People expect most conversations will remain on the surface and that you won’t stray from the norm; that you’ll keep it safe. When you make a bold comment about someone’s new look, weight loss, attitude or lifestyle, it rattles them a bit. This level of engagement can be remarkably profound.
I used to be embarrassed to make comments that were overtly kind and seemingly out of the blue. I feel it often, but saying it can be scary and intimidating. I would fear that people were going to think I’m nuts, or that I’ve watched Jerry McGwire one too many times.
But I do it. I’ve made a habit of it. Why? Because I’ve seen the power of a boldly kind and caring comment. I’ve seen the impact it can make, and the joy it brings into the world.
Lots of people notice these opportunities but don’t say anything because it’s too uncomfortable or risky. “What if people think I’m weird?” I’ve got news for you. We’re all weird. Why not use that dynamic to bring more love into the world?
I notice the nuances of life around me because I care. I take the risk of being boldly kind because I care enough to forego my own comfort for the possibility of bringing more joy into someone else’s life.
It took a lot of time and conditioning to create this habit. But now it’s not so scary; it’s fulfilling. And lots of people that know me well have come to expect it from me. I’ve never looked back and regretted being boldly kind with my comments. Never.
People are often scared of engaging too deeply with others because too many variables come into play. It could all go wrong. It could result in hours of conversation you weren’t prepared for or willing to engage in. It could make you look stupid.
Or, it could bless someone immensely and enhance your relationship with them. It could result in something more beautiful than you ever imagine. It could give you strength to show more kindness to others.
People are typically pleasantly shocked when I make a comment like this. They think, “Wow, he noticed, AND took the opportunity to mention it to me”. Remember, most people are scared of making these types of comments. So when they experience it from you, they recognize what you’ve chosen to overcome in order to deliver it.
If you have the opportunity to say something boldly kind to someone, go for it. Say something extraordinary. Chances are, it will bless you just as much as it does the person you’re complimenting.
The more I experience life, the more I appreciate the unexplainable. I’ve been trying to teach Francois some of the nuances of the love I feel for my wife. Not an easy task, especially when explaining to an 18-year-old Rwandan boy from the village that’s never experienced love.
When he asked me what it’s like to love Ilea, I said, “I could spend the whole night explaining the things I love about her, but I could not explain what I feel in my heart. It’s unexplainable, beyond my words”. This resulted in hours of conversation that has continued since.
The love I feel for my wife is not something I have the ability to articulate in its entirety. If Shakespeare struggled with it, I doubt I’m going to nail it. I don’t have the words to encapsulate it.
The feeling I get from sitting on the beach, overlooking the Indian Ocean with Africa as the backdrop is more magnificent than I could ever describe. When Francois chooses to serve someone else for no other reason than him seeing a need and wanting to help, I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that I am a part of his journey.
Seeing a pregnant mama, knowing that she is choosing to grow a little human inside her womb; that is unexplainable. It’s beauty at it’s purest.
The feeling I get after a hard day of work or a finishing a major project is something I value above most all other feelings. The feeling of understanding your purpose, fulfilling your calling and serving others is more profound than I can explain.
The miracle of how we were created, unique in every way. The way someone can live as profoundly and powerfully as the likes of Mandela, Maya Angelou, Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Bono; that is beyond explanation.
In my experience, the greatest things in life are the ones we have the most difficulty explaining. Francois had a hard time understanding that at first. He wanted to know why. How does that make sense? I explained that it doesn’t have to make sense at all. The true gift is when we can recognize the beauty in something that is beyond explanation.
When you can recognize the beauty in the unexplainable, you’ve found something truly extraordinary. I find it in my relationships with my wife, with Francois, my family, the ocean, Africa, the stars, the moon and in serving others.
It is no longer my desire to figure everything out or find a way for A + B to = C. I’ve learned to appreciate the unexplainable beauty in life. There is a great peace that comes from that. And from that, I find more joy than I ever did from trying to quantify and reconcile life.
There is great beauty is in the unexplainable.
Philanthropy is messy. It’s rare that you achieve exactly what you set out to accomplish. The process often involves a lot of frustration, tears, frustration and lack of resolve. Let’s face it; changing the world is no walk in the park.
And if you’re dealing with people, it’s likely they may not be grateful for your investment of time and care. It’s also likely they may choose not to implement your advice or properly utilize the resources you’ve provided.
