Compassion

It’s an astonishing painting, by Alex Grey. It hangs in my hallway just inside the front door. I could go on and on about the beauty of it all but I’m sure the message is clear to you. There is giving and there is receiving, with the giver knowing deeply that he or she is being given to as well.

We had an art class this afternoon. The lesson was on perspective, how a line of trees can appear to be stretching to the horizon. The teacher and I roamed around, offering feedback and encouragement. One young man (I’ll call him “Brett”) had his head down and I asked if I could help. He was shaky. When I looked at his pencil drawing, I saw the mistake he was making and I coached him about how to fix it. Then I moved on to other kids. It was fun to offer a hint here and some praise there.

Ten minutes later, I glanced back at Brett. His arms were propping up his head and he was crying. I walked over. “What’s wrong, Brett?” He turned to me and away from the students beside him. “This isn’t any good and my dad will be so mad.”

My eyes welled with his. I flashed to my father and to the unconditional positive regard he sent me, even when improvements needed to be made. Clearly home was sometimes not like this for Brett. I wanted to assist him and I wanted us to have privacy. We found a table off in a corner and sat there with each other, both of us making some marks on the paper. We worked towards the OKness of any tree that emerged from Brett’s fingers and shared the creation of perspective – two tall trees on the left and right edges of the paper, two shorter ones next door and two itsy bitsy versions in the middle of the paper. By the time the first bell rang for home, Brett was calm.

Such a key moment, that one with the tears. Each of us needs to be ready with a helping hand. The Bretts and Lucys of the world deserve our care.

Day Four: Giving and Receiving

As the Evolutionary Collective met this morning at Asilomar, I looked around the room at the beauty there. More than eighty of us sat as a coat of many colours, fine examples of both unity and uniqueness. I love the image of an ice cream cooler full of different tubs. I’d grab a spoon and dip into Rocky Road, then Pistachio, and how about some Pralines and Cream? All delicious.

Just before lunch, Patricia announced that we’d be receiving a gift. One member had created “bracelets for the women and key chains for the guys”, each emblazoned with the words “Awakened Love”. I smiled and then frowned. My heart wanted the bracelet. I don’t care about key chains. In January, Ali, a young Senegalese boy, had tied a glass bead bracelet around my wrist, a gesture so clearly of love. The first two nights I took it off to shower but then it hit me: this symbol will stay next to my skin till the day I die.

Today I approached the giver of jewelry and asked if I could have a bracelet instead of the key chain. She thought she had an extra one in her room so the future looked bright. Minutes later, a woman showed up with just what I wanted. Turns out that one of the female participants wanted a key chain! Later, at lunch, Cindy rushed up to celebrate. She had her treasure and I had mine. Both of us had been brave in asking for a change … and the universe smiled on our intentions.

Other moments of grace:

1. I had a big sunburn from yesterday, and no sunscreen. Denise noticed my dilemma. Seeing that I was about to head to the beach after lunch, she pointed to the goop that she had kindly brought to the meeting room.

2. On an evening walk, Lara played us a phone call she just received from her young daughter back east. “Goodnight, mommy. Please come home soon.” It’s a keeper.

3. I’ve been seeing a counsellor to deal with past traumas. She’s at the conference. When I was feeling so very small this afternoon, I reached out to her for five minute of coaching. I left her with compassion for myself that I sometimes get triggered and immediately go into a knee jerk collapse. I celebrated that I brought myself back within a couple of hours.

4. About thirty of us went down to the beach this evening to see the sunset. The big ball popped below the cloud cover just before diving beneath the horizon. It wasn’t a grand show. The grandness was in our eyes, which often turned from the sun to each other. We were together. That was enough.

***

Simple moments, full of grace. Enough to fill a day with quiet satisfaction.

Two Girls … Two Games

I told the Grade 6 kids yesterday that I was spending the weekend in Toronto. “Jess” approached me to say that she was in the provincial hockey tournament in nearby Mississauga at the same time. Would I like to watch her play? I didn’t even think about it. “Yes” burbled out of me. Seize the day, Bruce. “I play Friday at 4:00, and ‘Steph’ (a classmate, on another team) is on the ice in Toronto at 10:30 am. You could see her too.” Yes to both because I love them both. They’re great kids – kind, smart and strong.

I asked Jess to keep it a surprise for Steph that I’d be at her game. I love surprises.

