation International comes in and I know which child will get shoes because of it, what little boy or girl in Kathmandu might get an education, or see shelter be put up after the next earthquake or tsunami to get children off the street and away from sex trafficking predators. I simply get countless chances to love…unconditionally. And unconditional love is the single most untapped resource we have on this planet.
This is my life. This is my life’s work. This is my love story.