You set out to achieve something, and then, boom; something completely illogical happens. Someone doesn’t show up. No one cared enough to finish or do it properly. Or worse yet, someone sabotages the program or robs you blind. It happens, often.
You ask yourself if you’re even doing any good. “Am I crazy? Doesn’t anyone care?”
But then I remember that I’m not doing this because of my strong desire to do something good. It’s not because I need a cool accomplishment to add to my collection I don’t do this for a pat on the back or gratitude. I don’t even expect those things. I don’t have anything to prove.
I don’t do what I do to “get results”. So often along the journey of pushing for a certain result, I will discover something even more beautiful and pure than what I was shooting for. And rather than being blinded by my ambition to achieve the original goal, I’m always open to that dynamic.
At the end of the day, I simply do this because I care. That’s enough. I care so much that I can’t stop trying. I can’t stop being an idealist. It doesn’t bother me when people think I’m naïve. When you have nothing to prove, the shackles fall off.
I just keep believing that if I care enough, and consistently listen and act, someone else will benefit from it. And when that’s the only goal, it’s easy to resolve to the fact that you don’t need resolution for a project to be successful You just keep pushing, knowing that somewhere along the way, someone is benefiting from the love you are giving, day in and day out.
If I constantly give love, I can’t go wrong. And I don’t need quantifiable results or an impressive P&L to experience joy from it. The joy comes from the giving. We have a right to giving. But that doesn’t mean we have a right to reaping the fruits of our labor.
The act of serving and giving has to be enough. Otherwise, it will never be…enough.
I’m a noticer. I notice the nuances of life that most others wouldn’t pay any attention to. I think the nuances of one’s life speak volumes about character, habits, desires and fears.
When I visit someone’s home and notice a squeaky door or something of that nature, I think to myself “ok, someone please find me a screwdriver and WD40 so I can fix that door”. It’s a 30 second fix, yet this person has decided to let it squeak away, simply stating “yeah that door has always squeaked”. Why?
Either the noise genuinely doesn’t bother them (fair enough), they are too lazy to fix it, or they believe they are too busy to spare the 30 seconds. I’ve found that it’s generally one of the latter options.
How many squeaky doors do you have in your life that you choose not to take a moment to fix or invest in? It could be a household fix-it, an issue at work or a relationship issue. It’s that little bur under the saddle that makes life a little more uncomfortable, but not always enough to compel you to change it.
What would your life look like if you took five minutes a day (35 minutes per week) to address squeaky doors? Are you really that busy? Think of your heroes and mentors. Do you notice a lot of “squeaky doors”? How many are relational?
I realize how blessed I am to have a happy marriage, to a wife I admire and respect, that inspires me to be a better man, and that I am madly in love with.
We have an adopted son, Francois, from Rwanda that we love dearly. He calls me “father”. I am teaching him to be a man of integrity and strength. He is teaching me patience, understanding and perspective.
After four years in Rwanda and one year back in the US, we move to Mombasa, Kenya, indefinitely. We came here with $700 in hand and some substantial debt, believing we could make it work. We had no income and no promise of work. We did not know a soul in Mombasa before we moved here. We had no relationships set up for our business (KEZA). Every bit of logic said this move would be a disaster. But we had each other, big dreams, determination and a lot of faith.
Four months later, we have a group of friends that have become family to us. Francois is moving here from Rwanda to live with us. We move into our new condo on the beach in two days. We’ve set up a partnership with an amazing artisan workshop that supports the handicapped, and I’m finally in the design room again.
We run an ethical fashion label that affords us the opportunity to work with amazing people, from Africa to New York to London. We’re showcasing the beauty and excellence of Africa, which brings us great joy. We’ve just been asked by the Mombasa Coast Tourism Association to head up the Swahili Coast Fashion Group, as an effort to bolster the fashion industry along the coast.
We started our philanthropy consulting company (Angaza) in January, hoping we could figure out a way to make a living by helping others bring their altruistic endeavors into fruition. It worked. We’ve got business coming in regularly and it’s afforded us the opportunity to play a vital role in so many beautiful projects that foster a more peaceful and just world.
We have purpose, love, passion, beautiful relationships and we live exactly where we want to live. We love the rawness and beauty of the Swahili Coast culture. And the landscape is breathtaking.