I found the morning’s arena easily, thanks to my friend Google Maps. Even though I was a bit early, the game had already started. I was pretty sure that Steph didn’t see me at the glass, but I sure saw her. How can anybody skate that fast, and keep it up for the whole shift? I could only imagine how fast her heart was thumping along. Steph threw herself into the corners to battle for the puck, often with opponents who were a foot taller than her. If they took it away from her, she’d go right back in there, bodies crunching (even though officially no body checks are allowed). Tenacious.

Steph was also a pest around the opponents’ goal. Once she checked a player behind the net, grabbed the puck, and whirled around to the front, trying for a wraparound goal. Her shot rocketed past the post, just inches wide. Gosh, this was more fun than watching the pros.

I congratulated my young friend after she’d changed. She was surprised to see me two hours from home. And she was happy to see me.

I also found the afternoon’s arena easily. It was a lot farther from my B&B, but who cares? This time the game hadn’t started yet and the kids were doing skating and shooting drills. Jess saw me standing by the glass, wearing my traditional red toque in the chilly arena. She smiled.

Jess is a smooth-skating defenseman. I really enjoyed watching her move the puck up along the boards. Once she burst past her opponent and got a shot on net. Pad save. A few minutes later, she slid a pass across to her defense partner, who skated towards the goal and let fly. She shoots, she scores!

I think the best thing Jess did (and she did this twice) was to skate over to her goalie after the other team scored. Even from a distance, I could tell that Jess was encouraging her. To me, that’s worth infinitely more than personal stats and big wins. It’s a green flag for adult life.

I had planned to go on a long walk by the Humber River today. Saying yes to the girls was far more valuable. I love trees but give me human beings every time.

Come From Away

I’m so taken with the story of 9000 Gander, Newfoundland residents welcoming nearly 7000 “plane people” on 911 when the USA closed its airspace. The musical “Come From Away” has been playing the Elgin Theatre in Toronto for many months. Originally I told myself the tickets were too expensive but a few weeks ago the magnet of the story drew me in. And tonight was my time – 8:00 pm to be precise.

I showed up at Anne and Ihor’s bed and breakfast around 6:00 pm today, in plenty of time to take the UP Express train downtown. Or so I thought. A few hundred metres from Union Station, we came to a halt. A fellow came on the PA to say “There’s been a partial power failure at Union. We don’t have any signals. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Major oops. And so the sweat flowed. I knew the musical had no intermission, and most likely “latecomers will be seated at an appropriate opportunity” wouldn’t apply. So is that it, my expensive evening up in smoke?

Ten or fifteen minutes later, we were moving again and soon I was standing on Front Street, twenty minutes to curtain time. I started running the seven blocks but my knee immediately shouted its protest. So power walking it was.

I took my seat at 7:55. Thank you, dear gods of the theatre.

There was so much to revel in over the next 100 minutes:

1. A young stranded American guy, so worried about a Newfie stealing his wallet. He gazed in wonder at homes with unlocked doors, and voices inside that said “It’s open … come on in.”

2. A Muslim fellow enduring insults from a few of his fellow travellers. “You’re not an American!” “I don’t want to get back on the plane with him.” Turns out that he was a chef at home, and offered his cooking skills to the locals. They were hesitant at first but finally said yes, much to the pleasure of countless taste buds.

3. A local resident asked the question “Are there any animals aboard these planes?” She was originally told no but suspected that wasn’t true. Her digging revealed nineteen creatures and she cared for them like a saint, despite official warnings to keep off the planes.

4. An American woman was desperate to learn the fate of her son, a New York firefighter. She was befriended by a lovely grey-haired Ganderian, who held her to her bosom. They remain friends long after the planes have left Newfoundland and together they face the reality of the son’s death.

5. Then there was the gorgeous choral singing of “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”:

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness ever joy

Present were Christians with bowed heads, two Jewish men in communion, two Hindu women with eyes to the sky, and our Muslim friend. The hearts soared.

6. Imagine a kitchen. Travellers looked on in awe as locals danced to the music of the fiddle, squeeze box, penny whistle and guitar. Joy abounded, all through the room. And the American folks got to taste a Newfie rum called screech (yum) and kiss a cod (yuck).

7. Love far afield: a British gentleman and a woman from Dallas, Texas were on the same plane, and in the same community for five days. Their accents and their hearts blended. Finally, he flew back to Europe and she to the USA. But it wasn’t finally. He came to visit. They continued the falling in love. And they married, with a honeymoon in Newfoundland.

