Monday, November 23, 2009

Tony's Blog: The Continuing Adventures of Gio in Wonderland

Hoolie’s blog last Wednesday, All For Nothing, made me think that those of us that work to help others heal would be reminded of the words of Cicero:

“If we are forced, at every hour, to watch or listen to horrible events,

this constant stream of ghastly impressions will deprive

even the most delicate among us of all respect for humanity.”

Rumi suggests a simple remedy:

“Be with those who help your being.”

Those who help my being:

Some of the young guys go with me to play hoops on Saturday morning. I got a kick out of seeing how one of my regulars, Giovani (Gio) was so excited to see one of my staff, Jamie join us. All the guys love Jamie. They like to be around him. I think to myself: “we need more Jamie’s in this work”.

After the game Jamie says “its different playin with you guys. We get so many games in because the fellas aren’t standing around arguing every play.” Thanks for the reminder Jamie. That’s why I started this group all those years ago. How easy it is to forget and start to take things for granted. Things like the fact that I don’t have to live in conflict every day of my life. It’s a decision I made years ago. We invite only guys that will play in the spirit of camaraderie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s competitive, just that nobody is trying to prove their manhood with a basketball game.

Flash back to the previous Saturday: After our games I drive Gio out to the LAX Marriott for a conference. He’s now on his high school debate team. On the way I ask him if he’s excited and he answers “kinda”. He’s nervous. An hour later a message comes in on my cell phone. “I just wanted to call you to say that now that I’m actually here, I’m really excited…” There’s such a sense of wonder in his voice it brings a smile to my face.

So, today when I pick him up I can’t wait to hear his story. “It was so good Tony! I’m standing there waiting and looking around going “I’m really here.” “That place was so nice. The carpet was so soft I just wanted to lay down on it! He continues, “I’m waiting for my team to show up and I overhear two guys from another school talking about their AP Calculus test coming up.” “These are really smart guys…and I’m here too. I must be smart too.” He went on to tell me about the topics that he debated that day (the right to smoke in public,” Obama care”, and others) and the accolades that he received. What he seemed most proud of was that he inspired another debater. The guy told him that hearing Gio speak on “the silver spoon syndrome” helped him find his voice about his own upbringing.

All of this underscores a message we had just given at our monthly ECHO Discussion Session Friday night. Be careful of the company that you keep. We can surround ourselves with people who encourage our higher self or those that try to drag us down. There is a third and more powerful option: to become the person that lifts others up. However, that takes some self development, and the wisdom to replenish ourselves with the presence of those who inspire us. So the process goes like this:

Step One: Surround yourself with those who inspire you

Step Two: Learn to be good company for yourself; because that is the company you’ll keep for the rest of your life.

Step Three: Become the good company that others seek in order to be uplifted

Step Four: Repeat step one

Back to Wonderland:

My young friend Gio has a strong sense of where he is in his own development. So he gets up every morning at 5am to take the bus to a school where he can participate in things that lift his spirit and put him in company with those that help him see himself in a better light.

I look forward to Gio’s company because he sees this world through the eyes of wonderment, and reminds me to be present enough to want to lie down on the soft carpet.

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