We have many people that have supported us along the way; that have invested in our lives and specifically in our character. We are grateful for all of you that believe in us and encourage us daily.
There is nothing logical or academic about how we’ve achieved this lifestyle that we love so much. We literally chose the life we wanted and believed in it until it manifested before us. We are still shocked sometimes at how things continue to come together, despite the odds.
By most people’s standards, the way we live seems like complete lunacy. But we love it. It is a commitment to love and faith that the universe is always working to bless us that has gotten us here. It’s a minute by minute decision to believe this way. And God has blessed us beyond what we were even able to cook up in our dreams.
Love manifests love. It’s as simple as that.
Dr. King believed, “Justice at its best is love correcting all that stands against love.” This implies a deliberate action one would take to achieve justice; showing love.
But love isn’t the easiest choice. When faced with a horrific injustice such as Rape in the Congo, it’s more natural to desire an abrupt end to this abomination than to invest the necessary time, patience and money to solve the epidemic through love.
In America especially, the first reaction to injustice is often an eye for an eye. “If you kill someone, we’ll kill you.”
I have yet to witness this as a viable long-term solution. It tends only to serve the immediate desire for power and a satisfied ego. The long-term solution is one of patience, kindness and love, all of which require a tremendous amount of discipline and deliberateness.
I am a fighter at heart, in that I desire justice. But I am no longer a fighter in the literal sense of the word. It is still my first instinct to stop injustice “by any means necessary”. Everything inside me wants to fight.
But I have come to realize this fight does not serve the people so much as it serves my ego and need for purpose. More often it creates even worse problems. This journey has proven to be my most difficult human challenge. I strive daily to be a “petitioner of love”.
Sure, it sounds heroic to annihilate an evil dictator regime, but does it truly solve the problem, or just give the appearance of resolution only to create more problems down the road that ensure the indefinite necessity for your services; i.e. repeat business.
If justice is love personified, how can we justify war to bring about peace? Is that merely a quick and non-sustainable fix?
There is a common belief, especially among certain religious groups, that we are all born evil, or “with sin”. They believe we spend our lives trying to correct this intrinsic malady and many are so consumed with this task that they become blinded to the beauty we were created to experience and appreciate.
However, this connotes that the same God that created the Bird of Paradise, Aurora Borealis, the human body and love either intentionally created us as evil beings, or completely failed in our creation.
I believe we were all created with a propensity towards love and evil. We choose which to foster, every second of our lives. Our surroundings certainly effect what is fostered in our souls, but we always have a choice as to how we react to those experiences.
People often proclaim, “People don’t change”. I believe we are changing all the time. I believe a killer can become a lover, and visa versa, depending on what trait is fostered. We are equipped, mentally, physically and emotionally to choose love over evil.
However, I also believe the act of love must be deliberate, as where it is more common to unintentionally, or even subconsciously fall into evil. We can choose to swim up stream and experience love and happiness, or we can freely flow down into evil; what many would refer to as hell (on earth).
Love is a gift, and a choice. When acted out, it is the essence of beauty. The more life I experience, the more I am inclined to focus my thoughts and actions solely on experiencing, creating and fostering love. Everything else right and good seems to organically proliferate from there.
It is seldom I take the risk of penning my thoughts on the many facets of love. It is infinite in scope and influence. It is a state of mind. To treat someone with love is a choice, though loving someone may not seem to be.
In Latin, there is but one word to describe both justice and equality; aequitas. I cannot treat my neighbor as my equal if I do not first love him enough to do so. If I believe he is my equal, I cannot possibly treat him unjustly. Ubuntu is the culmination of justice and equality; the essence of love.
I believe love is at the center of all things good. It is love that enables us to experience justice. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Justice at its best is love correcting all that stands against love”. It is defeated only by its absence and victorious only through its presence. And the crescendo of this unparalleled and unbridled power is that it cannot be used for selfish dominion over another without defeating itself. This may be the mightiest of all earthly phenomenon we will experience here on earth.
Humanity has grown accustomed to believing a world driven by love is foolish and unattainable. Fear drives us, rather than love. But this is contrary to the core of our being. This is why we fight for love. This is why we yearn for it to overcome all that stands against it. It’s how we were created. Deep down, we believe in its power. “The world moves for love. It bows before it in awe.” This is the world I believe in.