8. After thousands of visitors had left the rock, life slowed gradually to normal. Tasks briefly left undone were accomplished. Someone opened the suggestion box at Gander City Hall and found $60,000 in cash inside. Tricky tourists. The Newfies didn’t want money, only thanks.

***

September 11-15, 2001 … April 4, 2019
Twin celebrations of life
And we stood to applaud humanity

Gander

The population of Gander, Newfoundland is about 10,000.  On September 11,  2001, they had 6,700 visitors.  When terrorists brought down the Twin Towers in New York City, the federal government shut down US airspace.  Thirty-eight passenger jets en route to the States were diverted to this tiny outpost.

In late August last year, I was crossing Newfoundland by bus.  We stopped at the Gander Airport and inside the terminal I found a fitting monument – a twisted girder from the 911 tragedy.  It was a gift from the people of New York to the people of Gander.  As one of the welcomers said in 2001, “We’re all Americans today.”  I looked around the terminal and imagined hundreds of frightened travellers milling around.

There’s been a play created based on those days in Newfoundland.  I’m going to Come From Away in April, and I’m sure I’ll be moved by human kindness and resiliency.  In prep for my trip to Toronto, I bought a book called The Day The World Came to Town.  The same people, the same humanity on display.

Here are a few quotes from the book.  They make real an event of terrorism and emergency because real folks are saying real things.

First, a song:

Raise your glass and drink with me to that island in the sea
Where friendship is a word they understand
You will never be alone when you’re in a Newfie’s home
There’s no price tag on the doors in Newfoundland

There will always be a chair at the table for you there
They will share what they have with any man
You don’t have to worry, friend, if your pocketbook is thin
There’s no price tag on the doors in Newfoundland 

I felt the generosity of Newfies in Port-aux-Basques, Gander and St. John’s.  And not a pretend giving, but genuine.

Here’s more:

***

The biggest problem facing officials was transportation.  How do you move almost 7,000 people to shelters, some of which were almost fifty miles outside of town?  The logical answer was to use school buses.  On September 11, however, Gander was in the midst of a nasty strike by the area’s school bus drivers.

Amazingly, as soon as the drivers realized what was happening, they laid down their picket signs, setting their own interests aside, and volunteered en masse to work around the clock carrying the passengers wherever they needed to go.

***

Roxanne and Clark decided to buy something comfortable to wear, a change of underwear, and some deodorant.  No sooner had they returned to the Lions Club than another woman who they hadn’t seen before asked if they would like to take a shower.  Roxanne hadn’t seen any showering facilities but assumed they must be tucked away in a part of the club that this woman would now show them.

“No,” the woman said.  “You can come over to me house and shower.”

Roxanne stopped herself from laughing.  A complete stranger was inviting her to her home to use the shower.  Roxanne and Clark had both grown up in small towns but this went well beyond small-town hospitality.  These were the nicest people in the world, Roxanne thought.

***

Cindy and Reg Wheaton took Vitale to their home just down the street.  They told him to help himself to anything in the refrigerator and to use the phone to make calls or the computer to send e-mails.  They showed him where the remote for the cable television was located, handed him a clean towel, and left.  He could stay as long as he wanted, and they told him that when he was done he should just leave the door unlocked on the way out.  Vitale was speechless when they left.

***

Fast found herself on a residential street, where she spotted a man on a porch waving at her.  He asked if she was one of the stranded passengers.

“Yes,” she said.

He explained that he and his family were preparing a big birthday party for his grandson in the backyard.  He asked if she’d like to join them.  She agreed and followed him around the house.  The boy’s parents were still decorating the backyard with balloons and streamers in anticipation of other children arriving.  Fast was introduced to the guest of honor.

“Happy birthday,” she said.

“Thank you,” the boy replied.

“How old are you?” 

“Seven.”

Fast was energized by the family’s sense of warmth and their willingness to share this time with an outsider who just happened to be walking down the street.

***

As its old slogan implies, Canadian Tire is more than just tires.  One of the clerks was able to scrounge up a pair of air mattresses and two sleeping bags and then asked, “Do you want a tent as well?”

Zale said it wasn’t necessary but Wood cut her off.

“Hell, yes, we want a tent,” she declared, her Texas accent almost bowling the clerk over.  It might rain, Wood reasoned, so a tent could come in handy.  Zale and Wood piled their supplies onto the checkout counter and started reaching for their credit cards.

“You’re off the plane, right?” the cashier asked.

When Zale and Wood nodded, the cashier announced that they could just take the items.  Anything the stranded passengers needed, the store was happy to provide.  The store even offered to send one of their employees over to the Knights of Columbus to help them set up the tent.

…..

No sooner had the first planes started to land in Gander than O’Donnell received a phone call from her bosses telling her she had carte blanche to donate everything in the store, if necessary, to the relief effort.  “Anything the passengers need that you can provide, please do it,” she was instructed.  Money was not to be an issue … In fact, if another store had something the passengers needed, and that store had reached its limit in terms of donations, then O’Donnell was authorized to go in and buy it for the passengers.  It was like a scene right out of Miracle on 34th Street.

***

Newtel, the telephone company for Newfoundland, set up a long bank of tables on the sidewalk in front of its offices and filled them with telephones so passengers could make free long-distance calls to their families.  On another set of outdoor tables, they placed computers with internet access.  Newtel officials kept the tables running day and night for as long as the passengers needed them.

***

Harris called one of her assistants, Vi Tucker, and the two women loaded up a truck with pet food, water, cleaning supplies, and anything else they thought they might need, and lit out for the airport.  Once they arrived, they began sizing up the situation.  The animals were stowed away in cages in the same compartments as the luggage.  As Harris went around taking a quick look inside each of the planes, she knew these animals were going through their own emotional ordeals.  In some cases, Harris couldn’t even see the animals, as they were buried behind mounds of suitcases.  But she could hear them crying and barking … One at a time, they crawled into the belly of the airplanes, tunneling their way through the mountains of bags, to reach each animal.  As best they could, they would clean the cage and then lay out some food and water.

***

Following the van driver’s directions, they approached a large house with off-white vinyl siding and white trim.  Mark joked that he would protect them if there was any trouble, and the women laughed nervously.  They noticed an older woman standing in the driveway.

“George invited us over for coffee,” Deb said.

“You must be the plane people,” the woman replied, introducing herself as George’s wife Edna.  “Come on in, my dears.”

***

Well said, Edna
Come on in

Mitch and Jonas

What do I love about sports? It’s the individuals who play them. What do I love about those men and women? What’s so special about them?

There’s the incredible artistry of brilliant players. I’m in wonder when Mitch Marner floats down the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, twisting and turning and slipping a soft pass to a teammate. But there’s far more. I want my heroes to be full human beings, people who see beyond winning and losing, beyond personal glory … to a life of service. Mitch knows his fame is a tool, and he uses it to impact the lives of children, especially six-year-old Hayden Foulon. She’s in the middle of leukemia, and Mitch is with her. “His impact reaches all the way down to her heart, a beacon of hope in a young life that has experienced far too much pain.”

Mitch isn’t the only athlete who has seeped his way into the smiles of Toronto fans. Up until a few days ago, Jonas Valanciunas played centre for the Toronto Raptors basketball team. Then he was traded to Memphis. Whether or not it’s a good move on the court, it’s hard for the fans, including the journalists who cover the team.

(Steve Simmons)

You get lucky once in a while in this business. You get to cover someone like Valanciunas. Someone real. Someone unpretentious. Someone with great pride, little ego and a sense of humour. It was our pleasure.

(Eric Koreen)

[Years ago, a rookie reporter was interviewing a rookie basketball player, a fellow who was learning English]

In hindsight, though, the only moment that mattered was that momentarily frightened look he gave when he saw my notebook. It was a clear moment of humanity. Journalists live for those. More than really explaining the cap mechanics of a trade, more than speaking truth to power in a thundering column, more than getting a scoop, we want to capture those moments.

…..

Of all the players I’ve covered, Valanciunas is right near the top on the list of those who were transparent about their emotions and humanity.

“He gave me the start. He gave me that boost,” Valanciunas told me in October about his relationship with former coach Dwane Casey, who was part of the reason Valanciunas’ goals and role were always being re-defined. “He gave me something that let me still be here. If I’d started with a different coach, maybe I’d be out of the league or playing in Europe or being the third big somewhere. He gave me something that kept me here. He had that trust in me. I can only say good things about that. There was so much talk: minutes, touches, likes, dislikes. Over those six years, he had some feelings, I had some feelings. But the end of the story, I can just say thank you to him because he gave me a big boost, big confidence. He had big trust in me.”

…..

One moment stands out the most. Last year, veteran Toronto Star beat writer Doug Smith was hospitalized shortly before the playoffs started. Doug is always around the team, and it is profoundly strange when he is not. I was walking away from the court before Game 6 of the Raptors-Wizards series began, through a tunnel toward the visitors locker room at the Capitol One Arena. Valanciunas had just finished his warmup, and was headed in the same direction. He put his massive left arm around me, and inquired about my colleague. I told him what I knew, and he expressed hope that Doug could return before the playoff run was over.

“That’s what matters,” Valanciunas said of Doug’s health. “Not all this stuff.”

(The man and woman on the street)

The worst part of being a fan is seeing the guys we grow to love and see as family get traded.

You made us cry, man.

If you’ve ever met him, the first thought that pops into one’s head is “What a nice man.” An absolute natural in making people smile. There’s good things ahead in life for Jonas Valanciunas.

***

Waydago, Jonas
Waydago, Mitch
You done good

The Man in the Arena

Today the kids in Grade 6 were at the Jaffa Environmental Education Centre for a day of wilderness structure-building, orienteering and fire-starting.  I wanted to see them again so I showed up in the afternoon.  Apart from my coughing, I had fun – it’s always great to talk to 11-year-olds.  A few kids hugged me.  One boy asked permission first and then came close.  Very sweet.

We headed back to the school in time to catch the buses home and that same boy came up to me with a gift-wrapped present.  Inside were yummy cookies and waffles plus a pair of cool blue socks, with little bow ties scattered on them.  The gem, though, was the card.

I had met the mom just before I left for Senegal, at the school’s Christmas concert.  We got talking.  I told her about my wife Jody and the book I’d written about her, and mom wanted a copy.  I got one from my car Scarlet and signed it for her.  Little did I know …

“Jenny” lost her dad six months ago and misses him so very much.  Jody’s book helped her heal.  Wow.  That makes me feel so good …to think that my dear wife contributes to others’ lives after her death.  Thank you, Jodiette.  You sure contributed to mine.

Jenny wrote: “You were part of my journey and choosing happy.”  Wow again.  Thank you, Jenny.

Towards the end of her card, Jenny mentioned Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech in 1910.  He’s a former President of the United States.  Here’s what he had to say:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

And then … “I think you’re an arena man too!”

When people praise me, I’ve learned to simply say “Thank you” from my heart.  I know that life is a mysterious mixture of praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, and that these experiences touch us all.  Attaching myself to praise doesn’t work.  Acknowledging my good points does.

I do believe that I am:

Actually in the arena
Marred by dust and sweat and blood
Someone who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again
Someone who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions
Someone who spends himself in a worthy cause

***

Does this make me better than anyone else?
No

On we go

Day Two: Family

“Je sens déjà une partie de ta famille.” Lydia and Jo, the friends I met on a hiking trail in Alberta, are sitting with their children Lore and Baziel (and me) as we shared a meal. I had been in their home for only an hour or two but I knew what was true: “I already feel a part of your family.”

I picked up my luggage at the Brussels airport and there was Lydia greeting me at the gate with a big hug. On our serpentine way home, we laughed a lot and actually giggled about me being here. Lydia’s friends had said “You mean that Canadian guy is really coming?” Yes, indeed he is.

Lydia is so in love with life. Enthousiasme! Tonight we walked down a dark street on the way to watching Lore and her horse doing jumping training. We bounced along walking arm in arm. I made animal sounds and Lydia smiled lots.

Jo started almost two months ago turning a dusty attic into a sanctuary for me. His home is a marvel of his own making and my bedroom fits right in. Right now I’m sitting in his designed living room with a wall of windows facing a horse meadow sloping down to a pond. There’s such a feeling of space. Thanks, Jo.

Last night, Baziel stayed up to 11:30 to do the finishing touches in the room – and this with exams looming on Monday. Such dedication to someone he’d never met.

Baziel’s passion is basketball. I saw him shooting hoops in the farm’s courtyard … swoosh, swoosh, swoosh. And tomorrow evening, I’m going to watch him practice with his team. That should be fun. I think I’ll be the proud uncle.

I walked into the muddy yard to greet Lore’s two Shetland ponies: the 24-year-old mom and her son. What a wonder to run my hand through that long hair. And then there was the star of the show – Jackson, truly Lore’s horse. I watched the two of them together, and the love between animal and human flowed freely.

Tonight Lore and Jackson had a jumping session at a nearby horse barn. Poles were set up in various configurations for Jackson to float over … and mostly he did! I stood nearby to watch the grace and power.

Lore was the main chooser of objects to display in my bedroom. The first thing I noticed was Jody’s book standing proudly on a cupboard. Across the way was a small statue of the Buddha – perfect for me. Her attention to detail was a perfect expression of love for, again, someone she’d never met.

I’m home here. The old sharp-sloped rooves, the shale tiles and the red brick are a factor, but essentially the people in this home are the beauty. Thank you, dear loved ones.

Thank You

I was walking down Weston Road in Toronto an hour ago. On my left was a familiar funeral home, and here came an elderly gentleman through the parking lot, wearing a suit, tie and dress coat. Assuming he was an employee, I called out “Hope you don’t have to stand out here for long!” He looked at me funny … but came closer.

“I’m looking for 1273 Weston Road.” I glanced across the street and saw 2056. “You’re not really close. Here, I’ll look it up on my phone.”

Google Maps, I praise you. Within thirty seconds, I showed the screen to my new friend. He needed to drive past Lawrence, past Jane, and then watch for his destination five blocks later. How marvelous that technology helps me give.

The well-dressed gent put his hand on my shoulder, looked me way deep in the eyes, and said “Thank you.” I smiled in return. “You’re most welcome.”

***

I was walking down Bloor Street half an hour ago, on the way to my favourite library. A fellow wearing a turban was taking a box out of his truck. As he turned towards a store, the sheet perched atop the box fluttered away. I watched it zoom forwards on the sidewalk and then make a sharp right turn past a parked car. “Come back,” I muttered. On command, the paper exited traffic and renewed its relationship with the sidewalk, coming to rest at the base of a garbage can.

I pumped my legs purposefully and plucked the sheet from the cement. Yay! Truly an athletic move. I whirled around to find the delivery guy gone. “He’s in the cab.” I walked briskly to the passenger window to see that the truck was unoccupied. Another whirl left me with a row of businesses to choose from.

Hmm.

Seconds later, the guy emerged from a doorway just ahead, looking away from me towards the last known location of the sheet. I came up to him from the side, holding aloft the precious documentation. The fellow’s eyes widened, he burst into smile and accepted my gift. “Thank you.” We bowed to each other.

***

Two simple words, anointing us both

Day Eight: Visiting Buckeye

And then there was that woman with horror on her face. She said something like “buck eye” and I responded with “What’s that?” Thought the poor lady was going to have a heart attack. For the uninitiated, the Buckeyes are the beloved football team of Ohio State University. The name comes not from a deer (“buck”) but from the buckeye tree. Who knew? Well, clearly not me. Ontario isn’t far from Ohio but obviously I don’t possess the local consciousness. Oh well. I just hope the distraught woman didn’t end up in Emergency.

My friend “Kayla” walked me through part of the university campus yesterday. Towering trees and some dramatic brick buildings. Plus there was a tranquil little lake bordered by water grasses and black iron benches. I sat there for a long time while Kayla was doing an errand, and watched Ohio folks stroll by. Well, actually some rushed by but the peace remained.

There were memorial stones forming parts of the path. So many human beings were celebrated with love. More than a few professed love for the Buckeyes. Okay, I’m getting the hang of this.

I meandered through a grassy and tree-festooned area aptly called “The Oval”. Kayla had told me that decades ago, when the university fathers and mothers were deciding where to put sidewalks in the space, they simply watched where people walked. The natural routes became obvious. How beautiful – people before policies.

The Evolutionary Collective Global internet call was coming up in less than an hour. My plan was to find a picnic table and hang out there. But then the rains came … and stayed. Across the way was a big building named R-PAC. “I’ll try there.” Turns out it’s a huge fitness and athletic complex.

I dipsydoodled up to the Welcome Center and asked the young fellow if they had an empty room where I could talk out loud to folks from across the world. He didn’t flinch, but set to work in fulfilling my request. He consulted with his fellow employees. He asked a woman to walk me upstairs to see if a particular meeting room would work. She smiled and we were off.

My guide opened a door for me and I walked into a lecture hall that would seat 100 students. And it was all for me! Thank you, OSU human beings. Seventy-five minutes later, I emerged, thankful for the contact with my EC friends and for the generosity of my hosts.

You know, life is pretty darned good